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By: ArchGenius, Marcus Rehnberg
Sep 10 2010 9:54am
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Dismal Failure

We learn nothing from unwarranted success.  We learn almost everything from failure.  Yet for most of my life I have done everything in my power to avoid failure.  I am not alone.  I'm guessing that most of you have tried to avoid failure as well.  This is not entirely a bad thing.  Studying in school to avoid a failing grade is a good thing.  However we also avoid failure in negative ways as well.  How many of us have avoided new activities because we're afraid of embarrassing ourselves with a potential failure.  How many of us have not asked someone out on a date due to the fear of rejection?  How many of us stick to what we've always done because it is safe and comfortable?  I'm betting the number of us that have done these things is quite high. 


I avoid many opportunities in this way without even noticing it most of the time.  Sometimes failure can cost us a lot, such as a failing grade or the loss of a job.  Other times failure results in little more than a harmless bruise to our egos. 

Wirewood Pride

It's that ego thing that gets in the way.  We all make mistakes and yet we never want to admit to those mistakes because that might damage our view of ourselves.  If we can't admit that we make mistakes, then we certainly can't learn anything from those mistakes.  In a game as luck intensive as Magic, it's very easy to blame our mistakes on luck.  It's also equally easy to claim our victories are skillful rather than lucky.  In the end, this type of attitude stops us from growing. 

Second Chance

Up and down are opposites.  Skill and luck are not opposites.  This seems to be a concept that eludes many of the players that I've played against online.  I openly and freely admit the times when I've been lucky and it happens about as often as the times when I'm not lucky.  However quite often, my opponents assume that by admitting that I was lucky, I am also admitting that I am bad player, or that my losing opponent is somehow more skilled than I am.  This logic makes no sense to me.  Good players get lucky too.  In fact good players often "get lucky" more often than poor players because they keep their options open.  In a losing situation good players are constantly thinking about which cards they can draw that will help them steal a victory or turn the game around.  Poor players will often miss those opportunities.  Therefore when those cards show up, the good players are lucky while the poor players just missed an opportunity to win the game.  In essence, good players create more chances to "get lucky" than poor players, therefore it makes no sense to say that a lucky player is not skilled. 

Pain's Reward

So, what does this have to do with anything related to Magic strategy?  Everything.  If we want to get better, we need to recognize failure and acknowledge luck in a realistic way.  As an author it is tempting for me to write about my success stories.  I could write pages about the time I got the most amazing deck filled with bomb after bomb and then I played some epic games to an amazing victory.  However that isn't all that helpful to any of us.  We wouldn't learn anything from it.  It's much more useful to look at the times when I've either failed or had some success but could have done better.  This means I'll be showing you some of the worst sealed deck pools and builds I've used.  Not only did I blatantly misbuild some of these decks but I also tended to think that these pools are so bad I'd be lucky to get 1 match win out of them. This kind of attitude ended in horrible results.  These deck pools are a challenge, but every deck pool should at least give you chance to do well. I wasn't so lucky with these deck pools.  Of the four, I managed to go 1-2 with three of them and 2-1 in the fourth.  Although that one 2-1 finish was due to a couple of lucky draws.  See, I will admit it.

Sigil of the New Dawn

On a side note, if you are new to the 4-booster sealed format, take a look at my previous articles.  I think they give a reasonable insight into format, but this article is for the advanced deckbuilders.

Now on to the deckbuilding practice from four of my 4-booster sealed deck tournaments.  I've included spoiler buttons so you can think about how you would handle the deck pools before you see what I did with them.  I also included a text version of the decklists in case you want to use Magic Online to build a deck.  Just cut and past the text into Notepad or a similar program.  Then save the decklist as a .txt file, and load it into your deck editor.



  Artifacts and Land   Black   Blue
1 Angel's Feather 1 Child of Night 1 Augury Owl
1 Dragon's Claw 1 Corrupt 1 Cancel
1 Stone Golem 1 Diabolic Tutor 1 Diminish
1 Temple Bell 1 Duress 1 Flashfreeze
1 Dragonskull Summit 1 Gravedigger 1 Foresee
    1 Mind Rot 1 Ice Cage
    1 Quag Sickness 1 Maritime Guard
    1 Rise from the Grave 2 Preordain
    1 Rotting Legion 1 Scroll Thief
    1 Unholy Strength 1 Sleep
        1 Stormtide Leviathan
  Green   Red   White
1 Brindle Boar 1 Act of Treason 1 Cloud Crusader
1 Cultivate 1 Arc Runner 1 Condemn
2 Dryad's Favor 1 Berserkers of Blood Ridge 1 Holy Strength
1 Garruk's Companion 1 Bloodcrazed Goblin 1 Safe Passage
1 Greater Basilisk 1 Canyon Minotaur 2 Siege Mastodon
1 Naturalize 1 Combust 1 Solemn Offering
1 Primal Cocoon 1 Hoarding Dragon 1 Squadron Hawk
1 Sacred Wolf 1 Incite    
1 Sylvan Ranger 1 Prodigal Pyromancer    
    1 Shiv's Embrace    
    1 Volcanic Strength    








