The format of Grand Prix Las Vegas is Modern Masters Sealed Deck. While it can be difficult to find information on this format, I found myself scrambling to learn it the day before a Magic Online Championship Series tournament! My searching turned up only a few results, and the articles I did find were mostly reminiscing about past formats. This didn’t really help me prepare for the MMA Sealed format. I looked over the Modern Masters Visual Spoiler and buckled in for a wild ride.
THE SEALED POOL
This pool felt like it was all over the place with the only real power card being the Sword of Fire & Ice. I like Demigod of Revenge, but that would mean that I would have to dedicate the entire deck to Black and Red only. Here is what I ended up building:
The problem with this strategy is that it largely ignored what my opponent would be doing. I had little idea of how fast the format was or what size the creatures were. If I had better information beforehand, I likely may have chosen a different direction. But we’ll get to that in a bit. Let’s get to the tournament.
Round 1 vs. U/W Affinity
In game one we trade damage back and forth with fliers and removal. He bounced a few of our guys on the final turn and swung in for lethal.
In game two we reached a board stall with fliers staring each other down. He played his entire hand out on the board, but I had a lot in reserve after trading some creatures.
1-0 Matches, 2-1 Games
Round 2 vs. RUG Fatties
Game 1 he drew ALL the fat. I drew none of my removal. *shrug*
Game 3 I discover that I am even lucky to have come close to winning a game. In addition to all of the phat, he also has all of the ramp. Kodama’s Reach ramps him into fatties while suspend counters tick off of his Durkwood Baloth. Oh, then he removes my guy, Eternal Witness’s back the removal, then I concede facing like… 16 power on his side, zero creatures on my side, and only one of my colors of mana.
Round 3 vs. G/R Fatties
Game 1 has me holding down the fort with a Rathi Trapper while I eventually get some removal for his fatties. Luckily he doesn’t have removal for the Trapper and we get there.
Game 2… Wait a second… This fatties theme seems to be working for the other guys. Even when I felt like I was in that last game, I was still on the edge of losing. Without my powerful removal, I’d have been a sitting duck… hmm…
Time to switch decks!!!!!!!!
I sideboard into a Green/Red BEAST of a deck. I realize that I should have probably gone with this deck in the first place. I swear I didn’t get 20 minutes for deckbuilding. It seemed to go by so fast! Ah, well. Green/Red fatties it is!
Okay, so now Game 2: We play fatties, he plays fatties. Our fatties are better. We smash. Rawr.
Overall, this pool seemed incredibly hard to build in a wee 20 minutes. It has multiple angles, and they are all interesting. Giants/Rebels/Fatties… tough call. Here is what I ended up sideboarding into the rest of the tournament:
Round 4 vs. UWR Faeries
Game 1 he runs out Vedalken Shackles and luckily enough, steals my only creature. Sigh.
Game 2 he plays some Faeries, but I have boarded into Super Red/Green and just beat him down.
Game 3 He does his usual shenanigans, but leaves me some openings for fatties! He has to remove them when I attack, letting me play more fatties after combat. He eventually gets overwhelmed. Luckily he gave me a land off of Path to Exile and I used Search for Tomorrow to exactly cast Countryside Crusher and Masked Admirers after getting it back from the graveyard.
Round 5 vs. Green-based fatties
We trade games 1 and 2, so it all comes down to game 3. We trade creatures back and forth and just when we’re both out of gas his last card is… Jugan, the Rising Star!
3-2, 8-6 UGH
I needed to go 5-1 or 6-0 to qualify for the season championship, and a 4-2 record only yielded a crappy promo card. I tried to have fun with the last round, shifting the deck around quite a bit and trying out different things. I end up winning the last round to end up at 4-2 overall. So close!!!
IN THE END
Ultimately, I realized that I just completely screwed up building this sealed deck. I should have done an extensive analysis of the format and the cards I would be playing against. I would have realized that the creatures are either large or small and tricky. Either way, the creatures are relatively difficult to deal with. Had I known more about the format beforehand, I would have built the deck like this:
For those of you going to GP Las Vegas, I hope you take extreme care with this format. The decks are generally slower but capable of fast starts. Make sure that you focus during the deckbuilding portion and don’t waste any time. Immediately sort the cards and work out different decks. Keep early defense in mind, but focus on overall power.
Here are some things I noticed working well:
Giants. They’re all big and most have good effects. Hammerheim Deadeye is particularly good at getting rid of pesky fliers. Thundercloud Shaman is pretty amazing as well. The other giants are synergistic and you can use blink effects like Flickerwisp to blink the best giants.
The removal in the format is either limited or amazing, so creatures pretty much rule the day. The likelihood that you will get blown out by some crazy mythic is fairly high. If you prioritize removal, make sure it is good removal like Path to Exile, Horobi’s Whisper, or Executioner’s Capsule.
I hope everyone has fun with the format and good luck in Vegas!
(Editor’s Note: Be sure to swing by Doug’s Magic blog @ http://moxdoogle.wordpress.com and subscribe to it. Since he plays almost exclusively on MTGO, he has a unique perspective that is often ahead of the curve!)