This weekend I flew across the country to Sacramento, CA to play in a limited GP. Many of you know that I love the limited format and very rarely miss North American limited GPs. I have built quite a few Theros Sealed decks both on Magic Online and for real life events, and most of the pools I have received have been pretty straight forward. They have either been really good, or completely unplayable. Either way, I never had too much trouble actually building the deck.
However, the pool I received at GP Sacramento was the most interesting pool I've ever had. Not only was every color an option, but almost every color combination was good. It took me the entire 30 minutes to build my deck and I'm positive I built it wrong. Here is the pool.
White 1 Chained to the Rocks 1 Chosen by Heliod 1 Divine Verdict 1 Ephara's Warden 1 Last Breath 1 Ordeal of Heliod 1 Setessan Griffin 1 Setessan Battle Priest 1 Silent Artisan 1 Traveling Philosopher 1 Wingsteed Rider
Blue 1 Coastline Chimera 1 Crackling Triton 1 Griptide 1 Horizon Scholar 1 Mnemonic Wall 1 Nimbus Naiad 1 Ordeal of Thassa 1 Prescient Chimera 1 Thassa's Emissary 1 Triton Fortune Hunter 2 Voyage's End 1 Wavecrash Triton
Black 2 Blood-Toll Harpy 2 Boon of Erebos 1 Cutthroat Maneuver 1 Disciple of Phenax 1 Felhide Minotaur 1 Fleshmad Steed 1 Mogis's Marauder 1 Ordeal of Erebos 1 Read the Bones 1 Returned Centaur 2 Scourgemark 1 Sip of Hemlock 1 Tormented Hero
Red 1 Akroan Crusader 1 Coordinated Assault 2 Deathbellow Raider 1 Demolish 1 Dragon Mantle 1 Ill-Tempered Cyclops 1 Messenger's Speed 1 Priest of Iroas 1 Purphoros's Emissary 1 Rageblood Shaman 1 Rage of Purphoros 1 Spark Jolt 1 Wild Celebrants
Green 1 Agent of Horizons 1 Commune with the Gods 1 Fade into Antiquity 1 Karametra's Acolyte 1 Nessian Asp 1 Nylea, God of the Hunt 1 Nylea's Disciple 2 Nylea's Presence 2 Pheres-Band Centaurs 1 Satyr Hedonist 1 Shredding Winds 1 Staunch-Hearted Warrior 1 Time to Feed 1 Warriors' Lesson
Gold 2 Anax and Cymede 1 Horizon Chimera 1 Kragma Warcaller 1 Pharika's Mender 1 Shipwreck Singer 1 Triad of Fates 1 Xenagos, the Reveler
Colorless 1 Anvilwrought Raptor 1 Bronze Sable 1 Fleetfeather Sandals 1 Guardians of Meletis 1 Opaline Unicorn 1 Traveler's Amulet
There were a lot of powerful things going on in this pool. The first cards that jumped out at me were the two copies of Anax and Cymede. Anyone who's ever played a game with or against this guy (and girl?) should know that it's nuts. With two in the pool, it meant that my chances of playing one on turn three every game were really good, and I wanted to take advantage of that consistency.
The pool also had some insane green mythics: Nylea, God of the Hunt and Xenagos, the Reveler. While the rest of the red and green cards didn't look particularly exciting, there was a God and a Planeswalker that share a color. I'll take it.
That left the black and blue. Both of those colors looked great, but there were no bomb rares. I had a lot of difficult decisions to make with this pool. I immediately put together a RW Heroic deck that took advantage of the powerful Anax and Cymede.
Overall the power level of this deck was severely lacking. There weren't enough playables to play straight red white, so I had to add green. To be fair, the splash was really good and probably a splash I'd make anyway. The real problem with this deck is that there aren't any strong heroic enablers. We have to play a Spark Jolt in our main deck just as a way to trigger heroic which is quite terrible. There are no strong bestow creatures such as Hopeful Eidolon, Observant Alseid, or Heliod's Emissary. We do have a Purphoros's Emissary but as our thirteenth creature, I'd bet he wouldn't get bestowed very often.
The next deck I tried was a RG deck featuring our powerful mythics, Xenagos and Nylea.
