This weekend I participated in a very casual Innistrad Sealed Deck event with four of my friends. Opening my packs I discovered the following pool:


Selfless Cathar
Avacynian Priest 
Elder Cathar 
Village Bell-Ringer 
Chapel Geist 
Fiend Hunter 
Abbey Griffin 
Thraben Militia 
Gallows Warden 
Moment of Heroism 
Rally the Peasants 
2x Rebuke


Stitcher's Apprentice
Fortress Crab
Battleground Geist
Dream Twist
Memory's Journey
Think Twice
Curse of the Bloody Tome
Forbidden Alchemy
Lost in the Mist


2x Typhoid Rats
Screeching Bat
Village Cannibals
Abattoir Ghoul
Bloodline Keeper
Stromkirk Patrol
Ghoulcaller's Chant
2x Gruesome Deformity
Altar's Reap
Skeletal Grimace
2x Night Terrors
Sever the Bloodline
Maw of the Mire
Curse of Death's Hold 


2x Night Revelers 
Village Ironsmith
Feral Ridgewolf
Rakish Heir
Pitchburn Devils
Scourge of Geier Reach
Rage Thrower
2x Harvest Pyre
2x Nightbird's Clutches
Curse of the Pierced Heart
Burning Vengeance
Traitorous Blood
Blasphemous Act


Ambush Viper
Boneyard Wurm
Villagers of Estwald
2x Orchard Priest
Woodland Sleuth
2x Festerhide Boar
Grizzled Outcasts
Somberwald Spider
Wreath of Geists
Travel Preparations
2x Spidery Grasp


Evil Twin
One-Eyed Scarecrow
Creepy Doll
Ghoulcaller's Bell
2x Silver-Inlaid Dagger
Wooden Stake
Cellar Door
Grimoire of the Dead


Ghost Quarter
Isolated Chapel

And what I built:

1x Avacynian Priest
1x Selfless Cathar
1x Elder Cathar
1x Village Bell-Ringer
1x Chapel Geist
1x Fiend Hunter
1x Gallow's Warden
1x Thraben Militia
1x Abbey Griffen
2x Typhoid Rats
1x Screeching Bat
1x Village Cannibals
1x Abattoir Ghoul
1x Bloodline Keeper
1x Stromkirk Patrol

2x Silver-Inlaid Dagger
2x Rebuke
1x Sever the Bloodline
1x Grimoire of the Dead
1x Curse of Death's Hold

8x Plains
8x Swamp
1x Isolated Chapel

My deck performed fine, going 3-1 against my friends, losing 1-2 against an aggressive Werewolf deck when I experienced major land flood in one game, and got blown out by the unexpected appearance of Cobbled Wings in another, which were attached to a 7/7 Werewolf to kill me in two painful swings. Apart from that I only lost one other game all day, to a rival Bloodline Keeper (that card is just stupid in Sealed).

Could I have done anything better with my pool? I felt that Black was an obvious conclusion, with three excellent rares to play with. The blue cards were nearly nonexistent (though I did consider splashing for Forbidden Alchemy and Evil Twin), and Green seemed fine but very boring. In the end I thought white provided the best contributions to my curve, especially given that a lot of Humans should work well with my Village Cannibals and especially a pair of Silver-Inlaid Daggers!

One choice that created much discussion on the day was my decision not to maindeck Creepy Doll. I sided it in (generally for Grimoire of the Dead) in pretty much every match, but that's partially because every one of my opponents was playing green and I wanted an answer to big ground-pounders. My friend Dom Camus (of minor mtgsalvation.com celebrity) suggested that it should go into basically any deck, but I personally am very reluctant to play a 5 mana 1/1, even one as robust as the doll, in a format that I think is quicker and more aggressive than people are currently giving it credit for. Was I badly wrong?

