Owen’s a Win – Three Sealeds

With GP Nashville this weekend, my playtesting has consisted primarily of Sealed daily events on Magic Online. Today I will show you some of the more interesting pools I had and point out some of the things I think I did well, things I did poorly, and things I would do differently given the chance. The first pool I want to talk about I thought was particularly interesting, so here goes:

Pool 1









The first thing you can do is quickly eliminate white and black as viable options based on a lack of quality cards. You can also easily determine that you have to play red as a main color because 2 Scrapmelters and 3 Turn to Slag give you amazing removal as well as a good way of producing card advantage. I think both green and blue are close, but when you compare the two colors in my eyes it comes down to 2 Tangle Angler vs. Argent Sphinx and Volition Reins, with both having about the same number of filler cards neither being just better than the other. I love Tangle Angler more than most but I think the blue is just stronger (despite the allure of the Copper Myr).

And I have been impressed time and time again by Volition Reins in Sealed deck despite it usually not being that great in draft and there are many reasons for this. I have seen in multiple draft videos on this site where someone opens a Volition Reins and says something like, “Well I think we all realize this isn’t like Mind Control in m11,” which I agree with. Most good draft decks have about 2 maybe 3 really solid targets for the Confiscate, and often you have to take a Chrome Steed when you aren’t metalcrafted just to not die, or a Saberclaw Golem that you can’t activate.

Basically most good draft decks will try to win with cheap threats and synergy (either poison or metalcraft). But in Sealed it’s a much different story. First, everyone plays all the removal they open in their six packs; since there are so many artifacts, there is a lot of flexibility in deck construction and to simplify it people should try to play to their pools strengths: removal and bombs. Second, not only does Volition Reins deal with opposing bomb rares, but when uncontested, it creates them! This week alone I lost to my own Steel Hellkite and Venser being stolen and won with my opponent’s Kuldotha Phoenix and Molten-Tail Masticore.

Once I decided I was going to play UR and I laid out all the cards that I knew I wanted to play, I realized it was quite top-heavy with many powerful late-drops which prompted me to add Wall of Tanglecord and Plated Seastrider thinking that if I could just stall early, I would have inevitability with such strong removal and rares. I usually try to avoid off-color Myr but with so many 5-casting cost spells and no cheap removal they seemed necessary, as well as Barrage Ogre and Darksteel Axe so I can make use of them late game. The 23rd card I added was Disperse which I do not always run in my blue Sealed pools but with 2 Scrapmelter and Myr Battlesphere I felt it would not be hard to get value from it. This was my final build:

I ended up going 3-1 with this pool and with the benefit of hindsight, I would cut Tumble Magnet. Basically every time I drew it, it was garbage and even in other Sealed decks where I’ve had it, it always seems to disappoint, yet I play it anyways because it’s a “good card.” It seems even worse than normal in this deck because yes I’m trying to stall but that isn’t what makes Tumble Magnet powerful. It’s at its best when you can end the game with an aggressive draw before it rots on the table with 0 counters. When you do use it to prevent damage, unless you can quickly swing the game in your favor, it’s usually out of desperation and just in general not a winning proposition. Also it is entirely possible that I should have cut Darksteel Axe, while yes this is also a very strong card it has very few good uses in this deck (at least the way I constructed it). Either way I 100% should have cut one of those cards for an 18th land as I felt light on lands in many of my rounds.

Here’s another pool:

Pool 2









This was another interesting pool and it saw me playing with some cards I long since dismissed as suboptimal. Again I doubt any of you would be able to argue that white and red are the weakest colors, and dismissing them based on power level alone is a quick time-saver (time management is key in deckbuilding since in daily events and grands prix alike you only get 20 minutes). Blue jumped right out at me as the best color with Volition Reins and 2 Trinket Mage with many strong ‘gets’ and the first glance at a GB deck looked quite poor, so I laid out all the blue cards I wanted to play and tried to see which color had the best synergy with it.

This time, just like last, I wanted to compare my best cards in each color to see which was most powerful, and it boiled down to 2 Slice in Twain vs. Skinrender and Necrotic Ooze. While Skinrender is much better than a Slice in Twain, I think that Kimbo Slice and Necrotic Ooze are really close with the green card probably being slightly better. The main reasons I chose to play black over green were Nihil Spellbomb as a small bonus for playing black, as this would make my Trinket Mages better, and my many metalcraft cards, Leaden Myr for on-color sweetness, Molten-Tail Masticore as a way of making my Necrotic Ooze a better threat, and the Bleak Coven Vampires seemed way better in this deck than they normally would be because my normal artifact count plus two copies of Trinket Mage to help. I would normally never play Memnite but with effectively 3 Darksteel Axe and a Strata Scythe I felt like it would be dead less often when I naturally drew it (this is also my reasoning for Darksteel Myr) and being able to act as a free metalcraft enabler with my Trinket action seemed too good to pass up. Yeah Trink is good with only one target a lot of the time but with two in my deck if I can give myself more options with them as well as staying power for when I draw 1-2 of my tutor targets later in the game so its rarely a dead draw, I will.

