This article was written by a member of our discord server. From time to time we will reach out to active members and ask if they would like to write something. Please enjoy the following article !
My name is Erik, and I’ve been invited to put together a few words in this space all about community. Context is essential, and so I want to acknowledge the elephant in the room right off the top. COVID-19 has shut down nearly all paper Magic events, and has been a driving factor pushing the community towards the digital space. But the fact is that this shift is mainly one of necessity, not preference, and that’s an important distinction to make.
Another major factor in pushing people towards digital MTG is of course Arena. It’s slick, it’s dynamic, it’s beautiful, and it’s easy to use. But at a fundamental level, the appeal of a system like Arena is as different from that of paper EDH as can be. Undeniably there’s crossover between the two types of players, but each has their own distinct reasoning for being drawn towards their respective mode of play. Arena rewards players for grinding through an endless stream of faceless opponents, and playing as finely tuned a decklist as possible.
Tabletop commander rewards us for being together, and that’s what I want to focus on today. Here in Toronto, I’ve been really fortunate to have an amazing playgroup and the support of an involved, caring LGS, as well as some really talented content creators. The benefits of surrounding myself with local people, sitting around a table playing games, making friends and shooting the breeze, has been absolutely enormous, and I’m far from alone in that respect. EDH players around the world will jump at the chance to tell you how wonderful their tables are, and that’s just it. It’s in the name - the Gathering is the point.
From a deck building perspective, there’s no substitute for live feedback. I’ve been playing this beautiful game since 1994, and I’m still consistently blown away by seeing cards I had no idea existed, or talking about interactions between pieces as they unfold. Every level of player can attest to having had those moments of “hang on… does that work like I think it does?” Those are the moments that inspire us, challenge us, and create better players at a core level. Experience, discussion, suggestions, observation, and learning; they’re all a huge part of the fun and the appeal, and that simply cannot happen at any imitable scale in the digital space.
This ties into my next point. These moments create fantastic stories, and as humans, we love a grand tale of victory or defeat. Getting around a tabletop with friends and cards gives us a modern version of the fireside chat, the old fella on the porch, whittling away at a stick and spinning a yarn. Remember that time you came back from 1 life, no cards in hand, and top-decked the perfect answer in the face of all adversity? Remember that explosive counter-magic battle that completely changed the state of the game? Some of the most enjoyable and memorable nights of Magic I’ve ever had went by without winning a single game. It’s the shared experiences, the “wow” moments, that stay with us.
Now, we all know Magic can be expensive. But that’s where coming together helps again. Your friends around the gaming table can recommend budget ideas, help finesse a deck within a certain price range, and organize trades to the benefit of all involved. It’s been an enormous help to me over the years, having people to exchange ideas and cardboard with, and working through deck lists together to find suitable pieces without breaking the bank. On the other side of that are the people who are passionate about showing off their expensive cards, and tricking out their lists with autographed foils, custom sleeves and mats, alters and border extensions. There’s an appreciable beauty to the sheer pageantry of sitting down at a table, and being able to express yourself with unique cards and paraphernalia. It’s impossible to forget the people on the ground level, who make it all happen. The LGSs that give us prize support and a place to gather. The content creators who keep us entertained and host space for opinion articles from small time organizers like myself. People like Cardboard Command, who produce fantastic tabletop content, and always show up to support the local players and organizers. Places like The Farside, that have huge turnouts every month, and a carefully cultivated atmosphere of casual, friendly fun. Stores like FaceToFace, who show up to local events like clockwork, shaking hands and talking to the players, listening to their needs and bringing massive prize support. These people exist where you are, too, and they’re an undeniable force for good in the community.
The relationships we form with them makes us better, not only as a healthy community, but it also opens the way to partnerships, sponsorships, larger audiences, and greater monetization for the teams putting in all that hard work.
The invested commander player base isn’t going anywhere, and the new players being brought into this incredible game are able to see it firsthand from the moment they join us at the table. They see the smiles. They hear the stories. They watch even the old dogs among us learning as we go. They win the prizes, and learn the etiquette, and get that big stompy trample victory that everyone else cheers for. Tabletop commander may have been set back in the short term, but it’ll survive, and continue to grow, because we love being together, and we love this game. Because it’s in the name.
The Gathering is the point.
Erik is an event organizer in Toronto. Live Events: