(Metagame Archive) Sealed Pack 101: The Experiment

By Doug Tice

(Editor’s note: This article was written prior to Pro Circuit San Francisco.)


In these last few days before Pro Circuit San Francisco, I find it hard to think about anything but Silver Age Constructed and X-Men Draft. I am very excited about this Pro Circuit, yet I am incredibly scared. Team Donkey Club has been set to play our super powerful Ivy League deck for months now. With only a few days to go, it seems that public awareness about this deck is on the rise. I’m afraid players will be more prepared to cope with our deck than we would like.


So, today’s article should be short and sweet. I will cover two main topics. The first is the introduction to “The Experiment,” and the second will be a quick reference guide to the Shadowpact team in Sealed Pack play. Today’s article will be the last of my series breaking down the cards in Infinite Crisis. I hope my articles have been helpful and fun to read.

The Experiment: Intro

I will probably take many more opportunities in the future to list Sealed Pack card pools that I receive and discuss the decisions that go into arriving at a final build. This coming weekend, I will have the rare opportunity to spend quality time with all of my teammates. I plan to share that opportunity with you, the readers, by performing a little Sealed Pack experiment. I will present three of my teammates individually with the same card pool and ask each of them to return with a final build in thirty minutes. I am not sure what to expect from them, but I know that I am already looking forward to seeing the results.

We may find that for some Sealed Pack card pools, few decisions are debatable, so there may be only one correct build. We may also find that different players’ approaches to building a Sealed Pack deck will yield very different results. I’m not sure if I’m rooting for all of our players to arrive at the same conclusion, or if I would prefer to see that there are multiple results that each have individual merit.

Let me introduce the players:

Player 1: Jason Hager

Jason is one of the most brilliant minds ever to influence a Constructed metagame. He is credited with the creation of Evil Medical School and New School, and he took the lead in designing Team Donkey Club’s Ivy League deck. He and the rest of our West Virginia teammates (Anthony Justice, Matt Oldaker, and Heath Baker) all love playing Vs. System, but I think any one of them would tell you that he prefers to play Constructed over Sealed Pack any day of the week. Make no mistake, these guys are strong Sealed Pack competitors, but for our experiment, Jason will be the champion dubbed “The Constructed Genius.

Player 2: Tillman Bragg

Tillman and I play Vs. System together regularly. He is the one teammate who lives (almost) in the same town that I do. We have traveled to a number of events together, and San Francisco will be no exception. When we drive to events together, we draft in the car (watch out if you’re on the road when I’m driving to one of these events!), and when we fly together, we pull out our tray tables and battle in some form for most of the trip. He and I both enjoy Constructed and Sealed Pack almost equally, with Tillman slightly favoring Sealed Pack and me slightly favoring Constructed. For our experiment, Tillman will represent “The Well-Balanced Master.”

Player 3: Neil Reeves

I have known Neil for many years now, and I’m not sure I’ve met his equal in all my years of gaming. You may not know this about Neil, but he doesn’t play an incredible amount of Vs. System. It takes him almost no time to catch and then surpass my level of knowledge about any given Sealed Pack format. I can always count on him to out-draft or outplay me, even if I have drafted fifteen times to his three or four. Neil may never be credited for creating the Constructed deck that turns a format upside-down, but his understanding of Vs. System in terms of Draft and Sealed Pack earns him the title of “The Sealed Pack Genius.”

Unlikely Player 4: Alex Jebailey

I haven’t spoken with Alex since a few weeks after PC: Atlanta. At that time, he said he was not planning to attend PC: San Francisco. He and I were teammates at one time. I was always impressed with the speed at which he processed input. I mean . . . his responses to visual cues, his reflexes, and his instincts are astounding. This is certainly why he is one of the world’s top video gamers. Whereas instincts and his ability to process input so incredibly quickly serve him well in the world of video gaming, I have observed these traits to be hindrances to his growth as a Vs. System competitor. If I do get a chance to see Alex at this Pro Circuit, I will ask him to throw his hat into the ring. His title will be “The Instinctive Apprentice.”

I’ll get input from each of the players in this experiment once they have submitted their final builds. Then, I will put each of their decisions under the microscope. Finally, in next week’s article, I will give you the results along with as much as I can provide to help analyze the options and each player’s decisions. You can play along too and have this whole week to work on your final build.

