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Team Limited with Gatecrash

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Hey there! This week, it’s time for Europe to have its first Team Grand Prix in a very long time. I am really excited about Grand Prix: Utrecht even though it will most likely be a very challenging tournament due to the number of players I expect will show up. Team tournaments are always super-fun, and I don’t think this one will be an exception. Doing well would naturally be nice, especially since my two teammates do not have invites for Pro Tour: San Diego yet.

This week, I will be taking a look at Team Limited, this time with Gatecrash in the mix. I wrote an article about Team Limited in general just before Grand Prix: San Jose. In that article, I talked a lot about ideas that apply to Team Limited in general, so I’m not going to discuss those this week. Instead, I am concentrating on what is important to consider when playing Team Limited with Gatecrash. I will also talk about Team Draft and how you should approach that compared to normal drafting.

Gatecrash

Prophetic Prism
As with Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash helps you out when it comes to choosing which colors to play. Ideally, you want to play three guilds among your three decks. There is always the possibility to splash, but as Gatecrash is a more aggressive format, this will not be as easy as in Return to Ravnica. Boros and Gruul would prefer not to splash, which leaves Simic, Orzhov, and Dimir. Simic is most often quite aggressive, which means it would not really want to splash, but as green and blue do not really offer much in the way of removal, splashing a third color might sometimes be worthwhile. A good example of this is a practice Sealed I did a few weeks ago in which one of the decks was a Simic deck splashing for two Ground Assaults with the help of a Gruul Guildgate and a Prophetic Prism.

In general, you would rather be aggressive than controlling in this format. To build a good control deck, you are going to need a ton of removal. This is, luckily enough, easier to accomplish in Team Sealed than in normal Sealed, so you might make it happen. The best candidate for control is what I would call Esper. This does not mean that you are playing white, blue, and black together all the time, but rather that among these three colors, you should be able to find some configuration that works, probably leaning more heavily toward Orzhov than Dimir. The two remaining decks will then most likely be more aggressive, which leaves Simic, Gruul, and Boros as the contenders.

I have opened a few practice Sealed pools, and to me, it seems that the most common deck combinations are Simic, Boros, and Orzhov. This is no surprise, as these are the three guilds with the best commons. Generally, you will have to split at least one color in Team Sealed, and white is the ideal color to split in Gatecrash. It has aggressive cards such as Daring Skyjek but also defensive cards such as Smite. This means that you will not want the cards in the same deck, making for an easy split. Compared to white, red has mostly aggressive cards, which means that splitting the color makes less sense unless you happen to open a very red-heavy pool. The Simic decks are mostly green-heavy, taking advantage of Ivy Lane Denizen along with all the evolve creatures the two colors offer. The Boros decks are often insane—having access to twelve boosters worth of cards usually gives you quite a potent package. In the most recent Team Sealed we did, our Boros deck featured a total of nine 2-drops, of which four were Daring Skyjek and three were Wojek Halberdiers.

Shadow Slice
In the same practice Team Sealed, we had a very interesting Orzhov deck, with two separate sideboard plans. For Game 1, we would have an aggressive Orzhov deck with three Shadow Slices and an army of flyers. After sideboarding, we could choose one of two routes. The first one was to sideboard out the aggressive cards for two Smites, a Luminate Primordial, and some other controlling cards. This was an effective strategy against aggressive opponents such as Gruul and Boros. Against the more controlling strategies, we had the option to switch our white spells for some blue spells, having the edge when the games go long. This was a very interesting situation, as it is seldom you have the chance to sideboard in multiple ways in Limited. I would urge you to look for these types of situations when possible. I realize this is not a very common occurrence, but when you recognize the possibility for transformational sideboarding, it gives you a lot of flexibility.

In Team Sealed, you would like to divide your bombs and removal equally if possible so that each deck is powerful on its own. Bombs are mostly easy to split, as many of them are multicolored, but when it comes to removal, it can be quite tricky. Unlike many other sets, Gatecrash does not have a lot of good removal, and the best removal is not splashable. Red only has Mugging as a common, and white has to make do with Angelic Edict, which is fine but not spectacular. The best removal spell is Grisly Spectacle, but splashing it is not really an option. The team we practiced against opened five Grisly Spectacles, which caused some problems. Now normally, you couldn’t really complain about opening five of the best removal spell in the format, but in Gatecrash, trying to split your black cards can lead to some very awkward decks. Dimir is not particularly powerful, and most of the time, you want to avoid going straight Dimir if possible. In Return the Ravnica, the situation was slightly better, with decent splashable common removal in Stab Wound, Launch Party, and Explosive Impact.

So, to sum things up: Play as many bombs as you can fit into your three decks, try to be aggressive, have a clear plan, and try to split the resources you have in a smart way.

Haters Gonna Hate

Angelic Skirmisher
A thing people unfamiliar with Team Draft will not realize is that the format is a lot different than regular Draft. The cards are the same, of course, and the games play out as you are used to, but the drafting portion should not be approached in the same way that you normally do. Most of us have learned that hate-drafting is not a good idea. If you pass a bomb to someone in a normal Draft, the odds of you playing that person is less than 50%, so there is really no benefit to hate-draft that bomb if you have to pass up a solid card for your own deck. In Team Draft, this is not true.

When you pass a bomb in Team Draft, it means that one of your teammates will have to face it for sure. As Team Limited is all about doing well as a team, you cannot afford to give your opponents powerful cards that singlehandedly win games, as then, your teammate will be in a world of trouble. Sometimes, you can gamble and pass that Angelic Skirmisher if you are sure the person you are passing to is not drafting white. This will then lead to a situation in which that person has to hate-draft the Angelic Skirmisher, thus missing out on a pick for his own deck. This strategy is good when it works, but it can backfire horrible if the person next to you has been sending mixed signals.

Most of us quickly learn the rule of Never Pass a Bomb in Team Draft, and that is not really the difficult part. The thing that is the really difficult part is learning to hate-draft commons in an effective way. In a normal Draft, you always want to draft a 3–0 deck, but in Team Draft, your goal should be to draft a 2–1 deck that has barely enough playables but that sabotages the opposing team as much as possible. You know you have succeeded when you have a solid Simic deck with a sideboard full of good cards from the other four guilds. In Gatecrash Limited, it is even easier to hate-draft—even in normal Drafts, you are sometimes short of playables if another person is drafting the same guild. When there are several people trying to sabotage your plans, this is even more emphasized, and the decks can end up being very awkward if everyone is actively hate-drafting. Overall, Team Draft is a tough format, as there are so many different things that should be considered during each pick. You need to consider which the best card for your deck is, which card the person next to you most likely wants, and which cards you can make it to your teammate sitting two seats from you.

Grand Prix: Utrecht

For those of you going to Grand Prix: Utrecht, I wish you the best of luck, and remember to have fun! If you see me around, come and say “hi” or challenge us to a Draft if you want. We will be arriving early on Friday morning with the intention of doing as much Team Drafting as humanly possible on Friday. If any locals are reading this, tips on restaurants and such in Utrecht are very welcome as well!

As always, if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, be sure to get in touch either via Twitter or the comments section below. Any ideas for future articles are welcome, as I would want to know what you readers would like to hear about.

Thanks for reading,

Max

@thebloom_ on Twitter

Maxx on Magic Online

You can find my music on: http://soundcloud.com/bloomlive

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