(Metagame Archive) Theoretically Speaking: Roles on Your Team

By Shane Wiggans

As I sat down to write this article, I planned to do the same thing I’d done in my previous three articles: talk about what I covered before and what I am going to cover now, but first make some sort of whimsical attempt at mystery before revealing the topic. Well, I think that is a boring way to open an article. And if not boring, it has certainly become repetitive. And, while I am not the king of creativity that is Michael Barnes, I will do my best.

I am a huge Detroit Lions fan. I mean huge. If you look at my right wrist, you’ll see a blue band that says “Lions” on it. I bought one for my fiancé, which ironically has now disappeared. The bigger question is: what does this have to do with anything? The answer is simple. Today, we are going to talk about how a team can enrich or detract from your Vs. System experience.


First, why am I talking about teams? Well, I am in the midst of fierce playtesting with my team, Team Alternate Win Condition, in preparation for Pro Circuit San Francisco. And I was talking with one of my teammates (he is short and I hear can do a mean handstand) about how pleased he was with our testing and how far we had come in a short time as a team. And I began thinking that he was right. Being part of this team has really enriched my experiences in this game. So, what follows is essentially the good (how it benefits your understanding and enjoyment), the bad (stuff that makes you wish you weren’t on the team), and the ugly (things that just make you want to quit) about being involved with a team in Vs. System.

Not Football Again . . .

So, I know you’re tired of it, but I just can’t leave it alone. In my mind, being on a card-playing team is a lot like being on a football team. You have a quarterback, wide receivers, running backs, and an offensive line. The best example that I know how to talk about is my team. Tim Batow is clearly our quarterback.* He is the figurehead and he gets the most publicity (whether it’s praise or short jokes). Then you have your wide receivers and running backs. These are the players who take what the quarterback gives them and do something with it. And then you have the offensive line. These individuals give up all the time and effort protecting and working with the quarterback to develop great ideas and work out kinks. I know, I know . . . pretty vague, huh? Well, I will break down the different roles that teammates can play and you can see how it impacts the game.

The Quarterback

Being the quarterback is every kid’s dream. Being Joe Montana would be awesome to me (especially having a town named after me!). But in a card team context, it’s a double-edged sword. You get all the praise and adulation, but at the same time, you have all these individuals depending on you. The team considers this individual its heart, soul, and mind. This individual comes up with deck ideas, presents them to the team, and then develops them.

Just like a regular football team, there is generally a starter and several reserves. The reserves are the emergency backups who can come in and be Doug Flutie for a tournament or provide awesome ideas and good direction when the normal deck creator is either unavailable or having a creative block.

Running Backs and Wide Receivers

There’s nothing better than running with the “rock.” At least that’s what Jay Z says. Well, the same is true about team play. The running backs and wide receivers are an offshoot of the quarterback. The quarterback gives them a deck idea and lets them run with it. These offensive individuals (not offensive as in “rude” . . . well . . . sometimes) get to score the touchdowns the most often. This means that they put in a lot of work and take the deck a long way in premier events.

A good example of this would be my most recent performance at Pro Circuit Atlanta. I am by no means a quarterback. I don’t come up with deck ideas. I am a decent player, but I’m not good. But during one special tournament, with the right deck, a ton of playtesting, and a little luck, I was nearly unstoppable.

These individuals are the ones who put in the most time in with the team’s deck choice. They often spearhead testing sessions and initiate conversations about possible changes and metagame calls.

The Offensive Line

Can anyone name more than three or four starting linemen in the NFL? No? Well, let me fill you in on why. They are both the most important part of the team and the most underappreciated. Why are they underappreciated? Because no one knows who they are; the quarterback and the receivers get all the coverage, and the linemen pat themselves on the back and say, “Yay! The team won! Let’s go ice our knees . . .” This is no different in Vs. System.

I cannot tell you the name of every individual on The Donkey Club or FTN. But I can tell you who Ryan Jones, Vidi Wijaya, Jason Hager, Dave Spears, and Michael Jacob are. But I honestly feel that I wouldn’t know who they were without their offensive line.

The offensive linemen sacrifice all the blood, sweat, and tears that go into a winning deck, but they receive little to no credit for its success. Whether it’s that they fail to do well with the deck or just have not “proven” themselves, most players overlook them and attribute a deck’s success to the player playing it.

This isn’t to say that this role is not appreciated within the team, but simply that the average bystander won’t recognize them as part of the winning equation.

What Does All This Mean?

What does this all mean? Well, it’s meant to show you that being part of a team is not as simple as just throwing a bunch of good players together. There are roles on a team that need to be filled, and while they are flexible (one person may shift from one role to another), it takes more than individual talent for a team to succeed. Having a team mindset helps to develop chemistry, which is essential to a team’s success.

So, now that we have an idea of what it takes for a team to work, let’s look at the results.

