Team Happy's Deck-Building Journal

Posted in Event Coverage on November 12, 2016

By Chapman Sim

“Team Happy” is really happy to be here. With a combined of 54 Grand Prix Top 8s between Raphaël Lévy, Tomoharu Saito and Jérémy Dezani, that makes them one of the most stacked teams out of the 700 present at Rotterdam this weekend.

Prior to this collaboration, they have frequently playtested together for several Pro Tours and they have decided to put their trust in each other.

Lévy, as the winner of the 2013 World Magic Cup, was the unofficial leader of the trio, even if Saito also had a lot of experience in team events. After all, he has five Pro Tour Top 8s, two of which were achieved in Team formats. Dezani, a Pro Tour Champion himself, will also be headed to the World Magic Cup very soon, so this was a perfect chance to put in a little more practice such that he can contribute to his team next week.

With three heavyweights banding together, we would like to take this opportunity to see how they work together and how they resolve disputes and settle differences. Team dynamics, communication and rapport are what makes or breaks a good team.

With only one hour to assemble three (hopefully) killer decks, how is “Team Happy” utilizing their precious time? Let's embark on this journal that takes you through their exciting hour!

Entry 01, 09.55am: 60 Minutes

The countdown timer begins and all three players get to work, sorting out the cards of each color. Spreading out each color's cards in neat columns, everyone is able to get an idea of each color's mana curves in order to select the best pair to complement each other.

Saito starts by building a White Weenie deck, while Lévy quickly assembles a Red-Green Energy Aggro deck. Dezani begins working on a Blue-based energy deck, beginning with Minister of Inquiries and double Thriving Turtle.

Lévy: It's the clear choice. Red-Green doesn't conflict with other strategies.

Saito: Yes, the Red-Green Energy deck is a “must”.

In under 5 minutes, the first deck was pretty much decided, barring a major overhaul of color combinations. The first deck is always easy. The other two may not be the same.

Entry 02, 10.00am: Red-Green Energy is Confirmed

Now that a healthy chunk of cards are taken out of the picture, the card pool has reduced. This enables the trio to even more quickly analyze the remaining cards to locate clusters of cards that interact well together. With all the cards neatly laid out, everyone can easily get an overview of everything, making the deck-building process more streamlined and efficient.

For example, a bunch of Vehicles get put together in a shell consisting two Night Market Lookout, two Dhund Operative and two Snare Thopter that might be used in the black-based deck.

Entry 03, 10.02am: Finding Two Other Decks

Lévy and Saito swap seats to assume another vantage point for a clearer overview of the entire card pool. Having your teammate look at your work-in-progress is not only illuminating but also of utter importance.

Lévy suggests a currently “unhoused” Unlicensed Disintegration to the Red-Green Energy deck, citing it as an easy splash alongside Attune with Aether and triple Servant of the Conduit. Saito shuffles around some White cards and tries to determine if a “White Weenie” strategy is even viable.

Dezani continues to toggle with his blue-based deck, still unable to find an optimum strategy. It was important to use every part of the cow, in order to maximize the entire card pool.

Entry 04, 10.05am: Cleaning Up The Workspace

Dezani and Lévy chatter inaudibly in French, while Saito streamlines the Red-Green Energy deck and cleans up the workspace. Having a neat freak on the team is an asset and Saito is glad to assume the role as the “table declutterer”.

With a lot of unplayables thrown out of the way, there are less distractions which optimizes the deck-building process.

Entry 05, 10.09am: A White-Blue Deck is Born

Lévy declares that he doesn't like the White deck. Saito agrees citing that there are many bad X/1s such as Ninth Bridge Patrols. Even with a lot of fabricate creatures and Inspired Charge, this mono white weenie strategy was not going to work.

Both Lévy and Saito decide to pair white with a second color. Dezani suggests double Gearseeker Serpent to go along with Glint Sleeve Artisans, Visionary Augmenters and a very powerful Angel of Invention.

With that notion, the core of a White-Blue deck is born.

Both French players exchange card pools. Quickly identifying key synergies, Dezani has put together a deck with numerous fabricate creatures and Torrential Gearhulk to go alongside Disappearing Act and two copies of Acrobatic Maneuvers. In the meantime, Lévy explores a Blue-Black Artifacts deck centered around two Contraband Kingpin and a lot of Vehicles.

Entry 06, 10.15am: Black is Paired with Red

Few minutes later, Lévy dismisses the Blue-Black Artifacts deck and proposes that red is a better color. Saito hands him Salivating Gremlins and Welding Sparks along with Unlicensed Disintegration and an assortment of burn spells the Red-Green Energy deck did not need sorely. Lévy likes the product better but they have 29 cards right now. 5 cards need to be cut if there were sticking to Black-Red Aggro.

Entry 07, 10.17am: Dezani Focuses on White-Blue

While Saito and Lévy discuss both red aggro decks, Dezani buries himself in full concentration to focus on building the best White-Blue deck possible. This shell allows him to make full use of many rares and the product looks like an absolute beast in the late game.

Dezani takes a break and glances over at the Red-Green deck and the Black-Red deck. He doesn't say much because both decks looked very solid.

