Feature Article – Team or Individual (English/Japanese)

English Translation by Emily Porcher.

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Hello everyone. I wrote about Gatecrash Limited last time, and this article will also be on that topic. However, today’s article has a somewhat different nature: I will be taking on the subject of Team Limited. I was just worrying about what to write when I received a request for this topic over Twitter, and so I am going to give it a try.

Oh, and if you have a request for a topic by all means let me know. As much as possible, I want to provide content you would like to read.

So today I will be talking about team draft, but rather than discuss play in team matches I will be talking about how the drafting portion differs from normal eight-person draft, and offering an explanation of the reasons why this is the case. Were I to explain everything about the process itself, you’d find that it barely differs from that of an eight-person draft.

If something is “reasonable” to do in a normal draft, this may not be the case in a team draft. Alternatively, a “reasonable” thing in a regular eight-man could actually be bad in team draft. Of course, both are forms of drafting so they feel exceedingly similar, but these subtle differences really do exist. I’ll start from there.

What is Team Draft?

A brief explanation is in order. Depending on the circumstances this format is referred to as either team draft or money draft, and if you have ever been to a Grand Prix or Pro Tour hall you have probably seen players drafting and playing matches unofficially on the sidelines. That’s team draft.

Usually a team draft consists of six players. Alternatively, it can be a four-person booster draft. That’s really the extent of the differences in the process. Because it is still a type of drafting, your goal is simply to draft a good deck and play with it. To decide the winner, the players split into two teams and play a round-robin (4 players means 4 matches, and 6 players means 9 matches). If both teams have an equal number of points, each team selects a representative to play one additional match. Due to time constraints, on Day Two of a team Grand Prix each player plays only two matches with a given deck, and the team that wins two of the matches in the round is awarded the winning 3 points.

Seems simple enough, right?

Usually, a six-person team draft is more similar to a regular eight-person draft and a four-person team draft has traits more characteristic of a “true” team draft, but how are they different from a standard eight-man?

Let’s get right down to it!

Two or Three Colors

It’s somewhat obvious, but the first difference between an eight-person draft and a team draft is that the card pool is smaller in a team draft. In a regular draft, there are 14x3x8 = 336 cards drafted among eight people, but in a six-person draft there are 14x3x6=252 cards drafted among six people. Although you end up with 42 cards either way, you cannot conclude that the two are equivalent.

Let’s try imagining a scenario where there are just two people drafting.

A typical strong draft deck has 23 cards spread over any two of the five colors. Furthermore, it has no cards that are not worth playing, some of which appear in each set.

84 cards is exactly the same size pool as you receive in a Sealed tournament. I think you’ll recognize this if you take a look at the undefeated decks at Limited Grands Prix, but among the hundreds and thousands of participants, even those in the top 1% often have no choice but to play three colors. This is the case even though they are only extracting the strongest color combination from among their 84 cards.

In a team draft, playing a three-color deck is not particularly rare. It is easy to see the extent of this when playing in a four-person draft, which is the smallest possible size for teams. When there are only four people most will be playing a three-color deck, and a cleanly assembled two-color deck is much more rare. Generally, I think that maybe one person among four manages to achieve that result.

Thus, it’s easier to link flexibility with success when you are playing three colors in a team draft environment. A 7:7:3 land distribution is more standard than a 9:8. I think that picking cards that support your mana base a little early on poses no real problem, and in my experience it has good results.

Because you will likely be in three colors, my sense is that constructing a deck somewhere between a Sealed deck and draft deck is best. Although they are more powerful than most Sealed decks, I often see team draft decks which are “Sealed-like” in nature.

And, it’s not that the only choice is to draft three colors; rather you can proactively decide to do it.

Why be proactive?

This line of logic is characteristic of team drafting, but I will be discussing it in a later section.

Hate Drafting

It’s the end of pack one, and you are solidly in Boros. When you open pack two, you find a [card]Skyknight Legionnaire[/card]. OK, that’s a strong start, but wait a second—The rare is [card]Clan Defiance[/card]!

