Written by Rhody Nilon
It’s almost that time of the year! Australia and New Zealand get their obligatory annual Grand Prix and the format this time around is Team Limited. Most competitive players will claim they are specialised in certain formats. For myself it’s Modern and Limited, others may be Standard, Legacy or Vintage. Most people won’t claim to be good at Team Limited. What’s the difference though? It’s still just a sealed deck right?
Well, yes and no.
There are a couple of key points that make Team Limited events quite different to your average sealed event. For starters, your team builds with a shared pool of cards. Each team busts open twelve boosters to scrap together three competitive decks. In this structure, each deck is capable of being significantly stronger than your average sealed deck. I like this a lot for one significant reason. It removes a lot of ‘luck of the cards’ from sealed events. Sometimes in sealed, you just get a bad pool. Now, the best players will still perform well with a bad pool, however, if a good player with a bad pool plays against another good player with a good pool, you can tell who’s favoured here.
However, you still need to make some serious decisions in deckbuilding for Team Limited, and your decisions will be based both on your pool and the type of players in your team.
1) Everyone gets a good deck:
There are a couple of requisites for this to be an effective choice. Your pool must have a good distribution of threats and removal, but possibly more importantly, all players on the team must be as good as each other. While no one likes to point out others’ shortcomings, it’s extremely important as a team to acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of each player. If you have a player who, while may still be a great magic player, isn’t super experienced in the current limited format, you may be better off building two strong decks and one functional deck. You want to maximise your possible win rate based not only on your cards but also your players.
2) Two players get a strong deck and one player gets a functional deck:
This plan favours teams which have some players who are stronger than others. I know it may seems unfair but if the aim of the tournament experience is to win it, then you must be prepared to make these acknowledgments. It’s highly unlikely that your sealed pool will be unable to make this work as well, so this probably the scenario that most competitive teams will make happen.
3) One player gets an overpowered deck, two players get reasonable decks.
This scenario can happen and may possibly be the correct choice. By making this decision you almost surely will have your best player playing the best deck. You will want to make the decision to do this when you have an extremely biased pool of cards. You may have a pool that leans completely towards one or two archetypes and doesn’t really let you play any others effectively. Then all you need to do is win 50% of your other two matches per round and you’ll progress.
The other things to keep in mind are your team seating. Where you sit does matter for a couple of key reasons. Most competitive teams will nominate a captain. The purpose of a captain is to lead the team. Leading the team means helping your teammates to make the hard decisions, assisting them with rules and to make sure that your team is generally playing to maximum effectiveness. So, in most cases your captain should sit in the middle seat. This way they have easy access to both players during the round, and can keep an eye on how each game is playing out as the round progresses. In addition, if any of the other players have any rules questions or play decisions to make, they can easily access their captain to help them make decisions. It is key to note that in team events you CAN talk to your team mates during the round and they are not only able to, but are encouraged to help you make in-game decisions. For these reasons, you will most likely give your captain the most straight-forward deck. This means that they can distract themselves from their own game without disrupting their momentum and train of thought. This doesn’t mean that they must play the aggressive deck, but the captain should be playing the deck which they can play almost without thinking. If your captain feels this comfortable with midrange or control decks, so be it, so long as they can be disrupted mid-game and still maintain control of their in-game mind.
For those who don’t know, I recently moved from Brisbane to Sydney, so for this GP I’m in the position where my team mates are in Brisbane, which means I can’t directly practice with them. However, outside of GP’s, Team Limited events are extremely rare, so you are unlikely to gain practice in events even with your team directly available. I think when it comes to practicing for a team event, it’s more important to build team trust, and to help your teammates understand how you behave and think and vice-versa. This is where the internet is especially helpful to us. Magic: Online provides a platform for players to draft and play sealed online, and is a fantastic means of practice for limited events. We also have services such as Skype which provide screen-sharing services. What I have done with friends many times in the past is do drafts or sealed events with them via screen-sharing. We’d start a draft and discuss our picks and decisions and make educated choices based on both our own and our teammates thoughts. This is a great way not only to gain knowledge of a format, but to also learn how your team thinks.
Team Sealed games also play out very similarly to draft events. While you don’t have to worry about the actual draft side of things, the decks are stronger because players have a more diverse pool to choose from. Therefore, the way the decks are designed are more likely to have synergistic properties and be well constructed. For this reason, I would advise that you practice by drafting and not by playing sealed. That’s not to say that practicing sealed is wrong, you should still do this for diversity’s sake, but practicing in draft will both give you stronger knowledge for team limited and stronger knowledge of the format as a whole.
If you’re reading this article then you are likely somebody who regularly reads articles all over the internet. However, I highly recommend listening to the "Limited Resources" podcasts. They give a lot of good insight into the format and discuss the movement of the limited format. There are also a lot of articles by heaps of players online about limited. There are some players, however, with whom I take advice from much more strongly than others, and often watch a lot of. That’s not to say that the other players aren’t good, they’re amazing, but some players are just aficionados of the limited format. These players include Luis Scott Vargas, Kentaro Yamamoto, Shota Yasooka, Lee Shi Tian, Brian Braun-Duin, Ivan Floch, Yuuya Watanabe, Jason Chung, Reid Duke and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa. All of these players are extremely good at Limited and rarely put up poor results. I highly recommend watching videos of these players or reading some of their articles.
I hope all of this has been helpful for you guys. If you have any extra insight don’t hesitate to add it into the comments below. I look forward to seeing you guys in Sydney!