KTK/FRF: GP San Jose recap

Last week, I posted our pool from GP San Jose, the decks we built, and how I would build them today. We had a ridiculous pool, with Duneblast, Elite Scaleguard, Sage-Eye Avengers, 2 Sagu Maulers, Silumgar the Drifting Death, and several other powerful cards, but dropped at 5-2-1 and finished in 94th place. I’m unsure whether we misbuilt because my teammates wanted to follow a fairly ad hoc method for building our decks, or due to tournament time pressure. (While I’d built a few team sealed pools with local players under timed conditions and with deck registration, neither of my teammates had.)

Teaming with friends that live near a GP makes certain things easier: there’s less worry that they will cancel because they can’t find cheap flights, and you may also not have to pay for a hotel room. However, it makes it far more difficult to practice together and agree upon an approach to building a pool. In addition, not having to pay airfare could result in them treating the event as just another local tournament, so they may approach the event less seriously than you do. I would still rather play with friends and do poorly than play with good players and do well, and made the conscious decision to team with Chris again, even though he was having a wisdom tooth surgery a week before the tournament. But I was still disappointed with the outcome since I believe we could have been among the 7.2% of teams that made day 2 with the pool we opened.

Here are our results for each round, what each opponent was playing, and what the game results were. (I was playing U/G/r/b ramp in seat A, Alan was playing B/G/w control in seat B, and Chris was playing R/W aggro in seat C.)

  1. Elliott Ballard Ballard (211th place after the swiss): 2-0 vs Jeskai, 1-0 vs Mardu, 2-1 vs Sultai
  2. Modarressi Diamond Twerdahl (377th place): 2-0 vs Mardu, 2-0 vs Abzan, 2-1 vs Temur
  3. Martin Martin Martin (363rd place): 2-0 vs Temur, 2-0 vs Sultai, 2-0 vs Mardu
  4. Cipriano Nabi Pannell (29th place): 2-1 vs Abzan, 2-1 vs Mardu, 0-2 vs Temur
  5. Sperling Williams Rietzl (2nd place): 2-0 vs Temur, 0-2 vs Sultai, 0-2 vs Mardu
  6. Dentith Hardin Mulligan (172nd place): 2-1 vs U/B, 2-1 vs R/W, 0-2 vs Abzan
  7. Ma Cerone Post (96th place): 1-1-1 vs Jeskai (game 1 took 28 minutes and ended with me running out of cards in my library), 1-2 vs Abzan, 2-1 vs Sultai
  8. Rubin Boccio Bragg III (5th place): 1-2 vs Jeskai, 1-2 vs Sultai, 2-1 vs Mardu

Some observations gleaned from this very small sample size:

  • All but one of the teams we faced had each player playing a 3-color deck, although the third color was frequently a splash.
  • The decks we faced most often were Mardu (6 times) and Sultai (5 times). We faced Jeskai the least (3 times), all in seat A, and both my losses were to that deck.
  • None of the teams we played had a color that was either unplayed or played by all 3 players. (I wasn’t keeping track of which colors were main colors and which ones were splashes, so it is possible that some teams may have had 1 or even more colors that were not main colors in any deck.)
  • Black was the most popular color among our opponents, occurring in 16 decks. White and red appeared in 14 decks, and blue and green appeared in 13. (Again, this does not distinguish main colors from splash colors, and black may have been more in more decks because multiple decks were splashing black removal while fewer decks were running it as a main color.)
  • There was no pattern to which deck the middle players were playing. Alan (our player B) faced 2 Abzan, 2 Mardu, 3 Sultai, and 1 R/W deck. (We’d talked about putting the deck that could beat aggro in the middle based on some of my observations, but ended up with Abzan control in our middle seat because that’s what Alan decided to play.)

KTK/FRF: GP San Jose team sealed pool

Team Merchant-Comer-Luhrs had a decent run at GP San Jose. We won our first 4 matches before losing to Sperling-Williams-Reitzl (the eventual runners up). Our other loss was in round 8 to Rubin-Boccio-Bragg (#5 after the swiss), and that plus our draw in the previous round knocked us out of contention for day 2. 5-2-1 drop was disappointing after the preparation we’d put in, although we still placed 94th out of 656 teams.

