Sealed Deck Inspirations

I’m not normally a very competitive Magic player, but when the biggest Grand Prix weekend ever was held only a few minutes from my house, I obviously couldn’t resist the temptation and registered for the Modern Masters Sealed Deck main event.

I didn’t have much time to prepare, so I tried to use other people’s experience by reading a few articles before the big day. I actually really like Sealed Deck because (much like with Battle Box) everyone starts at the same level. You can of course still open a great pool or a bad pool, but no one will have much experience playing the specific deck they constructed so everyone is at least in with a chance. As we were opening the pools we got, I saw a few people in my vicinity open foil mythics and dropping before the tournament even started (the guy next to me opened a foil Karn and dropped without even thinking). I guess this is one of the downsides of selling a product where the chase foil mythics go for $100-$400 and can’t be helped but it didn’t improve the experience. My own pool was completely money mythic free, but contained the contours of a very solid deck with a Primeval Titan, two Lightning Bolts, a Wildfire and some more green fatties and red removal. Of course, this was the pool I registered. The pool I actually got to play contained no such contours and after trying to make affinity work I settled for a suboptimal five color control build. I lost 3 of my first 4 matches, partly because of the lack of card quality and partly because of my lack of magic skills. Anyway, I dropped and played in some side drafts and the rebound Sealed tournament. I had a lot of fun, and I sincerely hope next year the Grand Prix circus will return to Utrecht!

I love the Modern Masters sets. Besides overflowing with desirable cards (even commons and uncommons), the draft themes Wizards has put in there are cooler than we get in most sets. I mean, how many draftable sets contain the archetypes affinity, storm and dredge in the same set? For Sealed Deck, some of these archetypes rely a bit too much on synergy to get together, but there are enough options to at least end up with a viable deck. As I left the Grand Prix with a big stack of Modern Masters 2015 cards I had no use for other than sticking them into my trade binders, I started thinking about building a Modern Masters Battle Box. I mean, why not? There are cool archetypes in there, cool individual cards, and many of the archetypes have synergies between them as well. The more I thought about it, the more I convinced myself it was going to be a piece of cake.

Initially, I thought I would just take 2 of each Modern Masters 2015 common, 1 of each uncommon and a selection of not-too-overpowered rares, sleeve them up and call it a day. Of course, things are never that simple, and the nature of the Battle Box format makes themes that rely too much on synergy difficult to maintain. Without the filtering that you normally get during drafts or during Sealed deck building, too many of the cards would just be dead draws or even anti-synergistic. That wasn’t what I was going for, so I changed things up a little. What if instead of just drawing the top card each turn, a player would get to look at the top three cards and then get to select the card they actually wanted to draw? It would not guarantee drawing a high synergy card, but it would at least provide an opportunity to skip the dead cards. A bit of playtesting showed that the principle was sound but drawing three cards each turn led to too much reading and not enough playing. In the end I compromised; each player would draw two cards at the start of their turn and keep one. Any subsequent cards were drawn normally. This provided a nice play experience; the selection gave a little choice to take the card that helped you the most, while the whole process could still be handled within a reasonable time frame. To further simulate the archetype selection of a Sealed deck, players would also start the game by drawing seven cards and then selecting the four cards with which they wanted to start the game.

While changing how players draw their cards helped to make the Battle Box feel more like a sealed deck, it created a different issue. More confined archetypes (like spirits/arcane for example) were not ever being played because players would always choose the other card during their draw step. This meant cutting those entire archetypes and filling the holes with either generic cards or cards from less parasitic archetypes. For example, archetypes like equipment and graft may still work better in a tuned deck, but their cards are useful in any deck and are never a bad draw. As I went over the cards and archetypes that were left in Modern Masters 2015 I started to feel there weren’t enough suitable archetypes to create a fun Battle Box. Because I didn’t want to give up just yet, I broadened my search and included the original Modern Masters set from 2013. As I’m sure Wizards of the Coast intended, many of the archetypes in the original Modern Masters line up well with the archetypes in Modern Masters 2015. Thallids work nicely with the graft archetype (as well as other cards that care about +1/+1 counters), and affinity and 5 color domain decks are also supported in both sets. Using cards from both sets created a pool large enough that I could ignore the more contained, parasitic archetypes.

