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By: Godot, Ryan Spain
Aug 27 2010 10:41am
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Welcome back! If you missed part one, go check it out now. I built a green-white deck from my first 4-Booster Sealed card pool, and took down round one 2-0. I also threw up the card pool from my second 4-Booster Sealed event, and I’ll discuss how I built it at the end of this article.

Back to the event at hand, though. With only three other matches to check out (as opposed to seven others in traditional Sealed), I actually did my scouting homework. Replays showed that my round-two opponent misunderstood the rules and ran a 40-card deck in game one, which showed these cards:

imageChandra's Outrage for exactsies took game one despite the ten extra cards and no non-land permanents in play. Game two saw a revamp to a 30-card, black-red build, adding Howling Banshee, Berserkers of Blood Ridge, Bloodthrone Vampire, Reassembling Skeleton, and Gargoyle Sentinel to the known red cards above.


I win the roll, and have a fine-looking starter on the play:

imageVillain keeps as well, and the first play of the game is my turn-two Garruk's Companion after drawing Assault Griffin. Villain answers with a Goblin Piker, and I draw a Plains. Are we offering a trade here?

image R2G1 #1

As bummed as I am that my turn-two Garruk's Companion is facing down a piker that can trade with it, attacking is still the way to go. This game is likely to be won on the strength of Sacred Wolf equipped with the Sword of Vengeance, so I might as well clear the way for that now, as six points of toughness on defense is about the only thing that will stop a vengeant wolf this side of Pyroclasm. I attack in, trade as expected, and deal 2 in the process (20 – 18). The wolf comes down after combat, and I pass.

Villain has no turn-three play past a land drop, and I draw another Forest. I could cast the sword now, but with no opposing creatures the wolf needs help attacking through, I’d rather max out my mana and get the Assault Griffin going. The wolf hits for 3, the griffin hits the skies, and I pass (20 – 15). Villain has a Plains and a Vulshok Berserker, which stays back on defense. I pull Giant Growth, which gives me some interesting options. What’s your play?

image R2G1 #1

I start by crashing in, using the growth to clear away the blocking berserker (20 – 12), and then have two legitimate options: cast the Prized Unicorn and hope to draw a land that will allow me to cast and equip the sword next turn, or ensure an equipped sword for next turn by casting it now and forsaking the unicorn. Both plays are pretty strong, but I ultimately went with the sure sword next turn by casting it this turn. This earned a snap concession, so it was apparently a reasonable plan in that spot.

Anticipating the black-red build with Gargoyle Sentinel and Howling Banshee after sideboarding, I bring in one Plummet for the Elite Vanguard, which seems particularly weak on the draw.


Villain keeps on the play, and I check my seven:

image A little light on plays past the pegasus, but a keeper nonetheless. I draw a Plains after Villain uses Terramorphic Expanse to fetch a Mountain, and then a second Mountain produces a turn-two Ember Hauler. I draw Forest and answer with the Stormfront Pegasus. Villain surprises me with a Forest instead of a Swamp and crashes in with the Ember Hauler. Are we blocking?

image R2G2 #1

Getting to Greater Basilisk mana with Giant Growth in hand is going to be very good against green-red, and if I trade my pegasus now, I should be able to make it to turn five with a solid life total. However, this attack means one of two things: Villain either has a trick, or is willing to trade the hauler for my pegasus. I’m not sure I want to trade my pegasus for a trick right now, and if the trade offer is legitimate, Villain might try to burn out the pegasus anyway if I decline to trade. If I can make it to my next turn before that happens, I can protect with Giant Growth. If Villain does want to burn it out, the correct play would be to do it before I untap, in which case not blocking here just costs me an extra 2 life in exchange for Villain’s one extra mana.

I think in balance the right thing to do is just trade for the Ember Hauler or a trick now. I have to set off the traps at some point anyway, and despite the turn-two pegasus, I don’t exactly have a racing hand here. In the game, I decided to keep my options more open and see if I could untap with the pegasus and make a race of it, and hopefully trade my Giant Growth for his hauler at some point. I take 2, and Villain has a post-combat Cultivate for two more Forests before passing (18 – 20). It’s looking like I mis-boarded with the Plummet.

I draw Assault Griffin and try to look ahead. Following through on the racing plan, I attack with the pegasus before playing a land and passing (18 – 18). I take another 2 from the hauler before Villain taps out for a Berserkers of Blood Ridge. Suddenly racing is not looking quite as hot. I draw Wild Griffin and reconsider things.

image R2G2 #2

Now I can cast a creature and have Giant Growth mana up, so I swing in with the pegasus, play a Plains, and cast the Wild Griffin with a Forest up (16 – 16). I’m going to have to take a punch from the berserkers, but I should be able to draw out the hauler activation one way or another, and set up the basilisk for the berserkers next turn.

