There was a time when I posted here regularly, or at least once a month, summarizing my experience with Eternal’s monthly sealed leagues. Unfortunately I haven’t had much motivation to write lately. Part of it stems from not being as deeply invested in Eternal as I used to be, and part of it stems from some things that have been going on in my personal life that have left me without a ton of motivation to write.
But we recently crossed a major milestone for my favorite Eternal pastime, the monthly sealed league. A full year’s worth of leagues have come and gone, and I feel like I should have a retrospective look at how I have fared. Below is a table summarizing my records and the factions I played.
How fitting that, after going 28-12 so many times, I’d wind up with exactly 70% overall win rate. Usually 27 wins will get you to the premium legendary reward tier (Top 500), and sometimes 26-14 will get there, but you might need some tiebreakers. The only months in which I failed to reach the premium legendary reward tier were April, July, and October–and I had a decent shot in July. The pool was better than the record showed, so I think I could have spiked an 8-2, but I missed that last week due to vacation. Alas.
70% is quite high. In a game with so much variance, in the highest-variance format possible, I managed to win 70% of my games. I’m pretty proud of that, but I’m also a bit disappointed to have not spiked any high finishes in the last nine months. While the difference between 28-12 and 33-7 is really only a few packs and bragging rights, and it’s certainly more economical to go 28-12 every month instead of 33-7 followed by 23-17 or whatever, I do love the rush of spiking tournaments and would gladly trade off some subpar finishes. Still, hitting premium legendaries nearly every month with very little effort compared to ranking up is pretty nice. I do have some dark secrets to share with you that I used to game the system a little bit.
The first of these is one I have discussed previously: It’s very often correct to wait to play your games. This is particularly true if you consider yourself to be an above-average player with a close-to-average pool. I’m not going to claim to be the best Eternal player out there–there are hundreds of people far more dedicated to the game than I am–but I have never had trouble hitting the top draft ranks when I devote the requisite time and effort. Having a more coherent deck and more tools to leverage will benefit you if you’re the stronger player, even if your opponent also has a stronger deck. If you play your games when you both have weaker decks, you may be able to play circles around your opponent, but it may not matter if they find their bombs and you don’t.
You will miss out on tiebreaker games if you choose to wait, but tiebreakers are worth at the very most one single win. You could go 28-12 and 80-0 in tiebreaker games over the month, but you’d still be ranked behind a person that went 29-11 and 0-80 in tiebreakers. They’re next to worthless, especially if waiting would raise your win rate by a single game, and your time is always better spent doing something else, unless you’re truly enjoying your sealed deck that much.
The second is one I’m moderately ashamed to have considered, but here it goes: I play my games at the end of weeks, often right up to the deadline. Why does this give me an edge? Well, the most dedicated players often play their games fairly early in the week. Same goes for those who have great pools and are excited to play them. That eliminates a large chunk of players who would be likely to beat me on pure skill. I have no data to back up this “hot tip,” other than my own personal experience, but I almost always felt advantaged based on the level of deck-building and decision-making that I saw from my opponents. More than in the average draft game, at any rate. Is it a bit scummy to try and game the system this way? Maybe, but my anxiety about rank/ladder keeps me from playing until the deadline anyway…
You can never have too much Justice
This isn’t really a hot secret, merely an observation about how my pools have played out. Below is the frequency at which I played (splashed) factions:
Fire: 3 (0)
Time: 7 (0)
Justice: 10 (0)
Primal: 8 (1)
Shadow: 3 (4)
Only two out of twelve months did not have Justice involved. That sounds like a lot, but it’s not really that surprising. Like white in Magic, Justice kind of does it all, even if not especially well. It’s capable of filling all of the holes left by your other factions while having a high density of the most important cards in sealed: the almighty flyers.
Fire and Shadow were the least-played factions by a lot, also unsurprisingly. Fire specializes in cheap dorks and removal (besides Torch) that isn’t very efficient if you aren’t ahead. Many of Fire’s cards only fit in aggressively-slanted decks, which cuts out a large chunk of cards you can pair with Fire. My Fire decks tended to be very tempo-oriented, which requires a high density of cards that fit that plan. If you don’t meet that density, you’re going to have a very bad time because clunky cards will punish you harshly when you’re also throwing away value for the sake of speed.
Shadow has great removal, but its units are quite underwhelming or demand synergies that your sealed pool isn’t likely to have. I splashed Shadow a lot, which reinforces that point: It’s good for removal, but not much else.
Really, if I could sign up to have playable TJP pools every time, I would. The combination of beefy ground-pounders, flyers, efficient weapons, and combat tricks is really what makes a sealed pool tick. Interestingly, I had the most success with lower-removal decks that were able to grind value in other ways. Sealed is completely combat-focused; there are very few true control decks. Combat tricks are often removal-but-better because they can also be used to change the dynamics of a race (or straight-up win one). That brings me to the card I’d call my overall sealed MVP:
This unassuming little trick just does it all. It’s efficient, for one, meaning you can often leverage it later in the game while still developing your board. It’s fantastic in board stalls, since the moment you are able to get a single creature through, even a 1/1, your opponent might just be dead. Even if they aren’t dead, this thing can blow out double blocks if they try to trade up, leaving you ahead on board and allowing you to keep your best unit that they were trying to take down. Big boards are common in sealed, where removal is limited, meaning this will be +4/+4 or more quite often. The fact that it’s often such a large pump effect allows you to have a trump card in combat-trick wars. Somehow people overlook this card quite a lot. I’ve seen a lot of people block such that they’ll beat Finest Hour when I have 2 power only to get absolutely wrecked by Strength of Many. Finest Hour is the better card, but I’ve just gotten so much work out of Strength of Many in so many of my pools that I’m always thrilled to see it.
Though I’ve certainly played less and less Eternal since MTG Arena and other games have occupied more of my time, I still love the sealed league and try to get my daily ranked wins done (shoutout to Isomorphic’s hilarious Diogo-Invoke the Waystones combo deck that has made ranked actually fun for me again). I still hope to post monthly updates on my sealed experience, along with reviews for the next draft set, which is coming “sooner than we think” according to DWD. Here’s hoping.
Until next time, whenever that is!