The Anatomy of a Vintage Team

Until now, Teams in Vintage have simply just “been”. There has been no classification, code of conduct, or any real structure to how a team is formed. Teams tend to sprout up as if nothing went into its formation and rivalries are formed among people who don’t even know each other. In this article I plan to help end all that with clarifications of what really matters in the world of teams.

Until now, Teams in Vintage have simply just “been”. There has been no classification, code of conduct, or any real structure to how a team is formed. Teams tend to sprout up as if nothing went into its formation and rivalries are formed among people who don’t even know each other. In this article I plan to help end all that with clarifications of what really matters in the world of teams.

Types of Teams in Vintage


They may not create their own decks, but they are out there in the 30-40 man tournaments making the Top 8 or at least trying. By virtue of being on a team, they attempt many deck creations that never get off the ground. The most creativity you may see is a tweak or self-proclaimed “hot sideboard tech”. It’s clear that this team’s niche is in just playing the decks and putting up the Top 8’s.

The Discussion Artists

This type of team consists of people who talk more Magic than actually play it. You’ll see them represent in the forums, but never show up to anything. They probably come from a more remote area where playing in a Type One tournament is next to impossible or they just find that playing on Magic Workstation is cheaper. This team’s niche is primarily in making and tweaking decks.

The Locals

“…all the other, smaller “teams” are really just loose associations of friends or people that live in the same area.” – Aaron Kerzner on TMD

Most of these teams are easily identifiable by their name alone. Team <my town> is the most common iteration, though they sometimes get creative and actually give themselves one of those nifty cool sounding names. Like the gunslingers (the most common Team Archetype), they are more about playing good decks to a Top 8 finish than making a deck stamped with their teams namesake.

The Total Package

“So far it seems to me that while a team finds tech or creates a monster deck, it hides it until a tournament. They then rock that tournament then the whole world knows about it. Then the community helps make it better. They got the reward of owning a tournament for creating the deck and benefit the community by releasing a powerful deck for all to play afterwards.”

-moxlotus on SCG.

This team not only puts up the Top 8’s, but puts out the new deck archetypes to match.

I won’t pretend that I am going to avoid my team here. I belong to one of the, if not the, greatest teams in Vintage: Team Meandeck. Our success can be directly correlated to Stephen Menendian starting with a “The Locals”-type team then fleshing it out by cherry-picking some of the best, high-profile people in Vintage. These people have been known for their deck creation skills and their number of Top 8 notches on their belts.

Did I lead you to this section just to brag about Meandeck’s record and prowess? Of course I didn’t. What people don’t realize, and if they do they just don’t talk about it, is that there is more to the “Total Package” archetype than Team Meandeck and Team Short Bus. B&H: West Coast (I had to abbreviate it, this is a family site) comes to mind as one of them. Do some research on some of these teams’ records and see for your self what team else fits this category. [CAB from Europe comes to mind. – Knut] There are plenty of Type One players who are putting up the results with their own creations and most of them have a team behind them… Meandeck and Short Bus just happen to be more in your face about it.

What Makes the Team

In Composition of a Team, John Davis gives us the important elements to building a team. In Vintage, it differs. For example, a card guy is nice, but in a format that allows many proxies this isn’t entirely necessary.

Here’s what you should have on every successful Vintage team:

The Good Player – He may not be involved very much in tweaking and creating decks, but when he plays, the environment feels it.

The Creators – They start the threads on your teams forums on new deck ideas. The team uses this as a starting point for testing and tweaking.

The Tweakers – They take existing ideas and improve upon weak spots, make good metagame calls with the sideboard, and overhaul deck engines.

Leaders – No, not a boss. A leader, someone to defer to in times of inter-team conflicts, policy questions about revealing decks, and people to decide on new recruit policy.

The Face – You will need someone to bring your name to the forefront. It could be your leader or just one of the Creators. You need someone to post reports, write articles, and ultimately flaunt your name so that you can have the aura of superiority among the masses.

