This is part three of a multi-part series on everything you want to know about building a hex team. Part I covered the theoretical origins and why teams are inevitable in the Hex community. Part II established the framework and the decision making of teams.
At this point in the series, I assume that you know why you are building a team, you know the type of leadership you want in a team, and you have a few teammates that were likely real life friends or people you met in the game who you have an exclusive testing relationship with; this is a great start, but it is not the end of your team.
The initial inclination a player has when building their team is that they are going to find the best competitive players, recruit them, and they will remain a competitive force. This strategy will work some of the time, but it is not optimal as—even if you were able to get some of the best players on the team—they may not work together well enough to make the collective effort more valuable than their individual behavior.
Additionally, your team does not need to include players who play optimally all the time; it is possible to be on a good team where you are the best player. When looking at whether to recruit a player, you should not judge them purely on their past success, but also what they may add to the rest of the team. Some players may flourish in a team environment while they may not have had success previously. Other players may never become tournament winners, but they enable others to do so and they partially share in the glory of their teammates.
For this section, I am offering a few different player dimensions that players may excel along and may add value to a team. Some players exhibit several of these archetypes and others may elude classification; these are merely guidelines to think about what you may be lacking on your team and particular holes you could fill while recruiting.
The technical player—This is probably the player you imagine you want your team filled with. These are the players that are able to take a decklist, understand its purpose, and play it optimally within a few games. They play deliberately; every card or play is part of a plan that they are executing to achieve victory. Technical players tend to be methodical and, perhaps, a bit slower as their plays are not automatic but carefully played as part of a puzzle. These players are great at both piloting the best decks, and they are your best playtesters; you can hand them a meta deck that you want to test against and you get some semblance of real results as they are making few mistakes.
The deck builder—The deck builder comes in a few flavors. For our purposes, we can think of them as the creative deck builder and the meta-breaker. The meta-breaker is someone that looks at the established meta-game and tries to figure out the optimal deck and configuration to take down the dominant decks. This person is a necessary component of your team as you do not want to just be playing the meta decks—you want to be playing the best decks available. The creative deck builder has his or her place as well. While they are not as motivated by the meta, they are interested in interesting combos that could break the game. Some of the decks they build will be terrible and just not pan out, but sometimes they will build a successful combination that can crush a tournament. You generally need the meta-breaker deck builders, but do not exclude the creative builders. Having a few team members that are creative deckbuilders can go a long way in pushing your team’s long-term competitiveness and their creativity will bleed to the other members when thinking of good solutions to problems.
The tinkerer—This person may not be great of putting together a grand design that will shake the meta, but they are the ones that will playtest a team deck and make minor alterations that push that win percentages of the deck just a little further. The deck builders love to hand their latest creation to tinkerers to see how much further they can push the deck and, collectively, they can make tournament winning decks.
The organizer—This person may not be the best deck builder or refiner, but they are the ones that can help organize the team’s knowledge. They are the ones who first bring up spreadsheets and are likely to encourage the team to pool their results so you have better data. While anecdotes can get us some understanding of what decks perform best, the organizer is going to give your team the best information by providing it to the team in a useful format.
The tech—This person is related to the organizer, but they are the ones that can program and make use of tech tools to assist the team. They may write software to aid in data collection, encourage adoption of technological platforms or communication software, or design the team’s webpage and forums. This person’s skills become increasingly valuable as the team becomes bigger and more decentralized; the tech keeps the team together.
The cheerleader—This person is the one that is in chat encouraging people to keep testing. Did the team miss a top 8? He or she will rally the team together to start prepping for the next tournament. They may also help analyze what the team did wrong and help move the team in a better direction for the future.
The coach—It’s not enough to test and play against others; the coach watches you play. This can be publicly on your open stream, or perhaps on a private stream only the team knows about. The coach asks you why you made a particular play, offers a different line of actions for you to consider, and challenges you to think deeper about your play. The coach may not be the best player him or herself, but this does not prevent them from making other players better. The coach gets everyone to talk about their plays and makes the team better off.
The diplomat—Inevitably, your team will interact with other players and teams. The diplomat is your social connection to other groups as they are out there talking to everyone. This can create opportunities for recruitment, expansion by incorporating other teams, alliances, or collective testing opportunities for specific tournaments. Given how our game attracts plenty of introverts, having a few extroverts to bridge those isolated clusters of players can enhance your team’s success through networking.
Other factors to consider
These are a few things to consider as you are recruiting people to fill in the gaps in your team. These are probably more fit in a discussion of applying and evaluating players, but they are related to above the concepts and may be important to the digital framework that is Hex team-building.
Time Zones—Unlike a team built around the local comic book store, your team is likely to exist through multiple time zones; this can be both a good or bad thing. If your team is small, then you want people to all be within a couple of time zones to make testing feasible. However, if your team is large, having people across the world can create situations where your team is testing 24-7 and new information, received late, can be immediately tested by the team.
Availability—Related to time zones, people have limited time in which they can play. Having some idea of people’s availability as constrained by work, family, and school can help you figure out how many people you may need for your team to fully function.
Disposition—People vary in how they relate to each other and your band for tolerance of social behavior may be different from other people. Deciding what the acceptable level of discourse, interaction, and how people vent steam will set the tone for much of your interactions. Some groups will prefer a highly respectable environment while others prefer a more free-flowing dialogue. Understanding what your team wants can help reduce interpersonal conflicts and, by having a clear conception of it ahead of time, can also make the appropriate choices for individuals that would make the best cheerleaders and coaches; some groups are motivated by a coach that is loud and yells, while others cannot be productive under such environments.
Hopefully this gives you some guidelines as to what to you look for in other players and perhaps other types of players you should recruit for your team. Part IV will be the final part of this series and I will cover different styles of recruitment and reassessment of team goals and issues. If there are any other topics you would like to see me cover, please let me know in the comments on this post so I can cover them as I conclude the series.