For this prerelease, you’ll choose one of the five colors and then receive 6 normal boosters and 1 seeded booster, with seven cards of the color of your choice and nothing else. You’ll also get one of six rares in that color or a mythic rare, which I can only assume is the planeswalker.
This is a bit different than previous prereleases because you get more cards overall (7 more to be exact), but if you don’t play the color you chose, you’ll be ignoring that whole booster. The fact that this is a normal, 2-color format also means you can pair that color with anything you want.
There’s little fixing in this set. Green has none, and you have Evolving Wilds and Meteorite for colorless fixers. A lot of the cards you’d want to splash are double-colored (Claustrophobia, Unholy Hunger, most of the rares), and a lot of the good one-colored cards aren’t very good splashes (Reave Soul, Fiery Impulse). I think Suppression Bonds will be the most splashed card by far, since it’s the best combination of one-colored mana + something your deck might need, but I expect most decks to not splash.
I also think you’re more likely than normal to be heavily invested in the color you chose (say, 10 of a basic land and 7 of another or even 11-6), since you’ll have access to more cards of that color, so heavy color commitments won’t be as punishing as normal in your main color but will be a bigger concern in your secondary color.
Creatures seem small in Magic Origins, relying on renown, prowess, and pump spells to get bigger in the middle of the game. If you have a 3/3, then that’s already likely to outclass or at least trade with anything that isn’t a 5-drop or a renown creature (though it will also probably trade with most renown creatures).
There isn’t a lot of removal in this set, but it’s about half of it is conditional. The red removal cares about size, and so does one black removal spell, but Claustrophobia doesn’t, and white has three removal spells that also don’t care about it. Red is surprisingly removal-light.
Renown is an attacking mechanic that incentivizes both attacking and blocking, In this regard, renown is very similar to bloodthirst and even the Werewolf mechanic—if you stumble a bit, then the renown creatures are going to make sure you do not recover. I think the presence of renown should swing you toward “play first” department, which is not usually the case for Sealed.
Spell mastery is not very reliable in Limited, since you don’t have that many spells to begin with, and a lot of the spell mastery cards are very cheap, but the focus of these cards seems to be that spell mastery is a nice bonus rather than an essential component. At first glance, it looks to me like you should not play a spell mastery card if its “normal” effect isn’t good, and you should not play bad instants or sorceries in your deck in the hopes of triggering spell mastery.
Menace is another aggressive keyword, but it’s the opposite of renown in that it discourages blocking. If you have a guy with renown, then I’m more likely to sit back and try to trade. If you have a guy with menace, I’m more likely to just attack you with my guys, because double-blocking might open up opportunities for me to get blown out by removal and pump spells.
Prowess is basically the same as it was before, but a little bit more aggressive. You have prowess on random red and blue creatures, and most of them are good, but you don’t have to play bad instants/sorceries because of it.
Scry is also not a new mechanic, but it’s a very nice one that I’m glad to see again. Scry has two main uses: it makes sure you hit your land drops in the early game, and it diminishes flooding in the late game, both of which are good. A scry can be worth anything between zero to a full card depending on the game state, but when analyzing whether to put a card in your deck or not, I think you should treat scry 2 as less than a card (even if in some late-game situations it’s almost draw two). Don’t put a card in your deck because it says scry, but enjoy the bonus when it does say that.
White seems to be an aggressive color in this format. There are creatures such as Yoked Ox, but most of your guys are beaters that want to get in to trigger renown and hopefully dominate the board.
White has many commons that are good or playable. It has one unconditional removal spell, and then a bunch of 2- and 3-drops that you’d be very happy to play. A lot of them lend themselves to attacking more than blocking (all the renown guys, Charging Griffin, Ampryn Tactician). White excels in its 2-drops, compared to other colors. Stalwart Aven is better in this format than it would normally be because there’s a lack of fliers that aren’t 1/1s, and there are very few that challenge its first hit so it can get renown.
Grasp of the Hieromancer is another card that is potentially very good in an aggressive deck and basically useless in a control deck. You also have a bunch of combat tricks that are better on the play than on the draw, and your opponent will be incentivized to block because of renown so you’ll have more chances than normal to use them.
