With the prerelease coming up this weekend and another week before any of these cards are legal for Standard, let’s cover what many of you will actually be playing this weekend. Although putting the prerelease on the same weekend as the Super Bowl, even if many Magic players aren’t interested in Sportsball, seems non-optimal. Let’s jump in with the first decision you’ll be making at the prerelease.
Promos and Seeded Packs
Once again we head in as heroes battling monsters, and that means you get to pick which color you want a head start in for your Sealed pools. For reference, here are the promo cards that you’ll be seeing all day:[draft]Silent Sentinel
Arbiter of the Ideal
Eater of Hope
Nessian Wilds Ravager[/draft]
Looking at the promo monsters I would say that both blue and green promos come out way ahead of the rest, though the usual big red Dragon is still going to end games. The blue Sphinx ends up throwing out free permanents onto the field if it lives for any amount of time, and the green Ravager either ends the game in one attack or fights the best creature on your opponent’s side of the board.
Black and white both get the shaft with more expensive creatures, seven being a pretty massive jump from six, and to top it off neither have particularly better stats. Their abilities are just worse in most situations, they cost seven and I have little hope that [card]Eater of Hope[/card] will ever let you activate its abilities more than once. If you pick the black pack, it’s because black was arguably the best color in Theros and not because it comes in a bigger, blacker box.
Something to keep in mind is that you’ll still have 50% Theros cards and those will most likely best determine what your Sealed deck looks like. All the rules you learned from six-pack Theros Sealed will still mostly apply, the key difference is that the variety of tricks and removal has gone up. You’ll also see certain power commons far less—the odds that your opponent has more than a pair of [card]Nessian Asp[/card] have dropped off a cliff.
Since there are a handful of new mechanics being thrown into the mix, you should really think about taking a gander at the better cards for each mechanic.[draft]Ornitharch[/draft] [card]Ornitharch[/card] is a great example of getting used to making tribute decisions in a timely manner. You give your opponent 5 power worth of fliers or 5 power worth of flyer, but how you split that up is impacted heavily by whether you have reach cards, potential trickery, or if you can immediately remove it. [draft]Siren of the Fanged Coast[/draft] [card]Siren of the Fanged Coast[/card] is another tribute creature with a much more interesting tribute to be paid and a step up in the decision tree. I have a feeling many players will be giving the opponent an [card]Air Elemental[/card] rather than let them steal a [card]Nessian Courser[/card] or random utility dork. Obviously you want to give them an Air Elemental if you have something you absolutely can’t beat or survive the tempo loss of the robbery. Just remember that [card]Mind Control[/card] isn’t the end of the world if you have a smattering of small creatures and you can’t really beat Air Elemental.
I doubt too many people will be working to build around inspired, outside of [card]Springleaf Drum[/card]. With that said, just keep in mind what their cards actually do. There’s no shame in rereading a card if you forget exactly what the inspired trigger is, and it’s a lot better than losing because you got [card]Warchanter of Mogis[/card] and [card]Servant of Tymaret[/card] mixed up.
Best Born of the Gods Commons
Blue[draft]Retraction Helix [/draft]
Red[draft]Fall of the Hammer[/draft]
One of my few hopes for this set was that white would have to deal with having one less pack of [card]Wingsteed Rider[/card] to Baneslayer me with. Now they get one at two mana to go with turn three Ordeal with [card]Gods Willing[/card] open. Awesome. This is the best white common by a fair margin and I suspect will be one of the best reasons to start base-white outside of some of their rares.[card]Retraction Helix[/card] is a dirt cheap heroic enabler that does a respectable impression of [card]Disperse[/card]. Versatility is really the name of the game here, as it allows you to pick off bestowed creatures, Ordeals, and other various annoyances before they ruin you. Plus, depending on how important inspired is, this is a nice, non-combat enabler that any deck would want.
Black came up short in the impressive commons section for a change, and [card]Marshmist Titan[/card] and [card]Asphyxiate[/card] are the best of the bunch. Asphyxiate doesn’t take out massive Voltron inspired creatures if they’re already coming in, but being able to take care of a [card]Nessian Asp[/card] or [card]Wingsteed Rider[/card] as soon as it hits play is something. Titan is a lot like [card]Acolyte’s Reward[/card] in that I may be overrating it based on what I feel the average devotion total was in Theros. Getting a 4/5 for four or even five mana is a solid rate for a common and can give it some much needed beef without bestow help.
This is the pick I feel like I’m most likely to be wrong on, but none of the black commons feel amazingly strong for Limited.
For red, the best common will likely default to a reasonable burn spell, though I think [card]Kragma Butcher[/card] will be underrated. It can get very aggressive without help, and with any combat trick or bestow creature it’s going to be near-impossible to profitably block. Later in the game it doesn’t scale well, but a 4/3 for three is a reasonable rate and Minotaurs needed more solid early game creatures to be a real archetype. As for [card]Fall of the Hammer[/card], it’s a fight spell without the possibility of a major blowout at the same cost as [card]Pit Fight[/card].
