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By: MarcosPMA, Marcos Rodriguez
Jun 23 2015 12:00pm
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Hello and welcome to another edition of Sealed Success!  This past weekend was the Dragons of Tarkir Limited Championship and I actually got to play in a qualifier.  I had thought that I wouldn't have time for it and figured I'd just play some DE's instead, but as luck would have it I was able to find enough time to play in the event.

To be honest, I didn't really know what to expect from myself in terms of play.  While this column is titled Sealed Success, I haven't actually done much sealed lately.  I do most of my sealed practice during prerelease/release events since it's much easier to find time to do them since they usually fire on demand.  When it comes to actual Daily Events I have to see if my schedule lines up what with Magic Online offers and sometimes that doesn't happen. Compound this with the fact that Dragons of Tarkir Sealed mostly feels like a dead format and you end up not having much incentive to actually play those games.  After all, most people would rather watch Modern Masters 2015 drafts, right?

It's also Modern season and most (if not all) stores are running Modern PPTQs instead of Sealed.  While this hurts Limited enthusiasts, the move makes sense.  As a shop, the margin on booster packs isn't high enough to justify running that over Modern.  Why make 5-10 dollars a person when you can sell Snapcaster Mages and Blood Moons on top of getting more out of the entry fee that you charge?  If more PPTQs were DTK Sealed then I can imagine the demand for that kind of content would skyrocket, but as it stands there isn't much there right now.

Dragons of Tarkir Sealed

As I've said before, it's not the first dragon that wins the game, it's the last dragon standing.  DTK has an as-fan of .6 dragons per pack which means that you're going to average 1 dragon per opponent you face.  While the dragons aren't windmill slam bombs that win the game automatically, they will win the game if they go uncontested.  To that end, there is a lot of removal that can kill a dragon.  Bathe in Dragonfire, Ultimate Price, Flatten, Return to the Earth, Enduring Victory, Pinion Feast, Pacifism, Reduce in Stature, Hunt the Weak, Grim Contest, Harsh Sustenance are all cards that are capable of taking down a dragon.  More importantly however, because a lot of things that can take down a dragon are flexible generic spells, it means that your other threats/bombs are open to being killed.  In the grand scheme of things it's important to do one of two things: have enough threats/removal that you have the last threat and it can win the game, or have enough removal that your opponent will run out of relevant threats and will be unable to press any advantage they once had.

2 for 1s can outright win the game for you if timed correctly.  You see, it's quite easy to 1 for 1 in this format.  The 2 drops can trade with the 3 drop morphs, morphs will trade with morphs, removal spells with trade with threats, etc.  You eventually get to the point where you're both in a stalemate and whoever topdecks first can take control of the game right away.  This is why UB decks can seem insane if built/piloted correctly.  The pilots correctly assume that they can 1 for 1 for as long as they want because they'll have ways to 2 for 1 you and bury you in virtual/actual card advantage. Imagine if you use Pacifism on one of their creatures and they use it as sacrifice fodder for a Silumgar Butcher and kill one of your creatures, or even worse cast Rakshasa Gravecaller and get 2 creatures and making it seem like you wasted a Pacifism.  Something as simple as Sandsteppe Outcast can be annoying to play against because they'll always make a 1/1 and a 2/1 and while you'll be able to trade with the 2/1, the 1/1 will be pecking at you until you do something about it.  Aven Surveyor can even be a 2 for 1 depending on when it's cast.  If you're behind and you get Aven Surveyed, it's going to be real hard to catch up because you'll be working on a turn behind while they pull out a turn ahead.  Don't even get me started on Pyrotechnics....

This is a 2.5 color format and every decision you make has to start from that point.  Modern Masters 2015 can range anywhere from 2 to 5 colors and two individuals can be on the opposite side of the spectrum and still be right about their positions.  The cards in that format allow you to play either kind of strategy and play it well.  While Dragons of Tarkir does have some gold cards and mana fixing, it's a far cry from Modern Masters 2015 where no one will laugh at you for playing 5 colors.  This simply isn't that format and because of that the games are faster and the earlier turns matter much more.  Like Khans of Tarkir it's still a turn 3 morph format except that the 2 drops are actually good!  I suppose you can say that the morphs are less powerful rather than the 2 drops being that much better, but no matter how you look at it your two drop is still an important part of the puzzle.  If people are playing more 2 drops and less colors, this means decks will be more consistent and have a greater chance to curve out and present threats at every single turn of the game.  Keep that in mind as you build your sealed pools.