Villain drops a sixth land and sends in the berserker only. I can’t block and pump because of the hauler, so I take the 4 (12 – 16). Villain adds a second Ember Hauler and a Goblin Piker, leaving two mana up for a potential double hauler activation. I draw another Forest and plan the turn. The Greater Basilisk is going to come down for sure, but are we making any attack here?

image R2G2 #3

If I’m not going to block with the flyers, I should attack. So what happens if I don’t block? The basilisk blocks and kills the berserkers, then after taking 6 from the other guys, an Ember Hauler would finish off the basilisk. Then I’d be at 6 facing an Ember Hauler, a Goblin Piker and whatever else Villain adds to the fray. I’d have an Assault Griffin and Giant Growth at the ready, which I’d think would finally force the other Ember Hauler activation, and I would effectively counter it with the Giant Growth. I’d still have to block the piker at that point or drop to an uncomfortable life total though, so if I’m going to trade with an opposing bear eventually, I might as well do it now.

At the time, I continued to have a race mentality about it and swung with both flyers, but the big problem with that play is that between haste, pump, and burn, I can’t be certain what my life total really is against red-green. I like the safe blocking play now, but let’s see how the attack/basilisk plan works out for me (12 – 12).

Exactly as expected, as it turns out. Villain’s next turn goes unfolds as described above, with the added plus of no additional plays (6 – 12). I draw a Plains which puts me at wurm mana next turn. What’s the attack plan now? Are we legitimately beatdown yet?

image R2G2 #4

I’ll have the wurm next turn, but the two cards in Villain’s hand are awfully suspicious. It would be reckless to risk attacking with both, but two blockers and a Giant Growth should be enough to see me through the next turn unless Villain is on an unlikely double Chandra's Outrage or something. I send in the griffin for 2, cast his big brother, and pass with two blockers back (6 – 10). The Assault Griffin finally draws out the Ember Hauler activation, and I save the big guy with the Giant Growth.

Villain untaps and attacks with the Goblin Piker, and I finally trade the pegasus for an opposing bear. The board is looking good for me, with 5 power in the air and an impending Duskdale Wurm to an empty board, but post combat, Villain fills it with a creature that says he can’t lose the game.

image R2G2 #5

Suddenly, topdecking that “mis-boarded” Plummet seems pretty golden! Instead I draw my second Wild Griffin, but cast the wurm, looking to hold the angel at bay with the threat of 4 power in the air until I can find the Plummet, my one out to the angel. I pass, and to my dismay, Villain sends Platty into the red zone. What does this mean, and what’s to be done about it?

image R2G2 #6

The first thing I think is that playing the wurm over the second griffin was a mistake, as the wurm doesn’t really matter until the angel is gone. A third two-power flyer gives me redundancy against a single removal spell as well as defeating Giant Growth. Realistically, this is Chandra's Outrage, Lightning Bolt, Plummet, or Giant Growth, probably topdecked, since all four would have been used in R2G2 #4 had they been available then. Given that three of four kill me if I don’t block at all, I have to bock unless I feel that I will lose anyway if Villain has one of the three non-Plummets.

I don’t think that’s the case, though. If I double-block and give up the 2:1 here, I still have Inspired Charge and Plummet to take care of the angel outright, or Sword of Vengeance and Blinding Mage to stall until I can find the Plummet. Gambling on drawing one of those outs seems better than gambling that Villain’s trick is specifically Plummet, and that Chandra's Outrage isn’t closer to the top of Villain’s dwindling library than my own Plummet is to the top of mine.

I put both blockers in front of the angel, drawing out Plummet, which certainly helps explain the red-green choice over the black-green choice given my flyer-heavy deck. I topdeck like a champ, pulling the Sword of Vengeance, which I cast along with the Wild Griffin. I have to take 4 to set up the 4/2 first-striking flyer on the following turn (2 – 3), but I will have stabilized if it sticks.

It doesn’t stick. Villain has Acidic Slime for the sword, which may have been held back just for this purpose. I have to chump the angel for one final pull at the Plummet, but I whiff, and fall to the angel on the following attack.

I add a Naturalize to the mix for extra angel protection, but not the second Plummet which would feel like too many answers for a single card. I believe I took out the Inspired Charge for it.


