Hi everyone! This past weekend I travelled to a place colder than England! A 9am flight took me to Warsaw to battle in the Limited GP to continue my run of premier events. I am here to talk through my preparations briefly and break down the Sealed portion and the 2 Drafts that followed.
To prepare for this event I had a little time to practice in some sealed leagues on Magic Online after landing home from Atlanta, alongside sealed side events at the Grand Prix I had attended since the set’s release. There was a common theme across all my sealed pools – Izzet cards (blue cards in particular) seemed to perform the best, with Jeskai and Grixis becoming my preferred colour choices for the sealed format. The set’s powerful white cards, while individually strong, are relatively small in number, and I commonly found that my options for building white decks were lacking. Be it strong removal, good creatures, or a reasonably powerful late game, the Boros and Selesyna decks were often weaker than their blue-guilded counterparts. Boros and Selesnya can produce very powerful sealed decks in the format but these decks will need to contain many powerful rares such as Experimental Frenzy, Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice, or Swiftblade Vindicator in Boros, and Emmara, Soul of the Accord, Trostani Discordant, or March of the Multitudes in Selesya. Our options for strong mono-white creatures are also fairly limited to Venerated Loxodon or Light of the Legion.
Thus, when analysing my sealed pools, my approach was to first look at my options for building a blue-based deck, with a preference towards Grixis which lets us play almost all of our premium removal spells. One option to always consider, however, is the chance that our pool supports a 5 Colour Guildgate deck. The 5 colour guildgate deck focuses on simply playing all of your best cards alongside cards that synergise with the gates themselves, such as Guild Summit, Gatekeeper Gargoyle, or Glave of the Guildpact.
I woke up at 8am and headed to the venue early for some last minute sealed discussions with some of the other English players in attendance. 10 minutes before I sat down to build my deck I was pointed towards a great Guilds of Ravnica Sealed Primer by Raoul Zimmerman (Found here: https://events.axionnow.co.uk/Articles/View/97) which provided me with a great refresher on archtypes. I felt ready to build.
This was my pool:
With my preference for running 3+ colours and the fact that my pool contained a copy of Chamber Sentry I first wanted to look at the possibility of running a 5 colour gate deck. The gates I had available to me wouldn’t allow me to play many (if any) white cards, and so I looked towards building a deck with a Sultai base spalshing red for some removal and white to allow me to recur Chamber Sentry in long grindy games.
I eventually ended up with the following deck:
I was happy with the deck overall, although I think I misbuilt it slightly as Capture Sphere really should’ve been Beacon Bolt. The cards that I sideboarded in throughout the day are on the right and are an important reason as to why I made day 2.
Sideboarding is currently the most important it has been in sealed for a long time as you need to adapt to the threats that your opponents present to you. For example, one of my opponents beat me in game 1 with a Nightveil Predator, and so in game 2 I sideboarded in my Bartizan Bats, a card which typically underperforms but is a great blocker for the predator, a feature which won me game 2. Cards like Crushing Canopy and Wall of Mist are excellent in specific matchups but very poor in others, and so being able to adapt is important and you should more than likely be sideboarding in at least 1 card in every round.
Throughout day 1 I mostly played against other 3+ colour control decks, losing to a Jeskai deck supporting Niv-Mizzet, Parun and Dawn of Hope. I picked up a draw in a long, drawn-out game against Sultai where all 3 games ended with only a few cards remaining in either library, and lost the last round to a good aggressive Izzet deck with Legion Warboss and Niv-Mizzet, meaning that I ended day 1 of the Grand Prix at 6-2-1.
Because of the fact that I practiced so much draft in preparation for the Pro Tour, I felt pretty confident going into the draft so I liked my chances of salvaging the 2 losses and 1 draw from rounds 7-9 of day 1. Boros is my preferred archetype to draft with Dimir coming in a close second. Boros is one of the easier guilds to draft as a lot of the cards are replaceable – by this I mean that a Tenth District Guard isn’t that much worse than a premium common 2 drop such as Fresh-Faced Recruit, whereas the difference between a Darkblade Agent and a Wall of Mist in a Dimir deck is huge.
My ideal Boros draft decks would look something like this:
0-1 Swathcutter Giant.
6-7 Combat tricks/Removal spells.
0-1 Cosmotronic Wave.
1 Boros Guildgate.
16 Basic Lands.
I will start by saying that most Boros rares will slot right into your deck and be very powerful, with some exceptions (I’m looking at you Chance for Glory). If you can start the draft with a powerful Boros-coloured rare such as Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice, Experimental Frenzy, or Light of the Legion then that will set you up in creating a strong deck.
However if the pack does not have a standout rare then I am very happy to take the next best Boros card and look to see if the draft will allow me to build Boros. Across the 4 drafts I have played in Guild of Ravnica premier events (Pro Tour Atlanta and Grand Prix Warsaw), I have drafted a Boros deck that I was happy with by the end of the draft.
My 2 drafts from Warsaw are below alongside the records I posted with them.
Draft 1: 3-0
Draft 2: 2-1
As you can see, the decks both roughly follow the outline above in that they both have some good 1 and 2 mana creatures thanks to my prioritization of them during the draft. They both have 6-7 non-creature spells and only a handful of expensive spells.
One card in particular that I want to talk about is Swathcutter Giant. I feel that this card is very underrated and I am almost always happy to have one in my boros decks as it affects the board in a way that no other card in the set can. The giant allows you to play an aggressive and a defensive game while also removing your opponent’s 1 toughness creatures.
