I had a great time last Saturday at the StarCityGames.com Team Sealed Open right here in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia. I got to meet my editor Cedric Philips and had fun with my teammates Chris Casby and Daniel Sale of the Scrubland Podcast. Podcasters are essentially radio hosts, who are typically clever, sharp-witted, and funny—in other words, a lot of fun to be around. They both provided a lot of laughs and amusement throughout the day.
While I'm not a fan of Sealed Deck, Team Sealed is a bit better. With twelve packs of cards to work with and a little luck, you can craft a few good decks that have synergies and can do a halfway decent impression of a Draft deck.
As we cracked open the packs and sorted by color, we kept an eye out for key cards that might fuel certain M14 Sealed archetypes. One thing that jumped out was that we had two Young Pyromancers, a potent new uncommon that has potential in competitive Constructed formats. From what I understand, Young Pyromancer goes well in a U/R tempo-oriented deck. But as we looked at the blue spells, nearly all were controlling in nature rather than tempo cards, and red wasn't really deep enough to fuel the aggro side of things.
As we looked at green, though, three copies of Giant Growth jumped out at me, and I started looking at the green and red instants and sorceries. Flames of the Firebrand, Chandra's Outrage, Thunder Strike, and Act of Treason are great spells even without Young Pyromancer, and Bramblecrush, Seismic Stomp, Fog, and Windstorm looked interesting for the sideboard. What really sold it were three copies of Briarpack Alpha—combined with the instants, it would make blocking a nightmare for my opponent. Cedric can confirm that the deck was nuts! [Editor's Note: This is said confirmation heh.]
Casby played a U/B Control deck with some nice bombs—including Jace, Memory Adept—that could easily take over games if it could survive a few early clunky turns. Sale had some options. The first build he looked at was a very low-curve B/W deck that pretty much relied on playing a bunch of marginally-playable one-drops to be able to follow up with one of his three Dark Favors. It was all in, either beating down on the curve or folding to bigger creatures. Casby and I ended up talking him into building a more midrange B/W deck that had some reach.
We started 2-0, feeling pretty good about our decks and our chances, then lost the next two, then won, and then lost the next two before dropping from the tournament. My deck was insane, crushing just about everyone in my path; in all the rounds I only lost one match to a really bad mana-screw / mulligan combo. It happens. It felt really good to shuffle up and play each round when I knew that my deck very likely outclassed my opponent's. Unfortunately, my teammates' decks weren't as powerful or consistent. Sale lamented not going all in on aggro since his midrange plan seemed to struggle against most of his opponents. Casby's deck was only really weak against U/R Tempo, and he got matched up against that very archetype three or four times.
I do want to recount one particular game that was just insane. I had a creature-heavy draw without any tricks but figured I could just go aggro and draw into something interesting. My opponent was playing B/W, and he killed every creature I played over the first few turns. He then played Vampire Warlord, and next turn he enchanted it with Mark of the Vampire, making it a 6/4 lifelink beater that could sacrifice a creature to regenerate.
The next part of the game went something like this. I'd play a creature and have a combat trick in my hand or have two creatures that could double block, enough to kill the Warlord; if my opponent had a creature, he'd attack. Sometimes I'd block and force the sacrifice, leaving his Warlord alone and hoping to draw my Chandra's Outrage while he was vulnerable. Sometimes I'd take the hit. It became obvious he didn't have a plethora of creatures because sometimes he'd draw and pass the turn without attacking. Over the course of countless turns, a bunch of creatures filled both his and my graveyard; my opponent was at 50 life, and I was at twelve. I'm sure he wondered why I didn't scoop.
You probably can guess what I was waiting for. There was another out besides the Outrage . . .
Yes! Off the top deck I slammed down my Scavenging Ooze and used the rest of my green mana to recoup a bunch of life and make my Ooze bigger than the Vampire. On my next turn, I used all my green mana to make him even bigger. Eventually, I put eighteen +1/+1 counters on the 2/2 Ooze and climbed up to a comfortable 30 life, and once I drew blockers I sent the Ooze to take giant chucks out of my opponent's life total. After a couple turns, he was dead.