Many Hands Make Light Work

One of the biggest benefits of being part of a team is that you get several viewpoints on one topic. This type of information is invaluable when evaluating deck choices and talking tech. By having several members on a team, you can determine who is strong in what areas and designate individuals to evaluate particular areas that other players may be weak with or don’t have the time to examine for themselves.

A good example of this would be what my team did in preparation for Pro Circuit Atlanta. We split up the teams in X-Men between the team members. Two members got one of each of the major teams and then reported back on strengths, weaknesses, possible Draft strategies, and so forth. In one week, we had a make-shift comprehensive guide to drafting the X-Men set. It would have taken much longer for one individual to do this.

I’m Not Always Right?

No one likes being told that they are wrong. But the fact is, at some point or another, everyone is. And having several other individuals with whom you share your ideas will definitely illustrate that fact. But this is a good thing. Because if you don’t have these individuals who call you out when you’re wrong, you’ll continue to take the wrong course of action. So, while it may sting to hear that you don’t have the best ideas ever, in the end, it’s for the best.

The Good Stuff

To me, the best thing about being part of a team is being able to hang out with your friends and play this awesome game. A team doesn’t have to be a group of individuals whose sole goal is to dominate premier-level tournaments. I know there is a general consensus that this is the main goal of teams, but I can promise you that it is not always the case.

Also, being part of a team makes losing so much easier to take. If I don’t do well, I can root on my teammates and vice versa. There is a picture of me on the Pro Circuit Atlanta coverage when they announced that I made Top 8, and Jeremy Blair was more excited than I was!

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the funny stories and shenanigans that go on at events. These range from those who snore loudly enough to wake the dead to those who walk into a hotel soaking wet in their boxers. I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

In the end, being part of a team is not just about deck ideas and strategy development. It has everything to do with why we love this game.

The Not-So-Good Stuff

Despite all the good things about being on a team, there is much potential unpleasantness involved with it, and I won’t shy away from explaining it. What follows is a brief rundown of problems that can arise.

Too Many Chiefs

As stated above, being told you’re wrong can often be a beneficial thing, as it can help you to avoid mistakes in game play, deck choices, or metagame calls. However, sometimes you get too many egos on a team and it can get in the way of developing new and interesting decks. This problem can eat away at teams and really become a dividing point; some members can begin to feel unappreciated or as if their opinions don’t matter.

Sometimes, the best ideas can come from the most unlikely places, and that’s one of the biggest benefits of being part of a team: you get many different ideas on one topic. If you get individuals who feel that their ideas are superior to the rest of the team’s, they will likely butt heads and become a distraction, not a benefit, to the team.

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems

This is probably my number one issue when it comes to teams. For me, I think that money can cloud good times. Not everyone may consider money a bad thing, as it can motivate and catalyze a team to become better. But for me, I think that focusing on money is a bad way to approach this game, because . . . well, like I just said, it’s a game! I feel privileged to play this game, and the money is just the icing on the cake.

He Said What?

One issue that can rapidly get out of hand is that of one player taking credit for what the team as a whole has accomplished. Nothing can rub a team the wrong way faster than forgetting about them. If you are part of a team and then completely forget about your teammates when it comes to all the press and publicity, you are doing them a disservice. If they helped to create, develop, and test the deck, it’s only fair that they share in the deck’s success.

Leaked Tech

This is by far the biggest fear associated with being part of a team. If you practice and prepare for premier-level events by yourself or with a close friend, you can feel fairly safe with whatever information you come across. However, in a team of many members, security is often in question. This doesn’t mean that you don’t trust your teammates; most often, information is passed in general conversation, and the person passing it doesn’t even realize it’s happening. Next thing you know, it gets back to the rest of the team that so and so passed on secret tech, and the sparks fly. This is a huge problem within teams and always an issue with even the closest of teams.

What About Me? I Don’t Have a Team!

Fear not, for being part of a team is not the only recipe for success and fun in Vs. System. There are many non-affiliated players who are major competitors in the Vs. community. I was not part of any type of team for some time and went to several premier-level events alone. I attended the first-ever PC: Indy as a lone wolf and cracked a Top 20 Day 1 performance. (I flopped hardcore on Day 2.) I say this because I don’t want you to think that the only way to be competitive is to be part of a team. But I do think that being part of a team can definitely enhance competitiveness, given the right environment and attitude.

In the End . . .

Well, I hope you enjoyed this analysis of what being part of a team is all about and what it brings to the table. As more teams pop up, more rivalries are created, and that keeps the game interesting. This game is the best out there right now, and being part of a team of friends who equally enjoy the game makes it that much better.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, you can send them via email to piercedlawyer@yahoo.com and I will continue to respond to them quicker than Big Spooky does.


* If I had to compare Tim to a quarterback, it would obviously be Doug Flutie. Man, the boy was small, but he had crazy skills . . .


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