Beginners Guide to Sealed Deck and Booster Draft with Rob Catton
Hi guys, this is the beginning of a series of articles I’ll be writing for mtgUK, and apparently it’s pretty hard to think of topics! As such, if you have any ideas of what I should write about, or something you want to read about, just post in the comments below and I’ll see what the most popular idea is.
The most important topic I can think of at this point in time is GP Manchester (shocker), and in this article I will try to point out the pitfalls and traps in sealed deck building, and how to quickly assess how to build your deck.
The difference between Sealed Deck and Drafting
First of all, the difference between sealed and draft in this format is vast. In draft, it is all about racing your opponent, and doing it well. Cards like Feeling of Dread and Wild Hunger make it so that you can beat down, but also interact with your opponent whilst doing so. It is pretty easy to draft an aggro deck, as even a bad GW beatdown deck can beat a clunky blue deck that is doing nothing in the early game, a la Think Twice and Forbidden Alchemy.
The only way the control decks can win is by the use of defensive creatures, like Fortress Crab and One-Eyed Scarecrow, cheap removal, and a ‘bomb’ at the end of the curve. Even this is not a tried and true practice as if the aggro deck has an answer, maybe a Bonds of Faith or Smite the Monstrous, then you are back to square one.
There are exceptions to this rule, however, as there are the ‘combo’ decks of the draft format; Spider Spawning and Burning Vengeance (and to a lesser extent, mill). The former pair of combo decks are a little harder to assemble now that there is a pack less of Innistrad per person, and hence there is a smaller chance that the namesake cards are opened which enable these decks.
But I am straying off point, back to sealed. As you simply open 6 boosters, you have no control over creating an aggro deck; you get what you are given. This means that slower decks are much more prevalent, and your sealed deck can afford to play much slower cards. Suddenly, powerful cards such as Alpha Brawl which are way too slow for draft, become pretty good tools. Valuations of cards like Geistcatcher’s Rig also rise, as the games are pretty much guaranteed to go long.
Another thing to think about is if your deck wants to play or draw. If you have a reason to want to hit all your land drops, for example Army of the Damned, then your deck is probably designed to stay alive that long, by use of removal spells and good blocking creatures, then you probably want to draw. If your deck tops out at around 5 mana, then you want to play as you want the game to go short rather than long. It is probably better to dedicate your decision to your preferences, rather than stopping your opponent play or draw (this isn’t as true in draft); but it is also something to consider. If you think the only way your opponent can beat you is getting the jump on you with a Reckless Waif or a Delver of Secrets, then maybe it is best to play.
Sealed Deck Pool Analysis
Here is an example sealed pool, courtesy of MagicDraftSim.com
This sealed pool is pretty interesting, as it is clear you want to play white, but the support colour isn’t as clear. There’s a Drogskol Reaver which makes UW pretty tempting but the red is really strong, and blue is a little thin. Red has with multiple removal spells and some reasonable creatures, and Burning Oil goes from being good, to excellent when you can flash it back. Red white is widely regarded as a losing strategy, but it looks like a decent choice here.
The splashing of black for Sever the Bloodline and the two Fires of Undeath gives the deck a lot more to do with its mana, and it is a pretty easy splash as there are only two double white cards, and you can make the choice to play no double red cards (except perhaps the Blood Feud, as it is late game). Unburial Rites is tempting, but the smaller the splash the better. If there was some way of getting it into the graveyard, like Faithless Looting, then it would be much safer.
The call here is to go for a safer UW deck, or a more powerful RWB deck. My gut feeling is that the RWB deck is better; the power outweighs the added variance from playing more colours. It is not even clear that the UW has better mana, as the deck would have to play something like 9 plains 8 island, which leads to colour screw too much for my liking. The RWB deck, also, would choose to draw. It has enough early plays and removal to drag the game out to the late stages, and the extra card will matter.
The last thing I want to say about sealed is only go green if you really have to; you better have a good incentive, otherwise it is just miserable. I mean, look at the green cards in the above pool. There are so many, but they are all just dumb creatures and pump spells. That isn’t going to get you far in a field of Bloodline Keeper’s and Thraben Doomsayers.
The next part of Grand Prix Manchester, if you make it to day 2, is Draft. DKA/INN/INN is a completely different animal to its sealed counterpart, as the capability to build an aggressive deck is much higher. Furthermore, the ‘combo‘ decks which I mentioned earlier, are quite awkward to commit to pack one as you do not know if the cards will be in the next two packs; a problem with drafting DKA first.
A good way to try and draft these decks is taking cards which lend themselves to the combo strategies, but do not commit you so much that you cannot play them if you don’t get all the pieces you need. Examples are Screeching Scaab, Faithless Looting, Tracker’s Instincts, Dawntreader Elk; these cards range from OK in normal decks, to excellent in the Burning Vengeance or Spider Spawning decks.
Going in to the draft blind I would suggest trying to play White, as it pairs the best with the other colours. White and Blue form to make a tempo based fliers deck (as per usual), Green White forms a strong setup to receive some Travel Preperations in the INN boosters and this lets you go over the top of other creature decks, and Black White lets you combine the synergy of the human cards to put your opponent in a lot of awkward spots.
By now it should be evident to you keen drafters out there that there are a lot of winning strategies colour wise, and also a few losing ones. As I previously mentioned Red White is normally avoided like the plague due to the awkward mana bases, the cards just not matching up so well, and basically just feeling horrible. Although there are no set rules, and there are always exceptions to the rule, try to avoid this colour pairing.
Along with Red White, there is Black Green and Black Blue; but they are much safer than the dreaded RW. The general problem with Black Green is the colour commitments, as too many double costed cards makes curving out really hard. Furthermore, Black Green can’t really do much with its mana (much like Red Green in triple Innistrad) due to a lack in flashback cards.
This makes the land flooded draws just spell doom for a Black Green draft, and makes it normally an undesirable combination. Black Blue isn’t actually so bad, but make sure you dont make the conflicting cards. If you want to draft aggro, stick to blue as much as possible with cards like Stormbound Geist, and not jamming in cards like Forbidden Alchemy to your aggro deck. The best Black Blue deck is the one with all the Stitched creatures and the good enablers like Deranged Assisstant, the creatures are just way above curve.
One last note; keep an eye on the flip cards taken by people around you, try to wait a little longer for your picks as the information may be invaluable.
Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing,