(Metagame Archive) Sealed Pack 101: The Experiment, Results Analysis

By Doug Tice

Well, folks, I’m back from San Francisco and I can definitely say that I had a blast. I finished seventh overall, losing in the quarterfinals to my teammate Gabe Walls. If you’ll remember, I noted in my opening paragraph from last week’s article that I was worried that too many players would come prepared to combat our powerful Ivy League deck. I was right. Sage, Xavier’s Secret Weapon would not have made her way into anyone’s decks if players hadn’t been tipped off that The Donkey Club was bringing Ivy League to the event. While we still managed to place four members of our team into the Top 8, I feel that we would have done tremendously better if we had brought the element of surprise. All in all, though, this was a great event for us.

But I’m not writing to brag or whine about Pro Circuit San Francisco. I’m writing to share the exciting results of “The Experiment.” If you didn’t read last week’s article, here is a quick summary: I opened five random Infinite Crisis booster packs and recorded the contents. Then my plan was to ask three of my teammates to build independently what they would play in a Sealed Pack event from this card pool. My participants were Jason Hager, “The Constructed Genius”; Tillman Bragg, “The Well-Balanced Master”; and Neil Reeves, “The Sealed Pack Genius.”

Once again, here is the card pool presented to each of the participants.

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

Unaffiliated

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

Shadowpact

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

Checkmate

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

JSA

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

Equipment

1 Amulet of Nabu

1 Laser Watch

1 Tricked-Out Sports Car

Locations

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 Knightmare 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

Tillman and I flew to San Francisco together, so he was the first to participate in the experiment. I chose not to participate myself in the hope that I could be non-biased in my journalistic adventure. His approach to building the deck, although limited by the amount of space provided by his tray table, was to look at the depth of characters in each team. Being that there were so few Villains United characters, he quickly eliminated them and got to work.

After about twenty minutes, this is the build that Tillman presented.

2-drops:

2 Sasha Bordeaux, Knight

1 Sarge Steel, Knight

1 Prince Khufu ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Warrior

3-drops:

1 Arthur Kendrick, Knight

1 Ahmed Samsarra, White King

1 Michael Holt ◊ Mr. Terrific, Renaissance Man

1 Rex Tyler ◊ Hourman, Inventor of Miraclo

4-drops:

1 Harry Stein, King in Check

1 Elimination Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot

2 Katar Hol ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Hero

5-drops:

1 Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal, Knight

1 Hourman III ◊ Hourman, Time Machine

1 Mordru, Dark Lord

6-drops:

1 Huntress, Reluctant Queen

1 Power Girl, Earth 2

7-drops:

1 Sasha Bordeaux, Autonomous Prototype

1 Black Adam, Ruthless Hero

Plot Twists:

1 Knightmare Scenario

1 Threat Neutralized

1 Target Acquired

1 Forbidden Loyalties, Team-Up

1 Revitalize

1 Thanagarian Invasion

Locations:

1 Brother I Satellite

1 Checkmate Safe House, Team-Up

1 Dr. Fate’s Tower

Equipment:

1 Amulet of Nabu

1 Laser Watch

After reviewing his build, a few of his decisions struck my interest. I was particularly surprised that he chose to play Harry Stein but chose to not play the second Knightmare Scenario.

Here are the questions I asked Tillman. I planned to ask the other participants almost all of the same questions, as well.

Me: Why Harry Stein?

Tillman: I think he’s really good. You have Knights at 2, 3, and 5. Threat Neutralized and Revitalize help to get around his drawback.

Me: When you received the card pool, what were your first impressions?

Tillman: Checkmate really stood out. There was just barely enough depth in two teams to keep from playing a third.

Me: What were your most difficult decisions?

Tillman: The decisions to cut the second Knightmare Scenario, whether to play Tricked-Out Sports Car, and whether to play Fate’s Tower were all pretty tough.

Me: On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being extremely easy and 10 being extremely hard to build, where would you rate this card pool?

Tillman: I’d say 2 or 3. There were no decisions to make concerning characters. The deck nearly built itself.

Me: What are the shortcomings/strengths of this card pool?

Tillman: The 2-drops and 3-drops couldn’t be any better. There are few pumps in the card pool and the 5-drops and 7-drops could be a little better.

Me: After discussing the build (I had quizzed him about a few of his other decisions), do you wish you had made any different choices?

Tillman: Harry Stein might be a mistake. I probably should have played the other equipment (Tricked-Out Sports Car) and the other Knightmare Scenario

Tillman and I shared a room with Neil Reeves and Adam Bernstein. The night before the big event, I sorted the card pool back into its original order so as not to leave any trace of Tillman’s build. Neil was happy to play along in the experiment and took a crack at building the Sealed Pack deck.

Here is the build that Neil submitted.

2-drops:

2 Sasha Bordeaux, Knight

1 Sarge Steel, Knight

1 Prince Khufu à Hawkman, Eternal Warrior

3-drops:

1 Arthur Kendrick, Knight

1 Ahmed Samsarra, White King

1 Michael Holt ◊ Mr. Terrific, Renaissance Man

1 Rex Tyler ◊ Hourman, Inventor of Miraclo

4-drops:

1 Elimination Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot

2 Katar Hol ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Hero

5-drops:

1 Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal, Knight

1 Hourman III ◊ Hourman, Time Machine

1 Ragman, Redeemer of Souls

6-drops:

1 Huntress, Reluctant Queen

1 Power Girl, Earth 2

7-drops:

1 Sasha Bordeaux, Autonomous Prototype

1 Black Adam, Ruthless Hero

Plot Twists:

2 Knightmare Scenario

1 Threat Neutralized

1 Target Acquired

1 Forbidden Loyalties, Team-Up

1 Revitalize

Locations:

1 Brother I Satellite

1 Checkmate Safe House, Team-Up

1 Dr. Fate’s Tower

Equipment:

1 Amulet of Nabu

1 Laser Watch

1 Tricked-Out Sports Car

Neil’s build differed from Tillman’s by only three cards (they are shown in bold). Neil opted not to take a risk on Harry Stein, but he kept the Threat Neutralized in just for its one-time +1 ATK / +1 DEF bonus. Looking back on this decision, I think I disagree with keeping Threat Neutralized in the deck. I probably would have cut this in order to splash some other off-team 4-drop.

Here are the questions I asked Neil:

Me: You are playing only three characters the 4-cost slot. Is that enough?

Neil: It should be fine. There aren’t really any other options.

Me: Tillman chose to play Mordru as his third 5-drop. Mordru is basically on-team. I see that you chose Ragman instead. Did you consider Mordru, and why did you choose Ragman instead?

Neil: Ragman is just too good. He’s a 5-cost 12 ATK / 10 DEF. That’s just too good to pass up. The other guy (Mordru) has flight and range, but it’s worth ignoring teams to play Ragman.

Me: When you received the card pool, what were your first impressions?

Neil: There were only two deep teams. Shadowpact got a second look, but Checkmate and JSA fit better. Strangely, there were six different Secret Six characters.

Me: What were your most difficult decisions?

Neil: I wasn’t sure if I wanted to splash an off-team 4-drop and/or 5-drop. I also really wanted to play about two Shadowpact 1-drops, but that would have led me to playing a third Team-Up card, which I just couldn’t fit.

Me: On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being extremely easy and 10 being extremely hard to build, where would you rate this card pool?

Neil: 2 or 3.

Me: What are the shortcomings/strengths of this card pool?

Neil: The 2-drops are awesome. There is great synergy and search with Samsarra, Brother I Satellite, Fate’s Tower, and so forth. I really wish I were playing some 1-drops.

After seeing Neil’s build, I thought, “Well, Jason is sure to build this deck similarly.” Both Tillman and Neil rated this as being pretty easy to build, and I was inclined to agree. I fully expected to be writing this article tonight to examine only the minute differences in my three teammates’ builds. Even if that were the case, there could still be much to discuss. But I was pleasantly surprised as I watched Jason work with the card pool on Sunday.

As Jason sifted through his options, I noticed that he had quite a few small stacks of cards. I missed my opportunity to get a closer look, but suffice it to say, he was already thinking outside the box in which Tillman and Neil had designed their decks.

I left Jason to his work while I watched Gabe and Tillman play a match from a little Donkey Club six-man draft. In each of the games where Gabe played Conjuration, Magic, he lost almost as a direct result of the endurance he had paid. Jason overheard me saying something about Conjuration, looked up with the grin of a kid on Christmas morning, and said, “Are you talking about this card pool? Because I am definitely playing Conjuration. It’s awesome!”

