I pulled up the PPTQ, and looked at the clock. The event was starting in four minutes, and there were only 8 slots left. Jumping in a five round event is hard for me during the week, because I just have so much going on in this life thing. I had just finished a draft with Zach Orts (in which we managed to go 3-0), and I felt like it might just be too late to hop in the event. With that said, I wasn’t feeling too tired, and I had the tickets, and I didn’t have much work to get done of the next day. Fine, I thought, I’ll just hop in, and see what happens. Here’s the pool I opened:
Feel free to take these cards and load them into a deck in MTGO, and then let me know how you would build the deck on your own. I would love to just give you a text file at the bottom of the page, and let you load it directly into MTGO, but I’ve tested it out, and cards with Apostrophes in their names cause MTGO to freak out, and it won’t load the deck correctly, so you’ll miss cards like Crater’s Claws. So instead, you have to do it manually. 😡
Sealed Deck Step One: Rare Check
Temporal Trespass – Unplayable in limited; hide it.
Citadel Siege – One of the best bombs in the format. Add to deck.
Daghatar – Another powerful rare, and in the same color as Citadel Siege. Add to deck.
Polluted Delta – Good fixer; add to deck.
Savage Knuckleblade – One of the best Temur cards, but doesn’t match our other colors. That’s okay, I add it to the deck anyway until I decide what colors I’m going to play.
Crater’s Claws – Bomb rare, fits into either a Mardu deck or a Temur deck based on these rares. Add to deck.
This gives us two very powerful rares in the same color, which really makes me want to play white. Daghatar gets much better if you are in Orzhov or Abzan, so I’ll try to keep that in mind as I build the deck. Crater’s Claws is also very good, and I want to find a way to slot it into the deck if at all possible.
I like to look at the rares first, because it gives me a good idea of the direction that I want to take the deck. There are so many potential builds that I like to narrow down my choices a little bit. You don’t have time to focus all of your energy into every potential build, so it’s important to focus early until you see if something just won’t work.
Sealed Deck Step Two: Lands
3x Jungle Hollow – This bodes well for an Abzan deck. With just this, we can easy throw in a bunch of Abzan cards, and the mana will be near perfect.
2x Rugged Highlands – This will be good if we end up going the Temur route. If we go into Abzan, this also gives us several ways to splash Crater’s Claws, which also makes me happy.
1x Wind-Scarred Crag – We only have one Mardu supporting land, so that makes me a little skeptical that we’ll be able to go into Mardu. However, this also allows us to splash Crater’s Claws in Abzan, so we’ll definitely have that option.
1x Polluted Delta – We probably won’t end up in Sultai at this point, but it’s possible that this makes the deck to enable delve.
Sealed Deck Step Three: Sort by Color
At this point, I sort by color, and just add all the good cards (cards that make me want to play the color) from a color into the pile, in order to get an idea of which colors are the strongest. For multicolor cards, I sort them by clan, and I order the clans by order of power. So I’ll end up with 11 columns by the end, one for each color, and one for each land, with the artifacts in the last pile.
2x Feat of Resistance
Write into Being
Lotus Path Djinn
Scion of Glaciers
2x Douse in Gloom
Bathe in Dragonfire
Hunt the Weak
2x Sagu Archer
Chief of the Scale
2x Abzan Guide
Chief of the Scale
This gives us a clear idea of the focus for our deck. White and Black are both powerful and deep, and all the other colors are not. We can easily toss out the blue cards, because there’s no way we play it. Likewise, we can toss all the Sultai, Temur, and Jeskai stuff because there’s no way we’re playing those colors.
The situation we find ourselves in then is whether to play Mardu or Abzan. Mardu has a bomb with Crater’s Claws, while Abzan gives us a Woolly Loxodon and two Abzan Guides. But the key thing is that the fixing for the Abzan deck is significantly better. I decide to try out the Abzan deck first, with a slash for Crater’s Claws just to see how we do on playables. I cut everything else out of the deck, and add back in all the White and Black playables, as well as the green and red cards that I would be splashing. This means that I’m throwing cards like Mardu-Woe Reaper, Dragon Bell Monk, Greathorn Krushok, and Hooded Assasin in the pile. These are the kinds of cards that fill out your deck, but that don’t make you excited to play the color, so I wait to add them to the deck until this point so that they don’t throw off my estimations of the colors.
