Hi everyone, today I will write about a way to build Ultimate Masters sealed pools, in preparation for the upcoming Grand Prix Prague. Building a sealed pool mostly consists of identifying and separating the bad cards from the good ones, and play only the latter. Sometimes this is easily done by simply having a list with ratings, and playing only the colors with the highest rated cards.
However, as it is often the case with Masters Sets, Ultimate Masters Limited is a highly synergistic format, featuring fixed and narrow archetypes for every color combination. This means that cards can’t be evaluated just on their own, but from how they fit into the deck and how they synergize with other cards. While a card like Shriekmaw is undoubtedly a powerhouse on his own, for many others one needs to look at the wider picture. The biggest example of this is a card like Satyr Wayfinder. While he could be considered a fine card in most formats and in most decks, having access to cards like Gurmag Angler will make him the most important creature in the deck and hence his evaluation will depend on what other cards that synergize with him are available in the Sealed Pool. Similarly, a powerful card like Conviction could be completely useless if no heroic payoffs are available in the pool.
In this article I will list a few synergies in the various colors so that when building the sealed pool, one can look for those, rather than for individual strong cards. This sealed format, is mostly about making powerful plays before your opponent does and this is best achieved by assembling various combos along the way. While in draft you can pick cards focusing around a specific mechanic or archetype, in sealed the card pool will feature a bit of everything, and one should try to include in the deck as many 2 or 3 cards “combos” as possible.
In this article I will avoid talking about any rares or mythic rares, as they come out less often and in general are not very playable since the set is focused on reprints for eternal formats.
Cards good on their own: Fiend Hunter, Faith’s Fetters
Main synergy cards: Conviction, Heliod’s Pilgrim, Resurrection. Umbras.
White is mostly focused on the heroic mechanic for the GW and RW combinations. As such, it has more obvious synergies as they will mostly consist of putting an aura on a creature, but also has some cards for reanimator strategies.
Conviction is one of the best white cards for the heroic archetypes. While you can simply use it to make a giant Wingsteed Rider or Hero of Iroas, it can also shine in conjunction with Tethmos High Priest, especially when returning a Martyr of Sands or an Apprentice Necromancer.
Another good synergistic card is Heliod’s Pilgrim, particularly when the pool contains cards such as Conviction and Faith’s Fetters. It can also be bounced with a card such as Emancipation Angel which is good on its own and can provide some card advantage when combined with the Pilgrim or other enter the battlefield abilities.
Cards good on their own: Deranged Assistant, Mahamoti Djinn, Dreamscape Artist
Main synergy cards: Frantic Search, Stitched Drake
Blue is the colour focused around the madness mechanic, flashback, and graveyard interactions in general.
Frantic Search is an essential card in blue, best used in combination with cards such as Stitched Drake and 3 mana madness cards like Reckless Wurm or Twins of Maurer Estate. Any of these cards played on turn 3 can be an impressive clock to take the game down quickly. Speaking of Drake, if the pool contains multiple copies of that then cards such as Sultai Skullkeeper or Satyr Wayfinder go up in value as they can help power out a turn 3 Drake. This is a good example of what I mean by wanting to have better synergy rather than raw power: a card like Crow of Dark Tidings is certainly more powerful than Skullkeeper, but can’t be used to play out a turn 3 Drake.
Finally keep in mind that Treasure Cruise can do much more than just drawing 3 cards in the right deck. It’s a card that cost 8 and can help kill your opponent when paired with a Blast of Genius or when exiled with Living Lore.
Cards good on their own: Shriekmaw, Last Gasp, Chainer’s Edict.
Main synergy cards: Unburial Rites, Sanitarium Skeleton, Gurmag Angler, Death Denied.
Black is not a great color in UMA Limited in general due to the weakness of the removal and the fact that it’s main strategy, reanimator, requires a lot of pieces to work and these aren’t readily available at common rarities. The black reanimation spell, Unburial Rites, is uncommon and aside from that you need both a good reanimation target and a way to put this in the graveyard. That said, if the pool has such cards then this strategy can be powerful. The best graveyard enabler for this would be Satyr Wayfinder, and green also offers quite good target such as Walker of the Grove and Penumbra Wurm. Even better, these can also be reanimated with Apprentice Necromancer to make use of their leave the battlefield ability.
Another very synergistic package from black goes along Madness strategies, with cards that go well along the discard outlets available in red and blue. Sanitarium Skeleton is great with cards like Faithless Looting, Frantic Search and Mad Prophet. Discarded cards can fuel a fast Gurmag Angler or we can get back discarded cards with Death Denied.
Cards good on their own: Firewing Phoenix, Hissing Iguanar, Fiery Temper
Main synergy cards: Faithless Looting, Mad Prophet, Thermo-Alchemist, Molten Birth, Young Pyromancer.
