Grand Prix Richmond is only a couple of days away, which makes it the perfect time to brush up on our Sealed skills! I’m excited to be attending this event, and I’ve been putting a ton of effort into learning the Limited formats (Draft and Sealed) and honing my Limited skills.
Sealed and Draft test similar skill sets since both are Limited formats, but each format has its own nuances. For starters, Sealed games are more slow and plodding. This is not new or unique to Amonkhet, but rather a fact that tends to be true of Sealed and Draft across all sets.
The reason is that when you crack 6 packs and craft a deck, you will inevitably have less control over building a critical mass of synergistic cards. In Draft you often want to prioritize low-cost creatures and efficient spells whereas in Sealed you are at the mercy of whatever you open.
With that being said, you can still make some generalizations about the format and figure out what kinds of decks you will be looking to build (regardless of whether you have an inherently strong or weak pool).
The Constraints that Dictate What We Play
In Sealed, there are two major constraints that dictate what kind of deck you will ultimately play:
- Archetype (aggro, midrange, control)
Mana dictates how many colors and which ones you can play in your Sealed deck. Typically, for most aggressively minded decks, I’ve found that 16 lands with an 8/8 split feels ideal. There are exceptions, which I will get into shortly.
Next, once you decide what colors you will be playing, you need to decide whether your deck is aggressive, midrange, or controlling. You don’t have a ton of control over this (since you will be playing the best cards you have) but you want to maximize synergy when deciding between the last 3 or 4 card choices.
Amonkhet Mana Bases
You can typically rule out 1 or 2 colors by virtue of being weaker than the others. In order for a color to be “playable” (outside of a splash) you are really looking for that color to be 9+ cards deep for a two-color deck.
For my primary colors, I prefer to have at least 8 dependable sources of colored mana.
A lot of the cards in this set have cycling, which means you are highly incentivized to play fewer lands than you typically would. In a normal Sealed format, because the curves will typically be higher, I expect most decks to play 17-18 lands. In Amonkhet I feel confident about playing 16 and sometimes 15 in a very aggressive deck.
Sealed tends to have a lot of clunky boards and stalemates, and so flooding out and running out of spells is a real concern.
The fix is in!
There isn’t a ton of mana-fixing in Amonkhet—notably there isn’t a cycle of uncommon dual lands—but with 3 good fixers at common there is a real shot at being able to splash or play 3 colors with relative ease.
Land of the Midrange
From my experience so far (I’ve done 7 Sealed Leagues on MTGO) I would categorize the format as very midrange-y. The reason is that most pools won’t have enough dedicated aggressive cards to be great at being aggressive, nor enough good control cards to be purely controlling. Most pools will plop you right in the middle with a mix of cards up and down the curve.
A rough estimate would look something like this:
- Midrange: 50%
- Aggro: 25%
- Controlling: 25%
Based on these rough observations the smart place to be would be a midrange deck pushing toward control, or pure control.
A few of the cards that tend to be really good in Sealed:
5/5s are great because they rumble with almost anything and can really hold down your fort. I want as many big creatures as my pool provides me with.
But a good aggressive deck is probably the best place you can possibly be, since the format is slow and most decks won’t be prepared to handle a savage beatdown in game 1 (since they are trying to top out with large creatures for the control mirrors). If my most powerful deck is all-in aggro I’m not at all reluctant to sleeve it up!
Let’s talk about the midrange and controlling decks since that is what will ultimately shape the field.
Two quick observations that highly impact Amonkhet Sealed.
- There are fewer flyers than normal.
- There are a lot of x/4 ground creatures.
These two facts really lend themselves to a lot of ground stalls, which is kind of unfortunate because it leads to awkward game states where not much is happening. You need to be ready for this.
In a ground stall, no player can profitably attack because the blocks or counterattack are too strong, so both players draw cards to find a way out.
In these situations removal, flyers, and combat tricks gain value, and so in anticipation you’ll want to make sure you include plenty of copies of these types of cards.
Breaking a Ground Stall in Amonkhet
Since we are aware these stalls are common, we’ll want to have some ways to break out of it and eventually win.
Flyers are great:
Since there are few flyers, the ones that you do have gain a lot of value. Be sure to save a kill spell for these things!
One of the best ways to win is simply to Cartouche up a large beater and start sending it in. It’s actually a solid way to win. I don’t love blue in Draft but I’m very happy to play it in Sealed since it has a lot of slow card advantage spells and flyers.
The rares are really busted in this set and I highly recommend opening some good ones that are on-color…
I’ve found that in Sealed, the rares in particular shape the terms of engagement because they are so high impact. The difference between a 6-mana 6/6 trample with embalm and a 6-mana vanilla 6/6 feels pretty real…
One thing I will note from a Limited play standpoint is that I really wish the rare land cycles were uncommon. As it becomes increasingly important to have some number of playable rares in a Sealed deck it is increasingly frustrating to open two dual lands and have a terrific ability to splash the bomb rares you didn’t open….
My one complaint for today’s article: for Sealed play, it feels like there needs to be less of a gap between a busted threat rare and Dispossess…
Top 5 Rares and Mythics from Amonkhet
I haven’t beaten any of these cards yet in a game of Sealed, or lost after casting one.
Looking forward to Richmond! Hopefully I’ll open a couple of these rares and put together a good run!
If you play Sealed, I recommend and hope you open up some of these busted rares and mythics as well, then use what we’ve talked about here today to build a truly great x-0 deck.
Best of luck. Enjoy the sand.