  Artifacts and Land   Black   Blue
1 Angel's Feather 1 Assassinate 2 Azure Drake
1 Dragon's Claw 2 Barony Vampire 1 Cloud Elemental
1 Gargoyle Sentinel 1 Child of Night 1 Diminish
1 Gargoyle Sentinel 1 Diabolic Tutor 1 Mana Leak
1 Stone Golem 1 Gravedigger 1 Merfolk Spy
1 Drowned Catacomb 1 Quag Sickness 1 Phantom Beast
1 Sunpetal Grove 1 Reassembling Skeleton 1 Preordain
    1 Rise from the Grave    
    1 Viscera Seer    
  Green   Red   White
1 Birds of Paradise 1 Canyon Minotaur 1 Armored Ascension
1 Dryad's Favor 1 Demolish 1 Assault Griffin
1 Llanowar Elves 1 Ember Hauler 2 Infantry Veteran
1 Runeclaw Bear 1 Fling 2 Inspired Charge
1 Sacred Wolf 1 Goblin Balloon Brigade 1 Knight Exemplar
1 Spined Wurm 1 Incite 1 Mighty Leap
1 Sylvan Ranger 1 Manic Vandal 1 Palace Guard
1 Wall of Vines 2 Shiv's Embrace 1 Roc Egg
1 Yavimaya Wurm 1 Volcanic Strength 1 Siege Mastodon
    1 Vulshok Berserker    








  Artifacts and Land   Black   Blue
1 Crystal Ball 1 Bog Raiders 1 AEther Adept
1 Elixir of Immortality 1 Doom Blade 1 Diminish
1 Ornithopter 1 Gravedigger 1 Mana Leak
1 Sorcerer's Strongbox 2 Mind Rot 2 Maritime Guard
1 Voltaic Key 1 Necrotic Plague 1 Merfolk Sovereign
1 Warlord's Axe 1 Stabbing Pain 1 Merfolk Spy
        1 Mind Control
        1 Negate
        1 Tome Scour
        1 Traumatize
        1 Unsummon
        1 Wall of Frost
  Green   Red   White
1 Cultivate 2 Act of Treason 1 Ajani's Mantra
2 Dryad's Favor 2 Arc Runner 1 Assault Griffin
1 Fog 1 Combust 1 Goldenglow Moth
2 Naturalize 1 Fling 1 Infantry Veteran
1 Prized Unicorn 1 Goblin Piker 1 Pacifism
1 Runeclaw Bear 1 Lava Axe 1 Safe Passage
1 Spined Wurm 1 Manic Vandal 1 Serra Angel
    1 Shiv's Embrace 1 Serra Ascendant
    1 Vulshok Berserker 1 Siege Mastodon
        1 Solemn Offering







  Artifacts and Land   Black   Blue
1 Gargoyle Sentinel 1 Bog Raiders 1 Augury Owl
1 Ornithopter 1 Deathmark 1 Call to Mind
1 Sword of Vengeance 1 Duress 1 Cancel
    1 Gravedigger 1 Conundrum Sphinx
    1 Leyline of the Void 1 Diminish
    1 Mind Rot 1 Harbor Serpent
    1 Nether Horror 1 Jace's Erasure
    1 Quag Sickness 1 Merfolk Spy
    1 Reassembling Skeleton 1 Tome Scour
    1 Sign in Blood 1 Unsummon
    1 Stabbing Pain    
  Green   Red   White
1 Autumn's Veil 1 Act of Treason 1 Ajani's Mantra
1 Duskdale Wurm 1 Berserkers of Blood Ridge 1 Celestial Purge
1 Fog 1 Fling 1 Cloud Crusader
1 Garruk's Companion 1 Goblin Piker 1 Goldenglow Moth
1 Giant Spider 2 Goblin Tunneler 1 Holy Strength
1 Llanowar Elves 2 Incite 1 Infantry Veteran
    1 Lava Axe 1 Pacifism
    1 Lightning Bolt 1 Serra Angel
    1 Prodigal Pyromancer 1 Siege Mastodon
    1 Pyroclasm 1 Silvercoat Lion
    1 Shiv's Embrace 1 Squadron Hawk
    1 Thunder Strike    
    1 Wild Evocation    






Thanks for reading, and see you in the 4-Booster Sealed Deck queues.

Marcus, "Shuyin Knight of Zanarkand" on Magic Online.




Opinions by scrappykid at Fri, 09/10/2010 - 16:02
scrappykid's picture

Disclaimer: I'm nothing special at 4-pack. I've played twice, 4-0 and 1-3.

This format is REALLY hard to read, but i do favor quantity in terms of understanding a new format. I'm glad you're playing lots of 4-pack, and sharing your results with us.

Sealed Pool 1:
Feels like it should have been R/B to me.

