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By: MarcosPMA, Marcos Rodriguez
Jan 03 2019 1:00pm
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Hello and welcome to another edition of Sealed Success!  With the Christmas holidays and the New Year celebrations going on I've been unable to sit down and find a good time to record videos, thus leaving me falling behind with the content I want to put out.  I took Christmas week off knowing it would be hard to get anything done but the unexpected arrival of family meant I could not find a quiet place to do my work.  I thought about doing replays but decided against it as I wanted live commentary to give me enough time to properly articulate myself as the game progresses naturally.  Now I'm down two weeks of videos, how does that change the schedule considering Ravnica Allegiance is coming up soon?  Let's take a look at the new schedule and discuss what's going to happen:

  • Today - 2018 Year Overview
  • 1/10 - Guilds of Ravnica Draft League #12, Guilds of Ravnica Sealed League #5 video, Guilds of Ravnica Sealed League #6 videos
  • 1/17 - Guilds of Ravnica Sealed League #5 video, Guilds of Ravnica Sealed League #6 videos, Ravnica Allegiance Sealed Set Review
  • 1/24 - Guilds of Ravnica Sealed League #5 videos, Guilds of Ravnica Sealed League #6 videos, Ravnica Allegiance Events*

Normally I would have the last events for the old set wrapped up by the time the new set review would go live, but having the two weeks off means I unless I want to cram all the games in one week I'm forced to spread it out a little bit.  I think it's better for me to spread it out and not have the pressure of doing up to 17 new videos in one week.  The way I've planned it out is the old Guilds of Ravnica leagues will be added in addition to the new content next week that would normally be in place, so this there will be more content in each article for the short term until February.

Now, what are we doing this week if we're not starting up Guilds of Ravnica until next week?  This week I'd like to take a look back at 2018 and break down what each individual set release looked like and how I fared in each particular format.  It's something I do to a degree when each format ends but this time I want to go even deeper and understand why the numbers look the way they do and be objective about my experiences.  By looking towards the past and learning I can hopefully grow from it and do better in this upcoming year.  

Rivals of Ixalan

  • Rivals of Ixalan Draft Record: 22-11, 3 draft trophies, 66% win rate.
  • Rivals of Ixalan Competitive Sealed Record: 4-9, 0 trophies, 30% win rate.
  • Rivals of Ixalan Friendly Sealed League Record: 16-11, 1 trophy, 59% win rate.

Rivals of Ixalan was the second set of Ixalan block and a small set as well, which traditionally has meant me doing worse in a small/small/large format as opposed to the original large/large/large setup.  However, Rivals of Ixalan was a continuation of the same themes present in Ixalan, a format I fared well in doing drafts.  Ixalan draft was aggressive and rewarded you for finding the open tribe and drafting around it.  Battlefield presence mattered as well as keeping pace with your opponent.  If you stumbled and your opponent didn't stop attacking you were likely to suffer defeat quickly.

The tribes were still represented in Rivals of Ixalan but the format was more conducive to drafting color combinations in which there was no tribe, such as W/U for example.  The Ascend mechanic also encouraged the aggressive nature of the format but also allowed for midrange decks with no real tribal synergies to come out as some of the Ascend cards didn't have a tribal payoff: Resplendent Griffin, Dusk Charger, Kumena's Awakening, etc.  I think this was a good move since with only one pack of Ixalan and two of the smaller Rivals of Ixalan, some of the strong tribal cards would be less powerful with a lower powered set in the mix.  If you feel this is going to happen then adding generically powerful cards in the draft allows tribal decks to still have power even if the tribe doesn't fully come together.  You could turn U/R Pirate Aggro into a U/R tempo deck with Pirates in it, or turn your U/G Merfolk deck into a U/G tempo deck with some Merfolk in the mix.

