The global social distancing guidelines have more of us than ever playing Magic (as well as the rest of our hobbies) at home or with people who aren’t physically near us. The hunger to still connect with our friends and play Commander is real and ravenous. From watching to participating, we love the format and want to get as much as possible, so I hope I can help feed your desires a bit.
I’ll offer up a guide where you can watch some of the most fun Commander gameplay, along with a few on which you might actually be able to participate. From Twitch and YouTube channels to Discord and Zoom games and beyond, we have unprecedented opportunity to go deep with our favorite format, playing with people we might never get to meet in person. Side note: I’m not a fan of the term “in real life.” Online life is just as real as physical life (but I’m still okay with using IRL as reasonable shorthand).
Before we get to our list, I have two things to mention.
The first you may have already seen on social media, but bears repeating. Ron Foster, due to some personal circumstances of the very good kind, is stepping down from his role on the Commander Advisory Group (CAG). On behalf of the whole RC, I want to thank him for his service. Ron’s name was one of the first that came up when the CAG was but the seed of an idea. We are happy that he joined us and happy that if he has to leave, it’s under positive circumstances.
Second, I have a few tips for playing online, specifically in webcam games. While they can bring us together, remember that we’re physically still apart. So…
You don’t have the physical cues from the other players. You need to be more explicit about priority and turn passing so that there’s not dead time in which no one knows what’s happening. I’ve developed the habit of taking my last action and then saying “Pass the turn to [name]” at the end of my turn and expressly passing priority.
- The game can get chaotic and it’s easier for players to get distracted by their own environments, so I suggest freely allowing take-backs.
- Do your best to not get distracted by your own environment.
- Searching other players’ libraries is awkward. You might need to chat with the other player via DM about what to Bribery for.
- While copying and cloning are fine, gaining control of other players’ permanents becomes challenging. If you know you’re going to do it, bring in some Magic-card-sized pieces of paper to write things on (with a thick Sharpie) so that everyone else can see what you’ve borrowed.
- Say no to your Aminatou, the Fateshifter deck.
It’s not much, but paying attention to a few simple guidelines will improve your (and everyone else’s) remote experience.
Any discussion on this topic has to start with the absolute best of the best. Josh and Jimmy have cultivated such a great environment that games are always fun to watch. The two of them are engaging and convivial hosts. They get top-tier guests and the byplay is routinely amazing. Their production value is second to none. I’m a big fan of their whole setup. I still don’t get how people let Josh get away with so much politicking that always ends up to his own advantage, but what are you gonna do?
I asked Josh if he wanted to say anything about the channel, and he offered me this:
Over the next few weeks, we’ve got a ton of extra videos and bonus content planned around the release of both the Commander product and the main set, Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. We’re talking preview cards, deck reveals, upgrade guides, reviews of all the new cards. We’ve never had two sets come out at the same time like this so it’s gonna be nuts. Plus, of course we’re hard at work on a brand new Game Knights featuring a lot of those sweet Commander cards.
Sheldon, I’ll give you the scoop on who the guests for that episode are. We haven’t announced this anywhere yet, but we’re super excited to have streamer and tournament commentator AliasV on the show for the first time. After that, we have the long-awaited return of NFL player Cassius Marsh, so you know it’s guaranteed to be a fun one. Look for that episode in late April.
That’s right, you heard it here first — AliasV and Cassius Marsh incoming for Game Knights! And it’s not just famous folks that get to be on the show. The most recent episode features not one, but two fans who sent in auditions to appear with Jimmy and Josh. As commonly happens on Game Knights, things got a little wild.
Star City Games’s own Justin Parnell, Stephen Green, Jeremy Noell, and Jonathan Suarez host one of the longest-running Commander game play video series, and there’s a reason why it’s still going strong: the four of them are great together. Because they’re friends and colleagues, and have been for such a long time, the smack talk can be legendary. The gameplay is sharp, and they’re always trying out something new. They’ve just wrapped their 18th season. In that episode, they make the best pro-proxy argument I’ve heard to date (it’s actually the argument of a Commander player named Charles Zhuang that we all know). Said argument isn’t what you think (and no, I haven’t changed my stance on proxies). I also want to include here a shout-out to VS progenitor David McDarby, who now works at Wizards of the Coast (WotC) and was one of the people who did a great job of looking after me while I was there.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia provides a number of inside jokes and references for the show. I asked the gang to give me a little something they think really demonstrates that they’re all about, and this is what they sent. It’s the Paddy’s Pub jingle, modified for Commander VS.
Well, they say the world’s your oyster,
Man, but oysters ain’t for me
You’re the belle of the ball
But you ain’t my cup of tea
They always vote you Best in Show
But this doggie disagrees
‘Cause I like life at Commander VS…
There’s a place for me
It’s the place I go
Where the mill is cheap
And the life is low
It’s Commander VS
I like Commander VS
Let the record show
The greatest place to go
Is that show called Commander VS…
I like life at Commander VS
Commander has precious few harmonica solos, so there you are.
Affinity for Artifacts
Hosted by CAG member Olivia Gobert-Hicks, Affinity for Artifacts, cheekily subtitled “Delusions of Mediocrity,” regularly streams games on Tuesday and Friday evenings. As we’ve quarantined more in the last month, there have been streams on other nights as well. It’s a raucous, take-no-prisoners-in-the-chatter, wild, NSFW ride. Not only is the gameplay outstanding, but the chat is spectacular. There are routinely more than 100+ people there on Tuesday nights, and the talk is worth the price of admission and then some.
