Ixalan Sealed Walkthrough

by Zen Takahashi on 27 October 2017, Friday

Zen Takahashi


Ixalan Sealed Walkthrough

Hello everybody!

With Limited Grand Prix happening in Phoenix, Liverpool and Hong Kong this weekend, I thought it would be a good opportunity to walk through a recent Sealed pool I opened. 

The following was the pool I opened:


Sorted by Color - Please click for larger view.


Sorted by Rarity - Please click for larger view.

Sifting and Filtering

What I noticed straight away was that I only had three good rares – Captivating CrewConqueror's Galleon and Waker of the Wilds.


Captivating Crew Conqueror's Galleon Waker of the Wilds

However, thankfully, all three of these rares are great in Sealed, so I actively wanted to play with them if I could. Compared to recent sets, Ixalan has very little in the way of mana sinks.

This means that when you flood out, you usually lose because there is not much you can do with your excess mana. This is especially problematic in Sealed, as games tend to go longer. Therefore, if you open any cards that can serve as flood insurance - as these three rares do - you actively want to play them. 

Please click for larger view.

After opening my pool and sorting them by color, the first thing I like to do is to filter out all the cards that I do not eagerly want to play in my deck, then sort them into two categories – top tier cards that draw me into the color, and the rest of the cards. Broadly speaking, these top-tier cards would be bombs and removal, the latter which I value highly in Sealed because it is generally limited and necessary to answer opposing rares. 

In this pool, what I noticed straight away was that neither Blue nor White had any top tier cards. While they both had a decent amount of solid playables, there was nothing that was drawing me into playing either color. This meant that they may serve as a supporting color, but very likely not as a main color, and almost certainly not together. 


Vanquish the Weak Unfriendly Fire

Black had some removal in the form of two Vanquish the Weak and a Dark Nourishment. However, none of these removal spells could kill any big creatures. Generally, flying creatures are a problem and these removal spells would be an efficient answer to them, but not being able to answer bombs is an issue so I do not want to put too much emphasis on these removal spells.

Red looks like it might be the best color in my pool. Captivating Crew is an amazing card and Unfriendly Fire kills most creatures in the format. Red also has a lot of two drop creatures and multiple tricks, which is what I want as I like to be aggressive in Ixalan Sealed. 

Green has Waker of the Wilds, which is the best card in my pool. Outside that, it has some solid creatures, but nothing exceptional and no spell outside of Pounce

For reference, these were the cards that I filtered out:


Please click for larger view (of the "not so good" cards).


There are some cards here that I would not mind playing as the 22nd or 23rd card, such as Duress, Blossom Dryad and Elaborate Firecannon. However, they are not the cards I eagerly want in my deck.

I have seen some people play Goring Ceratops and Shadowed Caravel, but I think both these rares are bad. Goring Ceratops is just too easy to kill, and considering how Ixalan is more aggressively slanted than Sealed formats have historically been, you cannot afford to play a seven drop creature that does not immediately make a big impact on board. Shadowed Caravel can be good in a deck with a lot of explore, but almost no deck wants to play the number of explore cards necessary to make the card good enough. 

Working With The Playables


Please click for larger view.

My next step is to categorise all the playable cards by creatures and non-creatures, and then by mana cost. I put a lot of emphasis on curve in limited, especially in this Sealed format. In an aggressive format, it is very important that you curve out and do not stumble, or else you will fall too far behind on board. I would happily play cards that are of a relatively low power level just to improve my curve, as I think you are more likely to lose games by having inefficiently spent your mana on a critical turn than you are by playing a card that is not very good.


Gilded Sentinel Hill Giant

An example would be a card such as Gilded Sentinel – Hill Giant is obviously a bad card, but if you are short on four drop creatures, I think it is better to play a Gilded Sentinel than to play another three-drop creature as Gilded Sentinel is still better than most thee drop creatures on turn four, or another five drop creature, as I think passing mana on turn four is too costly in this format. 

Trying Out Blue-Red

Looking at my pool, what stood out to me straight away was that Red had five playable two drop creatures, while Black, White and Green had two each, and Blue had zero. In this format, I like to have at least four two-drop creatures.

This meant that if I was to play Blue, I had to pair it with Red. However, Eed heavily lacked three, four and five drop creatures, while Blue had a decent amount of each. This meant that naturally, Blue and Red will pair well together for curve considerations. 

Based on this, I started off by building the following Blue-Red deck:


Please click for larger view.


Thanks to the Sailor of Means and Prosperous Pirates, I could splash for the Black removal spells. Overall, this deck had a reasonably good curve and a high quality of spells. However, the problem with this deck was that it was being pulled into opposite directions.

The two drop creatures and the Sure Strikes are relatively aggressive and encourage attacking, yet the more expensive creatures are defensive and encourage blocking. The deck could start off aggressively, but would not have the follow up necessary to keep the aggression. The deck also lacked enough Dinosaurs to make Tilonalli’s Knight a good attacker, which severely hinders the quality of the two drop creatures. 

Trying Out Black-Red

The next deck I wanted to try was Black-Red, as Black had the three removal spells, in addition to two good three-drop creatures and Skullduggery, which all fit well into an aggressive shell. This was the deck I tried to put together:


Please click for larger view.

The problem with this deck was that I just had nowhere near enough playables! Even if I dug into the cards I filtered out, there was no way I could fill six more cards. There was nothing I wanted to splash either, as there was no card in Blue or White that is powerful enough to deem splashing, while Waker of the Wilds is too hard to splash. 

The Final Deck

Looking over my pool, it became clear to me that none of my colors were very deep. There were only ten Black and White cards that I wanted to play. Red and Green were my deepest colors, but even then, they were not that deep, so I could not pair them with Black or White without having a deck that just did not have enough playables. At this point, it seemed like Red-Green would be my only choice. 

This was my final deck:


Please click for larger view.

The Red-Green deck did not have a great curve, as it was heavy in two drop creatures and lacked three drop and four drop creatures, but it was serviceable. I prefer this deck to the Blue-Red deck from earlier, as the game plan is much more cohesive. In a weak pool like this, I also think it is important to utilize your best cards as much as possible, and this deck got to play all three of my good rares. 

Overall, the deck played out fine and I went 3-2 with it in my league. As I pointed out earlier, this format has such mana sinks, so if you flood out and your opponent does not, it is very hard to win. This was definitely the case in the games I played, where it felt like the player who drew more lands generally lost.


Elaborate Firecannon Demolish


For this reason, I was impressed by Elaborate Firecannon. I originally dismissed the card as I found it to be too slow in Booster Draft, but I put it in my deck as I was lacking in playables and wanted to try it. As it turns out, games in this format often stall out, and the Firecannon serves as a good mana sink in these drawn-out games. I also boarded in Demolish multiple times, and I think it is a good sideboard card. It is a good answer to New Horizons, and all of the various double-sided artifact rares such as Conqueror’s Galleon, Thaumatic Compass and Treasure Map.


I hope you enjoyed this article as I walked through an Ixalan Sealed pool from start to finish. Hopefully, some of what I talked about today will be helpful for anyone who will be competing in a Grand Prix this weekend.

I myself will be attending GP Phoenix this weekend, which I am excited about as it will be my first American Grand Prix! If you are attending, please feel free to come and say hi! :)

Until next time!

Zen Takahashi
@mtgzen on Twitter 

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