Back on the draw, I have a keepable seven:


My turn-two Stormfront Pegasus after drawing a Plains is the first play of the game. Let’s see how far I can ride it. Villain responds with a turn-two Ember Hauler and I start having flashbacks, although this time I’m on the play, which makes a big difference. I pull a third Forest and attack with the pegasus before casting the Awakener Druid (20 – 18). The druid will almost certainly die to the hauler, but that’s fine, as it allows me to keep pressing with the pegasus.

Villain attacks me down to 18, then uses the hauler on the druid before I untap with potential Giant Growth mana (18 – 18). I take back the turn and draw Duskdale Wurm, leaving me without a play other than to drop a land and attack for 2 (18 – 16). Vulshok Berserker comes down and swings (15 – 16). I untap and draw Naturalize, which does nothing to change the obvious play of attacking and casting Greater Basilisk (15 – 14).

A Giant Spider puts a stop to the damage spree from my pegasus, but a Blinding Mage off the top for me threatens to start it up again. I send in the basilisk, happy to trade it for his two men, but Villain declines, taking the 3 instead (15 – 11). I cast the mage and ship the turn. Villain returns some of the pressure with Volcanic Strength on the Vulshok Berserker.

image R2G3 #1

I take 5 from the berserker, but between the Naturalize and the Blinding Mage, I’m not overly concerned about the 5/4 in the long term (10 – 11). Villain adds a Canyon Minotaur before passing. I draw and play a Forest before quickly passing it back. Villain adds a Mountain to the board and moves into Beginning of Combat. What are we tapping?

image R2G3 #2

Tapping anything other than the berserker telegraphs that I have a combat trick planned, unless I try to sell it as a misclick by tapping and untapping a Plains after moving into declare attackers. I’m almost to wurm mana though, so at this point I’d rather play it straight and set up for a possible 3:1 when Villain eventually gang-blocks the wurm. I tap the berserker, there’s no attack, and Villain casts Platinum Angel after combat. She promptly Plummets into the graveyard, and I take back the turn.

I cast the Wild Griffin I draw and pass, and Villain casts a pre-combat Gargoyle Sentinel and Goblin Piker leaving no cards in hand. Do these new creatures change the combat plan at all?

image R2G3 #3

If not for the gargoyle, I would have skipped through Beginning of Combat without a play, done the naturalize 2:1 on the presumably-attacking berserker, and then tapped the spider to get in there for 4. With the gargoyle in play as well, though, I reconsider my intentions for that Naturalize. The tapper can clear away one flyer, but two is going to be difficult to break through. I decide to use Naturalize now on the gargoyle as I don’t know if I’ll draw land or not, and clearing away a flyer will make a big difference (even if it can’t be a flyer during my next attack).

I do pull a land, and while it leaves the mage unusable for the turn, I’m happy to drop the fatty. Villain finds a nice topdeck in Ember Hauler #2, casts it, and sends in the berserker. Blocks?

image R2G3 #4

Obviously if I block with the wurm, I trade it for the berserker and the hauler, and that seems to be what Villain is hoping for. That’s actually acceptable; it would leave Villain on a three-turn clock with both of us out of cards, and me drawing first. The other option is to block with the basilisk. This would trade the basilisk for the berserker and probably the mage for the hauler, leaving me with two flyers and a 7/7 trample against a 2/4 reach, a 3/3, and a 2/1. If I make this play and Villain lets me untap with the mage before killing it, the game is basically over, as I can tap the spider and get in with both flyers.

Looking at it now, I like just taking the 3:1 being offered for the wurm and going for the tapper/flyer clock. The other choice has the potential to end the game more quickly, but only if Villain makes the mistake of letting me untap with the mage. In the game I block with the basilisk. It isn’t a horrible play, but the fact that Villain seemed to want the wurm trade made me less inclined to want to “walk into the trap.” In this case, though, the “trap” actually led to a better board state than my chosen play.

Fortunately for me, Villain does make the mistake of letting me untap with the mage. I draw a Plains (not pictured below, accidentally grabbed my upkeep screen). How best to take advantage of this?

image R2G3 #5

If I tap down the spider and swing, Villain must block the wurm or die. The only way to kill the wurm will be to put everything on it and not use the Ember Hauler’s ability. This is a great example of why the loss of stacked damage was, for the long term, better for the game. Sure, it weakened some beloved cards, but it has allowed WotC to make stronger versions of those cards, like Ember Hauler, which would have been pretty busted in Limited with stacked damage. Instead, the hauler is strong but not broken, and forces some fascinating battlefield decisions that wouldn’t have existed under stacked-damage rules.

Villain decides to invest all his resources into killing the wurm, which leaves a solitary spider to deal with two flyers and a tapper (10 – 6)

image R2G3 #6

Villain draws, plays, and uses Terramorphic Expanse to thin the library, but fails to topdeck, and the flyers finish things in two swings. I don’t feel like I played that endgame optimally, but my options combined together in so many useful ways that it became difficult to lose.

Round-Three Scouting

My round-three opponent had five games to scout. Four of them were black-red, one was black-green. The Acidic Slime and Naturalize suggest Villain might consider it an option in the face of artifacts and enchantments.

image R3G1

I win the roll and draw my seven on the play:


Once again, the shuffler shows that it is clearly broken, just heavily in my favor. Pyroclasm would be a blowout, but otherwise this is about as good an opening 7 as I could hope for. I open on the Elite Vanguard, Villain plays a Mountain and passes, and I draw a Plains. I hit for 2 and drop the Blinding Mage (20 – 18), and F8 takes me on autopilot while Villain drops a Swamp and passes. I draw Inspired Charge, crash for 3, and cast the Wild Griffin (20 – 15).

Villain has a Quag Sickness for the griffin, but I still have decent pressure going, which only gets better when I draw Sword of Vengeance. What are you casting this turn?

image R3G1 #1

With the two Mind Rots I saw in scouting, I really want to get the sword down before I have to discard it. I swing with the two creatures and bring out the sword and pass with the Giant Growth threat up (20 – 12). Villain plays a fourth land and passes, I draw and drop another Forest. What’s the play this turn?

image R3G1 #2

Most players are going to correctly cast the Giant Spider after combat here, but if you are a player looking to improve your Limited game and you chose to equip in this spot, we’ve found a leak you need to plug. It is extremely unlikely that an opponent with two Mountains, two Swapms, and six cards would pass because they actually didn’t have a play, so you should always play around removal here. If your opponent truly has no play, you are still in great shape, and the order in which you cast the spider and equip something with the sword doesn’t matter for long-term damage totals. This is most likely Doom Blade or Chandra's Outrage, as if it were Lightning Bolt there probably would have been a way to spend the other three mana.

My attack doesn’t draw it out, but after the post-combat Giant Spider, Villain aims Chandra's Outrage at the Blinding Mage (18 – 9) before untapping and casting Magma Phoenix. A Forest off the top for me hits the battlefield, and I plan the turn.

image R3G1 #3

Because a dying phoenix damages players as well as creatures, it’s not such a bad thing to swing into it. The maximum damage play is to equip the vanguard and attack with both creatures, where either block works out well for Villain. I equip and attack with the vanguard, but mistakenly holding back the Giant Spider, thinking that Villain had a block that could take it out when combined with the phoenix’s exit clause. This was not the case, and I passed up on 2 points of damage. The phoenix blocks, and everything goes down but the spider, with Villain taking 4 along the way (15 – 5). I toss the sword to the spider and pass.

Liliana's Specter takes out my Inspired Charge, and an Elixir of Immortality threatens to stretch out the game a little bit. I pull a Plains and keep it in hand, while the spider goes unblocked for 4 (15 – 1). With the score 15 – 1, I’m now officially giving Villain extra turns, as he’d be dead if I’d swung with the spider even if he’d blocked with the specter here (although Villain may have had an alternate play to stay alive). An Earth Servant twists the screws of my mistake a little tighter as I lose control of the board with Villain sitting on 1.

With a 6-toughness blocker, I now need to equip the sword to a flyer or a 4-power creature to be able to make a profitable attack, and that number goes up by 1 from here with every additional Mountain Villain plays. A Garruk's Companion on my draw doesn’t change the situation much, but at least it’s a non-land, so I’m happy to run it out there. I move the sword to the companion out of wishful thinking more than a real reason, and pass.

Villain Corrupts the spider off an apparent topdeck, which coupled with an attack from the specter start swinging things farther away from me. I take back the turn with totals now (13 – 5), and the elixir putting Villain on a virtual 10 if I allow another untap. I draw looking for a flyer or something with 4+ power, and am rewarded by an Awakener Druid, which can at least turn a Forest into a 4-power man. What’s your play?

image R3G1 #4

If you said “Cast the Awakener Druid, equip it with the sword, and swing with everything,” then you were thinking with less tunnel vision than I was at that moment in time. I led up to this “What would you do?” with commentary that reflected the way I was thinking about the situation during the game: I needed a creature with 4 power or a flyer to be able to attack profitably. When I saw that I had effectively drawn one in the druid, I fixated on equipping and attacking with my new fatty, as it is one of the plays I was hoping to draw into. However, the forest/treefolk doesn’t have summoning sickness, so I can actually go for the win here by handing the sword to the druid and swinging with the team.

