Ultimate Team, the card-collecting competitive mode in EA Sports’ cadre of sports sims, has become one of the most popular features in Madden. It’s always a deep experience that gives you the childhood feeling of opening packs of sports cards along with having a resemblance to fantasy football. Up until Madden NFL 19, however, progressing through Ultimate Team has been a bit of slog — and a confusing one at that. Madden NFL 19 thankfully introduces a better progression system. To eliminate the confusion for new and longtime fans, our guide walks you through the ins and outs of the new ratings and upgrade system, along with a few tips on how to improve your team.
How to upgrade players
Upgrading players is (basically) a one-step process. Dropping the requirement to complete sets with team tokens, you can now upgrade players using Training, a new currency. You can easily see if a card can be upgraded by clicking on a player. From there, it will tell you how much training it costs to upgrade a card to its next tier. A tier bump increases a player’s vital attributes and overall rating. Simple, right?
Not all cards can be upgraded. In fact, very few of your cards will be eligible when you start your ultimate team journey. The cards that have upgrade eligibility mostly fall into the Gold/Elite/Power-Up categories. The type of card — bronze, silver, gold, elite, power-up — is easily visible below each player’s name. For bronze and silver cards, often what you see is what you get. Gold and elite cards can only be bumped up once through training, while power-up cards have multiple upgrade tiers.
While Training encompasses the vast majority of development, upgradeable cards sometimes require special items to upgrade after a number of tier unlocks.
Focus on your team’s chemistry
This year, it’s rare (maybe impossible) to find a card with a pre-selected chemistry. That’s good for team balance, but also means you have to spend Training points to unlock chemistry. It’s an intuitive process, as chemistry upgrades are right there in a card’s upgrade menu. After unlocking chemistry, you can press RT/RB to look at the team chemistry requirements for increased stat boosts.
If you have a lot of players from one team (at least five), you receive automatic chemistry boosts. If you click on Offensive or Defensive Scheme in the chemistry menu, you can use training points to unlock chemistry boosts for certain types of players. For example, offensive playmakers can receive chemistry boosts if you have five or more players that fall into “Zone Run” or “West Coast” categories. In this example, you start off with Balanced O chemistry unlocked just from purchasing the chemistry slot. If you want to unlock the aforementioned Zone Run chemistry, you have to spend 10 Training points.
Building team chemistry is more of a long-term goal, but one you should always be looking at when sorting through your roster.
Your team is guaranteed to be terrible at first
It can be discouraging to jump from franchise mode to Ultimate Team. Rather than having an overall team rating in the high-70s to 90s, your Ultimate Team squad will be sitting in the low 60s at first. All of your starting cards will be terrible.
Don’t worry, everyone’s Ultimate Team starts off this way. Even though your roster is largely randomized to start, no matter how many times you try to manage a better group of players, you always wind up with the same level of cards. It’s an uphill climb no matter what.
Solo Challenges offer easy ways to improve your team
Solo challenges are the best way to improve your team quickly. Completing the first seven preseason challenges — each of which take five minutes or less — will score you both Training and better cards. From there, you can start working your way through the 83 campaign challenges, 10 Legends challenges, 16 Longshot challenges (you have to complete Longshot: Homecoming to access these), MUT Levels challenges, and a rotating cadre of Training Camp challenges. Each completed solo challenge will increase your overall MUT experience and net you in-game currency to spend in the store. As you level-up, you also receive periodic rewards, including both Training and card packs.
Training Camp challenges in earn you Training points and Power Up players. Best of all, while some of the challenges are permanent fixtures, others switch each week, so there’s almost always a useful challenge to complete.
You’ll know the rewards (coins, items, and packs) for successfully completing each challenge before going in.
Dump unneeded players for Training
As you start accumulating more cards, you’ll no longer need many of the original players on your roster. You can quick-sell cards at the bottom of each card’s menu for a few training points a piece. However, it only costs a handful of points to make initial upgrades to cards.
As you earn better cards (gold, elite, power up), you’re better served dropping players that are low on the depth chart and using the acquired Training to improve your higher-rated players.
Keep in mind that bronze and silver cards can’t be auctioned anyway, so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by quick-selling unneeded cards for Training.
Compete in Solo Battles, and online, for big rewards
Solo Battles, a new Ultimate Team feature, pits you against CPU-controlled user teams from the Madden community. Thankfully, if you still don’t feel up to taking on “real” online opponents, Solo Battles offers a way to earn a massive amount of coins. Each week, a new Solo Battles leaderboard goes up. If you manage to land in the top 100 worldwide at the end of the week, you’ll receive at least 75,000 coins to spend on new cards.
Landing in the top 100 is a daunting feat that requires playing on hard difficulty levels and completing all matches each week. But you can still nab a ton of coins outside of the top 100. Each match you play has a coin value that goes up or down based on the difficulty level you choose. Accumulate enough points over the week and you’ll earn enough coins to buy a few high value packs in the store. Here are the Solo Battle tiers and rewards.
- Unranked (just from playing): 50 coins
- Rookie (40,000 points): 1,000 coins
- Pro (50,000 points): 2,500 coins, Hail Mary pack
- Veteran (75,000 points): 5,000 coins, Hail Mary pack
- Bronze (100,000 points): 10,000 coins, Hail Mary pack
- Silver (150,000 points): 15,000 coins, 2 Hail Mary packs
- Gold (200,000 points): 25,000 coins, 2 Hail Mary packs, 1 Midfield pack
- Elite (250,000 points) – 30,000 coins, 2 Hail Mary packs, 1 Midfield pack, 1 Redzone pack
- Ultimate (300,000 points): 50,000 coins, 2 Hail Mary packs, 1 Midfield pack, 1 Redzone pack, 1 Touchdown pack
Pro rank and higher also earns you pack rewards. These packs may sound new to those who don’t play much online, but they were introduced last year for Weekend League, the weekly online tournament variant in Ultimate Team. Hail Mary packs contain two cards rated 70 or higher, one 65-plus card, and four 60-plus cards. Midfield packs have two 75-plus, two 70-plus, and three 60+ cards. Redzone packs have one 80-plus, two 75-plus, and four 70-plus cards. Touchdown packs contain an 85-plus card and the option to choose between one of two 87-plus cards.
You can earn big rewards without ever playing against another human being. If you’re successful in Solo Battles, though, you should venture online in head-to-head season and Weekend League. Think of it this way. If you compete in both Solo Battles and online, you’ll have the opportunity to double up on pack rewards and coins.
Your bounty from Solo Battles and online matches can then be flipped for packs in the store or for specific players in the auction house.
For more on Madden NFL 19, check out our full review and tips guide for both old and new players. Do you think Antonio Brown will avoid the Madden curse? Check out our comprehensive history of the Madden curse to see the daunting odds he is up against.