Sealed Deckbuilding 101: Choosing Your Colors (and Born of the Gods Spoilers!)

Today, I’d like to discuss Born of the Gods Sealed deck, specifically in preparation for the prerelease events. The decisions you make during sealed deck building is inherently different from those you make during draft. Actual game play decisions can also vary, but for this article, I will focus solely on working with a sealed pool.

Choosing your colors

For Born of the Gods and most other sealed environments, decks will typically be two colors with a potential third or fourth splash. There will certainly be exceptions, but on average, the mana-fixing in BNG and THS won’t support more than two base colors, our job as deckbuilders becomes easier.

There are three things to consider when deciding which colors you should play: depth, power-level, and synergy. Depth is simply determined by the number of playables you have, and an easy way to eliminate certain color combinations. Even if you have the most powerful UG cards, you can’t play a deck with only 15 playables. Once you have determined the colors with the most playables, you should look at the relative power levels of each color. That’s exactly what we’re going to do in this article!

But first an aside about synergy. Synergy is a more difficult criteria to measure since you have to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a deck as a whole, rather than the power of any one individual card. Part of gauging synergy is knowing how to reevaluate the power-level of individual cards when necessary and understanding how each card choice plays its role in the overall goal of the deck. Sealed decks will generally be sorted into three main categories: aggressive, midrange, and control (you rarely get the pieces you want for a coherent combo deck, although your deck can have combo elements in them), and these strategies can be divided into even more subcategories. For now, let’s keep synergy in mind as we dive into BNG spoilers!

I sort my cards into the following categories:

  1. A strong reason to splash, if not play, this color
  2. A strong reason to play this color
  3. Should be played in any deck of this color
  4. Filler
  5. Playable, but you’re not happy about it
  6. Unplayable

with 1 > 2 > 3 > 4 > 5 > 6. We’ll talk about all of the cards in categories one and two when deciding which colors to play based on power level.

White

Akroan Skyguard: A strong reason to play white

Wingsteed Rider was the best white common in Theros. I would argue that Akroan Skyguard is even better than Wingsteed Rider because it comes down a turn earlier. Since both creatures are getting bigger, and both creatures are vulnerable to most of the same removal spells, the extra power and toughness on Wingsteed Rider isn’t as relevant as it would usually be.

Brimaz, King of Oreskos: A strong reason to play white

Obvious is obvious.

Eidolon of Countless Battles: A strong reason to play white

At the very least, this gives your creature +2/+2, and when you’re in white, you usually have a lot of small creatures. Keep in mind, though that a bestow creature is either an aura or a creature, not both, so bestow creatures will only contribute +1/+1 to this effect.

Excoriate: A good splash

The removal in THS wasn’t the greatest, and the removal in BNG seems comparable. Remember that in sealed, there are twice as many bombs opened as there are in draft. Games are slower, so your opponents will have more time to play their bombs; removal becomes much more important. Even though Divine Verdict isn’t the greatest in draft, it’s a great card in sealed. Exoriate is similar in that regard.

Hero of Iroas: A strong reason to play white

We know how powerful this heroic effect is on cheap creatures after playing Theros, and Hero of Iroas is no exception. His first ability does make bestow creatures cheaper if you cast them as an aura, but he does not make them cheaper if you cast them as a creature.

Ornitharch: A strong reason to play white

I personally don’t think tribute is that great of a mechanic, since you’re always going to get the worse option in the given situation, but a 5 power worth of fliers can usually swing a game in your favor.

Silent Sentinel: A strong reason to play white

This is expensive, but it can easily win the game by itself (assuming you have enchantments in your graveyard at that point). Connecting once with this creature is often enough to end the game. Since this is one of the promos, when building your deck, make sure you have removal for it or can kill your opponent before they can cast it. If your opponent is playing white and seems to be waiting to hit their seventh land drop, save your removal, if possible.