I had 3 3-0 drafts which you can view here, here, and here.  The common theme in all the drafts is that I was able to be aggressive, get on the board early, and have ways to push through any potential board stalls.  I got lucky with the W/G "Dinosaur" deck since I don't think it's very good at all and would need the right draw and matchup to actually come out ahead.  It was one of those decks where if I got ahead and stayed ahead I would win but if I found myself in a defensive position I was unlikely to actually do much of anything.  

The sealed leagues went about as expected with me having a much better record in the friendly leagues than I do in the competitive leagues.  I wonder if part of that is because I play more matches in the friendly league, thus giving me a better opportunity to win more and get more wins overall.  I do feel I can play well against decks of comparable power level, something which is more likely to happen in the friendly leagues than the competitive leagues.

Dominaria

  • Dominaria Draft League Record: 14-10, 2 draft trophies, 58 % win rate.
  • Dominaria Competitive Sealed League Record: 6-4, 0 trophies, 60% win rate.
  • Dominaria Friendly Sealed League Record: 10-8, 2 trophies, 55% win rate.

Dominaria was a highly anticipated set release for both new and older players alike and it did not disappoint at all with the depth and richness of the format.  A lot of players were vocal of it being one of the best formats of all time and I cannot disagree with such a proclamation.  Putting aside nostalgia (as I have none of it), the format was very fun to play.  All the ten two color archetypes felt strong and deep, each allowing you a great chance at winning the draft.  There was a fair amount of fixing so you could splash powerful cards into your decks, and there were definitely powerful cards to play.

Legendary sorceries for the most part were very powerful (save for Kamahl's Druidic Vow), and the legendary creatures in the set all had a purpose and role to fill.  The uncommon legendaries allowed you to draft a particular deck/archetype and allow you to play the deck the way it was meant to be played.  A R/G Kicker deck doesn't work as well without Hallar, the Firefletcher and your U/G Midrange deck would be better with Tatyova, Benthic Druid in it.  The Sagas had amazing flavor and gave your turns a bit of anticipation as you eagerly awaited the next chapter to unfold and grant you its abilities.  As for format speed it was about average speed, there were decks that could come out blistering fast and kill you quickly if you weren't ready but on the other side of the spectrum you could draft durdly blue control decks with the intention of milling out your opponent.  There were some tribal sub-themes in the set: Goblins, Wizards, Angels, Knights, etc but they weren't the true focus of the set.  Wizards were likely the best tribe out of the lot with (Naban, Dean of Iteration) doubling up ETB effects, making all Wizards with them quite powerful. 

Going back on the topic of format depth, how is it that this format is deep when it's a large set just like any other?  I believe it comes from the number of archetypes you can play along with several build around cards that take the right deck or situation to make them work.  For example, how does one draft The Mirari Conjecture?  Are you spell heavy and if so which spells are you playing?  Are you playing U/R Wizards or are you playing U/B Historic?  Can both work and support The Mirari Conjecture?  Is there a deck that allows you to play Kamahl's Druidic Vow and make it worthwhile?  How many legendaries do you need in order to make Arvad, the Cursed anything more than a overcosted Vampire Nighthawk?  All these questions can be answered but it's up to us to draft over and over to find them, and that makes Dominaria a deep format.

I had 2 3-0 drafts and you can watch them here and here.  My first 3-0 showed the power of Wizards and (Helm of the Host) as getting the wizard synergies plus having reusable effects allowed me to gain virtual and physical card advantage while advancing my board and attacking my opponent.  I didn't let up the pressure and even when I was on the back foot I still had Helm of the Host to draw and pair with any ETB effect to get myself back into the game.  My second 3-0 was a more powerful generic deck that didn't have synergies to sport but had power.  Slimefoot, the Stowaway, Shalai, Voice of Plenty and Grunn, the Lonely King are all cards capable of winning games on their own, let along combined all in one deck.  I did well in this format when my deck had a clear plan and purpose, but when my decks had less of a plan and were a combination of random cards it didn't do as well.

