I guess I should have gone to the PTQ instead of watching the Giants try to play a game of professional football without the use of any actual linebackers.
Perhaps things would have turned out differently had I not been watching. Perhaps the Giants' mascot is Schrödinger's Cat. Perhaps I would have received a card pool in Maine or Toronto that would have carried me to the Top 8 and a shot at my first individual Pro Tour qualification since … well … since a long time ago. Let it suffice to say that an Ekundu Cyclops was involved.
What does a Top 8-quality card pool look like? I am glad you asked, since I just happen to have access to just that information. During Constructed PTQ seasons we attempt to bring you as many Top 8 decklists as possible so you can be properly armed for battle in the following weeks. During past Limited seasons we have presented the Top 8 draft decks, but that does virtually nothing to prepare you for Swiss combat.
We're trying something different this time around and presenting the Sealed Deck card pools and decklists that the players used to reach the Top 8. This week we have five sets of decklists. Only two of the five sets include all of the sideboard cards but we hope that future installments will provide more complete card pools.
A few quick observations looking through the Los Angeles card pool:
1. Green is Good. All eight of the decks were solidly green. In fact, Forests were the most frequent land card in six of the eight decks (and tied for most frequent in one other). Expanding our scope to include all five sets of decklists we find that green was played in 34 of the 38 decks (two PTQs only reported seven decks). Civic Wayfinder and Farseek seem like powerful reasons to play green and 75 percent of the Top 8 from LA had one or both in their maindecks – clearing the path for all the good card in other colors.
While I find the card to be decidedly unspectacular in draft formats, you may want look at Ivy Dancer as a maindeck inclusion. As you get closer to the final rounds, you need to beat the top decks if you want to make it to the draft and all the top decks feature Forests. Pat Sullivan included the Dancer in his build which featured a handful of interesting maindeck cards. We'll take a closer look at Pat's deck a few paragraphs, with a few words from the PTQ master himself.
2. Mind your Mana. If you count Wayfinder and Farseek, none of these decks had fewer than 18 mana sources and half of them had 20 or more. Nobody played any less than 16 lands or more than 17 but supplemented their lands with an assortment of Signets and Searchlights. Every single one of these decks had some form of artifact mana.
3. A Token Appearance. As you might expect from such a green Top 8 token generation was a common theme. Only Nathan Waxer's build and Brian Gates's build had no way to make token critters (although Nathan did have Bramble Elemental and a couple of Auras). In fact, only three token generation cards were left in the sideboards of any of these decks and two of them are arguably mistakes. Given how many Pollenbright Wings popped up in the Top 8 decklists overall, I think the card has to be classified under "highly playable."
A bigger shock to me is the fact that Twilight Drover was sitting on the sidelines of John Wiseman's deck. Twilight Drover is a certifiable bomb if you have token generation in your deck and John had it in droves. You don't even need your tokens to die to turn it on, either. All you need is one token to chump block something on either side of the table and things quickly get out of hand.
Rares are actually hard to evaluate since you get the fewest opportunities to play with them. I was also pretty shocked to see Woebringer Demon in the sideboard of Brian Gates's deck. This card is basically The Abyss except that it gets to crack for four. Obviously token generation can be annoying and I can see why Brian chose to leave it in his board. Given his card pool, I would have been sorely tempted to go green-white-black and include the City-Tree and the Demon. Of course, then I would have also been running the Auratouched Mage and the pair of Galvanic Arcs…
Wuh? Oh, sorry…
Pardon my daydreams about the card pool. I can't really argue with Brian's build or his results. Back to the topic of tokens…
With so many tokens kicking around, I would suggest running your Rolling Spoils maindeck in the coming weeks provided you can kick them up. Not only will you devastate your Selesnya opponents but I am pretty sure there is also a little-known provision in the DCI floor rules that says if you Rolling Spoil a Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree you get to take a victory lap around the tournament site and get an automatic bye into the Top 8. (Not true, but damn if it doesn't feel good.) Spoil is good against a surprising number of decks, from Boros builds to Karoo-heavy land bases.
4. Plant the Seed. I was intrigued by Patrick Sullivan's inclusion of Seed Spark in his Top 8 build. Of the three players with the option to do so, only Patrick opted to use the flexible answer to both artifacts and enchantments in his maindeck. Keep in mind that Pat is a highly experienced Pro with multiple limited Grand Prix Top 8s to his credit. If it is good enough for him, it is probably good enough for you as well. Just look at the Top 8 decks and try to find one of them without a target for Seed Spark.
It may not seem that exciting to hit a Signet or Searchlight but remember that you will almost always be getting two guys – at instant speed – in exchange for weakening their mana base. I asked Pat to share his thoughts on the card and he sent me back the following response.
“Seed Spark was incredible for me," he wrote. "I sided it out against a blue-black deck once, but every deck has signets at least and often times other good targets. Hitting a Fetters or Arc mid combat can lead to some big blowouts, and if nothing else you can target your own stuff (not ideal) after they have lost their usefulness.”