Revoke Existence: A good splash

If you don’t have this effect in your main colors, it may be wise to splash for it, especially if you don’t have much removal either. This will deal with a large number of creatures in the format, not to mention Gods. One thing I’ll commonly do is side into a third color for a naturalize effect if I see that my opponent has a lot of targets for it.

Blue

Aerie Worshippers: A good splash

A 2/4 body might not look very impressive, but this can take over the game very quickly. The fourth toughness is enough to attack into most creatures in the early game, and the abundance of pump spells makes double blocking dangerous. There’s also plenty of bestow creatures to help the Worshippers to get through. Worshippers also implicitly blocks bigger creatures by discouraging your opponent from attacking into you.

Arbiter of the Ideal: A strong reason to play blue

The blue promo is almost as powerful as the white. While you can find ways to tap your creature without attacking, most of the time, Arbiter won’t net you card advantage until two turns after you play it, giving your opponent plenty of time to find an answer.

Divination: A strong reason to play blue

Okay, maybe not, but for me it will be. Remember how powerful divination was in M14? Those were the days.

Floodtide Serpent: A strong reason to play blue

A 4/4 body for 5 is hard to come by in blue, and I wouldn’t look at the effect as a downside. Usually when you’re playing blue, you don’t attack until the later games when your in full control of the game, and returning an enchantment to your hand isn’t the worst. Other times, you can reset your Fate Foretolds, draw more cards, and trigger more heroic to to get even further ahead.

Siren of the Fanged Coast: A strong reason to play blue

Mind control is great, and a 5 mana 4/4 flyer is also great, but unfortunately both are situational. When you want a mind control effect, a 4/4 flyer might not do too much, and when you want a 4/4 flyer, a mind control effect might be the best. Still, there will be situations where Siren of the Fanged Coast will win you the game.

Tromokratis: A strong reason to play blue

You won’t want too many big creatures, but sealed environment gives you enough time to play the few that you choose to put in your deck. This card escapes a lot of the common removal in the format, and will clock your opponent very quickly.

Vortex Elemental: A good splash

It might be a little ambitious to splash this, since ideally you’ll want two blue sources when you play this, but it’s a great way to deal with big green creatures, a traditional problem for the blue mage.

Whelming Wave: A strong reason to play blue

This is one of the situational cards that we talked about earlier. It’s great if you have a lot of bestow creatures (or Krakens, Leviathans, Octopuses, and Serpents) but even if you don’t, Whelming Wave resets your opponents +1/+1 counters and bestow creatures. Two 2/2s from your opponent is a lot less threatening than a 2/2 that has +2/+2.

Black

Asphyxiate: A strong reason to play black

It’s interesting to note that the white mage would rather destroy untapped creatures (since they want to clear blockers) and the black mage would rather destroy tapped creatures (since they’ll be on the defending side most of the time). The two effects are reversed, however, but that doesn’t mean this removal isn’t premium.

Bile Blight: A strong reason to play black

While Pharika’s Cure could not trade up with a lot of different creatures, Bile Blight does, bringing Bile Blight to an entirely new level of removal.

Black Oak of Odunos: Probably a strong reason to play black

I’m not actually sure about the power level of this card, since it really depends on the effect of the Inspired Ability on the format. Tapping effects like this could be very valuable, especially when it’s attached to a playable creature. If you don’t have many inspired effects in you deck, this card is simply filler.

Champion of Stray Souls: A strong reason to play black

This card might be slow, but it doesn’t go away. There are so many ways to abuse this ability in black, and this card easily ends the game by itself.

Forlorn Pseudamma: A good splash

Similarly to the blue creature, Forlorn can safely attack against most decks. This card isn’t as powerful though, since a 2/1 body can’t actually block and it doesn’t create fliers, but in a stalemate this will take over the game.

Gild: A good splash

Premium removal.

Herald of Torment: A strong reason to play black

Nimbus Naiad was one of the best blue commons, and probably the best common bestow creature in THS. A 3/3 flyer for 3 or +3/+3 flying for 5 is no joke.

