Hey everyone! My name is Joseph Wettgen, and today I’ll be sharing with you a topic that recently came up in a discussion I had with some friends of mine; just how beneficial playing on a team in a single player game can be. It’s common knowledge amongst my friends and family that I play TCG’s competitively, but they don’t quite know how or where I play. Upon being asked by my friends what I do when I play card games, I explained that I normally head down to my locals with my team and practice. This is where I always get the confused looks.
“Team?” They ask, “I thought those games were like, 1 vs. 1?”
“They are,” I nervously respond, as I wait for the next inevitable question.
“Then how are you on a team in a single player game?”
Oh boy, here we go again. I normally attempt to explain to people who have little to no background with TCG’s how and why I play on a team, with little to no success. I find myself wishing I had someone who was knowledgeable of TCG’s to explain this concept too. So I thought, “Why not explain it to the whole community?”
A cornerstone of progress throughout time has been teamwork. Naturally, on many occasions, people have come together to perform tasks one person could have never imagined possible. Teamwork grants an individual the capacity to achieve something greater than they ever have. So why not apply teamwork to the very games we strive to be good at?
I’ve seen new players who show up to my locals by themselves with high hopes get absolutely crushed. It’s a pretty common scenario in TCG’s; some guy gets shown the card game by his buddies, and he decides to drop by a tournament with a starter deck he probably picked up at target the week before. I’ve seen these same players come back week by week, net deck the last premier event’s top 8 lists, and actually start to improve. These same players who made the whole room taste of salt when they realized their starter deck wasn’t good enough are now actually competing for top 8 spots at my local events.
So what made them improve? Interaction with other players. This interaction comes in all forms, from obvious, to subtle. Players learn from what their opponent does in a match. They learn from advice other, more experienced players give, and the really ambitious ones will learn from articles they read online. Even net-decking is a form of interaction. Some player out there decided to post a deck list, and share knowledge with another player.
The only flaw in the aforementioned interactions are that they are inconsistent. There won’t always be a seasoned player willing to share his advice, and not every deck list online that claims it will beat Bahamut will actually work. Growing up I was always told that the only way to improve at a game is to play with people better than you. When you can’t even find that, what is there left to do? The answer is simple; find a group of people who have the same drive you do. When you do, try to get them to consistently practice together. I’m sure we have all heard the phrase, “practice makes perfect.” I disagree. I believe, “Consistent practice creates consistent progress.” Look for friends or other players who are looking to consistently improve, and ask them to play with you every so often. Before you know it, you’ve formed a team. So just what are the advantages of these teams?
First, being on a team means holding each other accountable for your actions. Whether that be making it to practice, showing up for locals, or even researching outside of actually playing the game, you and your teammates are responsible for making sure everyone is doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Having a support group like this to hold you accountable is a big deal. There were a lot of times I was either too tired, or did not have the gas in my car to make it to practice. My teammates were there to support me. They encouraged me to make it to practices, picked me up when I needed rides, and pushed me to be better than my previous self. A group of people had set out to achieve a goal TOGETHER, and that’s exactly what we did. Teams can help you become a better player inside the game, (which I will explain later,) but teams are at their best when they help each other improve outside the game.
Let me give an example. For a while, I was your classic salty player. Although I had already done well for myself, and proved that I had the capacity to compete for a top at my locals, I would get pretty upset when I got, “Janked.” Although I’d never blatantly disrespect my opponent or refuse to shake a hand, I was visibly upset. Shaking my head at a lucky top deck, or openly saying “There’s no way I just lost to THAT,” were pretty common occurrences. Upon seeing my rude actions at locals, I was pulled aside by my team. They let me know that if I was going to represent my group, I needed to cut those kind of child actions out. After deciding to join a team, I had decided to “Represent something greater than myself,” said a teammate. My teammate explained that in choosing to represent something greater than myself, I had chosen to take the task of being better than my previous self. Whatever I did when I was practicing at home was one thing, but putting on the team’s shirt and representing at a tournament was another thing entirely.
