WHAT'S IN A TEAM DRAFT

Posted in GRAND PRIX NASHVILLE 2014 - COVERAGE - EVENTS on November 2, 2014

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

Team Limited discussion can be dominated by Sealed. Day 1 and most of Day 2 of team Grand Prix are Team Sealed, and the teams vying to make Top 4 have to prove their mettle in building three decks from twelve booster packs.

However, once the turn to Top 4 is made the battlefield changes: It's Team Draft that yields the final winners.

Across many of the teams that shared their thoughts yesterday, the lessons of Khans of Tarkir Sealed carried over to Team Sealed: Mana matters; multicolor is important to consider; decks focused on two colors were ideal. The Day 1 undefeated team in Nashville clinched their 9-0 record with two two-color decks and a third maximizing the value of their multicolor cards.

The question now turns to the horizon: How does Team Draft differ from the Khans of Tarkir Draft we've already seen so much?

From left to right: Paul Cheon, Pro Tour Hall of Fame member Luis Scott-Vargas, and 11th-ranked Eric Froehlich.

 

The first team to answer the question was that of Paul Cheon, Luis Scott-Vargas, and Eric Froehlich. Froehlich, ranked 11th was immediately deferred to.

 

"In general it's completely different," Froehlich said. In a regular draft, "Everything you pass you're going to play against. It's about signals and cooperating. In a team draft you have to beat the team you're playing against. You want to send bad signals. You want the person on your left to have a worse deck. If you go 1-2 but that person goes 0-3 you had a successful draft."

"There's a lot more hate drafting in team draft," Cheon added, referring to drafting cards that your deck can't play but your opponents absolutely would. "You can't be passing them unbeatable bombs." What are those bombs? Duneblast, WIngmate Roc, and High Sentinels of Arashin were among those the trio tossed out.

"If you want the perfect example," Froehlich continued, "look at the Pro Tour Magic 2015 draft with Ben Stark where he opened Cone of Flames, Siege Dragon, and Triplicate Spirits. He took Triplicate Spirits to avoid fighting over red, but here you'd pick the Cone of Flames and try to put the person on your left into red with the Dragon."

Froehlich continued: "In Portland," at the last team Grand Prix, "I passed several to William Jensen but fifth- and sixth-picked blue cards just so he wouldn't get them."

What else changes moving to Team Draft? In a normal draft you have to remember what you passed but it's even more important in team draft," Cheon said. "If you note anything really good you passed and you can tell your teammates it's a such a huge advantage. Kheru Spellcaster is a great example."

Of course, there's usually more than one side to a story. Another team might have a different answer.

From left to right: 17th-ranked Alexander Hayne, Craig Wescoe, and Frank Skarren.

 

Another team of talented players was that of 17th-ranked, and Pro Tour Avacyn Restored winner, Alexander Hayne, Pro Tour Dragon's Maze winner Craig Wescoe, and two-time Limited Grand Prix winner Frank Skarren.

 

"You hate cards a lot more," Hayne began, agreeing with what Cheon had said. "It's usually not the most important thing for the guys you're passing to be in your colors. In team draft you really want him or her to be in your colors. The main point is in regular draft you want the best deck in a vacuum; In team draft it's a lot more about the relative value of your decks versus opponents'. It doesn't matter if you decks are good but they need to be better than your opponents'."

"Here's an easy way to think about it. Let's say you're in a normal draft," Skarren explained. "If you pass a bomb you'll have a small chance of playing against that bomb down the road. In team draft, your team is guaranteed to play against that bomb."

It isn't all just trying to wreck your opponents' decks. "Sometimes you get pass cards to get to your teammates," Hayne said. "If the guy next to you is in a color like green and you pass a Mantis Rider, either your teammate has a shot at it or they waste a pick hating it. It's kind of the flip of the coin on the hate draft."

Anything specific to Khans of Tarkir? "I think Mardu, Temur, and Jeskai are the better archetypes," Wescoe said. "I can try and pass the wedges that are less powerful so they'll pass the other wedges and put my teammate into one of the better one. We could have like Mardu and Temur, and they'd have Abzan split."

"In multicolor formats you can come up with a team strategy in team formats," Hayne continued. "One guy grabs all the mana fixing and the other two pick two-color decks. You can really affect which cards are going around. If one guy is taking mana cards really highly it's going to be hard for your opponents to have good mana. The two two-color-and-five-color strategy means your five color can take the best multicolor cards that go around."

How the teams that do make the cut to Top 4 will handle it themselves was history waiting to be written.