Weight of the Underworld: A good splash

Not the best removal, but permanent -3/-2 will deal with most problematic creatures.

Red

Bolt of Keranos: A strong reason to play red

Like Bile Blight, 3 damage is enough to kill most creatures in limited.

Fated Conflagration: A strong reason to play red

By now, you should know how important having removal in your sealed deck is.

Felhide Spiritbinder: A strong reason to play red

A 4 mana 3/4 is already aggressively costed. I wouldn’t splash for it unless you’re planning on being aggressive (and somehow are not red). Usually you’re paying two mana every turn for three extra damage, which goes a long way in the red deck. There’s always the potential to do fancy tricks by untapping the Spiritbinder on your opponent’s turn and surprising him with not one, but two blockers.

Flame-Wreathed Phoenix: A strong reason to play red

Both halfs of this card are extremely good. When you’re on the offense, your opponent will probably give you a 3/3 flyer for 4, and when you’re on the defense, your opponent will probably give you a 5/5 flyer for 4, both of which are fine. Sure your opponent can give you the 5/5 and kill it, but his removal spell will eventually hit something.

Forgestoker Dragon: A strong reason to play red

At worst, this is a 5/4 flyer that can’t be blocked. At best, this clears your opponents field.

Green

Courser of Kruphix: A strong reason to play green

This card is exactly what I want from a green creature. It’s a cheap creature with decent stats, gives you card advantage if left untouched long enough, and even gains you life to lengthen the game. It does help your opponent too, since they’ll know every card you draw, so keep that in mind when building your deck. Green typically have a lot of creatures anyways, and not as many tricks that gain power from the surprise element.

Fated Intervention: A strong reason to play green

Two 3/3s for 5 is already good value, and the opportunity to play it at instant speed and catch your opponent off guard seems awesome. I don’t know about you, but I love 4 for 1s.

Hero of Leina Tower: A strong reason to play green

This card will get out of hand very quickly if you have the right deck for it. I woudn’t splash it, though since then you would need both your green source and heroic triggering spells in order to make it work, all for a big creature that can get removed. Decks that splash a third color are typically slower anyways, and wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the speed of growth that Hero of Leina Tower provides.

Hunter’s Prowess: A good splash

This card ends board stalls, although it’s hard to evaluate just how devastating this effect is. I would say most of the time this will draw you two cards and your opponent will sacrifice a creature which is already great for 5 mana, but there is the potential to do much more damage than that.

Nessian Wilds Ravager: A strong reason to play green

Six mana for a 12/12 is unheard of before, and that’s probably the bad half of this card. Otherwise it’s a 6 mana removal spell attached to a 6/6.

Peregrination: A strong reason to play green

Three color decks in sealed typically involve green, since that’s where a lot of the good mana fixing is at. This card fixes for two colors, is card advantage, and ramps you. I would be very happy to open this.

Setessan Oathsworn: A strong reason to play green

Three mana is probably the borderline for a good heroic creature without evasion, since I would say Staunch-Hearted Warrior was too slow. Setessan Oathsworn won’t go in every green deck, but having one is definitely a good reason to play an aggressive GW heroic deck.

Setessan Starbreaker: A good splash

At first, I thought this destroyed an enchantment when it entered the battlefield, in which case I thought it was insane for a common. But then I realized that it’s just Auras, which is still fine. The 2/1 body will easily trade with most creatures. In fact, a common play will probably be to destroy the aura bestowed upon your opponent’s 2/2 and then trade with it. Card advantage.

Unravel the Aether: A good splash

See Revoke Existence. 

Wrapup

Even though you choose a color for prerelease, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to play it. Sometimes, your five other packs will move you toward another color combination, and I have seen many successful prerelease decks from players that didn’t play the color or guild that the they chose. I hope this information will be useful to you this weekend, and as always, enjoy the prerelease because they’re about having fun!

Lenny

About EDD

EDD is a 31 year old Magic fan and part time blogger at The End Games.
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