A crisp Sunday morning usually brings with it peace and relaxation, but for 45 players it held the promise of something more. Each player sought an elusive prize — an invite to the Season 2 Invitational for themselves and their teammates.
With any team event, friendship and camaraderie persist at the forefront of competition. Players practice together, discuss the event together, and unlike individual competition are allowed to consult each other mid-match. Chemistry is important, as a team that argues with itself is at a strategic disadvantage compared to a team that helps itself. By pairing with players who can complement weaknesses, the level of competition at team events is higher than individual events. The excitement that comes with accomplishing success that is truly shared drives players to take these events more seriously.
Preparing for such events is difficult, due in part to the inability to test the format as well as the lack of established tournaments. As such, it is expected that most teams would consist of normal Standard decks, with modifications suited for Team Unified. White Aggressive decks would form the baseline of the format, with Mono Red or Mono Blue consisting of one of the other decks. For most teams, the decision to play Sultai or Esper Control would remain the most important decision. These decks have significant overlap both in removal and dual lands. As we can see from the metagame breakdown below, more than half of all teams brought a deck with Vraska’s Contempt.
Perhaps the most surprising major archetype to emerge from this event is Gates. Gates refers to the Gatebreaker Ram midrange deck, utilizing a variety of Gate payoffs to win the midgame. The popularity of this archetype in Team Unified is due to few overlapping cards with other archetypes, outside of the eponymous Hydroid Krasis. As such Gates can be considered as a replacement for Sultai in nearly any team configuration.
With each player assigned a lettered seat assignment (A, B or C), teams bustled around the room to find their seats. The event would be 5 rounds of Swiss followed by a cut to Top 4. This means that a record of 4-1 would be required to lock up a spot in the Top 4, while teams at 3-1-1 would be in a tiebreaker sweat. For Round 1, we picked the Kingslayer heavy hitter team Reign of Salt against Mishra’s Twerkshop for our camera match. James flew through Andrew’s defenses in a quick set of two games, showcasing the power of the triple aggressive deck line up. In the middle seat, Tony Boozan brought his opponent to a baffling end with an enchantment heavy draw locking up Joseph Riccardi’s aggression. The deciding match would be between Chris Tolar and Sean Costello, with Esper Control and Mono White respectively. Ultimately Esper’s slow wincons would prove problematic for both teams, as Chris was unable to end the game in time, resulting in a draw.
In most tournaments, an early draw is the same as a loss, and this was no exception. Both teams would likely need to win out to make the cut. In Round 2 we saw Goat Slayers face off against Instant Noodles. Leonard overcame Peter in the tempo mirror on the back of Tempest Djinn. Unable to deal with a four toughness threat, Peter’s burn heavy list fell swiftly to the sky terrors presented by the deck to beat of Standard. Jesse’s Selesnya Tokens won the middle match against Sophie’s Naya Midrange, setting the stage once again for a decisive third match — Chad Beleber on Sultai against Kevin Morris on Esper. Kevin forced Chad to operate on few resources off of the back of discard spells, before finally succumbing to a timely Carnage Tyrant.
Round 3 brought with it our first win and in match, and with it a battle of store rivalries. Finch and Sparrow faced off against LA team Shopdad & Co., featuring Vinnie Fino on Mono Blue against Jeff Creasy on Deathwhirler. Vinnie won a quick Game 1, double curious obsession snowballing to victory. Jeff took down a quick Game 2, highlighting the power of Goblin Chainwhirler. Game 3 was a perfect storm of removal spells for Jeff, with a curve topping Rekindling Phoenix securing the win, and a lock for Top 4.
Nearing the end of the swiss rounds, we enter Round 4 in a Kingslayer vs Kingslayer matchup. The Collected Company faced off against 5 Color Jank, with Jacob Brooks paired against Anthony Garcia. Jacob had the upper hand, as he was on the play with a Ghitu Lavarunner. Following this up with a Runaway Steam-Kin, Jacob quickly secured the first game. Heading into postboard games, Anthony brought in a variety of creatures and interactive spells, as winning with Nexus of Fate is a dubious task against the fast-paced Mono Red. Ultimately Jacob would win the second game due to a timely Banefire. 5 Color Jank would go on to win a second match that round, leaving them in a win and in scenario in Round 5.
The final round before the cut saw Finch and Sparrow paired against Mishra’s Twerkshop in a deciding match. Finch and Sparrow were locked for Top 4 regardless of match result, but Twerkshop would need to win to make it. In an upset-laden match, James Packes picked up Game 1 against Paul Ruiz through an early Search for Azcanta, demonstrating the brutality Mono Blue presents against stumbling opponents. In Game 2 both players were hitting land drops with stride, but a timely Essence Capture from James answered Paul’s Thief of Sanity. This exchange resulted in a 5/5 Pteramander closing the game out in short order, backed by timely protective spells.
