Drafters’ Corner: Sealed Tournament HYPE (and primer)!

Hi everyone! In case you haven’t heard, Kcbandit has generously donated $300 towards a sealed tournament happening on 9th December! Further details can be found here. As a huge draft player myself, I am unbelievably hyped for this and can’t wait to try my hand out in this new limited format. Also a huge kudos to aReNGee, rekenner and kcbandit for doing this! (I’m not typing this with a gun pointed to my head, I promise!) 

Cracking the Packs

For this sealed pool, we will be cracking 8 Set 1 (The Empty Throne) Packs and 4 Set 2 (Omens of the Past) Packs. On average, this would give us 23 mono-faction cards for each faction, 2.8 Set 1 dual-faction cards and 2.3 Set 2 dual-faction cards for each faction pairing. Interestingly, despite the 8-4 Set 1/2 split being relatively arbitrary, it generates approximately equal number of dual-faction cards from each set (a happy coincidence!)

What these numbers tell us though, is that unless you are happy running almost every single card in your factions or get extremely lucky with your pulls, a straight up 2 faction deck is not possible. Further assuming at least 1/4 of the cards are stone-cold unplayable,  that leaves us with ~32 cards for a 2 faction deck and ~57 cards for a 3 faction deck. This leads me to believe that most decks that will be constructed are going to be close to straight up 3 faction decks, if not 3.5 or 4 faction decks.

Fixing at a Premium

Given that 3+ faction decks are going to be the norm, fixing is going to be extremely important. However, with 12 packs, we are only going to get an average of 4 Strangers and 4 Banners. Seek Power is going to be another rarity, with only 1 in 2 players being lucky enough to crack open a Seek Power.

These numbers make Time start to look like an attractive faction to be in, because you can potentially pick up an additional 2 points of fixing in the form of Amber Acolyte and Amaran Archaeologist. Coupled with the fact that Time is perceived to be the strongest faction in draft, I would expect Time to be one of the most ubiquitous factions to come across in this format.

Faction breakdowns

Time

As mentioned above, I think Time will be most commonly seen faction in this format. It has some of the most well-stated units and cracking open multiple pieces of fixing would be a strong pull towards time. Time also has access to some of the most power dual faction units in the form of Pteriax Hatchlings and Awakened Student, making it likely to be the base faction for most decks.

Shadow

While being weak at draft, I do not think Shadow will have the same problem in limited. It fulfills a very important niche of supplying removal to most decks. Outside of Vanquish, Permafrost, Eilyn’s Choice and damage-based removal from Fire, all other removal requires Shadow influence. Shadow removal would not be snatched and splashed as is common in draft, thus making it much more attractive. Shadow is also significantly stronger in Set 1, and having 8 Set 1 packs would further push Shadow up the rankings.

Fire

Fire is probably going to be the least played faction in this limited format. Given the nature of most decks being 3+ factions, they would not mesh well with the aggressive nature of most fire cards. Fire does have access to a decent removal suite in the form of Torch, Mortar, Gun Down, Purify and so on, and thus I expect most 3+ factions decks to splash fire if they are unable to get good removal options from Shadow.

Primal

Unlike in constructed, Primal has always been a powerhouse in draft. Having access to a vast quantity of cheap and good fliers will be Primal’s selling point and I think that will cause multiple players to naturally gravitate towards Primal as a faction. Evasion will always be strong in limited formats and I would definitely expect the win rate of Primal decks to reflect that. One word of caution though, cheap fliers are great and all, but they are extremely understated. It’s important to build a good core of ground blockers to lock up the ground while swinging in the air.

Justice

Justice has decent cards at common, but what truly shines are 1)it’s array of big fliers at uncommon/rare and 2)it’s weapons. Given the diluted pool of removal, building a VOLTRON using weapons such as Hammer of Might, Elder’s Feather and Stalwart Shield is still a viable strategy and can easily take over a game unchecked. More importantly, Justice has some of the best late-game fliers, Rolant’s Honor Guard, Fourth Tree Elder and Silverwing Commander. Cracking open any of these would definitely make Justice a top contender for being one of the base factions. However, given that most of the best Justice cards will be at uncommon/rare, I think Justice would see substantially less play than Primal.

