Last year I had my first limited PTQ top 8 in Fargo during Theros sealed season. Last Saturday I came within arms reach of my second. Slightly better tie-breaks and I'd have been able to draw the final round. Slightly better draws and I'd have won it. Alas, I came inches short. At the end of the day I am happy with the way that I constructed my sealed pool though, and I believe that my game is finally getting where I want it to be.
When it comes to Theros sealed, there are basically four archetypes:
- The nut aggro
- "I have to play all of my Ordeals and Goblin Pikers" aggro
- Quality midrange
- Piles of cards
Looking over my pool, I definitely don't have anything close to the nut aggro, and I'm extremely low on two drops, so I don't really have the Piker Ordeal deck either. Ideally my aggressive decks would want to trim a land for a 24th spell, but everything aggressive I tried to configure included three or four 23rd cards as it was. I really don't want to play Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass and I sure as hell don't want to play two.
I'm rather short on playables for a quality midrange deck as well. Black is shallow with a lot of heavy colored requirements, most of the red and white cards belong in an aggressive deck but only combine to have an awkward curve and green just doesn't have a lot going for it. Blue is the least awkward color, but I'm locked into playing some three mana 2/3s among other questionable cards there as well. Basically, this pool needs to find whatever pile of cards best supports Kiora and hope it's okay.
[cardimage cardname='Kiora, the Crashing Wave']
I lined up four or so decks during deckbuild, and it came down to GWu versus UBg. The advantage of GWu is better mana and the fact that I could actually use the Nylea's Presence as manafixing. The disadvantage is that the curve is awkward, the cards are weaker and that Kiora doesn't play as well in an aggressive deck as it does in one with removal backup. In the end, I decided on stronger cards with worse mana:
I went to time on deckbuilding, and while I didn't feel great about the deck, I did feel like I had made the best of what I had opened. All I could do now is play it. These were the considerations I made in terms of final cuts:
Cards That Didn't Quite Make It
I thought for a while about including Kraken of the Straits and Whelming Wave, but I decided that both had larger downside than upside. The Kraken cost way too much mana to just cast into Griptide, Voyage's End and Asphyxiate. Even when it does get to live it's just a 6/6 that gets outclassed by a lot of monstrous creatures and barely has evasion.
Whelming Wave was much closer to making the deck, but it strikes me as being awful against aggressive decks which can just recast more threats than you faster again and bestow creatures which get to stay in play and attack you. I boarded it in against decks that hinged on expensive creatures, but I think it was right not to maindeck it.
Bronze Sable is likely the most questionable card in the maindeck, but I'd stand by it 100%. This deck is otherwise very light on twos and it blocks reasonably against the aggressive decks while also being able to apply some pressure to slower decks. Eye Gouge would be the runner up from my perspective, and I wouldn't fault anybody for going that direction.
Whelming Wave is for decks with high curves. Eye Gouge is for decks with low curves. Artisan's Sorrow is for decks with a heavy concentration of artifacts/enchantments- not necessarily specific cards. Most commonly I'd bring out the Bronze Sable for the Wave and Thassa's Bounty for the Gouge. The Artisan's Sorrow is a bit more flexible in what it could replace.
The curve is really high, I'm in three colors and there's not a 23rd card that I'm very excited about. 18 lands was a pretty easy choice for me. I never play fewer than two sources of any color that appears in the casting cost of a card in my deck, and Kiora is my only green card. Two Forest, 16 lands to go. Considering the ratio of blue spells to black spells, I could see going 8-8. Considering that so many of the black spells cost double-black and that Asphyxiate has a narrow window to actually work, I like 9-7 better. I'd really like an Unknown Shores, especially considering the Wavecrash Triton, but that's just not the world we live in.
Going in I knew the mana was going to cause some problems. I just had to hope that I'd be able to Asphyxiate any real threats and that Kiora would buy me some wins.
Play or Draw
Awkward mana. Three three-mana 2/3s. This deck really, really wants the extra card. Asphyxiate is also technically more efficient on the draw. You'll rarely want to use it on a two drop, so if you're on the play there will be games where you just have it and pass. There is a reasonable number of three drops worth killing, and Asphyxiating them on the play means that you'd leave your fourth land drop doing nothing, potentially waiting a turn to play Disciple of Phenax or Chorus of the Tides. Against a very good aggressive deck I'd take the play, but I wouldn't be happy about it.
Interestingly, I played against an opponent who took the draw in game one and then elected to play in game two. Seeing as there's not much that's very aggressive about my deck and that our game one went to like, turn 20 I asked him what changed between games. He told me that he chose to draw because he had Anger of the Gods in his deck and his idea was that it would kill more creatures on curve on the draw, and that he'd have an extra draw step to find it. Well, what he said was, "You're not a crappy aggro deck," but I inferred that that's what he meant. Either way, I would absolutely take the extra card against a deck full of removal like mine. My game two win was much more convincing than game one.
I got my first loss with this deck in round five, largely due to my mana base. Oddly enough, I cast a turn two Nullify in that round while missing the second black for the Asphyxiate I had in hand. Anyway, I battled back and was one of 8 6-1s going into round 8. Four of those players could draw, the other four had to play. I assumed that I'd be a reasonably high seed and be able to draw, but I imagine that some of my early opponent's stayed in and racked up a lot of losses, because I had to play. I won game one of a UB mirror handily, played terribly, largely due to fatigue in a game two that I'm not sure I could have won anyway, and tightened up but was outdrawn in a tight game three. Daggers.
I'm not sure if I'll be able to make another Theros Sealed PTQ, and I'll likely be paying more attention to Modern until May anyhow. My next tournament is the SCG Open in Milwaukee. I'll be wielding RW Burn in Standard and RUG Delver (surprise!) in Legacy, and I'll be hoping to improve on this weekend's results. I've been hungry for more top 8s for a while, but at this point I'm outright starving. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have MTGO to grind.
Thanks for reading.