I’ll talk more about the tournament itself in a subsequent post, but first I’m curious how others would have built our sealed pool. (The pool is also posted on TappedOut if you find that easier to work with.) I’ll post our build in the comments later in the week.

Land
Bloodfell Caves
Dismal Backwater
Frontier Bivouac
2 Jungle Hollow
Nomad Outpost
Rugged Highlands
Scoured Barrens
3 Swiftwater Cliffs
2 Thornwood Falls
Wooded Foothills

Artifact
Abzan Banner
Lens of Clarity
Mardu Banner
Temur Banner

White
Abzan Falconer
2 Ainok Bond-Kin
Alabaster Kirin
Firehoof Cavalry
2 Kill Shot
Mardu Hateblade
Sage-Eye Harrier
Smite the Monstrous
War Behemoth
Watcher of the Roost
3 Abzan Advantage
Abzan Runemark
Abzan Skycaptain
Arashin Cleric
Aven Skirmisher
2 Dragon Bell Monk
Elite Scaleguard
2 Great-Horn Krushok
Jeskai Barricade
Mardu Woe-Reaper

Blue
Crippling Chill
2 Embodiment of Spring
2 Glacial Stalker
Jeskai Elder
Jeskai Windscout
Mistfire Weaver
Mystic of the Hidden Way
Scaldkin
Scion of Glaciers
Weave Fate
Whirlwind Adept
2 Aven Surveyor
Cloudform
Enhanced Awareness
2 Lotus Path Djinn
Monastery Siege
Neutralizing Blast
2 Rakshasa’s Disdain
Reality Shift
Refocus
Rite of Undoing
Sage-Eye Avengers
Will of the Naga
Write into Being

Black
2 Debilitating Injury
2 Mardu Skullhunter
Mer-Ek Nightblade
2 Molting Snakeskin
Raiders’ Spoils
2 Rite of the Serpent
Ruthless Ripper
Shambling Attendants
Sidisi’s Pet
Throttle
Alesha’s Vanguard
Dark Deal
2 Diplomacy of the Wastes
Douse in Gloom
Gurmag Angler
2 Hooded Assassin
Mardu Strike Leader
Reach of Shadows
Sibsig Muckdraggers
Sultai Emissary
Sultai Runemark
3 Typhoid Rats

Red
Ainok Tracker
Barrage of Boulders
Bloodfire Mentor
Bring Low
Crater’s Claws
Goblinslide
Leaping Master
Summit Prowler
3 Swift Kick
Trumpet Blast
2 Bathe in Dragonfire
Collateral Damage
Defiant Ogre
Goblin Heelcutter
Gore Swine
Humble Defector
2 Lightning Shrieker
Mardu Runemark
Rageform
2 Smoldering Efreet
Vaultbreaker

Green
Archers’ Parapet
Awaken the Bear
Hooting Mandrills
Meandering Towershell
Pine Walker
Sagu Archer
2 Scout the Borders
Smoke Teller
Abzan Kin-Guard
2 Ainok Guide
Ambush Krotiq
2 Archers of Qarsi
Destructor Dragon
Feral Krushok
Formless Nurturing
Frontier Mastodon
Frontier Siege
2 Map the Wastes
Return to the Earth
Shamanic Revelation
Sudden Reclamation
Temur Sabertooth
Whisperer of the Wilds

Multicolor
Abzan Guide
Armament Corps
Bear’s Companion
Death Frenzy
Duneblast
Efreet Weaponmaster
Kin-Tree Invocation
Master the Way
Ponyback Brigade
2 Sagu Mauler
Trap Essence
Winterflame
Cunning Strike
3 Ethereal Ambush
Silumgar, the Drifting Death

KTK/FRF: Team sealed pool #4

My fourth team sealed pool is below, this time with 6 packs of Fate Reforged, the format that will be used at GP San Jose. (It’s also posted on TappedOut if you find that easier to work with.) How would you have built this pool? Post your builds in the comments and I’ll post my build there tomorrow.

