For those about to play Eldritch Moon sealed at Grand Prix Montreal, Stockholm, or Sydney, I salute you! Real life obligations keep me in Denver this weekend. It hurts to miss a limited grand prix weekend, especially in a new format that I love already. I played two sealed PPTQs last weekend and finished second (of forty) and eleventh (of thirty-seven). While I don’t have a chance to win a title this weekend, let me help you do it instead.

Shadows Over Innistrad sealed was not very popular among competitive players. I’m not sure why—it has been my favorite of recent sealed formats—but I think it was the monotony of top decks. A great Shadows sealed deck usually was full of crazy white and green rares: Archangel Avacyn, Tireless Tracker, Descend Upon the Sinful, Duskwatch Recruiter, etc. Other top decks used Ulvenwald Mysteries and Ongoing Investigation to take over long attrition games. You could also play Sorin, Grim Nemesis, if you had the opportunity. But of these, only Sorin was nigh unbeatable once it resolved. I rarely had the sweetest rares, but I had great success in the format. Skillful deckbuilding and tight play were the name of the game.

Eldritch Moon seems even better than Shadows. For those who didn’t like the old format, at least the distribution of rares will be wider. The Eldritch Moon bombs will show up quite often, but Avacyn and Sorin will not. Even the oppressive uncommons will be scarcer. Strategies will be more varied as well. Clues aren’t the only engine for getting ahead anymore. Zombies and graveyard recursion are a real thing now. Emerge lets you soup up your useless early creatures. That’s a huge deal!

And there are some new players in the common and uncommon ranks. Murder was sorely needed in Shadows Over Innistrad. Here it is. Haunted Dead gives black a rival to Duskwatch Recruiter. You should fit Spreading Flames into every sealed deck you can. And there’s a new best common, one that goes in every deck, and makes blue a lot better than it was before. Wretched Gryff might not be Triplicate Spirits, but it could be. All said, we have plenty of new toys to play with.

You know what else? The games are amazing. Through twelve rounds of sealed PPTQ action, I was shocked at how many opponents ended our matches, win or lose, with joy. “That was a great match!” It’s been a while since I’ve heard that so uniformly. The games are tough, deep, and rewarding. The deckbuilding choices are diverse, and the building process feels perfect. Instead of being bewildered by complex mixes of colors or strategies, you have clear strengths in each color. You can see the four or five choices your pool presents, and you have the time to ponder them to ensure you choose the best. Even in a bad pool, you can find something. You can’t ask for more than that.

Saturday Glory

I was very fortunate to open a strong pool in the Saturday PPTQ. It didn’t take me long to build a sweet Dimir deck. I labored over the final cuts for a while, but in the end it was more passing the time than deep analysis. The difference between cards twenty-two and twenty-five are slight. It doesn’t really matter which ones you pick. After game one, you will know what you want and swapping out the better cards for the matchup will be easy. Worry about it then.

Here’s the deck:

Dimir is Back

Creatures (16)
Thraben Gargoyle
Graf Rats
Olivia’s Dragoon
Farbog Revenant
Prized Amalgam
Wild-Field Scarecrow
Ingenious Skaab
Enlightened Maniac
Rottenheart Ghoul
Advanced Sitchwing
Midnight Scavengers
Docent of Perfection
Distended Mindbender
Wretched Gryff
Vexing Scuttler

Spells (7)
Certain Death
Boon of Emrakul
Murderous Compulsion
Angelic Purge
Lands (17)

Sideboard (20)
Borrowed Malevolence
Gavony Unhallowed
Vampire Cutthroat
Biting Rain
Twins of Maurer Estate
Olivia’s Dragoon
Cemetary Recruitment
Stallion of Ashmouth
Seagraf Skaab
Lamplighter of Selhoff
Coax from the Blind Eternities
Decimator of the Provinces
It of the Horrid Swarm
Explosive Apparatus
Thirsting Axe
Bygone Bishop
Sigardian Priest
Choking Restraints
Extricator of Sin

It turns out I didn’t need to splash Angelic Purge. I found myself siding out the white frequently. But it was fine in the deck. In general you can afford to splash one high impact card—Purge and Spreading Flames will be common choices—but this deck is so powerful it didn’t need the risk of messy mana draws.

