There’s been tons of controversy about Ultimate Masters lately, whether it’s about its box toppers, price, value, or availability. But all I care about is the possibility to play this Masters set at a GP. Or should I call it MagicFest? I remember playing the first Modern Masters GP and it was amazing. It was a true Magic fest, even before they changed the name. Tons of people, all there to share their love for Magic and its new beloved Masters set. I believe it was due to the many problems with some of the more recently released Masters sets that they haven’t been played at a GP level. This made it more about opening value or sought-after reprints, rather than a celebration of the game and the set itself. It also made it so that a lot of people lost interest in actually drafting and playing with the set. All in all, I’m glad WotC realized this and that this isn’t just yet another Masters set on the shelf!
Before we jump into practice, let’s analyze a few things about the Limited format as a whole to have a better understanding about how to build our Sealed decks.
The set, much like any other Masters set, is oozing with high-power-level cards, but it also has tons of synergy, which makes it a great Draft set. When it comes to Sealed, balancing the right amount of power level versus synergy can be difficult, as you often get to choose between them in a different way from Draft, where you are focused on one plan, without having the option of both. Learning when to go for it (or not) takes experience—not only from the format itself but also long-time Magic experience and experience playing the cards in their original format.
I know that Wingsteed Rider is an absurd common from Theros block and ran away with an absurd number of games. But can its previous prowess stand up to the higher power level in Ultimate Masters? Is the synergy between Wingsteed Rider and other cards better or worse than before? Are there more answers to break this kind of synergy apart? You need answers to all these questions to understand how to value the card’s essence and synergy.
Most often, Masters sets tend to have such a high power level that it’s often correct to go for a multicolored pile with as many powerful cards as possible. In this set, however, there are no Ravnica bouncelands, no vivid lands, no Guildgates, or any other cycle at common or uncommon. There’s only the the old creatureland cycle at rare, with Raging Ravine and friends, and Terramorphic Expanse. That increases the value of these cards by an order of magnitude. Green will also increase in value as it gives you options like Kodama’s Reach or Satyr Wayfinder.
Regarding the speed of the format, I assume that, as is the case with many other Limited formats, Sealed will be a lot slower than Draft. Maybe even more so than normal when it comes to Ultimate Masters. There are not many creatures with more toughness than power early on the curve that block or double-block well, as we’ve seen in some of our recent regular Limited formats. But there are a fair number of creatures that trade well, like Sultai Skullkeeper, Safehold Elite, or Ghoulcaller’s Accomplice, making it harder to get through.
Another reason the format will get slower is because you’ll try to play more removal in Sealed. Players will go out of their way to splash some if need be, making it harder to go under them. Lastly, most aggressive strategies seem to revolve around synergy like heroic or madness, meaning that they will be harder to assemble in Sealed as you can’t freely choose which archetype your cards will be focused on. As people play more removal, synergies between creatures especially will be even harder to assemble. As I’m saying this, make no mistake. The best Sealed decks will be the unlikely, absurd, synergistic deck that goes under whatever slow things people are doing in Sealed, so make sure you look out for the possibility, even though it doesn’t happen often.
With that being said, let’s dive into our first Sealed pool!
Click to enlarge.
The first thing that stands out is that white has very few cards, even fewer creatures and none of them are rares, so we can exclude white immediately. On the other hand, blue has tons of cards and while none of them are bombs, there’s tons of meat to fill your curve with, so it’s likely to be the core of our deck. Black doesn’t offer much other than Bitterblossom, which of course is absurd, but doesn’t build a deck on its own as many of the other cards have quite a low power level. Unusually, black doesn’t have much in terms of removal, so in the end I’m not interested in black either.
One sweet, powerful, and classic combo I see is Seismic Assault and Life from the Loam. Seismic Assault can be powerful in Limited on its own, and Life from the Loam isn’t fantastic, but together they are unbeatable, so trying to get the combo into the final 40 seems like a good goal. When it comes to green, however, it’s not very deep or powerful, and needs a strong second color to work with. Since we want to play Seismic Assault with Life from the Loam and green is so dependent on another strong color, simply playing green-red doesn’t seem great. But if we splash green with Terramorphic Expanse and the two Vessel of Endless Rest, with blue being so deep to support the rest, maybe we can scrape something together!
Ooh… this is what I’m talking about. A classic sweet Masters Sealed with a splash of a few synergies and a splash of powerful cards together in a janky multicolored pile. Finding out the right metrics for this was actually quite difficult and you’ll see why in just a second.
Life from the Loam is normally quite bad in Limited, but can be great with the help of some other cards. One card in particular that works great with it is Faithless Looting. It helps you utilize the lands you return with Life from the Loam and is a great card to dredge into your graveyard. Faithless Looting also enables a number of other cards in the deck. It triggers Thermo-Alchemist, it fills the graveyard for Stitched Drake and Artisan of Kozilek, synergizes with Firewing Phoenix, and enables madness for Fiery Temper! Forbidden Alchemy works similarly well with the combo as it helps you find it and is another flashback card that can be dredged down.
Another sweet one in the deck is the splashed Fauna Shaman. It’s a powerful card as a sweet toolbox enabler with cards like Stingerfling Spider and Aethersnipe, but it also does so much more. Most importantly, it enables Stitched Drake and finds it at the same time. The coolest synergy with it is the poor man’s impression it does of Squee, Goblin Nabob and Survival of the Fittest together with Firewing Pheonix, netting you a pretty sweet engine.
Lastly, another thing to think about regarding the deck isn’t exactly a synergy, but what Vessel of Endless Rest does for the deck. Not only does it enable the splash of Life from the Loam and make it easier to cast Seismic Assault, but it also quietly enables the second ability from Dimir Guildmage and flashes back Forbidden Alchemy. Something even more subtle is that with cards like Faithless Looting, Life from the Loam, and Forbidden Alchemy, there’s a reasonable chance to actually go through your entire deck in especially grindy games. Holding a Vessel can in its own right let you use its ability to target one of your own cards to survive from milling yourself another turn and maybe reuse that powerful card to close out the game.
With that being said, I hope that Sealed decks in Ultimate Masters will look like this one. If that’s the case, we have a incredibly sweet Limited format to cherish in front of us!