In eight-person draft theory, you take [card]Skyknight Legionnaire[/card] and ship the [card]Clan Defiance[/card] at a time like this.

Let’s look at this from your perspective first. The reasoning is, as the theory goes, that a player in an eight-person draft wants to assemble a two-color deck if they can. Moreover, thus far you’ve acquired a completely satisfactory stack of Boros cards. Of course [card]Clan Defiance[/card] is a strong enough card to merit considering a splash, but potentially introducing mana problems into a high speed beatdown Boros deck is not superior to choosing the Legionnaire.

And, now let’s think about it from the point of view of the person to your right. If they’re playing Gruul, they’ll probably happily take this bomb rare. If they are not playing Gruul and share one of its colors, they might consider cutting it and taking this opportunity to switch to Gruul.

At any rate, you can send him a signal indicating whether or not you are in Gruul. This is an excellent illustration of two extremely important concepts in eight-person draft: coordination and the division of colors among the players.

It’s not just about pursuing gains for yourself. Respecting the interests of players around you is a practice that has a high expected value and rewards you with significant benefits.

Let’s imagine this case under more marginal circumstances: how about if you had taken six red cards, one white card, and one green card from pack one? If you take Clan Defiance, you can anticipate Gruul cards coming back around, but shipping [card]Skyknight Legionnaire[/card] means that you may cause concern over a color conflict. Viewed only from your perspective, the probability of losing the game is quite high if you are hit with a [card]Clan Defiance[/card], and you should cut the card from your opponent. And it’s easy to see that if you win and advance to the next rounds, the risk that you will have to play the opponent with [card]Clan Defiance[/card] steadily increases from 1/7.

However, when you hate draft it weakens both your deck and the decks of those around you. Can you see that by doing so you run the risk of weakening your deck more than theirs?

And, there’s one more definitive reason. Nearly everyone at the table should be familiar with this logic. You and the players on either side of you may try to weaken each others’ decks, but even if you manage to thwart their efforts and win out in terms of card quality, the relative strength of the decks from seats 6, 7, and 8 will be much higher, and as a result of the other players’ coordination your efforts will have been meaningless. Even if the cause of disparity between left and right sides is usually unintentional, in most cases this is the result.

Up until now I’ve been discussing eight-person draft, but from here on the topic will be team draft.

In team draft, hate drafting [card]Clan Defiance[/card] becomes the standard solution.

Simply put, the reasons for this are:

1) The players to your left and right are on the opposing team. You will be competing with them, as will your team members.

2) In a team draft, sending color signals puts you at a disadvantage. Because the players on either side of you are your opponents, it is very likely that they will be trying to cut you.

3) It’s not necessary that you put together the best deck. Although the aim of an individual draft is to win three rounds, in a team draft the goal is to have three decks that are stronger than those of your opponents.

4) Hate drafting logic directs choices in team draft. In the “Prisoner’s Dilemma,” why is it necessary for only one participant be honest?

As you can see, there are several important logical oppositions between team draft and eight-person draft. To follow the theory into the matches themselves, the fact that the players on either side of you are your opponents is no different from eight-person draft, but the probability of playing against them changes dramatically.

In a standard team draft you play a round-robin, and as a result you have a 100% chance of playing each opponent. On Day Two of a Grand Prix you will not play one of your opponents, but the chance is still 2/3 or 66%. And it’s not just that. Viewed from the angle of the team as a whole, you also need to consider your teammate’s matches. As a result, the chance is essentially 300% or 198%.

In short, shipping cards that allow your opponent to win if they get cast puts your team at a disadvantage that is completely different from individual draft. Your [card]Skyknight Legionnaire[/card] looks a lot worse.

I think we’ve discussed the increased value of hate drafting in team drafts versus eight-person drafts sufficiently, but I think it is also a good idea to understand the effectiveness of draft strategies which cause difficulties for your opponent. That is to say, strategies which at their worst can cause color conflicts with those you are passing to in an eight-person draft can instead be effective in a team draft. The core question of team drafting is to what extent you should hate draft from your opponents while still protecting the interests of your team.

