“To play or to draw?”
This is a question many people ask themselves in between games of Limited. Some just blindly do the same thing every time they play. It’s very easy to just tell yourself you will draw first in games of sealed and play in games of draft. People just never know when to deviate from this plan because it is so hard to run all of the numbers.
Let’s first talk about sealed only. Many times players will choose to draw and it is usually correct. This is usually my preferred default play for game ones. There are just to many problems from playing as opposed to drawing in the first game. Even though the player on the play is down a card for half the turns it can become very hard to mulligan lands and spells on the play.
I tend to like the ability to mulligan. That decision often singlehandedly prevents a player from getting to the next level. Just because a hand has the ability to play all of the spells in it does not make it a good hand. There is a great argument for the other side of this as well. Many good players I know say it is easier to keep a hand with a couple guys and maybe a removal spell. Even if they are not good cards, they are a better player and therefore have an edge. Instead of risking themselves the possibility of mulliganing out of the game, they would rather keep a suboptimal hand that will at least be able to play a game. This argument can be very close, and even though I am on the side of taking the mulligan, I do know I mulligan myself out of a higher percentage of games then my teammates.
As a result, I like the extra card to help smooth out my six card hands when I take an aggressive mulligan. This also means when I have a forced mulligan I will have the draw as well.
Now, this logic only really works when you are in game one. Both decks have not sideboarded yet, which means there will be some cards in each deck that are not that great against the other deck, and neither will have good sideboard cards that can help swing a game. The density of good spells is not as high. This does not make a ton of difference but it is an edge when playing the game. Usually the maindeck will be filled with a good curve of creatures and almost every removal spell the deck can play.
The logic of always drawing in game one goes out the window when it gets to sideboarding. This is when you have to make a decision about where you want the match to go. Once you get to see a decent chunk of your opponent’s deck it is time to look at the fringe spells in your sideboard and see if any of them are good. It is also time to see if some of the cards in your main deck are underpowered.
So many people reach for their sideboard after a game of Limited to see what they want to do. They grab a couple cards and then try to figure out what they want to cut. I think it might be even more important to figure out what is not that good against the opposing deck first. Sideboarding the correct cards out of the deck can be as important as what is coming in. We have learned this in Constructed but miss it so many times in Limited.
It is very important to realize that every card in your maindeck can be taken out in some situation. This is important so you don’t overvalue the bombs in the deck. I find myself boarding out rares from time to time since they are just not what I want to be playing with. It can be very hard to figure out what has the possibility to underperform. This means it is very important to remember what is in your opponent’s deck.
THIS DOES NOT MEAN WRITE EVERY CARD THEY PLAY DOWN. It is not the dumbest thing you could be doing but takes up so much time and effort. This usually will lead to losing track of things and missing a crucial play. Hey, at least you remembered what killed you. What I do is when I am either about to lose or win I will ask to see their graveyard to get a quick reminder of what they played. This helps when it comes time to map out how the next few games will play out.
Once you have seen their maindeck it is much easier to figure out how to sideboard and what will win in the future games. When I am playing in a sealed tournament I tend to catagorize what style of deck I am playing against. It makes it easier to know what to do in each type of situation.
The Average Consistent Deck
This is the average pool that most people will have. It contains 1-2 rares, a handful of decent removal, and a steady curve of creatures. You play against this deck more than any other type of deck.
It is very hard to know what to do against this deck. It always comes down to what their deck looks like. If they have the advantage in the air then it is important to play a few more aggressive creatures and take the play. It tends to become a race when they want it to, and when they want to race it is hard to win.
If they are attacking on the ground than I will take the draw if both decks are more or less the same style. The reasoning behind this is that if we match up spells more or less, then the person with more cards can come out ahead. It can change if someone draws more lands then the other person, and of course the difference in spells matters too, but it gives a small edge to the player on the draw.
Some pools are not filled with the tools to win a long game. This means the player is going to just try to finish the game very quickly. This is the type of deck can be very easily be beaten if the pool has the correct tools to fight it and if you make the correct decisions.
Most Limited formats have good spells against decks like this; they just rarely make the initial cut. Cards that prevent damage, deal small amounts of damage, and even fogs can be very important for beating this style of deck. Boarding in creatures that are small and good at clogging the board or trading early is also good.
This is also the deck you want to play against. Their spells are not good and they need some significant pressure to win the game. If you are able to get on the board before they do you will be able to make some of their initial creature drops as dead as if they had mulliganed. This is your card advantage. Being able to simply put a bigger creature on the board can be devastating.
It also means the cards they are playing for pure tempo boosts are not as powerful. They can never get a quick enough board presence to use them to full potential. Bouncing or tapping your guys when you have multiple creatures in play is just not as effective as doing so when your first play is on turn four.
