Most people don’t know this, but I consider myself a Limited player at heart. Most people associate me with Eternal, but I’ve always played way more Draft than anything else.
I set a goal for myself to make better use of MTGO in preparation for events. I don’t have the cards for Constructed yet, but I’ve put a ton of energy into preparing for the Kaladesh Sealed GP in Milwaukee.
I don’t typically practice Sealed because what you open (something you have 0% control over) is the most important factor. I sound like a hater for saying it, but an A+ pool built at 75% is better than an average C pool built at 100% proficiency.
There is also the fact that it is actually difficult to build a great pool incorrectly since they are always straightforward:
“Hey look! I have 3 great red rares and 2 great green rares! Oh look, green and red both look pretty deep!”
How much opportunity is there to really screw this up? Yes, maybe you could have selected a better last 3 cards and had a marginally better deck, but your deck will still be great.
I played several Sealed Leagues over the past 2 weeks and I feel like I have a strong understanding about how the format works. There are a few important observations I’ve made that strongly shape how I approach building decks.
There is a Big Gap Between Good and Great Sealed Pools
There is so much parity in Kaladesh that it is hard to have a terrible Sealed pool. Most of the commons and uncommons have a consistent power level throughout, which makes most decks feel comparable.
But the gap between the good decks and the great decks is light years apart. It has a lot to do with getting an above average concentration of the few cards that are way more powerful than the baseline cards.
Masterpieces also exist, which means that some decks will just randomly have unbeatable absurd cards like Sol Ring or Sword of Feast and Famine. Have you ever played against a Sol Ring in Sealed? I have, and it sucks.
The good rares are super important and if you are lucky enough to open one or two of them you should have a pretty easy tournament.
Cards like these impact the game in a way that other cards simply don’t. While it is possible to have a great pool without any rares, it is also fair to say that the very best pools will make use of some great mythics.
I know that “bomb mythics are great” isn’t exactly the hottest take of all time, but having some powerful rares or even top-tier commons and uncommons will carry you far.
Okay, time for strategy outside of praying to open up mythic tares and masterpieces.
There are some Sealed formats where I’m happy to take the draw and build a deck full of Walls, but Kaladesh is not one of them.
The cards lend themselves to aggression. More creatures have high power than toughness, which makes attacking more profitable than blocking.
Most of the best decks I’ve built have been aggressive, and there are 3 reasons why I believe this to be true:
- There are not a lot of high-toughness blockers to stymie aggressive strategies.
- There are a lot of great combat tricks to help punch through.
- Vehicles make blocking problematic.
Outside of rares, not many cards hang out and generate boatloads of advantage to players who are being passive.
Even a card like Fabrication Module, which is a great Sealed card that generates steady advantage and feels controlling, generates advantage via +1/+1 counters, which makes you want to get aggressive!
A Great Sealed Deck
I’d like to share a few of the decks I’ve built that I think are informative about various aspects of the Sealed format.
The best deck I’ve had was an aggressive R/W Vehicles deck that went easily undefeated.
The deck had a great mix of the best commons and uncommons in my colors and 3 strong rares as well.
While none of these are unbeatable game changers, they are all solid cards that had a ton of synergy in my deck.
Renegade Freighter is the most busted common in the set. In fact, the card is better than a good number of the rares. The card is just huge in combat and very difficult to overcome without a removal spell or combat trick. I was thrilled to have 2 copies.
On the surface the deck looks like a pile of “good cards” (which it mostly is) but there is also a lot of inherent synergy. 2-drop Dwarf, 3-drop Dwarf into Depala is a beatdown.
The other synergy card that impressed me:
There are enough Artificers in the deck to make the card effective at derailing a game quickly. Turn-1 Goggles, turn-2 Aviary Mechanic, and equip for free? Good luck dealing with my 2-mana 3/4. The Goggles are also really good with Toolcraft Exemplar and Inventor’s Apprentice, which need a cheap artifact to be on the battlefield to pump up.
Goggles also impressed me as the ability to make my creatures bigger in the later stages of the game was really important at grinding out combat steps.
A great deck needs a high concentration of good cards, but it also needs some synergy to tie the whole room together.
It is also worth noting that I don’t typically think R/W is a great color combination, but it goes to show that with the right cards any colors can run the table.
A Good Sealed Deck
While the R/W Vehicle deck took about 6 total minutes to build and submit, the next deck I’d like to show off took a long time to finally come together.
So much text, so little impress.
One thing I’d like to note is that I think G/B is the best combination in Kaladesh Sealed. Green and black are both really deep and share synergistic elements with +1/+1 counters and energy alike.
Combat Tricks are Huge!
I wanted to segue my discussion about the B/G deck into one about combat tricks. I went X-1 with the deck, probably better than I deserved, largely on the back of the combat-trick-centric theme of the deck.
Can sorceries be combat tricks? Well, my opponents were pretty surprised and it was splashy in combat, so I’m going to say yes.
I maindecked 2 copies because I felt my deck was lacking in power and I wanted to push in the combat step as quickly as possible. It felt like having reach with burn spells in a red deck.
The card alongside lifelink creatures was effective against other aggressive decks.
Ornamental Courage has continued to impress me across several Sealed leagues.
In fast aggro mirrors, every creature and every mana is so important, and so a 1-mana trick that can flip the script is important. It is also worth noting that Courage is absurd against Hunt the Weak.
Imagine your opponent makes their 3/3 into a 4/4 to eat your creature. Suddenly, Ornamental Courage appears and they lose their creature and their spell.
The biggest takeaway about Kaladesh is that the format is fast and aggressive. There is a lot of parity among the baseline cards, but powerful cards are a mile above that baseline. Combat tricks are another way to squeeze out of a tight jam against powerful rares and mythics, which is another strong case for making sure to include a couple.
I really enjoy the Sealed format quite a bit and encourage you to check it out before GP Milwaukee, because there is a lot to learn and a lot to enjoy.