Ravnica Block Sealed & Modern Masters

Hey there! This week, I will be discussing Return to Ravnica block Sealed and what I think about the Modern Masters set. Since I returned from Pro Tour: Dragon’s Maze in San Diego, I’ve had time to do a fair number of full-block Sealed events on Magic Online, and I think I’ve learned a fair number of things. So, for those of you attending Grand Prix: Gothenburg or any other DGR Sealed events taking place this summer, this article will be for you.

It’s All about the Mana

Golgari Guildgate
It took me a while before I figured out that the most important thing to look at is the mana-fixing available to you. I had previously done only prerelease Sealed decks, wherein your card pool is very different. The two main differences are that you will generally have more Guildgates and that the cards in your pool will be skewed toward a certain shard—that is, a three-colored combination comprised of two separate guilds. In the normal Sealed format, you have two boosters from each of the three sets to work with, so your cards will be quite evenly divided between the ten guilds. Here is the general procedure I like to do at the beginning of any Sealed deck-construction process.

  • Pick out the rares. Are any of them bombs, and do you have several rares in one color or one in guild?
  • Pick out all colorless mana-fixing: Cluestones, Keyrunes, Guildgates, and shock lands. Are there any particular three-colored combinations that offer a lot of fixing?
  • Sort through all the mono-colored cards and remove the unplayables. Divide the rest into “playable” and “strong” piles. In this case, “strong” refers to cards that actively make me want to play said color.
  • Sort the guilds into ten piles. Do your good multicolored cards correspond with your fixing?

Sorting like this will give you a good overview of where the power of your pool lies and of which color combinations are supported by adequate mana-fixing.

If everything goes according to plan, you will have bombs, fixing, and playables in the same two or three colors, but in reality, this is not always the case. Often, you will end up having the best cards in a certain color combination, but then that combination might have zero fixing available. I have found that making the best out of your Sealed pool often requires careful balancing of cards and mana. This might mean taking the middle road, choosing a color combination that has good cards and some fixing over better cards and worse mana-fixing—and then again over worse cards with great fixing. In a recent Sealed event I played, my best cards were in the W/U/B color combination while my best fixing was in the R/W/U color combination. In the end, I played a R/U/G deck because I felt it had the highest power level relative to fixing.

Pack Rat
However, having said this, sometimes it is time to gamble. If you have insanely powerful cards in a color combination that has no fixing, you just might have to run that six/six/six/ mana base—even though it is far, far from good. I wouldn’t recommend doing this if you have any decent alternatives available to you since running a deck with that kind of mana base is just begging for trouble. But hey, sometimes you have to gamble!

I think this is one of the best Sealed formats in a very long time, especially since the deck-building process is extremely challenging. The games are also interesting, and I would say the format is about medium speed, on a scale from Zendikar fast to original Ravnica-block slow. There is a lot of room for play since the games take some number of turns, and often, games can be very tight. I also think there are not that many insane bombs compared to some other formats, and most bombs die to even common removal. Of course, Pack Rat is still in the format, so we do still have to endure one of the biggest Limited bombs ever.

Besides the points on optimizing your cards relative to your mana, this format is very much like any other Sealed format in that you should prioritize bombs, removal, and evasion. I do think that aggressive decks are good in this format, and if your pool can support it, you can easily overwhelm slower decks if they stumble in the early game.

Modern Masters

Noble Hierarch
First off, I’d like to say I was as surprised as everyone else that Thoughtseize and Noble Hierarch were not in the set. I was really expecting these two to make an appearance since they seem like the typical slightly older rares that are very scarce and that are staples in Modern as well as in other formats. Other than that, the set contains most of the Modern staples I was expecting.

I’m not all that excited about the set even though I’d love to draft it a few times as a kind of Cube experience. I mostly become excited about new sets because they introduce new cards to the current formats and help keep things fresh, but Modern Masters doesn’t exactly bring anything new to Constructed. Other people have talked about printing cards such as Shardless Agent and the like in future Modern Masters editions as a way of introducing them to Modern but not have them be legal in Standard. I think this would be perfectly fine, as WotC is doing the same thing in Legacy when they release special sets. I don’t think all that many people would think it’s a bad thing if Baleful Strix would be legal in Modern and released as an uncommon in Modern Masters, Part 2—if such a set is ever being released that is.

As far as Limited goes, the set looks very interesting. I like that tribal synergies are present, as it gives more depth to each color—two players might be drafting the same color but might not want exactly the same cards. The Vivid lands look to be high picks, as there are a lot of very good cards you might want to splash but not very many fixers available overall. There seem to be some gimmick decks present, such as Storm, but the support for a good Dampen Thought deck doesn’t really seem to be there. It would have been sweet if one of the strangest Draft archetypes in history would have been good again, but I don’t really see that happening. Maybe it’s possible if you draft a ton of Dampen Thoughts and some Mind Funerals to go along with it.

There seem to be a lot of people who enjoy playing with Common/Uncommon Cubes, and for those people, Modern Masters offers a lot of shifted rarities that can now be added to that Cube of yours. This is interesting design space and not something I had thought about a lot before, but changing rarities can really impact things in player-created formats.

Signing Off

I hope you found some new ideas on how to approach the full Return to Ravnica–block Sealed format. The best of luck to all of you playing in Gothenburg this weekend!

Next week, I will most likely cover the Grand Prix and how I did there, perhaps with some thoughts on the current Standard format as well. As always, if you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or ideas, please let me know either via the comments section below or then directly via Twitter.

Thanks for reading,

@thebloom_ on Twitter
Maxx on Magic Online
You can find my music on: http://soundcloud.com/bloomlive

CoolStuffInc will be at Grand Prix Providence! If you're there, stop by and say hi!