Entry 08, 10.23am: Two of Three Decks Confirmed

Saito and Lévy swamp seats again and with both experienced players fine-tuning the respective aggro decks. It seems like two out of three decks are complete. Both players move on to assist Dezani in maximizing the White-Blue deck. With 40 minutes left on the clock, it looks like they have more than ample time to find their third deck.

Or did they?

Entry 09, 10.25am: The Team Works on White-Blue Together

With three players focusing on the White-Blue Control deck, opinions were fired from all directions. Lévy is concerned that the early deck is weak and might not survive until turns four of five if faced against a hyper-aggressive deck.

In Team Limited, decks tend to be way faster than regular Limited decks. Saito scours through the pool of artifacts and finds Dezani some Consulate Skyguards and Eager Constructs, which are surprisingly good for the concept.

Entry 10, 10.27am: Red-Green & Black-Red Decks Are Finalized

All players take a break from the White-Blue deck for a moment. Sometimes, taking a step back is useful in preventing tunnel vision. Together, they quickly sandpaper the Black-Red deck in a manner of minutes.

Saito declares that the deck is great and starts working on a sideboard plan. While it has great synergy, the power level of individual cards are weak and they need transformative sideboard for the grindier matchups.

Entry 11, 10.30am: White-Blue Control or “Fliers”?

Saito rates the White-Blue Control deck a six out of 10.

Saito: It's not too bad but not too good.

Lévy doesn't echo that sentiment and prefers a more proactive approach. He proposes that they take things to the skies with Eddytrail Hawk, Aetherstorm Roc, Long-Finned Skywhale and two of each Dukhara Peafowls and Snare Thopters.

Saito and Dezani back away, giving Lévy the hot seat to attempt the transformation. Since they still had some time on the clock, there is no harm trying out another configuration. Dezani sits in front of the Red-Green Energy for the first time, triple-confirming that the deck was good to go.

Entry 12, 10.35am: The French Reconsider White-Blue

Several minutes later, Dezani questions the White-Blue Fliers deck because it seems much less powerful than the White-Blue Control deck. The original version is as powerful as it can be. Both French players discuss the possibility of ditching White-Blue and try out White-Black instead.

Entry 13, 10.38am: White-Black is Dismissed

The White-Black Fabricate deck did not seem to work. Propeller Pioneer, Aetherstorm Roc, double Visionary Augmenter, double Snare Thopter and double Maulfist Squad has the deck's four-drops bottlenecked.

Despite all these cards being excellent for the archetype, the mana curve simply doesn't work out. It was better to pair these colors with other colors which did not have that many four-costed cards.

Entry 14, 10.43am: White-Blue Control Eventually Sticks

After some deliberation, all players decide to revert back to White-Blue Control. If they wanted White-Black Fabricate or White-Black Fliers, their Fumigate would end up in the sideboard. Board sweepers are very powerful in Limited and it offered the potential of stealing wins.

Dezani reassembles the White-Blue Control deck and both Saito and Lévy zone in to finalize on the third deck which is usually the one that causes most teams the most headaches. Double Trusty Companion are cut in favor of double Eager Construct. Saito suggests that makes more hands keepable, but Dezani feels that it helps opponents greatly too. All players know, however, that it helps them scry towards their bomb, while contributing a discount to Gearseeker Serpent.

The decision is made.

Entry 15: 10.45am: Three Decks Confirmed

50 minutes into deck construction, the three archetypes are finalized and only minor card choices need to be be made. The team asks the friendly judges for basic lands, an indication that they were almost good to go. Within a few minutes, all three players come to a unanimous decision on all three decks and begin registering their respective decks.

Lévy sorts out the remaining red cards between Saito's Red-Green Energy deck and his own Black-Red Aggro deck. Since both players do not share a sideboard and they had an overlapping color, allocating the correct sideboard cards was crucial. Dezani didn't have to brawl of this and claimed all white and blue cards without disturbing his teammates in heated debate.

Entry 16, 10.50am: Registration of Decklists

With around 5 minutes on the clock, all players complete their deck registration and begin to sleeve up their decks. They finally have a quick moment to share some thoughts about their decks.

Lévy: I guess its a good thing that we can't tell which is the best deck. It means they're all equally good. My Black-Red Aggro deck has the worst individual cards though, but they work well together. For example, Night Market Lookout is a low-impact card on its own but is great with any of my 6 vehicles.

Saito: The Red-Green Energy deck I'm playing is very consistent and has a good game plan. It has many of the important cards we need to make it successful and it looks like a Constructed deck. I got two Voltaic Brawler and also Electrostatic Pummeler and Bristling Hydra! I also love my team. Lévy is a good leader and we'll go where he goes. We're a happy team and we're 'Team Happy'. Let's take happy photo!

Dezani: I will be playing the White-Blue Control deck and I hope to do awesome things with Torrential Gearhulk. Anyway, happy photo time, haha!

How will “Team Happy” do today? Stay tuned to find out!

Raphaël Lévy's Black-Red Aggro

Tomoharu Saito's Red-Green Energy

Jérémy Dezani's White-Blue Control

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