GKG's highly anticipated sequel to the "The Push Factor" article from 2011, and the conclusion to the "GKG School of Myth Strategy" series of articles. It covers 6 points on the best way to organize, prepare, and lead a team into tournament matches.
Okay so my last article, "The Push Factor" I was able to touch on some of the technical aspects of myth strategy itself. I shared the insight I have gained over my personal experiecne with the game on trading philosophies, strategies, etc. However, there is more to winning games than the trade and telling where people to go at the very start. Like most things in life, the most important thing is the people involved. The people involved in this case is your team. Winning games is also about how to best organize the team, and lead the team as the team captain. Afterall, you can have the most perfect strategy but if it isn't executed well then it will go to crap. A good strategy should be easier to execute than a bad one, but the team members need to understand the strategic vision to be able to execute any kind of strategy.
And this brings me to this article, similarly titled - "The Captain Factor" as this is a follow-up to "The Push Factor" article and ties into it. I will try to keep this as concise as possible, and focus on my actual system as a captain. I learned most of my system during MWC11, so let me give you some brief context first starting there.
MWC11 with The Chicago Bullz was my first job as the primary captain of an MWC team, and a top MWC team at that. I was still a recognized captain at the time with years of experience, but it was still somewhat of a new job for me in some ways. After years of frustration under the team leadership of players such as Raziel and Shaister, where I was very outspoken and frequently clashed with them over strategies, capping, etc., I was very eager to do this job right and show everyone how it should be done.
The Chicago Bullz had a multitude of challenges in front of us before we could achieve success though. First of all, we had players with previous beefs with each other (myself included) that needed to be addressed. The other big problem we had was finding our team chemistry. The Bullz were actually flat for most of the tournament. Despite my relatively good strategies at the time, we were not executing. I wasn't properly explaining my strategic vision to the team so they could understand, and this was especially important since my strategies were generally more complex and relied on tight coordination. We got by on our overwhelming skill for the most part, however our big wake-up call was when we tied NC in the QR.
We just couldn't quite find our rhythm. I spent the better part of the tournament trying figure out a system that would improve our team chemistry. I have evolved that system since then to improve upon it as I am still learning from my mistakes. This system I will now share with all of you in this article.
So to address the first challenge about having beefs within the team, it really all starts with a personal choice. You either choose to drop it or you don't, it is really quite that simple. Paris, Kirk, and I all chose to drop it. And it really had to be a unanimous thing, because if one person can't convince you that they have let it go, then nobody will. I certainly wouldn't have joined The Bullz if that was the case, because nobody wants to deal with that drama, it is poison to any team. However we all made that personal choice together. To cement it in, I addressed the situation immediately and first-hand by making an introductory post to address the entire team. Which brings us to the first point:
The Captain's Introduction
This is the very first post made in the private team forum. It is the Captain's responsibility to do this, and it serves several different important purposes:
First, if it is a newly formed team, you welcome everyone to the team, introduce yourself, and set the tone that there can be no negativity or beef between team mates. The team captain has to create the expectations of the team culture immediately. This starts the team bonding process.
Second, you let everyone know that you are in charge as the captain, asserting yourself will instill confidence in the rest of your team. Let them know you are on top of the job and all over it. Assure them that no matter what happens you take full responsibility. This is more than just words, you have to actually do it too, which will happen for you every single time there is a match loss, so get used to it. Even for game losses or any other mistakes, you need to find your mistakes and acknowledge it. This sets the example for your teammates to do the same which is very important for the team to be able to improve. Your team will also be more likely to follow you then, and any team needs to have a strong and clear leader.
Third, you give a broad general vision you have for the team. Who will be the primary trower, heavy hitter, role players, etc. As the leader of any team, you need to be able to share your vision to the rest of your teammates so that they understand it. This will come into play again later and be very important when you have to share your strategic visions as well.
Fourth, this starts the team conversation on the private team forums which allows your teammates to get to know each other a bit more. This also sets the example that your team should be using the team forums regularly, get them posting and talking, it is good for team morale. As the captain, you should be most interested in learning more about your player's capabilities. What are their favorite roles, favorite units, favorite play style, even their time zone for scheduling, etc.
Fifth, all of these things should show that you care about the team and the team's success. If the captain shows this, again it sets the example, and others will begin to care more about the team and its success as well, which all leads to a better outcome in the tournament as well.
