I’ve been preparing for the next limited Grand Prix in Atlanta this weekend. The new sealed format is tons of fun. I’ve been winning a lot in the online release sealed events, and I’m here to share my experiences with you before the tournament.

Let’s start with an example. Here’s a sealed deck that I took to a 4-0 record in an online event. The pool was somewhat weak, but it highlights some of the important elements of this format.

Orzhov Midrange

Creatures (15)
Hopeful Eidolon
Soldier of the Pantheon
Stonewise Fortifier
Leonin Snarecaster
Underworld Coinsmith
Returned Phalanx
Grim Guardian
Akroan Mastiff
Fate Unraveler
Forsaken Drifters
Erebos’s Emissary
Ornitharch
Dreadbringer Lampads
Gray Merchant of Asphodel

Spells (8)
Deicide
Cruel Feeding
Reprisal
Pharika’s Cure
Font of Return
Excoriate
Nyx Infusion
Read the Bones
Lands (17)
Swamp
Plains

Sideboard (13)
Glare of Heresy
Revoke Existence
Ray of Dissolution
Armament of Nyx
Acolyte’s Reward
Tormented Thoughts
Weight of the Underworld
March of the Returned
Warchanter of Mogis
Loathsome Catoblepas
Opaline Unicorn

This deck is nothing special but it has a few things going for it. First, it has a decent amount of removal. Reprisal and Excoriate do a good job of keeping opposing bombs in check, while Nyx Infusion and Pharika’s Cure can clean up some small stuff. Deicide is also fantastic as the most efficient enchantment removal in the block. Second, it has some sweet creatures at the top end in Ornitharch and Erebos’s Emissary. Third, it can force through damage with Dreadbringer Lampads, Fate Unraveler, and Underworld Coinsmith. And finally, it can grind out an attrition battle with Font of Return.

In the finals of the event I faced Kenji Egashira, aka NumotTheNummy. Kenji was kind enough to record the match and provide commentary. You can watch it here, starting at 3:06:30. Going into this match we were 1-1 lifetime against each other—I won an M14 online sealed while he won our Grand Prix Montreal feature match. This one was a good battle and you should definitely watch it.

hello friend

Kenji has to do this every time he gets a new subscriber to his stream.

In the video Kenji questions why I chose to be on the draw with an aggressive deck. My deck is not actually aggressive, though. Sure, it has Soldier of the Pantheon and some two drops, and Coinsmith is strongest when you get ahead. But I am playing for the long game. The format is slow enough that you can afford to be on the draw even if you have early drops to pressure your opponent. It is important to soften their life total so that you can win more quickly at the end. The format can be explosive and you can die out of nowhere. That means you want to set up a one or two turn clock once you get to the late game, rather than hoping to stabilize and set up a three or four turn clock. I want to win with two hits from an Ornitharch or Emissary. Giving three or four turns to my opponent at that point is too dangerous. Plus, with Font of Return, I am happy to trade off early drops to exhaust opposing resources.

With that introduction, let me present to you my three keys to Journey sealed! Most of this is applicable to sealed in general, as Journey is a fairly traditional sealed format in many regards.

draw

I just can’t quit you!

1. Most decks want to be on the draw.

Now that we are in the full block sealed environment, you once again want to draw with most decks. It is possible to have a good aggressive deck, most likely with red, that wants to play. But the games are not defined by the early turns so you can afford to trade in going first for an extra card.

This is especially true if you have access to good removal. Black and white have good collections of all-purpose removal spells that can deal with most threats. Excoriate, for example, is quite good on the draw since you want your opponent to tap the creature first. The odd color out again is red, since its removal gets worse as the game goes long. If your plan revolves around Bolt of Keranos and Magma Jet, you probably want to be on the play. But that’s not the best plan to have anyway.

sting

Where’d those extra cards come from?

2. Card advantage is crucial.

This might seem obvious, but drawing extra cards is good. Divination? Read the Bones? Font of Fortunes? Font of Return? Hunter’s Prowess? etc etc. All those cards are great. A slow format gives you time to draw those extra cards, and an attrition game rewards you for getting ahead on resources.

Card drawing is obvious, though? Be on the lookout for other sources of card advantage as well. Bestow is a key player, as are token makers. The cycle of inspired token makers from Born of the Gods are especially good as they make enchantment creatures, triggering constellation effects. God-Favored General plus Harvestguard Alseids or Aerie Worshippers plus Whitewater Naiads are a big game. You can spend your mana making tokens, constellation enables repeated attacks with the inspired creature, and you can sit back and stockpile cards in your hand for later.

bombs

Yeeeeeeeeee-haw!

3. Be ready for explosive plays.

Even though Journey sealed is mostly a normal format with grindy games, the games tend to end quickly once something explosive happens. As I noted above, you don’t want to rely on a slow clock to close out unless you have a strong lock on the game. Bestow by itself speeds up clocks by having effective haste. Cards like Silence the Believers, Sea God’s Revenge, Hunter’s Prowess, etc can swing a game in a hurry or win it out of nowhere. Portent of Betrayal and its big brother Harness by Force can steal victory from the hands of defeat.

And then there’s the total bombs, like Eidolon of Countless Battles, which can turn a small attacker into a crazy lethal threat. Fabled Hero or Centaur Battlemaster can kill in one or two hits if you don’t block. Because of this, you still want to be proactive even though the format is slow and you want to be on the draw. Don’t just sit back waiting to win, or else you’ll likely end up dead.

So that’s what I think of Journey into Nyx sealed. I’ll be putting my ideas to the test this weekend at Grand Prix Atlanta. Come say hello or let me know what you think in comments!

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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