Okay, I lied—I gotta talk about one other sweet game, this time against a mono-green deck. I had the nuts draw of turn 2 Kalonian Tusker into turn 3 Advocate of the Beast. My opponent played his own Scavenging Ooze and then a Deadly Recluse, which laughed at my slowly growing Tusker. He tried to kill my Advocate with a Hunt the Weak, but I had a Giant Growth to save it, killing his Ooze. Luckily for him, he had another Scavenging Ooze. When my opponent drew another Deadly Recluse, I realized I needed to be very careful not to trade too many creatures and let his Ooze grow way out of hand, and when I drew Garruk's Horde (a Beast with trample!), I knew what my plan had to be.
Considering he was mono-green, I figured he likely wouldn't have much opportunity for removal, so I sat back and let my Advocate grow my Tusker into scary size, and once I had seven mana, I played the 7/7 Horde and start growing him. My plan was to draw and pass my turn, growing the Horde to a size where it would trample over any number of Recluses and just kill my opponent. Along the way I built up a formidable army off the top of my deck, including a Young Pyromancer making tokens I could chump block without feeding the Ooze, and eventually I was able to launch a deadly alpha strike.
It was sweet!
At any rate, I discovered the key to enjoying Team Sealed: a broken deck to have fun with. Otherwise, it's a pretty miserable format. Ha!
Okay, for a couple weeks I've teased some readers here, on Facebook, and Twitter about building a Commander deck around Shadowborn Apostle, but the wait is over—the deck has been crafted! Or rather, it's nearly crafted—I still need to acquire all the Shadowborn Apostles to make it happen. Of course, the first question to answer is what legend to use as commander. I briefly toyed around with the idea of Sol'Kanar, the Swamp King—he is a Demon, after all, so if he gets tucked by some vile shenanigans, you can use Apostles to go search him up.
But there was one card I just had to play in a deck with Shadowborn Apostles: Bloodbond March. So green, black, and . . . what? I thought about Kresh the Bloodbraided. My plan was to sacrifice Apostles all the time, and Kresh doesn't mind soaking up six +1/+1 counters each time, right? But I couldn't help but think I was letting Kresh down a bit. I mean, he gets those counters for the power of creatures that die, and I was going to have a deck full of one-power creatures! I then looked at Sek'Kuar, Deathkeeper—he likes non-token creatures dying en masse and trades up the 1/1s for 3/1s.
But then I decided I was being too cute. My game plan was to get a Bloodbound March in play with six of my numerous Apostles in play, sacrifice them, go get a Demon, and then as soon as I played another Apostle, I'd get all those dead Apostles back, ready to reload and go get my next Demon.
That's when I thought of Karador, Ghost Chieftain and knew I'd hit the perfect commander. Activating the Apostles would provide the entire discount to play Karador as cheap as he can get, and then I could cast one of the Apostles out of the graveyard and let the March trigger to bring them all back.
- 1 Angel of Glory's Rise
- 1 Dark Supplicant
- 1 Harvester of Souls
- 1 Reaper from the Abyss
- 1 Rune-Scarred Demon
- 1 Scion of Darkness
- 39 Shadowborn Apostle
- 1 Shadowborn Demon
- 1 Balthor the Defiled
- 1 Karador, Ghost Chieftain
- 1 Kuro, Pitlord
- 1 Shirei, Shizo's Caretaker
- 1 Teysa, Orzhov Scion
- 17 Swamp
- 1 Bayou
- 1 Cabal Coffers
- 1 Crypt of Agadeem
- 1 Fetid Heath
- 1 Godless Shrine
- 1 Golgari Rot Farm
- 1 Isolated Chapel
- 1 Orzhov Basilica
- 1 Overgrown Tomb
- 1 Scrubland
- 1 Starlit Sanctum
- 1 Svogthos, the Restless Tomb
- 1 Tainted Field
- 1 Tainted Wood
- 1 Twilight Mire
- 1 Vault of the Archangel
- 1 Vivid Marsh
- 1 Woodland Cemetery
- 1 Phyrexian Tower
- 1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
- 1 Volrath's Stronghold
Without Griselbrand to search out, picking a suite of sweet Demons was tough. The very last Demons to get cut were Minion of Leshrac and Xathrid Demon, and if it ends up that 39 Apostles is too many, I might try to work them back in. For now, though, I'm pretty happy with this Demon core. Shadowborn Demon; Reaper from the Abyss; and Kuro, Pitlord can put the smackdown on opposing creatures, and Rune-Scarred Demon can go get anything you want. While Bloodbond March is an early target, I think I'd probably go fetch Nim Deathmantle first; that way any time Rune-Scarred Demon dies, you can spend four mana to bring him back and go tutor up something else.
