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The Team GP Experience

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

When it comes to magic events, Team Grand Prix are the Cadillac of events. Grand Prix are typically driven by your desire to succeed while also being a good way to either meet new like minds individual or see friends from tournaments past. I’ve done enough team events now to know the important things to do and have had some reasonable success in these events. Of the 10 or so team events I’ve attended, only twice has my team failed to make day two. Multiple times I’ve found myself playing for top 4 at the end of swiss. To have the success I’ve had there are some logical steps to take along the way that will help. Let’s go over some of these steps, along with a quick rundown of how my Grand Prix Providence experience went.

The first and most obviously important step to a Team Grand Prix is getting a team together. You’ll be looking for players who meet or exceed your skill level. You also want these players to be friends. It sounds silly to say that, but you’ll be spending two to three days with these individuals and the last thing you want to do is be clashing heads on every little thing and have nothing to talk about. I had a couple buddies of mine pick up a notable player at Providence only to do poorly simply because they couldn’t stand each other. Team work is invaluable and so is keeping your cool. For this team event and almost every single one prior, my first pick for teammate I went with PT Top 8 Competitor Steve Mann. We get along well and typically enjoy each other’s company. I feel we are on the same level play skill wise and we typically see things that the other may have overlooked. The last spot on our team has fluctuated over the years. This time around we went with former Florida PTQ grinder Julian De Los Santos. Julian has always been a good player with a positive attitude. He took a long break for personal career reasons and started getting back into magic about a year ago. He worked hard the last week preparing for this event to get a deep understanding of the format and not feel like he was the weak link on the team.

After you have your team nailed down you want to do at least one or two practice runs on deckbuilding. This does a few important things. For starters it gives you an idea of how the decks are going to look. You also get to see how your team meshes together to figure out what decks work and which ones don’t. You get to see what’s viable and how fast or slow the format looks. One of the more important things you get is to time yourselves to make sure you can solve your pool in the allotted time you’d have for the actual event itself. Ideally you’d do this exercise against another team and get some games in as well to see how you did. For this particular event our free time leading up to the event while we were all together didn’t allow us for anything other than a quick mock build of a sealed pool. Thankfully all of us have played in multiple team events in the past so we weren’t terribly concerned with this.

Now let’s talk about deckbuilding. First of all everyone should play whatever deck they deem to be the best for them. Some people thrive playing the tempo deck while others love to ramp. What’s important is everyone play what makes them comfortable. Our team had this come up in our deckbuilding as RG Dinosaurs was laid out in front of me and BW Vampires in front of Steve. He had this look on his face like he had no interest in playing the Vampire deck so I asked everyone what they wanted to play and that I had no preference. He quickly decided he wanted to play dinosaurs and we swapped decks. As for the deckbuilding itself, the hardest thing to do is figure out what color you’re splitting up. The genius but also maddening thing about team tournaments is there’s five colors in magic but you need six colors to make three two color decks. It’s important early to identify which color needs to be split up so you can spend the remaining time finding which combinations work. You will want your decks to be evenly distributed with interactive spells like removal or bounce. One of the worst things you can do is split up a color like red and give all the removal to one deck and all the creatures to another. It’s also important to not leave out any inherently powerful cards. A good example of this for our team came day 1 when we had a Hostage Taker but no UB deck. We decided to utilize cards that made treasures in BW to play Hostage Taker without playing any Islands at all. Cards like Hostage Taker are simply too powerful to leave in the sideboard and figuring out a way to fit them into one of your decks is very important. I also hear a lot of people talk about who should get what deck. Things like “Player B should get the fastest deck so they can help the other players on the team” or “Player C is our worst player so they should get our best deck.” At the end of the day you’re a team. There’s simply no way to determine what other team’s plan on doing and you shouldn’t try to level yourself by doing so. Player B isn’t always going to have the Dinosaur deck simply because that was your personal experience for three rounds. Have each player play the deck they want and you’ll have a better time and players who typically will make better in game decisions because of it.

As for the tournament itself, our team finished with a 7-2 record day one. We played two teams of notoriety managing to best them both. The first was a team that had an individual who had a PT T8 at PT number two. I guess the guy was good buddies with Andrew Cuneo and was quite the clown in game. The second team was against Paulo Vitor, Eric Froehlich and Ben Stark. In this particular match we managed to avoid great draws from Paulo while Ben struggled to keep hand sizes above five. Like most Grand Prix day two is always the hardest. Of the five rounds, three of them were against professional players or teams. We managed to bolster a 3-2 record in the end with a pool that was very sub-par to finish with a 10-4 record. That is good for a single pro point and the first of the season for me.

Although one pro point wasn’t what I had desired going into the weekend, I’m happy that I’m on the board with one. My next Grand Prix will be at GP Phoenix which is the week before the Pro Tour. This will be another limited event with the majority of the people playing in the Pro Tour will be on hand as well. I’ll be excited to see what I can do in such a strong field and get some serious competitive limited experience under my belt leading up to the PT. For now I need to focus on new Standard. The SCG open gave us a glimpse of what is to come. I’m super excited to see what decks come out of Worlds this weekend. No doubt these decks will help shape the pro tour metagame and even your typical FNM. With all these fun times ahead, I’m looking forward to proving myself once again.

John Cuvelier
Gosu. on MTGO
@JCuvelier on Twitter

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