(Note that within each color, the Khans of Tarkir cards are listed first followed by the Fate Reforged cards, so the full list isn’t alphabetically sorted.)

Land
2 Bloodfell Caves
Dismal Backwater
Flooded Strand
Opulent Palace
Polluted Delta
2 Swiftwater Cliffs
Thornwood Falls
3 Tranquil Cove
2 Wind-Scarred Crag

Artifact
Altar of the Brood
2 Cranial Archive
Jeskai Banner
Sultai Banner
2 Temur Banner
2 Pilgrim of the Fires

White
Ainok Bond-Kin
Alabaster Kirin
2 Erase
Firehoof Cavalry
2 Kill Shot
Mardu Hordechief
Rush of Battle
Sage-Eye Harrier
Siegecraft
War Behemoth
Abzan Advantage
Abzan Skycaptain
Arashin Cleric
2 Aven Skirmisher
Dragon Bell Monk
Great-Horn Krushok
Jeskai Barricade
Lightform
Lotus-Eye Mystics
Pressure Point
Sandsteppe Outcast
Soul Summons
Wandering Champion

Blue
2 Force Away
Jeskai Elder
Mistfire Weaver
Riverwheel Aerialists
2 Scaldkin
Set Adrift
2 Taigam’s Scheming
Weave Fate
Wetland Sambar
Whirlwind Adept
Aven Surveyor
2 Cloudform
2 Enhanced Awareness
Jeskai Runemark
Jeskai Sage
3 Lotus Path Djinn
Rakshasa’s Disdain
Refocus
2 Rite of Undoing
Sage-Eye Avengers
Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest
Supplant Form
Will of the Naga
Write into Being

Black
Bitter Revelation
Disowned Ancestor
2 Krumar Bond-Kin
Raiders’ Spoils
2 Rite of the Serpent
Sidisi’s Pet
Throttle
Unyielding Krumar
Alesha’s Vanguard
Douse in Gloom
Grave Strength
2 Gurmag Angler
Hooded Assassin
Palace Siege
Reach of Shadows
2 Sultai Emissary
Sultai Runemark
2 Typhoid Rats

Red
Act of Treason
2 Arrow Storm
Barrage of Boulders
Bring Low
Hordeling Outburst
Mardu Heart-Piercer
Shatter
Swift Kick
Tormenting Voice
Trumpet Blast
Alesha, Who Smiles at Death
2 Collateral Damage
Defiant Ogre
2 Goblin Heelcutter
Gore Swine
Humble Defector
Lightning Shrieker
Mardu Runemark
Mardu Scout
Pyrotechnics
Rageform
Smoldering Efreet
Temur Battle Rage
Vaultbreaker

Green
3 Dragonscale Boon
Heir of the Wilds
Hooting Mandrills
2 Sagu Archer
Scout the Borders
Smoke Teller
Temur Charger
Trail of Mystery
Tusked Colossodon
Ainok Guide
2 Ambush Krotiq
Archers of Qarsi
2 Destructor Dragon
Formless Nurturing
Frontier Mastodon
Hunt the Weak
2 Map the Wastes
Return to the Earth
Temur Sabertooth
Whisperer of the Wilds
Wildcall

Multicolor
Armament Corps
2 Death Frenzy
2 Duneblast
Efreet Weaponmaster
Jeskai Ascendancy
Jeskai Charm
Mardu Roughrider
Ponyback Brigade
Winterflame
Cunning Strike
2 Ethereal Ambush
Grim Contest
Harsh Sustenance

KTK: Team sealed at GP Nashville and the World Magic Cup

I scoured the coverage for the team sealed portions of GP Nashville (early November) and the World Magic Cup (early December) to try to determine whether the deck patterns we’ve seen during practice are also prevalent at high level Magic events.

I’d mentioned previously that the only undefeated deck from day 1 of GP Nashville had a R/G deck, a W/B deck, and a Sultai morphs deck that splashed white. In addition, there are 9 different decks described in the feature match coverage for the team sealed portion, and here are my derivations of the deck colors from the coverage. (It’s difficult to determine more than just the colors since they don’t include decklists.)

