Commander Legends releases in one week, but the At-Home Prerelease events started today, and with that in mind, I went down to my local game store to pick up my boxes! With CommandFest Online 3 coming in just two weeks, I wanted to get a little sealed deckbuilding practice in, and I thought it would be fun to share that with all of you in article form. So, I cracked open six packs for your enjoyment – let’s see how it went!
The first thing I did, as I usually do in Sealed, was to sort my pool by color, but I made sure to set aside each of the eligible Commanders – since they’re so centrally important, I wanted to have an eye on what my options were before starting to build decks. Unless you have a Commander that you consider totally broken or that you really want to play, I wouldn’t suggest deciding right off the bat, but taking a look first and having ideas in mind as you move through your pool is a good idea.
The first thing that stuck out to me was Tevesh Szat. I’m really excited to see how he plays in Commander, so I’m leaning toward trying him out if at all possible. I also noticed the total lack of red partners, which is a bummer – if we get great red, we might be stuck with Reyav, who is very dependent on a specific card pool that might not present itself in Sealed. Numa, Armix, and Malcolm are also similarly narrow. Many of the other options, like Araumi and Gor Muldrak, are more flexible.
Next, I took a look at each color’s cards, starting with white. At first glance I’m not overly excited about what we’ve got here – the creatures are all small, with no repeatable token generation, and no high-power cards to speak of. I do like Kangee’s Lieutenant, Slith Ascendant, and Palace Sentinels quite a bit, and I also expect Seraph of Dawn to perform well in an environment where flying is likely to be very powerful. That said, I’m not optimistic, and considering we have too few token generators for Prava and not enough flying creatures for Kangee, I think this is going on the shelf.
Two Diamonds is a great start, and Fall from Favor looks like a great card. Our creatures are okay, with quite a few Pirates available – I’m starting to feel good about Malcolm. Skaab Goliath also looks very strong in some of the Dimir decks in this format, so it’s possible we’ll be in a self-mill mood – I’m noting that copy of Spontaneous Mutation as well. Blue doesn’t look like a powerhouse in our pool, but it looks like a solid support color.
Nightshade Harvester is one of my favorite cards in this set for Limited (in the dark, anyway – no games under my belt yet!) and Szat’s Will looks like a wonderful equalizer as well. Combine that with a solid set of self-mill tools, some removal, and a copy of Thorn of the Black Rose, and I’m very interested. Tevesh Szat is looking like a much stronger possibility at this point in the process.
Well, any sadness I had about my lack of red partners has totally dissipated. Blasphemous Act is a great card, but other than that, we have a fairly depressing showing for red here. I should say that I expect Frenzied Saddlebrute to overperform, but none of these cards are pulling me into red.
Sweet-Gum Recluse is a solid payoff in a go-wide deck, but I don’t think we quite ended up with a serviceable pool for green/white, and our Commander options there are a bit uninspiring as well. Court of Bounty looks like a standout card, and if I end up in green, it’s likely on the power of that card alone. We have some solid ramp options as well – Fyndhorn Elves, Gift of Paradise, and Fertilid should all perform quite well in Limited.
Jeweled Lotus seems even more swingy in Limited than in Constructed, and it probably has a higher baseline of strength here. What I’m really interested in here, however, is Commander’s Plate. This card seems absolutely crazy in Limited, and no matter where we end up, I’m putting this in my deck. Golem Artisan stands out as a card that, while it looks like it wants to be part of an artifact deck, is memorable to me as a baby Morphling when it originally appeared in Scars of Mirrodin Limited. Filigree Familiar, Arcane Signet, and even Sisay’s Ring all look like serviceable utility cards, and Pirate’s Cutlass will probably be part of the equation if we end up using our blue.
This was a pretty decent set of lands – I expect all but Opal Palace to go in pretty much any deck I build here. I almost decided to put Opal Palace into my deck if I ended up using Tevesh Szat, but then I remembered that Opal Palace predated planeswalker commanders and put it back where it belonged – in the “probably not” pile.
