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By: MarcosPMA, Marcos Rodriguez
Jan 18 2018 1:00pm
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Hello and welcome to another edition of Sealed Success!  The Prerelease has come and gone and now Rivals of Ixalan is up on Magic Online for us to take a crack at.   Sadly, I will not be doing a draft this week as I had promised last week.  The timing of doing a draft and playing all the matches while doing the first videos of the two sealed leagues proved to be more time than I had available.  I realized this on Sunday and had to change my plans with that realization in mind.  I did do the draft video on Monday, but I did not play any matches as not only did I not have the time, Magic Online had issues on Monday that would have prevented me from doing so anyway.  If you want to see the draft video early you can check it out on my YouTube channel, otherwise it'll be here next week.  With that in mind let's take a look at the upcoming schedule:

  • Today - Rivals of Ixalan Prerelease Pool, Rivals of Ixalan Sealed League #1 video, Rivals of Ixalan Sealed League #2 video
  • 1/25 - Rivals of Ixalan Draft #1, Rivals of Ixalan Sealed League #1 videos, Rivals of Ixalan Sealed League #2 videos
  • 2/1 - Rivals of Ixalan Draft #2, Rivals of Ixalan Sealed League #1 video, Rivals of Ixalan Sealed League #2 videos
  • 2/8 - Rivals of Ixalan Draft #2, Rivals of Ixalan Sealed League #1 videos, Rivals of Ixalan Sealed League #2 videos

To replace the draft video I decided to go over one of the pools I had during the weekend and make a video on it.  The pool itself I was excited about when I opened it so it made for a decent replacement over the draft video.  Again, if you want to see the draft video it is up on the YouTube channel, or you can wait until next week to see the draft video and matches at the same time.  As for the prerelease experience I had a good weekend even if I didn't open expensive cards from Rivals of Ixalan.  I traded for a Search for Azcanta Buy-A-Box promo that I needed and opened a Steel Overseer Masterpiece that will make good trade bait soon.  My theory is to open as much Kaladesh as possible because the lands are valuable for Modern and you can't go wrong with the chance of opening shiny things.

I did have a thought of attending a Rivals of Ixalan PTQ_Q (PPTQ) this release weekend but given my track record with Ixalan sealed it's likely for the best that I don't do that.  My fun EV is higher if I don't subject myself to that just based on my prior experience with Ixalan.  While it's entirely possible that I do better with Rivals of Ixalan sealed, I think it's best to take that dive later on as opposed to early in the format.  I will definitely consider doing a Rivals PTQ_Q online if we have time for it towards the end of the format.  For now though, let's open some packs!

Rivals of Ixalan Prerelease Pool

This was my third prerelease pool of the weekend, with the first one a disappointing 2-2 finish and the second kit being opened just for cards with no actual games being played.  That second kit did have a Tetzimoc, Primal Death and that made me sad as that is a very good card in sealed, so I was quite happy to open it again for the last pool.  The opening of Tetzimoc, Primal Death and Wakening Sun's Avatar made me quite giddy as I was envisioning a 4-0 with two really good bombs in my deck.  Of course, I did do my due diligence and sorted the pool to see what cards I had to work with to give me the best chance at winning.  I quickly honed in on B/W as my color combination of choice since I had most of my playable rares in those colors and my density of two mana Vampires made the Sanctum Seeker I opened into a very powerful offensive threat.  The curve did seem a bit off but if I drew Tetzimoc I would be playing off curve anyway so it didn't matter to me.

In the end I went 1-2 with a bye at the end for a record of 2-2 overall.  The first match I lost was to a deck with a bunch of fliers, rendering my 2/1s and 1/1s on the ground ineffective at doing anything at all.  With little lifegain and not drawing Tetzimoc I was unable to have a good strategy against my opponent and I lost rather easily.  The second match I lost happened because I didn't draw sufficient lands in games 2 and 3 of that match.  I ran away with game 1 pretty easily as I was able to cast all my spells and win with Tetzimoc, Primal Death.  I played 17 lands and I was stuck on 3 lands both games for far too long while my opponent cast 5/6 mana spells and won with me having to discard to hand size at least once.  It wasn't a good showing for the deck but I can't blame the pool for that at all.  Sometimes you don't draw lands or your opponent is doing something you're not prepared for and you can't do anything about that at all.

