To misquote someone or other, Team Sealed is wild at heart and weird on top. It's tempting to think of it as just a bigger Sealed: You're working from twice as many packs, so your decks should look like better versions of your average Individual Sealed Deck. As soon as you dive in, however, you find that things are far from straight foward. Khans of Tarkir throws an additional wrench in the works thanks to the five clans and robust multicolor support. I talked to a few of the powerhouse teams here at the World Magic Cup, asking them about the biggest differences between Individual and Team Sealed, and the most important tips for players looking to get a leg up.
Team Slovak Republic has high expectations to live up to this weekend. Helmed by Pro Tour Magic 2015 Champion Ivan Floch, they boast a total of five Pro Tour Top 8's between them. They started preparations for this event early, and did a lot of work on the Team Sealed format. For 2008 Pro Tour Berlin finalist Matej Zatlkaj it all comes down to a single word.
Floch was quick to elaborate on his behalf. "You have more cards to choose from, so you have more chances for strong interactions. Even your less powerful cards, you may play them over stronger ones because of your strategy."
Team Slovakia's biggest key when it comes to this Team Sealed format: synergy.
Zatlkaj agreed. "In Individual Sealed you often have to just play your most powerful cards. It's much different here."
Team USA are also one of the teams to watch. In working for this event they divided their responsibilities. Captain and 2011 Player of the Year Owen Turtenwald really wanted to focus his efforts on the World Championship and its whopping four individual formats. GP Los Angeles Top 8'er Isaac Sears and Andrew Baeckstrom tackled Unified Standard Constructed, while Neal Oliver plumbed the depths of Team Sealed.
Oliver sees the format from the opposite angle. "Because you're building three decks instead of one, you don't want to leave any powerful cards on the sidelines. So when I approach a Team Sealed pool, I start with rares, and in this format, gold cards and lands. I lay those out and see how I can maximize them."
I asked him if it was tricky to sort out the mana when you have overlapping color combinations between decks. "It sometimes can be. A good way to get a feel for that is to look at your allied-color dual lands, since they only fit in a single clan. So if you have three Bloodfell Caves, you know to look at a Mardu build."
Tamás Glied, Captain of the fearsome Team Hungary, cited the potential difficulties of having four players working together. "With so many packs you have a lot of options for decks you can build and a lot of opinions at the table. It's important to have one leading voice. For us that was Tamás [Nagy] because he's the best at Limited. He would say, you know, we'll build this, this and this, the base of each deck. The first fifteen cards. And then the rest of us would work to figure out which cards fit best to fill them out. It's also important that each player gets a deck that they're familiar with. You know, everyone has one deck they draft more than others, you want them to be playing something they'll be comfortable with."
Lastly I stopped by to consult Team Sweden, headed by the coiffured confidence of Pro Tour Gatecrash Finalist Joel Larsson and featuring journeyman Poya Nobari, 2010 Worlds Top 4'er Love Janse and Hall of Famer Olle Råde. Larsson echoed some of the wisdom above, but had two very firm points about deck construction in Khans. "Have finishers. Don't be aggressive even if it looks good. It won't work out for you. Finishers are so important. Every deck has to be able to close out games."
While Team Sealed is far more art than science, these tips should help you navigate the seemingly endless variations offered by twelve packs of Khans of Tarkir. Remember the mantra from Magic's earliest days: Study, and grow strong.