Owen’s a Win – Super Sealed

Last weekend, at Atlantic City, I went 0-3… again. I’ve been struggling to find a balance between my personal life and Magic, between how I spend my time having fun and how I spend my time preparing for tournaments. I can always see a noticeable difference in results when I prepare for a big tournament, and when I just show up and play it by ear.

When I don’t properly prepare, I can’t just take a small break and skip a tournament or two. If you skip any number of GPs when you’re trying to hit Platinum, qualify for the Players Championship, or the Magic World Cup, you’re quickly buried. With the added incentive of the appearance fee and the knowledge that even when I’m not at 100% playing ability I still have very good equity in the tournament, it’s hard to sit out. On top of all that, I love going to Magic tournaments.

After my 0-3, I was pretty disappointed to say the least. I immediately headed to the side events schedule, to the amusement of my friends, but I can’t blame them. Usually side events are just 8-man booster drafts or Commander tournaments that can be quite fun, but for players like us, we are trying to win and win the most we can. Every event seemed awful except the Sunday Super Series, and even that was not very appealing, since you need to perform quite well in a swiss +1 tournament and then go exactly 3-0 in a booster draft. If I made the Top 8 draft and lost in the finals, I would be very upset with myself. Playing in a tournament in which only first place prize is worthwhile is quite a gamble.

After I lost in the GP, someone asked me why I would even bother playing in this event, and I was on such tilt that the only response I could come up with was, “I just want to win something.” I know I’m good at this game, and no matter how horrible you are, it takes some amount of bad luck to go 0-3, 0-3 in two straight tournaments. If you factor in my poor deck choices and that I played poorly, I still need to get unlucky to end up with that result. In any event, I woke up Sunday morning to play the Sealed deck tourney, and I was not disappointed with my pool:

[deck]2 Concordia Pegasus
1 Frostburn Weird
1 Seller of Songbirds
1 Vassal Soul
2 Lobber Crew
2 Splatter Thug
1 Cobblebrute
1 Voidweilder
1 Batterhorn
1 Hypersonic Dragon
1 Carnival Hellsteed
1 Palisade Giant
1 Angel of Serenity
1 Izzet Charm
1 Chromatic Lantern
1 Stab Wound
1 Supreme Verdict
1 Syncopate
1 Street Spasm
1 Izzet Guildgate
1 Transguild Promenade
1 Swamp
2 Island
6 Mountain
7 Plains[/deck]

Obviously, this deck looks a little strange. First of all, yes, I did play all 6 of my rares, so let’s get all the, “must be nice” and “obv you won” complaints out of the way now. I basically built a Boros deck, which I would not recommend for your average RTR Sealed deck.

I opened [card]Angel of Serenity[/card], which is easily the best card in my pool and one of the top 2 best cards in the format, and alongside the [card]Supreme Verdict[/card], I knew I wanted a large number of Plains in my deck. This made my decision to play [card]Palisade Giant[/card] automatic, despite the fact that he’s an overcosted, underpowered card. People have told tell me that he’s a bomb rare, but when I watch a draft I always think I would rather take a [card]Centaur Healer[/card]. In any event, this isn’t a draft, so I’m stuck with this [card]Palisade Giant[/card] no matter what I do, and it is a pretty good card so in the deck it goes.

After that, I quickly assessed that black and green had little merit. None of the cards would be easy to cast in a deck that needed to meet the mana requirements for [card]Supreme Verdict[/card], and I felt like I wasn’t really missing out on much by not playing them. That is my style for building a Sealed deck—when evaluate a card or a color I ask myself, “would I feel silly if I did not include this card?”

Most of the time the answer to that question is pretty clear. I have always been a fan of playing bad cards to make your best cards work. I built the simplest version of a red-white-blue deck I could, and it looked OK. It had [card]Angel of Serenity[/card], [card]Supreme Verdict[/card], [card]Palisade Giant[/card], [card]Hypersonic Dragon[/card], and [card]Chromatic Lantern[/card] in it, so I was happy about that. It also had all my removal from the entire card pool.

Some of the cards seemed weak but make sense on reflection. My only non-rare white cards are two [card]Concordia Pegasus[/card], and when I showed my deck to someone they asked me why I was splashing them. I already had to play a ton of Plains, and I didn’t have many early-drop creatures, so they were free to add, I needed playables, and they were going to be good at stalling the game and letting me play my more expensive late-game cards which would surely win the game by themselves. Throughout the day, I would have [card]Concordia Pegasus[/card] in play and my opponent would be unable to attack with a single [card]Sunspire Griffin[/card], [card]Vassal Soul[/card], or [card]Towering Indrik[/card].

I inevitably decided to splash the black because I was very low on removal, so [card]Stab Wound[/card] would be working overtime. It should come as no surprise that I wanted to splash this card anyway—I’ve been saying since day one that it was the best common in the set, and I have always been willing to splash a 4th color for it. This allowed me to play the [card]Carnival Hellsteed[/card], which is not a super bomb rare, but still a very good card, and if I was going to be playing the [card]Stab Wound[/card] regardless with [card]Transguild Promenade[/card] and [card]Chromatic Lantern[/card], then it’s pretty close to a freeroll.

