Sealed in M19
Maybe Sealed in M19 is not quite as much fun as in Dominaria, but for me, playing limited with new magic cards is always challenging and satisfying. M19 has been out for two weeks now and today I want to share my experience in the sealed format and explain my approach to building a pool.
General Notes About M19 Sealed
Those of you who have played some sealed tournaments of the new core set should have a good feeling about the format in terms of power level, strategies and speed. Here are some general notes for players who did not play a lot of M19 sealed yet:
- The format is rather slow. Not as slow as in Dominaria, but often enough, games are not decided by tempo.
- Due the rather slow format and the lack of good two-drops, you'd rather leave bad two-drops like Greenwood Sentinel in the sideboard.
- Like in many other sealed formats, games are often decided by bombs and card advantage, so you should always play cards like Divination and put all your removal spells in your deck.
- Obviously, it depends on your deck, but you rather want to be on the draw.
- There are not many cards which support splashing and you really should weigh if your increased power level is worth taking a risk. Dual lands and Monolith can help with splashing.
- Most of the time, you'd rather leave artifact/enchantment removal in the sideboard but make sure you bring them when they are needed.
- Flying creatures like Snapping Drake and/or big ground creatures like Colossal Dreadmaw are good ways to break through a board stall, so make sure to include these cards in your deck.
White has some good cards here, but lacks playables and bombs. The three flying creatures Pegasus Courser, Herald of Faith, and Angel of the Dawn are all pretty good and Ajani's Pridemate and Cavalry Drillmaster are decent two-drops, with Militia Bugler providing a nice 2 for 1. The problem with white here is that it only offers about 8-10 playable cards, has only one removal spell in the form of Take Vengeance and does not have any bombs. Overall, I don't think you should play white here unless the pool is very weak.
Blue is not very deep and it doesn't have many strong cards here, but it contains Mystic Archaelogist and Tezzeret, Artifice Master, which are two very good cards. While Mystic Archaelogist is vulnerable due its 1 toughness, it can take over a game when it's unanswered. Tezzeret, on the other hand, is just pretty hard to deal with and wins many games by itself. It comes into play with 5 Loyalty and can produce 1/1 Fliers to protect itself before it buries your opponent in card advantage. Dwindle and Snapping Drake are decent playables. Two Essence Scatters are pretty good, because it can answer any good creature for 2 mana. Salvager of Secrets looks fine even without looking at another color, because it can pick up Anticipate, Disperse or Essence Scatter. All in all, Blue looks like a color I want to play, mainly because of its 2 rares, but it has some other good cards, too.
Black lacks even more cards than white, but its playable cards are way stronger. In most sealed formats, playing bombs and/or answering bombs is the bread in butter and black has three premium removal spells in form of two Lich's Caress and Murder. Also, Vampire Sovereign is one of the best uncommons of the set, since a 3/4 Flyer for five is good already, but this one also drains for three when it enters the battlefield. Other than that, black here has Skeleton Archer and some good blockers with Reassembling Skeleton and Doomed Dissenter, but that's about it. If I find another color in this pool which has enough playables (like blue), I would strongly consider playing it with black.
Red has four good cards in form of Volcanic Dragon, two Shocks and a Fiery Finish. Viashino Pyromancer, Havoc Devils and Boggart Brute are fine playables, but not exciting. I really like Volcanic Dragon because it's usually bigger than other flyers on the board and can end games quickly. I am not a huge fan of Fiery Finish because even though you kill mostly any creature, six mana is a lot and it compares poorly with spells like Lich's Caress. Still, removal is removal and I would mostly play it but I'm not thrilled to do so. You would always play Shock, but I would not splash it because the good thing about Shock is that you can get rid of early creatures and get tempo and that is mostly not the case when you're splashing Shock because early in the game you do not have the red mana source often enough. Red's power level is probably the same as White, but is clearly worse than blue or black, so there is no chance we play red in this particular pool.
Green has three very powerful cards: Dryad Greenseeker and two Vivien's Invocation. The 1/3 Dryad is probably the best uncommon in the set. It only costs 2 mana, can nearly draw half a card each turn and blocks 2 power creatures. Vivien's Innvocation should be a 2 for 1 every time you cast it unless you do not find a powerful creature or your opponent has instant removal ready. Declare Dominance can break a board stall but can also be pretty efficient turn 5 on something like Daggerback Basilisk. Colossal Dreadmaw and Ghastbark Twins are good finishers and they work nicely with Vivien's Innvocation. Vine Mare can be a nightmare for opposing control decks which tend to play many removal spells. Overall green looks pretty good and it looks like the deck is either G/B, B/U or U/G.
Unless you are super aggressive, I would almost always play Gargoyle Sentinel and Meteor Golem. Especially the Golem did a very good job in my previous sealed decks because it can get rid of any creature, but also can kill annoying enchantments, artifacts, or planeswalkers. Mostly I leave Explosive Apparatus in my sideboard but if you need artifacts or some sort of removal you can play it. Two Manalith make this pool interesting, because maybe you can build a three-color deck. Unfortunately, the 4 Dual-Lands are not in the Sultai Colors, so they don't really help us to fix mana.
Building The Right Deck
Since red and white are clearly worse than the other colors and do not offer any cards to splash, we can ignore those colors. Green, Blue and Black are all good, but none of these colors are splashable because the strong cards like Tezzeret, Lich's Caress, or Vivien's Invocation all cost double color. With two Manalith, playing all 3 colors could be interesting, but you would need some Dual lands to justify playing 3 colors and we've got zero. So, playing a three-color deck is not an option and it looks like you do not really need to do that anyway since the power level of your two-color deck is still high enough. That leaves us with three possible decks: U/B, G/B and U/G.
Basically U/B has almost everything. The mana curve is fine, you've got many removal spells, the deck is not too clunky, you've got card advantage and some threats to end a game. The only thing it lacks is great creatures. Creatures like Tolarian Scholar or Two-Headed Zombie are not very good and even other ones are mostly only okay. Still, the spells are very good and should easily make up for that.
The power level of green is at least similar to blue if not even higher. Dryad is probably better than Archaeologist, and even if you lack a Tezzeret, the two Innvocations are good substitutions. The only thing, which is very concerning is the mana curve. You've only got three 2-drops and three 3-drops and while Dryad and Elvish Rejuvanator help you find lands for your big spells, five 5-drops, two 6-drops and four 7-drops looks way too clunky. You could also cut expensive drops and bring in Highland Game and Greenwood Sentinel, but I am unsure if you want to bring in these underwhelming cards.
U/G does is not as clunky as the G/B deck. Overall you give up the 3 premium removal spells of black, but you get 2 Essence Scatter and Dwindle, which can often enough do the same job but are cheaper. The power level of the creatures stays mostly the same and you get Skyrider Patrol, which is a pretty good mana sink.
Today we took a look at an interesting pool, which had 3 good colors and the quest was to figure out which color combination was the strongest. I think the G/B deck is just too clunky, so you should decide between U/B and G/U. My initial guess is that even though the power level of G/U is higher, I would choose to play U/B due its consistency. No matter which deck you would have built, you should definitely always keep an eye on post-board games, because this pool is a good example, that you can easily adept to your opposing deck and switch a color.
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