I decided to skip the Atlanta open this past weekend to play in up to two separate PPTQ’s locally instead. Qualifying for another Pro Tour is more important to me than playing in, or even winning an open. Knowing this to be the case I played in a lot of prerelease events to give myself an idea of how the sealed format would play out since both PPTQ’s coming up where to be sealed. I knew the playing ground would be level in both sealed and draft portions with Oath of the Gatewatch being so new. Leaning hard on card evaluations and knowledge of the good removal and combat tricks can go a long way in the infancy of a format. Little did I know I’d only need one PPTQ to claim another qualification.
With that being said, my sealed pool felt quite average. Let’s take a look at what I received.
Going through the colors of what cards are appealing and reasons to play them we see White doesn’t have much going for it. Three Kor Sky Climbers, Retreat to Emeria and Expedition Raptor isn’t really enough of a reason to go white. We’re missing some removal spells that white normally offers that is appealing like Isolation Zone, Sheer Drop or Gideon’s Reproach. With no rare bombs either, it’s pretty easy to dismiss the white here with the thought in the back of my head that Retreat to Emeria is splashable if needed and if the fixing is there.
Next up is Blue and when I first saw Eldrazi Skyspawner and Halimar Tidecaller I was quite excited. That excitement quickly dissipated as a lack of awaken spells coupled with very few other playables and it was apparent that Blue could only be splashed for my rare Deepfathom Skulker. To make Blue work we need more evasive threats like Jwar Isle Avenger, Gravity Navigator and Benthic Infiltrator. Blue also benefits a lot from awaken cards like Rush of Ice or Clutch of Currents. Without any of these types of cards it’s pretty easy to look elsewhere for a primary color.
Black has the highest quantity of cards to offer of all my colors. Unfortunately that doesn’t make necessarily make it worthwhile. It’s conflicted with two different synergies that are split among the color. There are some solid Ally cards in Vampire Envoy, Zulaport Chainmage and Malakir Soothsayer. There are also some okay devoid cards in Slaughter Drone, Visions of Brutality (in the right deck), Kozilek’s Shrieker and Havoc Sower. There some nice removal with Complete Disregard and Oblivion Strike, but without a focused deck there’s no synergies here and each card gets collectively weaker without support. To make this Black really work it needs to either have more Ally creatures in another color to support it or more Ally creatures in Black altogether. Alternatively the same can be said for Devoid cards and Devoid synergies in other colors. Unfortunately there’s a pretty big lack of either one of the themes in my other colors and it leaves the majority of the non splashable cards on the bench.
After mostly dismissing the other colors, by default I’m running out of options and luckily Red barely has enough going on. The removal here is what I’ve been waiting for in double Boulder Salvo and Reality Hemorrhage. Akoum Stonewaker is a two drop that’s fine on curve and scales just fine later in the game. I’m always happy with Nettle Drone and Maw of Kozilek. Akoum Flameseeker, Firemantle Mage, Reckless Bushwhacker and Cinder Hellion are all considerations based on what Green has to offer. It wouldn’t make much since to include the few Ally creatures Red has unless Green has more to offer. To note, traditionally Green always is lacking in Ally creatures. Cinder Hellion is a fine card, but the five slot is often full of larger Green monsters. Now that we have some direction in one of our colors, let’s see what the final one has to offer.
Green has some really sweet cards and although universally accepted as the weakest color in this block, it certainly did a solid delivery here. Double Snapping Gnarlid, Stalking Drone and Scion Summoner offer some early pressure if I want. Saddleback Lagac is not only a fun card to say but is actually pretty good if you’re hitting your curve. Those big five drops I was talking about earlier are delivered in Embodiment of Insight and Territorial Baloth. Going up higher in the curve there’s Tajuru Beastmaster and Birthing Hulk for some late game action if desired.
Gold and Colorless give us some powerful options. A Black splash with Oblivion Strike was already on my radar and adding Brood Butcher makes it an easy inclusion. Mina and Denn, Wildborn is on color and quite powerful with all the landfall creatures I already have. Resolute Blademaster is a splash option that works well with the Retreat to Emeria if I want to add white. Bring to Light just isn’t very good even if it’s fully converged. Deceiver of Form is my giant idiot I get to play. Spatial Contortion gives me some additional removal if I need it and if the mana works out. Scour from Existence is a good sideboard option, but I don’t really want it main deck now that the format has sped up a bit with less Battle for Zendikar packs. Seer’s Lantern and Warden of Geometries is just what the devoid doctor ordered. These are ramp effects that give us colorless fixing for Deceiver of Form and Spatial Contortion. The scry effect on Seer’s Lantern is just fantastic in sealed and helps you push through a board stall or find an answer to a problem. Also Hedron Blade is bad. Don’t play Hedron Blade. While we’re at it if there’s a non-rare equipment in your pool assume it’s unplayable (because it is).