  • Davoudi-Nelson-Merriam: G/U, Mardu, Jeskai
  • Wescoe-Hayne-Skarren: Mardu, Temur, Jeskai
  • Stark-Reeves-Fennell: G/U/r, R/W/b, Abzan
  • Ochoa-Cuneo-Parker: R/G/u, W/B, Jeskai
  • Black-Severa-Vidugiris: Jeskai, R/G, Sultai
  • Wescoe-Hayne-Skarren: R/W, Abzan/u, G/U/r
  • Utter-Leyton/ Cho-Thompson: Abzan, Mardu, Temur morphs
  • Black-Severa-Vidugiris: Jeskai, R/G, Sultai
  • Kazuaki-Teruya-Ryoichi: Temur morphs, Jeskai, W/B/R/G

Of these 9 teams, 6 had a Jeskai deck, 6 had a Temur deck, and 4 had a Mardu deck (although only 2 teams had all 3 of those decks). Only 5 of the 27 decks are 2 color, and there were only 2 R/G decks and 2 Sultai decks. This is quite different from what we’ve been building during practice. 4 of the teams had Mardu or B/W in the middle seat, 2 had R/G, 1 had Temur, 1 had Abzan, and 1 had Jeskai, so it seems that teams are inclined to put an aggressive deck, usually Mardu, in the middle seat. Of the 13 completed individual matches, Jeskai was 4-2 in matches, Temur was 3-4 (one set of decks was featured twice in the coverage), Mardu was 1-2, Abzan was 2-1, Sultai was 1-0, R/G was 0-2, W/B was 1-0, R/W was 1-1, and G/U was 0-1. 2-color decks did surprisingly poorly, going only 2-4 collectively, and only Jeskai had particularly good numbers.

The World Magic Cup coverage had even less information about the contents of each deck, but here’s what I was able to determine:

  • France: G/U, R/W/b (captain), Sultai/w
  • Russia: Temur (captain), W/B/g, B/G/u
  • South Africa: Abzan, G/U/? (captain), R/?
  • Slovak Republic: W/?, Sultai, R/G
  • Argentina: Abzan, Temur, Jeskai
  • Brazil: Abzan, Temur (captain), R/W
  • Argentina (day 2): ?, Jeskai, Sultai
  • Denmark (day 2): Sultai morphs, R/G, Abzan
  • Slovak Republic (day 2): Abzan, R/G, W/U

Of the 9 teams here, 6 had an Abzan deck, 5 had a Sultai deck, 3 had a Temur deck, 3 had a R/G deck, 2 had a G/U deck, 2 had a Jeskai deck, and 1 had a Mardu deck, 1 had a R/W deck, 1 had a W/U deck, and there were 3 other decks whose colors I could not extract from the coverage. Team captains usually sat in the middle seat but there was no clear pattern in the decks they played. Of the 8 completed individual matches for which I could determine a winner, Abzan was 2-0, R/G was 2-0, Temur was 2-1, Sultai was 2-2, Mardu was 0-1, Jeskai was 0-1, and G/U was 0-2.

Unfortunately, these numbers are too small to allow us to draw any meaningful conclusion. Instead, let’s look at the 2 decks built by Team Slovak Republic (the favorites going into the tournament) and Team Denmark’s deck (since they won the event). All 3 of those builds had a R/G deck, 2 had an Abzan deck, 2 had a Sultai deck, there was 1 W/U deck, and 1 deck whose colors I couldn’t determine. That’s very similar to the decks we’ve been building from our pools, but quite different from the teams at GP Nashville.

It’s difficult to draw any solid conclusions from this information. It appears that R/G + B/W/x + Sultai is a reasonable strategy since it was employed by the only undefeated team at GP Nashville and by the top teams at the World Magic Cup, but you should also be careful to not overlook a better set of decks. (It helps to have a plan of attack going into deck building.) Also, if you’re playing at a Grand Prix, you probably want to try to avoid building decks that roll over to Jeskai.

