I’m back this week with some hot sealed action. Grand Prix Salt Lake City is coming up, along with the sealed PTQ season, so it’s a good time to start grinding the M15 sealed daily events online. So far I’ve found three possible paths to victory and have decks to depict two of them.

The first rule of M15 sealed is this: play Triplicate Spirits. As many as you get. The sealed format is slow enough that nothing really competes with a resolved Triplicate Spirits and not very many cards can answer one either. Here’s an awesome example:

Yes, please!

Creatures (15)
Typhoid Rats
Selfless Cathar
Oreskos Swiftclaw
Ajani’s Pridemate
Child of Night
Sungrace Pegasus
Midnight Guard
Accursed Spirit
Razorfoot Griffin
Paragon of New Dawns
Juggernaut
Rotfeaster Maggot
Avacyn, Guardian Angel
Scuttling Doom Engine
Will-Forged Golem

Spells (8)
Triplicate Spirits
Stab Wound
Pillar of Light
Flesh to Dust
Covenant of Blood
Liliana Vess
Sign in Blood
Lands (17)
10 Plains
Swamp

Sideboard (14)
Soulmender
Black Cat
Shadowcloak Vampire
Paragon of Open Graves
Blood Host
Heliod’s Pilgrim
Tireless Missionaries
Festergloom
Marked by Honor
Lightning Strike
Heat Ray
Evolving Wilds

Some form of the above is the best deck in the format. I’m not sure if black is the best color to pair with your spirits, but it offers good removal and bombs, so it works quite well. The second color probably doesn’t matter too much in this deck, though, because Triplicate Spirits plus Paragon of New Dawns equals unstoppable.

The main reason I played black was Liliana Vess. She was quite strong. Forcing your opponent to discard is devastating in this slow sealed format, and the games are so grindy that her ultimate will always end the game. Any planeswalker with a powerful plus ability and a devastating ultimate is insane in sealed, and Liliana’s tutor minus ability ain’t so bad either. Nissa, Worldwaker is a better planeswalker for the format, but Liliana attacks the format in exactly the right places.

The only removal spell I ever cast was Stab Wound. Opponents’ creatures just didn’t matter and games didn’t last long enough for bombs to threaten me. I never even considered sideboarding in the Heat Ray or Lightning Strike, which would have been a consideration if the deck were weaker.

I went 4-0 easily with this deck, losing one game, in the finals, to Nissa, Worldwaker. Even then I lost only because my opponent had multiple combat tricks to keep the 4/4 lands alive in combat with my blockers. Every other game I crushed. So I repeat the first rule of M15 sealed: play Triplicate Spirits.

Here’s an interesting ramification of rule number one. Even though the format is slow and grindy overall, you need to be on the play game one. This is solely because of Triplicate Spirits. If you have them, you want to get out early and win the game quickly. If you don’t, you want to get a head start on the difficult race against them. If it turns out neither player has them, you can choose to be on the draw in games two or three.

Delita_saving_Ovelia

The second rule of M15 sealed: play whatever bombs and removal you have. Wait, that’s not very insightful? Every sealed format is like that? Yeah. Well, I don’t make the rules. I just share them with you. So, if you don’t have Triplicate Spirits, look for your powerful cards in other colors. I don’t have a deck to depict this. You can figure it out as a thought exercise.

Much more interesting? The third rule of M15 sealed: if you can’t follow the first two rules, dig deep and scrape together whatever you can. Like this:

At least it does something . . .

Creatures (17)
Cruel Sadist
Typhoid Rats
Oreskos Swiftclaw
Kinsbaile Skirmisher
Sungrace Pegasus
Child of Night
Midnight Guard
Witch’s Familiar
Rotfeaster Maggot
Ob Nixilis, Unshackled
Will-Forged Golem
Constricting Sliver
Boonweaver Giant

Spells (6)
Marked by Honor
Raise the Alarm
Sign in Blood
Lightning Strike
Heat Ray
Lands (17)
Battlefield Forge
Evolving Wilds
Swamp
Plains
Mountain

Sideboard (14)
Hushwing Gryff
Ephemeral Shields
Oppressive Rays
Divine Favor
Solemn Offering
Black Cat
Leeching Sliver
Necromancer’s Assistant
Endless Obedience
Crucible of Fire
Chord of Calling
Grindclock
Tyrant’s Machine
Hot Soup

My pool was very weak. With most sealed pools I build online, I can get within one card or two of my final build within five minutes, freeing me to spend the remaining 15 minutes fine tuning and considering other colors. This time it took me ten minutes of deckbuilding to settle on white-black, and another five to end up with the deck above.  Some amount of that time was devoted to thoughts of dropping from the event, but in truth I really enjoy building a sealed deck out of a difficult pool like this one was.

The process reminded me of the thirty minutes (or however long they give you at sleep in special builds) I spent wrestling with my pool at Grand Prix Sacramento. That pool was better overall than my M15 pool here, but in both cases I really dug in on the difficult deck construction decisions and came up with a significantly better deck than I otherwise would have. And both times I was successful perhaps beyond reasonable expectation. I went 7-2 at the GP, making my first day two, and I squeezed a 3-1 daily event out of the janky pile above. It was a ton of work to win three matches, but that’s just about my favorite thing to do in Magic—eke out close victories over better decks.

Ob Nixilis, Unshackled was just a vulnerable finisher. He won enough games to be in the running for deck MVP, but the real stars of my deck, the defense that put up two touchdowns of its own, were the trio of Rotfeaster Maggots. Damn that card is great. It’s one of the few ways to fight against Triplicate Spirits because the life gain helps you race and the 3/5 body can attack favorably through the tokens.

The red splash performed well and was extremely necessary, unlike in the powerhouse first deck I showed. In one match I closed out game three with Lightning Strike off a just-drawn Evolving Wilds the turn before my opponent would untap with a huge board headlined by her freshly-cast Soul of Shandalar. I had been staying alive, grinding out her cards, and beating down with maggots, and somehow I won a game I had no business winning on paper. Again and again in my matches, the maggots were crucial in keeping me alive long enough to draw both a red spell and a land to cast it.

Marked by Honor was also surprisingly good. In multiple games I cast it on an early creature, got in six or eight damage before trading up, and then later cast Boonweaver Giant and fetched the aura out of my graveyard for a second go-round. The aura giant is a strong card in sealed, and Marked by Honor is definitely worth running if you have the giant. I’d play it with Heliod’s Pilgrim as well, since +2/+2 and vigilance legitimately affects the board in a lot of games. Inferno Fist would have been nice, but my pool wasn’t into playing nice. You have to look for power and value somewhere.

So that’s my advice on how to navigate the M15 sealed format. Good luck and I’ll see you in Salt Lake!

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.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.