That completes The Captain's Introduction. Now moving onto the second challenge that The Bullz had with flat performances. This one is quite a bit more complex and I had to use several different solutions to address this. My first solution starts below:
Our match tie against NC in the MWC11 QR was the wakeup call that set all of these things in motion. That was when I was noticing some major problems. The first problem I noticed was that I couldn't give orders fast enough. I gave our middle an order to hold on one of the games in the match, and 30 seconds later they should have started pushing. However I was busy elsewhere and couldn't give them that order. So they kept holding, and that is when I realized having complete control over my team was a bad thing. My orders were being followed which is great, but followed too literally at times. I needed my fronts to be able to take charge of themselves, after all they are all top players and know what to do mostly anyway. This led me to my first solution:
I called them "Commanders" but whatever you call them, have one person on each front be in charge of that front. Make sure they understand your strategic vision, who they are in charge of, etc. then let them call the shots from there. This does require a little more effort on their part because they should understand your strategy almost as good as you, but I think most players will take up the job if you
ask them to. Empower these players to take charge just as you would, to be vocal in giving orders and take the initiative. And if any questions come up mid-game, then they just ask you, pretty simple.
When I first implemented this system, there was a huge difference. It freed up so much of my effort as a captain. The strategy was getting executed better, quicker, the commmunication and coordination was much improved. I was even able to contribute more to the BC fight since I wasn't so tied up micro-managing everyone else. I usually tried to assign 3 players to be Commanders, but sometimes just 2.
When you assign these Commanders, you are going to include all of their information in your strat notes that you post in the team forums. Who the commanders are, what other teammates are attached to them, what the area of responsibility is for that force, what their mission is, any contingencies they should know, etc. Which all brings me to my next point:
Detailed Strategy Notes
Some teams do post some strat notes, some don't and just wing it. However, I have never seen anyone post strat notes in the level of detail that I do them. I like to split them out like this:
2) Squads (example: 1 trower, 3 morters, 3 meleers)
3) High Concept (example: 2 prong with a strong mid and a heavy melee rush flank. Surround and rush)
4a) Zones (example: Zone #1 - Middle, Zone #2 - North, Zone #3 - South)
4b) Distributions within each Zone (example: Trower - Ghengis (CMDR) - 2 trow, 4 zerks; mort #1 - Homer - 1 mort, 4 mauls, etc.)
5) Comments (any other contingencies, additional pointers, things to watch out for, any other comments about the game, etc.)
Try to get these detailed strat notes done ASAP, several days, or even up to a week ahead of the match. Having that time to simmer over your strategies in your mind helps. I often find myself going through 2, 3, or even 4 different revisions of a strategy for some of the games in a match, making tweaks and improvements to it as I think of all the different scenarios I may come across. This is also when I know that the strategy is going to be really really good.
If anyone wants to see a sample of my strat notes, just ask.
Another thing I have started doing is keeping a strategy logbook so I can keep track of all of my tournament strats. That way I don't spend hours making them then lose them all for the next tournament and have to recreate them again. It is also nice for tweaking your strats to improve them for later after you see how they perform in a tournament match, or to make note of what tournament match films used that strategy for later review and study. Keep a record of all of this valuable information, you can keep refining them to perfection.
Another concept I have most recently further refined is what I call, "The Captain's Squad", which brings me to my next point.
The Captain's Squad
This is the squad and role that the captain should take for himself in the game. This squad is very unique and special because the role of the captain is very unique and special. Consider that the captain is the only player in the game that can control or take any other teammate's units to instantly contribute to the micro anywhere on the map. He can also redistribute units between teammates. Assuming the captain also came up with all the strategies, he is also the one in the best position to give orders for any in-game adjustments and analyze strategic situations. The captain should not be surprised by any strategy that the opponent may do, he should have already thought of that possible scenario ahead of time and know exactly what to do against it.
So given this context, the captain should have a smaller, less important force. I usually rank my players and the squads they are given #1 - #8 (or however many teammates are on my team) signifying the most important squad to the least important. Even though I may be one of the top players on my team, my squad is usually like #4-#5 or so on the list. Whenever possible it should be a middle and / or roaming force. The captain is in the best position to handle a roaming force because he can instantly react and adjust however he seems fit. It may be more difficult to explain to another player every possible contingency they may come across to let them know how to react. The captain has spent more time thinking about these things than anyone else, and it could require very rapid and abrupt changes in the adjustments of any roaming force.
Stay away from taking archers or fetch as a captain, these things take up too much micro, and inherently require a lot of micro and tunnel visioning when they get into the thick of fights. This takes away from your ability to maintain map awareness and coordinate the rest of your team, which is incredibly important. Think of this squad as your command post. Being overzealous and giving myself better squads has hurt my team so many times because I wasn't able to fully do my job as the captain in the thick of the action.
