The title kind of sounds like a song doesn’t it? C’mon put a nice old disco beat behind it, Lil’ Jon screaming Ooookaayy, maybe some Puffy. Aaah whatever…
So this past Sunday, I finally got my whole team in one place at the same time. It just so happens that there was a team trial that day at King’s Games in Brooklyn. That’s Alex Shwartzman’s store in case you aren’t familiar with the place. My friend Phil Naps, Dave Chung, and myself decided to team for Grand Prix: DC, since none of us have any pro points. Amateur status at a Grand Prix is pretty important in my opinion. Giving up that amateur prize is a hard thing to do. From what I understand, at the last team GP, there were teams that didn’t even make day 2 receiving checks. I am not sure how accurate that statement is, but I am just repeating what I heard.
If that’s the case, I figured I might as well find myself some amateurs to play with. Phil and I naturally thought that it would be a good idea to team, since we only live a few blocks away from each other and attend most events together anyway. Now we just needed to find a third. Originally I was going to team with Kate Stavola and Mike Stein, but I just thought it made more sense to team with Pnaps. We would have gladly accepted Kate as our third, but she wanted to stick with Mike, so we decided to pick up Dave Chung. Dave is a good PTQ player and former Grudge Match NY (I used to love those grudge matches) Champion, so I was pretty confident in my squad and thought we had a good chance to do well at the trial and eventually the GP.
Somehow, by way of sheer play skill and obvious talent, we managed to win the trial and secure two byes for DC. It really had nothing to do with the fact that we opened a Molder Slug, two Skullclamps, trips Murderous Spoils, Betrayal of the Flesh and a shiny Solemn Simulacrum. I mean really, it was all skill.
We built a White/Red Equipment deck, a Blue/Black affinity deck and a Green deck with a small splash of Red and Black. If I had to do it over again, I would have built them differently, though. We haven’t had too much experience with team sealed, so we didn’t have enough time to lay out all the different color combinations. Our choices were fine, but I think we would have ended up with slightly stronger decks had we left the Green deck as it was, but built a W/B double Skullclamp deck with some good men and some removal, and a U/R affinity deck with a bunch of Arcbound guys and some burn. So our builds were probably a mistake, but it worked out for us, since we just overpowered pretty much every other team.
I ended up playing the Green deck. I usually don’t like to play the Green decks, because I hate when games get stalled out and I don’t know when I’m supposed to start attacking again. I hate thinking. I would much rather just kill my opponents guys and swing every turn. I am naturally an aggressive player, and I hate when I can’t smash. Some players like this long, drawn out game with all types of combat tricks, so they can outplay their opponents. Well, it’s a nice thought, but I would rather end the game quickly, so I can go get some eats.
When I was building the deck, it was fairly straightforward because I just picked up every good Green creature, pump spell and artifact destruction spell, and put it in the deck. Then I filled in the blanks with a Murderous Spoils, a Betrayal of the Flesh, a Pyrite Spellbomb, and a Detonate. I splashed the appropriate lands with the help of a Journey of Discovery and a Solemn Simulacrum, and threw in my only non-creature artifact spell – a Damping Matrix. This card was amazing for me throughout the day. I think it’s at its best in Team Sealed, because you can really build one of the decks to abuse it. The only thing in my deck it shut down was a Spellbomb and the regeneration ability of a Tel-Jilad Exile. Most of the time, I would have played the bomb already anyway, so it was always lopsided. It really just dominated a lot of the games I played. It was actually more devastating than the Molder Slug sometimes. Seeing the looks on people faces after you drop Damping Matrix in game one when they have a Crystal Shard, a Leonin Bola, Grimclaw Bats, and a Soul Foundry on the board is truly priceless. Next time you lay out any Limited deck, count the number of cards that would be shut down by Damping Matrix, and you’ll realize what a bomb it can be.
We did manage to lose one match throughout the day, though. Obviously it was to our good friends Gerard Fabiano, Jon Sonne, and Craig Krempels, who were playing under the name Grab the Stains. Clever. I think it must be that they just opened better cards than we did. Ignorance really is bliss and I’ll just keep telling myself that.
Some highlights of the day included:
Me casting Molder Slug in game 1 of my match, only to look over and watch my teammates both lead with turn 1 Skullclamp in their game 2. One of their team members was pretty happy about that.
My opponent leading the game with artifact land on turn 1, artifact land, and Frogmite on turn 2. I played Creeping Mold on his land on my turn 3 (off of a Myr). He missed his land drop and I played Molder Slug on my fourth turn. That was a close one, obviously. I’m not sure how I pulled it out.
So we ended up drawing with some team in the final round of the swiss that didn’t actually make the top 4. I guess they were too scared to play us or something. They had the lowest tiebreakers, and I think they knew there was a chance they could come in fifth. Whatever, we accepted the draw, since we had the best breakers and went to eat some KFC.
