Prepare for the PTQ Season with this M13 Sealed Deck Exercise
August 23, 2012 | Posted by Dee
When I found out the PTQs for Pro Tour Gatecrash were going to be M13 (Magic 2013) Sealed for the first couple of weeks of the season, I started grinding the Magic Online release events to practice building sealed decks and learn about the format.
I hadn’t played limited in over a year so I definitely needed the practice. I played in 16 events, which gave me a lot of experience (64 matches). I gained confidence to do well at a PTQ.
Then, I found out that all the Pro Tour Qualifiers in my area were later in the season so they were Return to Ravnica Sealed instead of M13 sealed.
Well, my loss is your gain if you’re planning on playing in an M13 sealed PTQ. I don’t want my experience to go to waste and I like helping other Magic players so I’ll share a little bit of what I learned from building 16 sealed decks.
To do that, let’s look at the card pool from my second event.
How would you build a deck from this card pool?
Please leave your decklist in the comments. Thanks!
When you’re done,
The first thing I do when building a sealed deck is separate the cards that I definitely don’t mind playing.
For white, I only liked these four cards:
2 Serra Angel
1 Show of Valor
1 Aven Squire
Safe Passage is playable but I’d rather play a more consistent and less situational card.
I like Angelic Benediction in really aggressive decks. Otherwise, it’s pretty weak. If we end up playing a hyper aggro deck with white, we can add the enchantment to the deck.
You might be surprised that I didn’t include Attended Knight as a good card. I thought this card was pretty good, but it turns out to be mediocre. One of the things I learned from my matches is that a random non-flying 2/2 is usually pretty bad even if it has first strike.
There are too many common cards that blank Attended Knight. At three mana, Green has Centaur Courser, black has Giant Scorpion, blue has Watercourser, and white has Guardians of Akrasa.
Unless I’m short on playables or I have cards that combo with it, I leave Attended Knight in the sideboard. The main cards I’m looking for to play with Attended Knight are Crusader of Odric and exalted cards. Unfortunately, the card pool doesn’t have Crusader of Odric or a lot of exalted cards.
War Falcon requires a critical mass of Knights and Soldiers to attack consistently. This card pool doesn’t support the Bird. To play it, I want at least five good Knight and Soldier cards. Of course, the more, the better.
Divine Favor, Angel’s Mercy, and Erase are very weak cards.
With only a few good white cards, it looks like we won’t be playing White as a main color. Also, it won’t be a splash color. Serra Angel costs double white so it’s not splashable. Show of Valor and Aven Squire are not strong enough to splash.
By eliminating a color from consideration, you save time with deck building. This is important because you have limited time to build your deck.
Ok, let’s move to the blue cards. Here’s a list of cards I’m looking to play:
2 Faerie Invaders
1 Tricks of the Trade
2 Essence Scatter
Archaeomancer is worth playing because it enough targets. I’m looking for at least five strong sorceries and instants to play it.
Courtly Provocateur is too situational while Vedalken Entrancer doesn’t do enough unless you’re playing a dedicated mill deck. Merfolk of the Pearl Trident, Index, and Hydrosurge are bad cards.
There’s a lot of good blue cards so I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being one of the main colors.
In black, I like the following cards:
1 Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis
1 Essence Drain
1 Mark of the Vampire
1 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Servant of Nefarox
1 Mind Rot
1 Knight of Infamy
Mark of the Vampire can open you up to card disadvantage but you would be surprised at how often your opponent doesn’t have the removal spell to punish you. In my experience, this card has been very good. It gives you a powerful effect because lifelink and a permanent buff are really good abilities.
If your opponent doesn’t have removal, Mark of the Vampire can easily win you the game by itself. Also, with careful play, you can often setup a situation where they have to spend their removal in hand.
I usually play creatures before Mark of the Vampire to tempt my opponent into casting their removal spells. Once they are low on cards and the coast seems clear, then I resolve the enchantment.
Mind Rot, while not as strong as Divination, is a solid card because many games end up becoming card advantage wars. Mind Rot can win you the game by causing your opponent to discard two spells. Even if you only hit a spell and a land, the discarded land could end up mana screwing them.
Duty-Bound Dead is one of the weakest exalted creatures so right now it sits on the bench. I will play it without hesitation if I have at least seven other exalted cards. Exalted cards combo very well with each other.
Ravenous Rats is mediocre because usually it will only hit a land. Plus, a 1/1 body doesn’t do anything in most situations. Vile Rebirth is too situational.
Walking Corpse becomes outclassed very quickly by other cards. It’s a decent sideboard card if you need an early drop against a super aggressive deck. Also, you might need to play it if your mana curve is too top heavy.
If we end up playing blue/black, then Harbor Bandit will make the cut. Otherwise, it costs too much for a vanilla 2/2.
We don’t have enough artifacts so Phylactery Lich will not see the battlefield. I look for at least four playable artifacts to play this card.
Duress and Crippling Blight are playable but situational. I might have to play one of them as a filler card but I wouldn’t want to play both of them. Having too many situational cards in your deck is not a good idea.
If you desparately need a big ground creature, Zombie Goliath can fill the role. I’m not happy to play it because it’s overcosted at five mana compared to Fire Elemental, Faerie Invaders, and Sentinel Spider.
Blocking is important is most games, which is the main reason why I’ve never played Veilborn Ghoul in a sealed deck.
Moving on to red, it looks like the color is sparse like white. I only like these cards:
1 Volcanic Geyser
1 Fire Elemental
1 Searing Spear
1 Arms Dealer
Wall of Fire is pretty bad because there are too many flyers in the format. It’s similar to Guardians of Akrasa but the white defender is playable because it has an offensive ability.