This is what I ended up with:

I went 3-1 with this deck and if I could go back I would probably play a Tumble Magnet over the Tower of Calamities, this card is a Sealed bomb and can single-handedly take over games like no other card but it just isn’t right for this deck. On paper I thought it would be a perfect fit with Darksteel Myr and Wall of Tanglecord to stall and with 2 mana Myr and 2 Spellbombs even with 16 lands I expected to flood out some making it awesome but it just never worked out that way. Bleak Coven Vampires kills people a lot faster than you would think when you can consistently metalcraft it, and I just wasn’t playing really long games with the deck. The round I lost game 1 and 3 were very similar involving mulligans and drawing Memnite and Tower of Calamities when they were almost complete blanks. But when this deck worked, it was really savage; I was just completely steamrolling my opponents with fast draws, card advantage, and good removal. I opted not to play any of the 3 Tumble Magnet because as I previously mentioned, it has always been pretty marginal for me and if I can find a reason to cut it from future Sealed decks I will, though I do still think it is very good and a high pick in draft where you can choose to play a more aggressive strategy that it rewards.

Pool 3







Sticking with my theme of trying to make life simple for myself, I set aside the blue and green cards because they had little to nothing to offer. Unfortunately this pool is a bit older so I didn’t get a chance to screenshot the finished product but ill try to explain what I was thinking when I built the deck I did. Right away I convinced myself I had to play black for Grasp of Darkness and Skithiryx among other things. When I laid out my BW deck it had about 29 playables with a bad mana curve and the Glint Hawks seemed really bad with so few cheap spells to take advantage of them whereas my BR deck was a lot more fluid with a good mana curve and my best removal spells. My final product looked like this:

I thought the Lux Cannon would be fine with a Contagion Clasp to make it a little faster some of the time but it was still overall pretty bad. I went 3-1 with this pool but I got very lucky overall, and this was far from the optimal build of this pool, I got blinded by my rares and could have easily built a much better RW deck. If I could go back I would probably play this:

It’s entirely possible that Saberclaw Golem would be better than Necropede or the sb Leaden Myr would be better than a land, but overall this build of the deck is miles better than the original. I don’t usually play Barbed Battlegear but it fits well on the many 2/2 flyers in the deck and Kemba/Sunspear Shikari so I believe it deserves a slot, the same can be said for Trigon of Rage which I don’t love in Sealed, but can’t be ignored with 2 Glint Hawk and 3 Snapsail Glider.

I briefly mentioned in my explanation of why Volition Reins is average in draft and a premium card in Sealed, and it says a bit about the difference between draft and Sealed. I mean it when I say they are quite different because in Sealed you will face decks with a higher density of removal and they will always have between 1-3 bombs. This is not specific to this format as much as it relates to almost all Sealed deck formats that you should be very conservative with your removal and always try to have that extra Arrest or Turn to Slag left in your hand to deal with a potential top decked Hoard-Smelter Dragon. Some underrated cards I’ve found are Sky-Eel School and Alpha Tyrannax because though they may be a little on the expensive side for draft (though both still being playable) they shine in Sealed because they have more than 2 toughness so they can dodge 90% of the creature removal like Embersmith, Contagion Clasp, Fume Spitter, Instill Infection, and so on – and they aren’t artifacts so they cant be Shattered. In short, if you don’t have an Arrest or a Turn to Slag you’re gonna have a tough time stopping the Tyrannax. I like Tel-Jilad Defiance a bit more than most too, because most Sealed decks play about 14-17 artifacts because it’s just smart to do so. This makes it a lot stronger in Sealed than in Draft, where some draft decks have 7 artifacts and even most average metalcraft decks run 12-14. I think the biggest reason people underrate Alpha Tyrannax and Tel-Jilad Defiance is because they are green and such a low percentage of Sealed decks in this format play green while also not being infect so these cards get ignored.

I hope this exercise improved the way you think about building Sealed pools and feel free to tell me what you liked and didn’t like about this approach. Either way, wish me luck at the GP this weekend!

40 thoughts on “Owen’s a Win – Three Sealeds”

  1. Must have misread the decklist. You certainly didn’t NOT play Nim Deathmantle in the first sealed?

    If omitted on purpose I do believe you have your own self to blame for not 4-0’ing.

