Towers, Mines and Fine Lines – Collecting a Company

With team events becoming increasingly popular thanks to recent Star City Game Opens and Pro Tour 25 coming up, this week I look at a unique format called Team Unified Modern. I imagine some of you are wondering, what’s Team Unified Modern? Team Unified Modern is a format that consists of three team members all playing decks and cards that are legal within the Modern format. However there is a drawback, players can’t play the same cards as their teammates besides basic lands. So for example, if I was to register a playset of Scalding Tarn for an event, my teammates couldn’t register any Scalding Tarns for their decks. It’s an exciting format as it forces you to draw potential from your deck choices with as little overlapping as possible. In extension to this, it encourages more engagement with your team as you’re all helping each other out and your knowledge of the format isn’t redundant.

With Team Unified Modern, you can share knowledge in the sense that you’ll come across familiar decks and archetypes with the advice given having a higher ceiling. If you’re familiar with the format, you can make an educated guess as to what your opponent is playing by seeing what the rest of their team is playing. For example, if an opponent’s teammate has played a Path to Exile, then you don’t need to play around that same card against your other two opponents. You can astutely sideboard knowing what your opponent will or won’t have, potentially giving you such an advantage in game two and three. Whether your team is choosing to play for fun or have the intent to be competitive, I take some time to look at what combinations of decks work well within the format and how seating could play a role in the road to victory.

Modern is traditionally a format of pet decks. You enter into the format by trying out different decks and settle on one that you enjoy playing, or at least finding an archetype you enjoy the most. In the eternal formats, you have a right to be a little picky given the financial commitment that comes with these decks, as everyone won’t have access to more than one deck. With Team Unified Modern, this becomes a lot more complicated as you have to carefully select something you’d want to play, without your teammates falling out of favour on what they want to play. Nevertheless, given the broadness of Modern as a format there are plenty of options to keep everyone happy.

An excellent place to start is looking at the top tier colourless decks of the format such as Affinity, Tron, Eldrazi Tron and to some extent Ironworks Combo. Ironworks Combo (also known as KCI) is a particular case as it’s a very skill intensive deck and I wouldn’t recommend playing it at an event unless you have an abundance of experience under your belt. Decks such as Ironworks Combo (as well as Lantern Control) can potentially take a long time to finish games which isn’t something you necessarily want in a Team event, especially if they are in the middle seat. Returning to the original point, decks like Tron and Affinity have many cards that are powerful in the format such as Ancient Stirrings and Mox Opal with minimal overlap with other decks. The additional bonus is that you can even play both of these decks in the same Team if you wanted to.

Affinity by Evan RennieSCG Modern IQ Norman - 1st Place - 01/07/2018
MainboardSideboard
4x Arcbound Ravager
4x Blinkmoth Nexus
4x Cranial Plating
4x Darksteel Citadel
2x Galvanic Blast
1x Glimmervoid
4x Inkmoth Nexus
1x Island
2x Karn, Scion of Urza
4x Master of Etherium
2x Memnite
1x Mountain
4x Mox Opal
4x Ornithopter
4x Signal Pest
2x Spire of Industry
4x Springleaf Drum
4x Steel Overseer
1x Steelshaper's Gift
4x Vault Skirge
2x Ancient Grudge
2x Blood Moon
3x Etched Champion
2x Ghirapur Aether Grid
2x Rest in Peace
1x Spellskite
2x Stubborn Denial
1x Whipflare

Affinity and Tron have been around for as long as Modern evolved from Extended and remain impactful on the format, so either or both of these decks are a solid choice. Given it’s difficult to ‘meta’ a Team Unified Modern event given the limitations in place, you want to take what is traditionally tried and tested. Given the variety of decks you’ll be coming up against, these decks are considered a safe bet and a good starting point.

