The Hour of Devastation is upon us! Amonkhet Limited has changed everything and I’m looking forward to seeing how Sealed/Draft play going forward. I played in four (!) separate prereleases last weekend and have really enjoyed my time with the set so far. I’d like to share my current approach to HOU Sealed with an example pool/build.
When breaking down a pool, I like to start simple. My first step is always to sort by rarity and see if my pool has any broken, standout cards. Let’s break down each of our rares:
Endless Sands: An interesting utility land that offers the Desert subtype and some late game power if you can support a colorless mana source. Once you flood out, this can freely protect your creatures from removal spells/poor combats, or potentially stowaway your ETB creatures for one big turn later. Not a bomb but also not a junk rare.
Mirage Mirror: Honestly, I’m not sure how good this card is yet. It’s quite slow (3 mana do nothing, followed by 2 mana each time you want it to do something) but it threatens to be the best card on board at any time. My view on this card for now is that it goes in non-aggro decks as a way to piggyback bombs, but is too weak if you’re geared towards beatdowns. Note that Mirage Mirror will never trigger any ETB abilities, as it never enters the table as anything.
Vizier of Many Faces: Classic Blue bomb from Amonkhet. Vizier of Many Faces is an awesome double Clone variant, and is usually excellent whether you’re ahead or behind. This is a strong pull towards Blue.
Crested Sunmare: Bizarre, almost meme level mythic. A strong Limited card that ranges from good to virtually unbeatable, depending on the level of support (aka life gain) your deck has for it. Crested Sunmare is a strong pull towards White.
Apocalypse Demon: Awkward but powerful finisher that simultaneously asks you to provide spells/cycling/self mill (to fill up your yard and make it fat) and fodder (so it doesn’t stay tapped every turn). If you can meet both of these conditions this likely kills your opponent in 1-2 swings, which is exactly what I want from a 6 drop flier. This could either be a bomb or unimpressive, depending on the composition of our pool. More on this one later.
Cut // Ribbons: Another classic Amonkhet bomb, Cut // Ribbons is Flame Slash now and Fireball later. This is not only a bomb but highly splashable in base black decks. The first half requires only 1R and discarding Cut to other cards gives you access to Ribbons anyways.
Now that we have an idea of my pool’s best cards, let’s see what kind of options our pool gives us for our mana. One thing I’ve noticed about HOU Sealed so far is that there is more fixing at Common now, both in Green and otherwise. How many colors can we play here?
Naga Vitalist/Beneath the Sands/Oasis Ritualist: Our pool offers us a trio of green fixers/rampers, although Vitalist doesn’t really count as fixing here without Gift of Paradise/Painted Bluffs/etc. We’ll play green in this pool if it stands on its own merits, but we lack the needed fixing to play 4/5c nonsense.
Traveler’s Amulet/Manalith: These are both slightly underpowered fixers that let non-green decks splash powerful bombs/removal. Having two of these let’s us go up to three sources of a splash color with 1 basic, which is perfect for splashing 1-2 awesome cards.
Deserts: I mentioned Endless Sands already, but here’s a better picture of all our our Deserts and the cards we have that “care” about them. 2x Desert of the Glorified is a reasonable draw towards playing Black, offering mostly free flood insurance/consistency. Unquenchable Thirst becomes much better with Deserts as well (potentially a small draw towards UBx).
Next, I like to break down what each color offers as a base/support color.
White is extremely sparse in this pool, with a grand total of seven playables (sorry God Pharoah’s Faithful). We have a bomb rare in Crested Sunmare, two good removal spells, Fan Bearer, one trick, and two playable creatures. White is likely too narrow to be worth playing, unfortunately.
Blue is this pool’s best color. Blue has Vizier of Many Faces, two “mythic” uncommons (Ominous Sphinx and Angler Drake), and a good chunk of playable commons, several of which cycle for our Sphinx. I’m almost certainly building a base blue deck with this pool, although I’ll need to get my 2 drops elsewhere as Blue offers none.
Black is our deepest color and offers plenty of curve filler at 2/3/4, some good uncommons, and a nice removal spell in Lethal Sting. Apocalypse Demon also catches my eye as a potential bomb finisher.
Red’s standout cards are Open Fire, Struggle // Survive (mostly ignore Survive when evaluating this card, Struggle is just a great removal spell on its own) and Electrify, with decent curve filler @ 3-4 and not too much else. I’d put it slightly behind black, as Red offers no 2 drop creatures to complement our Blue cards.
Green gives us some great aggro cards (Synchronized Strike, Overcome), a bit of fixing/ramp discussed earlier, and not much else (4 of our green cards are unplayable in 2x Life Goes On/2x Nissa’s Defeat). I wouldn’t recommend playing green here.
Cut // Ribbons and Consign // Oblivion are awesome cards that, along with what we’ve learned already, point towards our pool being best built as UBr or URb. We also have the option to play a greedier 3c mana base, potentially playing something like 8U/6R/6B and all of our best cards. Let’s examine how I’d build each of these decks, and see which one looks best.
We are invariably going to be building a controlling base blue deck. Traveler’s Amulet and Manalith provide necessary fixing to splash or play 3c if needed. All of our blue cards are playable, even the ones not currently in the deck, but here’s where I’d start before adding black or red cards.
Our first build focuses on card advantage, big fliers, and cycling synergies. Aerial Guide was a notable cut from the deck as most of our strong creatures already fly and we’re crammed at 3. I’m not 100% sure Apocalypse Demon is good here, but we have enough spells/cyclers that I’d like to try it.
UR is interesting as B doesn’t actually offer too much as a splash color beyond Lethal Sting (Gravedigger is probably too weak to splash). As such I’ve opted to just play 17 lands/no splash here, with Endless Sands as land #17 for a bit of additional late game strength. This deck looks weaker than UBr to me, as our curve isn’t that aggressive (only 1 2 drop) and the late game is worse.
This is the highest power level/lowest consistency build. It’s very similar to our UBr deck, except that our mana is worse (6/7/3 instead of 7/8/1) and we’ve added two red removal spells to the deck. Open Fire is a notable exclusion, mostly because I wanted the 14th creature (Festering Mummy) to support our Demon/curve.
Grixis is my choice for the deck I would build/play with this pool. Our two fixers give us better consistency than 6/7/3 implies (8/9/5, if you’re optimistic) and we have excellent removal, decent curve/card advantage, and good top end fliers. I’d say this is about a 7/10 pool for now, and that I’d be reasonably excited to open/play with it.
Thanks for reading! Please let me know in the comments if this was helpful/you’d like to see more content like this. I plan to upload some HOU drafts later as well (likely as vids), so stay tuned for that as well.