Two weekends ago in Hartford Connecticut I was one game away from my first PTQ top 8 with a very solid UG deck. At 6-1, I unfortunately had to play my last match out as my breakers were not very good. After winning game one, games two and three my opponent correctly boarded into a hyper-aggressive deck and was able to curve out both games with his threats backed up by removal spells while I mulled to six and kept mediocre hands both times.

That was all she wrote. I finished the tournament in a disappointing 15th place but felt confident that I would continue to perform well; I had learned a lot about the format. Over the past two weeks I’d also done a lot of sealed practice on MTGO. I’d done very well over all in these events and believe I had gained a lot of insight into BNG/THS.

Fast forward to this weekend and exotic SomerVILLE, NJ (not SomerSET, as Matt Jones’ GPS would have him believe). I was gifted a beauty of a deck and was going to do my best not to let this top 8 slip away:


Spoiler alert: I made it!

I’m not going to do a tournament report but what I think would be better would be to discuss my deck a bit (although I think my build was for the most part very straightforward) in regards to the format in general as I think that would be more interesting and have more value to you, the reader—and be more helpful to me, for my own processing.

Theros Sealed Thoughts


I decided on 18 lands for my deck and believe that very often in Theros sealed, 18 lands is correct. My reasoning for 18 lands in my deck was:

  • My deck is not going to be winning any fast games and will often need to cast two spells a turn in the later turns.
  • I am very unlikely to be flooded with the vast amount of scry effects I have.
  • If I miss land drops in a deck like this I will be punished since my two- and three-drop creatures are mostly providing a defensive role to get to my late game, for which … I need lands.

As a quick aside, when I showed my deck to some friends whose opinions I respect, they argued that with so much scry, I could’ve just played 17 lands and played the best card I left out of my deck, a Nyxborn Eidolon—however I disagreed and felt it was better to naturally draw lands and scry away excess lands, as again, my deck wants to hit a land pretty much every turn. I’d rather scry to dig for gas rather than scry to dig for lands. I was happy with this decision as it in fact turned out that I barely got flooded and any game where I still missed a land became that much harder to win.

Going forward I think I will err on the side of 18 lands for most decks. I think 17 lands is probably only correct for decks looking to win on turn six or seven with cheap creatures, cheap removal and pump. I don’t ever like 16-land decks even with a curve that stops at, say, four. I still think 16 is too greedy and will never play 16, even in draft.


Oracle’s Insight was by far the worst card in my deck and I sided it and Read the Bones out every single match. The card is undeniably very powerful but is simply too slow in this format. In the 7th and 8th Swiss rounds I played in both PTQs I was under pressure every single match and never played against another slow deck like mine. For the most part this is a very fast format and I think that in any given tournament, most decks you will play against will not be very grindy and so going forward I think I will prefer cards like Oracle’s Insight as sideboard cards for grindy mirrors. The card has just never impressed me before and this event was definitely the final word on the card for me.


The best card in my deck was Sudden Storm. The second-best card in my deck was my second Sudden Storm. Even in a non-aggressive, non-tempo deck like mine, the usual two turns of blanking an opponent’s two best attackers buys enough time to win the game. The card provides not only time but actual card advantage. Scry 1 is worth some amount of a card, the life you save over two turns is worth some amount of cards, and if you are locking down a creature with one or even two things bestowed onto it, it’s close to a three-for-one since you’re blanking three cards they’ve invested to your one over the course of two crucial turns. (Actually it’s a four-for-one, since you’re hitting presumably a second creature too. Wow, such value.)

Sudden Storm, Griptide, Retraction Helix, Voyage’s End, and, in a slightly different vein, Sea God’s Revenge (more of a finisher) are the best removal spells in the format. In a format with relevant small and big creatures, blue’s removal doesn’t discriminate. Red and black have good removal but sometimes you draw Lightning Strike when they have Nessian Asp or Lash of the Whip when it’s just too late. Don’t worry, Matt Jones, size doesn’t matter … when it comes to blue. When building your pool, if you are debating between colors with similar power level and your blue has two to three of these spells, red has two to three burn spells, and black has two to three of its removal spells, go blue or go home.


Let’s face it, we’re getting old. I only had about five and a half hours of sleep before this tournament. By the time top 8 started I was completely wiped out. Even by round five I found myself starting to misplay. Thankfully my misplays were not so glaring and my deck was forgiving enough that I wasn’t punished, but I think getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep before a tournament is really going to be essential to me going forward. Eating and drinking enough are also no-brainers here.

Thanks to all my friends, Romans, and countrymen for their positive encouragement throughout the tourney! Next stop: GP Flipadelphia!

World-renowned punster Hugh Kramer is also a skilled Limited Magician. He’ll share his thoughts on each format as it rears its ugly head, and continue his analysis well after the format fades into the darkness of rotation. Hugh was able to single handedly drive Matt Jones from the Limited format with his love of the Spider Spawning archetype in Innistrad Limited.

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