There is some risk in attacking for the win, as Stabbing Pain or Lightning Bolt on the druid in response to an alpha strike leaves the companion charging alone to its death. I didn’t see either in scouting, but is the threat of one of those removal spells here worth risking the alpha? There haven’t been any good targets for either spell for several turns, so Villain has had several pulls at the pain or the bolt. If I want to play around the removal, I should attack with just the treefolk and lose the druid and treefolk before damage, which basically reverts things to the pre-druid board state. Having not seen either bolt or pain in scouting, though, you have to go for the win here.

As it is, I made the one indefensible play: I equipped the treefolk and swung with it and the companion: failing to go for the win, but setting myself up for the same potential bolt/pain blowout as if I had. Fortunately, no removal is forthcoming. Villain chumps the treefolk, and I hit for 3 (13 – 2), not even seeing I could have attacked for the win there until reviewing the game for this article.

This is probably my number-one source of straight-up mistakes in Magic: setting up a reasonable mental shortcut and then failing to recognize an exception. Magic boards can become extremely complex, and must be continually reassessed. We make these reassessments manageable by identifying and focusing on the critical elements, allowing us to measure the overall relevance to a change in the game state quickly. Recognizing that I needed a flyer or a four-power creature to break through was a good mental shortcut for assessing future changes to the game state, but then when I actually drew the means to a four-power creature, I had basically predetermined that “equip it and attack” was the optimal play. I suppose the lesson here is that when you draw something relevant to your mental shortcut, stop and do the longhand if you aren’t low on clock, particularly when it’s not quite in the form you were imagining: in this case a creature that turns a land into a 4-power creature instead of just a 4-power creature.

Villain adds a Child of Night to the opposition, leaving up Elixir of Immortality mana when passing to be at a virtual 7 life as I start my turn. I pull Giant Growth and look for a winning attack. Do we have one?

image R3G1 #5

It’s fairly safe to assume Villain doesn’t have removal here, although it’s certainly a possible topdeck. I’d still have the companion and the sword even in that case, though, so the remote possibility of removal is no reason to hold back here. With 9 points of trample already on the table and a Giant Growth for 3 more, I have enough to overcome 2 points of toughness, 2 points of lifelink, 5 life from the elixir, and the baseline 2 life Villain has left. I swing in with the team, cast the pump spell after blockers, and earn a concession.

Despite offering Villain a few extra turns, I pulled this one out, but a nuts-and-bolts assessment of this game doesn’t care whether I won or lost, it only cares that I made two avoidable mistakes (at least).

I bring in both Plummets given the multiple flyers seen in scouting, taking out the Elite Vanguard and Inspired Charge, which both lose value on the draw.


I check seven after Villain keeps:


Needs some land and the wurm feels like a quasi-mulligan, but it contains one each of my basics and the Sword of Vengeance so I’m going with it, especially on the draw. After a Mountain from Villain, I draw my second Plummet and play a Forest. Villain had a swamp but no play, which is almost as welcome a sight as the Forest I draw. I play a Plains and pass, and I get hit with a Mind Rot. With a Forest and a Plains in play, what are you discarding here?

image R3G2 #1

I’m pretty far away from that Duskdale Wurm and two Plummets seem excessive, so I ditch the fatty and one of the flyer killers. I draw another Forest and cast the sword, as I would only run out Awakener Druid on three mana when I have no other play. Villain appears to have no other play either, dropping a Terramorphic Expanse and then passing it back. I draw a Wild Griffin, but that doesn’t seem better than turning a Forest into a major threat. You can make a case for playing around removal, but even a worst-case scenario like Doom Blade isn’t so bad given my hand and board. Villain has no response to the Awakener Druid except to drop from 20 to 16 on the attack (20 – 16).

Quag Sickness does the deed at sorcery speed, though; an OK result since the Forest itself doesn’t die, and Villain did nothing on turn four and then used most of turn five on killing the druid. I draw a Stormfront Pegasus and plot the course.

image R3G2 #2

Prized Unicorn is a pretty sketchy card because of how devastating instant-speed removal is if you are counting on the Lure effect, but this is a spot where it could shine: wielding a Sword of Vengeance on an otherwise-empty battlefield. When your opponent has to cast five toughness worth of creatures or nothing at all, it’s going to blank a lot of cards and require an answer. I cast the unicorn, and the threat of the sword-unicorn combo is enough to draw out a two-Swamp Corrupt before I can untap. When I do I draw Garruk's Companion, which I summon alongside the pegasus for a lot of power off a little mana.

