Going for the Gold: Preparing for GP Montreal
Welcome back to Going for the Gold!
We have just returned to one of my favourite planes of all time, Ravnica... for the third time.
Ravnica was the first set that I played in competitively, and was even the format of my first Grand Prix (Toronto) back in 2006. Guilds of Ravnica brings back so many iconic limited cards from the original Ravnica with a splatter of new ones as well.
GP Montreal and Mexico City are this weekend and I am making a return to the competitive scene for the occasion. As avid readers of this column, and patrons of Wizard's Tower, you are most likely in the Ottawa region and will be in attendance as well. If that is the case, I encourage you to come up and say "Hi" if you have a chance.
Anyways, the format is Sealed for nine rounds, followed by six rounds of Draft. In order to succeed, you'll need a solid understanding of the limited format. You're in luck because you have two things going for you today:
- You won't be making the same mistakes that most players make at the start of a format where they play much worse cards.
- You have me here to guide you on what to do with your sealed pool.
First, at the beginning of a limited format (first 2-3 weeks), there is relatively no information published on what cards are great or not. Everyone knows that a three mana 0/1 with no abilities is unplayable, but as the card gets better stats people just start playing cards because they don't know any better. If you consider nine rounds of Sealed where your opponent is playing four to eight unplayable cards, you'll have a 10-20% advantage each round by playing only your best cards.
Second, and the reason you are here is that I am your guide. I want to make sure that you are getting all of the mileage out of your sealed pool. So let's begin with the rubric for this Sealed format:
- Mana Fixing
- Tricks /Enhancements (just kidding)
This will look surprisingly similar to most formats and this is for one reason, because it is! Unlike most formats however, you have a plethora of gold cards at your disposal. There is also at least one guildgate per pack that will help with your splash cards.
Some Sealed formats have allowed players to choose between aggressive and controlling midrange strategies. The Guilds of Ravnica sealed format however is skewed heavily towards controlling midrange. This means that you want to avoid playing any of the aggressive cards. Of course draft is a different story and we will tackle that in a later article.
Guilds of Ravnica is full of bombs- cards that drastically change the texture of the game when they are drawn. Here are the best bombs in the format. Any Sealed deck that has multiple of these has a decent shot at having a great record during the Swiss.
Removal spells are at the core of most Sealed formats. If you don't have removal, you don't get to play a long game because you end up losing to your opponent's evasive fliers and bombs. Ixalan was a format full of aggressive creatures because the removal was so bad. The removal in this format is plentiful, making the games much deeper and more midrange-y (if that's a word). The only removal spells below that I don't tend to play maindeck are highly restrictive and not good against the average Sealed deck, such as Righteous Blow
Each of the five guilds in this set have three different types of mana fixing. The first is their associated guildgates. These are a less broken Karoo (bounce) land from the original Ravnica that produce both colours but come into play tapped. Each pack will contain at least one of these cards.
The second is the cycle of Shocklands that are just like guildgates, but they have the ability to come into play untapped for the cost of two life. This flexibility has made them playable in the past in Standard and Modern. These are rare so they will rarely come up in Limited.
Finally, we have an updated version of the original Ravnica signets. These are called lockets and provide mana fixing at a cost of three mana. On the bright side, you can cash them in for two cards, provided that your mana can support the four hybrid mana cost to sacrifice.
The remaining mana fixing consists of a couple spells and lands.
As you can see, the mana is plentiful, so make sure you use every ounce of power that your pool can muster.
Tricks / Creature Enhancements
Tricks are pretty horrible in Guilds of Ravnica Sealed, because you do not want to be trying to curve your opponent out. Instead, you want to play a slower deck with better creatures and removal. For this reason, I will be avoiding playing most of these.
While novice players tend to misevaluate new cards, experienced players can do something even more dangerous.
I'm referring to making assumptions about how a card works based on our previous experiences. This is something that I am even guilty of. The first few times I cast Justice Strike, I incorrectly assumed it was a sorcery. Someone who is new to the game would not make that mistake because they do not have the background to influence it. However, I have played a lot of this card in the past.
So once you look at it that way, you realize that you made a connection based on previous cards that you have played with. One way to combat this mistake is to read every card just to make sure you know what its nuances are. Also playing a lot of the format and experiencing the card will help you eliminate your mistakes in a lower stakes environment.
It doesn't matter if it looks like a card that you have cast 100 times. You never know when you will learn something that will save you a game or two down the line. I only realized Justice Strike was an instant when my friend (Andrew Liorti) who I was practicing for GP Montreal with cast it as an instant to my surprise.
We will apply the following rules to all of our pools
- Try not to start any of these cards in your Sealed's maindeck. This is where you will gain a huge advantage over the field since they will be playing trash. (But remember, some of these cards will be amazing in the draft portion)
2. Avoid playing green as a base colour at all costs since the quality of the green cards are mediocre. Sometimes this is not possible due to the nature of the bomb density of uncommons and rares in your pool.
3. Try to splash all the playable gold cards in your pool if you have one of the colours as your base colour. Here they are:
4. Try to splash these non-gold cards (of course some cards are deck dependent or if you are short on removal):
5. Don't splash cards that require at least two mana of the splash colour without intensive fixing (ex. Citywide Bust)
6. Your curve is not that important in this Sealed format, so you want to start a lot of three drops, four drops, and higher in addition to a few two and lower drop cards. Depending on the deck you face, you can always sideboard in a lower curve.
7. Sleeve your sideboard cards - these are not just limited to cards such as flier/enchantment/artifact removal, but if you face an aggressive deck you will want to board in creatures lower on the curve so that you don't get run over in the early game.
8. Discard spells are worse at the start of the format when players have a lot of unplayables in their deck. You can always sideboard it in as an answer, but don't start them yet.
Good luck this weekend and I'll see you next week for how to draft this limited format!