This week I present my Grand Prix Atlanta report, in which my streak of day twos crashed into the rocks of the bad pool. All the dude ever wanted was a deck that does something, but it was not to be. As I looked at my assigned set of cards during the two-bye sleep-in deck build, my heart sunk. Null Rod times 84, that’s what I saw. This is what I got:

GP Atlanta Sealed Pool—White

(16)
Elite Skirmisher
Glare of Heresy
God-Favored General
Griffin Dreamfinder
Hopeful Eidolon
Lagonna-Band Trailblazer
Loyal Pegasus
Mortal Obstinacy
Mortal’s Ardor
Nyxborn Shieldmate
Observant Alseid
Setessan Griffin
Soldier of the Pantheon
Stonewise Fortifier

GP Atlanta Sealed Pool—Blue

(14)
Archetype of Imagination
Cloaked Siren
Eternity Snare
Kraken of the Straits
Lost in a Labyrinth
Nimbus Naiad
Nyxborn Triton
Rise of Eagles
Sigiled Starfish
Stratus Walk
Stymied Hopes
Triton Shorethief

GP Atlanta Sealed Pool—Black

(12)
Asphyxiate
Bile Blight
Cruel Feeding
Eye Gouge
Feast of Dreams
Herald of Torment
Necrobite
Nyxborn Eidolon
Pharika’s Cure
Returned Centaur
Rotted Hulk

GP Atlanta Sealed Pool—Red

(18)
Borderland Minotaur
Bladetusk Boar
Cyclops of Eternal Fury
Deathbellow Raider
Epiphany Storm
Fall of the Hammer
Knowledge and Power
Kragma Butcher
Labyrinth Champion
Lightning Diadem
Oracle of Bones
Pharagax Giant
Rage of Purphoros
Rise to the Challenge
Satyr Rambler
Starfall
Twinflame

GP Atlanta Sealed Pool—Green

(16)
Agent of Horizons
Charging Badger
Desecration Plague
Fade into Antiquity
Feral Invocation
Golden Hind
Karametra’s Acolyte
Market Festival
Nessian Courser
Nessian Game Warden
Nylea’s Disciple
Pheres-Band Tromper
Reviving Melody
Solidarity of Heroes
Swordwise Centaur
Warrior’s Lesson

GP Atlanta Sealed Pool—Multicolored and Colorless

(7)
Destructive Revelry
Kragma Warcaller
Kruphix, God of Horizons
Pharika’s Mender
Astral Cornucopia
Chariot of Victory
Springleaf Drum

Now that is an unimpressive pool. I flipped through my rares: Kruphix, God of Horizons, Twinflame, Oracle of Bones (foil!), Herald of Torment, Astral Cornucopia, Labyrinth Champion, and Soldier of the Pantheon. It’s pretty hard to open a pool with a foil rare and a god, and still have complete garbage. But here we are. Herald of Torment is the only rare I’d consider good, while Oracle of Bones and Labyrinth Champion are decent. I actually spent some time trying to figure out if I could do anything exciting with Twinflame. Is that even possible?

bosch

This will not go well.

Looking over the full pool, each color has a decent core but nothing to put it over the top. White has some nice bestows and early drops, but no removal or top end. Blue has some sweet utility cards, a Nimbus Naiad, and an actual finisher in Kraken of the Straits. Black has a nice suite of removal plus the Herald, but almost nothing else. Red has a decent small creature base. Green has a nice core around Golden Hind and Nessian Game Warden, but no big creatures or any reason to want to play green cards. Pharika’s Mender is great, at least.

Overall the pool lacks finishers or anything impressive at all. I’d have a hard time closing games quickly no matter what color combination I choose. And I know very well that closing games quickly is one of the keys to success in this sealed format, while durdling away leads to death.

I tried various color combinations and each had about twelve playable creatures and not much punch. One major weakness of this pool is that black has the most removal but the least cards. Those black cards are too good to get away from, but the thinness of black strains your resources in a second color. And none of my secondary colors were strong enough to fill in adequately. Red has some reasonable cards, but this pool is destined to be a midrange deck and the red cards here are very bad in such a deck. When Kragma Butcher is your best attacker, you have problems.

poolhalljunkies

Never trust a man with a crease in his pants.

Green likewise offers too little of what green is supposed to offer. My biggest butt is a Nessian Game Warden. Great card, but it can only draw into a worse creature. Golden Hind can get ahead a turn on mana, but what is this pool going to accelerate into? Slow midrange ground creatures don’t do a whole lot in this sealed format.

I eventually settled on blue, even though it is my next thinnest color. Evasion is strong, and the two Sigiled Starfish offered a good way to dig to the correct removal spells. Kraken of the Straits is the actual biggest creature in my pool, and it is a legitimate beater. Archetype of Imagination offers a way to end a game fairly quickly if you’re lucky, which is more than I could hope for from other decks. Unfortunately, I’ve played a lot of decks in this archetype and I knew this version was not going to win many games. I had to hope to get lucky that my removal could actually kill the threats I faced while some evasive threat slowly chipped away. That’s maybe a 40% strategy, at best, which is to say a losing one.

Hoping to add some power to the deck, I decided to splash some green cards. Pharika’s Mender is pure value, and actually has four power to boot. Fade into Antiquity really fills a hole in blue-black decks and always has good targets in sealed. The final card I added was Agent of Horizons. It’s not much, but I felt I needed one more evasive threat, effectively my third Cloaked Siren, to be able to win an attrition match.

What I’m saying is, my deck sucked. I figured at least I could play one that had some coherent (if weak) plans and that I would enjoy playing. I don’t mind losing quite as much if I get to scry every turn. At least it feels like I’m making important decisions. Here’s the final list I submitted, in all its shame.

All Aboard the Failboat

Creatures (14)
Sigiled Starfish
Nyxborn Eidolon
Nimbus Naiad
Herald of Torment
Nyxborn Triton
Agent of Horizons
Cloaked Siren
Rotted Hulk
Returned Centaur
Pharika’s Mender
Archetype of Imagination
Kraken of the Straits

Spells (8)
Bile Blight
Pharika’s Cure
Asphyxiate
Lash of the Whip
Feast of Dreams
Eternity Snare
Fade into Antiquity
Rise of Eagles
Lands (18)
Swamp
Island
Forest

Sideboard (6)
Eye Gouge
Necrobite
Stymied Hopes
Cruel Feeding
Reviving Melody
Stratus Walk

At least I started with two byes. I ended up playing through round eight, and only one one more match. Five total game wins. I had some fun and engaging matches, at least, but when Ajani, Mentor of Heroes hit the table in round six when I was 3-2 I knew my tournament was over.

Herald of Torment was not very good in this deck. I knew it wouldn’t be, too, but a bad threat is more than most cards offered. It was really just a worse Nimbus Naiad, as my deck never had a fast clock and the extra life loss mattered more to me than the extra point of damage to my opponent. And most of my threats worth bestowing already have evasion. So it goes. When your best cards are not being maximized by your deck, it’s tough to win.

So that was a rough weekend. I hope it is useful to read about a bad sealed pool, and see what goes into trying to salvage one. If nothing else, you can read and nod knowingly. We’ve all been there, and it sucks. Fortunately there’s a double PTQ this weekend so I have a chance to put my sealed experience to good use. Maybe I can get a good pool too.

Brendan McNamara (MTGO: eestlinc, Twitter: @brendanistan) used to play Magic in the old days. His favorite combo was Armageddon plus Zuran Orb. After running out of money to buy cards and friends who were willing to put up with that combo, he left the game. But like disco, he was bound to come back eventually. Now he’s a lawyer by day and a Dimir agent by night.

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