Trumpet Blast and Smelt are only good in a few situations. Chandra’s Fury is less situational because the format has many one toughness creatures. Still, I don’t like it in the main deck because it’s a dead card too often.
With only a few good red cards, Goblin Battle Jester is not very good. To play the Goblin, I want at least seven other red cards. Goblin Arsonist is actually not too bad because we have Arms Dealer. Still, it’s usually mediocre on its own so I try to find a better card.
Crimson Muckwader is pretty good if black is one of the other main colors. Otherwise, it’s a weak vanilla 2/1.
I eliminated red pretty quickly because it has very few strong cards. For splashes, Searing Spear is strong enough for consideration.
Green and Colorless Analysis
Let’s go to the last color, green. Green is deeper than blue so it looks like we’ll have three colors to choose from. Here are the good green cards:
1 Duskdale Wurm
1 Vastwood Gorger
1 Garruk, Primal Hunter
2 Spiked Baloth
1 Mwonvuli Beast Tracker
2 Yeva’s Forcemage
1 Deadly Recluse
1 Elvish Visionary
2 Prey Upon
I have a friend who played in a release event with a green/red deck. He didn’t play Duskdale Wurm and Vastwood Gorger because he thought they were too expensive. Don’t fall for this trap.
These two cards are very good. Many sealed games go long so you want big finishers like them that can dominate the board. Also, they interact very well with Prey Upon.
I like Mwonvuli Beast Tracker because it can search for Deadly Recluse, Duskdale Wurm, and Spiked Baloth. If we decide to pair green with black, it can also get Vampire Nighthawk.
Yeva’s Forcemage is a solid creature that allows you to sneak in some damage when the board is stalled. It helps you in racing situations and it combos well with Prey Upon.
Speaking of Prey Upon, the green sorcery is an effective removal spell as long as you have enough creatures with high power and toughness or ways to buff them up. The green cards meet this requirement with Duskdale Wurm, Vastwood Gorger, 3/3 Beasts from Garruk, Thragtusk, Yeva’s Forcemage, and Rancor.
Also, you definitely want the option of killing a bomb like Xathrid Gorgon by casting Prey Upon and targeting Deadly Recluse. It costs you two cards to kill one but at least you don’t just auto lose.
Bountiful Harvest and Fog are cards you don’t want to be playing because they give you card disadvantage. Serpent’s Gift is way too situational. Bond Beetle’s ability is too weak. The card becomes playable if you have Roaring Primadox.
In the colorless department, Ring of Xathrid gives me a strong reason to play black. The Rings in M13 are very good if you have at least five creatures in the right color. They are okay with three to four creatures. With less than three creatures, I leave them in the sideboard.
Right now, I’ve only picked four black creatures but we can easily add Duty-Bound Dead or Zombie Goliath to give Ring of Xathrid more targets and make it a better card.
Kitesail is a decent equipment card if you have eight or more non-flying creatures. It will make the deck unless there is a better card. Door to Nothingness is a fun but very bad card. Please don’t play it if you’re serious about winning.
Cathedral of War will definitely make the final deck. It’s very good because it basically gives you a spell without lowering your land count.
At this point, we’ve looked the whole card pool and narrowed it to three colors: blue, black, and green. Let’s look at them side by side to compare.
I think green is the best color. It’s got everything you want in a sealed deck: removal, a balanced mana curve, solid creatures, big finishers, a bomb (Garruk), and other powerful cards (Rancor and Thragtusk).
For the second color, I’m going with black. Blue is deeper with 12 cards compared to black’s nine cards. But that doesn’t matter because green is really deep. Nine cards from a second color is more than enough to fill out the deck.
The overall power level of black is higher than blue’s. Essence Drain and Murder are better removal spells than the two Essence Scatter. When you’re facing down a bomb like Krenko, Mob Boss or you’re about to die to an evasion creature like Griffin Protector, you definitely want to topdeck Essence Drain or Murder instead of Essence Scatter.
Blue also has Encrust but that card is vulnerable to creatures with vigilance like Serra Angel. The enchantment doesn’t stop a key blocker like Deadly Recluse. Plus, it doesn’t destroy creatures so it can be ineffective against a deck with many exalted creatures. For example, you can lock down a Servant of Nefarox to keep it from attacking but it still gives exalted to another creature.
Blue has the edge in card advantage with two Divination and Archaeomancer but I don’t think it outweighs black’s advantage in removal. Having strong removal spells is very important because there are many creatures in M13 that can singlehandedly dominate a game.
Black’s two flying creatures (Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis and Vampire Nighthawk) are much better than the two Faerie Invaders of blue. Mark of the Vampire is better than Tricks of the Trade. The blue enchantment is good when you’re ahead but it is not good when you’re behind. The black echantment is good in both situations.
Now that we’ve chosen our two main colors, we can tweak the deck and add lands to finish up.
I cut Mind Rot for Duty-Bound Dead. The sorcery is more powerful in a vacuum but the creature fits the deck better. We need more black creatures for Ring of Xathrid. Duty-Bound Dead’s exalted ability goes well with the big green creatures and three other exalted creatures. Also, it’s a good card to enchant with Mark of the Vampire because it can regenerate.
For the mana base, I went with nine Swamps and seven Forests because there are many more green cards than black. I thought the deck was strong enough without a splash so I left Searing Spear on the bench. You don’t need to make the mana base less consistent with a splash if your deck is already pretty good with just two colors.
Plus, it’s harder to splash a color when you’re playing a colorless land like Cathedral of War.
Here’s the final decklist.
Separated by Colors
What decklist did you build?