Last updated on November 30, 2023
Seal of Strength | Illustration by Noah Bradley
Sealed is one of my favorite formats, both on paper and on MTG Arena. It feels like a special event because it’s usually used for the prerelease of a new product. It’s also a great way to get to know the newest sets and understand how some of the archetypes work together.
Another reason Sealed is a great format is that it’s a good introduction to playing Limited. There isn’t as much pressure as in Draft because you don’t have to pick cards or feel like you’re holding anyone up. The more you play Sealed, the better feel you get for making a Limited deck. After enough practice you likely feel more comfortable in other Limited formats like Draft.
When it comes to playing Sealed on Arena, there are also some pretty decent rewards if you’re able to do well. It’s a great format to save up gems and gold for! If you’re looking to give Limited a try and want a fun event to play on Arena, Sealed is a great option for you.
Imperial Seal | Illustration by Milivoj Ceran
Sealed is a Limited format where players are given six sealed booster packs and use those cards to build a deck. You’re also allowed to add basic lands since the six packs won’t have nearly enough lands to make a deck.
Your deck needs to be at least 40 cards. It can be bigger than that, but you likely want to keep your deck as close to 40 cards as possible to make sure it’s efficient. These 40 cards also include lands, so you’ll probably be taking about 22 to 25 nonland cards from your packs in total.
You’re given six digital packs to open when you play Sealed on Arena. Any cards you open are also added to your collection, whether you include them in your deck or not. Don’t worry about including a card in your Sealed deck if it doesn’t fit your strategy. It’s yours to keep!
After you’ve put your deck together you play 1v1 matches against opponents who are also using Sealed decks. You can continue playing until you either win seven times in a row, or lose three times in total. Each win advances you one tier on the reward track. While you’re stopped after seven wins, you’ll be rewarded enough gems to play again if you want to.
Sealed events typically last for about a month after the release of a new set. The Brothers’ War, for example, had a Sealed event that lasted for 25 days.
There’s also a Traditional Sealed event that starts at the same time as the Sealed one, but it usually ends a few days earlier. For example, The Brothers’ War Sealed ended on December 10, 2022, while Traditional Sealed ended on December 6, 2022.
Sealed is a best-of-one format, meaning you only play each opponent once. If you win you advance on the reward track.
Traditional Sealed is a best-of-three format, so you play the same opponent until one of you wins two games. You can lose one game without it counting toward your total losses. It also means winning an individual game won’t advance you on the reward track; you need to win the BO3 to advance.
Sealed has a reward track that goes up to seven wins and allows players three individual game losses. Traditional Sealed goes up to only four wins and allows players only two match losses.
While Traditional Sealed may seem more unforgiving, players can actually lose more individual games than they can in just plain Sealed. Traditional Sealed technically allows for six individual games to be lost if players win their overall matches. Traditional Sealed also allows players to add or remove cards to their deck between games, meaning there’s a chance to adjust your strategy based on your opponent’s deck.
The entry fee for both events is the same, and the prizes are very similar. The only difference in the prizes for each is that Traditional Sealed gives players a few more packs for winning all their matches. This is likely because four match wins in Traditional Sealed require players to win eight games, while the top tier on Sealed only requires seven wins.
Traditional Sealed lines up more closely to in-person Sealed events, which are also typically best-of-three. You may want to go Traditional if you’re looking for an experience similar to a local prerelease.
Deciding which is better really comes down to personal preference. Some players prefer Sealed because they aren’t required to make quick deckbuilding decisions on the fly. You get your own card pool and then have time to create a deck with it.
Other players enjoy the flexibility provided by Draft since you aren’t limited to the cards in the six packs you open. There’s a slightly better chance that you can put together a deck with a lot of the same cards when you do a Draft since you’re passing around far more individual packs.
Draft is probably the option for you if you’re looking for a better format to advance your Limited rank and to play more regularly. Quick Drafts have a pretty low buy-in on Arena, so it’s easier to play them consistently and rank up.
Though Sealed events are a Limited format, they don’t affect your Limited ranking on Arena. Sealed is sometimes used for Arena Opens or Qualifier Weekends, so getting better at the format gives you some chance for competitive play.
The best reason to play Sealed is that it’s just a fun format. It’s an interesting and unique challenge to try to put together a deck using only the cards you get out of a few boosters. That said, Sealed is a format that costs money, so it isn’t necessarily something everyone wants to play. What is Sealed best for besides a good time?
Sealed is also a good way to build your collection. You get six guaranteed rares, which is more than the three you’ll possibly take in a Draft. There also isn’t the feeling of FOMO you get in a Draft setting, so you never have to compromise your deckbuilding to grab a card you want for your collection.
Sealed is also a great format for players who are new to Limited. It’s definitely a little less intimidating than Draft because it’s more of a solo ordeal. You don’t have to worry about other players taking cards that you need for your strategy, and you won’t get self-conscious about holding people up. This slowed-down style of Limited play allows you to get a better feel for how to construct a deck with cards you may not be super familiar with.
Sealed is worth it on Arena when it comes to what you get for the in-game currency it costs. It costs 2,000 gems to enter a Sealed or Traditional Sealed event. Unlike other formats there’s no option to pay with gold. You’ll want to save up your gems between set releases to play Sealed when the new one drops if you don’t want to spend real money.
You get the six packs to build your deck for your 2,000 gem entry fee as well as three packs and 200 gems as a consolation prize, even if you don’t win a single game. Individual packs on Arena cost 200 gems each, so you’re getting your gems’ worth in cards because you’re receiving 9 packs and 200 gems on entry. You’re also getting additional value for your entry fee any time you win a game or match.
