The sealed Maze & learning to be humble

vizkopa guildmage gatecrash magic the gathering

The cool thing about playing Magic again is that I notice how much I know about the game. When I saw “how much I know”, I actually mean that I don’t know shit and I just won’t admit it to you to pretend I’m some kind of card games prodigy. The power of denial!

Anyway, last Thursday, all the denial in the world couldn’t help me against discovering that I still have to learn a lot when it comes to this game. Two lessons I learned that they were:

  • Sealed play is complicated
  • Never underestimate unoptimized decks

Let’s start with the first lesson. Since my buddy Dee and I couldn’t make it to any of our local Prereleases, we bought a bunch of boosters and played some Sealed Deck. Each of us got four boosters of Dragon’s Maze and one Gatecrash and Return to Ravnica booster. I hoped for a lot of green and black and some fancy Golgari cards, since I wanted to try the scavenge mechanic, but Lady Luck had a different plan for me. I ended up playing a red-blue-green deck with just seven creatures, trying to control the game with some fancy Izzet cards. Let’s just say I lost marvelously against Dee’s far superior deck, which taught me that building decks in a Sealed format is a whole lotta harder than I thought. Also, luck seems to be an important factor, but I feel like a good knowledge about which cards play well together is far more important than drawing the right cards. Homework for the next time: read up on Sealed strategies and get to know a set before playing it.

So, that was my first lesson, but what about that second one? Well, after playing with our Sealed decks, Dee and I grabbed our Standard decks, added a few cards from our boosters (Weapon Surge is awesome in a Boros deck) and started playing. Before I go deeper into this, you have to know that we are both casual players. We’re so casual that, so far, we haven’t played in any FNM and we don’t have a DCI number. However, I would consider Dee a bit more casual than me. While I use some of my free time to read up on cool combos and killer decks, Dee builds his deck around what he enjoys to play. There’s nothing wrong with that, I actually envy him for this laid-back attitude. However, his unoptimized decks give me a dangerous feeling of security, thinking that I can just stomp him with me recently pimped Boros deck. My first matches against him confirmed this belief, but after he tweaked his deck somewhat and found out what he wanted it to do, I had a huge problem.

pontiff of blight dragon's maze magic mtg the gathering

This dude didn’t make it any easier for me

You see, Dee plays Orzhov right now, which is no surprise to me. He loves the color black, and Orzhov’s extort mechanic gives him what he wants: extra life and ping damage. The problem his deck had against me was the fact that my Boros deck starts running as soon as I have two lands in play. I just keep dropping Battalion creatures, harassing him every turn until I obliterate him beneath a legion of Wojek Halberdiers, Skyknight Legionnaires and the occasional Frontline Medic. That’s just what happens when a slow, underperforming control deck meets a fast weenie deck. Fortunately, Dee is not the type to give up easily. Match after match, he evaluated cards and changed his decks. After five or six matches, my hubris would cost me dear when his master plan unfolded.

You see, I totally underestimated the deadly power of combining lifelink, extort and Vizkopa Guildmage’s second ability. The latter one still haunts me, for it was the reasing Dee could swoop in for a crushing 18 damage in a single turn, while filling up his own life points. I don’t recall the exact combo, but when he performed it, I was baffled. Needless to say, his deck crushed me during that match, and as we shook hands, I was really proud of his tweaking skills. This is why I enjoy playing with him: you can bash him over and over again, but he will come back trying with a new approach. Kudos, Dee, kudos!

So here I am, having learned two vital lessons in one four-hour long session of Magic. I’m glad to see that Dee is enjoying our return to the hobby as much as I do, and I’m looking forward to playing even more in the future, potentially trying some Commander / EDH. Magic keeps surprising me, and I regret I haven’t returned to it earlier on.

So, what are your experiences so far with Dragon’s Maze? Do you also suck at Sealed play, or would you like to share some tips concerning the format? What lessons have you learned by playing Magic?


  1. Proud possessor of a 4-digit DCI number here but I haven’t played serious Magic in many, many moons. But I’ll just impart some nuggets of knowledge for Sealed that should still apply today.

    1) You would like to go 2 colors with maybe a third splash color if possible. Try to hew as closely to the minimum deck size as you can (which should be 40 for limited format decks) although I always went 41 cards myself for some reason which escapes me now.

    2) Creatures are king in limited format. Pack in as many as you can in the colors you’ve chosen.

    3) Creature elimination cards are also key. Cards that also double as direct damage to the player are doubly good.

    4) Remember to have fun. If you can’t follow this rule, you should maybe think of giving up M:TG.

    1. Heya there, thanks for these tips. Good to know that creatures are so damn valuable in Limited, since I prefer creature-heavy decks anyway. And don’t worry, I’ll have fun no matter if I win or lose 😉

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