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Team Sealed Thoughts and Tips

Written by John Cuvelier on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Limited, Magic Culture

This weekend magic players from around the world are headed up Louisville for arguably the best format in magic – Team Sealed.

What makes team sealed so darn fun? Well, what really separates this sort of event from your regular event is you’re playing with your friends. A lot of the time you go to an event and you maybe hang out with your friends during downtime between rounds. You are interested in how your friends are doing but you don’t have a vested interest. Their performance doesn’t directly impact yours. At a team event you’re very much interested and in fact encouraged to help your teammates play magic. This is something that you simply cannot do in a normal tournament setting. Interacting with your teammates from building your decks and all the way through plays during a match is a different experience in itself. Team Sealed is also one of the few formats where you can lose your match against your opponent, but still win the round by having your other two teammates win their matches. You also learn a lot more playing as a team than you would by playing by yourself. You get to go over plays and playback possible misplays a lot easier. You can talk to each other and determine what you can and cannot play around. These things tend to just produce a better magic experience than you’d get playing in a solo tournament.

This weekend will mark my third team sealed event in almost as many years. My team lost playing for top 4 in our first team event together against some good and even magic famous friends. They have just a few PT top 8’s and even a win.

That first match with Tannon Grace and Pat Cox was just brutal. It might have been, perhaps the best limited draw I’ve ever seen. Even though I won my match and our team lost the round we all still had a blast. I don’t consider myself a certified expert in the team sealed process but I have learned a lot about what I think you should and shouldn’t do when building your decks.

Common themes I see teams do is take all the bomb rares and uncommons, shove them in one deck and try to get free wins. The logic behind this strategy is pretty bad in my experience however. There are a few reasons why this generally doesn’t end up being very successful. The first of which is it doesn’t matter how powerful your deck is if you don’t get to play magic. Mana issues happen to even the most perfect of mana bases. Putting all your eggs in one basket and getting run over is going to end in a quick event for your team. Also no matter how powerful your deck if it doesn’t line up very well against your opponents’ deck you’ll have trouble winning. For example if you have the deck with 16 removal spells and 9 creatures and your opponent is playing something that punishes you for having a ton of removal like Call the Bloodline with Sanitarium Skeleton your removal is going to dry up real quick.

With that being said I believe the best option is to spread the love. What makes team sealed deck building so difficult is there are 5 colors in magic. I know crazy right? Let me elaborate a little more. You have to split up at least one of your colors. Since you can’t have 3 two color decks with no overlap; to best mitigate this problem you need to identify your deepest color. The color that provides the most playable cards and preferably the color that has cards that belong in multiple archetypes. A decent example would be using Red and having all your Madness and Vampire cards go into your Black Red deck and using all your Wolves and combat tricks in your Red Green Werewolf deck. Oftentimes gold cards can be used as a helpful guide when you’re not quite sure what colors need to be paired.

A common misconception of team sealed is that people treat it like a sealed format when in reality the power level of the decks are closer to draft decks. It’s not that uncommon to find decks that have three or four of any one card. This means a couple of things. First of all the format tends to be a bit faster. Expensive bombs are less likely to matter and should be used in the sideboard as a case by case depending on what you’re up against unless they win the game on the spot. It also means that if you see a Galvanic Bombardment from one player expect that there’s no more on the rest of the team and that they could have as many as five or six. If you see a Vampire deck, expect them to have all the madness cards and play accordingly in combat.

Another tip I have for team sealed is sometimes playing the obscure combat tricks can bring a real big reward. Most players have the good combat tricks like Confront the Unknown or Tenacity on their radar but often forget about the obscure and often considered unplayable ones. Especially if those cards are uncommon like Repel the Abominable as an example. It’s much easier to build a deck where this card is good when you have an additional 6 packs to work with. These types of cards tend to provide some of the bigger blowouts and it’s important not to gloss over that fact and be aware that your opponent could very well have the same thing. It’s also important to recognize formats where auras are better and when it’s viable to main deck disenchant effects or even plummet effects. These narrow cards which often are sideboard only material gets a lot more powerful and can hit more often when you get to play the best of the best in your card pool.

Finally something that should go without saying but needs to be mentioned, is shuffling. If you’re in the middle seat you need to shuffle cards face down to not expose your deck or your opponents’ to your teammates or theirs and to make sure your opponents’ do the same. If you’re on the outside seats you need to shuffle so the bottom of the decks are facing away from the players. If you end up shuffling towards your opponents’ you’re just giving them the potential to gain free information. Not to mention if you shuffle their deck towards your teammates it can be considered cheating so be mindful of that.

That’s all the tips and tricks I have for today. Following the GP weekend I’ll be flying out to New York for a much needed vacation. Then I’ll be flying back to Florida in time for the SCG Orlando the following weekend. Look to see me in coverage!

John Cuvelier
@JCuvelier on Twitter
Gosu. on MTGO


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