Based on what I see here, my best options are probably Simic or Dimir. If I’m Dimir, I’m going to play Tevesh Szat – there’s no way around it, as Armix probably won’t have enough fuel and Falthis needs a combat-ready Commander to support it. We don’t quite have enough instant speed stuff to make Nymris great, though I’d be happy to slot it in as a high-toughness flyer that sometimes pays off. If I’m Simic, I’m going with Gor Muldrak, as Numa just doesn’t have enough of a punch in our pool, which is low on Elves.
Before we start with the deckbuilding, let’s talk land count: I decided to go with 25 land as a baseline. Extrapolating from 17, I think it makes sense, and with the availability of mana rocks, cards like Guildless Commons, and so on, 25 should provide us with the ability to cast most things on time. That said, if you don’t have enough rocks and are looking to cast some huge stuff, certainly consider going up on the count. 24 could be a possibility if you’re very low to the ground.
I started out by building the Dimir deck, as I’m most excited about Tevesh Szat. It ended up looking like this, plus the Guildless Commons. And yes, I’ll always be amused that Guildless Commons is an uncommon.
I went with Esior as a complement to Tevesh Szat. I know Szat will take a long time to build up, hence my choice of the defensive familiar over Malcolm – with just six Pirates, it felt like a bad choice. I also decided not to play Araumi in either the command zone or the maindeck – I didn’t quite have enough self-mill to justify it, though I’m sure that’ll be easier to accomplish in draft. I threw in the two copies of Maelstrom Colossus at the top end in order to have some extra late game plays, and Skaab Goliath is a solid late game payoff for just playing Magic. I expect Jeweled Lotus to do some work getting Tevesh Szat on the board early or back into play in the late game, and Szat’s Will also synergizes quite well with Szat himself, providing tons of defensive utility as well as creatures to sacrifice to the +2. Commander’s Plate is an interesting one in this deck, as Szat can’t wear it, but Esior actually wears it remarkably well.
I expect this deck’s weaknesses to come in the form of wide boards as well as powerful artifacts and enchantments. Hopefully aerial assaults backed up by large late game creatures can overcome that disadvantage.
As I usually do with sealed deck, I checked my assumption that this was the best option by building a second deck, this time, the Simic deck starring Gor Muldrak.
We’ve got some more ramp in this list, but I ended up not playing the 8-mana colossi because I felt like there were too many disappointing results. In retrospect, that might be totally ridiculous, and I think if I were to rearrange my desk to take this picture again, I’d cut Perilous Myr and Kitesail Corsair for the 8-drops. Gor Muldrak is a bit weird, as we will often have a decent number of creatures, but he’s so interesting I just couldn’t deny him the opportunity to run rampant. Jeweled Lotus is worse in this list than it is in Dimir for sure, but it’s still playable.
I expect this deck to be just as weak to artifacts and enchantments as the last one, and the removal situation is pretty abysmal as well. Overall, I think this deck is worse than the Dimir deck, but building it helped me settle on Esior and Szat.
That’s it for today! I haven’t gotten a chance to actually play this sealed deck yet, but I should be able to try it out via webcam soon. Obviously I think Draft is the best way to play this set, but since it’s not available on Magic Online until the 19th, that’s not really a possibility, as in-person drafting doesn’t really seem like a good idea here in the US right now. That makes the release of Commander Legends a little bit bittersweet, but I’ve been excited about this for so long that I’m not going to let that stop me from having fun. Once it’s available online, I’ll be drafting this set until my face melts off, so hopefully you’re excited to see some of that. The drafting. Not the face-melting. You get it. Anyway, Commander Legends releases on November 20th, so preorder your goodies now on ChannelFireball.com and get ready for CommandFest Online 3 on the weekend of the 28th and 29th – I’ll see you then!