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In the same vein as my Drafting Strategies question, what strategies exist for a good sealed deck? I want to know about general strategies regardless of the card pool being played.

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Exactly the same as for draft, in terms of the BREAD rule. Obviously that you don't have to worry about what to pick and pass: all that has been done for you, by the vagaries of random chance! All that's left is to locate the most synergetic deck you can from whatever you've opened out of your boosters.

One thing I've seen the pros do, that I think is a great idea, is start off by checking your rares and mythics. Oftentimes any truly busted bombs will be found here, and give you a good idea of what colours you want to find a way to include, if humanly possible.

Beyond that, the very intuitive thing holds true: separate your cards by colour and look for piles that contain lots of good creatures and efficient removal. If you have two such piles, you're off to an excellent start! Be careful though of possible mana curve issues: if you have two piles that are both stacked with great expensive cards, you may be better off going for a weaker colour that better complements your curve.

Don't get greedy and try to play a 4-colour deck, just because you have bombs in 4 colours: sometimes you just have to show some discipline. Anything beyond two colours with a small splash of a third colour should set off some serious warning bells. Having said that, don't panic that your deck doesn't seem as "bomby" as the decks you're used to drafting. Sealed is typically a much slower format, with a bit more room to develop your position, and a bit more tolerance for the odd clunky card. Though of course if you have the good fortune to be able to assemble a blazingly fast draft-quality deck out of your pool, you probably ought to go for it!

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Most importantly, you can apply the same skills you use in draft and come out with a good sealed deck. The main thing is not to be disappointed when your deck feels a bit crappy compared to a good draft deck.

In Sealed, you'll actually have a bigger set of cards you can put into your deck (60 cards vs. 45), but those cards won't be ones you've hand-picked out of a larger pool for synergy. Consequently:

  • You'll have less "depth" in any one color than you would in a draft pool, meaning that, on average, decks will play weaker and less synergistic cards.
  • Slower play means playing more lands and drawing more of your deck, so Bombs are more decisive.
  • More packs per player means more rares and mythic per player, so Bombs are more plentiful.
  • The volume of Bombs needing answers means Removal is more important as well.
  • That said, this isn't because the rest of "BREAD" is diminished, just that your card pool is weaker -- speed and synergy are even more valuable, just harder to attain.

Equal access to several colors open up a strategy that's rather rare in draft: "transformative" sideboarding.

Limited sideboarding defers from Constructed sideboarding in a number of ways:

  • In Limited, your "sideboard" consists of all the cards from your pool that you didn't put in your deck, plus an unlimited supply of basic lands, should you need them.
  • You don't have to make 1-for-1 substitutions when sideboarding. So, for instance, if I don't like how my deck runs 17/40 lands but fear 18/40 would be excessive, I can "side in" a land without removing anything to go up to 18/41 lands. The only restriction is that your final deck still has to be legal (i.e. no less than 40 cards).
  • You don't have to "restore" your deck to any particular starting configuration for game 1 of each match. So there's no need to remember your starting configuration or undo a sideboard choice if you realized that it just runs better than your original 40-card list.

All of this allows you, if the card pool and deckbuilding time permit it, to make two decks from your card pool and switch between them between games. This is much easier to do in draft than in sealed because your pool isn't going to be as focused between certain colors. Don't waste time on this if your pool clearly leans in one direction, but if you've got the cards for two divergent so-so decks, you can squeak out some extra wins by playing one and then transitioning to the other when you run into an unfavorable matchup.

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Is the unrestrictive sideboarding allowed at pre-releases and launch parties? I was under the impression that once you made your deck and sideboard you had to stick with it –  DForck42 Jan 16 '12 at 20:06
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@DForck42 By the straight-up tournament rules, yes (although you should be courteous about using basic lands from the shared pool, of course). Some organizers don't follow the tournament guidelines perfectly, though. IIRC, WotC's tournament document does allow organizers to force fixed decks in Limited, but says they should declare this specifically because it's non-standard procedure. I'll dig up the official text for you tonight. –  Alex P Jan 16 '12 at 20:10
    
ok, so the rule states that you can freeform the deck, but places can choose otherwise. gotcha. thanks! –  DForck42 Jan 16 '12 at 20:14
    
DForck42, what question were you trying to ask originally, what do you mean by 'unrestrictive sideboard'? The statement that 'everything not in your deck is your sideboard' is actually true at all levels of play; at high-level events and if explicitly indicated then you have to return to a 'base' main-deck configuration for the start of each match, but you're always allowed to sideboard the entire pool for games 2 and 3... –  Steven Stadnicki Jan 17 '12 at 7:56
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