Kye Murphy of Iowa placed 3rd in the Sealed Deck category at the 2018 National Tournament, and shares his story as well as strategic tips to help other players in future tournaments.
Sealed Deck is not a category that everyone raves about to share insights and experiences. However, after taking first place in N. Central Regionals, I decided to give it a shot at Nationals to see if I could make it to the top…not quite.
Regardless, I very much enjoyed the category, including the game play, and wanted to share some reflections on the event for the betterment of the Redemption community.
Evidently, my deck developed a reputation during the tournament. I heard multiple comments throughout the tournament from my opponents. I didn’t let on to them at the time, but it really wasn’t all that great. Here is a list of the cards that were removed/substituted:
Deck List (J Starter Deck)
Sing and Praise
Lost Soul (Generic)
Based on the deck list above, you can already see that the deck was not that great independent of Samuel’s Edict. After feeling disappointed at Regionals with my selection of FoM and RoJ, I decided to go RoJ and CoW at Nationals – mainly for the potential to pull The Second Coming. I regretted this choice quickly as well. My Rares from RoJ and CoW were Guardian of Your Souls and Enoch (CoW), respectively.
Based on my packs (which did not include Samuel’s Edict), the cards I had potential to add were: Guardian of Your Souls, Household Idols, Pride in the Past, Lukewarm, Enoch (Pa), Enoch (CoW), Jeremiah 3:25 Lost Soul (Shame), and Seize Him.
During the trade, my opponent almost immediately asked about the potential to swap for my gold offense (I think for his purple). After declining the offense trade, and working out a minor trade that wasn’t amazing (Jephthah (CoW) and Answered Prayer (Kings)), he indicated that he wasn’t going to need and could trade me his Samuel and Samuel’s Edict. It took some convincing, but I was able to trade my Sisera for his Samuel’s Edict. That is when the game plan for my deck changed.
Samuel’s Edict was a sure add but also meant that I needed to keep all the no special ability judges; otherwise at least one of them probably would have come out. Seize Him was also a sure add, and it was easy enough to make room for Enoch (Pa). The challenging decision was whether to have two versions of Enoch or Jephthah. While Jephthah (CoW) worked well with my brigades, Enoch (CoW) was attractive for soul gen if I could play Son of God on him. The challenge with either is that one couldn’t be put in play if the other is already out. I chose Enoch (CoW), which I think was the right choice, but only got to use him once.
Regionals Side Bar
At Regionals, the only cards from FoM and RoJ that were useful to my deck were Covet Lost Soul and Golden Censer. Fortunately for the purposes of Covet Lost Soul, I was using the I starter deck at Regionals, which has all OT Souls.
A little Game Play Discussion
My first opponent, who traded me the Samuel’s Edict, beat me with a solid score of 2-5. I already wasn’t feeling very confident in my deck, but not drawing much defense made it worse. After he played Fishers of Men and underdecked my Son of God, Angel of the Lord, Christian Martyr, and some good defense options, I knew it was a lost cause.
My second opponent was my 6 year old son. While he also successfully underdecked my Son of God and Angel of the Lord with Gideon’s Call, I was able to get a 5-0 win and start climbing my way back up the ladder.
Most games were not very eventful. A little thought and choosing when to block or save your defense until you have a negate goes a long way. A battle winner + a negate is even better.
I will say that Mocking Soldiers was by far my worst enemy throughout the tournament. One game, I started a rescue attempt while holding Son of God because there was only one soul available and I had enough support I figured I could rescue it with enhancements and save Son of God for the next available. My opponent blocked from hand with Mocking Soldiers, and guess what was underdecked? Yep, Son of God. Another game, in a similar case, the pick was Angel of the Lord. And worse yet, in my final game where I lost 4-5 with a couple of turns where I didn’t have enough enhancements against bigger defense…the random underdeck got Samuel’s Edict. As a matter of fact, I don’t recall a time where Mocking Soldiers hit an insignificant card of mine. What’s worse is that I don’t recall any of these blocks when my hand size was less than 9 cards. #everylostsoulmatters
Strategies – Back to Some Basics
One of the biggest lessons I learned from Nationals is to play your strong cards when you have them in Sealed Deck. That may sound intuitive, but I think as a generality, the game has gone away from that to some extent in standard game play. I have a little more tendency to save a Samuel’s Edict for a fifth soul in a standard Judges deck, but in Sealed, I should be okay with playing it for a 1st soul. I might still be able to win the battle with two other enhancements I have in my hand at the time (battle winner + negate) but that also brings my hand size down for the next time and increases the chances that Mocking Soldiers will grab Samuel’s Edict (even if you have 9+ cards).