Have a win condition.  Know how you're going to win any game you play.  This is more complex than saying "I'm just jamming with dudes".  Win conditions are cards that are hard to interact with, have some sort of evasion, or have enough power/toughness that it on its own is at least a 2 for 1. Marsh Hulk is not a win condition, no one is going to lose to a 4/6.  An early Gurmag Angler can be a win condition, Icefall Regent can be a win condition, Tasigur, the Golden Fang giving you card advantage can be a win condition, Dromoka Captain can be a win condition if it snowballs out of control early on.  Perhaps your win condition is to run your opponent out of threat and peck them to death with a Vulterous Aven or something of the sort.  It really doesn't matter how you win the game as long as you know how you can win the game.

Dragons of Tarkir Limited Qualifier

Green and Blue were basically unplayable so it was easy to dismiss those as color options from the start.  Black had good removal, but it didn't really have a win condition outside of Tasigur which for us would just be a 6 mana 4/5 no abilities.  Red had good removal and win conditions in Thunderbreak Regent and Stormwing Dragon, but it had no early game at all.  If I played red, I'd have to play a color that would have to cover me in the early turns otherwise I'd be too slow.  Luckily for me white had enough good early plays that matching white with red would give me solid plays along the curve.  I thought RB would be an option until I saw that all I really wanted in black was the removal spells.  I'd have to be a WR deck to even have enough creatures to field a good deck but there are only so many white creatures I could play until I would have to start multiple 23rd cards.  Well, why not just play the black cards that I actually wanted to play along with the WR creatures?  The lack of mana fixing is something that I had to take in consideration here.  I would have to play some amount of basic Swamp in my deck where having access to double red, double white, and double black would be important at different points of the game.  I had to ask myself if this was worth and I felt like it was.  The black would give me access to more removal and a way to recur a threat via Foul Renewal.  This also lets me be a little more liberal with my removal in the early game because I still would have access to more in the late game.  I do increase the odds of me losing a game via color screw, but I'd rather do that than lose having drawn Pressure Point and Abzan Advantage instead of being able to play Ultimate Price and Foul Renewal.

2 FOR 1s.  Whether it's Pyrotechnics destroying 3 creatures or Channel Harm allowing me to kill 2 creatures when I'm behind on board, being able to do more than a 1 for 1 can change the complexity of a game/board state.  In each of those situations my opponent was not able to win after me getting such an advantage and being able to press it.  Likewise, when I got blown out with a counter when I tried to Pyrotechnics in round 3, that easily sealed my fate in that game because I could not come back at all from that point.

Thoughts on Magic Origins

  • Scry is evergreen now.  As we saw in Theros block being able to scry is quite a huge deal.  Scry is already powerful but being able to set up your draws when you have good cards/are a good player?  That is something scary.  Sometimes you won't be able to choose when you scry but if you can hold onto your cards with scry until you need them so you give yourself a better chance of finding a relevant card in the late game.
  • Prowess is now the blue evergreen mechanic and I doubt it will change much about how you play the game.  We're all used to prowess by now and know how to evaluate those cards.  Core set combat doesn't get too complicated but prowess getting added does make playing around combat tricks a touch trickier.
  • Printing Reave Soul after Defeat just seems wrong.  Power creep much?
  • Jhessian Thief was already a must block, but having prowess might actually make it kill creatures now.  Card seems powerful.  Don't let it hit you!
  • Menace is a keyword now.  This is nothing new but we're going to see it more often now.  This will change combat some as you might have to leave back an extra blocker but it won't make combat that much more complex.
  • The flip planeswalkers will all be good if you get them to flip, but given that they're fairly weak creatures to start out with I imagine they won't actually flip too much.  If they do manage to flip however then I can see them taking over games.  

Conclusion

So yeah, I qualified for the DTK Limited Championship on my first try.  Pretty sweet right?  Next week I'll be back with videos on the event and hopefully a crown as well!  If you have any comments, questions, or concerns leave them in the comments section below.  Magic Origins spoilers start in full force this week so I'll be looking at all the spoilers and preparing myself for GP Dallas.

Thank you for reading/watching!