The only exception to this was the metalcraft/affinity archetype. I felt that if I was ever going to support a strong artifact theme in a Battle Box, then this was going to be that Box, so I tried to figure out how I could make it work without resorting to heavier card selection (as we had already established that was no fun). And then it hit me: Darksteel Citadel. If I would just include one Darksteel Citadel in each land set, I would knock the requirements for metalcraft down by one artifact, making it at least very tempting if not actually feasible. I also decided to trim the land sets to only 8 lands, and to include both Glimmervoid and City of Brass. In this way, there was no need to include dual tap lands from other sets meaning the puritan in me could sleep soundly knowing every card in the Box was actually a card from a Modern Masters set (ok, except for the basic lands, stop looking at me like that). After a few playtests, it was clear that metalcraft was perfectly achievable, even if it meant artifacts would have to take up a big chunk of deck space.

Looking at the result of all these labors, I think there is something in the idea of using a specific Magic set as the basis for a Battle Box. At the same time, although the draft themes of both sets are extremely cool, I think Modern Masters is probably not the best set to do this with. Most of the archetypes are very parasitic, and even though I got metalcraft to work in the end, at best the final result is a nice Battle Box, not really a representation of the Modern Masters sets in Battle Box form. As a consequence, I will file the Modern Masters Box away as a less-than-successful experiment for now, and not include it in my overall projects list. For those of you interested, below is the card list I eventually ended up with. I will definitely experiment with this idea more, and I have a feeling that the Tarkir block we have just left behind on our travels to Zendikar might just be the perfect block to pull this off. When I get around to building that box (I imagine it will be called Khans vs Dragons), I’ll be sure to let you all know. Be sure to check back soon when I will finally give you the Magic Origins project updates.

Battle Box Cardlist (301):

Lands (2 sets of 8)

Darksteel Citadel
City of Brass

White (42)
Creatures (20)

Auriok Salvagers
Avian Changeling (2x)
Battlegrace Angel
Cloudgoat Ranger
Conclave Phalanx (2x)
Indomitable Archangel
Kor Duelist
Mirran Crusader
Mirror Entity
Sanctum Gargoyle (2x)
Skyhunter Skirmisher (2x)
Sunspear Shikari (2x)

Enchantments (3)

Arrest (2x)
Oblivion Ring

Instants and Sorceries (17)

Apostle’s Blessing (2x)
Mighty Leap (2x)
Otherworldly Journey (2x)
Path to Exile
Raise the Alarm (2x)
Spectral Procession
Stir the Pride
Terashi’s Grasp
Test of Faith (2x)

Artifacts (2)

Dispeller’s Capsule (2x)

Blue (40)
Creatures (26)

Aethersnipe (2x)
Air Servant
Argent Sphinx
Cloud Elemental (2x)
Etherium Sculptor (2x)
Faerie Mechanist (2x)
Glen Elendra Archmage
Helium Squirter (2x)
Keiga, the Tide Star
Novijen Sages
Pestermite (2x)
Somber Hoverguard
Thrummingbird (2x)
Vendilion Clique
Vigean Graftmage (2x)

Enchantments (1)

Inexorable Tide

Instants and Sorceries (13)

Echoing Truth
Hurkyl’s Recall
Mana Leak
Stoic Rebuttal
Tezzeret’s Gambit
Thirst for Knowledge
Thoughtcast (2x)
Vapor Snag (2x)
Wings of Velis Vel

Black (37)
Creatures (20)

Bloodthrone Vampire
Daggerclaw Imp
Dreamspoiler Witches (2x)
Duskhunter Bat (2x)
Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder
Faerie Macabre (2x)
Ghostly Changeling (2x)
Marsh Flitter
Midnight Banshee
Plagued Rusalka
Puppeteer Clique
Reassembling Skeleton
Scavenger Drake
Skeletal Vampire
Vampire Outcasts