You’ll find well-known regulars such as Jeremy Noell, Logan “Headlock” Isch (@seraph_six), @daviekumd, @mtgmuddstah, @TappyToeClaws, Jim from The Spike Feeders, and more. The Professor from Tolarian Community College has dropped in on occasion. There’s also the possibility for not-as-famous people to join. Olivia is fully fleshing out procedures for drawing guests from the Discord channel linked to her Patreon. There’s a signup list, and a few folks from the list have already appeared on the channel. If you’d like to be on, now’s your chance!
It’s also the place you’re most likely to find me currently playing online. I’ve become a regular on most Tuesdays, and I’m still the only one who understands to kill Logan first. People keep saying it, but none of them are doing it. I’ll do my best to keep them all honest.
I’ve said the channel is often a conversation and then a game of Commander might break out. The lively chatter means that it’s easy to get distracted from playing. The recurrent gag has now become figuring out which sorcery I’m going to try to play as an instant. Two weeks ago it was Aether Snap. Last week it was Insult // Injury.
The Spike Feeders
The Spike Feeders are a Winnipeg-based Commander playgroup that skews towards the high end of the power spectrum. Their gameplay videos focus on unique and creative deckbuilding with a focus on positive social interaction. Whichever of the cast of Bill, Eliot, Jan, Jerry, Madison, and Jim you’re watching, you know you’re in for a brain-twisting time involving some of the most convoluted spell stacks you’ve seen in a while. While some people might mis-label them as cEDH, I’d call them high-powered casual. You can tell the games are more about the Gathering than the Magic.
I asked Jim what he’d tell people about the group that they wouldn’t immediately guess. He said:
We play what we think is sweet, even if it’s not the absolute best of the best. I usually say that when people ask whether something is good enough for cEDH decks. Don’t overthink it, just decide if you think it’s sweet or not and try it out. We’re big advocates of the idea that there’s no downside for being objectively wrong about deckbuilding, so you might as well go out and try new things to see what works.
Jim has become one of the people I’ve engaged in some of the most philosophically deep conversations about the format. He’s super-smart, super-insightful, and not afraid of a dissenting opinion. He also loves cats, so you know he’s a good human being. He’s been making the rounds of many of the online play channels, so there are lots of places you can catch him (and perhaps also his new kitten, who is predictably adorable).
The above four are the ones I know the most about. Knowing there are plenty of others, I reached out via social media and asked folks to tell me a little about places they either host, join, or watch. Here’s a good sampling.
A number of people sent me the link to the PlayEDH Discord channel, home to more than 10,000 players. What’s really great is that you can self-select into power level, from “Battlecruiser” to “Competitive,” via a bot. When time allows, I’m going to randomly jump into a game or two and see what’s what here. Since there are so many players, it’s probably a good place for you to start your search for online games.
Friend of the format, Level 3 Judge, and all around good egg Eric “Raging” Levine tells me that he hosts ten-ticket-budget Magic Online (MTGO) Commander events via Discord. Eric is an excellent player, so if you get paired up with him, beware. Check out his Twitch channel.
In addition to producing both paper and online game content, CMDRNinetyNine has a whole series of videos on their You Tube channel about the format. They stream paper on Thursday evenings and MTGO depending on availability.
EDH and CHILL
Our friend Vince (@pleasantkenobi) hangs out, chats with people, and streams games. Like some of the best channels, focus can be on the chats. I’ve only watched a bit, but I know Vince, and I know he’s raucously entertaining. Also supremely NSFW, but since many of you are working from home, that might have different meaning now.
Chase has just recently started streaming paper games on Twitch after doing MTGO for a while. You can watch the ones which have recently run via YouTube. She broadcasts her show, Filthy Casuals, Sundays from 7-9pm Eastern US. I asked if she wanted to tell folks anything about the show, and she said:
The show has helped me build my confidence and connect to others when I’ve always had difficulties doing that in the past. I started it to make fun content but over the months I’ve been streaming, I’ve found that it has also been a wonderful way for me to play with people I’d probably never know, make friends, and show off fun and crazy builds!
Crazy indeed. Earlier this week, I tuned in just in time for CAG member Charlotte Sable to cast Sudden Substitution, swapping Woe Strider from the Elenda, the Dusk Rose deck for Mirrodin Besieged from Chase’s Emry, Lurker of the Loch deck. She said it “seemed like a good idea at the time.”
Long-time (and I mean long) Commander fan and Goblin Lore Podcast host @hobbesQ tells me he’s just starting a Twitch channel for play. He’s been making the rounds of other folks’ channels but says that he’s willing to host folks when they want to play. Hit him up on Twitter if you want to join in.
We want everyone to have a place where they can see themselves in the content and relate to the conversations and experiences of the players and normalize this kind of environment until it is the norm and not the exception.
I watched/listened to the first two episodes. The gameplay was brisk, but the conversations (seems like we’re repeating a theme here) were delightfully unexpected — and that was even with going in without expectations. I suspect you’ll listen along and won’t be able to avoid one or two “What did she just say???” moments in the best kind of way.
The above list is in no way intended to be exclusive, definitive, or all-inclusive. If I’ve left out a favorite of yours, head over to social media and let us know. This list is a springboard into getting your online Commander urges fixed. The good news is that the possibilities for remote play will continue to expand. I suspect that there’s some chance that even when the world returns to normal, people will continue exploring the opportunity to play ever more games online.
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