The mana in this pool is close to perfect. Evolving Wilds and a single Wastes allows me to fetch out any color or the Wastes if I need it. Fertile Thicket is an obvious great fixer and is on color. Submerged Boneyard allows me an additional fixer for both my splash colors if I decide on being so greedy. Finally, Corrupted Crossroads gives me even more fixing on the splash colors since most of the cards are Devoid.
After taking all of that in, I settled on the following.
I opted on the light Black and Blue splash because it was surprisingly easy to do without hurting the mana base. Corrupted Crossroads can cast all but eight spells in the deck with colored mana and is just a fantastic fixing card. The mana base is (including Corrupted Crossroads) 8 Red, 8 Green, 4 Blue, 4 Black, 3 Wastes. That’s also not including Fertile Thicket as a potential fixer or Seer’s Lantern and Warden of Geometries as additional colorless sources. It’s very important when splashing cards that it doesn’t hurt your main two colors to the point that you can’t consistently cast your cards on curve. This generally happens when you dip to or below 7 sources on each of your colors. 18 lands also felt correct with the amount of landfall creatures this deck has and the high end cards Birthing Hulk and Deceiver of Form.
I liked having 4 two drops because it allowed me to either put on pressure early and use Boulder Salvo as a tempo play or be defensive while I smoothed out my mana and got to my bigger threats starting in the five cost slot. The removal besides the two Boulder Salvo’s in Reality Hemorrhage, Spatial Contortion and Oblivion Strike all give me additional tempo options early in the game and Oblivion Strike of course can be a power house at any point in the game. The rares are really where the payoff is in this deck. Mina and Denn, Wildborn power level is off the charts when you have five other landfall creatures. Brood Butcher is just a good magic card and makes combat math a headache for your opponent. Deepfathom Skulker gives you an unblockable threat and draws you cards. Then of course Deceiver of Form is just a giant idiot, and who doesn’t like those in sealed?
I feel like the most difficult part about building this deck was if I should have made it a more focused two color deck with a tighter curve and tried to abuse the power of my favorite named card in Saddleback Lagac. There’s also the dilemma of trying to make the Ally cards work. Akoum Flameseeker and Firemantle Mage both are powerful cards. There was a little support with Tajuru Beastmaster in Green, along with the earlier named choices in Black. However in the end I decided that I wanted access to more bombs. I think if the fixing wasn’t as good as it was I would have opted to try and stay with a focused Red and Green deck.
I finished off the sealed portion of the event going 3-0-1 and first seed. It was a surprisingly small PPTQ, but I have no problem with that since winning a PPTQ with 100 people is the same as winning one with 8 people. At the end of the day you’re still qualified for the RPTQ and you’re getting a promo Snapcaster Mage.
My draft went pretty well as it started with a first pick Oblivion Strike. A second pick Grasp of Darkness meant Black could end up being open. A Third pick Isolation Zone meant white also should be open enough to move in. I picked up some Ally creatures figuring I would be able to snatch up every Kalastria Healer I saw in pack 3. Pack two I opened an Inverter of Truth and I believe the card is surprisingly powerful. It’s not a card you want to run out there on turn 4 obviously, but casting it turn 7 or 8 after your opponent has used up most or all of the removal on other threats and it can win the game in a turn or two. The rest of the pack was pretty uneventful and I got a little nervous. The majority of the cards I picked up where far from powerhouses or strong removal spells. Green signaled to be more open when a Scion Summoner I noticed early in pack 2 tabled. None of that ended up mattering though. Pack three rewarded me handsomely by sticking to my colors with Quarantine Field. The next pack had a Retreat to Emeria and a Bloodbond Vampire. Agonizing over the decision because the Bloodbond Vampire had such synergy with the multiple Vampire Envoy’s I had I still opted for Retreat to Emeria and its raw power. It doesn’t need anything else to be good, it just is. I was shocked and flabbergasted when the Bloodbond Vampire tabled and my eyes lit up as I knew my deck was complete.
This is my final result.
The draft matches themselves went pretty well. In the semifinals I had to play against a double Clutch of Currents Blue/Green Eldrazi deck. I managed to win that one by staying evasive with my threats and boarding in the Shadow Glider and Mighty Leap to stick with that plan. In the finals my opponent had a very greedy Jeskai deck with multiple Wastes. He casually went Island, Plains, Mountain, Blighted Cataract all three games and certainly made it interesting. In the end I was able to achieve victory on the back of a well-timed Quarantine Field as I waited until I hit my 8th land drop to wipe his board and then I started to apply pressure.
The most exciting part about all of this is I’m already done having to play in PPTQ’s for the foreseeable future. Next weekend has SCG Regionals that’s Modern format. I don’t really plan on doing much testing and will either show up with Affinity or a Grishoalbrand deck depending on what I end up borrowing out to friends for the Pro Tour. In between now and the RPTQ on the 21st I get to focus on nothing but standard. I have no excuses now. I have the time and the knowledge. Nothing changes between now and then but the metagame. With the proper testing I’ll secure my slot back on the PT. There’s nowhere else I should be than right there with the other big fish.
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