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Part 3 – Understanding Sealed Play
by Tim Kotula
 

Introduction to Sealed

Sealed Deck is a very common way of getting into Limited play. It's easier for newer players to understand than Booster Draft and the purely random card pools can improve their chances of getting good cards. It is also an excellent way to improve your evaluation of a card's usefulness. However, there is still plenty of skill involved in Sealed Deck play.

What You'll Receive

It all starts when you receive one tournament pack from the current main set (at this time 02/06, Ravnica) and two booster packs, from the same block. The boosters will vary, depending on how much of a block has been released to that date. You should then have a total of 75 cards, 30 of which will be basic lands (6 of each land - they're in the tournament pack).

Building Your Deck

You should begin by separating the cards by color (piles for white, blue, black, etc.). Set your lands aside for the time being. When this is done, you should go through each pile and set aside any cards that simply are not playable - cards with major drawbacks (Hisoka, Deathcurse Ogre, Mana Seism, etc.), cards that are overcosted for their effect (Most of the Myojins, Reverse the Sands, etc.) and cards that interact with other cards you don't have (Pious Kitsune, etc.).

With the unplayables out of the picture, you can start building your deck. When you are finished,
in order for your deck to be legal for play, it will need to contain at least 40 cards. To obtain this goal, you'll have to combine 22-23 playable creatures and spells with 17-18 appropriate basic lands. While your deck can contain more than 40 cards, this is not recommended - the more cards you add to your deck, the less likely it is that you will draw the cards you really need, when you desperately need them.

To begin, look for bombs - dragons, cheap and evasive creatures (Nezumi Cutthroat, etc.), efficient removal (Rend Flesh/Spirit, Yamabushi's Flame, etc.). NEVER discount the value of evasion (in the form of flying, fear, etc.) - would you rather have a vanilla 4/4 that comes out turn 5 or 6 that your opponent keeps chump blocking? Or a 2/1 fear or flier that you can play on turn 2 and keep punching through for 2 damage starting turn 3?

Of course, this is not to say that expensive spells are to be discounted. A few late-game tools are always necessary in case the game drags out for several turns. Look for things such as mass pump & evasion (Dance of Shadows, Charge Across the Araba), dragons (especially the white, blue and black ones), etc.

Removal is an important component of any Limited deck - whether it comes as a spell (Rend Flesh/Spirit, Horobi's Whisper, Yamabushi's Flame, Befoul) or on legs (Kumano, Master Yamabushi, Frostwielder, Horobi, Death's Wail). Removal helps deal with your opponent's bombs and guides you to a win - it should be used wisely, especially if your card pool is lacking it.

Always check for synergy and interactions between cards. If you're going to run a card whose abilities activate 'whenever you play a spirit or arcane spell', it makes sense to ensure that you are running enough spirit and arcane spells to make that card's inclusion worthwhile.

It is highly unlikely that you will be able to build a single-color deck. You should definitely stick to a two-color deck if possible, with a possible splash for a third color being the maximum. Trying to run a four or five-color deck is a surefire way to go 0-7. I myself had to find this out the hard way. :-)


This brings us to another aspect of deck building - mana base. Since it is almost certain that you will be playing a two or three-color deck, you will need to figure out the best ratio of Color X : Color Y : Color Z for your deck. Things to consider include how many cards of each color you are running, whether or not any of those cards have a double-colored mana requirement and what color your primary win condition(s) is/are in. Since you only have 6 basic lands of each color, you'll need to see the tournament organizer to trade the lands you don’t need for the lands that you do.

A quick note on any remaining cards – the 65 or so cards you will have left after building your deck form your "sideboard". Before the second game of each match, you may "side in" any cards from your sideboard which might be useful to you, now that you’ve seen what your opponent's deck plays like. For example, if your opponent has a Cage of Hands and/or a Honden of Infinite Rage and you are playing white, you might consider siding in a Quiet Purity (if you have it) to help deal with those threats and "siding out" whatever your weakest card was in the first game. Of course, after the match is over, you would return the Quiet Purity to the sideboard and re-deck the card you sided out.

I hope you will find these general guidelines helpful. Good luck playing in your next Limited event!

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