Child of Night
Reassembling Skeleton

Quag Sickness
Act of Treason
Mind Rot
2x Barony Vampire
Prodigal Pyromancer

Canyon Minotaur
Shiv's Embrace

Rise from the Grave
Rotting Legion
Berserkers of Blood Ridge
Hoarding Dragon


Volcanic Strength
Stone Golem
Diabolic Tutor
Incite (against decks with amazing blockers like Giant Spider/Azure Drake or Ice Cage)

This gives you ten playable creatures, the same 3 pieces of removal, and very stable mana, as well as the two biggest bombs in your poor: Shiv's Embrace and Hoarding Dragon. Volcanic Strength might be the call over Act of Treason, especially against Red decks or decks splashing Fireball/Lightning Bolt.

I just really like Hoarding Dragon, Shiv's Embrace, and Pyromancer over Stormtide Leviathan, Ice Cage, and Sleep.

Yes, this build is a lot by ArchGenius at Sat, 09/11/2010 - 10:54
ArchGenius's picture

Yes, this build is a lot better than the black blue one I originally submitted. Stormtide Leviathan was terrible. I could never survive long enough to use it. In the future I'm probably not going to even play it unless I've got multiple Cultivates.

Hoarding Dragon is very good, but it also has little to search for in this pool. That's the main reason why it didn't pull me stronger in that direction.

I still like the three color build in my rebuild of the decklist because I haven't had much difficulty with three colors when I have 2 color fixers and a dual land.

2nd list by scrappykid at Sat, 09/11/2010 - 02:46
scrappykid's picture

Hey, ran into you in the 4-man queues tonight. Hope you won your last match!

In your second event, i thought UB was the way to go. Cloud Elemental isn't a monster, but it's a solid beater who's very hard to stop with any of the white fliers short of Serra Angel. I think you massively underrate

Again, sad about leaving Shiv's Embrace in the board.

2x Preordain

Mana Leak
Child of Night
Reassembling Skeleton

Quag Sickness
Cloud Elemental
2x Barony Vampire
2x Gargoyle Sentinel (unless you only had one...)

2x Azure Drake

Rise from the Grave
Stone Golem

Your sideboard is really thin:
Phantom Beast (Against a deck with few target effects, your sideboard)
splash Red for Manic Vandal/Demolish against Whispersilk Cloak/Warlord's Axe/Crystal Ball/Fireball splash

following up previous post by scrappykid at Sat, 09/11/2010 - 02:47
scrappykid's picture

I think you massively underrate Azure Drake. It's one of the best commons in the format.

I won my last match and ended by ArchGenius at Sat, 09/11/2010 - 11:00
ArchGenius's picture

I won my last match and ended up with a 2-1 record with the help of the bye. It's strange how so many people drop after the first round in 4-booster swiss. I guess they're looking for MOCS points.

Anyway, I had 2 gargoyles, one was foil.

You may be right that I underestimate Azure Drake. I certainly think it's a good creature, but it's also defensive and I've found that defensive strategies don't work very well in M2011. I'll have to watch my evaluation of Azure Drake in the future.

Value by lackhand at Mon, 09/13/2010 - 11:54
lackhand's picture

Four sealed pools in one article is just sick value. Nice.

I would agree that you rate Azure Drake too low. Defense in this format can actually be a solid form of virtual card advantage, because when you drop that 2/4 flier, you're trumping pretty much every creature that hit the table before it (assuming you have it on turn 4). You are absolutely correct that defense won't win you games, but the fact that it's a flier makes up for that in my book as it's not too hard to start hitting with it when it's time.

In the second list, you had the combo of Viscera Seer/Reassembling Skeleton. Not a bomb by any means, but it does help with card selection and it's nothing to dismiss if you're going to play your black.

In the fourth pool, I would definitely have played blue. The Sphinx is quite good, and while the rest of the blue cards aren't that exciting, I think as a whole they're good enough. Maybe I just like blue too much. :)

Another great article by Shivad Drake at Tue, 09/14/2010 - 07:16
Shivad Drake's picture

4-pack sealed is quickly becoming my favorite format and I have really enjoyed your past three articles.

I wish I could remember the exact quote regarding luck, but I remember it as being something like "luck = skill + opportunity". The take-home point is that you often need skill to maximize the opportunity a lesser-skilled player might overlook, and this often appears to observers as luck. I think the best way to apply this thinking in Magic is to play to your outs when you are in an "unwinnable" situation. You have nothing to lose (versus just giving up and prematurely conceding) and may get "lucky" when you do draw into those outs.

Again ... great article and keep up the good work.

Good article, but hard on the eyes by Gordo789 at Tue, 09/14/2010 - 09:24
Gordo789's picture

Good article. I just played my first 4-booster sealed last night and had a blast. Of course I had a really bomby pool (crystal ball, whispersilk cloak, mind control, blinding mage, day of judgement, forsee, water servant, azure drake... etc..), nothing like the trash you've got stuck with here.

I'm wondering if there isn't some better way to format your articles.

this one has some good examples of how to show a pool that is both easy on the eyes and instantly recognizable to any of us to play MTGO.

I will work on the formatting by ArchGenius at Tue, 09/14/2010 - 20:50
ArchGenius's picture

I will work on the formatting to make it a little easier to read.