Lastly, I knew if I played the black that I would be likely to play 18 lands to accommodate that, so adding the two black cards and the Swamp meant I wouldn’t have to add more mediocre cards like [card]Vassal Soul[/card] and [card]Batterhorn[/card].

[card]Syncopate[/card] was an odd addition to this deck that many people questioned. With so many red and white spells geared toward the early game, there are only two Islands with very few blue spells. Conventional wisdom will tell you that splashing for a counterspell is a poor choice, but I think in a deck like this one where the games will go very long and it is likely to have a high impact on the game, it is more defensible. If I got lucky and drew one of my blue sources early in the game, it could act as a [card]Shock[/card], destroying a two or three casting cost creature.

I also liked that if I had locked a game up with it in hand, I knew I was safe. On top of that, adding another piece of removal to my deck was sweet, without factoring in the relevance of removing the threat from the game. Adding the [card]Syncopate[/card] meant I was going to play more than one Island which I actually liked. It helped justify the [card]Frostburn Weird[/card] and [card]Vassal Soul[/card], which I would have already played in my deck as red and white cards because I needed playables.

In round 1, my friend gets paired against a guy who is actually running the [card]Pack Rat[/card] deck that I wrote about! His configuration was 2 [card]Pack Rat[/card], 2 [card]Stab Wound[/card], 1 [card]Drainpipe Vermin[/card], and 35 Swamps.

He explained to me what this person looked like (obviously I forgot), and tells me that he has a certain type of playmat. Naturally the story is floating around the room about some guy who actually has the Pack Rat deck. At 3-0, I get paired against a nice guy who starts off on a mulligan to 4, as Huey walks by I make a joke that I’m probably paired against the [card]Pack Rat[/card] guy.

He keeps on four, and I play a turn 2 [card]Frostburn Weird[/card], and he starts off with two Swamps. I play a [card]Splatter Thug[/card] unleashed, he plays a third Swamp, I play another [card]Splatter Thug[/card], and he concedes. During sideboarding, I considered drastically altering my deck to try to beat the Pack Rat strategy, but decided not to because he didn’t have the same playmat as the one described to me by my friend who actually got paired against him. Additionally, he stopped on a mulligan to four, so I figured he surely would have continued to mulligan to try and hit the Rat.

Of course, in game two he turns out to be the Rat deck, and he destroys me. I should have just known better because he played all Swamps, the rest can be chalked up to me getting a little false information and my opponent making a mistake.

For game three, I made some interesting sideboard decisions. I knew I wanted to take out every card in my deck that didn’t interact in some way with [card]Pack Rat[/card] or [card]Stab Wound[/card]—a card like [card]Lobber Crew[/card] is actually useless here. I know my opponent won’t be changing his deck at all, since I would notice him swapping cards around. I also need to leave enough creatures in my deck so I can actually win the game myself once I get to a dominating position. I settle on this:


[draft]1 Seller of Songbirds
2 Lobber Crew
2 Concordia Pegasus
1 Batterhorn
1 Cobblebrute
1 Vassal Soul[/draft]


[draft]3 Swamp
3 Island
1 Mind Rot
1 Inspiration[/draft]

Yes that is correct, I sideboarded into a 24-land deck. I liked the [card]Mind Rot[/card], because if he mulliganed an excessive amount it could buy me a good amount of time, and I chose the [card]Inspiration[/card] because I could use it to dig for [card]Angel of Serenity[/card] or [card]Supreme Verdict[/card].

On top of that, the cards I sideboarded out do nothing in the matchup. I should have tried to take out the [card]Splatter Thug[/card]s too, but I wanted to have some way to win the game. With the benefit of hindsight, the [card]Splatter Thug[/card]s are simply worse than [card]Cobblebrute[/card] and possibly [card]Batterhorn[/card]. Though [card]Batterhorn[/card] is quite expensive against a [card]Pack Rat[/card], and weak to the [card]Stab Wound[/card].

Game three, on the play I kept this hand (roughly):

Transguild Promenade
Stab Wound
Supreme Verdict
Hypersonic Dragon[/draft]

My opponent held his turn 2 [card]Pack Rat[/card], waiting for turn five to make two Rats, and I drew into [card]Inspiration[/card] and [card]Carnival Hellsteed[/card], which I used to just race it. It was nice to draw stone perfect to beat that deck, but overall the mind games involved were interesting, and having to look at every single card in my card pool and place a value on it based on how it interacts with [card]Pack Rat[/card] was a useful exercise. Plus the guy was 3-0 before getting paired against me—a person with a good deck against [card]Pack Rat[/card], and a proper understanding of how to build your deck to beat it.

Owen Turtenwald
qazwsxedcrfvtgbyhnuj on Magic Online
OwenTweetenwald on twitter


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