I’m planning to go to town with a vengeance, but a Manic Vandal has other ideas, destroying the sword while daring the companion to attack. I pull an Assault Griffin, which makes me feel better about offering up the companion on the attack. Villain accepts the trade, taking 1 of the trample and 2 off the pegasus (20 – 15). I cast the Assault Griffin and ship the turn.

Villain plays Dragonskull Summit and taps all seven lands. With Plummet in hand, I’m hoping it’s the seven drop I saw in the scouting, and sure enough, Ancient Hellkite hits the battlefield. I untap and draw a land for the maxed-out turn: Plummet the dragon, cast the Wild Griffin, and hit for 5. The clock is really ticking now as I pass it back (20 – 10). Villain casts a Nightwing Shade, leaving one pump activation up, and passes it back. I draw Giant Spider. What’s the correct attack?

image R3G2 #3

The shade will start being able to pump to as much as 5/5 next turn, so there’s no way it will block the Assault Griffin this turn. The question is, do I suicide in the other two flyers, trading one of them for 2 extra damage? I might make that play if the spider plus an all-out attack next turn would then be lethal, but it’s not. I play it conservatively and attack only with the 3/2, cast the spider, and pass (20 – 7). Villain adds a Liliana's Specter and passes with two shade pumps up. I draw Greater Basilisk and have a similar attacking decision. What now?

image R3G2 #4

Any single attacker I have can be eaten by a double-pumped shade, and all but the spider trade with the specter, so the two choices are really attack with nothing or attack with everything. In this case, I lean “attack with everything” because with Villain at 3, the basilisk in hand would apply must-block pressure next turn. I send everything into the red zone, where big griffin trades with the specter and the shade pumps and eats the spider. Two flyers make it through to deal 4, and I cast the basilisk before passing (20 – 3).

Unfortunately, Villain has Deathmark for the basilisk, but then passes back without an additional play. I draw another threat in Wild Griffin, and again consider the suicidal attack option. Swing in or hold back?

image R3G2 #5

If Villain has nothing and draws nothing, there is no difference between attacking all out and holding back, as the follow-up attack next turn is lethal either way. If Villain does have something—either removal or another creature—then attacking here puts me down a creature in my race to retake board control, although it also reduces the number of creatures that need to connect from two to one in the process. That makes the choice almost a wash, but given that, I like the conservative route that leaves me with more creatures should I fail to kill next turn. Perhaps caught up in the suicidal bent of the last attack, I swing with both in the game, dropping Villain to 1 at the cost of a Wild Griffin, but I promptly replace it with my second one and pass. Villain draws, calls me lucky (well duh), and concedes.


4-Booster Sealed is an interesting format that feels like regular sealed, but with more-pronounced top- and bottom-ends in decks. Wizards may have hit on something here, because I was basically never playing 6-Booster Sealed, but will work 4-Booster Sealed into my regular rotation because of the superior payouts to Swiss Draft while retaining the “three rounds no matter what” aspect of Swiss Draft that has so much appeal. If it required four packs and two tickets, it would be borderline, but shave off those two tickets and it becomes one of the more appealing values in online Limited. Give it a try!

Bonus Pool

In part one, I asked people what they would do with this, my second 4-Booster Sealed pool:


My assessment of this pool was pretty much identical to that of Shaterri’s in the comments:

The red for the exercise pool you posted isn't deep, but Bolt + Outrage + Magma Phoenix is enough for me to want it. Blue seems like the natural pairing here, although Packleader is tempting, because Air Servant and Sleep should both just win games on their own. The R/U build would probably be: Augury Owl, Cloud Elemental, Aether Adept, Wall of Frost, 2x Spitfire, Gargoyle Sentinel, Canyon Minotaur, Air Servant, Berserkers, Phoenix, Cancrix (frown), Lighting Bolt, Mana Leak, Sleep, Chandra's Outrage, Lava Axe. Loads of flyers, a pretty good swath of guys to hold the ground, and the potential to go to the head makes this look pretty good, and 2xNegate in the board should help with some of the bombs in the format. The R/G build is something like 2xSpitfire, Gargoyle, Minotaur, 2xGiant Spider, Berserkers, Phoenix, Packleader, Basilisk, Spined Wurm, Bolt, Giant Growth, Naturalize, Outrage, Lava Axe, and while I like the high end here with Packleader, I'm always leery of Big Dumb Guy strategies, especially when most of the guys don't start until about 4. I think I'd go R/U straight up.

