The Wonder and Dynamics of Teams

Posted in Event Coverage on March 12, 2016

By Marc Calderaro

Team Limited is at once the most beloved and the most intricate current Grand Prix format. Because it happens only a few times a year, it's good to have a quick primer on how things work.

Each team is composed of three players in three seats: A, B, and C. They sit on the other side of the table from another three-person team, and each play a best-two-out-of-three match against the opponent directly across. You do not get to change the order of your seats. The winning team is the first team to score two match wins.

That procedure is nice and easy, but there's so much more social dynamic. It's the most talkative format. Why is that? Glad you asked.

How do you make your decks?

Because this is team limited, before the start of Round 1 the players get a pool of cards, and must build three distinct decks, including sideboards. Oh yeah, and they only have one hour.

That hour is one of the most intense hours in Magic. There's a lot of chatter and noise in the event hall, but it's not idle gossip. It's intense deck talk.

(7) Alexander Hayne, Steve Rubin, and (11) Mike Sigrist figuring things out

Players are often sorting how who should get what, and many times teams will build five or six different decks before being able to build all the best three decks. It's easy to put the most powerful cards into one deck, but getting the other two can be tricky. The most you can ever get during that hour from teams is a friendly wave.

(2) Paul Vitor Damo da Rosa, (13) Ondřej Stráský, (14) Thiago Saporito acknowledging the camera – for a moment

After all the decks are in (and all the lands are obtained) then it's time to play.

(1) Owen Turtenwald, (23) William Jensen, and (6) Reid Duke grab their team's basic land

How do you play as a team?

It's not like all three players just sit side by side and play individual Magic. The team aspect goes well past just the build stage. Team talk is not only allowed, it's encouraged. You can talk with your team about plays, cards, strategies—everything. This is a great boon, but it can also be a bane.

The person in the middle seat might get a constant barrage of questions from the other two matches and make her lose concentration in her own board state. And with too much discussion, you can eat up your round clock. Without good time management, it can be very easy to draw the overall match.

So you have to manage among trusting your teammates to do the right thing for themselves, trusting them to do the right thing for you, and trusting you can do the right thing yourself. It can be dizzying, but the disorientation is fantastic.

Magic lovers travel from all over to play teams; there are even many former pros that show up to every team Grand Prix event and no others each year. Because it's the perfect time to hang out with your Magic friends. Win or lose, you do it together.

Jacob Wilson, Matt Nass, and Sam Pardee

Just ask 18th-ranked Jacob Wilson. He won a Grand Prix with the worst-ever personal record of 1-17. But with teams, the individual matters less than the group. Because Sam Pardee and Matt Nass were impeccable all weekend, they carried Wilson into the finals, and helped him take a trophy.

If you've never tried teams, grab two buddies and get it done. You could come to the next Team Grand Prix, or just grab the right number of packs and five other players.

This is the format of fun—so get in while the getting's good!

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