If I learned one thing from Grand Prix Vancouver, it's this: Sealed and Draft are as far apart as possible in Ultimate Masters . In my preparation for the event, I knew they were different. I understood that cards like Moan of the Unhallowed and Wickerbough Elder were much better in Sealed than in Draft. But I didn't truly grasp how this was the case for so many cards in the set.
Draft: Put together a deck with a plan. Be as focused as possible on maximizing this plan.
Sealed : Just play your good cards and make sure you have creatures.
Sealed plays out a lot more like many Limited formats. Two-for-ones are premium, you need creatures of reasonable rate, and your deck is usually just some variant of midrange. I play Cathodian in almost all my Sealed decks in this format, but hope I don't include the card in any of my Draft decks. The formats really are night and day. Red is above and beyond the best color in this Draft format, but Black is the best for Sealed. Unholy Hunger and Last Grasp get better, and Moan of the Unhallowed and Death Denied provide so much value that they pull me into black in Sealed. If you're going to MagicFest Prague, remember to keep this in mind. Make sure you practice both Sealed and Draft. Understanding one does not help that much towards understanding the other.
If your plan is to win the event, you'll have to go through both. Imagine you're sitting down at a table at MagicFest Prague about to draft this set. What would you take?
Pack 1, Pick 1
I started this format thinking that the heroic decks were going to run rampant. While they can be quite good, I'm not a huge fan. They're less resilient than other archetypes, and they don't have access to the same quality of card advantage and selection. Wingsteed Rider was a card I was initially happy to first pick. This isn't the case anymore.
Between the black cards, it's close between Last Gasp and Apprentice Necromancer. After playing a lot of this format, I've found Chainer's Edict to often not be good. I still start it because of the high ceiling against heroic decks but aggressively sideboard it out. I would rather have the first Last Gasp. Apprentice Necromancer is a potent combo piece, but it does really need the right deck. Unlike most reanimation spells, this card is weak to every single interactive spell, which is a noticeable downside. I'm leaning towards Apprentice Necromancer over Last Gasp, but there could be too huge a difference in card quality where the removal spell is correct. However, neither of these are the pick.
There aren't many cards I take over Wild Mongrel in this format, and this pick is no exception. My last article about the best commons in Ultimate Masters outlines a variety of reasons for this. The short version is that Wild Mongrel is often the best card in your deck. It functions as a madness/graveyard outlet and a potent threat for just two mana! I think it's the pick here, and I don't actually think it's all that close.
The Picks So Far:
I started this format taking Magmaw highly, but now I just think it's inefficient. Five mana is too much for the card, and I'd rather have Reckless Wurm in 99% of my red decks. Fire is a great red removal spell, but overall, if I'm taking a red card it's Squee, Goblin Nabob. This card can be an amazing engine in this format. And don't forget that it has a super secret mode of "chump block every turn."
Boar Umbra is a powerful card that's on-color with Wild Mongrel. And Terramorphic Expanse is the best fixing in the entire set. In fact, Expanse is a card I prioritize very highly as it synergizes quite well with delve cards and Circular Logic. However, I don't think either the Umbra or the Expanse compare to what Squee can do. So I'll be taking the unkillable and adorable little Goblin out of this pack.
The Picks So Far:
This pick is extremely easy to me, but it's not clear until you've "done the thing." Anger is one of the best possible cards to combo with Wild Mongrel. Attacking for three on turn 2 is pretty fantastic, and God forbid you follow that up with a hasty Reckless Wurm. I'm taking Anger here. Not only does it combo with Wild Mongrel, but if we don't play green, Squee, Goblin Nabob and Anger is a good start in red, and red is also the best color.
Satyr Wayfinder, Blast of Genius, and Boar Umbra are all fantastic cards for their respective decks, and they would be closer to contention if this was pack 1 pick 1. But they don't compare given the cards we already have drafted.