Here is the deck my Constructed Genius submitted:

1-drops:

1 Nightmaster, Jim Rook

1 Fiddler, Isaac Bowin

2-drops:

2 Sasha Bordeaux, Knight

1 Prince Khufu ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Warrior

1 Deadshot, Dead Aim

3-drops:

1 Lex Luthor, Champion of the Common Man

1 Ahmed Samsarra, White King

1 Michael Holt ◊ Mr. Terrific, Renaissance Man

1 Rex Tyler ◊ Hourman, Inventor of Miraclo

4-drops:

1 Dr. Occult, Richard Occult

1 Elimination Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot

2 Katar Hol ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Hero

5-drops:

1 Hourman III ◊ Hourman, Time Machine

1 Blue Devil, Big Blue

6-drops:

1 Zatanna, Showstopper

1 Power Girl, Earth 2

7-drops:

1 Black Adam, Ruthless Hero

Plot Twists:

2 Knightmare Scenario

1 Threat Neutralized

1 Target Acquired

1 Forbidden Loyalties, Team-Up

1 Justice United, Team-Up

1 Conjuration, Magic

Locations:

1 Brother I Satellite

1 Checkmate Safe House, Team-Up

Equipment:

1 Tricked-Out Sports Car

1 Laser Watch

In case you have never seen the types of decks that Jason plays in Constructed formats, you might want to take a look at Ivy League, Evil Medical School, and New School. Do you notice what those decks have in common? Jason loves to play a high Team-Up count. He also fancies having quite a few teams in play on his side of the table all at once.

It looks to me like Jason’s build will be a little less reliable than those submitted by Tillman and Neil. While I generally think that Sealed Pack is more about finding the most consistent thirty-card build, Jason’s approach forced me to step back and re-evaluate a number of cards that I had written off because of their teams or team-stamping.

Jason had a lot to say about his decisions. Most interestingly, he stated, “This deck is built to fail one attack. Once you do that, you win the game.” Again, I was impressed with this statement. Neither Neil nor Tillman made any mention of what the deck was designed to do.

Me: Why splash for Fiddler?

Jason: Since he is free, you can play him on the turn that you want to fail the attack. With one of the two Katar Hol ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Heroes in play and/or possibly a Prince Khufu à Hawkman, Eternal Warrior in the hand or KO’d pile, you are almost assured to fail at least one attack.

Me: Why play Deadshot over Sarge Steel?

Jason: Deadshot is the best 2-drop in the deck! He’s an extra character that keeps coming back!

Me: So you really like Conjuration, huh?

Jason: On my turn 5 initiative, I’d be happy to pay 15 for Zatanna.

Me: When you received the card pool, what were your first impressions?

Jason: There were almost no Villains United characters, but there were quite a few nice Villains United-stamped plot twists. Checkmate’s characters were deep, but there were only three locations available.

Me: What were your most difficult decisions?

Jason: There were just so many good plot twists from which to choose.

Me: On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being extremely easy and 10 being extremely hard to build, where would you rate this card pool?

Jason: 5.

Me: What are the shortcomings/strengths of this card pool?

Jason: Its teams are all over the place, so it will be hard to make the most of Mr. Terrific. Brick-wall potential with this deck is very good, though.

I showed Jason how Neil and Tillman built their decks and then asked him if he had any afterthoughts. His reply: “I can’t believe they didn’t play Fiddler!”

So, what can be learned from this experiment? Here are just a few examples of what I learned.

1: After seeing Jason’s build, I tried tossing a late-picked Deadshot, Dead Aim into a deck I drafted later that night. I have to admit, I was quite pleased with the card.

2: After hearing Jason say, “This deck is designed to . . .” when referring to a Sealed Pack deck, I decided that “What does this deck do?” is a question I will continue to ask myself as I build my Sealed Pack decks in the future.

3: Neil’s Ragman and Tillman’s Mordru were both options I think I might have overlooked if I had built the deck beforehand.

For those of you whose hopes were high that I would get input from the unlikely fourth contestant, Alex Jebailey (“The Instinctive Apprentice”), I’m sorry to say that he did not attend Pro Circuit San Francisco. I felt that “The Experiment” was a wonderful learning exercise for me, and I hope that you share that sentiment. I enjoyed this exercise so much, in fact, that I plan to do it more frequently. I think I will need a new title for the exercise, though. Future installments of the series formerly known as “The Experiment” will now be called “The Study.”

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