Cook’s Kitchen– Teams

by Bryant Cook

Let me start off by saying I don’t mean Two-Headed Giant or Teams Legacy where players sit diagonal of their partner. I’m talking about a group of people, hopefully friends, that all share the same desire to achieve greater things in Magic: The Gathering.

Magic Teams have become a thing of the past, with the Internet’s progression to give more information and interaction about the things people care about. If “TV killed the radio star”, MTGO killed the Magic team. With Magic: The Gathering Online becoming so popular, people no longer need to gather up a group of friends with cardboard to test for the next big event. Instead they can sit comfortably in front of their dual monitors in their boxers, eating pizza, and playing Magic– the game we all love. As great as this sounds, it’s actually quite harmful in some aspects.


Some of the better parts of Magic are the friendships and camaraderie; these are completely lost with playing Magic online. Magic might as well become another video game or soul-sucking device like World of Warcraft.


It’s not completely MTGO’s fault, players are actually all to blame. People wanting more and more information to digest causes other people who possess that information to write more for others to grow, expand, and learn from. With weekly large events for Legacy, there’s a lot more information and data to be analyzed and who better to do it than Legacy players? The Legacy players who are writing for other players are usually the people winning large events. The people preparing and usually winning in these events are called ‘grinders’, who play in every event they can. No harm in that, if they can travel and afford this lifestyle, more power to them. The downside to these grinders is that their decklists are available week after week. This causes a lack of innovation in the format, players now just go look at what did well in previous weeks and pick the best deck suited for them. A few years ago, this wasn’t the case. There were maybe four large events a year to look forward to and the brewing was done with a group of teammates.


More than likely, people on the same team were good friends from within a certain geographic area. They often shared cards, tested, traveled, and shared common interests. These teammates gathered together once or twice a week and just figured out what was good and bad within decks. From there they would evaluate card decisions and etc. A few of the greatest moments in my Magical career happened at Adam Barnello’s kitchen table. It was where Barnello and I realized that Xantid Swarm wasn’t as good as Orim’s Chant or that Empty the Warrens was absolutely ridiculous against blue decks. Things like this don’t happen as much as they used to. Nowadays, if people want to figure out what’s good or not they check forums or websites for articles, there’s a lot less brewing among players. Don’t get me wrong, there are still people out there that make all of their own decks and do well, but it’s far less than what it used to be. The Legacy grinders for the most part are quite innovative, but the people that follow them on twitter or have read their last article and believe everything they say can impede the innovation at times.


The major cause of what ruins Legacy teams is the Internet, but besides that, players themselves can often ruin teams. I may even have been at fault, who knows? Back in early 2006, a Legacy team was formed in Syracuse, NY. The group of dashing young gentleman was called Team Shitlist. It consisted of Adam Barnello, Mark Ristagno, Trevor Brown, and myself. The team honestly began because Mark used to give car-less Bryant rides home. Before we knew it we allowed a handful of other people onto the team without really taking any serious consideration into it.


A couple of the people barely played magic, others were interested in other formats than Legacy, we even had a player or two on indefinite hiatus. It seemed like only less than a handful were actually interested in Legacy, this carried on for a while. Barnello and I created a team forum where we could develop ideas, along with a new forum came a new name. If we were going to be taken seriously we needed a name that was more appropriate. I actually dug up the forum while writing this and looked at some of the names we suggested, they were awful. I was set on “the Legacy Armada” for some terrible reason. Ultimately we settled on “The E.P.I.C. Syndicate” for short, with E.P.I.C being an abbreviation for Eternal Players In Control. Yeah, we didn’t tell too many people the full name.


We were quite successful at the time. We were the big team name on MTGtheSource, a legacy website. The team had a thread in its forum of just messages people sent asking how they could join. After awhile it the camaraderie and friendship I mentioned earlier was leaving me, I was only becoming frustrated with my teammates. When it really hit me that I was unsatisfied with my team, we were at a tournament, I overheard someone saying something along the lines of, “The guys in the E.P.I.C. hoodies, they’re all really good.” I was placing in almost every event I played in at the time, there were a couple of others on the team that placed here and there, but in the long run, I felt alone. I didn’t want to share my success with people who weren’t doing well or at least trying to improve. With the team being less relevant and no longer functional, I decided to quit the team I had formed with my friends. The thought I had was I no longer wanted to be part of a defunct team. The team was nothing more than a name. I didn’t want to share my success with people who didn’t play, who didn’t do well, and weren’t helping me grow as a player.


I’m a still friend with each and every person on E.P.I.C, but there comes a time when the team no longer has a purpose. Teams are there for friendship and good times, let’s not forget that, but they still have a Magical purpose. When joining a team, a player should really evaluate why they’re joining. The main reasons to join a team are:


• Testing partners.

• Card availability.

• Traveling expenses.

• Growing as a player.

• Friendship.


When there are only a few reasons on the list present, it’s probably not worth joining the team. If anyone reading this is looking to join a team make sure it’s for the reasons on the list, and most importantly, make sure they’re people you can grow and learn from. I can’t stress the last line enough. There’s little reason to be part of a team if it doesn’t help personal growth. It’s possible to be part of a team, the team leader perhaps, and the best player on the team. However, if it’s only happening for a ride to the next large event, it’s not really in the person’s best interest.


Was I wrong for leaving E.P.I.C.? Partially. It really doesn’t matter with teams now being a thing of the past, in today’s age it’s no longer about hearing the new deck from E.P.I.C or Meandeck. It’s, “look at what Gerry T was playing last weekend”.

Between players, MTGO, and Magic websites, Magic teams just aren’t as functional as they used to be, a lot of their use has been taken over by the Internet. A Magic team in today’s world is probably more about friendship and traveling companions than the traditional idea of a team, and that’s fine. Perhaps my expectations were too high for my own friends and teammates, it’s a little too late too tell, but I’m going to leave everyone with one last thought: are the people you regularly play against helping your Magic growth?


Well that’s all for this week, come back again next week! Until then, keep Storming!

Bryant Cook

Bryant Cook on MTGthesource




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