Here is the card pool:


Legacy Characters

1 Lois Lane, Earth 2

1 The Penguin, Arms Merchant

1 Lex Luthor, Champion of the Common Man

1 Animal Man, Buddy Baker

1 Ultra-Humanite, Metahuman Manipulator


1 Mordru, Dark Lord

Secret Six

1 Fiddler, Isaac Bowin

1 Deadshot, Dead Aim

1 Catman, Thomas Blake

1 Parademon, Apokoliptian Ally

1 Scandal, Savage Spawn

1 Lex Luthor ◊ Mockingbird, Evil Exile


1 Nightmaster, Jim Rook

1 Nightshade, Eve Eden

1 Manitou Dawn, Spirit Shaman

1 Dr. Occult, Richard Occult

1 Ragman, Redeemer of Souls

1 Blue Devil, Big Blue

1 Zatanna, Showstopper

Villains United

1 Count Vertigo, Werner Vertigo

1 Cheetah, Feral Feline

1 The Calculator, Evil Oracle

1 Bizarro, ME AM BIZARRO #1


2 Sasha Bordeaux, Knight

1 Sarge Steel, Knight

1 Arthur Kendrick, Knight

1 Ahmed Samsarra, White King

1 Harry Stein, King in Check

1 Elimination Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot

1 Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal, Knight

1 Huntress, Reluctant Queen

1 Sasha Bordeaux, Autonomous Prototype


1 Prince Khufu ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Warrior

1 Michael Holt ◊ Mr. Terrific, Renaissance Man

1 Rex Tyler ◊ Hourman, Inventor of Miraclo

2 Katar Hol ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Hero

1 Hourman III ◊ Hourman, Time Machine

1 Power Girl, Earth 2

1 Black Adam, Ruthless Hero


1 Amulet of Nabu

1 Laser Watch

1 Tricked-Out Sports Car


1 Brother I Satellite

1 Checkmate Safe House, Team-Up

1 Dr. Fate’s Tower

Plot Twists

2 Coercion, Team-Up

1 Conjuration, Magic

1 Double Play

1 Forbidden Loyalties, Team-Up

1 Join Us or Die

1 Justice United, Team-Up

1 Knights’ Gambit

2 Nightmare Scenario

1 Magical Conduit, Magic

1 Pawn of the Black King

1 Revitalize

2 Return Fire!

1 Systematic Torture

2 Taking Up the Mantle

1 Target Acquired

1 Thanagarian Invasion

1 Threat Neutralized

1 True Name, Magic

1 Traitor to the Cause  

As promised, this is a quick guide to the Shadowpact team in Sealed Pack. So far, my findings have been that, for Shadowpact to be one of my main teams, I have to receive one to two rares. There seems to be a much higher concentration of rare cards on the Shadowpact team. At a quick glance, I notice a dozen or more, and almost all of them are very powerful. The Checkmate team’s rare cards can be counted on one hand, and in comparison, they cannot hold a candle to the Shadowpact team’s rare cards.

I feel that Shadowpact’s main theme—intentionally losing endurance early for future benefits—will not materialize and be good enough to win games in Sealed Pack. Most often, I will play Shadowpact characters as a secondary team, taking advantage of whichever of their more generic plot twists I can.

In my Villains United coverage, I used a four star rating system to create a quick reference guide for team evaluation. I’m going to use the same system in evaluating the Shadowpact team.

* I do not want to play this card in Sealed Pack.

** This card is playable / average / filler.

*** This card is very good. I will usually play it in Sealed Pack.

**** This card is amazing. I will play it in Sealed Pack whenever possible.


Black Alice, Lori Zechlin ** Hey, she still has flight and range.

Blackbriar Thorn, Druid of Cymru **** He can get out of hand quickly because some of the Magic plot twists can be flipped back down.

Blue Devil, Dan Cassidy **** You should almost always net 2 endurance from Dan Cassidy before the end of the game. It’s pretty nice that he has 4 ATK, too.

Blue Devil, Big Blue **** Similarly to his other version, I like his high ATK and DEF.

Captain Marvel, Champion of Magic *** 8-drops are always very powerful.

