Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Playing Standard Pauper Sealed

We're a week into the inaugural Standard Pauper Sealed League. We ended up with 44 players total, which is a pretty respectable number for an almost completely unexplored format. Perhaps the fact that it is so unexplored is part of its appeal to many players. But, as I was painfully reminded this week, Sealed is a very different beast from Constructed, and even from Draft. So today I wanted to pass on few pointers about Sealed in general that I believe are particular relevant in Standard Pauper Sealed.

1. Aggro is dead. Most of the time, you will not be able to put together a viable Aggro deck in Sealed. You simply won't have enough fast, aggressive creatures, and your opponent is much more likely to be playing more defensive creatures. While the tempo of Sealed is pretty slow, it is very difficult to take advantage of it.

2. Board stalls are likely. The average Power and Toughness of Common creatures is probably around 2/3. And with less removal at player's disposal, you're likely to find yourselves in a situation where neither player can attack profitably, at least without some help from multiple combat tricks. As such, cards that allow you to push through board stalls are more valuable than they might otherwise be.

3. Evasion and removal are quite strong. All other things being equal, you will want to play as much of your removal and your creatures with evasion as possible. Even expensive and/or sub-optimal choices are going to be surprisingly good in this format. Games will often be decided by who can answer their opponent's evasive creatures.

4. Late game cards and mana-sinks are also quite good. Since the speed of the format is so slow, expensive, late game cards will typically get to come out to good effect. Similarly, in these situations, you will often have quite a bit of mana at your disposal and very little to do with it. Cards that allow you to squeeze extra value by means of mana hungry activated abilities are not only playable, but can have a surprising effect on the game.

Like I said, I became reacquainted with these facts the hard way. I ran an aggressive Boros build with low cost creatures and some solid removal. But my opponent's deck, while slower, was defensive enough to keep me from gaining enough advantage in the early game, and eventually I lost both games to his superior but slower force. In fact, both games I lost to Shadowcloak Vampire, a card I have never seen play in Standard Pauper but one that proved to be quite strong.

Got interesting stories about how your experience has been with this format? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

  1. I'll post videos for the deckbuilding and matches for this sealed event on my blog - hopefully they are educational.

    Even though the cards are all common the games play out exactly like sealed rather than standard pauper, mostly like what you stated in this article.

    Aggro decks do and will exist, though. With so many cards in the pool, and adding a booster every week - be prepared for good aggro decks. That just means decks will have a low curve and removal to back it up. Despite boarding into what I thought was a good control deck week 2, I got rolled by a deck sporting multiple (4 or 5) 2/1s for 2. Wasn't pretty :/