The fringe cheap instant spells that you board in in these matchups are very important when you are on the draw. They have the ability to quickly race you so being able to blow them out once in combat can be a tempo changer and get you back into the game.
High Density of Removal
Sometimes a player gets very lucky and has almost every removal spell in the format. The only thing they are missing is the finishers to make it broken. They are usually going to be playing some bad creatures that have both a high power and low toughness or reversed. It is important to take note if they are running Armored Cancrix or Nether Horror.
The reason why is what you want to be sideboarding in or out. If their creatures are black that means most of them will have a very low toughness, which means all the bears that you are not playing can be very good against them. They might even be better than the removal you have in your deck, as odd as that sounds. If they have high toughness creatures then the small guys in your pool will just get stopped by those creatures while their removal picks off your bigger guys.
This is when some decent spells can be better than the early parts of your curve. If you have spells that won’t impact the game for many turns it is important to value them here.
This is the deck that you want to draw against. They have an abundance of ways to stop your progression so tempo doesn’t come into play as much. These games will go late and it is important that you do not run out of gas.
If you have the sickest read on your opponent I could see playing. I know high removal decks can sometimes backfire when they keep an all removal hand and don’t draw many creatures. This means they use the removal on the small creatures that don’t matter in most games and then can not get around the big creature that you were sandbagging. While on that subject, definitely sandbag your bomb creatures if you put them on a removal spell. Not only will they think you are out of gas, but you might get them to quickly burn off the next guy you play.
Very Inconsistent Decks
These include the three color decks and those decks that have no real curve. They may have played out very randomly game one and you noticed that their spells included many colored mana symbols of different colors. I think you all know what type of deck I am talking about so I will stop there.
At first I always thought I wanted to have a deck like this play. They lose out on the extra card and can potentially mulligan out of the game. I found out it actually depended on what type of deck I was playing. If my deck was consistent I would actually take the play.
It makes a ton of sense. Tempo can be on your side if your deck is always going to have a decent curve of creatures. They will stumble a decent amount of the time and you can take advantage of that with the spells in your deck. Giving them the play can help them get enough time to get to the game where their deck can shine. There is a reason their deck is clunky; it usually means some great spells.
If my deck is as inconsistent as theirs I will just take the draw unless they are aggressive as well.
Bombs ,Bombs, and more Bombs
It is very hard to figure out what to do against a deck littered with good cards. These are the decks that are easy to lose to, so this is when luck can be your best asset. Many players don’t think about trying to get luck on your side, but it sometimes can get you there.
There are a few things you can do against a deck like this. Evasion is very important. I value any way I can get evasion in these matchups. Any way to steal a game is important. This also means I will sometimes take a land out of my deck to help get the density of spells up. It will increase the chances of not having enough lands to operate, but will also give you a chance of drawing less lands in the late game, making it slightly easier to pull ahead.
This is also the deck I draw against. It is important to do this just to give yourself the opportunity to get them to mulligan out of the game. If your deck is not very aggressive, it becomes very hard to get tempo to help you win these games anyway.
This is also the matchup that I will sometimes bring in that crazy creature that is never played. If it has a very high power I will play it. Just being able to steal a game from a deck like this is important. Consistency will not get the job done.
It is not exactly correct to put sealed decks into the boxes I just did, but can help be the building blocks to understand what you want to do against some decks. It is very hard to figure out and is something all of us are still working on; I just know it is something that has helped me.
I have never done this before but since I want to say some random stuff without going into much detail I will do my first Props/Slops.
-My Brother for getting to 40th place in North America and hopefully locking up his qualification for Worlds and for writing his first article for this website.
-Anyone who tells me what fun things there are to do in Toronto when I get there.
-Tom Martell for beating me in the All-Star draft. You used up all of your luck. Hope you have fun losing again.
-Rich Early for making Paradox Comics and Cards and having event coverage at States. It was fun to watch all of the videos and have them part of Corey’s first article.
-Wizards for creating a very fun limited format for me to enjoy playing.
-Wizards for making me pay insane amounts of money this weekend to play said limited format.
-Wizards for announcing the formats for the Magic Online Championship. Not only do we have to play MED 4, but the Constructed formats are flipped from the ones at Worlds.
-For all of you that don’t care about the 12 of us that are in the tournament. Shame on you!
-My brother for knocking me out of States and making me have to go all the way to Grands Prix to get my wins.
-Myself for not being in Toronto early to see Niagara Falls with some of the sweetest Magic players in the World.
I know I said I was going to write about some Sealed Pools but I thought this was a better idea. I guess next week I will have one Sealed pool to discuss when I write my first place Tournament Report from Toronto. Until next week!