Battle for Zendikar has an incredibly fun and deep sealed format. I had the pleasure of playing at Grand Prix Madison last weekend. You can check out my report from the tournament in my regular None Shall Pass Bombs column on Thursday. To prepare for the grand prix, I cracked three boxes of Battle for Zendikar and built decks out of eighteen sealed pools. I learned a ton about how BFZ cards come together in sealed. I also cracked this beauty:



Of all the eighteen pools I built, one stood out. I remember cracking the packs and being amazed at the volume of playable and strong cards. Wow, I thought three packs in, this pool is going to be incredible. As it turned out, the power was distributed across many colors and archetypes. There were a lot of great options, but nothing that was obviously best. A pool like this provides a great opportunity to dig into the finer points of sealed deck building. Let’s do it!

Here are pictures of the pool, broken down by color:

BFZ White

A bomb in Felidar Sovereign, great removal options, some useful creatures, and some decent filler. White seems likely to be a primary color of our deck, but it needs a lot of help filling out the creature curve.

BFZ Blue

Drowner of Hope, Windrider Patrol, and Clutch of Currents are fantastic cards. Coralhelm Guide is a great win condition if you need it. The rest are potentially useful. It seems unlikely we’ll want to play enough blue mana to cast the Windrider Patrol, but some of the other stars could make the deck.

BFZ Black

Painful Truths is a nice card. Mire’s Malice does a lot of work against all the expensive cards people play in BFZ sealed. Kalastria Healer is sweet if you have a lot of allies. Otherwise, black only offers curve filler. The lack of removal makes it hard to lean on black, but maybe it fits with white.


Red is kind of a clunker, but it offers the awesome Valakut Invoker and two good removal spells. It also offers some beefy creatures if we need that. The other colors are short on fours, so maybe that’s something. Shatterskull Recruit is a solid finisher in heavy red decks, but we might not want to lean on red.

BFZ Green

Some nice stuff here. Greenwarden of Murasa is an A+ bomb. Tajuru Warcaller isn’t as versatile, but still provides a ton of power. Territorial Baloth is a good size for the format. We’re totally lacking in scion cards to power Rot Shambler, but it could still be solid. Retreat to Kazandu does some great stuff in a long game. Tajuru Stalwart will probably be good as we are likely to splash. And we do get a removal spell in Unnatural Aggression. The rest is filler that gives us options.

BFZ Extra

We got a dual land in two of our deep colors! Canopy Vista will help our mana, as will two Evolving Wilds and a Fertile Thicket. These lands really give us options. Kozilek’s Channeler is good in almost every BFZ sealed deck. The two gold cards are great in specific archetypes but we might not have the cards for either. Pathway Arrows is a legitimate sideboard card that’s nice to have even if we never use it.

Wow! That’s a lot of options, without being overpowered in any specific way. I spent about an hour assembling many many combinations of colors, cards, splashes, creative ideas, and anything else I could come up with. The process was tons of fun, and very informative. I encourage you to try for yourself and let me know what you come up with in the comments!

Here are a few builds I considered:

BFZ Allies

If a pool has strong ally cards, like this one does, I try to build that deck first. Usually a sealed pool doesn’t have the support and you can abandon it quickly. This pool has tons of creature options, but they are all over the color pie. Ondu Champion and Shatterskull Recruit are just too hard on the mana, while the black allies are easier to fit into a mana base that needs good chunks of green and white mana. Munda, Ambush Leader is not the best when played off curve, but it provides enough value to include. I’m not sure the mana works even in this “streamlined” version, but maybe you can get by on six plains, five forests, two swamps, and one mountain to go with the four pictured lands.

There are a ton of sideboard options that could be good, which makes this an appealing deck. Outnumber, Mire’s Malice, Clutch of Currents, Coralhelm Guide, Unnatural Aggression, Infuse with the Elements, Ondu Rising, Roil’s Retribution, and Tandem Tactics could all slot in reasonably. You could also give up the black for the heavier red cards. All in all, a good fallback option if you can’t find a better deck.

BFZ Izzet

This deck is solid. I don’t think it’s good enough to justify abandoning your best cards in green and white, but it looks consistent and has the tools to win games. Were I forced to play this in a big sealed tournament, there’d be something to work with. I want more power, though. It’s hard to get that without dipping into the other colors and eventually you wonder why you want to play Mist Intruder and Benthic Infiltrator instead. I love Ulamog’s Reclaimer, but is that better than playing three great white kill spells and Greenwarden of Murasa? I don’t think so.

So eventually I work my way back to the Selesnya base. Instead of maximizing ally synergies, I tried to play the best cards. Here’s what I think I would have registered at Grand Prix Milwaukee if this had been my pool.

BFZ Converge

Is this the best possible build? It might be off by a few cards, but I really like this deck. Like the other ally-centric version, you have plenty of sideboard options. You can switch to that whole deck if you want. But this one has the most power and a solid ability to get to use it. Maybe you want red for Valakut Invoker and Touch of the Void, but I don’t think you need that. Retreat to Kazandu can build up your smaller creatures and trigger your two life-gain bonuses, Serene Steward and Kalastria Nightwatch.

Mire’s Malice probably belongs in the list. I’d certainly side it in against slower decks. Maybe Cliffside Lookout isn’t worth including. If you need extra protection to get to the long game, Fortified Rampart is available. Natural Connection also seems like it might be necessary. I don’t love it, but it works well with Gideon’s Reproach in the early game when this deck lacks other plays.

There’s also a solid (perhaps winning) argument that Incubator Drone should be Void Attendant, working in Unnatural Aggression to provide a second exile effect after Stasis Snare. I actually like that a lot. Imagine trying to do all of this analysis in a thirty minute tournament setting. I love that challenge, but it is intense!

The mana base here works a lot better than the ally deck. You can play six plains, six forests, one island, and one swamp. You could even cut a card for another plains as your nineteenth land, perhaps. You have the small risk that an opponent will ingest your only swamp or island, but even in that rare situation they might process it back for you anyway.

What do you think?

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

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