White’s list of uncommons is very impressive. Without even reading the other colors, I can say that white will almost surely have the best uncommons. Even the cards I didn’t list (like Totem-Guide Hartebeest) are often very good in the right deck. It’s not clear how many uncommons you’ll get in your seeded pack of 7, one or two, but if it’s two then that’s a huge boost for white.
You will get your rare from a pool of six, and there are more than six in the color, so it’s hard to know what that means. I’m just going to assume that you can get any rare even though that’s not the case because it’s impossible to analyze the color otherwise. I’m also going to assume the mythic rare you can get is the planeswalker in your color, because it would be asinine to do otherwise.
White has two very good rares and only one rare that will be a “brick.” The rest are almost always going to be playable, but not exciting.
Kytheon is a good card, but he’s not a great planeswalker like Elspeth was. You’ll be happy to have him, as he’s a very aggressive card and most white decks should be very aggressive—you’ll both make good use of the 2/1 for W and you will not have much trouble flipping him, at which point he starts attacking for 4 or eating their utility guys.
I think blue can be either aggressive or control, depending on what you open, but most of the time in this format it will lend itself to being the slower deck. There aren’t many Blue cards I’d want a lot of, and it seems to be more of a support color this time around (though that is usual with Blue).
Blue’s commons seem to be overall worse than white’s. Whereas White has multiple 2/2s that become bigger or that gain life, blue gets a 1/3 for the same amount of mana. This is not a format with a lot of 2/1s, and most of the 1/1s fly. If I have a deck with a bunch of white’s 3rd best common, I’ll be happy—not so much with blue. I do like that bounce is good versus both enchantments and renown, though, which are both themes in this set.
The uncommons are better. Jhessian Thief and Whirler Rogue in particular are giant beatings in the right deck, and I think Sphinx’s Tutelage is a very legitimate kill condition in a Sealed format. If you get two of them, you can consider building a control deck that uses them as kill conditions. Keep in mind that I did not say “play a mill deck”—we’re not interested in Dreadwaters—but simply a kill condition in a control deck. Even with only one copy it could make its way into your deck.
The good rares are worse than white’s good rares, but still quite good (especially Soulblade Djinn). Thopter Spy Network is tricky to evaluate, since it depends so much on your deck, but if it’s good in your deck, it’s likely to be the best card in it.
Jace can never be bad, because Merfolk Looter is a great card in Limited. Sometimes it’ll be a downgrade to flip him, but most of the time you’ll find something to do, and in a stall he will eventually win the game by himself. He does get much better in a defensive deck, but I think most blue decks in this format should be at least somewhat defensive. Not a bomb rare, but likely better than any common.
I think black has good quality cards (especially removal and early dudes), but it’s lacking both in depth and in late-game presence. A lot of its creatures lend themselves to trading, but what exactly are you trading into? If you play black, you can pair it with an aggressive color and then overrun them before the late game or you can pair it with a defensive color and trade a lot, but if you choose the latter then you better have at least two very good late-game cards.
Black has two decent removal spells that you’ll happily play, and then some solid creatures—in particular two 2-for-1 three-drops in the form of Deadbridge Shaman and Eyeblight Assassin, though the Assassin becomes a little disappointing once you realize there aren’t that many x/1s you want to kill. Shaman, on the other hand, is better than it normally would be, because 3 power is enough to trade with most renown creatures even after they get a hit in.
Black also has an incredible amount of commons that I don’t want to play, like Rabid Bloodsucker, Nightsnare, Touch of Moonglove, and so on. I think the first and second Undead Servant are bad, but by the third it starts getting playable.
A lot of black’s uncommons are deck dependent—cards like Blightcaster and Revenant range from very good to awful depending on what you have. Overall I’d give black’s uncommons a “neutral” rating, since it has some great ones but also a decent number of cards that aren’t really of uncommon power level.
I think black has an awesome collection of rares and you’ll be very unlucky if you get something that isn’t very good.
As an aside, since people are bound to ask, I don’t think Demonic Pact is great. If I didn’t have ways to get rid of it, I’d probably not play it, as killing them in three turns is just not reliable, even if you’re drawing more cards and dealing some damage. If I have something like two Disperses, then maybe I’ll play it, but my default is no. It is a mythic, however, so you (probably) can’t get it in your seeded pack.