  • "One choice that created much discussion [..]" Doesn't that mean your question is kinda in the wrong place here, since discussion and opinion is what we want to avoid? – Hackworth Oct 24 '11 at 8:24
  • I hope not, which is why my actual question doesn't ask for discussion. I just want to know if there was a more optimal build from my Sealed pool, which admittedly has no "objective right answer" (at least not a short one), but then lots of good questions on this site don't. – thesunneversets Oct 24 '11 at 9:11
  • Then break it down into choices of one card over another - let's start with Grimoire vs. Doll - you acknowledged that the format is aggressive, so you shouldn't rely on a card that takes effect no sooner than turn 8 (witout accel) and takes 3 of your hand cards until then, and you better hope there is no odd artifact removal across the table. The doll, OTOH, greatly benefits from your multiple equipments, and indestructible creatures with reasonable costs are a killer in Limited. The book does nothing until it's ready to fire, but the doll is immediate defense and eventual offense. – Hackworth Oct 24 '11 at 9:33
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    And I think any good Magic player could offer an informed, objective view on how best to build from the above pool. Though it's very possible that sealed deck build questions are not what we want to encourage on this site; but if so I definitely think there's an interesting Meta discussion about that! – thesunneversets Oct 24 '11 at 11:11
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    I'll try to answer this when I get home tonight. I wish Stack Exchange provided a method for 'hovering' over a card name so that we could see the image (a la other MTG sites). – George Stocker Oct 24 '11 at 15:35

In general, I think the strongest decks in Innistrad Limited are aggro or aggro-control. The format has been described as "slow", but "slow" doesn't mean that decks that can't get off the ground before turn 4 aren't massively disadvantaging themselves. A lot of players are going to be drawn to werewolves and frankensteins in Limited, and end up with decks that are basically midrange; a decent aggro build with the right support cards can roll them pretty easily.

Black/red aggro is probably the fastest deck you can reasonable expect to put together in Innistrad draft or sealed. Your particular pool had Bloodline Keeper and Rakish Heir, but not nearly enough vampires to make vampires tribal viable, nor enough removal and fast attackers to justify generic black/red. In your case, white had the most depth in both removal and weenies, making it a superior choice to red.

The black part of the pool has two very strong control cards: Bloodline Keeper and Curse of Death's Hold. Short of Reaper from the Abyss or Olivia Voldaren, there's not much else I'd rather have. These should naturally push you towards a controlling strategy.

2x Typhoid Rats, 2x Rebuke, and 1x Avacynian Priest really seal the deal: you have a lot of ability to shut down big threats. This is exactly what you need to stall the field long enough to win with either a swarm strategy or evasive vampire tokens.

In short, playing a controlling white/black deck was entirely the right move.

As for Creepy Doll and Grimoire of the Dead... I don't think either is a prime pick for this deck, really. Creepy Doll is fairly good except against black (the color of Dead Weight, Morkut Banshee, Curse of Death's Hold), but expensive for something that just forces a board stall. I don't think you had the right equipment to really make it worthwhile. I'm wary of Grimoire in a format where Ancient Grudge is common and many of your opponents are going to be playing cards that get better whenever you pass a turn without making a play.

I would play Rally the Peasants above either of these cards. You have the creature volume for it. It's not as powerful as Vampiric Fury and Hysterical Blindness, but it's still got serious blowout potential. With Isolated Chapel, you can safely splash Mountains to pay the flashbacks.

Remember, though, that in Sealed you don't have to return your deck to a "main deck" configuration for each game 1. If you find you don't like a card (say, Grimoire), you can side it out and never bring it back in.

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    +1 for suggesting a different 23rd card than either the controversial Doll or Grimoire, seems like a good idea! I'm not sure that I was beating down quite enough to make Rally the Peasants worthwhile without adding Mountains, but maybe 2 wouldn't have hurt? Then again perhaps if I'm making a really small splash Forbidden Alchemy, Evil Twin and a few islands might have paid off. I did quite enjoy keeping down to 2 colours though. The decks that performed best in our little event were the ones that didn't get greedy with a third colour splash, which may or may not have been a coincidence! – thesunneversets Oct 24 '11 at 21:52
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    I think splashing to pay late-game flashbacks is safer than most other forms of splash (in Innistrad Limited, I also think splashing blue for Skaab Goliath is reasonable). That said, you'll see a lot of pro sealed decks go hyper-aggressive and basically take the lowest-cost stuff they can manage in exactly 2 colors, with apparently little thought given to the late game because the plan is to never see it to begin with. – Alex P Oct 24 '11 at 22:03
  • Interesting, I always thought you had to return your deck to its original configuration at the start of each round, in any format... but you're right, it's not required in tournaments without decklists. (I'm too used to playing online, I suppose, where your deck is automatically reset at the beginning of each round) – David Z Oct 25 '11 at 4:49

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