Speaking of Samuel’s Edict, out of seven games, I only got to use it twice. Once was against my 6 year old son. The other was against the eventual 2018 Sealed Deck Champion in our head-to-head. Otherwise, it was underdecked by Mocking Soldiers or Gideon’s Call.
Angel of the Lord is another card that might be standard to hold a little longer in order to save it for a rescue attempt where you don’t have any enhancements. However, with all of the hand targets in the I/J starter decks, it is better to play it while you have a chance. Of course you might want to be somewhat selective if you expect they are holding Christian Martyr, but if that is the case, maybe you go into battle with a Hero you don’t mind losing (or Enoch (Pa)).
Ideally, having one battle winner and a negate card in sealed deck is adequate to win a battle. That doesn’t mean that you don’t try if you don’t have that combination, but it is more certain of a successful rescue or block. Of course, if you only have the battle winner, you are probably putting a character in with lower numbers to get initiative to play the first enhancement. Conversely, with only a negate, you might want your opponent to play the first enhancement so you can negate it and hope they don’t have a negate in their hand. If they do, there is nothing you can do with the starter deck cards anyway since you would then have to directly target their battle winning enhancement and all of the negates in the starter decks target the last enhancement played (which would be their negate, not the battle winner).
You also need to have a decent understanding of what is in each deck. If I am playing against the I deck, I need to know the probability that Ishbibenob is going to block if I am attacking with a Hero strength 10 or greater. If I have Samuel’s Edict in my hand, then I have no problems attacking with Samson, and might even hope they block with Ishbibenob.
Another very strong move in Sealed Deck is to look at your opponent’s hand as often as possible before your attack. This gives you valuable information to know who to attack with and how to win the battle, how to use as many of your opponent’s resources as possible, and conserve yours.
I am planning to attack my opponent because I have a negate and a battle winner. Without knowing my opponent’s hand, I might attack with a low number character for initiative to play the battle winner since if they negate it, I have a negate and will likely win the battle.
However, if I play Sorrow of Mary (and underdeck a good card in the process), and see they only have one evil negate in their hand, I might be able to rescue with a higher numbered character and get a lost soul without playing any enhancements. This also almost certainly guarantees that I will win the battle having only played one enhancement at most (if they play their negate for numbers) and saving the battle winner for later.
If they only have a battle winner in their hand, I can behave similarly and attack with a higher numbered character and use my negate to win the battle.
If they have multiple battle winners but no negates, I can attack high and make them use all of their battle winners on a character who is not as key, sacrificing a soul this turn for them not having any more battle winners (probably).
My final comment is regarding soul drought. No one really likes playing a game where soul drought for one player dictates the game. However, there is a lot to be said for not drawing souls when you don’t have any in play. How do you do this? Don’t draw cards. The most sure block is not having souls on the table. With that said, this also makes the I deck slightly more favorable with the card Loaves and Fishes. While I feel like this is a card that often gets cut, it should not be underestimated in making your opponent cough up a soul. Sure, there are better cards in terms of battle winners and negates, but it is a card I look for in the middle of drought. If my opponent hasn’t drawn souls for a few turns and I have Angelic Guidance…I will go for Loaves and Fishes to get a soul on the table because I probably have everything in the world to win the battle at that point. After all, the object of the game is to be the first to redeem 5 lost souls. #everylostsoulmatters