KTK: Team sealed deck patterns

I have built 3 team sealed pools so far, and have seen some definite patterns. Each pool I’ve looked at so far contains the following 3 decks:

  • A R/G, R/G/u, or U/R deck. R/G maximizes Savage Punch, one of the best removal spells in the format. (While ferocious is a Temur ability, blue doesn’t seem to have much to contribute to the deck.) However, a team sealed pool will only have an average of 1.2 copies of the card, and you will sometimes have a pool with no copies of the card. If that happens, a U/R (or Jeskai) deck may be necessary.
  • A W/B deck that sometimes splashes red or green. takes advantage of the Warrior tribal cards (Chief of the Edge/Scale, Raiders’ Spoils, and Rush of Battle). If it has good 2-drops, it can be an aggressive 2-color deck, while more controlling builds can splash red or green.
  • A Sultai morphs deck that sometimes splashes white. This deck maximizes Secret Plans, Trail of Mystery, Ghostfire Blade, and/or Pine Walker for card advantage and tempo. Blue and green also have the most morphs in Khans of Tarkir, so those are usually the base colors (especially since you want to be able to play Secret Plans on turn 2), and black is usually splashed for the Sultai cards and black morphs. The deck sometimes also splashes white for bombs like Duneblast that don’t fit in one of the other decks. This format only has a small number of powerful enchantments and artifacts, and there is no incidental removal for those cards, so people tend to leave them in their sideboard, which helps this deck.

I looked at the decks from the team sealed portions of GP Nashville and the World Magic Cup to see whether those line up with my experience. While the sole undefeated deck from day 1 of GP Nashville has the same 3 archetypes, I don’t see this pattern among most teams. Instead, there are plenty of R/W and Jeskai decks. I will scour the coverage for those events and share any patterns I find in my next post.

KTK: Deckbuilding process for team sealed

As mentioned previously, I’ve been experimenting with the deckbuilding process for team sealed. Here’s the process we currently use, along with some other things we tried along the way.

With some previous pools, I’d asked each teammate to sort 2 of the colors into must play, solid, filler, and chaff. Unfortunately, my teammates had widely varying standards of what belonged in each category even when we all agreed on roughly how good an individual card was. Instead, I found that it was more effective to do the categorization as a team. My preferred method is to have one person (whoever has the most experience with the format) do the categorization and have the other teammates chime in if they disagree strongly. (It’s not worth voicing minor disagreements since there isn’t enough time and since the main goal of doing this as a team is to have consistent categorizations across the colors.)

After that, we look at the must play cards, the solid multicolor cards, and the lands to determine which decks we want to play, keeping in mind that allied-color lands can only be used by one of the wedges, and that most pools appear to have a R/G deck, a B/W deck, and a Sultai morphs deck. Once we figure out which decks we want to build, each player takes the cards that would usually be used by their deck. In the typical configuration, the R/G player takes all the red cards, Alpine Grizzlies, and Savage Punches. The B/W player takes all the white cards, the aggressive black cards, and any warrior tribal cards, and usually also takes any Mardu or Abzan bombs. The Sultai morphs deck takes all the blue cards, most morphs in its colors, and all copies of Secret Plans, Trail of Mystery, and Ghostfire Blade, and sometimes also takes Abzan bombs if the pool has the manafixing to enable that.

Once we know which decks we’re building, each person picks the deck they’re most comfortable playing*, and builds that deck independently, negotiating with teammates for cards in shared colors. Usually it is obvious which deck should get a card, but there is sometimes some debate over which deck should get Debilitating Injury or Throttle. Once the decks are built, we divvy up the sideboard cards. Again, it is usually obvious which deck should get a given card, but we do try to split up countermagic and Dutiful Returns so that each deck has some outs to board sweepers, and we also try to share enchantment removal so that decks can side it in against Secret Plans, Trail of Mystery, and the various Ascendancies.

If there’s enough time left, we do quick sanity checks of each others decks, in case someone missed a card that they should be playing or that should be in their sideboard. We also check that the land ratios seem correct.

