Team events have become much more important in competitive Magic. In the past, team tournaments consisted of the occasional sealed Grand Prix (where my friends and I got beat senseless by top pros). In today’s competitive environment, we find that every few months there is a team constructed tournament. There are a few varieties of this, but by far the most popular is split formats. This refers to when one player on each team plays one of the three constructed formats of magic: Standard, Modern, and Legacy. With so many new team tournaments on the horizon, I thought I’d offer a few tips as to how best to prepare for such an event.
As someone who has played a reasonable amount of team-based Magic tournaments, I have found success when I focused on two areas: finding good teammates and trusting them to do their job.This can be seen by the 5th place finish at my first team event as well as a ninth place at another when following the same recipe for success.
Finding good teammates can be hard, particularly if your biggest requirement is finding the best possible players willing to play with you. I understand what that’s like. On the surface, this seems like it’s the best idea. But after a few not-so-amazing-events playing with the “best” I could find, I was less sold on it.
As it turned out, having people who I enjoyed being on a team with, that I could get dinner with after, and was okay losing with was both more fun and led to more success. My teammates and I were a lot more comfortable helping each other and knew what we wanted from one another in each match as we had natural chemistry from being friends for months to years.
Making sure you pick teammates that are also friends makes forgiving their mistakes much easier as well. During every tournament, game, and even turn it’s likely that you will make a mistake. Having teammates that will move past all your mistakes is just as important as moving past theirs. You don’t tap mana like this and expect your friends to be happy when you need to remove an important creature.
Team events these days often mean that each teammate plays in a different format. Given that, each teammate generally focuses on one format over the others. If this is true for your team, it is more than likely true for the opponents you face, too. The take away from this is that each opponent you face will, on average, be stronger opposition than you see in a normal single player event.
Better opponents can mean a lot when preparing for a tournament, but the biggest two factors are a higher play-skill as well as better deck selection. Better play-skill means, simply put, that you need to bring your “A” game. Expect each opponent to try harder while making fewer mistakes. Not only is their tournament on the line, but so is that of the two people on their team.
Better deck selection means that you should expect the format to be more stable. You will not face as many funky brews and the like, so I would suggest choosing a deck and building a sideboard with that in mind. Having a deck that is much better against the top five or so decks in each format will reward you more than choosing a deck known to beat up on tier two decks.
Lastly, once you’ve found your teammates, selected your decks, and are ready to play your round, allow your teammates to play their game. Trying to help your teammates too much can often be a mistake. It can drain the round clock, lead to mistakes they wouldn’t have made in the first place, and be frustrating to deal with when someone in your ear doesn’t understand everything in the game up to that point. If you trusted them enough to be on your team, then trust them enough to play the deck they’re an expert with!
Telling your teammate your opinion too often will also bleed information to your opponents. If your teammate wants to cast Lightning Bolt on an opposing creature and you stop them to talk about other lines, it could tell the enemy team that you have another removal spell, or perhaps a two mana creature you could have cast that turn instead. There is absolutely no reason to give away free information when your teammate already knows exactly what they want to do. I have found that when I or my teammates needed help, they are more than willing to ask. Give them the chance to reach out to you with the really tough decisions before getting involved.
To summarize, find good friends you could be happy to play with even if you lose, keep in mind that the metagame of a team tournament is going to be different than that of a single-player event, and focus on your game first. Your friends are going to reach out when they need help, and when they don’t and make a stupid mistake, just try your hardest to win regardless. They’re going to feel worse than you do for making a terrible attack or tapping incorrectly… I have been-there-done-that plenty of times, so trust me on this. I’ve found team events are one of the best ways to make great memories from Magic — so don’t waste it!
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