In green, I like [card]Pheres-Band Tromper[/card] and [card]Karametra’s Favor[/card] while nothing else impresses really. Few of the green commons are outright whiffs, but I don’t feel good first picking anything like I would with a Nessian Asp. Pheres-Band Tromper has the upside of being a normal Hill Giant that can grow out of easy to kill range with one or two inspired triggers. Again, a lot of these commons rely on at least the threat of a trick to survive their first combat so you need to keep that in mind.
Karametra’s Favor is a bit like [card]Retraction Helix[/card] in that it doesn’t look great, but combines very well with the mechanics in the set and helps mana fixing. Oh and it doesn’t cost you a card, meaning that freerolling it in your GW heroic plans or using multiples to splash a color isn’t wholly unreasonable. It feels like a slightly better take on [card]Nylea’s Presence[/card].
Best Born of the Gods Uncommons
[draft]Siren of the Fanged Coast[/draft]
As I said, Bird Jesus is 5 power worth of fliers for five mana, and that’s really hard to beat despite some competition from [card]Archetype of Courage[/card] and [card]Acolyte’s Reward[/card]. Though I imagine I’m just overrating [card]Shining Shoal[/card] 4.0, because you likely won’t have more than 2-3 devotion at any given moment. Even then, [card]Harm’s Way[/card] was quite good and if you get a twofer you probably can’t lose.[card]Siren of the Fanged Coast[/card] and [card]Thunder Brute[/card] are both punisher cards that don’t really leave open amazing options for the opponent. Yes, Siren is quite bad when you’re way ahead and only Air Elemental when you happen to be getting smashed. Air Elemental isn’t a bad place to be and sometimes people will just punt when reading board states. Thunder Brute I imagine will usually be a 5/5 haste unless [card]Sip of Hemlock[/card] is at the ready, but sometimes people will overrate their ability to deal with an 8/8. Also a 5/5 trampler haste creature at six mana is a pretty solid rate that can end games.
Notably, [card]Akroan Conscriptor[/card] can just end the game outright given the right hand. Throwing around [card]Act of Aggression[/card] feels good, since every attack they make could potentially be a disaster and they can’t sit back, lest you steal their blockers and bean them to death. The setup is going to be a pain to pull off with some builds and requires some time, but if you meet the requirements this card is going to be very hard to overcome. Until I play the format, I’m sticking with Thunder Brute, but Conscriptor could easily be the best red card in this new format.[card]Pheres-Band Raiders[/card] is a big dude that doesn’t need inspired to be a good card. Instead, it’s a combat-worthy body that generates more large creatures and you don’t need to jump through hoops for them. Just rumble with the Raiders and odds are things will work out fine for you. One other uncommon that caught my eye is [card]Noble Quarry[/card], a bestow card that likely just ends the game if enchanting a Nessian Asp or other large creature. In the big green mirror it won’t be a one-sided sweeper, but you can always use it as a Falter effect, just like every other Lure effect ever printed.
As for black… I have a pretty strong dislike of all the black uncommons, either they feel overcosted or don’t really fill any of the gaps black had in Theros. Forlorn Pseudamma is my pick for Sealed simply because it’s a solid attrition card with evasion, meaning you still have the bestow threat and can make blockers at the same time. [card]Shrike Harpy[/card] as a 3/3 would’ve been perfect, but a 2/2 Edict isn’t going to be worth playing most of the time. [card]Spiteful Returned[/card] could be an underrated gem where being a dumb burn spell that takes multiple turns to kick in is good enough for the average black durdle build.
So with that run-through, what are we left with? Well the normal method of victory is still going to be around and kicking, so all your anti-enchantment cards will be maindeckable. Additionally, the number of Ordeals drop off, with only half the packs—so there will be fewer builds focused on playing cheap guys and just running you over with an Ordeal. It can still happen, so be wary of cutting all your early plays, but the two most dangerous early game plays (Ordeal and Wingsteed Rider) get cut back considerably.
I still wouldn’t call the format slow by any means, but this isn’t Gatecrash where the format is getting faster. Based on most of the Sealed pools I’ve generated (Make your own!) the general speed feels the same and the amount of heroic shenanigans felt reduced. Obviously, this is all small sample size, so take it with a grain of salt and so on. Point is that if you didn’t like Theros Sealed, nothing at a glance is going to tell you that you’ll start enjoying it. Draft, on the other hand, looks like it could be way better, but that’s for another time.
Good luck and have fun at your prerelease. If you’re in the Bay Area, you should come to ours! If you can’t make it out or want to play some Constructed though, well we’ve got you covered there too… $15,000 PTQ weekend anyone?
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