With Grand Prix Cleveland coming up this weekend, I thought it would be best to touch on Team Draft this week rather than write my normal column (especially because I'm sure many of you are sick and tired of watching me first-pick red cards).
As everybody will have teams for this GP, getting pick-up games on Day 2 if you're no longer in the running should be easy. Every GP I attend, once I'm out of contention, I go Team Draft. You should too!
What Is Team Draft?
Team drafting is an alternative Limited format. You have two teams of three players (a six-player pod) organized such that the players sitting next to you are on the opposing team.
How Does This Change the Draft?
I'm sure you've all heard that hate-drafting is bad and not to do it. Sometimes it's right, but more often than not, it isn't. The reason for this is that you're not necessarily going to play the person who gets the card, and even if you do, they still have to draw it.
This changes for Team Draft because it is a zero-sum game.
Let's say I am W/B Zombies and I open the following Pack 3:
In your normal eight-player pod, I would take Wayward Servant. But there is no reason to risk my team playing against Glorybringer all three rounds. That sounds heinous. So in a Team Draft I would hate-draft the Glorybringer.
This can get very complicated once you take into account reading signals. It is no longer in your best interest to cooperate with the players next to you. In fact, you want to do your best to ruin their drafts. If I am W/B Zombies and the person to my left is also W/B Zombies, they likely have a worse deck. I got to simultaneously hate-draft while also just drafting normally for two whole packs! Because of this, Team Draft decks are notorious for being quite terrible. But there are some tricks you should have up your sleeve if you want to Team Draft.
The Bait and Hook
This is the oldest trick in the book. It's the most straightforward way to get the player to your left into the same colors as you. And often enough, they won't have much of a choice either! Take a look at this opening pack:
In a normal draft, I may try pretty hard to cut white. I want to make it as clear as possible that white is not open to my left. But here, we want to deceive our opponent! Let the white cards trickle through; take the good ones of course, but make sure that the player to your left can solidify themselves in white. Now it becomes seamless to hate-draft, and you should be set up with a large advantage already.
This is the other Team Draft 101 concept. It's quite simple, but something you wouldn't think to do. Let's say you're R/G aggro, and it's the end of Pack 1.
Your gut should tell you to take Hieroglyphic Illumination because it's the best card in the pack. Then you know that the player to your left picks up Naga Oracle and it's not a big deal. Funny enough, the correct pick here (unless you're sure that the person to your left is blue) is the Forest!
If you take the Forest, then regardless of what the player to your left takes, your teammate gets a playable card! On the other hand, if you take Illumination, they get nothing. To you, because you are not a blue drafter, the Forest and the blue card have the same value. But that's not necessarily true of your teammate.
This is the simplest example, but the concept of trying to "float" a card through the opponent to your teammate is very important. It can get quite difficult to read that far down the table, but if you can get a feel for what your teammate is doing, you can try your best to ship cards downstream to them.
Overall, Team Drafting is an absolute blast. It adds a considerable amount of complexity to this already complex game! If you're interested in exploring the format more, I highly recommend watching the Team Draft Super League at 8PM Eastern on Tuesdays.