I recently proclaimed my love for Eldritch Moon sealed. Three weeks later, I’m still a big fan. Shadows/Moon sealed has been the most consistenly rewarding Magic I have played in years. After I scrubbed out of the Standard main event at Grand Prix Portland, I got to play in the Super Sunday Series, and I was honestly looking forward to the chance to take a sealed pool for an eight round spin even before I picked up my fourth loss on Saturday.

Why is Eldritch Moon so great? The uncommons. Shadows block has a greater percentage of its print run in the uncommon slot, and the designs are fantastic. Original Innistrad was known for limited gems like Spider Spawning, Invisible Stalker,Burning Vengeance, and Butcher’s Cleaver. The designers clearly sought to recapture and expand on this theme the second time around.

Shadows and Eldritch Moon really hit it out of the park in the uncommon slot. The top Shadows uncommons, like Duskwatch Recruiter and Ulvenwald Mysteries, dominate games like few rares can. Eldritch Moon has brought more powerhouses to the table. Savage Alliance, Clear Shot, Advanced Stitchwing, Haunted Dead, Foul Emissary, Spreading Flames, Murder, Subjugator Angel. I could go on.

It’s truly remarkable the diverse and exciting cards you can find among your uncommons, and that has a profound effect on the sealed format. Most people view sealed as a game of opening rares. At bigger tournaments, you can hear the whispers after a few rounds. “Bruna and Gisela.” “Two copies of Liliana!” “Gisa and Geralf, and Cryptbreaker, and Relentless Dead.” “How am I supposed to beat that?!” That’s nice and all. It doesn’t take much insight to predict those cards will do well, but we all know as many “I blew it with a dream pool” stories as we do of decks that in fact could not lose.

Here’s a big contributor to the awesomeness of the format: the vast majority of EMN/SOI pools are playable. You can almost always cobble together a critical mass of good creatures and removal within two colors and a light splash, and you have the time to execute your plan. Games go long but don’t stall out. You have tons of meaningful decisions. I believe this is true because of the uncommons.

Every sealed pool has at least six rares, and with double-faced cards, you can often expect eight. Of course you want some good ones, and in some formats the rares dominate. Shadows block is not that way, and definitely not with Eldritch Moon in the mix. So much of the power level of the sets are spread among a variety of great uncommons. You generally get 24-26 uncommons in a pool because of the extra double-faced slots, and most pools have some real gems in the mix. Your uncommons define your pool. Pay attention to them. Luck is an excuse for the uninformed.

You want to see the fine set of rares in my Super Series pool? Here:


More like deploy the barf bag.

Despite whiffing in the rare, I built a great deck that was tons of fun to play. Some of the best uncommons around joined forces with some nice commons, seventeen basics, and Imprisoned in the Moon to take me to 6-2 for 24th place in the field of 222. Two early losses cost me on tiebreakers, or else I could have been tenth or twelfth with the same record. Maybe if I drew less than twelve lands in two games of round four, I might have cracked the top eight with a deck playing only a decent removal spell in the rare slot.

I love this deck:

The Uncommons

Creatures (14)
Loam Dryad
Gnarlwood Dryad
Duskwatch Recruiter
Foul Emissary
Geist of the Archives
Grizzled Angler
Ingenious Skaab
Exultant Cultist
Drownyard Explorers
Backwoods Survivalists
Advanced Stitchwing
It of the Horrid Swarm
Vexing Scuttler

Spells (9)
Drag Under
Imprisoned in the Moon
Savage Alliance
Alchemist’s Greeting
True-Faith Censer
Fork in the Road
Weirding Wood
Lands (17)

Sideboard (23)
Woodland Patrol
Veteran Cathar
Wolfkin Bond
Aim High
Thing in the Ice
Seagraf Skaab
Tattered Haunter
Niblis of Dusk
Turn Aside
Sigardian Priest
Sanctifier of Souls
Brazen Wolves
Stromkirk Occultist
Conduit of Storms
Hanweir Garrison
Voldaren Duelist
Vildin-Pack Outcast
Port Town
Field Creeper
Cultist’s Staff

This is the sort of deck where your opponents can’t quite figure out why they keep losing. It’s relentless. It never stops coming with value and power. Opponents brace themselves for your bombs, but instead they get a never-ending stream of body blows. Eventualy they fall asleep or give up. In round four I had to draw an ungodly number of lands in two of three games to lose, and my opponent was just as surprised to win as I was.

If you read me regularly, you’ll see that I took my own advice and played Loam Dryad. I did not regret it. Attacking for a point of damage here or there was nice, but the extra mana was great from time to time. After sideboard I would often bring in Turn Aside. Let me tell you, it feels amazing to cast that when all your lands are already tapped. You may also be familiar with the old Loam Dryad plus Duskwatch Recruiter combo from LSV’s second pro tour top eight of the year. In constructed. Turns out, they are pretty good together in sealed too.

The true breakout star of my deck, and contender for the top slot in my upcoming top ten limited cards list, is an unassuming blue 2/3. Selhoff Occultist was decent. I enjoyed it more than most. Well it turns out, if you add a random ability to become a 4/5 that swallows opposing boards, the card becomes ridiculous. Grizzled Angler continues to blow me away. Chatting with Shawn between rounds (he was playing jund delirium to a solid finish in the main event), I told him that Grizzled Angler was a straight up better card in sealed than Hanweir Garrison. I asked a few opponents what they thought in later rounds. Nobody was quite as enthusiastic about this as me, but I’ll tell you this. Everyone respected the Angler, and every time an oponent killed it, they looked relieved.

Here’s the thing: blocking is so much better than attacking in EMN/SOI sealed, because toughness is a lot more available than power. You can attack eventually, after your run your opponent out of cards and crush their will to live. Maybe you can attack earlier if you have some sweet evasive threat that never dies, like Advanced Stitchwing or Elusive Tormentor. But if your basic strategy to win the game includes, “and then I attack with my 2/3,” you’re doing it wrong. That is why Grizzled Angler is better than Hanweir Garrison, and why other aggressive three drops in my pool like Stromkirk Occultist and Conduit of Storms didn’t catch my eye.

You might think you need a ton of colorless creatures to ensure you flip into the Eldrazi Fish. No. If you have any in your deck at all, they’ll eventually end up in the yard, and you’ll be able to flip your fisherman into dinner time. These games go long, especially when you gum up the board with big-butt blockers. Once you bust out the Grisly Anglerfish, the game is probably over. Forcing your opponent to attack is brutal. In a format where blocking is much better than attacking, it is devastating.

So next time you play some EMN/SOI sealed, take a longer look in the uncommon slot. Play creatures with more toughness than power, and then block with them instead of attacking. Play Savage Alliance and Duskwatch Recruiter. You owe it to yourself.

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

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