I had to miss the Ravnica Allegiance prerelease, so I was eager to dig into the new Sealed format once it went on MTGO. The end of PPTQs has left a void for local Sealed tournaments, but at least you can always play competitive leagues online.

Other than trying to avoid Rakdos, I didn’t have much of a plan for this sealed format. As Zach explains, the copious dual lands open many possibilities for jamming powerful cards. I enjoyed Return to Ravnica and Khans of Tarkir Sealed, which look similar to Ravnica Allegiance in terms of mana and archetype malleability; and I prefer building sealed decks around mana and cards rather than archetypes.

That said, I have been impressed with the power of Azorius in the early going, which I attribute mostly to the enduring strength of flying creatures. As luck would have it, both of my first two league pools pushed me toward Azorius. I went 9-1 and felt in control throughout my matches. That’s a good place to be.

Azorius Sealed League 5-0

Creatures (15)
Pteramander
Resolute Watchdog
Concordia Pegasus
Faerie Duelist
Ministrant of Obligation
Sphinx of Foresight
Senate Griffin
Syndicate Messenger
Skitter Eel
Lumbering Battlement
Azorius Knight-Arbiter
Chillbringer
Sphinx of the Guildpact

Spells (8)
High Alert
Depose // Deploy
Lawmage’s Binding
Quench
Azorius Locket
Expose to Daylight
Prying Eyes
Lands (17)
Azorius Guildgate
Island
Plains

Sideboard (9)
Arrester’s Zeal
Rally to Battle
Twilight Panther
Knight of Sorrows
Civic Stalwart
Scuttlegator
Persistent Petitioners
Verity Circle

This deck doesn’t seem especially great to me, but it’s loaded with evasive threats. That proved enough to weave through five rounds unscathed against more powerful decks. I bet you can open some better Azorius pools than this one, though.

High Alert is the real deal. Azorius naturally has high toughness, and very few of its cards suffer from swapping toughness for power. I won plenty of games off curving Concordia Pegasus into High Alert into Syndicate Messenger. Azorius Knight-Arbiter becomes absurd as an unblockable 5/5. Senate Griffin is the big loser, but Snapping Drake with Scry 1 is too good to pass us.

I did have one mega bomb: Sphinx of Foresight is a stone cold killer. It’s power on the battlefield feels almost Jace-like. You have a must-kill 4/4 flyer that lets you scry every turn—Thassa, God of the Sea with less nonsense. If that weren’t enough, you can “leyline” an opening-hand copy to scry three! That ability is much better than it sounds—and it sounds pretty good. You won’t have to mulligan seven cards with Sphinx in the mix unless your hand is improbably bad, and seeing it in your six after a mulligan feels even better.

The removal in this pool left a bit to be desired. Lawmage’s Binding is great, of course, and Quench is surprisingly good for a slower format. I would have played other counterspells if I had the chance. Most pools should offer at least a couple more white removal spells, or some black ones to splash. My pool had Scorchmark and Cindervines. Oof. At least I could run Expose to Daylight, which does great work against all the powerful enchantments you face in Sealed.

The second league gave me more good cards to work with:

Azorius Sealed League 4-1

Creatures (15)
Pteramander
Impassioned Orator
Vizkopa Vampire
Forbidding Spirit
Senate Courier
Sphinx of New Prahv
Senate Griffin
Sphinx of Foresight
Skatewing Spy
Syndicate Messenger
Spirit of the Spires
Skitter Eel
Angel of Grace
Azorius Skyguard

Spells (8)
Lawmage’s Binding
Summary Judgment
Essence Capture
Simic Locket
Warrant // Warden
Sentinel’s Mark
Sphinx’s Insight
Prying Eyes
Lands (17)
Azorius Guildgate
Island
Plains

Sideboard (20)
Expose to Daylight
Haazda Officer
Tenth District Warden
Skitter Eel
Arrester’s Zeal
Rally to Battle
Justiciar’s Portal
Prying Eyes
Clear the Mind
Simic Guildgate
Gateway Plaza
Sharktocrab
Galloping Lizrog
Sagittars’ Volley
Incubation Druid
Prime Speaker Vannifar

I lost the first round I played, where I struggled to hit mana and died a turn before I would have won if I had a sixth land to reset my life to ten with Angel of Grace. After that I went up to eighteen lands along with a locket, and won the rest of my matches. With so many strong fliers, your most important goal is to make sure you can cast them. And your second most important goal, if you are graced with Sentinel’s Mark, is to slap that thing on a big flier during your main phase and go to town.

The four slot is way too full of creatures, but it’s hard to not play some of them. Skitter Eel ended up being the one to cut, because this deck can’t afford to pay extra mana to make its four drops good. Haazda Officer is probably better for this pool of cards. I discounted it because there aren’t cheap creatures to curve out with the officer, but really it’s going to pump a flier at pretty much any point after turn five.

The pool offered some tempting green/Simic cards, but I never felt the need to go there. Against other decks with fliers I would side in the two Simic Guildgates and Sagittars’ Volley, but otherwise I just swapped out creatures or cut Prying Eyes to lower my curve.

My best win of the league came against a tough Esper deck, where I’d sat on Expose to Daylight all game and seen no targets. Eventually I cast Prying Eyes and discarded the seemingly dead card. My opponent immediately slammed Ethereal Absolution—of course—but I’d drawn Angel of Grace and flashed it in for exactly lethal.

These two Azorius Sealed decks felt like playing on easy mode. I suspect some of that was luck, but I also suspect you can win a lot of games of Ravnica Allegiance Sealed by attacking with big fliers.

Oh, one last addendum: I forgot to mention that Pteramander is absurd. It might have a Simic watermark, but it wants to live with the Azorius. And it kinda feels like Emrakul, the Promised End.

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

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