                      

The second option to consider is an aggressive deck. You want a deck that can win on a clock and gives some inevitability to beating your opponent, thus opening the door to help out your teammates. There are a few routes you can go down, and there’s plenty on offer. There is Affinity which we’ve already covered, as well as Bogles and Infect. Bogles and Infect are very similar in what they want to achieve, which is closing a game out in 4-5 turns by using powerful pump spells or enchantments to overwhelm the opponent. These decks are also highly evasive, tough to beat and can be a blow out especially if opponents don’t prepare for it. With Infect you can go down two different paths, you can play B/G or U/G. B/G has a more disruptive sideboard in Thoughtseize and Collective Brutality, also it runs Phyrexian Crusader which evades the heavily used removal spells of the format. U/G is the traditional Infect deck, although it lost Gitaxian Probe to the ban list last year it is still a decent deck. It has become more focused by adding a few defensive cards in Ichorclaw Myr and adding more Groundswell; it still has that fast clock that can win in a matter of turns.

U/G Infect by Zan SyedSCG Atlanta Modern Open - 1st Place - 01/07/2018
MainboardSideboard
3x Become Immense
4x Blighted Agent
3x Blossoming Defense
2x Breeding Pool
2x Dismember
1x Dryad Arbor
2x Forest
4x Glistener Elf
4x Groundswell
2x Ichorclaw Myr
4x Inkmoth Nexus
4x Might of Old Krosa
4x Mutagenic Growth
4x Noble Hierarch
2x Pendelhaven
2x Rancor
3x Verdant Catacombs
4x Vines of Vastwood
3x Windswept Heath
3x Wooded Foothills


2x Grafdigger's Cage
4x Invisible Stalker
2x Nature's Claim
2x Spell Pierce
2x Spellskite
2x Viridian Corrupter
1x Wild Defiance

If you choose to go down this route, it will require some consideration as both Bogles and Infect use Fetch and Shock lands in their manabase, like in this instance U/G Infect uses Wooded Foothills and Windswept Heaths. Bogles also uses Windswept Heath and more notably Path to Exile, which is one of the premier removal spells of the format which a few decks may want. Alternatively, another option is to choose to play a combo deck in this seat such as U/R Storm or to a lesser extent, Ad Nauseum. Both of these decks have a good chance of chaining off as early as turn 4 and in a similar vein to Infect and Bogles, they don’t have much overlap with other top decks of the format. Whether you choose to have Infect, Bogles or something like Storm as your second deck it makes the third choice a little more comfortable as you know the limitations. Meaning you can work with what Modern cards remain for your last deck. If you have chosen the combination of Mono-Green Tron and Bogles you could easily play either Jund or Blue Moon in the final seat. Having the option of a stable midrange or control deck is good to have, but it becomes the greediest in regards to mana base so can be challenging to include. However, if you went with Mono-Green Tron and Affinity, for example, you have free reign to play any other demanding Modern deck you wish – it opens up the options of decks like Jeskai Control, Grixis Death Shadow, and even Mardu Pyromancer, and these are all excellent choices.


Mardu Pyromancer by Benjamin Wyss
SCG Modern IQ Olathe - 1st Place - 22/07/2018
MainboardSideboard
4x Bedlam Reveler
2x Blood Crypt
2x Blood Moon
4x Bloodstained Mire
2x Collective Brutality
4x Dragonskull Summit
1x Dreadbore
4x Faithless Looting
2x Fatal Push
1x Godless Shrine
1x Hazoret the Fervent
3x Inquisition of Kozilek
3x Kolaghan's Command
4x Lightning Bolt
2x Liliana of the Veil
4x Lingering Souls
1x Marsh Flats
2x Mountain
3x Polluted Delta
1x Sacred Foundry
2x Swamp
1x Terminate
3x Thoughtseize
4x Young Pyromancer
1x Anger of the Gods
1x Bitterblossom
1x Blood Moon
1x Collective Brutality
2x Damping Sphere
1x Ensnaring Bridge
1x Extirpate
2x Kambal, Consul of Allocation
1x Liliana, the Last Hope
2x Monastery Mentor
2x Nihil Spellbomb

