I’ve been a member of a few Magic: The Gathering and specifically EDH oriented groups on Facebook for a while now. I regularly see people post about groups they might be able to join up with in real life in order to play, but these posts are usually met with little in the way of answers. This is partially due to the fact that despite there being a very active playerbase, it is split up in several ways. There are folks like me who had their own friends whom they played with and as such didn’t really expand beyond that. Others (myself included here as well) go to events at local game stores like Pre-releases for new sets or specific Commander events where prizes are won. Not to mention there are folks who have given up on paper Magic altogether and play solely online via MTGO or Arena. I’ve tried my hand at the digital format and find that I don’t care for it, but I’ve had fun with both other circumstances. But after moving out here as of this year, I really haven’t played much MTG in person. I did make a trip out to where I used to live one time, and I have had some rounds at my house with my sister and her husband, otherwise there was the Vegas trip where I spent the most time actually playing the game.
On those posts where people try to find others to play with in person, most of the answers suggest going to an LGS but there are places where they don’t exist (where I live is one of those places, where the nearest store is 30 minutes away). Others suggest playing via Skype/Discord or whatever else people are using to communicate these days. Initially I was turned off by the proposition, but my old roommate decided to join an EDH Discord channel and told me that he had been playing games with strangers from all over the place and having a blast doing so. Having only a PC and not a laptop, I knew I was going to have to invest in some equipment. My friend said he was using an app on his phone that makes it act as a webcam, but after seeing it in action I’m glad I decided to pick up a proper webcam. It didn’t cost much either.
It took me the better part of an afternoon to get things all set up. First, I had to unpack the webcam and the hinged arm that I purchased for it as well. Then it turned out that my desk is too thick for the arm’s clamp, so I had to find a solution which ended up being a thick book. Thankfully the webcam is tiny and weighs very little, so the book is enough weight to hold it into place. I’ve found the perfect desk for this sort of thing on Amazon and will likely pick that up after I move, so I can then mount it properly. Anyway, once I had the physical pieces set up, I discovered that the camera’s USB cord was pretty short, but thankfully I have a spare USB port on the back of my keyboard, so I was able to plug it in there. Initially it wouldn’t turn on for me either, and after some digging I found that I had access to the camera denied in Windows’ privacy settings, so once that was enabled we were good to go. My friend pointed me in the direction of two different Discord servers, but so far I’ve only really used one. If this sort of thing interests you, the server I use is linked in that last sentence.
After being a part of the Discord channel, there are LFG tools there to pick up players to get EDH pods going. Since the traditional pod size is four players, it doesn’t take long to get games up and running. I joined my old roommate and some random guys for the first time last weekend, and it was quite an experience. People generally use a free conference software via Whereby, and I have to say it’s a great tool. This reminds me of Zencastr which I used to record podcasts with, and I’m thankful for the Internet and the cool shit that comes along with it. Pictured above is my screen, where you can see me in the top left, my friend in the bottom right and the other two random guys we were playing with. One person logs into their “room” and then sends an invite link to Discord where the other players will join in so you can see their playmats. Obviously the video quality isn’t amazing and you’re not going to be reading cards off of the screen (instead, asking “what does that do?”) but you can see their general board state and it adds to the immersion. Otherwise Discord voice channels are used on the server so that you can communicate. I’ve worn my headset and I’m thankful for its noise cancelling because I’m set in the living room and the TV and other things are always going but I haven’t gotten any complaints about background noise. We had a couple of rounds that day, and then yesterday I spent a big chunk of the afternoon playing as well.
I’m not sure why the camera were set up weirdly in this picture, but it was when I was playing in the late afternoon with a group of random people. I ended up playing several games with these guys but for some reason some of our cameras were displaying weirdly. Perhaps there are some quirks in the system I’m unaware of. Whatever the case, it has been a blast to literally play MTG on demand. I haven’t had this sort of release in quite some time, and since I’ve barely played at all this year I intend to make up for it. This allows me to practice decks more often, and find ways to tweak them to make them better. I’m already tearing through my collection trying to make new decks that just kinda work just to have other things to play. I know now that I won’t feel like I’m wasting my time coming up with new builds and whatnot, because I’ll actually get to use the cards I’m buying and play the decks that I’m building. I’m looking forward to my next session already!
What’s really interesting is the difference in metas. Apparently the culture is a little different too, as proxies are allowed and people aren’t asking for proof that the players even own a copy of the card. I’m not down for playing proxies myself, but I can see how it can make a meta more competitive. Most of my decks are pretty well balanced, so we’ve been playing mostly in the “mid” power level group, and it’s been mostly fair outside of the above game where “Roons” was playing a deck that was probably more fitting for a high power room. Regardless it worked out fine in the end and we had a blast playing a bunch of different games. If you love paper magic, EDH, and don’t have a playgroup, I highly suggest checking this idea out. It’s as close to the real thing as many people can get.
If you’re interested in my webcam setup, here are links to the Amazon pages: