Sealed in Guilds of Ravnica
- Christian Seibold
Christian is back at it again, this time in Guilds of Ravnica Sealed. He breaks down some general tips, and then dives into a pool to show you his train of thought while building a pool. Interested in GRN Limited, look no further.
Guilds of Ravnica has been out for a month now and many magic players are satisfied about the Limited format, because it is pretty balanced, and games are exciting. Since I am preparing for the upcoming limited GP I was diligent and played around 30 sealed events already. In this article I want to share my experience about the sealed format in Guilds of Ravnica and build a practice pool.
Before I discuss the practice pool, I want to mention some general thoughts I have about the sealed format in Guilds of Ravnica:
The format is rather slow. Of course, there are some Boros, Selesnya, and Izzet decks which can curve out and kill quickly, but Sealed forces you to play with what you've got, and you often won't have a very good aggressive deck, because you usually are either missing good spells, a good mana curve, or simply the raw power needed to fuel an aggressive list.
In sealed, it does not really matter which Guilds are the strongest, because you have no choice like you do in draft – you have to play with whatever you open. That being said, it is more important to know that sealed is more about card advantage, good removal spells, and bombs. Most of the time, you will find the perfect mix of these keywords in the Grixis colors because these colors offer the best cards for control decks. Still, if you open a good Boros deck, you should definitely go for it, because closing out games before your opponent can cast their good spells is still the best strategy. The problem is that you rarely open a really good Boros deck because many things have to come together to have a decent mana curve, a decent creature count, and a reasonable power level. Selesyna and Golgari are also fine choices, even though I rarely find myself playing these Guilds unless I open some powerful rares. Dimir is, as a result of this, the frequent pick, because this Guild offers a lot of good commons, the best gold cards, and even if you have to play some mediocre cards, you can still use surveil to get rid of them. Overall you can say that a mediocre Dimir deck is better than a mediocre Boros deck, but I would rather open a strong Boros deck than a strong Dimir deck. Izzet is often not easy to build because this Guild ends up split between tempo and control, which is not the way you want to build a deck.
Charnel Troll: A strong card which you can play turn 3 to finish games quickly. Even if your opponent finds a way to deal with it, it usually dealt a lot of damage and puts creatures in your graveyard for your undergrowth cards.
Enhanced Surveillance: A good way to make sure you do not get milled in blue control decks, but also digging for specific cards is a nice advantage.
Douser of Lights: I never put it in my deck, but somehow a 4/5 Body is pretty effective in this format. It blocks well and sometimes you lack finishers in your blue/black decks.
Barrier of Bones: Every card with Surveil is at least playable because the ability is just that good. The wall also blocks small creatures and can be used as fodder for Portcullis Vine, Severed Strands or Plaguecrafter.
Devious Cover-Up: Normally, I wouldn't even consider playing a four-mana counterspell without any benefits, but it turns out that in a slow format with enough bombs, paying four for a counterspell is still fine. Also shuffling four cards back into your library is way more relevant than I thought and exiling opposing cards can be relevant against Undergrowth or Jump-Start cards.
Sprouting Renewal: It sounds like a decent, flexible card, which would be good in other limited formats, but it's just not good in GRN. There are not many artifacts and enchantments to kill and making a 2/2 for three is just not good. If it would be an instant like Crushing Canopy, it would be way better.
Erstwhile Trooper: Most of the time, you just don't want to discard a creature card in order to trade with your opponent's creature, which makes Trooper very mediocre. It can fill Undergrowth, but mostly you just want to play the creature and trade with it, rather than discarding it.
Centaur Peacemaker: Good Selesnya decks are rather fast and giving your opponent 4 life is not what you want. If your Selesnya deck is a midrange deck and you are playing against aggressive decks like Boros or Izzet, Peacemaker is doing a good job, but otherwise it's nothing special.
Worldsoul Colossus: Tapping creatures to cast a big creature without trample is not what you want in a format with a lot of deathtouch.
Siege Wurm: This should be the key Convoke payoff card of Selesnya. It turned out to be mediocre. In Sealed, it is a bit better but still nothing to be excited about since there are enough removal spells that deal with it.
White is not great here. It's not deep and has very little power. The only good cards are a couple of Healer's Hawk and Sunhome Stalwarts. These cards fit perfectly in Boros, but are good in Selesnya, too. Even though Intrusive Packbeast, Take Heart and Righteous Blow are fine fillers, they are not particularly exciting on their own. Unless the Boros or Selesnya cards are very good, it's easy to ignore white in this pool.
Blue is all about control and the cards in this pool are showing that. Wishcoin Crab is actually a fine blocker and I find myself playing it here and there. A couple of Dimir Informants are excellent at stopping early aggression and having Surveil 2 makes it one of the best blue commons. Even without Surveil 2, Watcher in the Mist could see play. Having this ability pushes it to the best blue common in sealed. Quasiduplicate impressed me often enough especially if you cast it on Nightveil Predator, which is basically game over. I already talked about Devious Cover-Up and I do not mind playing two in sealed. Thoughtbound Phantasm is a very strong card because it is cheap, blocks early and finishes later. You cannot ask for more. Overall, blue looks pretty good here, since it is deep and offers all the tools you might want for a control deck.
Black basically only has Deadly Visit, but that removal spell is very good in sealed. Usually, you don't want to draw more lands when you cast Deadly Visit, so milling lands with Surveil after you killed a creature feels like drawing extra cards sometimes. Hired Poisoner, Spinal Centipede, Plaguecrafter and Severed Strands fit more in Golgari than in Dimir, but are fine playables in Dimir, too. Barrier of Bones looks good here because it can act as fodder for Plaguecrafter and Severed Strands. If the pool offers enough Dimir gold cards, blue/black should definitely be viable here.
Red looks very good here. Goblin Banneret is a strong one-drop because it is easy to use its Mentor ability effectively and trades with anything. Runaway Steam-Kin, Orney Goblin and Goblin Cratermaker are excellent two-drops and are very good in Boros or Izzet. Electrostatic Field and Erratic Cyclops are nice payoff cards for a spell heavy Izzet deck. I like having one copy of Cosmotronic Wave in my red decks, because it often acts as a removal plus a free attack to trigger your mentor creatures or just as a game winning card. With 6 premium one- and two drops, red offers a good Izzet or Boros deck, but white is not very deep and blue only offers Vedalken Mesmerist as aggressive cards. Therefore, the gold cards have to be very good if you want to build a red deck in this pool.
Well, green only has a couple playable cards and neither white nor black are looking exciting. Unless you have a ton of good green gold cards and some bombs you can easily dismiss green in this pool.
Both Izzet and Boros only have three gold cards, but these cards are very good. Hypothesizzle and Wee Dragonauts are premium gold cards in Izzet. Same is true for Skyknight Legionnaire, Justice Strike and Boros Challenger in Boros. Golgari Findbroker is a strong card, but the rest of the green gold cards are underwhelming just like green itself. This pool offers six Dimir gold cards, which makes blue/black look like the strongest color combination in this pool.
Artifacts & Lands
Dimir Locket is actually fine, since it helps you to ramp into something like Watcher in the Mist, Douser of Lights, or Deadly Visit. It really depends on your mana curve if you decide to play the locket. Two Izzet Guildgate and one Dimir Guildgate could be important in this pool, since blue, red, and black are your best colors and splashing is always a thing in Sealed.
Usually when I am building sealed decks I quickly want to make sure that I don't miss anything. Even though it looks like the best deck is in the Grixis colors, sometimes you might overlook other good decks which could be even better or at least could be relevant for sideboard games. If the deck is, as expected, not good, you can quickly dismiss a lot of cards or decks and can focus on the best deck. Boros is the most aggressive Guild, but also Selesnya and Izzet can be aggressive. In this pool Selesnya is very poor, since green is very weak and besides Assure // Assemble, the gold cards are poor, too. Therefore the only white deck is Boros and it actually does not look that bad. The above deck can curve out pretty nicely with 4 one-drops 7 two-drops and 5 three-drops. You also have four cheap Mentor creatures, some tricks, and Packmaster or Wave to close out games. Even though the one-drops and two-drops look very strong in this deck, most of the rest of the cards are rather mediocre, which is the reason I don't like the deck very much. The three Fearless Halberdier are far away from Wojek Bodyguard. Also, Righteous Blow and Take Heart are not the best tricks for Boros. Additionally, playing Candlelight Vigil is very risky even though it can be nice if it sticks with a Hawk. Overall the deck looks OK and I've played worse decks in sealed, but this pool should be able to do better.
With Electrostatic Field, two Wee Dragonauts, and Erratic Cyclops, there could be a strong Izzet deck which profits a lot by playing spells. Even though blue does not offer a lot of strong early drops, red helps out there. Thief of Sanity is a very strong card and should be played if possible. With 3 Guildgates, splashing here is reasonable, even though your deck is aggressive and does not want to get mana screwed. Playing counterspells in this deck does not make a lot of sense, since you want to cast spells proactively to trigger your Dragonauts or Cyclops. I think the deck would be very good if it had a few more spells, but only having six spells is just not enough to make Wee Dragonauts and Erratic Cyclops powerful cards. I think the Boros deck is better because even though Izzet is not playing a lot of mediocre cards like Boros, White-Red ultimately looks more aggressive.
Basically, this build offers everything. You have a decent early game with good defensive creatures. Thoughtbound Phantasm can grow very fast with 10 surveil cards and functions as a huge threat. Barrier of Bones is OK to stop early aggression, is never a dead card because of Surveil, and works nice as fodder for Severed Strands or Plaguecrafter. Especially with many surveil cards and card draw, Dimir tends to deck itself, but cards like Etrata and Devious Cover-Up are helpful for preventing that. Notion Rain is a very important card for Dimir to get ahead in cards, but also to find the right answers, especially when you don't have a ton of removal like this deck. You probably don't even need to splash Hypothesizzle and should just play something like Hired Poisoner instead. This way you don't have the disadvantage of playing two more lands, which come into play tapped. With two Gateway Plaza and three Guildgates, you could easily splash more in red or have a tricolor deck, but red does not offer a lot of cards which are worth splashing. Even though Wee Dinosaurs and Cyclops are good cards, they are not at their best in a controlling Dimir deck. All in all, I think the best choice out of these 3 decks is just to play Dimir, which looks very consistent like basically every Dimir deck because of the powerful ability Surveil. Izzet really suffers from having not enough spells and if the pool would have more spells like Sonic Assault, Lava Coil, and Radical Idea, it could easily be better than Dimir. Same is true for Boros, which also looks decent, but just lacks power. Replace some mediocre creatures with Aurelia and two more creatures with Mentor, the deck would be very strong. I would still keep in mind that you have the possibility to play Boros post-board. If you are playing for example against an opposing slow control deck which just outclasses your Dimir deck, you should definitely give Boros a shot.
Thanks for reading,
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