Rivals of Ixalan Sealed League #1 

The biggest point of contention here is whether I play Zetalpa, Primal Dawn if I'm playing white as one of my main colors.  8 mana is hard to come by naturally, you're 15% to hit 8 lands on turn 8 if you're on the play and you have 17 lands in your deck.  That means that in roughly 1/7ths of your games you'll be able to cast Zetalpa on time only using the lands you have in your deck.  If you allow yourself 10 turns to cast Zetalpa then you'll roughly get there 1/3rd of the time.  That's not a very high rate of games that you'll see Zetalpa hitting the battlefield, and that doesn't always mean you'll win those games.  So, if I want to play Zetalpa then I need to find ways to accelerate my mana in order to not have to rely on lands as often.  I do have two Orazca Relics I can play but I don't have any reducers for creatures that provide me with colored mana to help the cause.  For the moment I don't believe any white deck I make should have Zetalpa, especially when the white aggro plan that's already built in should be enough.

Past that, it appears that the only question I have to solve is whether I want to play B/W or B/R.  There are advantages and disadvantages to both, making either strategy feasible if you didn't know about the existence of the other.  It comes down to whether Legion Lieutenant and Bishop of the Bloodstained are better than Dire Fleet Captain.  I believe that the Vampires have a better payoff than the Pirates do, so in this case the advantage goes to the B/W deck.  What do you think?  What deck would you play?

Rivals of Ixalan Sealed League #2

Something that I've said a lot about Ixalan is that it's a fast format, so with that in mind the idea that a lower curve is a better curve is something that would make sense right?  In theory, yes.  However, sometimes a pile of cards that are cheap are worse than a bigger curve of expensive creatures.  You still need your cards to be good and you need a way to win the game.  A small curve with a bunch of Merfolk and evasion is a way to win, but a small curve of random Pirates with no synergy isn't going to get the job done.  Conversely a bigger curve that has power can win games if you're able to get there.  That's the thing that is present in this pool: a way to go small vs a way to go big.  I have a few decks that could stop their curve at four mana, but do those decks do anything powerful on turns 2/3/4 that warrant that type of strategy?  I don't believe so.  I feel my G/x decks will have a better chance at winning in a sealed format whereas those small aggro decks might be better served in draft.  We have to remember than by its very nature sealed deck games are slower than draft games because you're not playing a tuned deck, you're constructing a deck given the available options.

The only question I have is whether I'm G/U or G/B.  Nezahal, Primal Tide is my draw to blue along with a small Merfolk package, while black has more removal to make up for that.  Which is better?  Does synergy trump removal in this format?  What are your thoughts?

Conclusion

Not a bad start to our sealed leagues as I feel both pools have a chance at succeeding so long as I choose the right deck to play with.  Having options is good, but sometimes having them means you have a chance at making the wrong choice.  I think I'm set on B/W and G/U, but I could see myself changing my mind.  I suppose I'll make my choice once I actually get into the games.  I'm reminded of a time when someone said to me: "Don't make a choice until you have to make it."  The idea is that by waiting as long as possible you have the most information you can have before you make that decision.  If you make a choice early and later on new information would have changed it, you cost yourself that chance by deciding early.  Also, if you're torn between two options and can't decide, if you wait until the last second you'll end up choosing the one your gut wants.  After all, if you are forced to make a choice and make one, that's the one you wanted right?

If you have any comments, questions, or concerns leave them in the comments section below.  Next week I'll be back with my first Rivals of Ixalan draft and the first matches of my sealed leagues.  If you have any comments, questions, or concerns leave them in the comments section below.  You can subscribe to my YouTube channel here, where you'll find all the videos I post early along with content exclusive to the channel.  I'm starting a series on Sultaifolk, Sultai Merfolk in Standard.  Come check it out if you want to ride the fishy wave in Standard.

Thanks for reading/watching!