As many of you noticed, this wasn’t any random Sealed pool I opened, nor a theoretical one. This was an actual M13 prerelease pool I cracked and went 3-1 with. During the tournament I played with three different builds: BR Aggro (The majority favorite), UBR, and URG. Each had merits-my overall favorite was UBR, but BR Aggro was effective against certain pools. UBR was underrated-you had nine removal spells (Arms Dealer, Murder, Mutilate, 2 Turn to Slag, Volcanic Geyser, and Essence Scatter), and while it lacked bombs, you could eventually run the opponent out of guys.
Basically, it depended on the role you wanted to play; most of you chose the route best suited to a weak pool. Going aggressive and hoping for the best-that the opponent either stumbles, or cannot keep up with a curve-out. Surprisingly, this works more often than you’d expect in a world where drawing first is commonplace. People keep hands like four land, 4-drop, 5-drop, and a utility or removal spell. A perfectly fine keep in most circumstances-but weak against a deck with Grizzly Bears and removal spells.
Many quality entries knocked themselves out by going B/R while trying to have their cake and eat it too. So many people shoved Mutilate into their decks, or cut the red creatures-but still played both Rings. I’m amazed at how many liked double Krenko’s Command. I get it if you run the Ring and at least Trumpet Blast, but otherwise they felt worse than Walking Corpse. Maybe I’m underrating Command and need to play with the card more. Regardless, pickings were slim, so I can understand why people chose that card to pair with Arms Dealer. Take your wins where you can get them.
While I received 70-75% B/R entries, a lot of them lost me in the details, or were practical carbon copies of one another. I didn’t even think it was the best deck in the pool, so that’s why you’ll see a bit more variety in the winner’s entries. Here were the two decks that served me best during the actual tournament:
Thanks to everyone who entered and the judges who helped me out.
Here are the winning entries!
Smdster (Party Down)
“Here’s the deck I ended up coming up with:
The red feels like a must-play in this pool; it has both the most total cards and the most removal as well as one of the best overall cards in the pool (Volcanic Geyser). The next question became what color to pair red with. I settled on green because it had a lot of what was missing from the red, big creatures to fill out the curve and answers to problematic noncreatures (Acidic Slime and the Beast Tracker). Beast Tracker in particular ends up being awesome in this pool as it can fetch a Serra Angel (the Spider) a big tramply beater (probably for when Arms Dealer is on board) and an answer to Oblivion Ring (the Slime). I ended up deciding to splash white for the Elephant because I wanted one more fatty and between the Wilds and the GW dual, there was very little cost to adding a Plains. As is, the mana still ends up being pretty good for a 3-color Cathedral of War deck, sporting 4 white sources, 7 green, and 10 red.
Some of the more unusual card choices I ended up going with:
Plummet is a card I like to start in most Sealed decks. It answers a lot of bombs and can always be boarded out if it ends up being too blank.
Volcanic Strength is a card I would not normally play if I could avoid it, but I felt that in this pool, there were so many small creatures that barely count as a card (Krenko’s Command tokens, Elvish Visionary) that getting the guy killed wouldn’t be that big a deal as opposed to the games where they just die from the very aggressive start.
Chandra’s Fury seems awesome in this deck, letting your 1/1′s trade up with an army of 2/2s while also nicely adding some reach. I can easily envision games where it helps your guys trade better in combat and then puts them in range of the Geyser.
I ended up shying away from what looks like a natural BR build because that version had way too many 2-drops; I don’t want a deck where I end up mostly stonewalled by something as common as a Centaur Courser with the only ways to get through it being a Servant of Nefarox and the [card goblin battle jester]Battle Jester[/card] (or burning a removal spell which seems terrible). The best card among the black is probably Mutilate, which is also at odds with what the BR deck is trying to do and also at odds with the number of red sources you want to run.”
“This pool is actually quite complicated. Let me go through my thinking process.
With a sort by rarity, we can easily identify that our best cards are Touch of the Eternal, Mutilate, Rise from the Grave, Artic Aven, Volcanic Geyser, Cathedral of War, Arms Dealer, and Ring of Xathird. Unfortunately, these cards are spread out into many colors with black being the best but hardly impressive.
Taking a look at commons, we have 2x Turn to Slag, Murder, Sentinel Spider, and 2x Evolving Wilds. At first glance, it seems like we have a solid B/R deck with great mana. That is where the bulk of our good cards are. However, it doesn’t take long to figure out a black-red deck is not very good. We end up with a bunch of 1/1s and 2/2s backed by expensive removal in the form of 2x Turn to Slag, Volcanic Geyser (and 1 Murder). Our only win conditions are Liliana’s Shade, Dragon Hatchling, and Phyrexian Hulk. Thats pretty meh. In fact Mutilate kills our entire deck real dead. Last I checked, this is not a winning formula for Sealed deck. Let’s look elsewhere.
