Everything Is Better with a Team

Posted in Limited Information on December 2, 2015

By Marshall Sutcliffe

Marshall came back to Magic after discovering Limited and never looked back. He hosts the Limited Resources podcast and does Grand Prix and Pro Tour video commentary.

Welcome to Teams Week! I always get excited at the prospect of teams with Magic. Magic can be such a personal, individual game that it's sometimes hard to imagine sharing it all with someone else. The truth is that once you start sharing the experience on that close of a level, you want to do it again as soon as you can.

The World Magic Cup is coming up quickly, so we'll be talking a bit about playing with a team in a competitive setting. Heading to the other end of the spectrum, we'll talk about the format with the smallest teams: Two-Headed Giant. And lastly, we'll take a look at a different kind of Magic team that almost anyone can form.

World Magic Cup

To start things out with the most pressing team-related topic, let's get into the World Magic Cup. This is easily one of my favorite tournaments to cover every year. It's right up there with the World Championship and Team Limited Grand Prix. It's got this feel that you just don't get from any other tournament. It's going to be held in Barcelona this year, and there will be over 70 countries represented. You heard right, I said 70.

The teams are formed by taking the professional player with the most Pro Points for the year from each country and combining them with the winners of the World Magic Cup Qualifiers from that country.

This makes for a super interesting mix, because you'll have one established professional player flanked by a mix of players all with differing levels of experience. For many of these players, this will be their first professional-level event. They'll have to band together, form a game plan, and do their best when the big day finally comes.

The event is broken up into two formats: Team Sealed and Team Unified Standard. Team Unified Standard is its own tricky beast to tame, so we'll focus on Team Sealed. With Team Sealed, the teams will receive twelve booster packs from which to constructed three 40-card decks. The end results are decks that look like Draft decks, but perform even better in many cases.

Limited is often thought of as the format where you have to try to make the best of what you get. Sometimes your Sealed Deck pool doesn't quite cooperate, or your Draft seat is challenging. In Team Sealed, the obstacles you need to tackle are more like "Which removal spell do we cut?" or "Do you need a fifth mana source for your splash? I've already got four."

Yes, the real challenge is about finding what the best possible configuration is, and less about cobbling together workable decks. Also of note: all sideboard cards must be assigned to a deck as part of its construction. This means that you have to make some hard decisions about which cards go where.

It's going to be a great event, as the World Magic Cup always seems to be—especially with two days of Team Sealed to look forward to!

Two-Headed Giant

On perhaps a smaller stage, one common team Magic variant is played far more often than any other: Two-Headed Giant. A brilliant name for a quirky way to play our game, players team up in groups of two, building decks from a pool of eight booster packs. Two-Headed Giant is generally reserved for more casual events at local game stores, but there was even a Two-Headed Giant Pro Tour once.

The brilliance of Two-Headed Giant is that it takes what is usually an individual game and turns it truly into a team game. Even in Team Sealed, which we talked about above, the games themselves are played deck-versus-deck, player-versus-player (with help from teammates). But in Two-Headed Giant, you are melded anatomically with your teammate such that anything that hurts them hurts you too.

Sharing a life total is a great twist on the game, and there is a lot of subtle strategy associated with this change. You also have to look out for certain cards that say "each opponent," as they'll be twice as good as they normally would be. (Each "head" is a player.)

Tandem Tactics | Art by David Gaillet

The fact you start with 30 life changes how you evaluate cards and strategies, too. The long and short of it is that you get a lot more time than you would normally plan on. The fact that both players have to stumble in order for a game to end prematurely means that more games go longer. This is where the teamwork part comes in, as you'll want complementary decks that help each other out. Sometimes it's an aggressive deck with a "get stuff out of the way" sidekick. Other times it's two controlling decks looking to slow the game to a grinding halt. Either way, the decks will have to work well together to be successful.

Speaking of working together, one of the highlights of both Two-Headed Giant and Team Sealed is the teamwork during the match. How often have you thought about how nice it would be if you could just pause and ask a friend about a complex play you were thinking about making? With these team formats, you get to do just that. It's really great. You also get to share the thrill of victory and the pain of defeat. Trust me when I say you'll want your teammates there for both of these experiences.

Your Own Team

The last kind of team I want to talk about isn't like the first two. This kind of team was inspired by a professional testing team, Team Ultra Pro. That team is made up of professional players who decided to leave their well-established teams and form a new kind of team. This team tests online rather than in person, and leverages various social media platforms and ways of communication to test for the Pro Tour.

What does this have to do with you? Well, although most of us aren't at the level that these pros are, that doesn't stop us from forming a Limited team to exchange ideas with. The thing I really like about this is that you can group up with like-minded players who are looking to improve just like you. I've seen professionals write entire essays about Draft formats or even just Draft archetypes for the benefit of their teammates.

I see no reason why you can't do this as well. It's trivially easy to form groups on Facebook, and from there you can set some guidelines about the kind of people and information you want in the group. This lets people post ideas and thoughts on the current format while having those ideas challenged and reinforced.

I would try to keep the group small at first. That way it's easier to sort through the information posted and to figure out who is contributing and who isn't. There is so much to be learned using these free tools we have available. It feels like a crime not to use them.

I hope this look at teams and teamwork sparked something in you to collaborate with a fellow Magic player. Whether it's playing a Two-Headed Giant event at your next Prerelease or forming a more advanced testing team online, everything in our game is better with a friend.

Until next week!


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