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By: MarcosPMA, Marcos Rodriguez
Oct 25 2018 12:00pm
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Hello and welcome to another edition of Sealed Success!  I was lucky enough to recover the audio from my first two matches last week and so this week I won't have to use replay footage to open the first Guilds of Ravnica Sealed League I have.  I've been playing a fair amount of Magic Arena for a new video series I'm doing on my YouTube channel and while I've done a couple of Guilds of Ravnica drafts on there, the Quick Draft format isn't something I've talked about too much and I'd like to talk about it a bit now.

The Quick Draft format is a best of 1 format where you earn prizes based on the number of wins you have, and it's something that we've seen before on Magic Online.  I've done one or two drafts where it is a best of one and you play until you get X amount of wins or Y amount of losses but because it's not as relevant or popular as a best of 3 format I haven't done much of those since I initially encountered them on Magic Online.  Oddly enough I enjoy the format more on Magic Arena because of the quick pace and ease of playing the games on the Magic Arena client.

One thing I've learned quickly is you need to draft differently in a best of 1 format because you only get one game to play your match, so every card in your maindeck counts.  You can't play filler cards because you don't have the chance to replace them with narrow sideboard cards once the first game is over.  If you want to play a sideboard card you actually have to put it in the maindeck, which means your sideboard cards has to be a little more flexible than it normally would be.  Now, you can start maindecking sideboard cards once you know what the popular decks/strategies are and you're willing to lose some percentage points against the other decks to have a better matchup against the more commonly drafted decks.  I've found being aggressive is better in the dark since if you're going to play only a single game it's better to present questions as opposed to hoping you draw the right answers.  Once you're in a established meta you can be less aggressive if you know what to look out for and how to combat those decks.  

Let's say the default is to draft a midrange Dimir deck in a normal draft pod because you feel you have an edge against Boros once you get your sideboard cards and know what hands to keep.  Well, if you draft that same Dimir deck and you normally get beat by Boros in game one you're not going to get very far because game one happens to be the only game now.  Instead of the regular Dimir deck perhaps you need to play more Wall of Mist, Dead Weight, and Mephitic Vapors so you're better against a Boros deck should you play against it.  You could also switch from Dimir to forcing Boros every draft and punishing those who are still drafting with the mindset of a best of 3 format.  When the rules of engagement change you need to change with them.  In Constructed you can't be playing last week's tech this week, you need to see what changes come from knowing what happened last week and make it this week's tech.  In a best of 1 format, if you can't play with a sideboard then your maindeck has to shift to incorporate the fact you can only play one game per match.  Always be aware of what you're playing and the circumstances you're playing in and you'll have a better chance at success in Magic.  Let's take a look at the upcoming schedule and get into the games:

  • Today - Guilds of Ravnica Draft League #4, Guilds of Ravnica Sealed League #1 videos, Guilds of Ravnica Sealed League #2 videos
  • 11/1 - Guilds of Ravnica Draft League #5, Guilds of Ravnica Sealed League #1 videos, Guilds of Ravnica Sealed League #2 videos
  • 11/8 - Guilds of Ravnica Draft League #6, Guilds of Ravnica Sealed League #3, Guilds of Ravnica Sealed League #4
  • 11/15 - Guilds of Ravnica Draft League #7, Guilds of Ravnica Sealed League #3 videos, Guilds of Ravnica Sealed League #4 videos

Guilds of Ravnica Draft League #4

Dimir is one of the more powerful decks you can draft in Guilds of Ravnica and even with that in mind I wasn't looking to force the archetype.  I wanted to stay in black and be open to my second color, but because of the guild structure I'm forced into either Dimir or Golgari if I want to play my black cards in a two color deck.  If you're looking to play multicolored cards in this draft format you can't be as open as you normally would be once you start taking cards of one color.  Red limits you to Izzet/Boros, Black gives you Golgari/Dimir, White leads you to Selesnya/Boros, Green sends you to Selesnya/Golgari, and finally Blue directs you to Izzet/Dimir.  Once you pick a color you do limit yourself to one of two guilds, but the good thing about this is others will be doing the same thing.  If you pick black cards and the person feeding you picks white you can only be cut if you both choose green as your second color, but you at least have blue to fall back on.  The nightmare scenario would be to choose one color, the person passing to you chooses the same color, and then you both choose the same second color.  Even in this situation you can still salvage your draft if you notice early enough and pivot to the other possible color.

This is why I chose Dimir and had a good feeling it would be open when I picked up Notion Rain early in pack 1.  It's a common you don't pass if you're in Dimir so even if the person feeding me is in Izzet, I can still get the Dimir multicolored cards and pick blue in pack 2.  Now, even though Dimir was relatively open, I don't believe it was very deep given the deck I ended up building.  Adding white for Dawn of Hope gave me a powerful win condition if I could utilize it properly, but the rest of the deck was average at best.  Dimir is good when you have evasive threats to win with because the board can get gummed up quickly and ground creatures will have a rough time getting past a wall of blockers.  Evasive creatures like Watcher in the Mist and Bartizan Bats can be your win conditions if you're able to hold off any ground assault and clear the way for your fliers.  This deck couldn't do that, nor could we play tempo Dimir where we get in with cheap fliers and keep the opponent off balance with removal/bounce spells.

One thing I want to mention about Dimir is there can be situations where the games drag on, life totals become irrelevant and the game is decided by decking/time.  It's not uncommon for Dimir to stall out the game given a defensive board presence but struggle to mount an offense good enough to win quickly.  Perhaps the opponent has enough removal to kill the major flying threats and you flounder around a bit while the game doesn't progress at all.  I've seen Dimir decks draw in paper play and this ends up being because the Dimir pilot isn't used to playing quickly while taking a defensive position and has to think through each turn more carefully.  It's a sign the pilot isn't an experienced control player and isn't aware of the control players greatest enemy: time.  A good habit to pick up is thinking constantly through your turn and your opponent's turn so as the turns play out you don't have to wonder what you're going to do, you've already thought it out.  I do this constantly as I'll think through what I want to do on my turn, my opponent's turn, and my next turn even when I'm not taking game actions/have priority.  It speeds up the game and gives me an advantage on the Magic Online clock.

