As the Eldritch Moon season wraps up and Kaladesh spoilers beginning this weekend, today I’ll be talking about my favorite format – Team Draft! Team Draft is an unique way to play Magic – it challenges you to make decisions you wouldn’t regularly make in a regular 8-person draft pod.
What is Team Draft?
Team Draft functions as a normal draft would – players each get 3 packs to open and pass, but the draft pod is made up of 6 players instead of 8, which makes 2 teams of 3 players. You and the 2 other players on your team draft decks and then play matches against the opposing team. Unlike an 8-man draft where seating is random, the seating for the draft alternates between players from the two teams. You’ll be passing and getting passed to by two members of the opposing team. After the draft portion is over, you and your teammates build your own individual decks, only using the cards you yourself have drafted, and then play against the opposition team. In a usual team draft, you’ll play against each member of the opposing team and the draft ends when one team has 5 match wins (there are a maximum of 9 matches, so 5 matches clinches victory). For example, in the first round, if every member of your team defeats their opponent, your team will only need to win 2 more matches to be victorious.
An interesting aspect of Team Draft is that you’ll be working with more information about your opponent’s decks than a normal draft. When you and your teammates build your decks you should discuss what powerful cards they opened and passed to their opponents that maybe they took in the draft. This can give you a concrete idea of what cards your opponents may be working with and how they might be crafting their decks.
Here are some pieces of advice if you want to get some friends together to try my favorite format!
The importance of which cards you pass:
Unlike a normal draft in which 8 players open 3 packs, a total of 24 packs, in Team Draft only 18 packs are opened, meaning the card pool is smaller. This means sometimes your deck may be missing a few pieces, or you might consider splashing a third color. A decreased card pool means it’s important that your deck be consistent and powerful, and to take the chance when opportunity presents itself. For example, let’s say you’re team drafting Eldritch Moon, and going into pack 3 you have a pretty solid green-white deck put together. In the Shadows Over Innistrad pack, you open up an Arlinn Kord.
Even if the pack has something your deck could use at that point, such as a solid 2-drop like Quilled Wolf or a removal spell like Bound by Moonsilver, I think you can’t go wrong picking a powerful Planeswalker that certainly excels in a grindy limited format. If your deck is in serious need of removal, however, you can pick the Bound by Moonsilver since it’s a card your deck desperately needs. However, if you open a card sometime in the draft that is exceptionally powerful, such as a bomb creature or Planeswalker, you should prioritize them because of their power level.
When to pass a bomb and when to pick it:
In a regular 8-man draft, if you open an off-color rare in pack 3 you are most likely going to pass it over a card your deck needs. In a normal draft you almost never hate on cards in the pool and prioritize picking cards for your deck. However, in Team Draft, it’s important to always be thinking about what cards you’re passing to the opposing team and what cards you’re picking. If you think the player to your left is primarily in green, you probably want to cut them off from any powerful green cards that come your way. This isn’t to say you have to cut them off from every card, but if you get passed a powerful card and you know the player you’re passing to is in that color, you can take that card instead of a card from your deck to prevent them from having it.
The Dragonmaster Outcast example:
One Team Draft where I took advantage of getting passed a powerful off-color rare was in the Battle for Zendikar season. After pack 1, I had drafted a slew of blue and black cards, and in pack two I was passed a Dragonmaster Outcast second pick. Although Outcast wasn’t in my colors I decided to take it. Why? For one, Outcast is an exceptionally powerful mythic that can turn the tide in grindy games, especially if remains unanswered for several turns, and two, if I passed it to the player to my right, there’s a chance he could take it if he’s in red or splash it if he liked. In the games that followed, Outcast proved to be powerful. I was even able to pick up an evolving wilds later in the draft which allowed me to cast it later on in my games quite easily. After the games, I asked the player to my left what he picked over the Outcast, which ended up being a Clutch of Currents for his blue-white deck. It can be difficult in Team Draft to evaluate when to pass or take a bomb rare, but in a format which a much more limited card pool than a normal draft I’m all for taking powerful rares to splash to increase the overall power level of my deck.
An Eldritch Moon Team Draft:
Last night, I Team Drafted Eldritch Moon and cobbled together a very grindy G/B deck, splashing for a copy of Gisa and Geralf to enable some graveyard shenanigans.
While we’re on the topic of Eldritch Moon limited, read my article from last week about my 3 favorite archetypes.
1x Graf Rats
1x Quilled Wolf
1x Prey Upon
1x Foul Orchard
I opened a very weak pack 1 and ended up taking an Ulvenwald Captive, a strong green common. My next picks were Grapple with the Past, Midnight Scavengers, Graf Rats, and Gisa and Geralf. I was excited to get passed a Gisa and Geralf because even though it was an off color rare, it fit the strategy I was drafting and is overall a powerful creature. I was able to also pick up multiple fixing throughout the draft, through two Grapples, a Traverse the Ulvenwald, and two dual lands to smooth out my mana. Luckily I opened an Ishkanah in my second pack and was able to craft a fairly powerful deck.
My deck played grindy games, and was able to clinch wins with only a few cards remaining in my library each game. Funny enough, the draft actually ended after I only had one win since we were playing without a time limit giving me all the time in the world to grind out my opponents. Although I was happy with the deck overall and my choices I definitely think my deck needed some sort of evasion – I found that in my games my creatures were never powerful enough to get through an attack and I always felt too defensive.
In pack 1 I took a Tree of Perdition very late in the pack over a Dusk Feaster – although Tree is a powerful mythic and blocks extremely well, I should’ve picked the Dusk Feaster since there aren’t many creatures in the black-green color combo that have evasion or ways of breaking a board stall. Although this was still pack 1 and I wasn’t sure what I’d open or get passed in the next two packs, I think the pick is close but in retrospect I should’ve taken the Dusk Feaster – it would’ve helped me close out games faster where I would have been in danger of milling my entire library.
My highlight play of the night was being able to bring back my opponent’s Thalia’s Lancers with Rise from the Grave to fetch up my Ishkanah.
Win as a team; lose as a team:
The most important aspect of Team Draft is that you’re playing on a team! Unlike a normal tournament where you play on your own, Team Draft is a completely different experience. Although fun, Team Draft can sometimes be intimidating, especially in competitive environments. Your wins and losses are not just your own but your entire team’s, and it can be frustrating when your matches don’t go as planned.
That being said, it’s important to surround yourself with teammates who will provide a positive experience for you. I think in Team Draft it’s important to always be discussing the picks you made in the draft or how you played your matches, and having teammates that will give you positive feedback will help you learn and improve as a player. And if you’re just looking to have fun, have fun! Don’t let you or your teammates get hung up on losses and remember that even if you lose, you’re still spending a night playing Magic with friends – it doesn’t get any better than that.
I’m grateful a format like Team Draft exists and I’ve made some of my best Magic memories playing side by side by amazing friends. Be sure to try it out sometime!
I’ll be back next week to discuss my initial limited impressions of the first Kaladesh spoilers.
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