Green – you will quickly see that Sentinel Spider and Acidic Slime are the only two reasons to even consider the color. While those are solid, they are not splashable and green is not deep enough to be one of our colors.
Blue – you will quickly notice that blue is really deep and very synergetic. It has 3x Essence Scatter. If something does make it past that, you have a Fog Bank, Encrust, Void Stalker, and even an Unsummon to back it up.
Blue even has a win condition in 2x [card vedalken entrancer]Vedalken[/card] and Harbor Serpent.
White has some of the best cards with our base blue, but it is incredibly shallow. There are only 12 white cards, and only a few are playable. Notable white cards for our control deck include: Touch of the Eternal (this card is truly unbeatable if you don’t deck first), Ajani’s Sunstriker, Divine Verdict, and Captain’s Call. We can’t play white with four playables. As much as I would like to splash Touch of the Eternal, in the end it just is not worth it.
Naturally we move to U/B or U/R. As a control deck, I am looking for ways to stay alive. With black we have Mutilate, and Murder. With red, we have Arms Dealer, 2x Turn to Slag, and Volcanic Geyser. Red (deck) wins.
With 2 Entrancers, 3 Essence Scatters, and multiple removal spells Rise from the Grave is simply amazing. I left Unsummon out, because I believe we have an abundance of ways to remove the few threats that actually hit play. Tempo isn’t very relevant and returning to hand just to Essence Scatter doesn’t seem very good. Goblin Battle Jester doesn’t quite fit our deck even though it works with Arms Dealer (it’s control!).”
“The first fact apparent when assessing this pool is that it is relatively weak. It has no real bombs that would push a player into a particular color—Mutilate is the closest this pool comes, and it is too color-committal and deck-dependent to be an auto-include, even in a deck that is playing black. This low power level, coupled with the pool’s mediocre removal suite, means that control is an untenable strategy, even with the pool’s abundance of color-fixing. In light of this, an aggressive deck that can kill before more powerful decks come online becomes the best option.
Fortunately, the pool’s deepest colors, red and black, lend themselves quite well to an aggressive strategy. Red boasts three pieces of hard removal in the two Turn to Slags and the Volcanic Geyser, as well as Arms Dealer, Chandra’s Fury, and Goblin Battle Jester, who turns any red spell into removal provided you’re on the offense. The color also has the pool’s best synergy in Arms Dealer plus the two Krenko’s Commands and the two other Goblins—being able to turn half a card into a Flame Slash is extremely powerful, and many decks won’t be able to beat the triple kill spell that Dealer plus Command represents.
Black complements red quite well, filling out its curve with low-cost creatures, adding a touch of removal in Murder, and giving some late game inevitability with Veilborn Ghoul and Liliana’s Shade. While often quite borderline, Dark Favor is strong card in this deck, naturally comboing with Tormented Soul to create a must-answer threat, mitigating its inherent potential for card disadvantage with Goblin tokens and Ravenous Rats, and just generally being aggressive. Unfortunately, Mutilate doesn’t fit into the decks primary game plan, but it can easily be sided in against other aggressive decks—allowing your opponent to surge out of the gates with two or three early drops with the intent of racing only to wipe their board is generally enough to put away a game.
Also of note, I would expect Ring of Xathrid and Ring of Valkas to be key players in this deck. Being able to gradually boost the effectiveness of early creatures makes it far more difficult for your opponent to stabilize, and giving a high-power attacker like Servant of Nefarox or Knight of Infamy the ability to regenerate makes it nearly unbeatable in certain matchups.
Even through this build of the deck has a low curve and light mana requirements, I built it with 17 lands to accommodate the set of four 5-drops and the single X-spell. This number only includes one of the Evolving Wilds—the second isn’t necessary given the deck’s mana consistency, and having three “comes into play tapped” lands could hinder aggressive starts.”
“The deck is based around evasion attackers and repeatable removal cards. Main strategy is to be aggressive with my 1-3 drops and switch to evasion/removal for reach. With Arms Dealer having seven Goblins to throw including himself he becomes a hard card to beat and with the regenerate Ring from black he almost becomes unstoppable. Without the Arms Dealer, the deck has three other removal cards if you don’t count [card volcanic geyser]Geyser[/card] as removal but more of a finisher.
20-23 were tough choices I felt that having a Walking Corpse was better than having them discard a card as normally they will pitch a land card early game and probably nothing late game and a 1/1 body is decidedly worse then 2/2. Also Torch Fiend (though I wish he was Goblin) seems like a good 2-drop and an interesting way to get rid of Rings/[card staff of nin]Staff[/card]/Trading Post for relatively cheap. The exalted cards are for the late game to boost the evasion creatures over the top (Dragon Hatchling, Tormented Soul).
With 14 cards that create creatures (12 creature cards and 2 token creators) a reanimation spell and tons of removal. I feel it is well balanced.
Again, thanks to everyone who entered, and hopefully I’ll be doing another contest soon!