The first deck played out well with me presenting a very good curve alongside an Arclight Phoenix (Snare Thopter in this deck) and the games broke down like this:
Round 1 of the draft (Round 10) I played against Jean-Emmanuel Depraz piloting a powerful Izzet deck supporting 2 Crackling Drake and Niv-Mizzet, Parun. The power of 2 Healer’s Hawks took down game 1 while the raw power of the 5/5 Niv-Mizzet picked apart my board in game 2. Game 3 was a close affair with my curve of Healer’s Hawk into Fresh-Faced Recruit being met by Wall of Mist and a Crackling Drake, however I managed to find both of my Smelt Fist Minotaurs along with a Direct Current to make all of Jean’s creatures unable to block and take the match.
Round 2 of the draft (Round 11) was against a Sultai opponent who’s deck was lacking in early interaction which put the matchup in my favour, after winning the die roll and starting aggressively in game 1 and a mulligan from my opponent in game 2 I sailed to a 2-0 victory.
Round 3 of the draft (Round 12) I faced a Jeskai tempo deck and after a timely Direct Current dealt the final points of damage to my opponent in game 1, game 2 ended rather quickly and comically. My opponent chose to go first and lead with an Izzet Guildgate. I replied with a Healer’s Hawk. They played a Fresh-Faced Recruit and I responded with a Skyline Scout and an attack. The recruit got in for 2 damage and was joined by a Goblin Electromancer. My turn 3 was a Boros Guildgate and giving my Skyline Scout flying to evade my opponent’s blockers. A turn 4 Erratic Cyclops was scary, but I answered with an Arclight Phoenix. My opponent untapped for their turn 5 and confirmed the life totals, “I have me at 19 and you at 12” I said. My opponent cast a Sonic assault to tap my blocker and put me to 17 and then cast a Gravitic Punch targeting the Cyclops and said “7 you”. I glanced at the board to see a 7-powered Cyclops alongside 2 different 2 power creatures and confirmed that my life was now at 10. In a comical series of events I went from feeling like I was going to win the game in 3 turns with my flyers to being dead on turn 5. Game 3 was, however, uneventful as my opponent mullganned to 5 and couldn’t keep up with an aggressive curve.
I had 3-0’d the first draft and put myself at a record of 9-2-1 going into the second draft, and I knew that another 3-0 would put me into the top 16 and a 2-1 would potentially put me into the top 64 so I did what I knew best – drafted Boros again.
The draft for this one was slightly weird as my first three picks were Goblin Banneret > Legion Guildmage > Legion Guildmage, and I was then faced with a pack containing Price of Fame, Darkblade Agent, Artful Takedown, and Intrusive Packbeast as the 4 best cards in the pack. Obviously this was a signal that Dimir was open and that i should possibly move into that and abandon my first 3 picks. However I came to the conclusion that the Packbeast was the correct pick and to just pass every Dimir card that I saw in the hope that I would be rewarded by being passed good Boros cards in pack 2. I was not unhappy with how my deck ended up after the draft but I knew that there was a insane Dimir deck at the table and more than likely in the hands of Eliott Boussaud.
Round 1 of the second draft (Round 13), I see on the pairings that I am against Eliott and start to recall all of the Dimir cards that I passed him during the draft. I didn’t have to think too much as I was quickly reminded of all those cards as I was dispatched very quickly in a roughly 2-0 fashion. Eliott told me after the match that he first picked a Doom Whisperer and later opened an Etrata, the Silencer.
Round 2 of the draft (Round 14) was against a Sultai deck that curved Wall of Bones into Grappling Sundew into Hitchclaw Recluse – That’s a lot of Toughness! This was the match where the guildmages showed their power by allowing me to defeat my opponent despite all of the walls they deployed. I was 10-3-1 at this point so I had already guaranteed one pro point and I played the next round with the potential of earning an additional point and a cash prize.
Round 3 of the draft (Round 15). The sheer amount of Dimir cards in the packs during the draft really showed in this match as I was against the person who sat 2 seats to the left of my first round opponent, Eliott, yet my opponent had still managed to grab a bunch of strong Dimir cards. After getting run over in game 1 by a flurry of removal spells, I was able to stabilize at 1 life while putting my opponent to 3 allowing me to steal the game with the activation of a legion guildmage. Game 3 I curved Legion Guildmage into a sideboarded Maniacal Rage to create some early pressure and put my opponent to 12. The game stalled and the board developed to a point where I had exactly 12 power in attackers thanks Inspiring Unicorn and my opponent with only a Darkblade Agent and a Dimir Informant as blockers. They decided to play a Watcher in the Mist and attack with the agent to draw a card. My next drawstep? Intrusive Packbeast. I tapped the 2 remaining blockers and swung for lethal.
5-1 overall in draft
11-3-1 in the tournament
2 Pro Points
And a great trip.
Guilds of Ravnica limited was great fun and I had a good time in Warsaw. Shoutouts to Nick Li for going 13-2 and qualifying for his first Pro Tour and to Eduardo Sajgalik for winning the whole thing!
This weekend is the RPTQ where I will be battling to try and earn a spot at Pro Tour Ravnica Allegiance in Cleveland followed by Grand Prix Liverpool where I will be teaming with Team Axion’s David Calf and with the original founding member of Team Axion, Tom Law.
You can find me at almost every European GP and also on Twitter at @MattBrown_MTG.
Thanks for reading and good luck at your next event!