I know about the psychological discomfort that comes with hate drafting. Hate drafting has three thoroughly unpleasant potential outcomes. I don’t want to play with a terrible deck or have to use weaker cards, and there is the issue of adding the risk of having problems with colored mana in addition to the usual random elements like mana screw and mana flood. And when you are playing a weak deck, the chance that you will lose to an early game-breaking bomb increases.

However, you can’t treat the anxiety that comes with hate drafting and the fact that hate drafting in an eight-person draft is usually a poor decision as the same thing.

It’s not that I’m choosing not to endorse hate drafting in eight-person draft out of the kindness of my heart, it’s just that when viewed from the standpoint of the table as a whole it is not the best practice. To put it in terms of the “The Prisoner’s Dilemma,” exclusively following their own interests holds the danger of easily becoming a loss for both prisoners if they do not choose the most profitable combination of cooperating and each accepting some losses. This is a fine point about hate drafting in competitive Magic, and it seems things can still change in similar conditions.

Even in a scenario like the cut-and-dry one described above, sometimes players will hate draft cards of one color little by little in an eight-person draft if, for example, one player at the table has a complete monopoly on that color and they wish to prevent that player from having too strong of a deck. This kind of practice in particular is the best way to hate draft, and it creates a desirable draft environment.

However, you can’t confuse the means and the goal when you hate draft. You can hate draft to boost your team’s chances of success, but if you overdo it you can end up being the cause of your team’s defeat and the effort will come to nothing.

After considering your interests and the interests of your teammates and your opponents, you have to be ready to adjust as necessary. If I were to express this idea as a concrete guideline, I think the relationship would be 1 to 2.

1 to 2

Your team’s wins and your opponent’s wins are inversely proportional. In other words, if your team wins the opposing team gets a loss. Added together, this creates a difference of two.

Even if you hate draft like crazy and manage to destroy the decks of the opponent’s on either side of you, how does that balance out if you fail to win a round? Because a sum of five wins is needed to win a regular six person draft, if one team member wins three times and another wins two or more times it will suffice. However, at a tournament if your teammates don’t have a complete victory your team will lose. The opposing team will have somehow avoided falling prey to your machinations and won, leaving you to start over.

My standard assessment of situations like this is that by choosing this course you are making a 1 to 2 trade off. When I decide to take on the risks associated with hate drafting, I think it is imperative to consider the following question: if I lose my match, will my team be able to secure two wins from the opposing team? I think that this is the break-even point.

I have to confess that I made some mistakes related to this concept at Grand Prix Utrecht and caused my team some trouble. This was in the second and third drafts of Day Two. During the draft I tried to weaken Simic and Dimir thinking that the opposing team might be in those colors, but as a result I shipped a large quantity of Boros cards to the player on my left. I didn’t realize that there was one Boros player at the table and that moreover, it was the player to my left.

The result was that the opposing team got an insanely powerful Boros deck and naturally they had two consecutive victories. It is true that I managed to weaken two of my opponents (and myself in the process), but the third member of the opposing team ended up with a very strong deck, and the fact is that things didn’t balance out in our favor.

This kind of trap often emerges during a draft, so you need to be cautious. For example even if you know that the player to your right is in Gruul, if there is both a [card]Clan Defiance[/card] and a [card]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/card] in the pack you do not get any value from hate drafting. Your loss does not equal your opponent’s. If you take [card]Clan Defiance[/card] you need to have another reason, like an intention to play three colors.

Well, I finally brought up choosing to play three colors again. This is a case where you would want to proactively draft this way. Even if you are putting together the perfect Boros deck, you want to take [card]Clan Defiance[/card] and go tricolor.

In team draft you often find yourself in situations where you can casually pick up cards like Clan Defiance, but you have to consider what we’ve discussed thus far when making your choice. In addition to those things, there is the question of being able to support your colors.