Another key point about this pool and this format was made by Windcoarse, who said after posting a potential build:

I'd also be open to changing the decklist during sideboard. Green's double giant spider and naturalize could be very strong against the right deck.

More so than traditional Sealed, 4-Booster Sealed seems prone to an interesting sideboard metagame. You are frequently going to have many legitimate builds, and some will have pronounced strengths and weaknesses against different strategies. The meh green in a pool that happens to have 2x Giant Spider and 2x Plummet is going to look must-play against an aggressive blue-white skies deck, for example.

Once you decide on a color pairing in this format, the deck basically builds itself because of the restricted options. Given that, save out builds from multiple color combinations and have them at the ready. Those who are paying close attention to the strengths and weaknesses of their opponents’ decks in game one and have alternate builds either at the ready or at least in mind are going to give themselves a better chance to win games two and three.

I kept three-color versions in mind, but saved out these three decks with this pool, submitting the blue-red version.




I did bring in both alternate builds at some point, although I tweaked green-blue to fight fire with fire against a mill deck by adding Elixir of Immortality, Traumatize, and Tome Scour for some of the junkier cards in the build (I beat him with damage a couple turns before I would have milled him out). I won the first two rounds, then lost a heartbreaking R3G3 to finish 2-1.

Thanks for reading, may all your boosters contain bombs!

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I really enjoy your articles, by lackhand at Fri, 08/27/2010 - 17:21
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I really enjoy your articles, but splitting them up is pretty bad. When I've done the work as a reader to follow your draft or sealed build, then go through a game or two, I want to see the whole thing through. It's much more difficult to get back in the mindset of the deck you built last time and read about the last two matches.

That being said, your "What's the Play?" sections are part of what makes the articles long, but also a key part of what makes them really good, so I'm not sure what you could possibly cut out. Maybe just post a longer article, or post them together? I know I would probably read part two even more enthusiastically if it were posted at the same time instead of days later when I have to go back and remember what was going on.

Although on the subject of splitting things up, I do like presenting a pool and letting us look it over, then building it in the next article.

Really, I almost feel whiny even complaining since your in-game decision making stops make your articles some of the best in my opinion. Thanks for taking the time to write these up!

Well, Ryan usually gets the by oraymw at Fri, 08/27/2010 - 22:28
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Well, Ryan usually gets the second half of the article up pretty quick, and his articles are just so long that it only makes sense to split them into two. Otherwise, it just wouldn't be worth it for him monetarily to do them all together.

In any case, great job again Ryan. Your articles are always great though.

I hear ya, man. I admit by Godot at Sat, 08/28/2010 - 04:40
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I hear ya, man. I admit splitting into two parts is not an ideal solution for a "simple" Limited walkthrough, but I'm not sure what else to do. Counting both parts, this article was almost 10,000 words (an average Mark Rosewater article is ~2,000 words, for example). I could be less analytical and introspective in my writeups, but the consistent feedback I've received since I started writing walkthroughs has been that my level of depth represents the value I provide over other walkthroughs, and is greatly appreciated.

If puremtgo wants to compensate me for the equivalent of two articles and run them as one, that's fine with me, they just have to say the word--and you should feel free to let them know that's what you would prefer. They are trying to spread content out evenly over the course of a week, though, and a single ~10K article for which they are paying double might not make sense for them on a bottom-line level.

Regardless, I would point this out: I put "Pt. 1" pretty plainly in the title. If you like reading all 10,000 words at once, don't read part 1 until part 2 is up! If you ignore my "part ones" until the conclusion is published, you should never have this problem, right?

Great Article by roycechai at Mon, 08/30/2010 - 04:12
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Another great article! Thanks! After reading both parts 1 and 2, I really wanted to go try out M11 sealed. Unfortunately, I'm unable to start magic online now due to "Failed to load name table".

Keep up the fantastic work! I always enjoy reading your limited analysis.

Thanks. Try the "Repair" by Godot at Mon, 08/30/2010 - 13:08
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Thanks. Try the "Repair" button on the launch screen?

try to get someone to send u by Tarmotog at Tue, 08/31/2010 - 10:16
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try to get someone to send u their "DOSet" folder and replace urs with it.. =)

I thought your comments on by sanhedrin at Mon, 08/30/2010 - 11:32
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I thought your comments on how combat damage no longer stacks were insightful.

