The Madden NFL franchise has been a constant for decades, and EA Sports has turned the game’s release into a cultural event for football fans to look for to come August.
The league itself continues to evolve and graphics for different consoles will keep getting better, especially as Sony releases the PlayStation 5 and Microsoft puts out the Xbox Series X. One element of consistency over the last few years, however? The success of the Madden franchise’s “Ultimate Team” game mode.
For those who are new to the game or are returning after a long absence, Madden players can dive in on a mode called “Ultimate Team,” allowing fans the opportunity to open up packs of cards from the mode’s store, purchase players with earned coins, and build lineups to battle online in head-to-head games.
However, the game mode could be confusing to any newcomers, especially as stars across the league are born and playing styles change. The pace is quick and frantic throughout the season as new cards are added, just like the thoughts running through your head about how to put together the best team.
Don’t worry, football fans. Just like last year, we have a complete guide with quick tips to follow to set up the perfect team for taking down your friends online, or the computer in solo challenges.
The game will constantly get updated throughout the year, and players get outdated quickly when promos like “Most Feared” and “MUT Heroes” drop. So, star running backs like Christian McCaffrey or Saquon Barkley may fall by the wayside as new versions of youngsters like Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Jonathan Taylor and more drop into the game. As a result, some information and priorities may begin to change as the game continues to evolve.
For now, here are the basics to get you started on the right foot in Madden Ultimate Team for Madden NFL 21, giving you some direction as you grind through solo challenges and learn the ropes when it comes to Online Seasons, Solo Battles, Weekend League and more.
Building your roster
Don’t rush your decision when it comes to the MUT Captains, and pay attention to your MUT Master throughout the year.
Just like Madden NFL 20, Ultimate Team players will be able to select a MUT Captain to build their team around in the early stages of the game.
Last year, gamers were able to pick from four NFL players: WR Herman Moore, TE Dallas Clark, CB Ty Law and LB Ryan Shazier. The variety of positions gives you the chance to either pick a player from your favorite team, or select someone in a position that you feel you can use the card in for a longer period of time. That same type of decision-making will come into play when you head into MUT this year.
For Madden NFL 21, the team captains are RB Eddie George, DT La’Roi Glover, WR Ed McCaffrey, and CB Aeneas Williams. For team chemistry purposes, you may have a player in mind to help you stockpile players from a specific team (in this case, the Titans, Cowboys, Broncos and Cardinals).
But, keep in mind the types of positions that will get a lot of focus throughout the year, and the depth you’ll be able to build up in certain spots of your lineup.
There will be plenty of running backs released throughout the year, and if last year’s game is any indication, it will be more about the play selection and a player’s speed in certain cases than their MUT rating itself. The same goes for the additions of players at a position like wide receiver, considering the sheer depth across the league for that grouping.
So, George or McCaffrey may not be a prioritized selection, but rather a defensive star like Glover or Williams for situations where you can plug in numerous players of the same position at once.
The MUT Master Sam Mills will also be an important player to keep in mind, as you can keep upgrading his overall throughout the season. Since he’s a middle linebacker, you may be set throughout the year as it relates to the center of your defense. So, you may choose to prioritize improving your secondary or defensive linemen to bolster that side of the ball as a whole.
You’ll be able to swap out your MUT Captain throughout the season if needed, so don’t fret too much about the decision right off the bat. But, it could be helpful in the early stages to commit to a player you know you’ll use throughout a good portion of the year, and build up a solid roster around him as a result.
Depth is the most important thing when it comes to your positions with more than one player.
A lot of focus will be put on a team’s quarterback, considering their presence in every single offensive play in the game. But, arguably the most important players on your team will come deeper in the depth chart, especially at skill positions with more than one player on the field.
You’ll want to load up on talented running backs and wide receivers on offense, and secondary stars on defense. Players get tired and lose energy, and their talent level will decrease as their stamina goes down.
So, if you only have a player like Julio Jones at the top of your depth chart for wide receivers, and lower-tier players towards the bottom, you may run into issues if you’re running a pass-heavy offense.
At running back, if you’re looking for more of a ground-and-pound style of play, you’ll need at least two high-quality players in your backfield to get a rotation going in your offense. If you’re handing off the ball to a drained Alvin Kamara, he could get stripped of the ball easier, or lose steam in the open field when trying to juke out a linebacker.
Good players will figure out quickly when you’re relying on one or two players to compete online, and the game will seem a lot more fun when your consistent gameplan gets torn to shreds in the second quarter.
You may want to blow all of your hard-earned coins on that one high-overall player early in the season, but be smart about it. Spread the wealth, and you’ll be able to make that money back a lot faster by getting more wins under your belt.
Versatile quarterbacks are great, but pocket passers aren’t a dying breed like many think.
Lamar Jackson is going to turn into a modern-day version of Madden NFL 2004‘s Michael Vick with the hype around mobile quarterbacks in this game.
But, don’t feel like you have to use a guy like Jackson, Patrick Mahomes or Russell Wilson. Just like real life, guys like Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Matt Ryan are still going to work for you if you have the correct playing style to accommodate them.
Lots of gamers like to rush for a card like Jackson or Wilson, and love to have the option to run for it out of the shotgun if they need a first down on a 3rd-and-5. But, you’ll sacrifice accuracy in Madden with guys like that, with many players thinking they can throw on the run and hit a receiver 30 yards down the field with a perfect spiral.