  2. Your first sealed deck was misbuilt pretty badly. I think you were evaluating some cards rather improperly, most notably the Deathmantle.

  3. Helpful article, with discussion of specific cards being better or worse in sealed vs draft and in conjunction with particular decks having different plans-of-attack.

  4. I dunno if it is just me, but some of the cards are not being listed when displaying your sealed pools. Notably, Kemba, necrogen scudder, and painsmith in the 3rd pool.

  5. I have no idea why you dismissed white, at all. You have 6 good playable cards, especially the shikaris since you had a Darksteel Axe and a Nim Deathmantle. Also with a Orgin Spellbomb, you had a very solid RW deck, and ignored it.

  6. I think you overrate blue. I think you should consider white in 2nd pool even though it is 3 playables at most. Tempered steel can be a real bomb.

  7. Ya… pool 1 how did you dismiss white so quickly? Shikari and Deathmantle put forth a pretty powerful early and especially late game. You also have Darksteel axe to help… Not to mention that Glint Hawk, Sunchaser and Ghalma’s Warden are going to be great in the RW deck you would’ve built. Also, Abuna’s Acolyte is a nice sideboard card against any poison decks you might face.

  8. Im also confused why you dismissed white in pool #1, your red was very strong, but very top heavy and so you needed some strong 2’s and 3’s which white provides. You have several good equipment to put on your shikaris and it’s not like a R/W build would’ve lacked in late game power with golem artisan and myr battlesphere along with your red 2-for-1’s.

  9. Same here, I wouldve built the RW aggro deck in pool one. It has a pretty nice curve, good synergy and a high overall powerlevel. It seems more consistent and less clunky than the UR deck you built.

  10. Good article. More of this please. 🙂

    And yeah, I love Tel-Jilad Defiance. People never seem to play around it, letting me create absurd tempo swings and card advantage at the same time.

  11. People who comment on this site are so terrible at magic. Deathmantle sucks, play outside your local shop and maybe you would know.

  12. What’s terrible is insulting people and stating opinions without facts to back them up. Unless, of course, you’d like to be known as “Bob the Comment Troll”. Have a nice day!

  13. For those who say he should play white, look at the pool again. There are 3 playable cards in the color, and Owen ends up playing 11 colored cards. Even if you add in Nim Deathmantle, He still is short on playables. Couple that with the fact it takes up your turn 3 and turn 4 to equip it onto a sunspear shikari which then could get tapped down, arrested, or blasted in response; it’s overall just not worth it. The defensive creatures he plays instead stall much better than grizzly bears to play his enormous bomb rares.

    For pool 3, Skithiryx is a trap. After your rebuild, I’m pretty sure the Necropede isn’t worth playing. Your deck is really aggressive; double glint hawk, glint hawk Idol, triple snapsail with easy flying access, relic, lifestaff, sunspear, vulshok replica, panic spellbomb, and trigon of rage all scream BEAT DOWN. Necropede without a good means of poisoning your opponent will never get blocked for the counter and you don’t have a sac outlet; that means your not attacking with your 2 drop in the aggressive deck. That’s where the saberclaw golem or maybe even the goblin gavelineer with the second lifestaff over land come in. They both better contribute to putting your opponent on a clock. They’ll have to chump the golem a lot of the time and he gets past all but the Loxodon defender. Or the equipment plan of kemba + shikari + gavelineer might just overwhelm your opponent early (goblin) midgame (shikari) and late game (kemba) making the equipment consistently a good draw. That, and it more regularly enables a turn 2 glint hawk makes the second lifestaff seem like a good choice.

  14. @Phillip

    Your comment is pretty ridiculous. The people who are saying Deathmantle is good are random no-names. The person who is saying Deathmantle isn’t playable here is Owen Turtenwald. You know, the guy that ISN’T a random no-name.

    So calling out Bob who actually agrees with Owen is pretty loltastic.

  15. @Basstastic

    He’s not playing it. You can infer from that that Owen doesn’t think it’s playable obviously.

  16. @Rak Well he’s obviously wrong. I’ve heard that pretty much all replicas are insane with nim’s deathmantle. With both the red and blue there’s no reason you shouldn’t play it. End step pay 6 bolt you, end step pay 6 bounce your dude. It also should win the game with platinum in the game against any non infect deck. And then you just let that dude block all day and get him back. 4 mana recurrable threat is pretty awesome.

  17. Deathmantle + Fumespitter is pretty sweet in sealed but too bad it wouldn’t work terribly well in your first pool. Keep in mind it does grant intimidate which is often overlooked form of evasion.