Our top 4 match was against a team we had beaten in the swiss. TJ Imps, Steve”glasses” Cohen and Jon Rubin. Rubin had basically come out of retirement for this tournament, so he was still shaking off some of the dust that had accumulated on his game. They had very good decks, and we knew that Dave had a good matchup against TJ, since he beat him easily earlier, and that Phil had a bad matchup against Glasses, since he won by sheer luck. So it was actually all up to me, which was bad, since I didn’t think my deck could actually beat Rubin’s. He was playing G/W, so he had most of the stuff I had, but in place of the removal he had Leonin Abunas, Loxodon Warhammer, Pulse of the Fields, and Stir the Pride. Yikes. I knew it would be a tough match, but I just tried to focus on playing tight and hope I could keep the game from stalling so he couldn’t wreck me with Stir the Pride.
In Game 1 Damping Matrix saved the day, since he wasn’t able to regenerate his two Trolls of Tel-Jilad, and was unable to equip the Loxodon Warhammer he had in his hand. I drew some bigger guys than him and was able to smash through his defenses for a win. I sided out Tangle Walker for a Malachite Golem and shuffled up for game 2. I figured that at least the Golem was another guy that could swing through the Leonin Abunas and his other fat guys. I came out with a bunch of big men, that he couldn’t really hold off. I wrecked him on a couple of double blocks and got him pretty low when he started using Pulse of the Fields. I can’t tell you how ridiculous this card actually is. I had to burn myself all the way down to five life so I could kill him. That was really dangerous, considering he had Loxodon Warhammer and Stir the Pride in his deck. Most of the game was me calculating how much mana burn I should take during his end step, and how much to swing for on my turn so that he couldn’t get a fourth use out of the thing. Luckily, the turn I burned down to five, I was able to kill him before he topdecked a way to beat me.
Grab the Stains won their top 4 match and all was well in the world. Since they already had byes, they were able to split with us and let us have the ever-important free wins for the Grand Prix. Nice.
If you are new to the team format, I just want to say that it is by far the most fun way to play Magic. I like being on a team if I can respect the players I play with, and trust them to pull through when we need them. Wins are more fun together and losses suck less when you are with your friends. There is less randomness involved, since the cardpools tend to be more even when they get larger, and the deck construction becomes much more difficult because you are faced with more options. It definitely takes more skill to build three decks and split up all your cards correctly in order to get maximum value out of all your stuff, than it does to just open something broken and build a single deck.
Tips For Deckbuilding
Don’t worry about who is playing what deck when you sit down.
Sometimes players lay the deck out in front of them and get greedy because they want to win their matches. You really have to remember that you have to build all three decks to win. It doesn’t do you any good to go x-0 on the day when your teammates lose. I hate when I hear people say”I went x-0, but my teammates couldn’t come through. It’s not my fault we lost.” If your team lost, even if you won your individual match it, you’ve still lost. Next time, don’t hog all the good cards.
Generally, in this format I think you want one Affinity deck, one deck with a lot of removal, and one deck with a lot of good creatures and Equipment. I like U/R affinity, G/W and B/r. I think that is ideal, although your cardpool will always dictate what you will play in the end.
Listen to the opinions of your teammates. Try out a lot of different ideas and actually lay the decks out in front of you. Sometimes it’s easier to see how the deck will work if you have all the cards in front of you sorted properly. A deck might seem great until you lay it out and every card costs four. A smooth mana curve is very important. So try out a few color combinations and put them together. If you see problems, try to see if you can fix them by shifting some cards around from deck to deck. In the end, try to have three synergistic, equally powerful decks.
Most of the time in Team Sealed, two decks will have to share a color. A lot of times in Mirrodin Block, I find it will be Red, since the color is so deep.
Make sure you put the right cards in the right decks. If you have an Electrostatic Bolt and a Pyrite Spellbomb, the Spellbomb should always go to the affinity deck. If neither of them is Affinity, which deck can most likely use the deck thinning and the cycling? Which deck really needs that spell to be one mana cheaper because of curve/tempo issues? Normally the aggressive decks will take the cheaper pieces of removal, but sometimes one of the decks will be slow and need some removal for the early game to stay alive. Which Equipment will go in each deck? This will come from experience with the format but, generally you want the cheap Equipment in the White decks, the larger Equipment in the Black/Blue decks, and nearly no Equipment at all in the Green deck. Notable exceptions include Neurok Hoversail and Fireshrieker, which tend to be best in Green decks.
Anyway, good luck to everyone out there planning on participating this season. I’ll see you all in DC. I’ll be part of”The Chicken Sandwiches.”