No Rest for the Wicked; Nim Deathmantle; Fecundity; Proclamation of Rebirth; Bloodbond March; Balthor the Defiled; Remembrance; Shirei, Shizo's Caretaker; Harvester of Souls; Angel of Glory's Rise; Immortal Servitude
I briefly entertained the thought of playing cards like Rotlung Reanimator and Xathrid Necromancer along with Teysa, Orzhov Scion to replace all the sacrificed 1/1s with a new army, and that seems like a valid path to take. However, I ultimately decided I wanted to keep the Apostle / Demon engine going over and over, which meant making sure I had a steady stream of Apostles. Sacrificing six at a pop made the attrition rate pretty steep, but luckily Magic has a fair bumper crop of cards that can get a lot of those creatures back, especially 1/1s. I used quite a few of them here in this deck. Remembrance was a particularly sweet find considering this is probably the only Commander deck such a card could ever be played in!
One thing that's kinda cool is that Shadowborn Apostles are all Clerics, which means if you draw a Dark Supplicant, you can go off much more quickly and fetch up Scion of Darkness and start terrorizing the table.
Well, that's it for this week. I'm curious if any of you have tinkered around with Shadowborn Apostles in Commander. Let me know in the comments below, and if you play in Richmond and have any extra Shadowborn Apostles floating around, send them my way!
New to Commander?
If you're just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:
- Commander Primer Part 1 (Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
- Commander Primer Part 2 (Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
- Commander Primer Part 3 (Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
- Commander Starter Kits 1 (kick start your allied two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 2 (kick start your enemy two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 3 (kick start your shard three-color decks for $25)
My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):
- Sliver Overlord (Featuring the new M14 Slivers!)
- Reaper King (Taking Advantage of the new Legend Rules)
- Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker (Outside My Comfort Zone with Milling)
- Vorel of the Hull Clade (Never Trust the Simic)
- Emmara Tandris (No Damage Tokens)
- Varolz, the Scar-Striped (scavenging goodness)
- Doran, the Siege Tower (All My Faves in One Deck!)
- Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)
- Lord of Tresserhorn (ZOMBIES!)
- Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)
- Aurelia, the Warleader (plus Hellkite Tyrant shenanigans)
- Oona, Queen of the Fae (by reader request)
- Karador, Ghost Chieftain (my Magic Online deck)
- Karona, False God (Vows of the False God)
- Skullbriar, the Walking Grave (how big can it get?)
- Phage the Untouchable (actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)
- Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind (Chuck's somewhat vicious deck)
Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus:
- Yeva, Nature's Herald (living at instant speed)
- Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)
- Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius (new player-friendly)
- Trostani, Selesnya's Voice (new player-friendly)
- Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord (drain you big time)
- Riku of Two Reflections (steal all permanents with Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts)
- Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)
- Sigarda, Host of Herons (Equipment-centric Voltron)
- Bruna, Light of Alabaster (Aura-centric Voltron)
- Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)
- Ghave, Guru of Spores (Melira Combo)
- Glissa, the Traitor (undying artifacts!)
- Grimgrin, Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)
- Damia, Sage of Stone (Ice Cauldron shenanigans)
- Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)
- Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)
- Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo' Myrs)
- Thelon of Havenwood (Campfire Spores)
- Melira, Sylvok Outcast (combo killa)
- Konda, Lord of Eiganjo (The Indestructibles)
- Vorosh, the Hunter (proliferaTION)
- Progenitus (Fist of Suns and Bringers)
- Savra, Queen of the Golgari (Demons)
- Uril, the Miststalker (my "more competitive" deck)