Ever felt like the last kid on the playground picked for the team? Competed in something that was supposed to be out of your league? Known you were in for an uphill battle before even starting?
Team Lingering Souls has. In fact, the group described themselves as exactly that—players that didn't think they would be able to find a competitive team to compete on.
In the first year of the Pro Tour Team Series, many "superteams" have already been formed. From Puzzle Quest and their dozens of Pro Tour Top 8s to teams of Japanese superstars, the top of the professional scene is loaded with teams constructed with surgical precision and built to take aim at the team title.
Team Lingering Souls is the opposite of that. Its six members—captain Shaheen Soorani, Donald Smith, Chris Fennell, Travis Woo, Andreas Ganz, and Ashraf Abou Omar—had no connection prior to the forming of the team. None are high-powered professional players, none feared as a threat to win a Pro Tour, none even qualified for the entire season.
Social media brought them together by chance, when the call went out for "anyone with two invites," as Soorani put it. Through bits and pieces the team came together, quite literally at the last minute. The first time they met was at Pro Tour Aether Revolt, when they handed out T-shirts before taking a team photo.
And yet, it has worked. In this case, unfamiliarity has bred success, and all those seemingly random pieces have fallen into place. Soorani is the captain and planner behind much of the team, while Woo—long known as an innovative deck builder—brings an open and unique perspective to the team. Fennell is a Limited expert and Smith is an up-and-coming competitor new to the professional scene who has been playing Magic for only a few years.
The whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts, and Lingering Souls entered Pro Tour Amonkhet in 5th place in the Team Series after a Top 8 showing by Smith at Pro Tour Aether Revolt. The team certainly has its quirks, but it seems to work perfectly.
"We originally formed a team because we said 'Why not? You never know what can happen,'" Soorani explained. "None of us had any other teams, so we put out the call and we had no idea what would happen. Now Travis is in the running for Drafter Master, Chris is a Limited specialist, and the captain isn't even qualified for the next Pro Tour. It's been a fun dynamic."
With the Top 4 placers in the Team Series after this weekend earning their entire squad automatic invites to the next Pro Tour, there is a lot of pressure and some high stakes riding on the outcome of this tournament. With both a goal in reach and a growing team dynamic, Lingering Souls got serious about Nashville.
At least, as much as a team not fully comprised of dedicated Magic professionals could. With Omar out with health issues and Soorani and Fennell stuck at work, testing at the house the team rented thanks to newly acquired sponsor Quality Beast wasn't easy. Fennell contributed when he could, and Soorani Skyped in—even with reporter Brian David Marshall—whenever possible.
"Our expectation level went from a 1 out of 10 to a 10 out of 10," Soorani said. "We tested a lot of Standard and have a really good team deck for the weekend. We've enjoyed working together and we've really fit in well."
That hard work has thus far paid off; Fennell entered Round 12 at 11-1. He's well within reach of the Top 8, a finish that would likely propel his team into the Top 4 of the standings and award the entire squad invites to the final Pro Tour of the season.
"I haven't won a Grand Prix since 2003," explained Fennell, who relied fully on his teammates for help preparing for the event. "It's been a while since I've closed, and I want to win a trophy. That would also qualify my team for the next Pro Tour, and the more the merrier for us."
Win or lose, Team Series success or not, the captain is confident in the way the team has come together.
"You're definitely going to see us next season," Soorani promised.