Preparing for a Team Tournament

While the Pro Tour has now wrapped up, I’ve made the executive decision not to discuss it. There will be plenty of articles on the subject and no one needs article #65 by a washed-up Magic player. If you really want my thoughts it goes like this:

  • Temur Marvel is the best deck and will be for the Standard season.
  • Prepare for Zombies and don’t expect one sweeper to be enough.
  • Lost Legacy and Dispossess suck against Marvel but are likely necessary in small numbers. Transgress the Mind is much better against the deck when backed up by pressure.
  • The control decks still suck and it makes me sad. They have all the tools and can’t keep up with Marvel or Zombies.

And now for something different.

In Magic, there is little that is as exciting as the announcement of a team tournaments. This excitement has reached peak levels with the unveiling of two more such team events in SCG’s Season Two schedule. Even more, there’s one coming up this weekend at SCG Louisville. While I can’t speak on how to prepare for a Limited or Modern Unified Team tournament specifically, I can speak from my experiences from past team events. While this article is largely going to help folks for the most imminent event, this article is intended to be a resource not just for Louisville, but for future team tournament events as well.

Picking Decks

Choosing the right deck has to be one of the toughest aspects of any tournament. When preparing for any tournament it’s important to be able to analyze the metagame and make decisions based on what your strengths are in and how to use them to capitalize on the format. Team tournaments are only slightly different monsters.

While picking a familiar deck is super important, it comes with a few caveats. Your personal familiarity doesn’t translate out to teammates familiarity. It’s important that your teammates have some familiarity with your deck as well. This means taking the time to share and discuss decklists beforehand to get their advice. Maybe your teammate who is playing Standard has some good insight into Modern or Legacy and can help you make your sideboard or main deck better for the weekend. While you get to make all the final decisions on your own deck, your teammates can come through to help you figure out some tough decisions on building. This is the same as every other tournament but with a little more investment from those you’re playing with.

It’s also important that your teammates have a rough idea how you’re going to be sideboarding. If your plan against Modern Elves is to take out all of your Lightning Bolts for example, it helps for your teammates to be aware of that so that any in-game advice they give can be made with this info in mind. While it’s unlikely for your teammates to remember every single way you’re planning on sideboarding against every single deck, talking to them and giving them an idea on how you approach matchups will give them better insight for when you need help.

A huge issue in team tournaments is losing track of time when discussing plays with your team. Having an informed team helps in these situations, not only because they’ll have a better understanding of choices you’ve made, but because they can make them in a more expedient manner. 

Picking your team

Making the decision as to who you want playing on your team is certainly a little tougher. You want to play with friends but you also want to perform well.

It’s important for this aspect to not just pick your friends but also friends you see eye to eye with on deck choices and lines of play. If you spend all your time arguing about lines of play or deck choices, I can tell you off the bat this isn’t going to work out for you. Trusting your team to make the right decisions in a match is important. While the emphasis is on teaming here, remaining autonomous is vital to success. I will touch on support from teammates and the support you can provide later in this article.

One of the most important aspects here is playing with a team you’re going to have fun with. At worst, a team event is a chance for you to hang out and play with your friends all day. I absolutely get the drive to win. I feel the same drive. But teaming with people you might think will give you the best chance can lead to making some poor decisions in who you team with. One of the advantages of playing with a team is you get to have two support lines at all times during your match. If you team with someone you don’t really know it can lead to problems throughout the tournament. The best teams are going to be the ones that can play on their own but are always able to lend a hand when needed. It’s important to have fun at this event and I’d rather team with friends over people I may not know or get along with.

Travel Preparations

The toughest part of this depends on who you are teaming with. In general I’d say try and stay with your teammates, but if you’re not traveling with them then sometimes it is a lot easier to just stay with the people you traveled with. I would recommend trying to hang out with your team and go to dinner. You’re all friends, enjoy the time you get to spend! Build some trust, make your friendship stronger, and this leads to having a better time overall.

Talking to teammates

This one can be really tough. You don’t want to give your opponents any information but you want to help your teammates. Work on the volume of your voice and use your hand to cover your mouth. Try to avoid using specific phrases when describing your own cards or your teammates when discussing options. Saying out loud “use that removal spell” versus saying something like “what about the third card?” can lead to some more beneficial situations where your opponent can’t leverage the info they hear. It can also lead to an opponent playing around something that doesn’t exist. While I don’t recommend spending time trying to trick your opponent, it can be reasonable to try and turn a bad situation around by feigning strength.

As I mentioned previously, it’s also important to be able to play on your own. Your teammates are trying to play their own games. It makes it hard to play your own if you are always being asked for advice on every play. Try and use your teammates sparingly unless you have a series of tough decisions or your teammate is done with their match. Likewise, if you’re done with your match or shuffling in between games, use that time to try and help your teammate. Don’t try and force your lines onto them but you can always suggest options while waiting for your own match to start. Listening factors in a lot since you can either hear what opposing teams are thinking of and can hear great advice from teammates.

This is an extremely important note. During the last event I saw almost everyone of my opponent’s decks while I was looking away from my opponent’s deck while shuffling. Although I wasn’t intentionally trying to look my team got a ton of extra information that we shouldn’t have had. I know it wasn’t my opponent’s intention to do so, but this is how things ended up. Be careful how you’re shuffling as your opponent will be able to see diagonally. Protect yourself and your teammates.

Support

Support is incredibly important especially at team tournaments. If you win your match and your teammates lose theirs, you can’t get down on them for that. The same holds true if you lose; you don’t want your teammates to berate you. Throwing blame in a team event is a quick way to throw everyone on tilt and is not conducive to winning. You’ll lose out on trust you need when seeking advice and generally poison your chances for success

You win as a team and you lose as a team. Give your friends the support they need in between rounds and during rounds. Confidence helps you and your team. Remember to have fun during these events.

Wrap up

Thanks for reading. While I didn’t cover any specific strategies for this upcoming event, I hoped this provided a nice overview on how to prepare. Did I miss anything you think should have been added?

Rudy Briksza

Rudy Briksza

Rudy Briksza is a middling magic player with dreams as big as his ego. He has 8 Open Series Top 8s including 2 wins, one in Standard and one in Legacy. He competed in the 2016 SCG Player's Championships. He really likes Taco Bell and if you don’t you’re wrong.
Rudy Briksza

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Published:May 18, 2017

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