Perilous Research #3: m12 Sealed, US Nationals, and You!

Welcome back to Perilous Research! Today I’ll be covering a topic most of you have probably just recently had interaction with at your local prerelease or release events, m12 Sealed. I have to admit right now, that I am a sealed junkie. Nothing makes me happier than cracking fresh booster packs and looking to see what goodies await me inside that shiny wrapper. Usually for me this takes place when I’m drafting and I’m only going to get 2 cards out of the pack I open, and not at the same time. With Sealed however what you open is what you get. You don’t have to worry about opening that ridiculous booster holding a foil planeswalker and a non-foil planeswalker and having to pass the non-foil even though you opened it, and you therefor want it. This difference is what makes Sealed appealing to the people who will typically avoid drafting. While typically drafts happen a lot more often, Sealed is a lot more popular. This is probably the reason for it being the format of choice for Prerelease events.

Last week I mentioned that m12 Sealed will be important for anyone who attending GenCon this year and is not yet qualified for the US Nationals event that is taking place at the convention. See, Nationals runs from Friday through Sunday, and just like Pro Tour events they will be holding Last Chance Qualifier events on Thursday. These Qualifiers are 32 person single elimination events with the top prize of each being an invite into Nationals. There will be two formats being used for these qualifiers. The first, is Standard to no one’s surprise. The second, on the other hand will be m12 Sealed. Now, these “grinders” will continuously fire from 10am to 8pm. That means as soon as they get 32 signed up for one they start it. There will be a cap on how many can run at one time because no venue has infinite amount of space, but I can assure you that the Indiana Convention Center Halls are quite large and there will be multiple grinders running at once.But what does this mean for you?

It means that even if you are unsure of your ability to pilot a deck in the m12 Standard metagame you can have a shot where when you and every opponent sign up you will all begin on equal footing. I am, obviously, referring to m12 Sealed. It does cost a little more than the Standard grinders but you get to keep your product, so for a fair amount of people these Sealed Grinders will be even more alluring. But, if you’re going to enter the Sealed grinders there are probably some things about m12 Sealed that you should know and lucky for you, I’m here to tell you about them.

What I’m about to share with everyone applies to any m12 Sealed event you play in, not just the grinders. They just happen to be my next chance to play m12 Sealed in something a little more competitive than FNM (Understatement much?). The usual basics of limited apply to this sealed format. Removal is good, bombs are amazing, and you’re going to want a decent number of guys backed by some support spells. However, m12 limited does have a few differences from the majority of other limited formats. Understanding these will be essential to knowing which direction you should be looking to build your own pool and what you can expect to see out of your opponents.

The first major point to go over is the reintroduction of the Bloodthirst mechanic. We first saw this mechanic as a part of the Gruul guild in Ravnica Block and it was a powerful enough mechanic to not only make waves in limited, but also in constructed. Right now we don’t care about constructed so we’ll leave that topic alone for next week. But Bloodthirst will change two facets of the m12 Sealed format. The first one is the biggest change from the previous core set limited formats. The m12 limited format is very aggressive. There are a lot of creatures on the lower end of the mana curve that can bring some very efficient beats. These beaters combined with Bloodthirst makes for relatively quick-paced games. Along with the beaters there are quite a few cards that are available to black and red (the colors that have all but 2 of the creatures with the Bloodthirst mechanic) that will enable Bloodthirst without even attacking. Cards like Scepter of Empires, Taste of Blood, and Goblin Fireslinger are perfect ways to activate Bloodthirst even if your opponent has a larger board presence. If you’re going the Bloodthirst route, look to include some of these.

The second way Bloodthirst changes the format is how and when we decide to block attacks from our opponents. Typically if your opponent attacks his smaller creature into your larger one it’s probably because he has some sort of combat trick up his sleeve. Well, now he may not anymore. His trick may actually be just bluffing the combat trick and is actually holding a Bloodthirst creature he is hoping to get online this turn. So against Red and Black and sometimes Green you will be a bit more inclined to block. This still puts you in an awkward position if they really do have a trick. Awkward combat creates a lot of room in the combat step for misplays. But, the way I see it, trading a guy for whatever card their using for their combat trick is probably more valuable than letting their guy through, taking the damage, and having them follow up with something you probably don’t want to see hit the table.

With Bloodthirst making the combat step more important you are really going to want to be playing creatures that either have evasion or that can trade up. The term “trade up” is being thrown around a lot now with m12 limited. It simply means that your two casting cost creature has the ability to trade with the majority of three casting cost creatures in the format. Continuing the example of a 2cc creature, you’re going to want it to have 2 or more power or 3 or more toughness to make it really playable unless it has evasion or brings some form of utility that you really desire, such as a Merfolk Looter. The reason why you want to trade up is a matter of tempo. You spend two mana on your guy, your opponent spends three on his. This puts your opponent a mana down, meaning they’re now behind on tempo.

This brings us to the next important change in m12 limited, Tempo. “Tempo, tempo, tempo, err, um, tempo..damn! I lost…” How? My tempo got messed up. Removal is scarce in core set limited formats and this holds true for m12. Likewise, core set bombs are particularly good. You will want to hold onto your removal for when your opponent plays their bomb. This lends itself to forcing the early stages of games in this format to be about board presence. Board presence is defined by tempo. The player with the better tempo will inevitably come out on top in board presence. In m12 limited you need to play with a curve. If you don’t curve out and your opponent does you will probably lose the game. Keep that in mind while building with your pool. You’re going to have to choose colors based not only on removal and bombs, but also on curve and tempo. If you can’t keep up with your opponent on tempo because your curve is horrible then all those bombs you’re packing actually only have a minimal chance of getting you back in the game, let alone winning.

