Sealed, Signed, Delivered

At the risk of being called a whining little boy (especially after my last article), I have to admit I wasn’t really sure I wanted to go to last weekend’s RPTQ. The people I knew were going were either going in a car together (I live somewhat out of the way for them) or were going with family, so I’d have to make the trek by myself. This obviously increases the cost, and with the money part of Magic already overshadowing every other part lately, I was feeling down on the whole idea.

However, this was still a good shot to qualify for the Pro Tour, and I could not let myself pass up an opportunity like this, especially since I found out the event was going to start at 1 p.m., meaning I could comfortably drive to it the morning of, and if I didn’t do well or had a terrible pool, I could get back in time for dinner. That meant I didn’t have to get a hotel room, which cut the costs by about two-thirds and really made it an easy decision, despite my earlier reluctance.

Once I got to Tampa, around noon, I checked in at the store, and with about 45 minutes to go before the tournament started, there were 15 people in the queue. That’s an absurdly low number, and while it was bound to grow, it likely meant that we weren’t looking at a giant tournament.

We ended up with 34 people, of which one immediately dropped after opening his pool. (He just came to pick up a foil Liliana and a free sealed pool, I guess.) With 33 people, even an X-2 might make it into the top eight after six rounds, so a quick drop wasn’t looking likely. (In fact, as it turned out, someone starting 0-2 and finishing 4-2 ended up making the top eight.)

I registered my pool quickly. It didn’t look very deep, but it seemed like it had some strong cards in Jund colors, and it had an Ugin. I try not to think too much about the pool I open in competitive sealed tournaments, but I’m often done registering quite a bit faster than the average player*, and I can’t prevent my mind wandering sometimes. So when I signed the registration sheet as the player registering Ugin instead of playing Ugin, I felt a little sad.

* The trick: open packs of set A and don’t look, just sort by color. Once you’ve opened the packs, alphabetize every color, sort as they are on the sheet, and then register on the sheet before moving onto the next set. Once you are done, count how many cards you’ve registered in each color, and count the actual cards in the piles (still sorted alphabetically). Sorting this way takes some time if you’re not used to it, but it’s one of the better ways to sort your playable commons in boxes anyway, so you should have plenty of opportunity to practice 😉

When it came to moving the pools around however, the head judge let us keep the pools we opened, and I got to sign the “player” box as well! This was now mine:

[deck]
[Lands]
1 Jungle Hollow
1 Thornwood Falls
[/Lands]
[Colorless]
1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
[/Colorless]
[Artifacts]
1 Goblin Boom Keg
1 Hero’s Blade
1 Ugin’s Construct
2 Spidersilk Net
[/Artifacts]
[Multicolor]
1 Cunning Strike
1 Harsh Sustenance
1 Dromoka’s Command
[/Multicolor]
[White]
1 Abzan Runemark
1 Great-Horn Krushok
1 Pressure Point
1 Sage’s Reverie
1 Soul Summons
1 Center Soul
1 Dragon’s Eye Sentry
1 Dromoka Captain
1 Dromoka Warrior
1 Graceblade Artisan
1 Great Teacher’s Decree
1 Misthoof Kirin
1 Sandcrafter Mage
1 Sandstorm Charger
1 Shieldhide Dragon
1 Strongarm Monk
1 Student of Ojutai
1 Territorial Roc
[/White]
[Blue]
1 Sultai Skullkeeper
1 Supplant Form
1 Whisk Away
1 Will of the Naga
1 Write into Being
1 Dirgur Nemesis
1 Living Lore
1 Mystic Meditation
1 Negate
1 Ojutai Interceptor
1 Sidisi’s Faithful
1 Taigam’s Strike
[/Blue]
[Black]
1 Ancestral Vengeance
1 Reach of Shadows
1 Battle Brawler
1 Blood-Chin Fanatic
1 Blood-Chin Rager
1 Dutiful Attendant
1 Foul-Tongue Shriek
1 Hand of Silumgar
2 Kolaghan Skirmisher
1 Marsh Hulk
2 Minister of Pain
2 Vulturous Aven
1 Wandering Tombshell
[/Black]
[Red]
2 Bathe in Dragonfire
1 Collateral Damage
1 Fierce Invocation
1 Wild Slash
1 Crater Elemental
1 Hardened Berserker
1 Kolaghan Aspirant
1 Kolaghan Stormsinger
1 Twin Bolt
1 Sarkhan’s Rage
1 Sprinting Warbrute
1 Summit Prowler
1 Volcanic Rush
1 Warbringer
[/Red]
[Green]
1 Feral Krushok
1 Frontier Mastodon
1 Map the Wastes
1 Temur Runemark
1 Ainok Artillerist
1 Colossodon Yearling
1 Dragon-Scarred Bear
1 Dromoka’s Gift
1 Pinion Feast
1 Revealing Wind
1 Salt Road Ambusher
1 Salt Road Quartermasters
2 Stampeding Elk Herd
[/Green]
[/deck]