Detective Chimp, Bobo T. Chimpanzee *** He’s similar to a team-up with the possible upside of enabling team-stamped cards and meeting loyalty requirements that would normally seem impossible.

Detective Chimp, Shoeless Gumshoe *** There is nothing wrong with this card.

Dr. Fate, Hector Hall *** Add even more stars if you have a full set of Fate Artifacts.

Dr. Occult, Richard Occult ** He’s fine. On turn 5, he may grow.

Ibis, Prince Amentep *** I don’t like that Ibis’s ATK and flight are conditional, but if you are ahead in the endurance race, something must be going right anyway.

June Moon ◊ Enchantress, Good Witch **** You may need to play some supporting endurance-payment effects to get the best results from the Good Witch, but a card as powerful as this makes it worthwhile.

June Moon ◊ Enchantress, Bad Witch **** See Good Witch.

Madame Xanadu, Cartomancer ***

Manitou Dawn, Spirit Shaman **

Nightmaster, Jim Rook ***

Nightmaster, Demon Slayer **

Nightshade, Eve Eden * Neither version of Nightshade has a power that’s worth an endurance payment.

Nightshade, Shadow Siren *

Ragman, Patchmonger **** At 3 ATK / 3 DEF, he’s already great, and he can grow!

Ragman, Redeemer of Souls *** This version is no slouch either.

Rose Psychic, Ghost Detective *** Rose Psychic doesn’t get to attack as often as I would prefer, but the net endurance gain makes it worth playing this card, choosing to attack only directly with it.

Shazam, The Sorcerer **** Yet another rare that shows its greatest strength in combination with the endurance payment effects.

The Phantom Stranger, Fallen Angel ***

Witchfire, Rebecca Carstairs **

Zatanna, Magical Manipulator ** The effect of her power isn’t quite worth the endurance unless you simply need an outlet through which to bleed off extra endurance to enable some of your best bomb rare characters (like the Good Witch).

Zatanna, Showstopper *** This power is slightly more worth the payment because it can be used multiple times in a pinch to dig deep into your deck if you need to find a specific card.

Plot Twists


There are thirteen plot twists with the Magic version.

Abjuration, Magic *** Similar to Wall of Will, but with the potential to repay with interest.

Collecting Souls, Magic **

Conjuration, Magic * The cost is too high for Sealed Pack and possibly even for Constructed play.

Divination, Magic *

Magical Conduit, Magic **** Of the cards where you pay endurance for their effects, this one is probably the best that the Shadowpact team offers for Sealed Pack.

Mystical Binding, Magic *** Other combat tricks of a similar nature don’t cost the additional 3 endurance loss. However, I would play this to enable endurance bleed, and I would still play it even just as a pump or a Pleasant Distraction.

Spectral Slaughter, Magic ** This might be an absolute bomb in a draft or in Constructed play, but most Sealed Pack decks tend to stick to on-curve archetypes, so I am not sure I would play this card in every Sealed Pack deck.

Stepping Between Worlds, Magic * This card falls somewhere between one and two stars. I guess I could play it in a pinch.

The Conclave, Magic **** The endurance payment should be less than the endurance you would lose if that combat pump your opponent tries to play resolves and stuns your best character.

True Name, Magic ** This is one of the best cards used strictly for endurance management.

Fate Has Spoken, Magic **** With a copy of Dr. Fate, or most definitely with a copy of his Helm of Nabu, this card is a bomb!

Magical Lobotomy, Magic ** This is nothing spectacular, but it can be used multiple times, which makes it more flexible. Having Blackbriar Thorn, Druid of Cymru makes a card like this more playable, as well.

Transmutation, Magic **


The Oblivion Bar *

Chimp Detective Agency *** Most Constructed Shadowpact decks will want to play many copies of this rare. In Sealed Pack, though, it will be very difficult to land enough cards that take advantage of this early endurance loss, so the Agency isn’t an absolute bomb.

Dr. Fate’s Tower ** Depending on the number of Fate Artifacts you have, this is more or less playable.


Each of these Fate Artifacts is playable. With one of each, though, their values all go up.

Amulet of Nabu, Fate Artifact **

Cloak of Nabu, Fate Artifact **

Helm of Nabu, Fate Artifact **


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