Grand Prix Sydney – Team Communication Guidelines

Team tournaments are appreciably different to individual events and this is true beyond deck building. Team chemistry, and maximising the effectiveness of having two friends to assist you during the event can be the difference between seeing the winning line and overlooking an unconsidered corner case. It is easy to fall into several traps in team events, and it pays to be mindful of these pitfalls ahead of time. GP Sydney 2017 winner Jim Wilks and his teammates Simon Linabury and Ivan Schroder got together for a communication refresher this past weekend, nailing down how to most effectively communicate amongst themselves. We were lucky enough to get Jim to outline their “Do’s and Don’ts” of communication in team events and share their insights from that meeting.

Team Unified Modern is not Team Unified Limited. Overall it feels like it’s harder to provide meaningful help to teammates when you’re all practicing your own decks rather than playing with a Limited card pool. When we revisited our communication notes from Team Unified Limited, we agreed that they wouldn’t all port straight over to Team Unified Modern. There’s also a time and a place to break most of the rules we set in place, but our baselines are as follows:

When and When Not to Communicate

Recognising when it is beneficial and when it is detrimental to ask for advice or interject in a teammate’s match is important. When you interrupt a teammate’s match without being asked, you’re taking them out of their train of thought – so it’s a fine line to tread when discussing amongst yourselves. A good rule of thumb is to only offer help when your teammate asks for it.

Don’t ask a question to defer responsibility for the choice away from yourself and onto a teammate. If you’re faced with a particularly complex scenario and you think you need help from a teammate, really consider how much they’ll actually be able to help you. “Should I go all-in here?” or “Should I mulligan this borderline hand?” are fairly common scenarios where this might happen. Getting your teammate to jump out of their game and into your game and then expecting them to immediately be up to speed on a complicated combat scenario is a big ask. For a tough mulligan decision, you’ve probably put more time into the deck than your teammate has – so how much are they really going to add in that situation?

When it comes down to it, it’s usually best to just trust your teammate. They’ve put the time into their deck (or at least they should have…). Especially in Modern, it’s going to be harder to get useful information out of a game, or to provide useful information to someone who’s practiced their deck more than you have.

Types of Questions to Ask in a Match

As you play a game, you pick up contextual information along the way. When you ask someone “What should I do here?”, it expects them to have been following your game for a while. It’s beneficial to try to keep your questions more focused on broad strokes like “what sideboard cards should I expect from deck X?”, “They have X mana up, what cards does this deck play that they could be representing?”, “Have you seen X card from your opponent’s deck?”, or “I’m about to do X, are there any cards that punish me?”. Playing to your teammate’s knowledge of the format is probably the most useful thing you can get out of them in Team Unified Modern. If you’re playing against Affinity for example, asking your team’s Affinity player how they typically sideboard against you is a way to use your team’s resources best.

How We Prefer to Interact in a Match

People have different preferences to approaching a match of magic, and identifying how everyone on your team plays helps communication shortcuts and also helps dictate your seating in team unified. Some players play a quiet and focused game of Magic, some players prefer to be vocal about the lines in a game – knowing which players play in which way should help you shortcut your lines of communication in games. It’s probably best to place the more communicative player in the middle rather than someone who doesn’t deal well with interruptions to their train of thought. Forget about the idea of a ‘seating metagame’; instead balance your resources and seating based on communication and interactions between your players and you’ll have a way better time. (Everyone’s idea of the ‘seating metagame’ is so different that it just becomes non-existent anyways).

How We Can Help Deal with Tilt

Try to keep a positive mindset at the end of the day. There are a lot of punishing scenarios in the Modern format, try not to let them get to you. Don’t drag your team down if you get snappy. Try to recognise the moments when you start to tilt and take a step back and discuss it with your teammates. Don’t slam teammates for mistakes, and don’t fall into the “My record is X, but my team’s record is Y” nonsense – you’re a team, you win and lose as a team.

Communication Leaks

When speaking to teammates, do it carefully and quietly. When you’re watching another match, manage your own reactions to new information as well – if your teammate draws an absolute bomb in a scenario, they may want to keep that info hidden to get as much value out of it as possible – but if you get excited it gives that away to your opponents. Likewise, if you suddenly get disinterested whilst your teammate is tanking on a choice, it’s more likely your opponents can figure out your teammate has very few options to work with.

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Jim Wilks is famous across the land for being unfailingly pleasant and the only criticism that could ever be levelled at him is that he is too nice to say no when we ask him to write for us.