The RPTQ was this past weekend and it was Rivals of Ixalan sealed. I spent two weeks leading up to the event mostly practicing sealed and drafting online. I haven’t played a ton of this sealed format prior to that so I wanted to get as familiar with the cards as possible. One of the most important things you can do for any given limited format is be aware of all the different tricks available so you don’t get blown out. If I qualified for this PT I’ve all but locked up Bronze level and of course can only go up from there. No amount of testing could have prepared me for what I would be receiving as a sealed pool however. To say I got a bad pool would be putting it mildly. I unfortunately didn’t save the entire pool for you to stare at in amazement, but just the deck I registered. Still, I think you’ll get a pretty good idea of the few options I had.
The hard three colors, which under normal circumstances I would never advise doing. I was in a situation where I had no big payoff creatures in any of my colors but I did have access to three Sailor of Means. This allowed me to play a little greedy and fill out my deck with a lot of value cards. Since I didn’t have any bomb rares or ways to easily win the game on the spot, I jammed every creature with flying in my cardpool into my deck. Even doing this, there still wasn’t that many. Since I had all those Sailors I also got to play every removal spell in my pool which again wasn’t many. That’s including Bombard without a single red source. My deck although clearly not good or powerful does have a clear game plan which is important when playing sealed. That plan is to gum up the ground with large toughness creatures and go to the sky.
Well when round one came around I got put in the dirt by a Boros aggro deck. I didn’t draw a single Sailor and found myself ran over just before I could ever stabilize the board each game. Both a curse and a blessing, this allowed me to dig deeper into my pool to find an option B build. What I found wasn’t much, but it was something. This is also something I recommend to everyone who plays sealed. Finding a different backup deck allows you to gain an edge in a matchup that is otherwise unwinnable. I recognized that although Boros is probably a good matchup for my deck and I wouldn’t have swapped decks anyways, I could definitely see myself having a problem going up against a deck heavy on bombs. Since my deck doesn’t really come at you fast nor does it have a lot of removal spells. My plan B was a straight up Simic tempo deck. I did a clean 15 card swap from my main deck and removed all non Simic cards, along with the Sailors for cards like Deadeye Rig-Hauler, Jadecraft Artisan and more Crashing Tide. It wasn’t flashy and my threshold for what I consider playable dipped a bit to find 23 cards but I got there. This was important because round two came along and my opponent had a dinosaur deck that I simply couldn’t compete with in the late game but lacked an impressive early one. After being down a game I swapped out to my plan B and I managed to squeeze out the win by simply applying pressure and bouncing his bombs.
Remember that click bait title? This is what happened next. Round three I got paired down to the 0-2 bracket as I was sitting at 1-1. I win game one handily and keep my deck the same. He was playing some sort of GW dinosaur deck. Then out of nowhere game two he played Bishop’s Soldier into Territorial Hammerskull into another Territorial Hammerskull. After getting quickly dispatched that game I get a little nervous but decided that I needed the removal and keep my deck as is. Game three he gets a similar draw and I’m facing lethal. But before my opponent kills me he pulls out the match slip and concedes the match. I couldn’t believe it. This wasn’t prompted by me but was a conscious decision by my opponent knowing he wasn’t live for top 8 and I was. I of course appreciated the gesture sincerely and would do my best to not make that concession in vein.
Each round following I found myself in tougher and tougher situations but I kept my cool and continued figuring out the best deck for the right situation. I was drawing well, even for my deck and managed to squeeze out some tough matches against rares such as Legion’s Landing, Kumena’s Awakening, Etali, Primal Storm and Golden Guardian to name a few along the way. Eventually I found myself in round six and breakers that were just good enough to prompt a draw into top 8.
I sit down for the draft and see four seats to my left will be my opponent in Lance Austin. He’s currently a Bronze level Pro and relatively new to the Florida region. I open my pack and get to reveal to the table a Profane Procession. This is basically a dream scenario since I can both forecast to my neighbors my intent but also get one of the best rares in the set. This of course paid dividends as I get a third pick Legion Lieutenant and a bunch of vampires. Pack two doesn’t fail to deliver either as I pick up a Vona’s Hunger and more tribal synergies. I also make it a point to hate out as much enchantment removal as possible, taking a very early Cleansing Ray (fifth pick) knowing that Lance would have surely taken it ninth pick. My main concern going into the last pack was removal, as my only options at the time were Vona’s Hunger, Profane Procession and a Reaver Ambush. My worries were quelled when I opened a Walk the Plank and got a third pick Contract Killing. Rounding out my deck I got the ever important Anointed Deacon which really solidified my deck and gave me complete confidence in winning my match. The final product is as follows:
Lance of course wouldn’t make it easy on me. Pack three was opened and a Legion’s Landing was revealed at the seat next to him. I watched as it got passed and then taken by Lance. He also ended up with a Mavren Vein, a Legion Lieutenant of his own and a very scary Golden Demise. Thankfully for me the only one of those he ever drew was the Mavren Vein and I had removal for it. Game 1 he just flooded out after a mulligan and game 2 after I mulliganed I had nearly a perfect draw while he stumbled on a second color until it was too late. After the dust cleared I’m requalified for the Pro Tour and have locked up Bronze! Phew, what a day.
Now that I’m going to the PT I’m fully committed to grinding away to see how far I can go. I think a reasonable goal is to hit Silver by season end. I’ve already got a shell of a team in place as well. As I’m writing this I’m confirmed to be working with Chris Fennell, Steve Mann and Craig Wescoe. That’s one heck of a team already. So stay tuned. I’ll be sharing my thoughts and testing regimen as much as I can without compromising our team of course.
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