Once the decks are finalized, we register our decks, since deck registration is actually a relevant skill in team sealed; it also allows me to reconstruct our pool/decks later for analysis/discussion. We use the individual sealed deck checklists since I haven’t been able to find the team sealed deck checklists online (please let me know if you have a link to them). Then each person takes a photo of both their deck and their deck registration sheet, in case they forget their original deck configuration after sideboarding during a match.

* Seats A and C are interchangeable, but I tried to figure out which deck is most likely to get played in seat B so we could plan our decks accordingly. My expectation is that teams will put their strongest player in that seat so they can provide advice to both their teammates easily. This seemed to hold true at the World Magic Cup where team captains were usually in seat B. However, what deck is the strongest player most likely to play? Strong player often prefer control decks, but that would leave player B with less time to provide advice to his/her teammates. So would they play an aggressive deck instead, or would they perhaps take whichever deck was considered the weakest since they might have the best chance of pulling out a win with it? I don’t know, but I’d love to hear if anyone else has an opinion on this or has actually looked at the numbers.

KTK: Team sealed pool #3

My third team sealed pool is below. (It’s also posted on TappedOut if you find that easier to work with.) How would you have built this pool? Post your builds in the comments and I’ll post my build there later in the week, along with the results of some experiments with the team sealed deckbuilding process.

Land
Bloodfell Caves
3 Blossoming Sands
Dismal Backwater
Frontier Bivouac
Jungle Hollow
Nomad Outpost
2 Opulent Palace
Sandsteppe Citadel
Scoured Barrens
3 Swiftwater Cliffs
Thornwood Falls

Artifact
2 Abzan Banner
Briber’s Purse
Dragon Throne of Tarkir
Lens of Clarity

White
Ainok Bond-Kin
2 Alabaster Kirin
Brave the Sands
Erase
2 Firehoof Cavalry
High Sentinels of Arashin
Jeskai Student
2 Mardu Hateblade
2 Mardu Hordechief
Rush of Battle
2 Sage-Eye Harrier
2 Salt Road Patrol
Take Up Arms
War Behemoth

Blue
2 Cancel
2 Crippling Chill
Disdainful Stroke
2 Embodiment of Spring
Icy Blast
Jeskai Elder
Jeskai Windscout
Kheru Spellsnatcher
2 Mystic of the Hidden Way
Quiet Contemplation
Scion of Glaciers
Singing Bell Strike
3 Taigam’s Scheming
Treasure Cruise
Waterwhirl
3 Whirlwind Adept

Black
Bitter Revelation
2 Debilitating Injury
Despise
5 Disowned Ancestor
3 Dutiful Return
Gurmag Swiftwing
Kheru Bloodsucker
Kheru Dreadmaw
4 Krumar Bond-Kin
2 Mardu Skullhunter
2 Mer-Ek Nightblade
Retribution of the Ancients
Rite of the Serpent
Rotting Mastodon
Swarm of Bloodflies
3 Throttle
Unyielding Krumar

Red
2 Act of Treason
3 Ainok Tracker
Arrow Storm
Ashcloud Phoenix
4 Barrage of Boulders
2 Bloodfire Mentor
Burn Away
Goblinslide
Horde Ambusher
2 Hordeling Outburst
2 Mardu Heart-Piercer
Shatter
3 Summit Prowler
Swift Kick
Trumpet Blast
Valley Dasher
War-Name Aspirant

Green
3 Archers’ Parapet
2 Awaken the Bear
Become Immense
3 Feed the Clan
2 Highland Game
4 Hooting Mandrills
2 Kin-Tree Warden
Longshot Squad
Naturalize
Rattleclaw Mystic
Sagu Archer
Scout the Borders
See the Unwritten
2 Tusked Colossodon
Woolly Loxodon

Multicolor
Abomination of Gudul
Abzan Ascendancy
2 Abzan Guide
Chief of the Edge
Crackling Doom
Death Frenzy
Deflecting Palm
2 Efreet Weaponmaster
Kin-Tree Invocation
Mardu Charm
2 Secret Plans
Sidisi, Brood Tyrant
2 Sultai Charm
Sultai Soothsayer