  18. Love the article. Thanks for posting it Owen.

    Not sure that I’m on board about the Tumble Magnet though. If you use its counters to prevent 2-3 damage from some donk creature then fine…it sucks. The best use of the card is it sitting on the board waiting. The opponent is forced to think about how to play around it. It changes their strategy. Yes, its better in draft. No, its not bad in sealed at all if you manage it properly.

    Nim Deathmantle always looks awesome and then you lose because you sat there with 4 mana open while your opponent developed their board for a couple turns. Its been very underwhelming every time Ive played against it. So hate all you want on Bob and Owen for not playing it…but it isn’t very good in practice from what I’ve seen at least.

    And why, you might ask, does he play Blue in deck 1 over White? You mean aside from the fact that the blue has cards that are good on their own versus the White cards needing equipment…or that White has no removal but Blue has the best one for Sealed…or that blue allows the use of Neurok Replica, a good defensive card that helps him get to his late game bombs, of which he has plenty…

    I get the ‘curve’ arguments. But this is sealed, not draft, and having a good curve matters a lot less in sealed. Power > curve and the Blue has a LOT more power.

  19. Oh, and I would have loved to see a Tel Jilad Fallen build where the Fallen get pumped by Ezuri for poison + trample…too bad the deck had soo many good non-infect bombs.

  20. For all those that disregard/discount Deathmantle because you think it’s to expensive to equip, you don’t understand the card in the 1st place…For the rest of us, it is a bomb rare…Please feel free to pass it in all your future drafts, and let me thank you in advance…

  21. Deathmantle is great, even if just used as straight up equipment.

    I disagree with people who are saying he should have played white in draft #1. Argent Sphinx is an amazing card. The white in his pool peaks at mediocrity.

    I probably would have ran the Horizon Spellbomb. It’s metalcraft when you need it, and a land when you don’t. It’s much better than Myr at allowing you to run fewer lands in a deck, even off colour.

    I would also strongly consider the Ichorclaw Myr. They aren’t quite Necropede, but I like having a 2-drop artifact infect guy as a blocker in metalcraft, especially against infect so you can trade them for their Ichorclaws even on defense.

  22. The comments here are unreal

    Apparenlty infering that Owen deosn’t like Nim deathmantle from him not playing it is unreasonable somehow.

  23. First pool, I’d have gone R/w aggro. Second pool, I’d have gone G/b fatties. Third pool, I’d have played that 2nd build with the Plateaus, but I’d probably have played the 2nd Lifestaff and cut the Necropede (there isn’t really any posion in sealed).

    So I guess the lesson is that I largely disagree. Interesting article though.

  24. I don’t want to say this, but not playing white in pool 3 is just criminal.

    You have stag, 2x glint hawks for sheheningans with tumble magnet, trigons and especially contagious clasp. Glint hawk idol, gliders, equips and trigon will make for a very aggresive fliers, and hyppogryf tops the flying curve, and khemba is very solid with three equips as well as shikari.

    I don’t know, but not seeing this at first glance is a bad misbuilt on your part in my opinion, and the second deck u built is much much better.

  25. @Kevin
    Creating scenarios out of thin air in which a card is bad is no way to argue that a card is bad… in fact it’s hilariously stupid and regularly applying that decision-making process would turn any player into a perpetually failing scrub. It’s like saying you’re not going to drive to work today because it’s POSSIBLE that your car might explode. Taking this to its extreme we can say that almost every card ever made is bad because your opponent “can just leave mana untapped to play countermagic and counter whatever you play.”

  26. Maybe its my fault for not articulating this better in the article but it seemed pretty automatic to me to dismiss the white because the power level is just so low, I mean is it really a close call when comparing 2 Sunspeak Shikari to Volition Reins and Argent Sphinx?

    @Nim Deathmantle: clearly it is a powerful card but why would I want to play it in a deck with an already amazing late game and pretty bad early game. I even say I probably should cut Darksteel Axe from the deck and Nim Deathmantle is almost always going to be worse.

    @Jan: thanks for commenting, I said the exact same thing in the article but with different words.

    @Kevin: “It’s entirely possible that Saberclaw Golem would be better than Necropede “

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  28. What’s with all the aggro on this board? Can’t we just appreciate the time the author takes to give us something to ponder? This is FREE after all and it’s actually better than free because many of these “articles” are very interesting and enjoyable.

  29. Scott Patterson says: November 22, 2010 @ 1:38 pm

    Solid article. Even better than DK’s if that is ever possible.

    who is DK, or what is DK, and where can i read?


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