I had better success in sealed here than I did in Rivals of Ixalan and that's likely due to the fact I opened better here than I did in Rivals.  My success in competitive sealed tends to correlate to how well I open so me having better cards here is a factor to me having a better win rate.  It also helps that Dominaria is a slower format than Rivals, allowing slower decks/starts to be less punishing than in a faster format.  The power level is also higher here so even if you're behind you can play a bomb or a key card and then find yourself back in it.

  • Magic 2019 Draft League Record: 10-8, 1 draft trophy, 55% win rate.
  • Magic 2019 Competitive Sealed League Record: 2-7, 0 trophies, 22% win rate.
  • Magic 2019 Friendly Sealed League Record: 11-7, 1 trophy, 61% win rate.

Magic 2019 was a long awaited return to Core Set Limited and while others may not feel the same, I did enjoy it for being relatively simple but with subtle depth as well.  The uncommon gold cards gave you an idea of what each color pair wanted to do but did not force you to play that style at all times.  Brawl-Bash Ogre was a great card if you're into B/R Sacrifice or happen to have Dragon Egg and Doomed Dissenter to enable the card, but you could play regular B/G Aggro/Midrange just fine and not force Brawl-Bash Ogre.dek.  The common dual lands were great at allowing you to either consistently have a good splash in your deck or have an even more stable manabase than you would otherwise.  It's never bad to have some amount of mana fixing in a two color deck because you might have draws where you draw X sources of one color and not the other, but if one of those sources is a dual land, then your not as hosed as you normally would be.

There was some tribal support in the set but mostly at rare so you weren't expected to have a tribal deck in this format, but it could happen if you opened the right rare to start off your draft.  Goblin Trashmaster and Death Baron were two nice ways to start an aggressive deck that had tribal payoffs by having a lord in the deck.  You could already draft a nice amount of Goblins or Skeletons/Zombies but now you had a great reason to continue doing so.  That's one of the nice things about Magic 2019, the cards that are "build arounds" or multicolored weren't so linear you couldn't put them in a random deck with those colors, they augmented their existing archetypes without being unplayable on their own.

I had one 3-0 draft which you can watch here.  I played a mostly mono red deck with a small black splash for Brawl-Bash Ogre and Macabre Waltz.  I truthfully could have done straight mono red and done just as well, but the fact I can get two creatures in Goblin Instigator and use one or both for Brawl-Bash Ogre without having to expend any resources to make that card good is worth trying out.

Sealed deck in Core Set Limited is a bit of a toss up at times.  The cards are at a flat power level compared to one another generally speaking and so the rares and mythics can easily dominate games if you don't have the right answer for them.  More often than not the better player will win but sometimes it comes down to deckbuilding and if you draw your bomb card or not at the right time.  I had a deck with Chromium, the Mutable and that card won me games but had I not had it I likely lose those games because the rest of my deck isn't as powerful.  Another thing to keep in mind is cards are getting more powerful as the years pass by.  M11 Limited decks are more likely to lose to Magic 2019 decks simply due to the rise in power creep.  Colossal Dreadmaw could probably be an uncommon in M11 yet it's a common in this set, so even if Magic 2019 decks all have a flat power level compared to each other, there are still good cards in them.

Guilds of Ravnica

  • Guilds of Ravnica Draft League Record: 15-15, 1 draft trophy, 50% win rate.
  • Guilds of Ravnica Competitive Sealed League Record: 5-5, 0 trophies, 50% win rate.
  • Guilds of Ravnica Friendly Sealed League Record: 9-9, 1 trophy, 50% win rate.

Even though I still have the next three leagues to do I'm not going to count those, just as I didn't count the Guilded League for these numbers.  As far as I'm concerned we're done with Guilds and we'll be setting our sights onto Ravnica Allegiance fairly quickly.  One thing I want to point out is I find it to be funny that I've gone exactly 50% in Guilds Limited so far, with a 4-1 and 1-4 in competitive sealed, and a 5-4/4-5 split in friendly sealed.