I played a 4 pack sealed by lumbydan at Mon, 08/30/2010 - 16:03
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I played a 4 pack sealed swiss last weekend and it was torture. My rares were Leyline of Sanctity, Knight Exempler, Redirect, and Jinxed Idol. I was really short on playable creatures. I lost my first two matches to superior decks both having a mythic (Chandra and Sun Titan). I won my last match because my opponent had a deck as bad as mine. I might try it again at some point but I feel like a draft allows you a lot more control.

4 booster sealed is by oraymw at Mon, 08/30/2010 - 19:56
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4 booster sealed is definitely a format with more variance than draft, but that is one of the things that I found fascinating about it. For me 4 booster sealed is to booster draft as booster draft is to constructed. You are forced to try out strategies that you never would have gone for otherwise. The other day, I actually had to build my deck around Arc Runner, Fling, Act of Treason and it worked out really well. I have seen people attempt this in draft, but I've never seen it really work. But in 4 booster sealed, combos like this are the core of the experience.

A big part of this is the fact that you will see most of your cards in every game. The games go late because it is hard to break through, and there aren't that many cards in the deck anyways, so you usually go to the last 10 to 5 cards, which means your cards are going to show up more often. This is especially good when you have bombs, but it feels bad when you don't. But it feels really good when you have built around quirky combos and made them work.

I still think I like drafting more, but the prize structure is just so good for 4 booster sealed, that I plan on trying it out some more. Plus, I think that m11 draft is super boring, and 4 booster sealed is a format that actually makes me want to play m11.

4 Booster by RoninX at Tue, 08/31/2010 - 16:05
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I've now done three 4BS events and done quite well in them (8-1 so far so my opinion is probably biased). I found them very interesting. My first two decks were both what felt like underpowered and removal light WB decks. One had a Serra Angel, neither had playable rares or Mythics, but I went 5-1 with them. Their only real strength was evasion and low curves but this proved to be good enough. My third deck was just busted with Frost Titan and Platinum angel to go with a solid array of green and blue cards.

From this limited experience I draw a few conclusions:

The sideboard is very powerful in these events because you have a pretty good chance to find whatever you board in. This means that you need to be aware of all your niche cards and leverage them to the best of your ability. With one of the WB decks I had to use a boarded in Temple Bell and Elixir of Immortality to deck a player who had two royal assassins that I could not remove.

2-1 and the the 3 packs is always an achievable goal, no matter what your pool (at least right now). Many people compromise and opt for 3 colors or assume that the format is slow (which it can be) and don't pay much attention to constructing a curve. The resulting mire of largely mopey midrange decks with motley assortments of removal create an environment that hyper aggressive *and* super defensive game plans both seem to be very effective.

Maybe this will change, but for the moment it seems to be an interesting wrinkle on sealed.

My first try at this, and I by vaarsuvius at Mon, 10/04/2010 - 18:24
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My first try at this, and I got a very good pool, or did I?

Inferno Titan
Magma Phoenix
Ancient Hellkite wtf? 3 red bomb creatures?
Fire servant...
chandra's outrage

Obstiante Baloth?
2 x yavimaya wurm?
acidic slime?

hmm, I see a pattern here.. about everything costs 5+

Lucky me, a pyroclasm... let's find some low curve creatures.... hmm I have none,, except goblin ballon brigade and a sylvan ranger.

Let's check other colors.. white has nothing, really nothing... 2 playable cards and 3 safe passages, no removal. Blue has fine cards, but they are jace inguinity, sleep, azure draje, harbor serpent, more fatties. Black has 2 gravediggers and more 5+ drops, and 2 black knights. No cheap removal though.

Green - Red it will be.

maindeck plummet and naturalize and random grey ogres to try simulate somewhat of a curve. And 14 lands + cultivate.

It works so far, I am only afraid of a deck with like 2 doom blades and 2x mind rot...

Nice article, but I guess by jcf at Sat, 06/15/2019 - 10:19
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Nice article, but I guess this is wrong:

"attacking with my new fatty, as it is one of the plays I was hoping to draw into. However, the forest/treefolk doesn’t have summoning sickness, so I can actually go for the win here by handing the sword to the druid and swinging with the team."

I think the forest won't suffer sickness, but the druid does, so you couldn't win that turn. Attacking with equipped forest wasn't tunnel vision, was the best play possible at that moment.

Ryan wrote some great by Paul Leicht at Sat, 06/15/2019 - 16:45
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Ryan wrote some great ones...though this was almost a decade ago.

i am just glad someone is by JXClaytor at Sun, 06/16/2019 - 17:40
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i am just glad someone is reading ryan's old stuff. He was really good, and i think it shows how much I have come along in all of this.