Saturday, September 26, 2015

Having Hindsight is Better Than Not Seeing at All - Battle for Zendikar Sealed Deck Thoughts

This post is going to be all about Magic the Gathering. Readers have been warned.

I attended the Prerelease today for Battle for Zendikar. This post is mostly going to be me going through my sealed deck thought process and my realization of how I should have gone about my deck build. Comments, as always, are welcomed.

First, a little background: I play at Uncle's Games in Crossroads, and their prereleases are usually a great mix of young and old, new and veteran players. I like the atmosphere, and I also prefer the familiar faces. My win rate is usually 50%, which isn't bad but isn't great either. Going 2-2-0 nets you one prize pack at Uncle's, so that's basically the threshold for "winning."

I play Sealed Deck almost exclusively now, mostly because I don't want to spend the money to play Standard, and I like the idea of deck building. Also it's the format that lets you open the most packs, and that feeling never gets old ;)

My pool for today was as follows (broken down by casting color and sorted by CMC, rares/mythic bolded):

Colorless (4)
Titan's Presence, Instant (3)
Hedron Archive, Artifact (4)
Kozilek's Channeler, Creature 4/4 (5)
Ruin Processor, Creature 7/8 (7)

Multicolored (4)
Herald of Kozilek, Creature 2/4 (1UR)
Veteran Warleader, Creature */* (1GW)
Ulamog's Nullifier, Creature 2/3 (2UB)
Kiora, Master of the Depths, Planeswalker (2GU)

Non-basic land (9)
2x Mortuary Mire
2x Skyline Cascade
2x Evolving Wilds
Spawning Bed
Prairie Stream
Lumbering Falls

Red (9)
Lavastep Raider, Creature 1/2 (R)
Outnumber, Instant (R)
Kozilek's Sentinel, Creature 1/4 (1R)
Tunneling Geopede, Creature 3/2 (2R)
2x Nettle Drone, Creature 3/1 (2R)
Touch of the Void, Sorcery (2R)
Shatterskull Recruit, Creature 4/4 (3RR)
Stonefury, Instant (3RR)

Green (16)
Sylvan Scrying, Sorcery (1G)
Earthen Arms, Sorcery (1G)
Plummet, Instant (1G)
2x Tajuru Stalwart, Creature 0/1 (2G)
Void Attendant, Creature 2/3 (2G)
Unnatural Aggression, Instant (2G)
Retreat to Kazandu, Enchantment (2G)
2x Natural Connection, Instant (2G)
2x Eyeless Watcher, Creature 1/1 (3G)
Infuse with the Elements, Instant (3G)
2x Reclaiming Vines, Sorcery (2GG)
Tajuru Beastmaster, Creature 5/5 (5G)

Blue (16)
Clutch of Currents, Sorcery (U)
5x Rush of Ice, Sorcery (U)
Tide Drifter, Creature 0/5 (1U)
Mist Intruder, Creature 1/2 (1U)
Coralhelm Guide, Creature 2/1 (1U)
Tightening Coils, Enchantment (1U)
Retreat to Coralhelm, Enchantment (2U)
Adverse Conditions, Instant (3U)
Incubator Drone, Creature 2/3 (3U)
2x Oracle of Dust, Creature 3/5 (4U)
Wave-Wing Elemental, Creature 3/4 (5U)

White (11)
3x Cliffside Lookout, Creature 1/1 (W)
Kor Castigator, Creature 3/1 (1W)
Felidar Cub, Creature 2/2 (1W)
Fortified Rampart, Creature 0/6 (1W)
Ondu Rising, Sorcery (1W)
Lantern Scout, Creature 3/2 (2W)
Stasis Snare, Enchantment (1WW)
Smite the Monstrous, Instant (3W)
Hero of Goma Fada, Creature 4/3 (4W)

Black (16)
Altar's Reap, Instant (1B)
Kalastria Healer, Creature 1/2 (1B)
Complete Disregard, Instant (2B)
Malakir Familiar, Creature 2/1 (2B)
2x Voracious Null, Creature 2/2 (2B)
4x Silent Skimmer, Creature 0/4 (3B)
2x Mire's Malice, Sorcery (3B)
Mind Raker, Creature 3/3 (3B)
Skitterskin, Creature 4/3 (3B)
Grip of Desolation, Instant (4BB)
Defiant Bloodlord, Creature 4/5 (5BB)

I got really excited when I saw Kiora. This is the first planeswalker I've opened in a Sealed Deck tournament since Rise of the Eldrazi. Apparently the Eldrazi planeswalkers like me. What happened next though was that I became obsessed with fitting her into a deck, so naturally it would be UGB right? In my excitement I mentally dismissed Red and White as having too few cards to support a deck, and I saw that I did have the mana fixing necessary to run three colors, so I immediately jumped right in and built this:

Creatures (16)
Mist Intruder
Tide Drifter
Incubator Drone
Ulamog's Nullifier
Kozilek's Channeler
Ruin Processor
Kalastria Healer
Malakir Familiar
2x Silent Skimmer
2x Tajuru Stalwart
2x Eyeless Watcher
Void Attendant
Tajuru Beastmaster

Planeswalker (1)
Kiora, Master of the Depths

Other (6)
Infuse with the Elements
Unnatural Aggression
Complete Disregard
Rush of Ice
Clutch of Currents
Grip of Desolation

Lands (17)
2x Evolving Wilds
Spawning Bed
Prairie Stream
Lumbering Falls
2x Mortuary Mire
2x Skyline Cascade
3x Swamp
3x Forest
2x Island

Looking at my deck in this format, I'm pretty sure people can see a few issues immediately. Unfortunately, they were lost on me during the deck building phase, and I then went on to a 1-2-1 record. Needless to say, not happy with myself.

The question now is, was this really the best deck I could build with my pool? As I was dismantling my deck I noticed that I'd used three of my seven rares, which is a respectable number for Sealed Deck, but TWO OF THEM WERE LANDS. Now, lands are important, but most of the time, especially in Limited, they're not going to win the game.

I should have chosen a different 40 cards. I should have chosen these:

GW Allies and Friends

Creatures (16)
3x Cliffside Lookout
Kor Castigator
Felidar Cub
Lantern Scout
Hero of Goma Fada
Kozilek's Channeler
Ruin Processor
2x Tajuru Stalwart
2x Eyeless Watcher
Void Attendant
Tajuru Beastmaster
Veteran Warleader

Planeswalker (1)
Kiora, Master of the Depths

Other (6)
Earthen Arms
Infuse with the Elements
Unnatural Aggression
Retreat to Kazandu
Stasis Snare
Smite the Monstrous

Lands (17)
2x Evolving Wilds
Spawning Bed
Lumbering Falls
Prairie Stream
2x Island
5x Plains
5x Forests

With this deck, 25% of my deck is Allies, which means a lot of chances for lifelink, indestructible, and +1/+1 effects. I also use six of my seven rares, which is a minor indicator of inherent power in the deck. On top of that I am able to incorporate the Retreat into this mana curve, and both +1/+1 counters or gaining life on landfall are great choices. Stasis Snare and Smite the Monstrous are both extremely well-costed removal spells, and I even get enchantment removal on a stick in the form of Felidar Cub. I get four sources for blue mana (and two wild cards in Evolving Wilds), which is more than enough to support Kiora.

Would I have done better with this deck during the tournament? That is up in the air. However, I probably would have given myself an easier path to success (and those two wins) using the second deck instead of the first. In previous tournaments I wouldn't even have been able to see this though, so I'm definitely proud of myself for improving to the point where I am noticing things like this.

What would you have sleeved up given this pool? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!