For me, Guilds of Ravnica has been an aggressive format with the option of having slower decks do well if they have the right defensive setup to combat Boros and Selesnya decks.  This is our 3rd foray into the plane of Ravnica with the original Ravnica block much beloved by older players.  I did not play during that era so my first experience with Ravnica was with (Return to Ravnica) block, a block I generally liked for Limited even with my tendency to struggle in multicolored formats.  Reading the signals is harder for me in a multicolored format as sometimes the mono colored cards aren't strong enough to be considered a signal and a pack with multiple mulitcolored cards of different guilds makes it difficult to see which guild is actually open.

Multicolored formats are usually fun and this format is no exception.  With guildgates in every pack and a plethora of multicolored cards you can build a strong deck featuring as many colors as you want, although probably not a good idea with Boros in the format.  The format is fast overall but is able to slow down depending on the matchup and board state.  Izzet, Boros, and Selesyna are what I would consider to be aggressive decks with Dimir and Golgari able to play the aggressive or defensive role depending on deck composition.  In my opinion Golgari is the worst guild with Undergrowth not having an immediate impact right away unlike the other guild mechanics and needed a bit of set up for it to actually work.  It's also the guild I've had the least amount of success with, even has I've done with with G/W (Selesnya) and B/U (Dimir) decks.  It's possible I'm drafting Golgari wrong and am perfectly willing to believe that, so if I have been please do let me know.

I had one 3-0 draft which you can watch here.  Selesnya is a guild I like, not as much as I like Boros or Izzet, but can still do well with a quick board and good Convoke spells to back them up.  The key card here was Dawn of Hope as it allows you to get a mana sink when you need it and a way to draw extra cards at any point in the game once you're able to get a lifelink creature in play.  Combine it with Inspiring Unicorn and you can grow your own army and make great attacks on your opponent if the game goes long.  Boros and Selesnya both utilize the same type of creatures (small and cheap) but overcome their deficiencies in different ways.  Boros likes to use Mentor to power them up or take to the skies with Skyknight Legionnaire and Parhelion Patrol to deal the last points of damage, while Selesnya wants to go wide and use those creatures to either get a mass buff in Inspiring Unicorn or use them to cast Siege Wurms and Worldsoul Colossus earlier than expected.

The sealed leagues are all a toss up since you're hoping to get the right mana to cast your best cards, but at the same time you want deep colors so you can splash or have a strong 2 color deck.  Mana fixing dictates what you can play and if what you can play doesn't line up with your best bombs then you have an issue.  Not all guilds are the same in power level and finding yourself in a Golgari based deck that's average is bad since it has no free wins, unlike a Boros or Selesnya that can juke the opponent out if they're not ready for it.

Conclusion

2018 was a good year for me as I did more winning than losing and while the percentages aren't as positive as I'd like them to be I'll take what I can get.  Overall I believe I did well when my decks had a solid strategy and a clear game plan, but struggled when I had a random pile of cards hoping to get wins out of them.  Drafting and building clear and synergistic decks is a requirement for doing well in this age of Magic and the goal should be to always strive for that.  My best format for 2018 turned out to be the first format of the year: Rivals of Ixalan.  I posted my best win percentage in draft and the draft league trophies as well.  It's a format I really understood and had a firm grasp, especially given how well I was doing with regular Ixalan draft.  My worst format was Magic 2019 with competitive sealed really dragging down my percentage points overall.

Without doing the math I'd wager overall I averaged between a 50% and 60% winrate in Limited, an above average score that could be improved upon with more practice.  For me to have a percentage that is above 60% I'd either have to be completely in tune with the formats and/or practice a lot and improve with every draft/sealed.  The only way to get better at Magic is to play Magic, and for the moment I don't play nearly enough of it to have a high win rate.  2019 is a new year and with it brings new formats for me to break down and figure out.  Ravnica Allegiance is looking like a fun format and I'm excited to review it and head into a new format with a lot of possibilities to unravel.

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 my content in this article series posted early along with old videos and other Magic related content.

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!