One thing to consider when deciding if a format is worth it is how likely you are to be able to play again without paying an extra entry price. You need to win six games if you’re hoping to play Sealed again with prizes alone, or four matches if you’re playing Traditional Sealed. It’s similar to the number needed to repeat a Draft event, but Sealed can be a little less consistent when it comes to your card pool.
Another thing to consider is that playing Sealed doesn’t affect your ranking. You’re better off playing a Draft format if you’re looking to play a Limited format to advance towards Mythic, or just earn some season rewards.
You need a 40+ card deck created only using basic lands and cards from the six boosters you’re given to play Sealed. There are no limits on color identity or the number of the same cards when it comes to deckbuilding. If you opened it in your packs, you can put it in your deck. If you’ve opened five or six of the same card (even though it isn’t likely), you can include every copy in your Sealed deck.
Any card you opened in your packs is considered your sideboard if you’re playing Traditional Sealed. You can swap in any number of those cards and any number of basic lands when making changes between games.
In Constructed formats you can build a deck that’s made to generate a ton of mana and drop you a lot of high-cost cards, but Sealed decks don’t usually have that luxury. You often want to restrict the number of cards over four mana that you’re adding to your deck. This ensures that you aren’t stuck doing nothing for several turns while your opponent continues to drop threats on the board.
The mana curve is important for all formats, but it’s even more important to watch out for when you’re playing with a less efficient Limited deck.
It sometimes happens that players can overcorrect when playing Sealed and make their mana curve too flat. While it shouldn’t be as steep as other formats, it’s still important to include some high-cost bombs in your deck to close out a game.
It’s also important to realize that a game-winning card may be one that’s underwhelming in other formats. Big creatures with trample are usually a safe bet in Sealed games, especially because the amount of removal is limited.
There are plenty of ways to win a game of Magic, but in Sealed the most reliable option is combat damage. No matter what you open in your packs you’re always guaranteed to have some creatures.
Building a deck that’s heavier on creatures is a pretty good strategy when playing Sealed, so don’t be worried if you find yourself only including five or six noncreature spells.
Sideboarding in Traditional Sealed is a lot different than it is in Constructed formats. You may even want to change out an entire color of mana for another one when it comes time to change up your strategy between games. Because Sealed decks are relatively small, changing colors from Dimir () to Izzet () could be a matter of only six or so cards.
You can also change up your deck in-between games. You have a good number of cards at your disposal to try a new one if you think you aren’t finding the success you need with one strategy.
Draftsim has lots of great guides to help you get better at Sealed and other Limited formats. These guides cover some of what I’ve already gone over in more detail, and they provide additional tips.
I recommend the Sealed Deck Rules and Tips, which also gives you some insight into how the format works on paper. Our guide to Limited mana bases is also incredibly helpful when it comes to deck construction, as is our guide to splashing colors. Finally, our guide to improving at all Limited formats is a great resource to help you improve your chances of winning in Sealed.
Draftsim offers great tools for building practice Sealed decks.
You can find some of the most recent sets on the main page and click the “Sealed” button on mouse-over to start practicing.
You can also click “All Sets” from the Draft Simulator dropdown menu to see more options of sets to practice Sealed with. You’ll see options for practicing Draft or Sealed, or looking at a tier list for each set we have available.
Once you’ve selected a set you’ll be given a card pool that you can use to start building your Sealed deck! When you want to practice with it you can export your deck and use it on Arena or any other program you use to play MTG.
If you need help constructing a deck, the simulator has a built-in tool that you can have construct your deck for you.
Arena Tutor is an excellent tool from Draftsim that helps you in real-time as you play Sealed or Draft on MTGA.
Once you’ve downloaded and set up Arena Tutor, which you can learn how to do here, you can use the tool to help suggest what you should pick during a Draft. Arena Tutor’s AI takes information from Draftsim’s site as well as the picks you’ve already made to help craft the best Sealed or Draft deck for you.
You can click on the tier list for any set we have available on the site from the All Sets page on Draftsim. These pages give you insight into some of the best cards in that set’s Limited format, as well as helpful advice like what cards you should pick first.
If you’re really serious about improving your Sealed game or any aspect of your MTG play, it might be worth checking out Spikes Academy. They offer paid courses taught by some of the world’s best Magic players.
One of those courses is from Pro Tour Champion and MTG Hall of Famer Ben Stark on Limited. It’ll help you to improve your Sealed and Draft play. It costs $47, but it might be worth looking into if you’re serious about stepping up your game.
While there is no dedicated Sealed community, a lot of MTG communities online discuss the format. Reddit’s Limited community covers everything to do with Draft and Sealed formats. Facebook also has some local Limited groups, so it might be worth checking to see if there are any in your area that are into Sealed.
One big issue when looking for a Sealed community is that “sealed” has a double meaning when it comes to Magic. A lot of search results for “sealed” and Magic bring up pages selling unopened Magic products, not players discussing the Sealed format itself. It might be worth searching for Limited as a whole and then searching within groups for information about Sealed formats.
Seal of Doom (Dissension) | Illustration by Ralph Horsley
Sealed is a very fun format both on MTG Arena and paper. It’s also worth your gems, so Sealed is for you if you’re looking for an event that isn’t a waste of Arena currency. It’s great to build a collection and get some Limited experience in a less stressful venue than a Draft.
I recommend checking out our Sealed tips or Gavin Thompson’s guide to winning a Sealed PTQ if you’re looking to improve your Limited skills further. Are you excited to try Sealed? Have you already played and have some thoughts on how to improve? Let me know in the comments below or on Draftsim’s Twitter.
Thanks for reading, and I look forward to seeing you in the next one!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: