Thursday, October 30, 2014

Khans Sealed Builds: A Sampler Plate

I wouldn't say I'm a grinder, exactly.  Most PTQ seasons I skip: I don't tend to keep up with standard, and I have never really had a deck for modern (I briefly played pyromancer ascension online).  But every once in a while, limited ptq season comes around, and I see it as an opportunity to test myself against the field, and hopefully some day make the pro tour.

Practicing for these PTQs, to me, consists of a lot of grinding sealed events.  While I do pretty well at khans draft, the last ptq I went to ended in an embarrassing 2-4 fashion, so I knew I had a lot of work to do to even approach where I wanted to be in the format.

My own experience with games of khans sealed has been that it is all about the tempo.  The Player who stays just one step ahead of the opponent and uses well-timed instants to disrupt the opponent has most often come out ahead.  Curving out is preferred, although some pools will make that goal very, very difficult.

There is a tremendous amount of diversity in khans pools.  I've seen pools with all blue-mana fixing and no good blue cards.  I've seen pools that give the pilot an option of a choice between an aggressive deck and a control deck, and it's hard to determine which is superior.  Some pools scream to go three or more colors, where others are more straightforward.  Staying flexible seems key.

In one of my first sealed events, I was presented with a somewhat awkward pool.  Here was my first, rough draft:

There's a lot to like here.  A pair of bloodsoaked champions provide the deck with premium one-drops, a rarity in this format.  Grim haruspex and shambling attendants reward you for when you trade off your attackers.  The removal suite is solid, although kill shot is a bit awkward in an aggressive deck.

However, the deck is forced to play a few clunkers for the consistency of being w/b.  There aren't all that many warriors for rush of battle, and salt road patrol would really rather be in more of a midrange build.  Jeskai student similarly doesn't add much to the clock.  The deck I ultimately registered follows.

Far more midrangey, this deck looks to play a longer game than the first one.  Five two drops give me the opportunity to take advantage of times when my opponent is on an awkward draw, and in this sort of build the kill shots are much more effective.  And the green splash gives me some much-needed fat, and the pump spells synergized quite well with the multiple prowess creatures I had in u/w.  I don't know if you know this, but when a jeskai windscout becomes immense, that's nine damage just by itself.  This deck went 2-1.

Sometimes, you want to follow the mana and see where it takes you.  In this sealed pool, the bulk of my lands supported jeskai, so I looked to see what options I had.  Red ended up being the splash here.  The deciding factor was that red just had no good two-drops, while w/u gave me some premium ones, with the bond-kins and the elder.  The double red on arrow storm was challenging, but with six red sources I got there often enough.  And with three arrow storms and a flying crane technique, the deck had real reach.    This deck wanted to get in there, turn after turn, and simply being in u/w/r, a color combination with so many instants, put fear into my opponents.  Play with confidence!  This deck also went 2-1.

Then again, sometimes you just get a god pool.  With siege rhino, duneblast, and high sentinels of arashin appearing once I sorted by rarity, I knew I was going to try to make it work.  One particularly memorable game had me outlasting a herald of anafenza every turn to produce chump blockers while I worked my way towards duneblast mana.  Since they're rares, this pairing won't often come up, but for at least one glorious moment, they shone together.  This deck went 2-1 as well, losing one round to a very strong evasion-heavy deck which flew over my parapets while I failed to draw my sagu archers.  I would choose to play a deck with this level of power every round, if I could.

Finally, we come to my first 3-0 deck.  After going 2-1 over and over again, I was beginning to feel a bit of the always the bridesmaid, never the bride, phenomenon.  Continually going 2-1 is a pretty good winning percentage, certainly, but to perform well at a ptq, I wanted to put together a string of wins.  This deck had exactly the mix I wanted: bombs, removal, instant tricks, and methods for putting together card advantage, either simply (treasure cruise) or more trickily (dragonscale boon).  With two cheap instants in feat of resistance and force away at my disposal, my fearsome monastery flocks got in for more damage than I could have ever imagined.

In my khans sealed experience, you'll run into aggressive decks more often than you'd expect for sealed.  With this deck, I more than once used dragon scale boon to enhance the power of monastery flock, a play which most red decks won't have a good answer to, if any.

One thing to note is that you can win while not holding to the clans that are supported.  Don't blind yourself to options outside of the five wedges.  I went bant twice and had success there.  If you notice that your pool has strong mono-colored cards, take a close look and see if these cards are better in an unconventional color-pairing, like I did with bant.

There were more sealed pools, but these ones stood out to me as memorable.  Now, if you'll excuse me, it's off to do some spooky sealed for halloween!  I love mixed-block sealed formats, and although I want to perform well at ptqs, I just gotta have some fun with a goofy format.

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