Some nice roles / squads to think of for a captain are:
- roaming melee / pus / dorf
- fast and powerful melee flanks when trying to get behind the enemy to initiate a rush with the rest of your force
- middle soulpacks
- rushing forces (better allows you to initiate the rush at the best time with everyone on the team)
- any really complex roles that are difficult to explain to someone else
If you as the captain are also one of the worst players on your team, consider taking even smaller roles like flag D, but try to help out with pus ghols or something while the rest of your force is inactive. Find a way to contribute to the fight as best you can.
These roles aren't micro intensive, and allow you to back off for a moment to be able to evaluate the whole map again regularly, or allow you to make quick adjustments yourself without having to constantly tell someone else what to do and how to do it.
Okay at this point your strategies should all be set, which brings you up to the last part of the pre-match preparation.
I call these dry runs, where the whole team gets on right before the match and you give them their squads on each of the map/games. It is kind of like a practice drill. They go where they are supposed to, you explain any last-minute stuff, and they ask any questions they may have. It is nice to get a feel for the map, you can draw things on the mini-map to further explain something, you can explore or experiment with any other nuances on the map such as how deep is the water here, can my units move over this terrain, how well does the ground burn with fire arrows, the timing of what side tags what flags first, who takes what hills first, etc.
I just want to really emphasize the importance on this point. More than anything else on this list, I think the dry runs have contributed the most to the success of my MWC teams. We only did them for the last 2 important matches really, but this was the ONE thing that finally cured our flat performances. Once we started doing these, the difference was night and day. Everyone started executing very well, and the communication was IMPECCABLE. Seriously, watch the top bracket finals and grand finals of mwc11 and see how much The Bullz are communicating with each other, especially when compared to the other team. You can tell who is going to win just based off of that. Decisions / adjustments were being made within seconds, complex coordination was being executed immediately, it was an amazing thing to be a part of.
I also sometimes did these dry runs with teammates on an individual basis whenever I saw them online ahead of when we did it all as a team right before the match. Sometimes good ideas for further improvements to the strategy came out of these sessions too.
I think it has something to do with having those visuals of seeing the units on the map combined with the strategic vision, contingencies, other explanations, etc. that really ingrains it in the mind. When I started doing this, this was when people really started understanding my strategic vision. That visual aid of being in the game was a communication tool. Unfortunately I think this is the one point on the list that requires the most effort, and from everyone. So we only did this for the really important matches, when elimination was on the line, or the tournament finals. However, I HIGHLY recommend it.
Okay so that is everything you can do to improve your team leading up to the match, but what about immediately after the match? How do you take the lessons of the most recent match and tie it into improvements to be made for the upcoming match? That brings me to my final point:
It is critically important for the team to develop some chemistry with each other. To further help this, I always go over the films of our most recently completed match and point out what we did well, and what we didn't do well. The team has to keep improving together or it is going to lose in the tougher matches later in the tournament. So even though the early matches are usually easy and often considered a waste of time, you can still make the best of it by using it as a good opportunity to iron out any little problems that pop up whenever a team comes together.
This is why you need an open and constructive team culture too which you should have set the tone for right off the bat in The Captain's Introduction. As the captain, always be the first one to point out your own mistakes to set the example, but also constructively comment on others mistakes. Nobody should be getting defensive here, this is strictly a matter of trying to improve as a team, and doing what is best for the team.
Okay so that is everything, just a quick summary of all 6 of my points in order:
- The Captain's Introduction
- Assign Mini-Captains
- Detailed Strategy Notes
- The Captain's Squad
- Dry Runs
- and Post-Match Commentary
All of this does require a lot of effort as a captain, so it certainly isn't for everyone. However, it has been more than worth it for me. You pay a certain price in time and effort, but the payback of tournament championships, and having an amazing time with your team pays for itself in spades many times over.
It really helps with other things like team drama, and those sorts of problems that come up when a team is not organized well, and is drastically underperforming in the tournament compared to what is expected of the player talent on the team roster. If a team is underperforming, it usually isn't so much that they are playing badly individually, it almost always means that they are dealing with poor strategies and poor team organization by the team captain. It is up to the captain to give their players the best tools and set them up for success.
I hope this article can help improve the competitiveness of tournaments, as I do feel there is a huge shortage of talented captains to organize and lead the multitude of talented players out there. I also want to unload all of my knowledge to the myth community just in case I disappear eventually. Let me know if you want any advice for sitting in the captain's chair for your team. Thanks for reading, and have fun mything. I hope to see some challenging new teams led by some talented new captains in the upcoming MWC.