This weekend I’ll be playing Team Sealed at Grand Prix DC, easily one of my favorite formats. It doesn’t get a lot of press because these events are infrequent and people generally don’t spend much time preparing—common for any Sealed Deck tournament, since the cards you open have a huge influence on how you perform. It’s easy to ignore much of the decision-making process, but I’ve found it matters a great deal. Here are my 9 tips to get the most out of your Sealed pool in DC.
1) Play your best cards.
Never leave a bomb rare in your sideboard unless you’ve built three decks that are already playing your other better bomb rares. Leaving good cards in your sideboard is the biggest mistake I see people make in Team Sealed.
2) Don’t play your worst cards.
Usually when my team starts the deck building process, we filter out any card that’s considered bad and we discard it. Once we’ve built good solid decks, we check from the beginning again in the interest of being thorough, but that’s it.
3) Allocate sideboard cards logically and in a way that accounts for the worst-case scenario.
Try to give each person an answer to an artifact or enchantment, even if it means they have to splash to do so.
4) If you don’t play a color, give those cards to the person on your team with the best mana.
One time, Reid played a nearly mono-black deck that splashed red for 2 Nightfire Giants. We didn’t play green, so we gave him all the green cards for his sideboard, and in multiple matches he went from a black/red deck with 13 Swamps 4 Mountains for a mana base to black/green with 10 Swamp 7 Forest. This gave him Netcaster Spiders and Plummets, which are totally insane in certain matchups.
5) Communicate what you see.
As you play, it can be a huge advantage to tell your teammates what you saw from your opponent’s deck if you saw that they split a color. If you’re against a red/white Allies deck and they cast a Brute Strength and you look over and see your teammate playing against a red/black devoid deck, it’s extremely unlikely that that person also has Brute Strength in their deck. Logically, it wouldn’t make a ton of sense to have multiples of a unique card like that and put them into different decks. You can help your teammate make a better educated decision. In general, it’s rare to see people split any kind of card.
6) Play with confidence.
Too many cooks in the kitchen is a real problem. When the Peach Garden Oath plays a team event, we cut communication to a minimum unless there’s an extremely tough decision—the biggest exception is in mulligan decisions. If you ask someone what to do on any given turn in a game, it’s difficult for that person to give a correct answer because they didn’t see all the things that happened leading up to this turn. Often, I make a play that someone might disagree with and when they ask me why, I wouldn’t be able to fully articulate why I made that play but I knew it was correct. As a game is played, you pick up little bits of information here and there and that all adds up and builds your confidence with each play you make. For someone to step in halfway through with a new plan and for you to trust that new plan because you respect your teammate as a player and a friend can be disastrous.
7) Just because you can ask for help doesn’t mean you should.
Pick your spots when asking your teammates for help. Interrupting their game is a real cost and the advice you receive may not even be good. It also slows all the matches down to a crawl. Playing at an acceptable speed when there is a lot to keep track of can be difficult, but it is absolutely essential for a tournament player who has the goal of winning. Draws are almost as bad as a loss.
8) Win as a team and lose as a team.
Don’t keep track of your personal record or rub it in if you’re doing well but your teammates aren’t. You chose these teammates and it’s important to stay positive and support them. One of the worst things that happens at a team GP is discord among team members—don’t be that guy!
“What’s your record?”
“5-1, but my team is 3-3”
Oh—so your record is 3-3, not 5-1. Don’t pretend like all the blame goes to your teammates. You’re always 1/3rd responsible for how your team performs. You took some of the cards such that your teammate could have used, and that comes at a cost. The best teams build decks that can perform well but not use the best cards opened.
9) Most importantly, have fun!
Cliché, but true.
My personal strategy is to pick good teammates like William Jensen and Reid Duke, demand all the best cards in the pool, and end up with a mediocre record. We’ve done well with this method in the past and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!