Mardu Pyromancer is a deck that has risen in popularity since Gerry Thompson played the deck at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan, losing to Luis Salvatto in the finals. Mardu Pyromancer has evolved and becoming the midrange deck of choice as of late, using first-rate cards like Faithless Looting and Lingering Souls, this allows the deck to go wide enough thanks to Young Pyromancer and in some cases Monastery Mentor to swarm the opponent. As you can see from the list above, it uses a lot of Fetch Lands in Polluted Delta, Bloodstained Mire and even Marsh Flats to obtain the lands they need while thinning the deck out. Fetch Lands are essential in this kind of deck for this reason as well as it being a three colour deck, it is vital that they aren’t removed for any other type of land card. Making this work can be difficult, but you can use slightly off-colour Fetch lands if you have access to them. For example in Ben’s build of Mardu Pyromancer, he runs Polluted Delta instead of a set of Marsh Flats. Marsh Flats is ideal compared to Polluted Delta as it gives you a better chance to grab the one-off Sacred Foundry in the deck. However, this isn’t overly essential as Mardu Pyromancer is still playable regardless, and you can make small changes like this to get around the rules of the format. Once figuring out what decks you and your teammates have settled on, there are other ways you can gain an advantage that isn’t just about deck choice.

                    

Seating in a Team Unified Modern event could also be something to consider if you’re serious about taking down an event and there are many opinions on it, neither of which are right or wrong. The most important question to raise from this is, who sits in the middle seat? The middle seat can hold much responsibility as you have access to both of your teammates in giving or taking advice. The consensus is that whoever sits in the middle seat plays a fast deck and shouldn’t be playing anything slow, whether it be something aggressive like Affinity or punishing like Infect, this allows the central player to finish quickly to help out the rest of the team. If they were to play a slow deck such as Ironworks Combo or Lantern Control, it has the potential to be even slower especially if either teammate needs help and raises the chance of a draw in the match. Aside from these points, it may not always ring true as it’s down to preference, you could have your most experienced player in the main seat as they could finish out quicker and offer the best advice in the other games. Alternatively, you can have your least experienced player in the middle as this allows them to receive more guidance as they have access to both teammates at all times, this also in turn, could give a huge confidence boost as they’re beside more experienced players. An interesting option to consider is that the personality of the player(s) can influence where you sit as well, if you have someone who is a natural leader and is overly charismatic, it may be worth giving them the middle seat. They might raise the chance of influencing the team and boosting morale in a positive manner.

Hitting a point I made in this article earlier, whoever is in the middle seat can see what cards your opponents are playing, which with some format knowledge can give you some excellent insight into what to prepare for in future games.  Advice to or from teammates should be around mulligans, scrys and potentially what to take from a Thoughtseize or a Thought-Knot Seer for example. It shouldn’t reach to the extent of you playing someone else’s game, as you have your own game to play and isn’t the purpose of playing in this format. Lastly is that it’s always good to make sure your teammates (and you) don’t feel inferior to one another or to suggest that someone is the weak-link (or the strongest-link) in the team. There’s nothing worse than making a player feel they are relied upon or having to decide things based on skill. You run a considerable risk of losing out on the fun element and most importantly, the dynamic of your team. The mentality is a core part of playing Magic: the Gathering and going into an event in the knowledge that you’re the weakest player will lead to additional pressure to succeed, which raises the rate of failure instead.

On the whole, there isn’t a right or wrong way of how to play in a Team Unified Modern event but there are things you can do to give your team the edge at these events, even having prior experience of playing together goes a long way. In most cases, your win rate can improve with a team you’ve previously played with as opposed to meeting a few strangers to make up numbers. Bonding is part of the charm of the format, and there’s nothing better than playing Magic with your friends.


So what are your thoughts on Team Unified Modern? Are you looking to play any events, and if so what are the decks of choice? Comment below or on our Twitter @mtgdecktechs.

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Emma Partlow

Emma Partlow

Emma resides in Suffolk, England and she started playing Magic the Gathering back in 2014 when Khans of Tarkir first hit the shelves. Dabbling in Standard for a few years then timeshifted into Modern where Emma has found her Homeward Path, in addition, she has a fondness for foils and puns. You can follow her on Twitter at @emmmzyne.

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