Actual team events aside, Magic is most often an individual sport. Even in a team event, each player still plays their own match (although they do have the opportunity to consult with teammates), but it’s never like baseball or football where many players work together on the same field and play the same game together. Most events are not team oriented, but the importance of teams and teammates has never been greater in competitive Magic.
I’ve finally gotten caught up in Game of Thrones and one quote really stuck out to me:
“When winter comes the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.”
Magic is Too Big to Navigate Alone, So Bring Friends
The biggest argument for why teams are important is because the game is simply too big and too dynamic for one person to explore all on their lonesome. Even if you played every single hour of every single day, there would be more to explore than you’d have time for. Even if you did, you’d always be predisposed to see things from your own perspective and based on your experiences.
It’s always better to have a second set of eyes to look at a problem. It’s better to have ten sets of eyes. Everyone has unique perspective, based on the games they’ve played with and against the decks they’ve seen. Sometimes new technology comes from an unlikely source:
“I got blown out by a weird card last weekend. Maybe it would be useful in this deck we are working on…”
If we look at the greatest players of all time, they all have one thing in common: equally great teammates! Would Owen, Huey, and Reid be great if they worked alone? Maybe, but it is undeniable that they are far more powerful mages together than apart.
At the very least, having teammates to work with makes Magic more fun than grinding alone.
It’s Dangerous To Go Alone—Take This
I got married last weekend and have been away on a honeymoon all this week. I have an RPTQ next weekend that, given the circumstances, I have zero time or ability to test for it. Well, guess I might as well skip it.
Oh, wait! I have teammates! How lucky! All I can say is, “It’s good to have friends!” It’s even better when you have friends like Kyle Boggemes, Team Ann Arbor, and Team RIW Hobbies to lean on. Not only did Kyle ship me a fantastic list, he even put together the physical 75 for me to borrow and put together a complete sideboard guide for me.
Even though I cannot personally go deep for this event, I’m still confident that I’ll have a great deck and a legitimate chance to compete for the blue envelope. I’d do the same for any of my friends if the roles were reversed. That’s what teamwork is all about.
I’m not saying that the purpose of a team is to freeload. In an ideal world, everybody does what they can when they can, but life can take precedence over Magic sometimes and it’s a huge advantage to have teammates that can help you out when you need a boost.
How to Get a Team if You Don’t Have One
This information is fairly intuitive to most established grinders. If you have competed on the Pro Tour and have a trophy case of accomplishments, chances are that you didn’t do it alone.
Today’s article is geared toward players who are getting into the mix and still trying to figure out how to make the step to the next level of competitive play. It may be fairly intuitive that having a bunch of amazing teammates is better than going alone, but how to get that team is a little trickier. Also, even if you have a team, it’s always worth thinking about how to make that team more efficient, dynamic, and cohesive.
The first step isn’t to look for or at other players to see what they can do for you. It’s to look at yourself and think about what you have to offer other people. Individuals who make better teammates tend to find better teams! It seems obvious that the more you have to offer the more people will want to work with you.
Most Magic teams are made up of friends who enjoy each other’s company and enjoy working together. Teams comprised of a bunch of people who actively don’t like each other don’t tend to go very far.
Be a good friend. Be supportive of the players around you. Actively root for them to succeed, even when you are struggling at Magic. Do your part. You don’t have to be the best or most talented player on the team to be a valuable member.
It always starts local with who you know and who you game with. It can be a little bit awkward at first, since it’s likely the other good players at your LGS are the ones you compete against the hardest, but many of my best friends and teammates were once my most heated rivals.
Back in my competitive Vintage days, I used to be huge rivals with Team Meandeck. I was playing and working with my local crew, Mark Biller, Josh Franklin, Ben Perry, and Justin Droba for travel events and we were very focused on beating the Meandeckers from Ohio: Stephen Menendian, Kevin Cron, Paul Mastriano, Jacob Orlove, Doug Linn, and Lou Christopher. They were our fiercest competition and we didn’t like them very much.
Like all great rivalries, it was rooted in mutual respect and wanting to be the best. I eventually developed working relationships with those guys over the course of several tournaments. They weren’t just obstacles that stood between me and Top 8—they were individuals who worked as hard as I did, cared as much as I did, and were as committed to being great as I was.
As more and more tournaments elapsed and we got to know each other better they invited my friends and me to work with them. I was surprised to find that when I joined their message board that Meandeck had an entire forum thread devoted to specifically beating me and posting testing results against my most current Vintage lists!
Unlikely alliances are often the most useful and powerful. We all accomplished a lot working together over the years and I’ve made many lifelong friends on that team. It goes to show that being open to working with anybody, even the people that you compete against, can yield a great return.
While my first experiences with teams were of playing with my friends at the LGS, once you get the hang of that, there are infinite potential allies out there to be met. It’s easy to make group chats on FB or other message boards where you can communicate with people you meet playing Magic from all around the world. It’s a valuable resource for sharing information and insights about various formats, and can really elevate your game.
The most important part of developing a team is to form a strong rapport with the players you are working with. You don’t need to be a collection of Hall-of-Famers to do good work and build strong decks with strong plans for a tournament. All it takes is a small collection of individuals who all share a desire to collectively improve, put in a little bit of elbow grease, and encourage one another to succeed.