You know how some people get anxious about going out and meeting a brand new group of people at an event?
Maybe they’re afraid that they won’t have a fun time and will have to wrack their brains for an excuse to leave. Maybe they fear saying the wrong thing and getting scrutinized and judged by everyone else. Or what if no one talks to them and they have to stand there by themselves missing their cat and wishing they were home in pajamas?
Normally, I’m excited to meet new people and live for attending social events. However, this enthusiasm all goes out the window when a meeting is done in digital format. I’m not sure if it’s because I fear that my humor will get lost somewhere inside my computer hardware, if I don’t know how well I’ll be able to connect if I can’t see someone’s facial expression, if small talk seems impossible because we have no physical environment to comment on, if it’s a mix of all of the above or something else entirely.
Regardless, the idea of playing on Spelltable has always terrified me.
In the past, I’ve only played on this website with my family or Tom.
Spelltable was (and is) many people’s way of dealing with the pandemic and continuing to play Magic when in-person meetings were either outlawed or unadvised. It opened up windows of possibility in playing with people from all around the world. All you need to do is finagle a way of suspending your camera above your cards and playmat and set up a microphone. Away you go to your next game!
One feature of Spelltable that’s really convenient is the way the user can click on someone’s card (if they have a camera with high enough resolution) and see the details pulled up on the right hand side of the game. You can also consult the details of any player’s Commander at any point to refresh yourself on what that person’s deck is focused on without having to actually ask.
Also – it’s totally free to use.
Despite all of these convenient features, I was still reluctant to try my hand at Spelltable alone with no Tom. Since we started playing, we’ve played nearly every single game of Commander together. I was afraid that I’d get grouped with a bunch of people playing high powered decks who would play too fast, maybe they would make fun of my card inclusions, or shame me for playing something wrong. What if no one was there to stand up for me and I didn’t know what to say for myself so I’d awkwardly try to hit the “leave” button but somehow flip the camera around in the process showing everyone that I was still in my butterfly pajamas.
My stomach tightened as I hit the “join” button and I was glad that Spelltable doesn’t force it’s users to have face cams. I was pretty sure my panic would be spelled across my bulging eyeballs, flared nostrils, and clenched jaw. Then again, maybe it would let me roll an intimidation check with advantage against my opponents.
Deep breaths. It’s going to be fine. You are being ridiculous.
I was matched with three individuals from three different places all over the world. Veyran, Voice of Duality & Glissa the Traitor & Ognis, the Dragon’s Lash all loomed at me from my opponents’ boards as they shuffled their decks with precision and ease.
I chose my Arjun, the Shifting Flame deck. It’s rare that anyone has even heard of my commander and the deck fits in easily with most power levels below a mid 8. It felt like a safe and interesting bet.
I clumsily shuffled half my deck upside down and hoped they wouldn’t notice or comment on it. They didn’t.
By the end of the game, the four of us were laughing like old friends despite having no idea what any of us looked like, where we lived, what we believed, how long we’d been playing, or what one another’s favourite dinosaur is.
It was pure… well, Magic.
On top of this, it seemed like I might take the entire game. I couldn’t believe my luck!
That is, until I realized that I forced myself to draw my entire deck with Teferi’s Ageless Insight. If I didn’t find an answer before my draw step, I’d murder myself when I tried to draw my next card and there wasn’t one available.
The table of course found this hilarious.
Thankfully, the Veyran player took me and my 60/60 Oneirophage out of our misery right before my turn and snagged the win for himself.
As we were all packing up our items and signing off, Veyran commented on the uniqueness of my deck and Izzet creature-based play-style. We chatted together about Izzet ramp and the difficulties of getting high CMC Commanders out in a timely manner.
In the end, Spelltable felt like a similar experience to any other game at my LGS. Sadly, the only downfall was that I probably wouldn’t see these people at my next game night.