Hello, I’m Zack Kanner, a New York City magic grinder who has played competitively for ten years. I have primarily played on the Grand Prix circuit the last few years to try to stay on the elusive Pro Tour train. Throughout those years I have toured the country, played on a Pro Tour, and made a lot of great friends and memories doing so. With that being said, I have decided to move back to the SCG circuit and play in every open this year. That’s what I’ll write about here.

Speaking of which, SCG held a team event down in Baltimore recently. The format was “Team Constructed,” which means you form a team with one player each in Standard, Modern, and Legacy. This is a good opportunity to explore the dynamics of team tournaments. How do you assign formats among your team? What are the dynamics of choosing decks across multiple formats? Which little things make a difference?

Format Selection

Before diving into who played which format, let’s look at who was on the team. In the Standard seat we had Anna Madison. She’s had a lot of success in Standard in the past,  qualifying for MC Cleveland through a Grand Prix top 8 back in 2018, with an Invitational top 8 as well. She is well versed in the format and we figured to have her play there as she’s more invested in the format in preparation for the MC. Next is our Legacy seat, Bradley Carpenter. Brad has been a grinding for a while like me, and he loves to play Legacy. Brad has had multiple top 8s in Opens with Legacy and generally leans toward this format for team events. The Modern seat went to me. This is the primary format I’ve been playing lately with a lot of success.

So, did we do a good job assinging formats? Often teams form by friends who each want to play a specific format of the three, and that’s mostly what we did. But I think sometimes it is better to consider going deeper than the baseline format preferences. If you have a teammate who is comfortable in multiple formats, use that as an advantage.

I am not sure our team ended up with the best format assignments. While Brad is a big Legacy aficionado, his prefered BG Depths deck was not well positioned for the event and he ended up a bit lost trying to find another deck to play. I play a lot of Legacy on the side and Brad recently made top 8 of a Modern classic. We could have swapped formats and perhaps ended up with better decks and results.

The lesson is: don’t lock in on each teammate’s format assignment if you don’t have to.

Deck Selection

That said, we all ended up playing decks we were happy to pilot.

For Standard, Anna was trying to play a sweet Hero of Precinct One deck that looked similar to Wyatt Darby’s top 8 list from Indianapolis. But as a team we concluded that the decks to beat were Esper Control and Sultai Midrange. Now the best way to beat those decks was realistically playing a bunch of mirror matches. Anna didn’t want to play the mirror, and that is a smart call if you don’t have enough reps with the deck. Luckily Brad also made top 8 the Indianapolis open with Izzet Drakes, so we settled on that for Standard. Anna was able to turn to Brad for advice on the deck during the tournament. Like I noted above, it’s smart to use cross-format knowledge in these team events.

For Legacy Brad ended up on Grixis Delver, which fell in his comfort zone. A deck like that is very good for a well-versed Legacy player, as it’s very skill-intensive. Brad’s last Legacy event came in a team event top 8 playing Grixis Delver as well.So, even though BG Depths wasn’t the deck he could play, he ended up on a familiar choice that has served him well in the past.

When it comes to Modern, my deck of choice was Grixis Death’s Shadow. Since the Classic from the Columbus Open, for 2019 I have a combined record of 55-18. I’ve been claiming the deck has no bad matchups. Even though I’m joking, I do think the deck is very good and the best deck in the format.

Overall I think we chose good decks. Going into team events, playing decks that everyone is comfortable with is definitely advantageous. And you want to support your teammates with cross-format expertise where you can. While I am not strong in Standard, Brad was always able to help Anna when she needed advice. Brad and I had also played each other’s Modern and Legacy decks, so each of us was able to intervene when needed. Stuff like this is very underrated and not thought of a lot when it comes to deck choices. Because everyone was comfortable with each other’s decks, we could trust our collective judgment throughout the matches.

Odds and Ends

After playing many team events, I have learned for some lessons for success.Here’s the biggest one I haven’t mentioned yet: don’t worry too much about bad matchups. Team events smooth out the variance of matchups, so even if you face an unwinnable situation in any round your teammates can still pick you up.

For example, consider my choice to play Grixis Shadow in Modern. For anyone who is unfamiliar with Modern since Krark-Clan Ironworks got banned, three decks have gotten really popular: Dredge, Burn, and Humans. Now I know I mentioned that Grixis Shadow has no bad match-ups, but these honestly are not good matchups for Grixis Shadow. Even if I have to face many of those decks, I don’t need to win them all like in an individual event.

More generally, I follow this philosophy and choose not to overload the Sideboard to shore up bad matchups in team events. Warping your Sideboard can leave you unprepared for the rest of the metagame, and it’s simply not worth it when your teammates already help even out your wins and losses.

Even though the team event didn’t go well for us overall, I had a lot of fun teaming with Anna and Brad. It was unfortunate that we didn’t hit our goal to make a deep run and get more SCG points towards the Players Championship, but I would run it back with them again. They were fantastic teammates and fantastic players and I am sure you will see more of them going forward.

Zack is a SCG grinder with one ultimate goal: getting to the Players Champ. Based out of NYC, you can find him in other cities every weekend trying to hit that goal.  When he isn’t traveling he streams. Follow his journey on Twitter!

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