Sealed Deck Construction- Joseph Crosby

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Joe Crosby has been flying below the radar for some time now, but those who played with him knew he was a rising talent. Ken Krouner showcased him as a Fantasy Pro Tour bargain before Chicago, and Crosby didn’t disappoint: He finished tenth. Since then he’s written a pair of articles for Sideboard Online that have earned him even more kudos. Arriving with two byes to his name, Crosby faced the task of coming up with a deck out of the following card pool:

White Blue Black
Akroma’s Blessing
Aura Extraction
Aven Redeemer
Crown of Awe
Daru Cavalier
Daru Healer
Daru Mender
Daru Stinger
Defensive Maneuvers
Dive Bomber
Glory Seeker
Starlight Invoker
Sunstrike Legionnaire
Whipgrass Entangler
Aven Envoy
Backslide
Cephalid Pathmage
Covert Operative
Keeper of the Nine Gales
Mistform Dreamer
Mistform Mask
Mistform Mutant
Mistform Seaswift
Mistform Wall
Nameless One
Sea’s Claim
Slipstream Eel
Warped Researcher
Anurid Murkdiver
Aphetto Dredging
Blood Celebrant
Boneknitter
Corpse Harvester
Disciple of Malice
Dripping Dead
Earthblighter
Gluttonous Zombie
Patriarch’s Bidding
Severed Legion
Sootfeather Flock
Swat
Syphon Soul
Vile Deacon
Zombie Brute
Red Green Land/Artifacts
Avarax
Battering Craghorn
Crested Craghorn
Dwarven Blastminer
Erratic Explosion
Flamewave Invoker
Goblin Firebug
Goblin Lookout
Goblin Sky Raider
Goblin Sledder
Lay Waste
Skirk Marauder
Solar Blast
Sparksmith
Barkhide Mauler
Berserk Murlodont
Defiant Elf
Elvish Pioneer
Elvish Vanguard
Hundroog
Snarling Undorak
Stonewood Invoker
Symbiotic Elf
Timberwatch Elf
Treespring Lorian
Wellwisher
Wirewood Channeler
Lonely Sandbar
Starlit Sanctum
Tribal Golem

Crosby’s method to sorting out the madness begins fairly typical- going through all the colors, one by one, and removing anything that’s absolutely worthless. Those cards go back into the box, never to see the light of day again. He then sorts out each color into blocks divided by both their converted mana cost, and by creatures/spells. Going through each color in this way takes out the next layer of chaff, by which time he is now left with a pool of cards spread across the table to better view the overall function of the possible color arrangements. Sifting through the colors, blue was (typically) the first color to get the kibosh, at least, for the most part. Crosby did however, leave behind a Mistform Seaswift, Mistform Wall and Mistform Dreamer as potentials for a splash. Red looked very appealing with Sparksmith, Skirk Marauder and Solar Blast, and Crosby pretty much decided then and there that red would be one of his main colors.

His first real consideration was to run the two best colors in this limited format- red and black. After staring at it for a while, he switched over to red-green, once again, paying close attention to the overall mana curve of his design. He fiddled around with the overall shape of the deck, bringing in the aforementioned blue splash, of which it was nice that one of his blue cards was a morph, thus taking the strain off the third splash color. He looked at the R-G-u design for a while, then moved onto white as the next contender to compliment red. Many of his white cards were clerics, and personally, I felt that there just wasn’t enough “oomph” to warrant white in. As I expected, white followed most of the blue cards, and was removed from the pool entirely.

With just three colors left (and half way through deck construction), it was now time to take an overall glance at the card pool, just to see which felt more appealing. Green went out, and black moved in. A little while later, green and black switched once again. The Explosive Vegetation jumped in and out like rabbits in a hat. Looking at his mana curve (which looked pretty top-heavy), something had to go on the high end. Hundroog was cut, which some may wonder about, especially since at least it can be cycled, but the seven-mana cost was prohibitive, especially given the aggressive nature of red-green. Crosby pondered over this dilemma, switching green and black back and forth while the clock ticked down.

With eight minutes left in deck construction, a decision had to be made soon. The cards were sorted into colors, to possibly check for balance. Finally, the Lonely Sandbar was cut for the Wirewood Channeler, and he was done.

When questioned about his general sealed deckbuilding process, Crosby replied that normally, the first thing he does is to remove all the non-splashable blue cards, since blue is rarely a good main color. He then mentioned that white, too is not a very good main color simply because the color is literally riddled with internal (tribal) conflict. Clerics and Soldiers within the same color do not make the most synergic of decks, and even if he did decide to splash white for the Akroma’s Blessing and the Daru Stinger, neither card is particularly powerful (the Stinger is pathetic as a splash), so he chose to eliminate white altogether. Blue was great as a splash color, since the Mistformers made a very nice compliment to the overall synergy of his deck. (Wellwisher, Sparksmith, and so forth)

The real decision came when it was time to choose between black and green. Granted, both color’s card pools were pretty decent, but in the end, green won out due to various reasons. For one, the obvious answer is that a number of his best (non-red) cards are in fact in green. Another reason is that, while the black cards are decent, it would also increase the luck factor in his matchups. If he happened to bump into another black player (a likely event in this format), he is in a weakened position as his Severed Legion and Gluttonous Zombie are pretty much “the suck”. However, it’s important to note that black is not totally out of contention- if Crosby happens to bump into a W-(not black) deck that can easily handle his green creatures, then the fear factor of the dark side will give him the edge.

The final interesting point is his mana base- 8 Mountains, 8 Forests, and a lone Island. This strays from the typical 7-7-3 mana bases that past (non-Invasion block) sealed decks feature. Basically, in this format, early game consistency is paramount. Each island played early may be a lost opportunity for an early game Sparksmith, and besides, he really didn’t need a quick island with one of his blue cards being a morph, and with both Explosive Vegetation and Wirewood Channeler in his deck. The morph mechanic contributes to this style of splashing, since it is not imperative to have a splash land in play by turn five or so. The Lay Waste brought up question, but basically, it’s a card that says “2: Draw a card.” There was the option of putting an additional morph creature in its slot, but with nineteen creatures in the deck as it is, the twentieth creature isn’t really going to change much, as according to the law of diminishing returns.

When asked about his opinion of Legions, Crosby mentioned that it’s now important to get that right mix of spells and creatures in your sealed deck, especially since the format is very creature-intensive. With such a creature-oriented environment, spells that allow you to break a standstill are even more important, and cards like Choking Tethers and Wave of Indifference will go up in value. Generally, he feels that Legions has sped up the format, which will place emphasis on consistency in all forms of Limited decks.

Joe Crosby
GP Boston Sealed Deck


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