The flexibility of dealing with both enchantments and artifacts was a key reason he included the card. Normally a card most players would leave handy in their sideboards, the ability of Seed Spark to generate card advantage in the form of tokens is what pushed it over the top into maindeckedness.
“I wouldn't have started Leave No Trace, since you are expecting to hit artifacts more often than not. The Sundering Vitae is a fine 23rd card in sealed in my opinion, but my deck was good enough to not have to play it. Seed Spark, on the other hand, is an automatic inclusion to a green-white deck in sealed.”
|Sullivan saw value in putting Seed Spark in his maindeck.|
Patrick quickly lost a pair of games to a Moldervine Cloak
after the Top 8 draft. (Cloak is another card that appeared in an inordinate number of Top 8 decks and may be the Nagao of this block.) When asked if there was anything he would have gone back and changed about his deck from the Swiss rounds, Pat shared some advice he hoped would help future deck builders.
“I played the giant wurm,” sighed Patrick. “I wouldn't advise anyone else do that after my experience, as obvious as that might sound.”
Good luck dodging those Wurms this weekend – I won't get a chance to PTQ until after the Prerelease. If you can support the kicker on Seed Spark or Rolling Spoil, you should consider them among your playables.
Follow-up from Last Week's Column
Congrats to everyone who nailed my build from last week's article. I am still not sure if I built the deck ideally but I chose to play my best colors and shoehorn in Glare of Subdual. Multiple people identified this as the option they would have chosen as well. The only place we really veered was on the inclusion of Terrarion. I felt that with a Selesnya Sanctuary and Terraformer I did not need the extra help from Terrarion. Had I played the Faith's Fetters as well I probably would have wanted one more way to generate white, but as I built it I left it on the sidelines.
Interestingly, when I thought my opponents were siding in enchantment removal I often sided out the Glare – along with Flight of Fancy and another card – in favor of three Consult the Necrosages. That version of the deck may have been the best build as I did not lose a game when sideboarded into that configuration – and never felt in danger of losing any of those games. As long as my opponent had cards in hand I aimed the Consults in that direction and drew cards in the late game. One game I was able to bounce a creature with Moldervine Cloak and my Drift of Phantasms with Peel from Reality and then untapped to “tutor” with the Drift for Consult and hit the creature and his last remaining card from his hand.
Here is what I started out with and I would be hard pressed to complain about the build. I never had much mana difficulty and the Glare never languished in my hand. Brian David-Marshall
Sealed Deck Build, Neutral Ground New Year's Day Time Walk Event
The other topic I covered last week was Masashiro Kuroda's victory in The Finals. When last I left you I was eagerly awaiting a response from Kuroda regarding the win – not to mention to conclusion of a tremendous year for Magic within the Japanese community.
“Needless to say, it was an unbelievable year for Japanese Magic players,” exclaimed Kuroda. “Not only that Japanese players could win multiple Pro tour Sundays – finally we got a World champion! It was a great turning point for Japanese Magic communities. I'm sure many Japanese players will win GPs and Pro Tours in 2006.”
It would seem that Japanese players have nothing left to accomplish after their sweep in Tokyo of the World Championship, Team Competition, and Player of the Year Race. As bizarre as it seems a Japanese player has yet to win a Pro Tour not played in Japan. I asked Kuroda if it was coincidence that all of three Japanese Pro Tour victories have come on the home turf.
|Kuroda says there's a 50-60 percent chance he'll be in Hawaii.|
“I think there are two kinds of pressure for Japanese players,” he explained. “The one is jet lag. The other is more important – communication skill. We should improve our English more and more. Like Masahiko Morita, who goes to English communication school.
“I realized how difficult to balance Magic with my work last year,” Kuroda continued when asked about how often we would see him on Tour in the coming year. “It doesn't change in 2006, so it's very hard to play abroad. If I could find a new good job, that would be better – heh. But I will try to go to Hawaii but it's only about 50-60 percent.”
After testing on Magic Online and in one live tournament, Kuroda settled on a modified version of Eminent Domain for the Standard portion of The Finals. He changed the Aqueducts from previous incarnations into Watery Graves, added Honden of Seeing Winds for control matchups, and boarded in Bottle Gnomes for the agro matchups. Although he only managed a 2-2-1 record during the Swiss rounds, he viewed his 3-0 Top 8 performance as evidence that it was the correct deck to play.
“Annex-Wildfire is good against any mid-speed decks,” he explained. “For example, Gifts, Greater Good, GW "Katsu-Mori" beatdown, and so on. There are so many decks like that, and few Boros – Boros is bad for my deck – so I chose this deck.”
Thinking he was out of the running for Top 8 after Day One, Kuroda decided to play a fun deck in Extended for Day Two and surprised himself by going an “unbelievable” 5-0 with it. RDW
(Raka Deck Wins)
“It was so exciting with two kind of angels,” Kuroda laughed. “And this deck was stronger against Friggorid than I expected. Fortunately I made Top 8!”
Firestarter: What's your Sealed Deck Strategy?
The PTQ season is under way and you've seen a few decklists of players who made it to the Top 8. Did anything surprise you? What's your general strategy when approaching Ravnica Sealed Deck?