Enchantments (1)


Instants and Sorceries (15)

Bone Splinters (2x)
Death Denied (2x)
Drag Down (2x)
Grim Affliction (2x)
Instill Infection
Nameless Inversion (2x)
Shrivel (2x)
Spread the Sickness

Artifacts (1)

Executioner’s Capsule

Red (41)
Creatures (22)

Blood Ogre (2x)
Bloodshot Trainee
Dragonsoul Knight
Goblin Fireslinger (2x)
Gorehorn Minotaurs (2x)
Inner-Flame Igniter
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Ryusei, the Falling Star
Soulbright Flamekin (2x)
Spikeshot Elder
Stormblood Berserker
Viashino Slaughtermaster (2x)
War-Spike Changeling (2x)
Worldheart Phoenix

Enchantments (2)

Goblin War Paint
Splinter Twin

Instants and Sorceries (17)

Blades of Velis Vel (2x)
Brute Force (2x)
Burst Lightning (2x)
Comet Storm
Gut Shot
Lightning Bolt
Molten Disaster
Shrapnel Blast
Smash to Smithereens (2x)
Tribal Flames
Wrap in Flames

Green (36)
Creatures (22)

Algae Gharial
Ant Queen
Aquastrand Spider (2x)
Cytoplast Root-Kin
Eternal Witness
Gnarlid Pack (2x)
Kavu Primarch
Kozilek’s Predator
Masked Admirers
Matca Rioters
Nest Invader
Pelakka Wurm
Root-Kin Ally
Scion of the Wild (2x)
Thallid Shell-Dweller (2x)
Wolfbriar Elemental

Enchantments (1)

Doubling Season

Instants and Sorceries (13)

Bestial Menace
Echoing Courage
Overwhelming Stampede
Scatter the Seeds (2x)
Sundering Vitae
Thrive (2x)
Tromp the Domains
Vines of Vastwood (2x)

Multicolor (29)
Creatures (20)

Apocalypse Hydra
Ashenmoor Gouger
Boros Swiftblade
Creakwood Liege
Drooling Groodion
Ethercaste Knight
Ghost Council of Orzhova
Glassdust Hulk
Hearthfire Hobgoblin
Horde of Notions
Kitchen Finks
Lorescale Coatl
Murderous Redcap
Mystic Snake
Plaxcaster Frogling
Restless Apparition
Selesnya Guildmage
Shadowmage Infiltrator
Trygon Predator
Wilt-Leaf Liege

Enchantments (2)

Pillory of the Sleepless

Instants and Sorceries (7)

Lightning Helix
Savage Twister (2x)
Sigil Blessing
Vengeful Rebirth
Wrecking Ball

Colorless (55)
Creatures (1)

Ulamog’s Crusher

Artifact Creatures (25)

Alloy Myr (2x)
Arcbound Ravager
Arcbound Stinger (2x)
Arcbound Wanderer (2x)
Blinding Souleater (2x)
Cathodion (2x)
Etched Champion
Etched Oracle
Gust-Skimmer (2x)
Lodestone Golem
Lodestone Myr
Myr Enforcer (2x)
Myr Retriever
Precursor Golem
Runed Servitor
Skyreach Manta (2x)

Artifacts (26)

Aether Spellbomb (2x)
Bonesplitter (2x)
Chimeric Mass
Copper Carapace (2x)
Cranial Plating
Culling Dais
Darksteel Axe
Engineered Explosives
Everflowing Chalice
Glint Hawk Idol
Kitesail (2x)
Pyrite Spellbomb (2x)
Rusted Relic (2x)
Sickleslicer (2x)
Sphere of the Suns (2x)
Tumble Magnet

Lands (2)

Academy Ruins
Blinkmoth Nexus

Sorceries (1)

All Is Dust