Team Ethics in Vintage

Not much has been written on the ethics between teams in Magic. There usually seems to be a general sense of right and wrong that governs teams from being too cloak and dagger. However, in Vintage the idea of teams is somewhat still young. Where the Pro Tour teams have had ten years to work out the kinks, the Vintage scene is carving things out for themselves. In this great ethics article, Antonino De Rosa tells us a story of Magic teams, friendships, backhandedness, and betrayal. Most of all he talks about ethics among teams for, what I can tell, the first time. One particular line caught my attention and is what I believe the entire basis for ethical guidelines should revolve around.

“Now every PT, we try our best to keep our tech secret from other teams. Additionally, not once in recent history did any team go out of their way to get others decks. You just don’t do that, as it’s unethical, especially since we are all supposed to be friends.”

Not only is this true for our Type One circuit, but it applies to us even further as we are a much tighter community that the PT. Also, the PT offers thousands of dollars in prizes. On a good day in Type One, you can win a $600 card. At that ratio, it’s almost expected for ethics among the pros to be lower.

We’ve crashed at each others house and some of them have crashed at ours. Hell, this summer one rival team’s member sent me plane ticket money so that wouldn’t be the reason for me to miss GenCon (which I later sent back since other complications – like a wedding – were preventing my attendance). Vintage teams are pretty tight with each other or so I’d like to think. That said, while I won’t call anyone in particular out in public, there has been some real “punch-in-the-balls” level sketchiness going around lately. Some of which has been aimed at my team, some at others.

I had never once thought of even considering anything other than bringing my best deck and playing my best game at a tournament, even if it probably meant failure (and I met with plenty in 2004). I could further flesh out a set of guidelines, but that’s not only exhaustive but stupid. If we (as a community) cannot define something as morally right or wrong, then the cause is lost regardless.

Team Rivalry

While it might be the cool thing to create a team to “rival” another team, there should be some unwritten rules to follow before declaring (directly or indirectly) to be a rival of another team.

You should be within reach of your nemesis. I know those Meandeck jerks tick you off because we’re pretentious and get way too much recognition, but if you’re going to create a team that is supposed to be the anti-thesis of Meandeck, make sure you will play them… someday at least.

Your rival should have at least heard about you. I wouldn’t think that I’d need to elaborate much here, but I might be wrong. Team Montpelier, straight off the streets of Vermont, have we met? [I’m thinking of taking my boys Star Wars Kid and Jim Ferraiolo and starting Team Mouthbreather, where we steal Rich Shay decks and then chill while watching Meandeck kill themselves with Spoils of the Vault all the time. – Knut, whose new “team” started off with a 7th and 10th at SCG Richmond]

It’s basic, really. Once you’ve established some sort of rivalry, the banter begins. Once a rivalry is declared, just don’t let it get out of hand. Soon, you’ll find yourself doing poorly in tournaments because you neglected to bring in hate for anyone but the three or four players on the other team. This is what is known as “good times”.

Inter-team Collaboration

Some of the best decks in Vintage were a result of a greater collaboration. It’s good to bridge the gap with other teams because then you’re able to trade tech for tech. On Meandeck, with Team CAB we’ve worked on a few decks together and when team secrecy is at the highest, we feel comfortable with trading tidbits back and forth. It allows us to break from the innovative plateau we sometimes get trapped within.

I wrote an article where I detailed one such successful venture. I personally plan on many others and I think more teams should as well.

Dealing with Success and Failure

There will be times when half of a huge tournaments Top 8 will be your team, and there will be times when your bowels just give out on you. It’s always important to examine yourselves internally. What sort of system do you have in place? Where did it succeed or where did it fail? Are the teammates making the decisions making the correct calls?

One thing I remember from being on the Paragons was our inability to peel off the dead-skin and keep the team’s perspective new. As a member of Meandeck, we’ve undergone many renovations and have spent a lot of time evaluating our failures and success. We’ve had to make the heart-breaking decisions to cut friends from our roster list for inactivity, change methods of information sharing, and even plug tech-leaks. None of it is easy, but it’s all necessary.

Conversely, knowing what you’re doing that’s working needs to be recognized and ultimately added to your formula for success. Because there will always be things to learn about your team, no team can afford to be lethargic.

Steve O'Connell

A.K.A. Zherbus

Owner/Admin of TheManaDrain.com

Team Meandeck

Devourer of Worlds