Shard of the Week: Breaking the Sealed Format
“Is this deck any good?”
It’s a hard question to answer. Often, the much harder question will be “which deck is better?”
That’s what makes sealed a fantastic skill test. Playing a deck without registering it to know it’s true power level separates the novice from the pro.
No “cheating” with unofficial sites or apps. No knowledge of the deck’s SAS or AERC rating. No Rankey to guide us. Not even the Burgertokens rating. Just the howls of the wolves in the desolate moonlit canyon.
But what if we ‘break’ sealed? What if we analyze it, dissect it, chop it all up, and put it back together? What if there was a cheat code?
Hopefully, by the end of this article, I will have done the “impossible”… calculate 3 Rankey stats without using the internet. I feel like a magician right now, so let’s hope this works. I would truly consider 1 in 3 to be a victory.
The first step is to determine which stats are the most important to you. Sealed plays very differently than Archon. It’s less reliant on facing combo oriented super-decks, so common necessities like artifact control and enemy turn manipulation can be left closer to the bottom of the list than we might expect. But we all have our opinions on this, so you don’t need to accept mine.
This is my approximation of what I believe to be the most impactful traits for a sealed deck, in order of importance:
Printed Æmber (the immediate bonuses from playing a card… average of 10.5 per deck)
Æmber Control (instances of capture, loss, cost increase, and stealing abilities… average of 6-7 cards per deck)
Additional Æmber (the Æmber given by a card when destroyed or used in a certain way- Dust Imp and Total Recall are good examples here that we can make approximations for… averages of this type of card within a deck are widely variable)
Creature Power (the total of all creatures in our deck, some bonuses will need approximations… but we usually see an average of 60 total power in a deck. This stat can make or break a deck in sealed so your deck must be exceptional in other categories to work with lower numbers here)
Gateway Effects (hopefully you have one, but no guarantees here. Cards like the Spirit’s Way, Unlocked Gateway, or Coward’s End make excellent 1 or 2-ofs in sealed)
Speed (each instance of archiving or draw, typically 2-4 cards)
Artifact or Turn Control (each instance of artifact destruction, or cards that force the opponent to play/not play certain cards on their next turn… usually 2-3 per deck)
That importance of categories on my list can shift slightly, depending on the ‘personality’ of the deck as well.
Pre-writing all the aspects to consider before the event will have it’s benefits, and I wouldn’t want to do sealed without this list. All you need is one piece of paper to analyze and compare the stats of your sealed unregistered decks. Pen and paper are the only tools I will use to calculate those approximations of Rankey numbers up ahead.
My cheat sheet will look something like this:
Now I can easily compare and analyze every aspect of my decks and see which ones carry the heaviest firepower in each category. That allows me to play the deck that best fits what I’m hoping to achieve. You’ll notice my scoring methods at the bottom of the sheet; it’s just what works for me.
I add up and compare the numbers (ignoring the ones place for power). Again, I prefer to calculate this way but your method could be better than mine. The most important part is knowing which metrics are the ones you look for.
Now let’s take a look at these three sample decks laid out on the sheet and compare them to some of the online ratings to see how I did.
I promise, no cheating here… these are three random decks I just opened and have no knowledge of…
Aaaaaaannnnnddd now we compare with some online statistics to see how I did… fingers crossed…
So not too bad, a little off but not by much. One perfect out of three is what I was really hoping for, but more importantly- I have at least differentiated the power levels of the decks.
I’m far from perfect, and realize there are many things I am overlooking. Armor, Damage Effects, Stuns, ect. I hope to improve upon my methods in the future, and will sometimes add a point or two if the deck has alot of features I can’t account for. Like with any great game, it’s always a work in progress.
If you’re as obsessed with Keyforge as I am, perhaps give this a try and practice your own mad science! Just keep me informed, if you are willing to share your secrets.
Some Additional Advice:
- Sleeving and Sealed –
The most common thing I see from sealed format would be unsleeved decks. While there is nothing wrong with playing unsleeved cards, there is also a chance you will pull something incredible that deserves protecting. I try to keep all my “mostly dead” sleeves ready for their final uses at sealed events, with fresh new sleeves for the big events.
It would feel bad to open a 93 SAS double Timetraveller deck and have to play it without some protection!
- Knowing the Pool –
A major aspect of sealed is knowing all the cards really well. There are always going to be all-star cards in every set that you can expect to see at the common and uncommon level. You won’t know if the opponent has them… this isn’t like Archon format… but you can still play around a few things they might have.
- Understanding Your Deck –
The most important part of this will be knowing when to keep a hand and when to mulligan. Certain cards have a better impact while being in play longer. Things like Lash of Broken Dreams, Proclimation 34E, Screaming Cave, and Grump Buggy are good examples of this, but are also dependent on your deck’s strengths. For example- Lash might be less relevant to your deck if you have alot of stealing cards OR much more important if you don’t. Grump Buggy can be incredible if you have alot of huge creatures, but maybe it’s a dead card when your creatures are mostly small. Even something like a boardwipe effect could be a critical card to keep in an opening hand if your deck is lacking in creatures. It really depends upon that initial inspection with the cheat sheet.
Whew… this was a hard article to pin down. Hopefully, I’ve provided at least a small portion of strategic insight to the incredible complexity of sealed.
Until next time, keep forging ahead!