GP Vegas weekend is here! Are you feeling unprepared for the upcoming sealed format that will dictate your fate on Day 1? Austin has played the format plenty and is here to help with some useful tips for deckbuilding and gameplay with your pool.
1. Make sure your deck passes the “Cathodion test.”
For the most part, Cathodion is a decent card in MM. It’s efficiently costed and colorless, which means it will pop up maybe once or twice per draft. In Sealed, however, the card is almost guaranteed to be in most people’s decks. It’s common, meaning a large majority of players will have at least one copy in their Sealed pool, and being colorless means that no matter what colors people play, it will make the cut, since you never cut a 3/3 for 3 with upside. You shouldn’t necessarily warp your deck around beating Cathodion, but keep it in mind as you’re building, as you may not want to hinge your strategy around creatures that don’t match up well with it. It embarrasses cards that are usually good in Sealed like Shadowmage Infiltrator and blanks most of the bears in the set, so just be mindful of its presence in the metagame. Speaking of Cathodion….
2. Maindeck your artifact/enchantment removal.
Normally these are strict sideboard cards in Sealed, but this format heavily revolves around artifacts, which means most people are going to have some number of them in their deck because they don’t require specific colors to play. In addition, there is a lot of enchantment-based removal in the set, including Arrest, Narcolepsy, Pillory of the Sleepless and Oblivion Ring. The blowout potential is so insane that it’s well worth playing one or two Disenchants in the main, and the worst case scenario isn’t that bad.
3. Have a way to break board stalls.
Green is probably the deepest color for Sealed, which means board stalls will happen a lot in Sealed. Have a way to break through with evasion or mass pump effects. Flyers like Glint Hawk Idol and Cloud Elemental excel in this format, as do cards like Fortify, Sigil Blessing, and Overwhelm. Kitesail is also very attractive in some green decks if you have a lot of beefy creatures like Scion of the Wild…send them to the skies!
4. Prepare for a fast format.
There is a temptation to build durdly control decks in Sealed, but in this format in particular, there are a lot of strategies that can punish you for it. Because of how focused the archetypes are for draft, some of the better sealed decks will have very high synergy prepared to take advantage of slow starts. Be mindful of your curve and don’t load your deck with all expensive cards, or many decks will make you pay the price.
5. Lifegain is good.
Because many of the decks are fast and games come down to a race more often than you’d think, cards that gain life become much more appealing. Conclave Phalanx is the one that stands out the most that you really want in your G/W deck, and you’d be surprised at how potent Vampire Outcasts, Terashi’s Grasp, and Sunspear Shikari are in the decks that can abuse them.
6. Remember your Narcolepsy triggers!
This only applies to people that have the card in their deck, of course, but it’s so important that it’s worthy of its own spot in the list. The wording on the card is tricky; functionally, it keeps something tapped for the rest of the game, but in reality, you have to remember the trigger every upkeep because you are still the controller of the enchantment. There will be a lot of feel-bad moments when savvy players call out unexperienced opponents out on missed triggers at the GPs, so make sure to check for any Narcolepsies in play before you pass the turn!
7. Five-color decks are not only viable, but good.
There are a lot of bomb rares in the set, and unless you are very lucky, many of your good cards will be spread evenly across several colors. Maybe you have a decent G/W deck but all your removal is in B/R. Maybe you have a strong blue/green deck but your rares are Apocalypse Hydra and Elesh Norn. If you have upwards of 4-5 pieces of fixing, like Evolving Wilds, Wayfarer’s Bauble and Sphere of the Suns, don’t be afraid to just play all your best cards! It’s best to pick a base color or two and just splash the other two or three, but it’s entirely possible to go full rainbow and dominate slower and fairer decks with all your best cards.
8. Many of the rares are bombs. Be ready for them!
As mentioned in the previous tip, you will see a LOT of bomb rares from your opponents. Have a plan to beat them! The most common way to do this is to include removal that can handle them, like Arrest, Narcolepsy, Oblivion Ring, Spread the Sickness, and so on. If you’re lacking such cards, you can try to go under them via a fast deck with tricks and evasion to substitute for the removal you lack. If all else fails, you can try to go over the top with rares of your own or powerful lategame effects that render their advantage useless, like Vengeful Rebirth or Overwhelm. Some decks may not be able to handle the best rares in the set, and that’s okay…but if you have the opportunity to sideboard into a deck that has a better chance of winning in spite of their best cards, I would strongly consider it.
9. Sideboarding is essential.
This is true of most Sealed formats in general, but especially so in this format. Because of how high-powered most of the cards and strategies are in MM2015, you may find yourself outmatched in Game 1 by more synergistic decks. However, there are plenty of narrow yet potent answers to such strategies, which you should not forget about as you’re sideboarding. You may not want to maindeck cards like Hurkyl’s Recall, Plummet or Wrap in Flames in your deck, but they could become being game-ending against the right decks. Don’t neglect to check for such options, especially if you think their deck is stronger than yours!
10. Beware the bounce lands!
The Ravnica bounce lands are very powerful and will often make your deck even if they only tap for one of your colors. However, they can be very risky on the draw if your deck is slow; if you play a basic land on turn 1 and a bounce land on turn 2, you will have to discard to hand size! If you are playing off-color bouncelands in the main deck, I would recommend cutting them in some situations on the draw. Also, be on the lookout against R/B opponents who may be running Fulminator Mage and/or Wrecking Ball to ruin your day!
Hopefully these tips help you accumulate an advantage over the field at the GP. Don’t forget that these events are almost like Prereleases because of how new the set is, so many people will be caught off-guard by players who are more experienced with the format. Don’t let yourself be one of them!