I love mythics, but this deck is not very good. If I'm going to play red in Theros Sealed, I want to have some removal such as Lightning Strike and Magma Jet in my deck. This deck has a Rage of Purphoros: a fine card, but not a good substitution for Lightning Strike. There are no pump spells and we have to play some bad creatures like Wild Celebrants and Pheres-Band Centaurs. I dismissed this deck immediately.
Next, I tried a UG deck that splashed Xenagos, the Reveler.
I liked this deck much better than the first two. I think UG is a great color combination in Theros Sealed, and this deck has all of the cards we want in a UG deck. There are plenty of good creatures, three bounce spells, a Time to Feed, and of course the two bombs. This deck is a little on the slow side but in this sealed format, that's ok. The Xenagos splash is basically free. We have two Nylea's Presences and an Opaline Unicorn to get red mana, so we don't even need to play a Mountain. The one problem with this deck is there aren't really enough green permanents to turn on Nylea, God of the Hunt.
The final deck I built was this UB deck.
The UB deck is consistent but lacks power. There is a decent amount of removal and combat tricks, and Shipwreck Singer is an all-star in this limited format. The problem with this deck is we aren't playing any of our rares!
I ended up playing the UG deck, but I boarded into the UB deck after every game one. After playtesting a bunch of games with the UG version of the deck, I realized that it was much too slow and had very few ways to deal with our opponent's bombs. Nylea never became a creature and just didn't do enough. There are too many four drops and you are often faced with the choice of playing a four drop or using Nylea. You need a lot of mana to play this deck to its fullest potential and if you miss any land drops you will fall very far behind.
The UB deck was awesome. It played out really well and I didn't really miss not having any rares in my deck. The deck was capable of getting very aggressive starts with early creatures and ordeals, but it could play a control game too. Best of all, it had many ways to interact with opponents, something I really like when playing Sealed. I won three out of six game ones with the UG deck and had an overall finish of 8-1 on day one. (Day 2 was a different story. Let's not talk about that.)
This pool was by far the most difficult-to-build pool I have ever seen in this format, and I'm still not sure I got it right. I'm interested to see how you guys would build this deck. Please let me know in the comments.Born of the Gods Limited Mechanics
Born of the Gods is about a third of the way spoiled by now and we pretty much know all of the mechanics of the set for limited play. We didn't really get many new things to work with but there are a few cool new cards to talk about.
The archetypes are very strong for limited play. Of the three archetypes spoiled so far, only the green one ( Archetype of Endurance) is unplayable. Granting a good keyword ability to all of your creatures and preventing your opponent's creatures from gaining that ability is an excellent limited mechanic. Take the white one, Archetype of Courage, for example. First strike is a fine ability when you're attacking, but on defense is where this card gets gross. If all of your creatures have first strike, your opponent will never be able to attack you. Just block with all of your first strikers and the attacker will just get eaten up without dealing any damage.
Archetype of Imagination is also really good. A 3/2 flyer for six mana is not very impressive on its own, but with a built in Levitation, this card is a game winner. Levitation may be a laughable card in Magic right now but back in 7th and 8th edition drafts, it was actually a first pick bomb! The difference between Archetype of Imagination and Levitation is that the Archetype makes your opponent's creatures lose flying as well, meaning that they won't be able to block with anything but a reach creature, and there really aren't too many of those in Theros. A 3/2 dies to most removal and there are a lot of great new instant removal spells in Born of the Gods, including Searing Blood and Bile Blight, so be sure to play around those before deciding whether or not to alpha strike with all of your flyers.
Finally, we have Archetype of Endurance. Hexproof is arguably the strongest keyword ability in limited, but I'm really not impressed with this guy. At eight mana, we are only getting a 6/5. The hexproof that he grants doesn't really do anything unless our opponent is very heavy on removal, and by turn eight or later he most likely depleted most of his hand. Unlike the blue Archetype, this guy doesn't win the game on the spot. He's just a 6/5 with no evasion and no ability that affects combat. I mean, for two less mana we can play Vulpine Goliath (Vulpix), and that guy has trample!
It's also important to note that these guys are uncommon. With one Born of the Gods pack and two Theros packs in a booster draft, it means that they will not come up very often and it is very unlikely that players will have more than one in their deck.
