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By: MarcosPMA, Marcos Rodriguez
May 02 2019 12:00pm
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Hello and welcome to another edition of Sealed Success!  This past weekend was the prerelease and I did 3 sealed flights along with a sealed pool on Magic Arena that went pretty well.  Overall I thought the format was fun and it wasn’t as miserable as it could have been with multiple planeswalkers in every deck.  The uncommon planeswalkers felt just like Sagas in the fact that what they did was scripted and you had a choice of whether to deal with it or not.  The rare and mythic planeswalkers offered more play to the and those were the ones you had to deal with as soon as they came out.  I went 0-2 drop, 2-2, and 3-1 in my paper flights and a 5-2 record in my Arena pool.  Both my losses came about because of mana issues so when it wasn’t an issue I was able to play well. 

I didn't know how much time I would have to record and play out a draft league, and when I realized I couldn't start a War of the Spark draft until Monday, it became clear I should wait a week and present my first draft next week.  In the past I've done the draft portion this week, then played the games and completed another draft the next week, but I feel that's adding more stress than is necessary.  Instead this week I'll introduce the first two sealed leagues and then start adding drafts next week.  Let's go ahead and take a look at the upcoming schedule and then get to talking about War of the Spark:

  • Today - War of the Spark Sealed League #1, War of the Spark Sealed League #2
  • 5/9 - War of the Spark Draft League #1, War of the Spark Sealed League #1 video, War of the Spark Sealed League #2 videos
  • 5/16 - War of the Spark Draft League #2, War of the Spark Sealed League #1 video, War of the Spark Sealed League #2 videos
  • 5/23 - War of the Spark Draft League #3, War of the Spark Sealed League #1 videos, War of the Spark Sealed League #2 videos

War of the Spark Impressions

Generally speaking I found I wanted to play with as many planeswalkers as possible, but with that comes a bit of tension in your deck.  Let’s say you play all 6 planeswalkers and a normal amount of noncreature spells, that’s going to amount for at least 10 cards, meaning you have less creatures to defend your planeswalkers and attack theirs.  We also have to realize there are 36 planeswalkers in this set, that space has to come from somewhere, and I believe it comes from creatures.  In my experience I’ve been opening less creatures and constructing decks with less creatures than usual, making combat more swingy than normal.  Now, this is just my experience and it may be that it’s not the norm, but if it is then we have to adjust for that as we move forward.  Modern Limited environments are creature focused, it's all about engaging your opponent with creatures and seeing who comes out on top.  I don't believe this has changed, even with a lower quantity of creatures popping up.  

Now, we still have to adjust to having a higher density of planeswalkers in our decks.  For example: if you have a deck with more noncreature spells than creatures, and you have a hand with no creatures and at least one planeswalker, how do you play that hand?  Do you wait until you draw a creature and pass without a play, or do you play it and hope for the best?  What if the hand has 2-3 planeswalkers and your opponent already has a creature?  Should you try to protect your planeswalkers with removal against mediocre creatures or do you let your planeswalkers die for whatever incremental advantage they gave you?  Those questions all depend on context so there’s not a definitive answer to them, but something we should keep in mind as we construct decks and theorize how they play out.  This is something we haven't had to keep in mind throughout the existence of planeswalkers since they were so rare, but now we need to make adjustments for this format. I would say we need to be harsher on the planeswalkers we do play and make sure they’re worth their inclusion.  

I have a pool in Arena where I can play Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner in a U/B deck with very little creatures that would draw me a card, so at that point is it worth playing?  Her -1 ability is situationally good and bad late in the game so in that case it’s not worth playing because she doesn’t do enough for me.  What about Narset, Parter of Veils in a very creature heavy deck?  Her -2 won’t get you a card often and her static ability is situationally good, so why bother playing her?  We need to play the right planeswalkers for our deck, make sure they have the impact we want them to have, and then still have a working deck around them.  Creatures still matter in this format and we shouldn’t neglect them in favor of planeswalkers.

Another thing I noticed were people’s tendencies to splash for planeswalkers even if there wasn’t a good way to do so, and I found myself doing this was well.  Part of this was because it was relatively easy to slot them into my deck, and also because I needed more power than what a base two color deck would give me.  It may be just me but I also splashed for a few creatures because I had a low creature count to begin with.  I don’t normally recommend a 7/7/3 or 7/6/4 manabase but it was required to make some of those cards castable and with careful management of colored mana costs it can work.

War of the Spark Sealed League #1

We have a lot of powerful cards in Liliana, Dreadhorde General, Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God, God-Eternal Kefnet, and Gideon Blackblade so power isn’t an issue here.  Our issue comes from our lack of creatures and that affecting how we’re able to proceed with combat every turn of the game.  It’s going to be hard for us to protect and attack planeswalkers, and while it’s not impossible to manage boards when that’s the case, it’s just harder than usual.  

Black is a must play as I have decent removal and two good planeswalkers, so the question is what color(s) do I pair with it?  Playing Nicol Bolas is one way to do it in a base black deck but mana is a concern along with the fact that blue and red are both a little shallow.  Blue and red don’t fix the one issue black has (creatures) making it harder for me to rely on planeswalkers as a win condition.  Playing W/B gives me more creatures but they’re not quality creatures and that deck isn’t built for Gideon Blackblade to be the game winning card it can be.  5c green is not a deck I can actually pull off in the first iteration of it, but a base B/G/x/x deck isn’t outside the realm of possibility.  My last deck can add a few more creatures/removal by taking out Guild Globe, Deliver Unto Evil and possibly New Horizons and make clunkier but smoother deck the process.  The mana would be bad but if everyone is doing 3 colors the hard way then I’m not that much slower than they are.  What do you think?

War of the Spark Sealed League #2
 

 
God-Eternal Oketra is likely the best card in this pool and is powerful enough to make white playable, which is telling since white is pretty bad without it.  Roalsek, Apex Hybrid is a powerful card in any green deck but sadly our green is so bad it doesn’t get to playable even with Roalsek.  Once we get past the mythics the rest of the cards are pretty okay on average with Enter the God-Eternals being the one standout from that group of cards.
 
After looking at the decks I made I feel if I want to play with God-Eternal Oketra I need to pair her with blue or red, not black.  Black’s creatures are underwhelming and the the best cards it has going for it are Enter the God-Eternals and Ob Nixilis’s Cruelty, two cards I can splash in blue, while red giving me other options.  Samut, Tyrant Smasher doesn’t do a lot for me in my B/R deck nor has it impressed me in other decks.  I’ve found Samut to either do nothing because you’re behind and haste is terrible in that situation, or it’s only good because I’m ahead and at that point almost any other card would be just as good.  The real issue with B/R is just has random creatures and very little actual power above 2, making my offense limited in what it can do past a certain point.  All my decks actually have this issue, but the white/x decks are a little better about it since I get God-Eternal Oketra.  At this point I feel as though I should play with whatever deck works best with God-Eternal Oketra.  
 
Conclusion
 
My two sealed pools have powerful cards, but my worry is I don't have the right base to support those powerful cards.  It all comes down to how slow the format is and if you can get away with playing less creatures than would be ideal.  If 10-15 creature decks are the norm then it's very possible the decks I made are good enough to play in this format, but if they're more creature heavy then I have to focus my efforts on playing a deck that can do well against creatures.  The prerelease isn't a good gauge of format speed since most people don't know all the cards well and want to play with the big splashy cards because they look fun.
 
Next week I'll be back with my first Magic Online draft of War of the Spark and the first few games of both sealed leagues.  If you have any comments, questions, or concerns leave them in the comments section below.
 
Thanks for reading/watching!