This might sound strange, but in many aspects, Magic is very similar to golf.
Tournament Magic features a large field of individuals competing against the rest of the players in that field to win the tournament. Golf is exactly the same. Tournament Magic utilizes rounds during the tournament. Golf does as well. Tournament Magic uses standings and leaderboards during the tournament to showcase the positions of the various players within the field. Golf uses that too. And now, Magic is taking another page out of golf’s book with team events, where players join forces to take on other teams in the field.
Team events add a whole other dimension to the mental side of the game of Magic and open up a completely different discussion on the topic. For this article, I’m going to discuss the importance of building great team chemistry and camaraderie, and the things Magic teams need to do to make sure that the team as a whole is in as good a mindset as possible.
Let’s get to it. If you’re going to be playing on a team in a Magic tournament, here are the things you want to make sure that you all, as a team, are mindful of and implementing when you compete together.
1) Understand the different personalities of each person within the group.
When you have a team of Magic players coming together, that means there’s going to be a mesh of different personalities. Maybe some are more outgoing—maybe some are more quiet. Maybe some are more headstrong and stubborn—maybe some are more passive and accepting. Maybe some are more excitable and exuberant—maybe some are more calm and collected.
To get along and function well as a team, it’s important that each person understand the different personalities within the group. What makes person A tick? What makes person B tick? Does person C prefer to be more quiet and let others take the lead during a team meeting? Does person D have more of a leadership personality and like to take charge during group discussions? Does person E like to talk a lot during their games and be friendly? Does person F prefer to be more focused and “in the zone” during their games?
Understanding the different personalities, attributes, and character traits of each person within your team will make you much better equipped to know and understand how to approach, handle, and speak to that person in order to get along with them and get the best out of them. Having said that, that brings me to point #2.
2) Be mindful of how you communicate with each person
At all times, you need to be mindful of how you communicate with each individual and how your communication with that person affects them. When I say this, I’m not necessarily referring to how you joke with them whether or not they’re more or less “PC.” That can be a part of it, but it also goes deeper than that.
Some people thrive when you give them a hard time and push them. When someone tells me I’m not good enough, gives me a hard time, or tells me that I can’t do something, it ramps me up and drives me forward. But some people are different. Some people can shut down emotionally if you talk to them in that way or act like that towards them. They simply don’t respond to that.
If I finish a game where I played badly and lost, and one of my teammates comes over to me and says, “Man, Will. You were terrible that round, huh?” I can laugh at that and say, “LOL, well, you’re definitely right about that!” But another person on the team may take something like that more personally and see it as an attack.
Your words have the power to lift someone up or slam them down into the ground. Each person can respond differently to the way you talk and act toward them. Be cognizant of that, and be aware of the best way to speak and behave toward each person on your team.
3) Make everyone feel valued and important
When there are a number of different players coming together into a team, you’ll each have varying accomplishments, levels of success, and stature. But all of that becomes meaningless once you come together as a group and are fighting for a common aim. In a team, every person needs to feel as valued as everyone else in the group. Player A isn’t more important than player B because they’ve been to more Pro Tours. Player C isn’t less important than player D because they’ve never made the Top 8 of a GP like player D has.
The player with the least accomplishments is just as valuable and important as the person with the most. No one person is ever bigger or more important than anyone else, or the team as a whole. The fact is, if people don’t feel like they matter to the team, they won’t be as productive. But the more valued they feel and the more they’re made to feel like they belong, the more their best will come out and the better they’re going to perform for the team.
4) Know which battles to fight
Not only does each person have their own personality and character traits, they can have their own way of doing things, whether it’s in playtesting or in competition. A player may have a specific method or approach they use when it comes to preparing for a tournament different than what you’re used to. Starting a fight with that person by telling them that the way they do things is wrong simply because it’s different from the way you think it should be done is a battle you don’t need to fight, and all it will do is cause unnecessary tension.
In competition, there are players who like to play their match without their teammates sitting on top of them and commentating on every decision they want to make. They prefer to have their own space and be able to play the game without feeling like they’re constantly being watched and analyzed. Other players may want the rest of the team around them to help them play, think through their lines, and come to the best decisions possible. Again, everyone can be different.
When there are differences between players in the team, try to understand and figure out which battles are worth fighting and which are not. Ask yourself, “Okay, is this a battle worth fighting over with this person, or no?” If something is genuinely worth discussing and confronting someone about, then go for it, but do it in a cordial, respectful manner. If the “battle” isn’t worth fighting, be willing to let the other person have their way and let it go.
5) Be willing to put what’s best for the team ahead of what’s best for yourself
If no one person is more important or than anyone else on the team, then no one person is bigger than the team as a whole. What’s best for the team is always more important than what’s best for one person, and that ideal needs to be kept in mind when decisions are being made that can have an effect on the team.
If you lose a close match because of a mistake you made or if you get run over because you had to mulligan to 5, it can be easy to be really angry and frustrated about that match after losing. But for the sake of the team, that negativity needs to be kept away from the group, and if that means you need to walk away and collect yourself before returning to the group, then you need to do so. If you don’t, your negativity and “saltiness” can rub off and affect the rest of the players on your team.
If you’re good at playing pretty much any kind of deck, and your team needs you to play a specific deck, even if it’s a deck you don’t particularly want to play, it’s important that you be willing to put what’s best for the team ahead of yourself, play the deck, and play it to the best of your ability with 100% commitment and attitude.
As the team dynamic in Magic becomes more prevalent, players who understand how to best build a good team atmosphere and get the best out of each other will be positioned to have the most success. Ultimately, the most important thing is positivity and encouragement. Constantly look to lift each other up as much as possible, because the more positive and encouraging the dynamic, the better everyone will perform, and that’s what you’re after.
Do you have any tips, pieces of advice, or suggestions of your own that you feel are important for helping to create a well-functioning, successful team? If so, talk about it in the comment section. I’d love to read your viewpoint on this.
Thanks for reading, and all the best! I’ll see you next week.