Grand Prix Denver comes up this weekend, and that means it’s time to talk about Team Sealed! This one is right in my backyard, and I’m excited to compete without having to travel. My favorite local shop I Want More Comics hosted a practice Team Sealed tournament last weekend, so I teamed up with a couple local friends to get some practice. We ended up finishing fifth with a cut to top four, thanks to some unfortunate draws, but the format was awesome to explore.

Team Sealed decks tend to resemble finely-honed draft archetypes. Guilds of Ravnica makes the achetypes pretty obvious, so that helps anchor your options while building three forty-card decks from twelve booster packs. With that many boosters, you are likely to have at least a couple guilds deep with power. The hard part is figuring out what to do with green, as both Selesnya and Golgari have been underwhelming in early play. But you can usually find a solid deck to round out your team.

I was filling in as an emergency third on Sunday, so I offered to go along with whatever build they wanted. Our pool was mediocre—Boros was nonexistent and Selesnya lacked mass-pump effects to power up the plentiful token makers. Dimir lacked many key engines—no Whispering Snitch or Disinformation Campaign—but it had plenty of big fliers, removal, and card advantage. Matt bravely wove the weak Selesnya cards in with a few Golgari standouts, while John built a solid Dimir control deck. They gave me Izzet, which was quite strong even leaving most of the strong blue cards to the Dimir deck.

Building Izzet in Team Sealed

I have been impressed with Izzet as an aggressive tempo deck that clears blockers and bashes for large chunks of damage. While Boros is the most obvious fast deck in the format, Izzet has proven just as fast while using a mostly unique set of cards. Our pool offered a few payoffs for the heavy-spell strategy, so I went for it to solid success.

Izzet Team Sealed

Creatures (11)
Fire Urchin
Goblin Electromancer
Goblin Cratermaker
Fresh-Faced Recruit
Leapfrog
Wee Dragonauts
Erratic Cyclops
Crackling Drake
Barging Sergeant

Spells (12)
Direct Current
Hypothesizzle
Command the Storm
Sonic Assault
Maximize Altitude
Radical Idea
Cosmotronic Wave
Expansion // Explosion
Sure Strike
Lands (17)
Izzet Guildgate
Mountain
Island

Sideboard (20)
Fearless Halberdier
Dazzling Lights
Maximize Altitude
Disdainful Stroke
Goblin Locksmith
Ornery Goblin
Torch Courier
Barging Sergeant
Book Devourer
Justice Strike
Legion Guildmage
Garrison Sergeant
Swathcutter Giant
Boros Guildgate
Sacred Foundry

Opening one lonely Goblin Electromancer made me sad, but Fire Urchin is nice to ensure you hit a two drop while being easy to discard to jump-start if you draw one later. I really missed Piston-Fist Cyclops, but Leapfrog does a decent impression as long as you can dodge opposing Cosmotronic Waves. Fearless Halberdier doesn’t do much in an Izzet deck, but you can swap them in for Leapfrog if you are running into ping effects or blocking Muse Drakes. Maximize Altitude can help get your underwhelming curve-fillers through combat, though you want to play only the most synergystic creatures in your best Izzet decks.

My three power creatures were Crackling Drake, Erratic Cyclops, and Wee Dragonauts. All three power out a ton of damage with multi-spell turns, while the first two also block well then turn you play them. The mental math gets tricky when you are going for a big alpha strike with two of these threats at the same time—they each gain power in different increments—but I found myself often outracing Boros with twelve or fifteen damage on turn five.

Direct Current is such an important spell, but it demands heavy red mana. It’s hard to cast it twice in a turn on six or even seven mana, and you rarely want to play more lands past that point. Expansion // Explosion have proven amazing at helping you double-up on Direct Current. With an Electromancer on board, you can do it with two red and two blue sources.

The double-hybrid cost on Expansion really helps smooth Izzet’s heavy-spell turns, where your specific mana in play dictates which combinations of spells you can cast. When you are winning in the first six turns, you also want to use the cheap side more often than the very powerful Explosion side. In our five rounds of the tournament, I cast Expansion five or six times, mostly copyinging Direct Current to clear a Boros opponent’s board; while I cast Explosion once to finish off a comeback win with seven lands and an Electromancer in play.

Radical Idea has proven much stronger than it looks. Many of Izzet’s creatures benefit from any spell being cast, so you don’t need pump spells specifically. Radical Idea keeps the cards flowing, and lets you loot away extra lands or expensive spells when you will win before casting them. It’s also nice to be able to block with Leapfrog from time to time, or pick off Barging Sergeant with a blocking Erratic Cyclops.

Sonic Assault has gotten a lot of attention as well, and rightly so. The extra damage and inevitable jump-start make this card powerful enough to close out games. As an instant, it also provides flexibility with timing and sequencing. I am a fan, and was sad I only had one copy.

Overall, I went 3-2 in our five rounds, though I should have gone 4-1 with better play after miscounting in the middle of a combo kill turn in round three. I was in the A seat, and other than an easy with over a slow Abzan deck, I faced Boros every round and split 2-2. My two wins were the last two rounds, where I put the lessons learned from earlier losses to good effect.

Playing Against Boros

You never know how the A-B-C seat metagame will play out at a Team Sealed grand prix. But at our local event, the majority of teams put Boros in their A seat. I was also in A with the aggressive Izzet deck, which was the only fast deck on my team. I can’t guarantee that will happen in other events, but it could! So I’m here to give some tips from the Izzet perspective for coming out ahead in the Boros matchup.

Try not to block. Your best Izzet decks have around twelve creatures, so you rarely can afford to trade them off. You need to win the race. They probably won’t block either, so you should be aggressive in attacks, especially when you can represent tricks. Many Boros pilots will think that you are the control deck anyway, and may read attacks as attempts to get them to trade or enter combat with less mana available.

Direct Current is your friend. Keep their board clear. Three-toughness Boros threats are scary—Boros Challenger is a bad sign on turn two when you are Izzet. Mowing down thir one- and two-toughness creatures does wonders, and shuts off mentor before they can start. Boros wants to snowball—don’t let them. Stick a threat and attack while you clear their board with your spells.

Dazzling Lights wreaks havoc on Boros out of the sideboard. At worst it saves three life while digging to the cards you need, or lets you block profitably and mana-efficiently. But it’s best role is disrupting mentor triggers. Shrink their mentor before they declare attackers, and they might not have a good attack at all. Sonic Assault also helps lock down mentor triggers, and can really punish Wojek Bodyguard.

Good luck this weekend if you are playing Team Sealed, or if you’re just drafting with friends. I don’t know which deck I’ll be playing at Grand Prix Denver, but I’m excited to build some sweet decks!

Brendan McNamara (Twitter: @brendanistan) is Editor in Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

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