It’s a pretty standard issue to hear tournament champions thank their teammates, and with good reason. Being a lone wolf in Magic won’t get you to the top anymore, and hooking up with the right team is highly rewarding.
I’ve been on my fair share of teams. For Pro Tour testing I am now part of Team Snapcardster, and can add teams Eureka, Genesis & Revelation to my résumé. I’ve enjoyed working with each of them, but the dynamics and inner workings of the four teams have been hugely different. Ambition levels, commitment level and how you handle logistics have been the main differences. We’ll take a look at what being on a team has given me over the years and what you need to be aware of, to create a successful team of your own.
My first experience on a team
A Martin Dang origin story
It all started at GP Manchester 2012. A great bunch of guys I’d traveled with to various tournaments needed a way to coordinate this trip. A Facebook group was created, Team Rocket was the name. We stuck to it, and started to coordinate all our trips together in the forum. At first we didn’t have the intention to start a team, that part just kind of happened on its own.
We didn’t start out all professional, far from it actually. These trips were a great way to meet up with friends from a different city, and have a fun time. Sure, we did our best, and always wanted to win it all. But when it came down to it, having a blast together was what we traveled for. Making day 2 wasn’t an excuse to take it easy Saturday night, it almost became a challenge to do well Sunday after a night of clubbing instead, and I am guilty of getting directly from the club to the venue on more than one occasion (as are the others), sitting outside half an hour before they opened the doors, quenching the thirst with a red bull in a losing battle of sobering up.
And yet today 5 of 8 members of that team have won a GP at the very least, some of us have done even better.
Obviously continuing to do what we did doesn’t win you a lot of bigger tournaments to start with, but it has been a journey that I’ve enjoyed taking part in, and has brought me to where I am today. We all got to start somewhere, and this was my origin.
Some sober reflection
What I learned from my first team
Playing competitive Magic, you will undeniably experience ups and downs, so you want to surround yourself with people who understands this and can be depended on during tough times. Giving you an outlet for those frustrating feelings, that can otherwise easily build up and affect the next match if you’re not careful. Besides, having your friends root for you in a stressed situation, can give you an incredible confidence boost, and I am grateful for having had Team Rocket by my side all those years.
Being part of Team Rocket improved my gameplay. At all time I strive to be the best of any team I am part of. We encourage and challenge each other all the time to improve and perform. Continually showing up to competitive tournaments will automatically do so, and with a team to travel with, you are more inclined to go to a tournament you’d otherwise might have given a pass. On Pro Tour teams, you know you have to perform to be able to stay next season or maintain your status, and while we wouldn’t kick anyone from Team Rocket, we still had a saying, that you’re never better than your last tournament. We even had a physical medal for Constructed GPs and one for Limited, which got passed around from tournament to tournament and we wore them with honor.
Never underestimate the power of bragging rights.
Creating a team of your own
About team makers and deal breakers
Teams are basically your support system in Magic. Research has shown that having a support system can have many positive benefits, such as higher levels of wellbeing, better coping skills and reducing depression and anxiety, as giving and receiving support is a basic human need. Besides this, the main benefit of a team is someone you can bounce your ideas off of, to get some feedback on your ideas. You can try out your wacky ideas together so you’re at least two who have seen the games play out and can pinpoint the problems or strength/weaknesses.
Not everyone has to be on the exact same level skill wise, but it’s still important to build your team of people whose opinion you respect. You don’t improve a lot if the entire team plays exactly the same, so preferably you can find a good mix of people that can bring different opinions to the table when testing. This is why it’s so vital to be part of a team whose opinion you respect, because you have to put your trust in people who specialize in other areas than your own.
“Teams are basically your support system in Magic”
You have to aim at the same goal and working as a team, you’ll have to be sure everyone agrees on the workload as well. It’s discouraging to put in a lot of effort, if others are indifferent or for some other reason cannot put in the same amount work, the same way it’s frustrating to be hounded around by others who feel you should be doing more than you have energy, time and concentration for. If you’re meeting up days before the tournament starts, do you want to spent some time sightseeing or should it all be for testing? Can you kick back with a few beers, or even go clubbing at night? It can be stressful if you feel misplaced in your team, so make sure you find someone who’s at the very least on the same commitment level as you are.
This also applies money-wise. Although I’ve saved plenty of money over the years by having a team (it allows you to share Ubers, hotels/Airbnbs and even cooking for more people is cheaper per person than by yourself), you need to keep in mind that it’s essential you are on the same page regarding expenses. Awkward situations can easily arise when money is involved. Do you want to sleep at hostels and Airbnbs or hotel rooms? Given the option, do you cook yourself, eat at fancy restaurants, mediocre restaurants or cheap fastfood? This might not seem very important, as it’s easy to go live and eat with others with the same standard, but in order to build and maintain team spirit, you should do your best to stick together as a team the majority of the time.
Pro Tour Teams
The future of tournament Magic
Wizards is pushing the whole team thing because it’s the future of Magic. It’s great for their storylines and shows Magic as a social thing you can do with your friends. However I don’t join a team for their sake, I join teams because of the many benefits we get from it, some more obvious than others.
Being part of a Pro Tour team will help you promote yourself. If your teammate does well, he will probably credit the teammates and people will see you on photos, celebrating with them. It’s easier for fans to see you on social media if you tag each other or appear in each other’s tweets or streams, which increases the attention.
Teammates will help you with networking within the Magic community. Staying nearby your teammates you’ll slowly get to know their friends and different teams often test together and share ideas with each other, so you’ll soon enough have plenty of Magic friends worldwide.
Sponsoring deals are mostly for teams as well, because you’re more visual for the audience and therefore worth more for the sponsors
Being part of Team Snapcardster
Part reunion, part new experience
The friendly competition is another aspect that is important in a team. We here at Snapcardster have plenty of that, for example we do draft challenges. Draft challenge is where we all start simultaneously on MTGO and the last one to get a competitive league trophy buys lunch for the following day. The competition aspect of it drives us to do well, because no one wants to be teased with losing, but we keep it at a friendly level so helping each other during the drafts is still encouraged.
I became Pro Tour Champion with the guys from Team Eureka, played the Team Series Final as part of Genesis and now I have high hopes playing with the guys from Team Snapcardster. This team features 4 members from the old Team Rocket, and I am nothing less than thrilled to be back together with my boys.
Last but not least, for me the best thing about having a team, is that you always have travel companions. Playing GPs and PTs brings you all over the world, and it’s nice to have people around you that you know and can relate to. They’re likely in the same situation as you, and it’s always wonderful to explore a new city and share the experience with friends.
So use your team well and the rewards will be plenty.
This article was written by Martin Dang in a media collaboration with mtgmintcard.com