By Sam Werbalowsky

I flew into SFO Friday night, caught the My Bloody Valentine show, went to sleep, and was out the door on the way to Oakland 15 minutes after waking up. Waking up at 7:45am Pacific Time wasn’t so bad since my body thought it was 10:45. Alex—a hipster from the other coast but not a Hipster of the Coast—and I arrived at the GP around 8:45, only to sign in and hear the tournament was going to start late due to traffic. I don’t get the reasoning, either.

We (the zero-bye group) were seated around 10:30, and by 11:15 we had registered and passed our pools. While registration sucked, deck construction was awesome. Constructing a sealed deck is probably my favorite aspect of Magic. Sealed is just chiseling away the scruff until you have a deck, and there’s beauty in that.

My pool was thus (missing five cards):

Werb's GP Oakland M14 sealed pool

White (19)
Brave the Elements
Capashen Knight
Sentinel Sliver
Show of Valor
Angelic Wall
Divine Favor
Solemn Offering
Master of Diversion
Path of Bravery
Charging Griffin
Seraph of the Sword
Angelic Accord
Wall of Swords
Siege Mastodon

Blue (11)
Seacost Drake
Zephyr Charge
Trained Condor
Glimpse the future
Air Servant
Armored Cancrix

Black (18)
Tenacious Dead
Wring Flesh
Festering Newt
Gnawing Zombie
Doom Blade
Dark Favor
Child of Night
Altar's Reap
Undead Minotaur
Blood Bairn
Deathgaze Cockatrice
Mark of the Vampire
Vampire Warlord
Liturgy of Blood

Red (16)
Goblin Shortuctter
Thunder Strike
Wild Guess
Blur Sliver
Academy Raider
Lightnign Talons
Act of Treason
Molten Birth
Canyon Minotaur
Thorncaster Sliver
Lava Axe
Pitchburn Devils

Green (11)
Lay of the Land
Giant Growth
Deadly Recluse
Predatory Sliver
Voracious Wurm
Kalonian Tusker
Rumbling Baloth

Artifact (4)
Staff of Something or Other
Darksteel Forge
Sliver Construct

Blue was weak, so that plan was out the door. Air Servant, Archaeomancer, Negate, and Divination just aren’t enough to make it. Doom Blade, 2X Liturgy of Blood, Vampire Warlord, Blood Bairn, and Tenacious Dead felt good in black, but I didn’t think the rest was great.

I ended up with GR beatdown, splashing white for one Pacifism and one Seraph of the Sword. I felt good with the Sliver package, and two Kalonian Tuskers helped the beats. It was a mistake to not run the lone Act of Treason, as it would have helped to remove a blocker and punch in some final damage. It’s best with sac outlets, sure, but we can’t always do things best. A lack of Volcanic Geysers and Chandra’s Outrages worried me, as I would have to rely on combat tricks as a form of removal.

GR beats

One CMC (3)
Giant Growth
Lay of the Land

Two CMC (9)
Thunder Strike
Deadly Recluse
Goblin Shortcutter
Predatory Sliver
Kalonian Tusker

Three CMC (4)
Lightning Talons
Academy Raider
Blur Sliver

Four CMC (3)
Canyon Minotaur
Rumbling Baloth
Seraph of the Sword

Five CMC (3)
Pitchburn Devils
Lava Axe
Thorncaster Sliver

Land (18)
10 Forest

My plan was pretty simple: curve out, and hope I don’t have to mulligan.

Round 1—Trevor, UR

Trevor won the die roll and chose to play first.  I mulled to six and led with a Predatory Sliver into Sliver Construct. It felt good, but wasn’t good enough—he dropped a Lightning Talons onto Regathan Firecat, cast some removal, and dropped a shiny Chandra. I couldn’t get more than one creature on board, and her +1 took the game for him.

I chose to play first second game. I mulled to six. Then to five, keeping a one-lander with Predatory Sliver. My second land came turn four, but by that time Chandra was out.

Round 2 (0-1)—Patrick, UG

Patrick chose to draw, and I mulled to six. I led with Predatory Sliver, and followed it up with a Blur Sliver which was Dispersed. He dropped a Warden of Evos Isle. Next turn I recast Blur Sliver and swung for six. I pushed through and I whittled him down to five.