Plenty of sideboard cards did essential work throughout my 4-0-2 run through the swiss, one of those draws being unintentional after an incredible match with Tom Kelley where our broken decks truly played an even fifty. Borrowed Malevolence does so much, and it probably should have been in the main deck. I had plenty of room to adjust my creature sizes to the opposition each round. Gavony Unhallowed, a card that I initially liked but cooled on as others dismissed, impressed me all weekend from both sides of the table. And I sealed top eight with a devastating Biting Rain to win round five.

I joked about bringing in Coax from the Blind Eternities to go fetch Decimator of the Provinces, you know, for those really long board stalls. (My pool was so thin on green cards that I couldn’t really play it, but I tried.) The Eldrazi in my main deck were more than enough. Distended Mindbender is the real deal. It is almost always at least a three for one, on turn four or five, and one of those three cards is a 5/5. If you draw it late when far behind, it might not stabilize the game by itself, but it will keep things from getting worse. You gain such a massive advantage that you will beat all but the best opposing draws. Vexing Scuttler is exactly the kind of card I want in a controlling sealed deck. And Wretched Gryff? Well, you should get used to playing with and against that one.

Oh, one little tip. If you plan to discard Prized Amalgam to return Advanced Stitchwing, be sure to do it at the end of a main phase, so you don’t wait a full turn to get the amalgam back on board. That’s going to be this set’s version of the “Yasova Dragonclaw first main phase removal spell.” You might run into this in Standard too.

I ended up drafting a decent green-white humans deck in the top eight. I had ten four drops and no removal spells other than Sigardian Priest, so I wasn’t too excited. The sweetest thing I could do was tutor up Geier Reach Sanitarium with Thalia’s Lancers, which is actually pretty nice. But the deck was not amazing. I managed to dig out two wins before falling to my good friend and playtest partner Shawn Sloan in the finals. He gets the win, I get the opportunity to come back the next day and try again.

Sunday Funday

My Sunday pool paled in comparison. I figured it would, because you can’t expect two great pools in a row, but I made the best of it. My rare slot served up a giant turkey dinner. The best rare was Permeating Mass, which honestly should have been in the main deck over Wailing Ghoul. Mass is better than it looks: think of it as a cross between Sedge Scorpion and Perplexing Chimera. You have total control of when it enters combat, and your opponent will be afraid of giving you that choice. But I digress:

No Rares No Problem

Creatures (15)
Lambholt Pacifist
Olivia’s Dragoon
Wailing Ghoul
Quilled Wolf
Skirsdag Supplicant
Thraben Foulbloods
Woodland Patrol
Gavony Unhallowed
Accursed Witch
Weirded Vampire
Swift Spinner
Kessig Dire Swine
Morkrut Necropod
Mockery of Nature

Spells (8)
Dead Weight
Borrowed Malevolence
Prey Upon
Clear Shot
Merciless Resolve
Spreading Flames
Lands (17)

Sideboard (15)
Root Out
Cryptolith Rite
Permeating Mass
Hamlet Captain
Intrepid Provisioner
Crossroads Consecrator
Equestrian Skill
Graf Rats
Graf Harvest
Inner Struggle
Thalia’s Lancers
Prized Amalgam
Identity Thief
Sigarda’s Aid

Kessig Dire Swine. Morkrut Necropod. Accursed Witch. And surprisingly enough, Gavony Unhallowed. That’s enough ways to win a game.

Clear Shot was worth every penny. I used it once on turn three to clear out Weaver of Lightning and attack with my Lambholt Pacifist. I pulled off a similar trick later on, escalating Borrowed Malevolence on my pacifist and my opponent’s Hinterland Logger. Yes Lambholt Pacifist is a strong card. But Clear Shot is a better Fall of the Hammer for only one more mana. It’s not better than Murder, but it often will be, and it wreaks more havoc during combat than Dromoka’s Command.

Emerging with Accursed Witch is the best possible feeling. Doing it with Mockery of Nature game one blowing up an opposing Always Watching is a joy I hope each of you experience one day. I ended up going 4-2, in eleventh on breakers, but I was a couple draw steps from making top eight. The rest of my pool was laughably bad. I tried to build a splashtastic Cryptolith Rite good stuff deck, and could even come close in theory. But if anyone who tells you that you can’t top eight or day two with a bad sealed pool, link them here.

Good luck to everyone battling in the grand prix this weekend. I truly wish I could be there. Life things keep me home, and I couldn’t be happier about that. There’s also another PPTQ in town on Saturday, so I’ll be hard at work there. Wherever you are, enjoy this great new set!

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

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