I mention all this because time was a factor I had to account for in my matches, but only because my opponents afforded me the chance to do so.  I always made a note to be aware of who was ahead on clock and by how many minutes.  If I'm ahead on time and already know I can't win via combat, I quicken my turns and F6 much more aggressively to make the time disparity much greater than it would be if my opponent was aware of the time.  A lot of times we're not aware of time until someone mentions it, and that's a dangerous game to play both in Magic Online and in paper play.  Always be aware of the clock and make sure you can finish your games within the time limit.  Let me be clear, do not slow play in paper Magic nor take unnecessary game actions on Magic Online to hinder your opponent.   Correct and fair play should always be the priority.

Guilds of Ravnica Sealed League #1

I was actually able to restore the audio from the first two matches I did in this league, so no replay footage required this week.  Since I had only built one deck I didn't revisit the pool to see if there was another deck I could make.  I briefly thought about playing a five color deck if I had the fixing but given that most of my guildgates were Selesnya Guildgate splashing multiple colors would have to be done the hard way.  The proposition of having multiple different basic lands in my deck didn't seem enticing so I scrapped the idea before I went too far down the rabbit hole.

My deck itself is pretty average when you look at what I'm having to splash and what my powerful cards are in the deck.  A lot of my creatures don't do anything special and my best gameplan is to try and grind them out with Beast Whisperer giving me access to more cards than my opponent.  If I'm able to flood the board with creatures and always draw action then I can win even if my opponent has better cards in their deck.  However, if we're just going draw step against draw step then I'm more likely than not to lose that battle.

I think all three matches were won by the better deck/player and the other person wasn't really in the game at all.  I got lucky to win game 1 in my first match but then the next two games had me lose to a mix of flood/screw and my opponent having stronger cards in play than I did.  Playing against the Naya deck in round 2 felt really easy for me as any deck with a Boros slant can be contained if you know how to play against it.  I feel any Selesnya deck can beat any Boros deck because Selesnya can go bigger and just as wide while also having some cards with lifelink.  The third match was just silly as my opponent had a very powerful Dimir deck that I don't believe I could ever beat.  I could see myself splitting the next two matches to end at 2-3 overall.  

Guilds of Ravnica Sealed League #2

This stage was a bit weird since I got crushed in one match, my opponent abruptly conceded in the other, and in the last match I won with a deck I didn't think was good at all.  After adding the pack from the first stage I decided to add Sonic Assault to the main as it could prove to be critical if I'm trying to burn my opponent out with Firemind's Research.  The deck performed best in stage one when I could be the aggressor and Legion Warboss backed up by Sonic Assault can be a game winning line if it lines up correctly.  

The first match didn't go so well for me as my opponent always seemed to have more action than I did, and even though I tried to navigate the second game well by playing around Disdainful Stroke as best I could, the one turn I didn't allow myself to leave up Sinister Sabotage I was blown out by a Gruesome Menagerie and a Thought Erasure a couple turns later showed me I was never going to beat my opponent no matter what.  It's an instance where they had a better deck and the better deck won the match.  Match 2 was interesting as I won the first game pretty easily and then my opponent conceded the match a few turns into the second game.  Perhaps they were mana screwed or had to leave, I'm not sure what happened there.

The final match of the stage is likely the most interesting one because of the deck choice I made for the last two games.  Game 1 showed me I couldn't win going long and if that was going to be the case then I needed to change my strategy.  My first deck is already built as well as it can be to go later than most decks, but my opponent had a deck which could do what I wanted to do in a much better way.  I was not going to win a fight my opponent was better situated for, so I decided to go the other direction and see if playing low to the ground would give me a better chance to win.  You have to know what you can and can't do, then play accordingly given all the information you have.  If my opponent is better at winning a 10+ turn game than I am, why let them dictate the terms of engagement?  I already know I can't beat them going late, but if they're weak early then I have to try and see if that weakness is there.  My problem was I didn't have a solid two color aggro deck I could easily play, so I had to hope the Naya deck I had would work out and me not trip up over mana.  I played much better in the second game and Legion Warboss was about to dominate the third game before my opponent decided to call it quits.  A 3-3 record leaves me hoping to go 2-1 in the last stage to end up with some prizes.  

Conclusion

We did more winning than losing so I'll take that even if we had to take some losses along the way.  Something I want to comment on is sealed deck tends to be a crapshoot more often than not given the variance between sealed pools.  You can open great and be beat by a better deck or lose to a worse deck that just so happened to attack from an angle your deck/pool isn't prepared to deal with.  I overheard someone who went to GP Denver talking about how their pool was terrible and yet they won some matches despite that.  Now, they did end up losing to better decks as the day went on but the thing to take away from that is even if it is a crapshoot you still have a chance to win.  If you play tight and know how to navigate games you can still beat someone who has an objectively better deck than you.  There's always going to be a fair amount of variance when it comes to sealed and you have to learn how to embrace it.  If you accept variance and only worry about the things you can control you'll be much happier in all aspects of life, not to mention be a better Magic player.

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 can find all the videos in this article series posted early along with content exclusive to the channel.  Currently I'm playing with a free-to-play account on Magic Arena and documenting how long it takes me to grind into a Tier 1 deck.  Once I decide what Constructed deck/format I want to play on Magic Online I'll be doing videos of that as well.

Thanks for reading/watching!