So, first things first when you see this pool:

A) Ugin.
B) Holy … that’s a lot of red removal.
C) Two blue rares, but that color is way too short on cards and playables.
D) Ugin!

Yeah, I was excited about Ugin.

Going over the colored cards, I had some good multicolor cards, but none of them really force me into those colors. I then looked at white, which had some solid cards but nothing spectacular and no removal unless I paired it with green or black. Blue was out from the start, but black looked interesting. It had some great incentives to play warriors, with both Blood-Chins and a bunch of others. It also had a solid removal spell in [card]Reach of Shadows[/card], and two [card]Vulturous Aven[/card]s, a card I like quite a bit. Red was almost guaranteed in, with its crazy amount of removal, a solid rare in [card]Crater Elemental[/card], and some playable dorks. Green also looked solid: a bunch of three-power three-drops, two of the giant Elk, and even a trick here and there. It also had a [card]Map the Wastes[/card], which could help ramp into an Ugin or the great five drops, as well as help facilitate a splash if so desired.

Basically I was looking at playing RB like most people, or playing GR. I briefly laid out BW warriors but quickly dismissed it as it leaned too much on the two Blood-Chins to get me there because of the lack of removal. BR would be an aggressive deck with a ton of [card]Grizzly Bears[/card], which is something I like in draft. In sealed, I’d rather be on the [card]Trained Armodon[/card] side though. The GR deck also felt a little more multi-dimensional. It wasn’t just a big dudes deck; it could also play the control role fairly well, or even go aggro against slower decks, since the creatures hit hard and there was a bunch of reach thanks to the red removal.

Heck, even Ugin could be a very expensive [card]Lava Spike[/card] if I needed him to. (Coincidentally, I drew Ugin only once all day, and it was literally a seven-mana [card]Lava Spike[/card] because of [card]Hardened Berserker[/card].)

Ugin was the other reason I ended up sleeving GR. Ugin in your BR aggro deck is less than spectacular, while Ugin in my GR big dorks deck seems fantastic. I was not blessed with a ton of great cards, so some filler made the deck, but overall I was very happy with what I put together:

Sealed RG by Jay Lansdaal

[deck]
[Lands]
9 Forest
8 Mountain
[/Lands]
[Spells]
1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
1 Collateral Damage
1 Wild Slash
1 Twin Bolt
2 Bathe in Dragonfire
1 Map the Wastes
1 Dromoka’s Gift
1 Sarkhan’s Rage
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
1 Kolaghan Aspirant
1 Crater Elemental
1 Hardened Berserker
1 Colossodon Yearling
1 Dragon-Scarred Bear
1 Frontier Mastodon
1 Salt Road Quartermasters
1 Summit Prowler
1 Warbringer
1 Salt Road Ambusher
1 Sprinting Warbrute
1 Feral Krushok
2 Stampeding Elk Herd
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
1 Jungle Hollow
1 Swamp
1 Reach of Shadows
1 Kolaghan Stormsinger
1 Ainok Artillerist
1 Pinion Feast
1 Revealing Wind
1 Temur Runemark
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

While my sideboard was lacking, the maindeck felt very good. I was torn between playing 17 and 18 lands, and it’s very possible I was just wrong to play 17, but the [card]Map the Wastes[/card] and the amount of removal swayed me to the 17 side of the argument. If you are trading removal for threats, you buy time to draw more lands, and you also don’t want to flood out, or your 1-for-1 trading has been for nothing.