Overall, I think in terms of power level and popularity, I would expect the factions to be in the following order:

Time>Shadow>Primal=Justice>Fire

Trap Cards

Given the differences in card selection between draft and sealed as well as the differences in deck size, certain cards do get significantly weaker in sealed.

1) High Influence cost cards

There are 3 compounding factors that give rise to this. Firstly, being forced to go at least 2 faction+splash means we need to run multiple different sigils. Secondly, having next to no fixing in sealed means decks are unlikely to hit dual or triple influences regularly. Lastly, the 75 card deck size means that there is a higher chance of drawing multiple of one faction’s sigil and none or only one of the faction we require.

As such, I think this makes cards that require triple influence early, such as Groundbreaker, Peacekeeper’s Prod, extremely hard to play. Cards of the XXXYYY cycle (such as Icaria, the Liberator, Heart of the Vault) would be basically unplayable. I would even be wary of putting early dual-influence requirement cards, such as Spirit Guide, Cloudsnake Harrier, Temple Scribe and so on.

2) Aggro-centric cards

Being forced into 2 faction+splash or greater decks means that the potential of curving out aggressively is going to be highly unlikely. Games are more likely to degrade into midrange slug fests or battles over air superiority rather than one player simply running over the other with the nut curve out. As such, aggressive 1 or 2 drops (such as Oni Ronin, Bladekin Apprentice) would not be ideal because they tend to lose value extremely fast and make for very bad top decks later on. Most decks should also pack a decent top end and I think hoping to consistently aggressively run your opponents over is not going to be a good game plan.

3) Synergy cards

With the nearly two-fold increase in deck size, synergy cards became substantially weaker because you are now half as likely to see each card, and only ~25% of the original chance to see the combo you were hoping to draw. Lifeforce, which is already weak in draft, is even weaker now given you need twice the enablers and twice the payoff to really consistently hit your combo. Similarly, cards such as Cabal Bludgeoner which relies on weapon synergies are likely to be less good because your odds of drawing weapons has gone down. The list goes on, such as Icebow and Sand Vipers, Trickster Cloak and infiltrate units, Windshaper and flying units.

Building the Deck

Well, now that you have a whole load of theory and the 144 cards Rekenner sent you, what do you do?

The first step that I do is to import all 144 cards into Eternal, and cut all the stone-cold unplayable cards regardless of factions. While cutting, I also keep an eye out for potential bombs. After trimming the unplayables, I scroll through the list and look at the number of playables in each faction and gauge their relative power levels. Generally, one of the factions would strike me as having the least good quality playables and I’ll trim my deck down into a 4 faction deck.

At this point, unless a clear 3 faction deck jumps out at me, I make multiple clones of this deck and remove a different faction from each deck. This helps to give me a clearer view of the relative strengths and weaknesses of running each faction combination. Comparing the 2~3 different decks helps me narrow down to my primary 3 factions (or convince me that running a 4 faction deck is the optimal choice). At this point, I would also make a copy of the current deck and use it as my sideboard. The last steps just become similar to what I do for the final steps of trimming a draft deck: removing the weakest cards while keeping an eye on my curve; checking to see if it’s possible to make a faction into a splash to reduce the strain on my power base.

In terms of power count, scaling up from 17 to 18 sigils in a 45 card deck means I’ll expect to run somewhere between 28 to 30 sigils. However, given that most of the decks would be 2 factions+splash with sparse fixing, the demand on the power base would be pretty rough. Moreover, with a larger deck size, it’s also more likely to be on the rough end of variance and running more power lowers the risk of getting stuck on 2. I’ve been finding the most success in practice games running something in the regions of 30 to 33 power, depending on the curve of my deck.

Conclusion

Well, I hope this primer has been useful in highlighting the relative strengths of each faction and how to build your sealed deck. If you haven’t signed up for the sealed tournament yet, what are you waiting for! Do it here now! It’s completely free and is going to be loads of fun (unless you face me in which case I hope you get stuck at 2 every game =D)! Most importantly, there are cash prizes and pride on the line!

As always, let me know your thoughts in the reddit thread!

 

See you at Saturday’s Tourney!
Flash2351