Inspired is a great limited mechanic and my favorite mechanic in the set so far. We all know about Pain Seer, a card that will surely see constructed play, but the rest of the inspired creatures are for limited only. Inspired is an ability that triggers when the creature becomes untapped, which means that you will have to attack with your inspired creatures in order to get value out of them. Limited is all about creature combat meaning that you should be triggering your inspired guys quite frequently.
Most of the inspired guys are pure card advantage. They either put tokens into play or draw you cards, both excellent abilities for limited play. The problem with inspired is that if your opponent has a good defense set up, it may be impossible to attack with your creatures to trigger inspire. There aren't very many ways to untap a creature without attacking with it first, and I highly doubt your opponent will choose to tap your inspired guy with his Heliod's Emissary. We do have Springleaf Drum, which I think is going to be a very high pick in draft because it works really well with inspired. There may be other cards that tap your own creatures but we don't know the entire set as of yet so we'll have to wait for now. If a card such as Master Decoy was reprinted, then inspired could be very strong.
Even one of the weaker inspired cards, Oreskos Sun Guide, is pretty good. A 2/2 for two mana is always a solid limited card, and this guy can create life swings that can buy you lots of time against aggressive decks. Attacking with this guy will usually force your opponent to trade, and even make unprofitable trades. Your opponent will not afford to give you two extra life, especially if his deck is very aggressive. If you are playing an aggressive deck, this guy will allow you to race against your opponent very well. Attacking for two and gaining two life is a four point life swing, which can be huge in a game where racing matters.
The final new mechanic in the set is tribute. Tribute allows your opponent to choose to give your creature +1/+1 counters or grant your creature some other cool ability. All of the tribute creatures are great limited cards. Of course, your opponent will choose whatever is worse for you, but either half is pretty good. For example, Nessian Demolok will either get you a 6/6 creature or a 3/3 creature with a Bramblecrush attached. If your opponent has a very important artifact, enchantment, or planeswalker in play, you are getting a 6/6 for five mana, which isn't bad. Worst case scenario is you will get a 3/3 that will destroy your opponent's land.
Nessian Wilds Ravager is another interesting card. I would imagine that your opponent will rarely choose to have your guy fight one of his, as two-for-ones are often huge blowouts. If your opponent chooses to give you a 12/12, that is a two turn clock and your opponent will likely have to chump block for the rest of the game. Either choice is great for you.
With all of the tribute creatures, if your opponent is holding a removal spell or controls something like a Sedge Scorpion, they will just let your creature get the +1/+1 counters and then just kill the creature, netting you no value. However, in most situations, the tribute creatures will be good for you no matter what they choose.
Theros was very removal light in my opinion. The common removal was very slow, like Lash of the Whip and Sip of Hemlock, or situational, like Lightning Strike and Vanquish the Foul. The best removal spell in the set was Hero's Downfall, but at rare, the card didn't appear very often.
Born of the Gods has some sweet new removal spells but again, they are very situational. Both Bile Blight and Searing Blood are amazing spells, but with their double color requirement they are difficult to cast. Additionally they are uncommon meaning that there will rarely be more than one or two of these in a draft. It's pretty clear that WotC printed these spells with constructed formats in mind.
For us, this means that creatures will rule this limited format and bestow is still the best mechanic in the block. I've been very successful with "voltron" style draft decks, which involves playing a dude and bestowing a bunch of things onto it. Once the creature gets big enough, cards like Rage of Purphoros will do nothing and your opponent will have to lose multiple creatures just to trade with it.Wrapping Up
That's all I have for this week. I'm looking forward to the rest of the spoilers in the upcoming week and then finally starting to draft the set after the Prerelease. Please feel free to comment on my sealed deck in the comments section, I would love to know how I should have built my deck.
Also, our Pro Tour team, Team Revolution, has changed its name. We are the same team but will now be known as Team Madness Project. You can check out our facebook page here and you can follow us on twitter at https://twitter.com/TeamMadPro.
Thanks for reading!
Melissa DeTorahttps://twitter.com/MelissaDeTora on twitterwww.facebook.com/melissa.detora on Facebook