I rolled into my local Hour of Devastation prerelease this weekend excited to build some sweet blue-green aggro-tempo deck. Aerial Guide is one of those key cards for Simic tempo. Trained Condor and Chasm Drake were powerhouses in core set drafts, and I miss them.

I already thought blue-green was underrated in Amonkhet draft, and that Sultai were the best colors for Amonkhet sealed (unless you got a bomb-heavy white pool with multiple Gust Walkers). White and black both look at first to have gotten weaker with Hour of Devastation. Red is still great, but mostly in aggressive decks. I’ll play red if my pool supports pushes me, but it’s not what I want to be doing going in. For Hour of Devastation sealed tournaments, I just want to show up with a bunch of Islands and Forests instead of my usual complement of draft basics, and use the land station to splash as needed.

Fortunately, I didn’t do that. I brought my Plains and Mountains like always, and put them to good use.

Boros Devastation

Creatures (15)
Adorned Pouncer
Nef-Crop Entangler
Firebrand Archer
Burning-Fist Minotaur
Thresher Lizard
Sunscourge Champion
Thorned Moloch
Fervent Paincaster
Those Who Serve
Tah-Crop Elite
Steadfast Sentinel
Gilded Cerodon
Aven of Enduring Hope
Angel of the God-Pharaoh
Granitic Titan

Spells (8)
Hour of Devastation
Puncturing Blow
Act of Heroism
Tormenting Voice
Honed Khopesh
Lands (17)
Sheltered Thicket
Desert of the True
Desert of the Fervent

Sideboard (12)
Chandra’s Defeat
Gideon’s Defeat
Oketra’s Last Mercy
Hazoret’s Undying Fury
Graven Abomination
Hollow One
Seraph of the Suns
Dutiful Servants
Blazing Volley
Violent Impact
God-Pharaoh’s Faithful

Those were the best cards to play in my pool. I’d happily play something similar in a PPTQ or Grand Prix. The biggest problem with this deck is the mana, which is saying something because the mana is not too bad. But let me tell you, it is extremely frustrating to lose both games of a match to Archfiend of Ifnir while holding two copies of Puncturing Blow in your hand and only one red source. Likewise, you really want to be able to pay your eternalize costs, which in this deck are double white.

It was just one prerelease, but it feels like colored mana requirements got heavier in Hour of Devastation. Many of the expensive bombs cost at least two mana of a single color, including uncommon ones like Overcome and Ominous Sphinx. Every eternalize ability requires double mana too, and eternalize is a much stronger than embalm. Green decks can do all sorts of mana fixing shenanigans, but if you aren’t the Gift of Paradise deck, you will struggle to cast the best double-mana cards in your pool if they come from two or more colors.

I don’t think that necessarily means it’s wrong to play an aggressive Boros deck with double-color bombs in both colors, but it does mean you’ll lose slightly more often to your mana than you’d prefer. This poses a real constraint on aggressive decks in sealed. It’s hard enough to assemble a strong curve with only two colors of a sealed pool. If you have to play a 9/8 mana base, that’s an even more specific set of cards you need in your pool.

This makes me think Hour of Devastation sealed will be more of a mid-range or control format than Amonkhet. Now, many of us felt that the best strategy in Amonkhet sealed was multicolor good stuff, which doesn’t suggest an aggressive format. Plenty of people disagreed, though. Aggressive sealed decks in Amonkhet were quite good, and many players preferred aggro in the format even with mediocre decks. I think they were wrong, but aggro was a major part of the Amonkhet sealed metagame. I just don’t see aggro running as smoothly in the new format.

What else did I learn at the prerelease? Hour of Devastation (the card) is great. No surprise there. But here’s a perhaps more shocking take: Unquenchable Thirst is premium removal. It was a very difficult card to play against, even with two copies of Act of Heroism in my deck. In one game, Thirst answered my Adorned Pouncer straight up. I had a turn where I could have exerted my Fervent Paincaster to kill the Pouncer so I could eternalize it, but I was getting in for three with the Paincaster every turn (and winning easily, as you’d expect) so it didn’t seem worth it. And my opponent didn’t even have a desert—I just attacked with my baby pouncer (as you do), got in two damage, and it never untapped again.

The point is: Unquenchable Thirst exerts a creature permanently. They can untap their creature just like with normal exert shenanigans, but those are real resources that are important to your opponents’ plans to win. Thirst will trade one-for-one even in the rare situations where your opponent can swap in another card for the creature itself. For example, they can use Vizier of Tumbling Sands to untap the Honored Hydra you locked down with Thirst. That’s roughly the same as stopping the removal spell with discard or countermagic. As you go to your sideboard, you can evaluate whether forcing them to tie up their repeatable untap effect to neutralize your cheap removal spell was beneficial to your gameplan. If not, side Thirst out against that sort of answer. But the presence of untap effects are a small hurdle in Thirst’s riseup the removal rankings.

Same thing with deserts. It’s nice to tap the creature immediately, but if the creature’s power comes from tapping, your opponent will tap that creature as soon as they can. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if Unquenchable Thirst became known as the blue Magma Spray. Bold claim, but I’ll make that bet if you give reasonable odds.

We shall see what the shifting sands bring. I’m excited to find out how wrong I am.

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

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