Building up a solid offensive line, working the run and keeping a quarterback in the pocket may seem boring, but it still drives results. With quick, small receivers in your lineup, you’re better off with a precision passer who can sit in the pocket and deliver a dart 10 yards down the field with open space, or toss a perfect ball 50 yards downfield for a receiver sprinting down the sideline.
Set your priorities, and stick to them as best as you can.
Just like any game mode, Ultimate Team is built for you to play as you see fit. Want to run the ball a ton? Go for it. Want to see your quarterback pull off flashy passes and stick with an aerial attack? Be my guest.
But, it’s best to become aware of that early on, and build your team around those frequently-called plays. Look for the best running backs available at any given time if you’re finding yourself picking up more yards per play on the ground than through the air. Keep tabs on the best wide receivers in the league to see if they get upgrades through Team of the Week or a seasonal release from the EA team.
It may all sound tedious, but it will all keep your roster at its highest-possible rating, and improve your gameplay as more and more players start to figure out the game.
Build a base for yourself by finding your go-to plays and formations on both sides of the ball.
People will make fun of MUT players who run the same play every single time they’re on offense or defense, and rightfully so. Good players online will quickly figure out the weak spots of that play or formation, and they will adjust accordingly.
But, it doesn’t hurt to build up a base for yourself and figure out which plays could be labeled as your “go-to’s.” Find a few different running and passing plays in a variety of formations that you’re good at on offense, and figure out the right times to use them in-game.
Need a yard for a first down? You have a play for that. Trying to get pressure away from the left side of your offensive line. You have a running play to the right for that. Searching for a slant route to beat a cornerback who has you locked up on streaks? You have a play for that.
The same can be said on defense, albeit in a different way. If you see a player is rolling with three wide receivers consistently, find yourself the perfect man coverage and zone coverage plays in your preferred defensive scheme to combat it. Your opponent is running the ball consistently? Find a formation to get pressure on the offensive line and blow up the play in the backfield.
Practice makes perfect, and all of this will come with time. But, picking plays randomly and never learning the in’s and out’s of each will only hurt you, rather than remembering what works well and what doesn’t on both sides of the ball.
Committing time to learning the intricacies of defense will help you a lot more than your offensive play.
So many times while playing Madden NFL 20 did gamers find themselves in 42-35 shootouts online because of a lack of skill on defense. They had all their favorite NFL stars on offense, found their perfect rotation of plays and thought they’d be set by throwing for 400 yards and five touchdowns with Patrick Mahomes.
But, as they always say, defense wins championships, and it’s just as important in the virtual world as it is in real life.
Take the time to learn common tendencies while on defense, whether it’s something as simple as common routes that get your secondary in bad positions, or a detail as specific as how long it takes a linebacker to get from the center of the field out to one of the sidelines to break up a play.
Figure out the importance of specific formations in certain situations, whether it’s the difference between a 3-4 or 4-3, or when you would need to run Dime rather than Nickel.
Again, it may sound tedious, and it may be easier to just go with the game’s suggested plays, but it’ll come in handy when you’re playing a close game online against someone who has an inferior offense to yours.
Glitchy plays happen in every video game. Rather than getting upset or using it as an excuse, find the best way to stop it.
Last year, stretch runs tore apart both players’ defenses and their hopes and dreams. If you saw Eric Dickerson in the backfield in a certain formation, there was a good chance you were about to have an 80-yard touchdown run dropped right in front of your face.
Players rightfully got upset as opponents ran the same play over and over again, but some decided to use that anger to find a solution. Then, certain gamers were able to catch up to Dickerson in the backfield and force the opponent to change gears.
Unfortunately, there are plays like that in almost every sports game out there. It’s a part of the business when games rely on more realistic physics and mechanics, and it’s impossible to avoid. But, when you find something that’s giving you fits defensively, do your best to experiment and find the perfect foil for that player’s plan.
If you’re noticing trends and still can’t stop them, it’s likely that other players are taking advantage of this, too. YouTubers will frequently do their best to show you how to stop those plays, almost like a coach in real life during a film study. If you put in the work like your favorite NFL stars, you may be able to achieve similar results.
A game mode like Ultimate Team frequently turns into a marathon, rather than a sprint. You could have the best team in the game in September, but if you don’t stay up-to-date on the new cards in the game and become set in your ways, you’ll be fighting a losing battle.
Be sure to check out the home screens for both Ultimate Team and the game itself, and anticipate different promotions and weekly releases. Team of the Week players will come out on the same day every week, and seasonal programs will always release around holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving or the month of December as a whole.
By keeping track of new additions to the game, you can help build the perfect roster for yourself, and know who you may need to look out for and combat on the field at certain times of the year. Staying informed is important in all elements in life, and Ultimate Team is no different.
Have fun with it!
Let’s face it, there will always be those gamers that spend hundreds of dollars every year on a phenomenal roster full of cards that they pull in the store’s massive packs. But, that doesn’t mean that they’ll utilize the roster properly or play well with those legends and stars, so don’t get discouraged!
Part of the fun of Ultimate Team is the process of building up a talented roster and pulling some of your favorite players in packs you earn or buy. There’s no sense in getting frustrated if you don’t have the perfect roster within the first week, or even the first month or two. It’s meant to be a grind, and just have fun and enjoy the ride as you get through solo challenges, online games and numerous hours spent opening packs and scanning the Auction House.