Welcome back! I’m home from Grand Prix Orlando and happy to report I had a great time playing Khans of Tarkir limited all weekend. I had feared that the sealed format would be full of turgid Abzan mirrors but that’s not really the case. It turns out the format is all about configuring your mana base to get the most out of the powerful cards in your pool, and the result is that decks and games are incredibly varied. The games are a ton of fun and full of cool interactions.

The draft format is even better than sealed. I managed to go 7-1-1 on day one (with the help of two byes) which got me a seat at the day two draft tables. All six matches I played on day two were fun and complex. I stumbled a bit in the first draft and ended up going 3-3 on the day. That put me at 10-4-1 for the tournament in 105th place. Despite the GP drawing well over 2,000 players, it didn’t hit the 2,400 necessary to pay out prizes below the top 100. So it goes. Anyway, this week I’ll tell you about my sealed deck and next week I’ll share my experiences at the draft tables.

Here’s the sealed deck I registered for day one, with the relevant cards from the rest of the pool in the sideboard:

Ice to See You

Creatures (14)
Mardu Hateblade
Archers’ Parapet
Heir of the Wilds
Master of Pearls
Grim Haruspex
Sagu Archer
Watcher of the Roost
War Behemoth
Abomination of Gudul
Sultai Flayer
Abzan Battle Priest
Armament Corps
Sultai Scavenger
Venerable Lammasu

Spells (8)
Sorin, Solemn Visitor
Icy Blast
Abzan Charm
Debilitating Injury
Savage Punch
Feat of Resistance
Bitter Revelation
Lands (18)
Opulent Palace
Windswept Heath
Scoured Barrens
Dismal Backwater

Sideboard (32)
Bloodfell Caves
Swiftwater Cliffs
Kin-Tree Warden
Smoke Teller
Temur Charger
Sagu Archer
Tusked Colossodon
Rotting Mastodon
Shambling Attendants
Dazzling Ramparts
War Behemoth
Jeskai Student
Witness of the Ages
Feat of Resistance
Bitter Revelation
Dutiful Return
Rush of Battle
Feed the Clan
Mystic of the Hidden Way
Icefeather Aven
Treasure Cruise
Snowhorn Rider
Mardu Charm
Sage of the Inward Eye
Efreet Weaponmaster
Barrage of Boulders

The first thing you do with a Khans sealed pool is check your lands. My pool has only four of the common duals, which is below the average of five or six, but it does have Opulent Palace and Windswept Heath to pick up some slack. The lands don’t overlap that much on color with the exception of black. Based on this, my mana is not going to be amazing but I can probably play whatever three colors I want and maybe splash a fourth.

Next I pulled out my two best cards, Sorin, Solemn Visitor and Icy Blast. I was 100% sure I would play both in my deck. It seemed clear I wanted to lean toward Abzan based on Sorin, Armament Corps, Abzan Charm, two Debilitating Injurys, and Heir of the Wilds. The two blue lands I had would be enough to splash Icy Blast, so from there the deck mostly built itself as my pool was not full of many more powerful cards.

orlando lobby

The convention center in Orlando is HUGE.

I decided it was worth playing Abomination of Gudul despite only the two splash blue sources. The card is really powerful in the late game and as a morph it is always castable for some value. I think the common clan morphs are all splashable like this because they are so powerful. The other powerful blue cards in my pool were all splashable as well, but I couldn’t justify adding Islands to the deck. If my mana had been better, I would have tried to fit in Mystic of the Hidden Way, Icefeather Aven, and Treasure Cruise.

The final cuts were difficult. My last three cards out were the second Feat of Resistance and one each of Rotting Mastodon and Shambling Attendants. The attendants were the toughest to cut, but Abzan decks tend to fill out the board and thus put less cards in the graveyard to delve. I also figured that with two deathtouchers in my deck already—Heir of the Wilds and Mardu Hateblade—I didn’t need the attendants that much.

Overall I was happy with my deck but it was not amazing. Planeswalkers are always strong in sealed, so I was stoked to play with Sorin, but otherwise it seemed merely adequate. I liked the diversity of my sideboard, with lots of interchangeable morphs to swap out based on my opponents’ threats. I felt pretty good about making a run at day two, although I expected to run into a few decks that would be hard for me to beat.

I cruised to an easy 6-0 record, only dropping one game in the four rounds I played after my byes. The deck was consistently solid and had a wide variety of threats. Against a Jeskai deck with Narset, Enlightened Master and Dragon-Style Twins I sided in my Rotting Mastodons. Other than that, I hardly felt the need to sideboard at all.


Attendance at the GP was also HUGE.

Round seven I played Scott Alter in an epic match of undefeated decks. He was running a five color card draw deck with a bunch of good morphs and Secret Plans. Game one took a long time to get going. After about fifteen turns I managed to stabilize to keep his Sagu Mauler at bay and started to get in damage in the air. But then he cast Flying Crane Technique to hit me for lethal from 21 life and it was on to game two. I managed to deck him in game two thanks to Sorin diverting all of his resources and getting me up to 40 life. We only had three minutes left on the clock, though, and despite our joint efforts at speed magic we ended up drawing game three. It was a great match and a lot of fun, but picking up a draw on day one is pretty worthless.

Next round I faced Tom “the Boss” Ross. Oof. That guy can play Magic, and he’s on an incredible heater right now as well. I also learned that his deck was bonkers. The rares in his deck included High Sentinels of Arashin, Ivorytusk Fortress, Rakshasa Deathdealer, Sagu Mauler, and two copies of Ghostfire Blade. How do you beat that? By ultimating Sorin, it turns out. The Abyss is pretty much a hard lock in limited, and I won our first game thanks to it. But his powerhouse cards overwhelmed me in two more games and I picked up my first loss.

I was now 6-1-1 and needed to win the last round to make day two. Fortunately, I destroyed my round nine opponent in two easy games. I’m not even sure what his deck was trying to do. In both games he cast a turn four Seek the Horizon and then had to discard one of the lands. I played creatures and attacked. At 7-1-1 I locked up my day two berth and went out for celebratory food and drink with Hunter and Brandon “the General” Patton.

Evaluating my deck after the event, I was impressed with how consistent it was. I had Icy Blast stuck in hand and a morphed Abomination of Gudul on board in one of my losses to Tom Ross, but otherwise I never had mana problems at all. Playing 18 lands definitely helps, and I am convinced this is mandatory in Khans sealed. Also, despite being pretty solidly three colors, my deck does not need much density of mana in any color. Outlast is a huge drag on a mana base, but I only had one outlaster, the amazing Abzan Battle Priest. The only double-color cost in my deck is the unmorph on Master of Pearls. This meant that I could always spend my mana each turn on things I wanted to do. That alone is strong enough to beat a lot of decks, and in all the rounds except seven and eight that’s all I ever needed to do. Venerable Lammasu was a solid finisher, and all of the fliers overperformed.

The sealed format seems surprisingly robust, so I look forward to fighting it out in some PTQs this fall! Come back next week to hear about my day two draft experiences, including two judge calls for morph shenanigans.

Carrie O’Hara is Editor-in-Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

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