Reading Colors, Color Overlap, and Color Control

Up to this point I’ve been discussing hate drafting and how effective it can be in team draft. However, I have yet to mention the most crucial piece: How can you figure out what colors the opponents next to you are in? In this section I will be answering that question.

In particular, I’ll be discussing the player seated to your left. You have a significant amount of control over them. You have complete knowledge of what you pass to them in packs one and three, and from that information you can obtain an idea of what they might be picking. And you can even confirm this in pack two where the passing order is reversed. For example, let’s say you ship a large quantity of white cards pack one. Under normal circumstances, you can judge that the player to you left will play white. And, what if you see a lot of Orzhov cards but almost no Boros cards come around in pack two? There is already no doubt that the player to your left is in Boros. If you have a surplus of cards for your own deck in pack three, you have a chance to hate draft strong Boros cards and wreck your opponent’s plans. Even if you are not quite that experienced yet, taking cards you think your opponent might want besides bomb rares like removal and two mana creatures will definitely weaken your opponent’s deck. Moreover, if you can use the cards in your deck you’re killing two birds with one stone. It’s best to take a [card]Syndic of Tithes[/card] to inconvenience the Boros player to your left when you expect the [card]Basilica Screecher[/card] to come back around, right?

In an eight-person draft creating color overlap will weaken your deck and should be avoided, but in a team draft it is extremely effective. However, you need to be cautious. This is because there is the danger of you and your teammate’s decks falling victim to a color conflict.

The basic way to handle this is with your teammate seated two to your left. If they think about what cards are left in the packs after the opponent to your left has picked, they can get a general idea of what is going on. This is particularly easy to pull off in Gatecrash limited. Because each player gives high priority to the essential cards associated with the guild they are drafting, it is easy to gather information. Often you are able to understand the plans of both your teammate and your opponent to the left from looking at the colors of the cards they did not choose on the third pick of the second pack.

The general rule of 1 to 2 applies here as well. It may be obvious from the previous example with [card]Syndic of Tithes[/card], but taking the second strongest card in order to mess with the plans of the opponent on your left maximizes your overall gains when compared to just taking the strongest card. Even if there is a small difference in quality, place priority on taking cards that share a color with your opponent’s cards as you draft, and ship cards that do not create a color conflict for your teammates while messing with your opponent’s plans. If you can do this, you already have a perfect drafting strategy.

As for the player to your right, only make judgments based on the cards that come around. Generally hate drafting can be effective, but if you do so exclusively you only hurt yourself. As with eight-person draft, most picks when team drafting come from observing the cards that come around and searching for the open colors. Because there is a high probability that the color that is clearly least plentiful is the one the player to your right is drafting, if you want to take action the only time to do so is during pack two when the order reverses. However, going against the trends that come from the right in a draft is both quite difficult and risky. As a result, I don’t think it can be said to be a very realistic option. I would do it very little from the beginning to middle of pack two.

About the Table as a Whole

In addition to thinking about the colors of the players to your left and right, there is other important information to consider when drafting. This is the question of which cards disappear the first time around the table. In an eight-person draft and this is only useful as a reference because there is too much uncertain information, but in a team draft of six players or fewer there is enough to make an accurate analysis.

Once you know what the players to your right have taken from a pack, there is the question of what actually happened and what will become of the four remaining cards. Based on what came back around, it is not difficult to guess what colors are the most popular and unpopular at the table.

Let’s try thinking about what kind of cards return from a trip around the draft table after you’ve chosen your card. What card can you take from the remaining cards? Which color combination seemed strongest before? These might seem like minor details, but it’s very important information. In a standard limited deck, there are twenty-three cards. In short, you need to get about eight cards from each pack. However, in a team draft even if you get a pile of entirely reasonable cards after one lap each pack, it’s still not enough. You should keep this in mind when looking at the cards that come back a as well.