Sealed Deck Step Four: Decide On Strategy
At this point, we have 31 playables in the deck, which means we’re going to have to make a lot of cuts. However, the deck is made up of almost entirely White and Black cards, so it makes sense to focus the deck on being base Orzhov.
At this point, we’re basically deciding on the driving strategy of the deck. We could go for a grindier midranger deck that tries to take advantage of all the bombs, or we could try for a more focused deck that tries to win with synergy or speed. In this format, I think that it’s often better to try to go for power, but since most people are doing that, you can often get a significant advantage by having a focused two color deck with a minor splash and an aggressive curve. Basically, the mental calculus that I do is to treat a focused two color deck as if it had one extra bomb because of the games I’ll win by having good mana and a tight curve. We don’t have enough bombs in the other colors to overwhelm that advantage, so I decide to build a tight Orzhov deck with some splashes.
Sealed Deck Step Five: Trim the Deck
At this point, we just trim down the deck of all the things that it doesn’t need, in order to get it down to 22 playables. The first things to go are all the unnecessary splashes, so Heart-Piercer, Bathe in Dragonfire, Hunt the Weak, and both Sagu Archers hit the bin. Abzan Advantage and Pressure Point both go in the sideboard; I’m not a Jeskai deck, so the non-creature spells aren’t as necessary.
The Great Horn Krushok gets cut because it’s just not powerful enough. At this point, we are at 25 good cards, so we need to make three more cuts, and it’s tough. These are the cards on the chopping block.
Rite of the Serpent
Dragon Bell Monk
1x Douse in Gloom
1x Feat of Resistance
This gives us 7 candidates for 3 cuts.
The first thing is that I can only really cut 1 creature. I currently have 16 creatures, and I tend to like to keep my creature count at around 15, especially when I’ve got a card like Citadel Siege that relies on having creatures on the board to be at its most effective. I like the interaction between Citadel Siege and Sidisi’s Pet, so I keep that. Hooded Assassin is the most solid by itself, and it also interacts well with Daghatar, so I keep that. The cut basically comes down to Dragon Bell Monk or Mardu Woe-Reaper. Monk is good with Siege, but I also want to have a lower curve if I can help it, especially with the more aggressive oriented deck that we’ve currently got built. The Woe-Reaper goes in. I could also see the Dragon Bell Monk over the Sidisi’s Pet, but they have basically the same function, and Sidisi’s Pet will get us out of more situations.
That means we need to cut two of the other cards. I like Rite of the Serpent, because it kills bombs that we can’t deal with otherwise. I also like Feat of Resistance because it protects Sieged creatures. I cut the extra Douse in Gloom, since we already have some ways to deal with small creatures, and then try to make a decision. In this situation, I think that the Feat of Resistance is going to be better. It gives us ways to outplay our opponents, and it’s just so good with Abzan Guides, Daghatar, and Citadel Siege. Rite of the Serpent is better in sealed than in draft, since there are always sick bombs, but I think that Feat of Resistance is often going to perform a similar function, but for a significantly lower cost.
Our final deck submission is here:
The one thing I would change is that I forgot to include the Delve enabling Polluted Delta. We’ve got three expensiveish Delve cards, and every little bit helps. I brought the Polluted Delta in for every match.
Making this into a full tourney report would just be too much work, because each match would warrant another 500 to 1000 words. Instead, I’ll just summarize how the deck did, and give some highlights.
I ended up going 4-1, which earns a slot for the PTQ finals, and also (sort of) earns back the entry fee for the event, so it’s a great overall result. We faced a lot of very good decks along the way, including multiple decks with some kind of combination of Citadel Siege, Archfiend of Depravity, and Mastery of the Unseen.
The deck basically won on the interaction between lifelinkers and Citadel Siege. I had a 12 power Sidisi’s Pet at one point, and my opponent just couldn’t race the lifelink. When we didn’t get that, we just won based on our aggressive starts, overpowering our opponent’s with our focused mana base and tight curve. Citadel Siege really empowers that kind of strategy, since if you play it on turn 4 with creatures out, you’ll probably just win the game.
The match we lost was a really bad matchup against a controllish Abzan deck with Mastery of the Unseen and Archfiend of Depravity and a lot of early game defense. I also drew very poorly in that situation, including getting stuck on one color in one game and flooding out in another. Villain’s deck was quite good, but I think it’s possible for us to win the match if we draw a little bit better. In any case, 4-1 is a fine result, and I ended up quite happy.
Thanks for riding along with this deck!