The Devil is in the Details – Do You Need a Team?

Hello again everyone. It’s already Tuesday, which means it’s time for another “The Devil is in the Details”. This week’s topic was suggested by friend and fellow Magic player Eric, whom you may know as the Dutch guy who comments on a lot of the articles here. He wanted to know the benefits of having a team. Why you would want one? What does having a team means to you as a player? I hope to explain the rationale behind having a team and give you all some insight on how to start your own.

When deciding whether or not to form a team of your own you should consider the reasons why you want to form a team in the first place:

  • Teams allow you to combine ideas and evaluations to increase skill levels.
  • Teams allow for card sharing to occur which can lessen the card availability/expense burden.  Teams allow for you to spend more time with people you consider friends and enjoy being around.
  • Teams give a sense of unity and identity in the Magic community.

Teams allow shared collaboration of ideas

Magic at its very core is a game of skill. In competitive Magic, you have one player squaring off against another player and their skill level largely determines who wins the match. Skill can be quantified in many different ways. Skills in deck building, card evaluation, play style, board state evaluation, etc. are all ways in which skills determine whom is the better player for a particular match. However, skills have limitations on their evolution. It can be difficult to evolve your own skill level all by yourself. Having a team greatly improves your skill level as it allows for a collection of ideas and play styles. By collecting play styles, you learn how to interpret different though processes. Another member of the team may interpret a card slightly differently than you would and that difference in perspective may increase your skills as it relates to that card. Some cards appear to be extremely powerful in a vacuum and one team member may feel this is essential and must be played, while another team member may see this card as it relates to how the metagame currently exists and decide it’s not worth playing. Contradicting thoughts like this allow for discussion to take place on why Card A is good or bad depending on the situation. This allows for the people involved to gain knowledge and skill. Not everyone views the game in the same way and being a part of a team allows for team members to increase each other’s skill levels through information sharing. Play testing becomes easier as you now have a designated group with whom to conduct testing with. The difference in card evaluation and metagame prediction comes in handy in a team environment.


Teams allow sharing of cards and expenses

How many times have you wanted to play a certain deck at a tournament only to find that the one chase rare you need is sold out everywhere? It’s happened to me on occasion and it can be a make or break occurrence for the deck you want to play. Magic by no means is a cheap hobby to have. Being a part of a team can alleviate this problem. Having a team to borrow cards from increases your card availability issues. I have even seen teams where they share the card pool, making the financial burden of Magic one that is easier to bear. Having a team by which to borrow/swap cards between can be a great help in ensuring that all the members are playing the decks they want to play.

Magic is a social game where people convene to compete and have fun. Many Magic players are friends outside of the game as well and Magic doesn’t always take place at an FNM or tournament venue. Often you hang out with the people you regularly play Magic with outside of the game and sometimes they are your friends and you got them to play or vice versa. You may not realize it but you could possibly already be part of a team. By giving it a name you make it more sociable and add a level of entertainment. By starting a team with the people you already play Magic with on a regular basis you label something that may already be occurring. Do you always travel to tournaments with a certain group? Do you always sit by and talk to the same people during tournaments? Do you hang out with certain Magic players outside of the games? Are many your friends outside of the game? If you answered yes to any of these questions then you are already part of a team and just haven’t made it official yet. My team consists of the people whom I spend the most time with at Magic tournaments. The players who I can trust enough to travel with and have my back outside of the game. Players who look up to me for inspiration and I to them. Players who need help developing their skills and enjoy helping others develop theirs. But most of all, my team consists of people I am proud to call my friends.


Having a team grants an identity to team members

Teams also grant identity at the tournament level. Many people may not know who a certain individual is but they may be able to remember that their opponent was a member of Team ChannelFireball or Team Your Move Games. Having a team grants notoriety and identity that may not otherwise be there. Having a team also allows you to have a presence at any major tournament. If your team is wearing the same shirt, playing the same deck and convening in between rounds then you will be noticed by the majority of the players. Identity comes with recognition from the community if you perform well but it also comes with the ridicule if everyone does horribly. There’s no better feeling to be playing at a top table while your team is standing behind you in support.

Now that I have discussed the benefits of forming a team I will go over how I came to develop a team of my own. As you all already know, I often play at Amazing Discoveries in Tucson. Amazing Discoveries does a good job or promoting themselves at tournaments and it is commonly accepted that we are all part of Team Amazing Discoveries. I have no issues with supporting the store, which I call my home away from home. However, there are some players who frequent Amazing Discoveries whom I disagree with philosophically and personally that I don’t always want to be lumped in with them as a group. I generally get along with everyone well but some people are just not easily able to coexist with. I found myself commonly hanging out with my good friends and a few players whom I only see at tournaments at the store. After noticing this I asked them if they wanted to form a team. I have a personal brand I call FallFromHell and that became our default team name. However, the name may be changing soon. By being Team FallFromHell we have garnered our own identity within Team Amazing Discoveries and have embraced the team mentality. We have given ourselves a presence among the tournament scene and have begun to see some results. Some try to impart a form of ridicule upon us for being a team or having the name that we do, but most have been supportive.

Team FallFromHell includes members of many different skill levels and is dedicated to having a good time and putting up results. The team includes established tournament players such as Sean McCusker, SnapCastro Mage, Mr. January and myself. A few players who have been around for a bit but still developing their skills, like Ron Lukes and Aaron Lettes. Finally, the newest member is a player who has just recently started but has potential is Zach Davenport. We have found the team setting to be beneficial as it has helped us grow as players and given a label to what we were already doing. By having newer and older players on the same team we are able to help the new players grow while allowing their fresh perspective on the game broaden our horizons and keep us from getting stuck in old viewpoints. It is also beneficial if we are ever matched up in tournament play as we agree that having the best person move forward. If we get unevenly paired, such as playing down, then one person would scoop to the other to increase the potential win for the team.  You can also count on the support of the team no matter the outcome of the match.

Team FallFromHell has few rules but the ones we do have are important ones:

  1. All team members must be respectful to other team members.
  2. Anyone who wants to join can as long as they get along with the other team members and are accepted by at least 80% of the group.
  3. Team members must be supportive of other team members.
  4. Team members must have a good time.

Having a team adds an additional dimension to your tournament Magic experience. Teams allow you to combine skill levels, alleviate card availability issues, spend more time with your Magic friends, and gain an identity. Being a part of a team has made my Magic experience more rewarding and entertaining then it has been on the past and I appreciate everything our team does. If you get a chance you should start a team of your own today.

On a personal note I scooped in the finals of GPT Vancouver this past weekend to Brad Dutiel who was actually planning on attending the Grand Prix while receiving all the product support as my prize. Congratulations to Brad. It was another strong finish for me in the past 2 weeks. I appreciate the support of the team and we have been putting up good numbers overall. My play has been tight and my evaluation of the limited environment is growing.

If you have any questions or comments please post below. You can also email me [email protected] or follow me on twitter @fallfromhell. Thanks for reading.


Jeffrey McCoy

Team FallFromHell