Liliana is a decent body with a couple of decent abilities. You have little control over when she flips, but the fact that you get a Zombie makes up for that, so that they can’t just kill a blocker and attack your newly flipped Liliana. Overall a good card but worse than most other black rares, I think.
Red is, as it always is, aggressive. It has early drops and ways to push through, as well as an artifact and a prowess mini/theme.
Red has some very interesting commons, most of them also very aggressive. It particularly excels in the 3-drop department, since it has Akroan Sergeant, Ghirapur Gearcrafter, and Boggart Brute, all of which are quite good. Firefiend Elemental is also very punishing if your opponent has a slow start. It is lacking in the removal department compared to how it usually goes, but I suspect that Fiery Impulse will be better than it usually is as well, since it helps clear the way for early renown guys.
Red’s uncommons aren’t great, but Ravaging Blaze is awesome, and Seismic Elemental is a game-winner attached to a very reasonable body. You have a lot of bricks here, however.
Red has some great rares, and some that are quite underwhelming, like Goblin Piledriver and Flameshadow Conjuring. I think it’s a net neutral in rares—it’s worse than black but better than white (even though the top two white rares are better).
Chandra is arguably the hardest planeswalker to flip, but she offers the biggest reward. If you can get a hit in, she’s great, but even if you can’t, she hits for 1 every turn and you will eventually cast two red spells. The +1 ability is threatening, and the ultimate even more so, but if your board is even you can also just cash her in for two -2s. Chandra is also very easy to avoid flipping, which can’t be said by the likes of Jace—if you are in a stall but your opponent has a couple of fliers that could attack and kill her, then just ping them for one or two a turn.
Green is in a weird place in this set because one of the identities it usually assumes—mana fixing—is gone. All of green’s “fixing” is for Forests and green mana only, which makes the color worse than it normally is, since it’s no longer a reliable basis for a multicolored deck. This format doesn’t have a lot of removal or a lot of big guys, so it’s possible that green’s bigger creatures reign supreme, but you can also get blown out by cards like Claustrophobia that don’t care how big your guy is.
Honestly, other than Leaf Gilder, there isn’t much that appeals to me. Rhox Maulers, Orchard Spirit, and Pharika’s Disciple are all OK but not that exciting, and Wild Instincts is a very poor removal spell. Hitchclaw Recluse is also a fine card to deal with the pesky 1/1 fliers. Overall, I don’t like green’s commons, and they seem to be based almost exclusively on having a big guy.
Two of green’s top uncommons are based on being able to get them through (or other creatures through). The pseudo-Overrun is nice, though the color doesn’t have that many token makers or anything like that. Conclave Naturalists can be very powerful against Claustrophobia and Suppression Bonds (or as a way to deal with your Demonic Pact).
Nissa is great as a 3-drop and as a 7-drop, so there isn’t much to complain about. All of her abilities are good, and she wins the game if you ultimate her while still getting something if they kill her pre-ultimate (unlike, say, Jace, which doesn’t do much until he gets to that point).
This is how I would rank the five colors:
5: Green. Green has bad commons, bad uncommons and bad rares. It has no fixing, and its identify in this set (big creatures) seems to be a bit underwhelming when all of it dies to removal anyway.
4: Blue. Blue has some good cards, but I think it’s lacking in both depth and star-power. You’re unlikely to play blue as a main color, and that really hurts you since your best common is double-blue.
3: Black. Black has awesome rares and some good early dudes, as well as good removal. I don’t think black is a bad color—I think it’s significantly better than blue and green.
2: Red. I like the creatures in red, and I like Fiery Impulse a lot. The reason I rate red below white is twofold: the uncommons are not as plentiful, and the 2-drops aren’t as good. Every color has good 3-drops, but white has good 2-drops as well, and that sets it apart. That said, I also like red and, like black, think it belongs in the upper tier of colors.
1: White. White is first on the strength of its commons and uncommons. Perhaps I’m overestimating how easy it is to get renown (in which case black would probably jump in rankings), but, assuming it’s as easy as it looks with white’s guys, then you’re simply outclassing everyone in terms of power and toughness for the cost. You also have the most splashable card in the set, which is a removal spell. I don’t think white is way better than red or black, but if I had to choose one color to be the best, it’d be white.