Joining or starting a team can be one of the best ways to improve at the Pokémon TCG, but it is not all fun and games; if you are going to be serious about it, it takes a huge commitment. I have been a part of some very successful teams in the past, but honestly I don’t think I will ever start or join a team again. It makes the game seem like something bigger than what it is; just that, a game.
However, if you are extremely competitive by nature, then the concept of a Pokémon TCG team might sound intriguing.
What is a Pokémon TCG team?
I should probably define what exactly should be considered a “team” in Pokémon. Basically it is a group of people who only test with and discuss Pokémon cards with each other. They work together to improve and hone their skills.
There can be varying degrees of secrecy from team to team, but in my mind, to be a real team, you can only talk to and discuss Pokémon cards with the people in your team. The idea is to keep all your findings under wraps, which will give you an edge against people who don’t know about your findings in tournament play.
There really aren’t that many “creative” (for a lack or a better word) players in the game, so any new deck engines or developments that you stumble upon are incredibly valuable. Ideas spread super quickly through word of mouth and online forums, so if you are able to keep these ideas shrouded from anyone outside your team, it’s a huge advantage.
This is somewhat of a catch-22 though, because without conversing with other players, it’s hard to get a grasp about what decks other people are working on, and you may overlook an obvious combo.
How many people should be in a team?
I think a team should have no more than a half dozen people. Once you have more than that, you will find it hard to get everyone to contribute, and there is an increased chance of information being leaked.
In the past, my most successful teams only had 3 or 4 people. It’s just much easier to communicate with a small rather than a large group.
Where should the people in my team be located?
Ideally, you want everyone in your team to be from a different area, so that you will not have to play against each other in local tournaments.
Unfortunately, having a delocalized team can be a problem because it’s more difficult to communicate with one another. You are limited to discussing and play-testing solely online rather than in person. There can also be issues regarding time zones which will make it hard to find times to talk to and play with your team members when you live in different regions.
How can a team stay organized?
Make a message board for your team. I personally love ProBoards if you need a free message board. They are simple to configure and load really quickly.
The message board will serve as the main way for you and your team members to communicate with each other. These are the default categories I used when I set up on my teams’ boards:
- Deck Discussion
- Testing Results
- Decklists (finalized lists would be here for reference)
- Single Card Strategy and Combos
- Tournament Talk
- Tactical Operations (any information we heard/found from outside sources would go here)
Where do I find people to join my team?
Either ask people at your local league, local tournaments, or online message boards if they would like to start a team with you. Simple as that. :)
It’s best for you and the person you ask to know each other at least at an informal level before asking them to join your team; don’t ask a complete stranger. Make sure they know what they are getting into and are going to be a contributing member of your team.
What’s the secret behind a successful team?
To put in most simply, everyone has to be really into it. Everyone on the team really needs to be focused on Pokémon cards and constantly thinking about new combos and strategies.
It’s good to have maybe 1 person that is all about the game, but if nobody else is, then the team will fail.
It is not easy to find people that want to succeed as much as you do. A lot of people only want to play the game semi-competitively for enjoyment. They want to win, but they don’t want to invest a lot of time into doing so either.
I have to admit, my team members and I were completely obsessed with Pokémon cards at times. I know I would be thinking of new deck ideas 25/8; it was frustrating but I couldn’t help it. The game can be addicting.
The advantages can be great if you succeed, but I think the playing field is more balanced now, which makes it more arduous to pull out a tournament victory. Even if you practice 300 more hours than your tournament foes, it’s not that big of an advantage anymore. More people are playing the game nowadays compared to 3, 4, or 5 years ago, so there is much more variability.
Being on a super serious team also takes a lot of the fun away from the game. Everything rides on your tournament success, and with a limited number of tournaments available for attendance, all your preparation can easily amount to nothing. All that time you spent could have possibly been better utilized.
An alternative route to improvement rather than being on a team is to do the exact opposite and talk to everybody! Share you decklists in public places, ask for help, and help others. It can be more enjoyable doing this because you will make more new friends and won’t have to invest as much time into the game either.
You aren’t as good as you think you are (unless your name is Jason Klaczynski), so getting multiple viewpoints is always a good thing.
You may not be as successful a player utilizing this method, but with the moderately meager prizes that are given out for a hard earned victory, I think it’s a fair compromise.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article and if you have any questions or comments, please post them!