Likewise, this tempo-game that you will be playing with your opponent will make you value cards that will help disrupt your opponents tempo. Most of these cards are Blue like Unsummon, counterspells, and Aether Adept, but there are a few exceptions like Acidic Slime. These cards allow you to interact with your opponent’s tempo. The more you can put them behind, the better off you are. Aether Adept is my favorite because he can be a veritable time walk when played at the right time. My opponent will be on the play and go Land, Land 2-drop, Land-3 Drop. If you go Land, Land 2-drop, Land-Aether Adept and bounce their 3-drop you are suddenly ahead on the board and your opponent will likely have to spend a full turn replaying that 3-drop. You just put them on their heels with a 3cc blue 2/2. Some of you may not open these cards in your blue and be unable to play with them. If this happens to you just remember that you might see this across the table. If you can plan for it, it won’t hurt you as much.

Now it’s time to talk about everyones favorite part of limited, bombs and removal. In m12 the Bombs are bomby and the removal is scarce. Play the removal you can. Most of us only like playing 2 colors, but if you are light on removal it is ok to splash into a third for that Doom Blade. Splashing a third color for a bomb isn’t exactly anything I’d recommend. The bombs are very good, but not so good that you need to go out of your way to play them. Remember, the format is very tempo-based. Screwing up your curve for a bomb is likely to screw you over. If you get bombs in colors that support the other parts you need for your deck then play them.

Currently my favorite bomb in m12 limited is Rune-Scarred Demon. He’s evasive with a huge body and fast clock. Add in the ability to tutor up protection for him or just another bomb to follow him up and you have me dreaming of cracking this guy in Sealed. He also dodges about half of the format’s removal. Score. But, just because its a large flyer doesn’t necessarily make it a bomb.

I see a lot of local players packing Belltower Sphinx and Phantasmal Dragons like their bombs. I believe they’re both good in their own right, but they aren’t bombs. Sphinx is a 2/5 flyer that has a chance to mill. He’s a defensive blocker that deters your opponent from attacking, even with a bomb. I lost a game attacking my Angelic Destiny wearing 1/1 into a Sphinx. Milling 5 can hurt. The Dragon is a great aggressive creature to put pressure on your opponent, but thats not what a bomb does. A bomb bats cleanup. Dragon also turns any creature targeting effect into removal. Gideon’s Lawkeeper killing your 4-mana investment is pretty bad. What I’m trying to say here is really evaluate what you think is a bomb.

You may find you’re playing a card in a wrong manner, which can cause you losses. With m12 being aggressive and tempo-based creatures that you thought were bombs in m11 are no longer so in m12. Serra Angel is a prime example. 5-mana for a 4/4 flying vigilance seems pretty bomb-tastic, right? Not anymore. Now you may just be paying 5 mana for a 4/4 flying blocker because your opponent is curving out with high powered Bloodthirst creatures that are racing you faster than Serra Angel can save you.

Re-evaluate cards, play on curve, watch your tempo, and make proper choices in the red zone based upon the information I’ve given and you’ll quickly find yourself succeeding in m12 Sealed. I’ve covered everything I’ve found about m12 Sealed and this article is over 2000 words and you’re probably tired of reading. Ha. I know you’re not. Come back next week where I jump back to Standard and we go over how the format is shaping up after SCG Cincinnati, Japanese Nationals, and SCG Seattle. It will be a topic that I will be deeply invested in because the week after I will be making my why to GenCon in Indianapolis to try and grind out a Nationals Invite. Until then may all your Sealed pools be filled with removal, planeswalkers, and tempo.

Jason Clark

@RealEvilGenius on Twitter

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About therealevilgenius

It's the summer of '95 and a nine year old child goes with a friend to visit his friend's uncle. The nine year old is taken in by the Star War and X-Men posters covering the basement walls in which he and his friend watched cartoons. The uncle sat at a table off to the side. Soon he pulled out a box and asked the kids if they wanted to play a game. WOAH. No. This isn't that kind of story. The uncle promptly pulls out a couple stacks of cards and arranges them on a table. The backs of the cards read Magic: The Gathering. Our nine year old is instantly enthralled and learns how to play his first game of Magic. Fast forward 16 years and here I am. That nine year old kid, now 25, but still playing Magic. I have since moved a few times and never kept up with my friend or his uncle, but it is to them I owe the honor of my introduction to the game. In the past 16 years I've played on and off (definitely more on than off). With my latest return to the game I now have the time and resources to devote to the game to increase my skill and knowledge. I bring a lot of different experiences with me ranging from casual to constructed to limited. My article series Perilous Research, will be dedicated to Limited and Standard. I plan to start the Open/PTQ grind and hope to do well and learn more along the way. Stick with me to go along for the journey and read my insights and bad humor. You can always find me on Twitter as @RealEvilGenius if you want to yell at me. Thanks for reading.

Posted on July 21, 2011, in Perilous Research and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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