After receiving this kind of feedback from my team, I was pretty embarrassed. I did not want to misrepresent the team, or make a bad name for myself. I consciously tried to improve on my sportsmanship, and soon enough I saw great improvements in my demeanor towards other players. Playing on a team can force you to hold yourself accountable. You cease to play with your own motives in mind, and begin to play with the goals of the team in your head. Having a support group like that is invaluable not only for your development as a player, but as a person. I truly believe playing on a team can help improve your character.
#2 Improvement in Personal Play
Second, and most obviously, playing on a team can improve your own play. As stated previously, “Consistent practice creates consistent progress.” It’s very hard to improve at anything if you only get to play one night a week. Belonging to a team and setting up regular practice days is one of the best things you can do for your play. The beautiful thing about TCG’s is they prove to us that everybody goes through a certain set of circumstances differently. The guy who’s watching your match is almost always saying something in his head about how he would have played your hand differently. We all play hands differently, and that’s a good thing. Listening to other players’ opinions and thought processes can greatly improve your own.
A great exercise is to play games open handed with your team. Each person discusses what they would do on a certain turn, and debate until the, “perfect play” is agreed upon. This will help you to approach every situation a little differently than you would have before. Having more patience, or playing more aggressive than you would have normally will help you win a countless amount of games. If you’ve found a good group of people to play with, oftentimes their positive approach to the game will rub off on you. My friends have good moods that are infectious. They play card games first and foremost because they are FUN. Playing with a close group of friends reminds me that sometimes, it really is good to just have fun. Play on a team and consistently practice, and i can guarantee you will see improvement in your play. With some luck, your attitude can improve too.
#3 Team Battles
Third, (one of my favorite reasons) is the TEAM BATTLES. Oh my, these are so much fun. In southern California we have a pretty good team scene going on, with a lot of locals having teams to represent them. Every so often some of these teams will get together and have, “Team battles.” If you’ve played other TCG’s you have probably heard of them by now. Team battles usually consist of anywhere from 2-4 people engaging in a knock-out style competition. If i sit down to play a team battle, and each team has three players, we start by delegating which players will go first.
The first players would begin, with the loser being knocked out of the game. The next player chosen on his team, (we’ll call him player two) would then step in. he plays the other team’s first player. It’s a king of the court kind of game, with the winner playing until he loses. Whichever team gets all their players knocked out first loses. I’ve seen these games go the distance. I’ve also seen clean sweeps, but nothing is more exciting than a reverse sweep. These team battles are a great way to drive forward a close-knit community in a new game. Team rivalries begin to arise, and all the local shops begin to get more familiar with each other. Players from different teams begin to see each other at locals around their town, and it soon becomes a competition to see which team will take the most local tops. Some teams play each other for pride, other teams play for cards, but the choice is yours. Joining or creating a team and being able to partake in team competitions is a load of fun.
#4 New Friends!
Last, (and most importantly,) joining a team almost always means making new friends. I’ve met some of the best human beings of my life by playing card games. I was pretty sad when I had to leave that all behind in my home town when I moved. I found myself in a new area, with almost no friends and no one with whom to share my passion for card games with. Joining a team means surrounding yourself with people who have the same love for card games as you do. When people do the things they love together, relationships naturally occur. Joining a team really helped my move to a new area. I went from being alone, to being surrounded by people who legitimately cared about my development as a player and well-being as a friend. Even though school started so i don’t get to see them often, i know my friends will always be there. Joining a team was one of the best experiences i have ever had. Every match you play seats you across from your opponent, and every opponent is a potential friend or teammate. There is beauty in card games, you just have to find it.
I really hope this article helped pushed you to join or create your own team. I had a blast writing it, I can only hope you had a blast reading it. Let me know how I did, what you liked and what you hated, I love the feedback. I’ll be back here soon, I hope to see you.
Until then, play hard and practice harder.