The other difficult decisions for me were [card]Dromoka’s Gift[/card] versus [card]Pinion Feast[/card], and [card]Salt Road Ambushers[/card] versus [card]Ainok Artillerist[/card]. Generally, I prefer [card]Pinion Feast[/card] over [card]Dromoka’s Command[/card] in slower green decks, and it’s very possible it was wrong to go with the Gift here. I just wanted to go bigger since it looked like my deck could race fairly well with the amount of removal and the tramplers at the top of my curve. In the case for Ambusher over Artillerist, it was mostly that I already had so many three-drops, but Ambusher is a somewhat fancy [card]Hill Giant[/card] in this deck, whereas Artillerist has additional uses, especially with a few ways to get counters on it and a bunch of ferocious and formidable cards that cared about power. I think I was very likely wrong to play the one morph here.

As for the sideboard, I considered boarding all those cards in at least once, and the none of the others were considerations. I ended up using the [card]Pinion Feast[/card] the most, with [card]Ainok Artillerist[/card] coming in second, and [card]Temur Runemark[/card] and [card]Revealing Wind[/card] both coming in once.

While [card]Temur Runemark[/card] and [card]Revealing Wind[/card] are Bad Cards™, they do serve a function. I boarded in the Runemark against a RW deck with just red removal and a ton of small dorks, where I was unlikely to get two-for-one’d, and the trample could be really relevant. The [card]Revealing Wind[/card] came in against a different RW opponent who had both [card]Temur Battle Rage[/card] and [card]Berserkers’ Onslaught[/card], as well as a bunch of tricks. Trying to hit me for a million out of nowhere seemed to be his plan, so I didn’t mind having a Fog in my deck because he would likely invest a lot of resources in setting up for a big swing and wouldn’t be able to do that twice.

During the Swiss, I lost only to a GW deck with [card]Hidden Dragonslayer[/card], [card]Den Protector[/card], and [card]Valorous Stance[/card], among many other good cards. My opponent played solid Magic. We both drew poorly one game out of three, but he got the one where we both had good draws on the back of the earlier mentioned Dragonslayer, which ate one of my big dudes and then fought with my smaller creature in an [card]Epic Confrontation[/card], putting me way too far behind.

I drew into the top eight and got to watch the first and second seeds and scout their potential opponents for an entire round (those players had to play it out). This eh… felt pretty awkward and bad? Hopefully Wizards fixes this before the next RPTQ. (For those of you who don’t get it: normally in a competitive sealed event you draft in the top eight and play with those decks instead of the sealed pool that got you there. Because the RPTQ top eight is only one round, Wizards decided we should just play with the sealed decks we’d used all day.)

I would not have liked to be one of the few guys who had to blindly play an opponent who knew all their tricks and could guess their potential plays at every turn. Thankfully, both my opponent and I had drawn in the last round, so no such bad feelings for either of us. All I knew was my opponent was WR and had a [card]Hidden Dragonslayer[/card], the only card I had lost a round to today. I hoped this wouldn’t be a repeat of the last RPTQ, where I managed to top eight fairly easily, and then never really had a chance to win in the elimination rounds due to my draws.

Thankfully though, my deck actually delivered, and I managed to win the one round that really mattered: the one that got me back onto the Pro Tour. Milwaukee, here I come!

May you also never have to sweep the board with Ugin,

Jay Lansdaal
iLansdaal on Twitter

P.S. Seriously KYT, you’d better qualify for this one too. I’m done zig-zagging the PTs with you!

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