Deck Construction

Lastly, I’ll talk about deck construction. The fact of the matter is team draft differs from eight-person draft in this respect as well. First, look at your team’s decks. You can try and pinpoint strong cards you saw during the draft that didn’t end up with your team. That’s what you’re up against. With that information, you are able to improve your decks even further.

After considering the number of [card]Deathcult Rogue[/card]s, you might come to the conclusion of moving your team’s Rogues into the sideboard if there are two people in Dimir on the opposing team. Additionally, if two or more of your opponents are in Boros, it stands to reason that you might supplement your decks with walls.

There’s no landwalk in this set, but this would apply there as well. If two of your opponents were using Swamps, wouldn’t a [card]Bog Raiders[/card] be a [card]Deathcult Rogue[/card]?

I’ve said this several times already, but in a team draft you don’t need to make the strongest deck. Once it’s clear what your opponents are up to, it’s sufficient just to have decks that are stronger than theirs.

Well, I think I’ve shared just about as much as I can about team drafting, both during and after the draft itself. There’s nothing in particular to say about actually playing the matches…

Oh, most of the advice I received from my teammates during our matches was spot on, so don’t hesitate to ask yours what spell they think your opponent might be holding in a tricky situation.

That’s about it. Wishing you success in your drafts!

Until next time,

Shuhei Nakamura

Team or Individual – Japanese
















第2パックを開いてみると《空騎士の軍団兵/Skyknight Legionnaire》を発見した。
レアが《一族の誇示/Clan Defiance》じゃないか!

こういう時、8人ドラフトのセオリーでは《空騎士の軍団兵/Skyknight Legionnaire》を取って《一族の誇示/Clan Defiance》を流す事が正しいとされる。

もちろん《一族の誇示/Clan Defiance》をタッチを考えても良いレベルのカードだけど、高速ビートダウンとなるボロスが色マナのリスクを抱えるのを天秤にかけて
《空騎士の軍団兵/Skyknight Legionnaire》より優れているというにはやはり無理だ。




《一族の誇示/Clan Defiance》で住み分けが期待できる一方で、《空騎士の軍団兵/Skyknight Legionnaire》を流すことになれば上下で色かぶりという恐れにすら発展するよね。
自分だけの視点ならば撃たれればかなりの確率でゲームに負けてしまう《一族の誇示/Clan Defiance》はカットすべきとなる。
そして勝ち進む上で《一族の誇示/Clan Defiance》を持っている彼と対戦しなくてはならないリスクが1/7からどんどん上がっていくのは想像に堅くはない。





チームドラフトにおいては《一族の誇示/Clan Defiance》をヘイトドラフトするのが模範解答となる。






差し引きで自分の《空騎士の軍団兵/Skyknight Legionnaire》を押しのけるくらいにね。














《一族の誇示/Clan Defiance》の隣に《ゴーア族の暴行者/Ghor-Clan Rampager》まであるならヘイトドラフトとしての君の損失1に対して相手が1の損失で価値はなさない。

もしそれでも《一族の誇示/Clan Defiance》を取るというのなら、

例え純正ボロスをやっていたとしても《一族の誇示/Clan Defiance》を取って3色デッキにする。
チームドラフトではとてもよくあるシチュエーションで何の気なしに《一族の誇示/Clan Defiance》を取ってしまいがちだけど、

3パック目で《徴税理事/Syndic of Tithes》を取って左のボロスを困らせた上で、同じパックにある《聖堂の金切り声上げ/Basilica Screecher》が返ってくるのを期待するだなんて最高じゃないか。



さっきの《徴税理事/Syndic of Tithes》のようにあからさまではなくても




相手のチーム中に2人もディミーアがいるならならず者の数を考慮した上で君たちの《死教団のならず者/Deathcult Rogue》はサイドボードに移すべきという結論になるかもしれないし、

沼を使ってくる相手が2人いるなら《沼の略奪隊/Bog Raiders》は《死教団のならず者/Deathcult Rogue》じゃないかな?





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