So You Wanna Play Teams

When I talk to people at GG or wherever I happen to be playing Magic, it always surprises me when people I consider to be good or even great players tell me they have never played in a team trios event.

Then again, I’m something of a relic in the modern era of Magic. I remember six Pro Tours a year, six round PTQs, and of course, team events. I actually qualified for my first Pro Tour by winning a Team Sealed PTQ with Chris Piekarski and Mike Jacob way back in 2004, so team events have always been special to me, and I was pretty sad when team trios dissapeared from the professional scene. [Catoer’s Note: Even Chase can get lifetime pro points when he has teammates to help.  You see how low the bar is set?]

The good news is that it looks like Team Sealed, one of the most popular formats for trios, is not only a GP format again, but also has a growing grassroots following at the local level.

What’s that? You say you’ve never played Team Sealed? Oh, don’t worry, the old veteran’s here to show you the ropes.

PREPARATION

The only important thing you should do to prepare for a team event is to find some teammates. Teams are always three people, so pick two friends you’ll have a good time with. In this format, you play an active role in building your teams’ decks AND in the decisions they make during games (more on that later), so try to pick people who you can work with as well.

While they aren’t officially used anymore, pick a sweet name for your team, unless your last names are well suited for the task.

If you can’t get a team together, it’s not a big deal though. It’s very likely other people couldn’t quite get a team together either, and will show up looking to form a team on-site. Once, I showed up to a Team GPT alone, and formed “Team Bryan” with Bryan Upham and Bryan Goethe (sorry for the spelling. I can’t find his name anywhere). Team Bryan made it all the way to the finals, losing to eventual didn’t-go-to-the-GPers Dan Cato, Dan Gillis, and Ryan Mattis. [Catoer’s Note: “Team Barn, Barn, Hull” just dream crushing!]

Point is, if you can’t get a team together beforehand, just show up anyway. Good things will happen!

DECKBUILDING

Each team receives 12 booster packs to build three 40 card minimum decks. It sounds like a ton of work, especially considering there are three opinions on each decision. Well, it actually is a ton of work, but it’s also one of the most enjoyable aspects of team play. Being bombarded by new opinions during deck construction can really broaden your horizons when it comes to card evaluations and unexpected synergies.

You’ll have plenty of time to hash things out, so once you receive your card pool, lay it out and identify the best cards/interactions/strategies. Since most card pools are good enough to get away from the midrange decks that usually are the only choice in traditional Limited formats, try to match your teammates to their skill sets, or what they like the most.

Once you’ve figured out who’s playing what in their maindeck, divide up all the remaining cards to make up the sideboards. In some pools, there might be enough cards to completely change the way a deck plays, so keep that in mind. Some formats are more complex than others, but even if there is indecision at first, usually someone takes charge and helps make the last tough choices.

GAMEPLAY

Each round, teams are paired up to play three matches, with the A, B, and C seats playing each other. The team that wins two or more of the matches wins the round. 3-0ing your opponents is stylish (and it helps your tiebreakers), but it only earns you the three points you would normally get for a match win.

There is another major change to game play. You can actually help your teammates make decisions! It’s a good idea to give your best player the ‘B’ seat so they have an easy view of all the game states. Teams can collaborate on decisions while they play matches, and can continue to do so after they finish their match, but only until they get up from their seat. Also, try not to railroad your teammates. You have a vested interest in their performance, but it’s still their game to play.

There are endless strategies to try out in trios, and only so many trios events, so come on out to Gamer’s Gauntlet for our next Team Sealed event with a few friends and share some fun, glory and prizes!