As the time ticked down, multiple teams found themselves in a tiebreaker sweat for the last spot in Top 4. Nexus of Daves won their pair down match, earning a crucial 10th point at the cost of a small tiebreaker hit. Mishra’s Twerkshop overcame Finch and Sparrow for their 10th match point as well, while Reign of Salt fought through another 7 point team, Shopdad & Co., to put themselves in contention. The crucial match came down to a Kingslayer match between 5 Color Jank and Goat Slayers. As the other undefeated team, Goat Slayers was in with a win, loss, or draw, while 5 Color Jank was in with a win or a draw, barring drastic tiebreaker shifts. In the final game of the round, Jesse Brizuela and Ryan Carpenter unintentionally drew. This put Goat Slayers at 11 points and 5 Color Jank at 10 points, tied with Mishra’s Twerkshop, Nexus of Daves, and Reign of Salt. Ultimately it would be Mishra’s Twerkshop and 5 Color Jank making the cut, while Reign of Salt bubbled in at 5th place.
Heading into the Top 4 saw 5 Color Jank face off against Finch and Sparrow, representing a true battle of stores. Jeff Creasy saw himself against another aggressive deck, as his Rix Maadi Reveler into Goblin Chainwhirler start fizzled against Jacob’s constant stream of burn spells. Game 2 ended in short order, as Jeff found himself without a threat to capitalize on Jacob’s slow start. In the deciding match, Ryan Carpenter curved out against a land light draw on the side of Jordan Neumayer.
The finals saw 5 Color Jank paired against Mishra’s Twerkshop, in a tense match. Jacob Brooks and Ryan Carpenter both lost Game 1 of their matches against Sean Costello and Joseph Riccardi. Matthew ReCasino took down his Game 1 against James on Mono Blue off the back of an aggressive start. Tempest Djinn showed its power in Game 2, flying over Matt’s large board, to push the match to Game 3. Both Ryan and Jacob rallied back, setting up across the table Game 3’s. Matt had a perfect curve, leading on Duress into Kraul Harpooner against James’ otherwise slow start. With just a Mist-Cloaked Herald in play, Matt’s power-heavy field took down the match in quick order, just as his teammates won their matches. 5 Color Jank had won with a Finals sweep, earning themselves the elusive invite they so sought.
Congratulations to Jacob Brooks, Ryan Carpenter, and Matthew ReCasino for winning our first Invitational Qualifier. I’ll be happy to see you all this July. While the story of this tournament lies in the camaraderie and cooperation of all in attendance, the underdog climb of these three players remains as a lasting memory.
Recapping a team tournament would mean little without identifying the players. Here we have the final results of the tournament.
|5 Color Jank||Ryan Carpenter – Jacob Brooks – Matthew ReCasino||Boros Aggro – Mono Red – Sultai||1st|
|Mishra’s Twerkshop||Sean Costello – Joseph Riccardi – James Packes||Mono White – Gruul Aggro – Mono Blue||2nd|
|Goat Slayers||Chad Beleber – Jesse Brizuela – Peter Phan||Sultai – Selesnya Tokens – Izzet Burn||3rd|
|Finch & Sparrow||Paul Ruiz – Jordan Neumayer – Jeff Creasy||Esper Control – Mono White – Deathwhirler||4th|
|Reign of Salt||Chris Tolar – Tony Boozan – Andrew Goodwin||Esper Control – Boros Aggro – Gates||5th|
|Nexus of Daves||Davey Oberlin – David Wallace – Chris Kaifos||Sultai – Bant Nexus – Mono Red||6th|
|The Collected Company||Jason Jahromi – Anthony Garcia – Nico Urrea||Boros Aggro – Simic Nexus – Esper Midrange||7th|
|Shopdad & Co.||Hugo Shah-Jones – Bayani Manansala – Vinnie Fino||Mono White – Gates – Mono Blue||8th|
|Instant Noodles||Kevin Morris – Leonard Rilloraza – Shiyun Yang||Esper Control – Mono Blue – Naya Midrange||9th|
|Red Sweater Game||Daniel Hemstedt – Estevan Lopez – Tyler Kennedy||Esper Control – Nexus of Gates – Rakdos Midrange||10th|
|Team Gary||Gary Quach – Matt Pleuger – Chase Chappell||Gates – Esper Midrange – Selesnya Bogles||11th|
|Liquid||Yuchen Ma – Jimmy Nguyen – Corey Vu||Sultai – Mardu Aggro – Gruul Aggro||12th|
|Team Bobby||Matt Fisher – Bobby McCamey – Jose Santana||Esper Control – Rakdos Midrange – Simic Climb||13th|
|Potato||Tim Acosta – James Park – Erick Ortega||Gruul Aggro – Azorius Aggro – Nexus of Gates||14th|
|Round 9 Punts||Kyle Miller – Kurtis Roberts – Anthony Opferman||Gates – Izzet Drakes – Mono White||15th|
The Team Name Rankings
The best 5 team names, according to myself are found below. If you disagree about #1 or any ranking of a team, let us know in the comments section below.
- Mishra’s Twerkshop (honorable mention to their first choice — Kodama’s Reach Around)
- Instant Noodles
- Nexus of Daves
- Reign of Salt
- Round 9 Punts
You can find the decklists for the finalist teams in the section below.
5 Color Jank
Thanks for reading our IQ #1 Recap, and as always, let us know what you think in the comments below. This week we’ll be looking at the State of Modern and weaknesses of the decks to beat in our GP LA Primer.