Confirmation bias causes people to favor information that confirms their beliefs. I always cast Lava Axe when my opponent is exactly at five, which is what I did.

Game two: Predatory Sliver -> Blur Sliver -> Canyon Minotaur. He dropped Jace. I dropped a Thorncaster Sliver and swung with my team, dealing two to his lone Warden and one to Jace. The game didn’t last very long after that.

Round 3 (1-1)—Jose, UB

My opponent’s mull to five wasn’t fun for either of us, but it was less fun for him.

Game two I couldn’t start until turn three, with an Academy Raider. He didn’t make his land drops. I wish I had something more exciting to report.

Round 4 (2-1)—Max, GW Slivers

Max said his name was mine backwards, which isn’t true, but I laughed, and it made things less serious, but I still had sweat on my brow by turn three. I won game one pretty easily. I noted a Steelform Sliver and a shiny Megantic Sliver. I sided in Act of Treason.

Game two he cast a Hive Stirrings. Well, shit. Then he followed up with a Steelform Sliver. I had out only a Thorncaster; we had traded Predatories earlier. I Act of Treasoned the Steelform, and swung in with it and the Thorncaster, killing his tokens. Good thing I did; he dropped a non-shiny Megantic Sliver. I dropped my second Predatory Sliver and enchanted my Thorncaster with Lightning Talons, making it a 6/3 first striker.

I don’t think I should have won this game. But Max made a blocking mistake.

I attacked with the 6/3  and he double-blocked with Megantic and Steelform. I killed the Megantic during the first-strike combat-damage step, and Steelform diminished to a 2/3, which couldn’t kill my 6/3. The game was done soon after. Blocking is hard.

Round 5 (3-1)—Jason, GR Midrange

I say midrange because his creatures were slightly bigger than mine, which meant he won. I had been afraid this would happen. Rumbling Baloth, Marauding Maulhorn, and Advocate of the Beast were his dream team. I could get in eight points of damage each game, and eight ≠ 20.

The mirror—and perhaps BG—were the matchups I had felt least comfortable against, and it showed here. Pacifism was the one card I had that could straight-up neutralize a 4/4, but Naturalize could be sided in against it. Seraph of the Sword could only hold it back, and I never wanted to be in a position of holding back and defending. I was not happy that I was playing a deck with very little long game, and I’m still not sure what I could have done about it. I debated swapping out the red for black this game, since the Liturgies and Doom Blade could help. But I didn’t really have much to follow them up with, and I had no way to generate advantage. The BBB from Liturgies wouldn’t have been useful, as my hand would be run out. Doom Blade would be good for punching through some damage, but my creatures would have been less exciting. Deathgaze Cockatrice, Vampire Warlord, and Blood Bairn perhaps could have done it. Who knows.

Round 6 (3-2)—Davis, UB

I wasn’t too worried about this matchup—if it was the fliers version of this deck. It wasn’t, though, and Davis played his Essence Scatters and Doom Blades aggressively. My tears were those of jealousy. I lost to a Fireshrieker on a Nephalia Seakite. I saw that he had two Fireshriekers so I sided in Smelt and Naturalize.

Of course, in game two I got stuck with both of those cards in hand, and nary a Fireshrieker in sight. Can’t win them all. He dropped a Tenacious Dead and a Gnawing Zombie and I scooped before I was at zero. By scoop time, my army had dwindled and I couldn’t push through any damage. He could keep enough mana up to drain me for two each time, so I had decided enough was enough.

I only said I liked building sealed pools. I never said I was good at it. I don’t think I made many errors in my deck choice. When the deck ran correctly, it won. The problems were when it didn’t. Moving forward in M14, I wouldn’t be afraid to draft GR, but a Chandra’s Outrage or two seems necessary, as well as a bit more top end.

Sam Werbalowsky is a banjo picker and Limited mage from Kingston, NY. He first dug sealed after opening a Lingering Souls in his first tournament since 2003. He lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and occasionally ventures elsewhere.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.