In light of GP Ottawa, I’ve decided to do a Sealed Deck exercise. I’m going to do a bit of a write-up on the format and then I’ll show you four sealed pools and go through my thought process on building them on video.
When you open a Khans of Tarkir Sealed Deck, there are three main things you should look for to guide your building process: mana, gold cards, and powerful single-colored cards. A lot of the time, those match up, and then the whole thing is super easy—you just play those colors. When I was generating pools for this exercise, I managed to open one with two Butcher of the Hordes, six Mardu lands, and an assortment of good RW cards. That build was so painfully “in your face” that I ended up not using it for the article because I thought every single person in the room would just build Mardu, so there would be no point in talking about it.
When this happens, you’ll know it, and you’ll be very happy. You’ll build your deck in five minutes and then you’ll be bored out of your mind waiting for everyone else, wondering how people can possibly take that long to build a Sealed Deck.
Sometimes, however, that doesn’t happen. Sometimes you have all good Temur cards and four Mardu lands. Sometimes you have all good mono-green cards, but all your rares are Jeskai. At this point, what do you do? I think being able to judge between building a powerful deck with bad mana or a less powerful deck with good mana is the key to a proper Khans of Tarkir Sealed build, more so than in most other formats.
My inclination is to go for power, up to a certain threshold, and then go for consistency after that. The main point is that, if your deck is bad but consistent (has great mana but not many powerful cards), then you’ll do consistently bad things every game, which is not enough to win in nine rounds of Sealed. If your deck is powerful but inconsistent, at least you have the chance to draw the right mana, and then win with your good cards. Given the choice between those, I’m taking powerful + inconsistent over weak + consistent every time.
Once your consistent deck is somewhat powerful, though, then things change. If I feel like I have enough power in my consistent deck, I won’t sacrifice consistency for a little more power. I don’t need an insane BUG deck if I can have a great UB one, and I’ll take an “8” with good mana over a “9” with worse mana any day, because “8” is already good enough to win.
Once you’ve decided where you lie in the consistency/power balance, then the rest of deckbuilding is somewhat easy. Here are some pointers:
- You need to have a way to win the game. Board stalls are very common and there needs to be a way for you to push through—a bunch of evasive creatures, big and powerful guys, or a spell like Roar of Challenge, Icy Blast, Crater’s Claws. It doesn’t really matter what your plan for the late game is, but unless you are very aggressive, you must have one. You’ll see in the videos that I always make a point to say “this deck can win the game,” because I think that’s the most important characteristic to look for in a Khans deck.
- It’s very easy to put up a ground wall. In this format, there are many high-toughness creatures, and all the morphs outclass everything else once you hit five mana. As a result, I’m not a big fan of aggressive decks/cards unless they are particularly good. In Team Sealed, there’s often a good BW Warrior deck because, with twelve packs, you have enough aggressive cards. With six packs, you often don’t, and your aggressive deck is going to end up dealing 6-8 damage and then you’ll be left drawing useless two-drops for the rest of the game. On top of that, aggressive decks are worse to splash with, because you want to play your cards early and not late. When given the choice between a slower build or a faster build, unless the faster build is very powerful, go with slower.
- You will almost always play 18 lands. Even if your mana is very good, this format has a lot of mana sinks, such as outlast and morphs. Some aggressive decks play 17, but my default is 18.
- The best way to build a mana base is to count the number of colored sources you’re going to have access to, and then divide them. For example, if I’m playing 18 lands, and I have three dual lands and a triland, then that’s 18 + 3 + 2, or 23 colored sources. Then I try to figure out how many of each I need, and at this point it’s mostly an educated guess—say, 5 green, 9 red, 9 blue. Then I look at what lands I already have and fill in with basics. This will not make your decision any easier but it will speed up the process a little bit.
- Banners are generally pretty bad and you shouldn’t play them unless you have a very slow deck, preferably with End Hostilities or Duneblast. As mana fixing tools, I usually prefer playing a land—even a 19th one—because the three-drop slot is so crowded with morphs and there is simply no good time to play a Banner.
- Morphs make for great splash cards because they can still be played even if you don’t find your splash color. It’s much better to splash for a card like Woolly Loxodon than for one like Sultai Flayer.
- In general, you don’t want to splash early game cards. A card like Debilitating Injury, for example, is pretty good, but part of what makes it good is that it costs two. You have to imagine a scenario where you have the card in your hand for three turns and you finally draw the colored mana you need (which can often be tapped, mind you)—at this point, is the spell still good? Something like Debilitating Injury or Winterflame probably isn’t; something like Duneblast or even Smite the Monstrous would still be.
- When splashing, try to go for a deck that doesn’t need to draw its splash color to win. When your whole plan relies on a couple cards for which you only have 3-5 sources, then your deck is probably not very good.
That said, let’s move on to the Sealed decks! If you want to build them yourself before seeing what I do, I recommend you paste that on a .txt file and then load it on Magic Online, so you can move the cards around.
Download the .txt (right-click, Save As)