“What goes into making a successful team?”
Recently, I’ve been asked this question, or versions of this question, quite a lot - so I thought I would write a short article about it. Team Axion Now formed at the start of 2016 and since then we have established ourselves gradually with excellent Grand Prix results and a few pro levels between us. There is no one thing which we do that has helped us vastly improve but rather it has been a culmination of several smaller things.
The first, and probably most important, is the fact that we share a common goal. Each member of the team is aiming to establish themselves on the Pro Tour and achieve great results at the Grand Prix level. This is the basis for our team cohesion. It means that we may have disagreements and differing opinions on decks and formats but we know that we are all trying to achieve the same thing in the end. This can mean different things for different teams but if your team incorporates members who are aiming for their first Pro Tour invite whilst others are just trying to dominate their local Game Day, then this will create tension with the amount of effort each member is willing to input and discussions will likely not marry up to each others expectations.
The second thing is organisation. Within Team Axion Now we have several avenues of communication including Facebook, WhatsApp and an online forum. Rarely does a day go by in which our groups are not bombarded by messages (they aren’t always Magic related) and this goes a long way to keeping us current and means that a lot of Magic is discussed daily. In addition to this we also test with each other online most evenings and we try to organise weekly meetings to keep us on track with whichever event(s) we are preparing for. We also try to keep track of all our testing results and findings and this is possibly the most difficult thing to manage because as Magic players you really just want to play more games when you are testing and it takes a lot of discipline to record your results. The systems we have created have all evolved over the last 18+ months and for new teams, this can be daunting but it's a critical part of being a great team. It's important to have information be readily available to each other easily without the need to ask the specific person(s) because sometimes they are busy or they’ve simply forgotten something important or useful.
Thirdly, the team need to be able to trust and respect one another. This is especially important for maximising your efforts. You need to be able to trust each other's testing results because without that trust it is just wasted time. There are often times when a member of the team will try to work something out on their own or as a smaller group and then they will present their findings to the whole team later. Without that trust and respect their efforts would be wasted because their findings will likely be discarded. This trust and respect takes time to build and it will require each individual to be a little bit more open-minded in accepting different opinions. Listening and taking on board new ideas doesn’t necessarily mean you need to adopt them.
In addition to these things we’ve also had a few personnel changes since our inception. This may be seen as a negative thing but I think it is sometimes necessary to make these changes when people’s circumstances and motivations change. This goes back to point one where each member needs to share a common goal. Goals change over time and it is important to keep track of this to make sure that the team is still moving in the right direction. Also, just because someone is leaving the team does not mean they are no longer involved or no longer friends, it just means they can be less involved without feeling like they are burdening the team and many past members still interact with us regularly.
Aside from the nitty-gritty of working towards improvement I also believe that a team needs to be able to do it whilst having fun. At the end of the day Magic is a game and it’s supposed to be about fun. A huge aspect of this is the fact that I think of all my teammates as close friends and this also helps greatly with the trust and respect I spoke about before. As well as testing and theorycrafting together we also often team draft and cube draft with each other when we want to blow off steam and occasionally we might even play other games together! For new groups this might not come immediately, especially if you are not forming out of a group of friends. To combat this you might look to do some team bonding exercises such as trips or days out but over time as you travel to more and more events together this camaraderie should build up anyway.
As I said, this was only meant to be a short article so if you think I’ve missed anything out or you have more questions feel free to ask me in person or over any of the social media outlets you can find me on and I’ll be happy to answer them as best as I can. Thank you for reading.
About Tom Law:
Tom has been playing Magic since Odyssey block but took a break between Time Spiral and Dark Ascension. His personal aim in Magic is to become a permanent fixture on the Pro Tour. Similarly, his goal for Team Axion is for it to one day be uttered in the same breath as Channel Fireball or EUreka. His vision for the team when formed was to achieve this through improvement not just for themselves but also thise those around so that Team Axion Now can pull and push each other forward. This is why many members of the team still work fairly closely with their own local “satellite” teams.