I believe red to be the best color in UMA since it has a long list of cards that are good both by themselves and become amazing when combined with each other. Let’s start with Molten Birth, which is already good on its own since it is important to be able to effectively chump big ground attackers, like Gurmag Angler or a buffed Hero of Iroas. Combine it with cards such as Hissing Iguanar, Thermo-Alchemist, Magmaw, or Young Pyromancer and it can generate a ton of value even when only cast once.
Red also has the best discard outlets in the format, Faithless Looting and Mad Prophet, and since the set is generally centered around the graveyard, it is very likely that the card pool will offer cards to go with those. I have already mentioned some earlier like Stitched Drake and Reckless Wurm but really any card with Madness can take advantage of the free discard outlets and low cost of faithless looting.
Cards good on their own: Wild Mongrel, Eternal Witness, Become Immense, Devoted Druid
Main synergy cards: Pulse of Murasa, Spider Spawning, Travel Preparations, Satyr Wayfinder
Green is another great color as most of the cards are already quite good on their own, synergize very well amongst themselves and they can bring a lot more to the table in the right deck.
From the ones I already mentioned, Eternal Witness and Pulse of Murasa together are already an infinite combo with a sacrifice outlets or it can provide endless chump blocks.
Wild Mongrel is one of the best 2 drops as it is a great instant speed madness enabler and can actually threaten a huge burst of damage, especially if paired with Become Immense (and you can throw in a Double Cleave as well).
Spider Spawning was an insane card in Innistrad and still is here in UMA Sealed. The synergy and enablers in green alone are great, as you can use Satyr Wayfinder and Golgari Brownscale to fill up the graveyard. To go even deeper in a ramp deck with Kodama’s Reach as colour fixing, it is possible to add Mystic Retrieval for extra recursion.
Multicolour and Artifacts
Most multicoloured cards are quite powerful and will fit very well in any decks of their colours. A good question, however, is when to splash them when to play them only in their colours.
Two of them, Blast of Genius and Vengeful Rebirth, are very similar and I would add them in any deck that contain delve cards like Treasure Cruise, Gurmag Angler, Hooting Mandrils or Ulamog’s Crusher. The possibility of dealing a huge chunk of damage directly to the opponent is not something you should pass up on, even at the cost of playing an extra colour. Garna, the Bloodflame, has great synergy with green cards like Satyr Wayfinder or Wild Mongrel, and I would usually splash her in slower GR or GB decks.
Finally, I would try to include Double Cleave in any deck having a way to deal a huge chunk of damage unexpectedly, using cards like Become Immense or Wild Hunger.
As I have shown UMA is full of synergistic cards that perform much better when paired together than single good cards on their own. I typically build sealed pools but taking apart the rares, the lands, and the top rated cards in each colors. But for UMA, I prefer to divide my pool in groups of 2-3 cards each that have excellent synergy together and then try to fit as many as possible in the deck. That isn’t to say that you should end up playing lots of colors, 2 color decks are still the top performers, but I like to select those colors using this method.
And finally I will close the article with a list of cards that have over and underperformed after my initial impression of them.
Scuzzback Marauder - 5 mana might seem like a lot to pay for this creature, but Persist and Trample make it a force to be reckoned with. There aren’t many creatures with trample in the format and this one can threaten lethal damage even when the opponent is at more than 10 life, thanks to the high damage tricks available in the format, like Become Immense or Double Cleave. It is also great when paired with a Shed Weakness.
Stitched Drake - I have already mentioned the Drake multiple times and I will repeat it here. Cast this on turn 3 and paired with other blue tempo spells it is very likely to take down the game almost on its own. It survives Last Gasp and Fiery Temper and it is bigger than the other common flyers.
Anger and Brawn - These are similar and I have liked neither of them. It isn’t so easy to have one in the graveyard exactly when it matters and the fallback of having a 4 mana 2/2 reminds me of Narcomoeba in Guilds of Ravnica. I would only include them with a high number of enablers like Satyr Wayfinders, Mad Prophet and Faithless Looting, but even then I have not found them particularly impactful.
Mark of the Vampire - After being the best common in Ixalan this card has been really disappointing in UMA. Aside from the fact that black is a weak color overall, it does not fit the black archetypes well and synergizes poorly with the cards that you want in the best black decks. Even when playing BG or BW with white or green heroic creatures, it is a slow and underwhelming cards compared to the better Heroic enablers, like Conviction and the Umbras.
About Francesco Giorgio:
Since he started playing Magic in 2012, Francesco has fully immersed himself in the competitive aspects of Magic. After moving to England in 2014 he became a Silver Level pro and has been a constant presence on the Pro Tour ever since. Francesco joined Team Axion in 2016, with the aim of contributing to the development of a major mainstay team at future Pro Tours. Francesco is at his best with a 40 card deck, but also enjoys the Standard format. His achievements include 2 Limited GP Top8s and a 3rd place in the 2014 World Magic Cup. Francesco is the current captain of the English National Team and aims to bring the team to another important finish at this year World Magic Cup. His main objective for this season is to Top 8 the WMC and maintain his status as captain for next year.