I’m sitting with three regulars from our LGS. One is Mr. Alela, a man who I owe a lot of my MTG knowledge to due to how he patiently sat through hours of precon and battle-cruiser games when Tom and I were just learning. He’d point out our missed triggers, remind us to tap our cards when needed, and bide his time as we figured out how our decks work. Oftentimes, he’d have the cards in hand to win for a full hour before he finally took us out in one fell swoop. For Mr. Alela, it wasn’t about the win (well, except for later, when we’d edge a bit closer to his level). It was about an enjoyment of the game and helping get us up to speed.
Second at the table is Mr. Hazezon. In one of my first limited events, he kicked my ass so hard that I can still feel it. At the end of the match, he admired the deck I’d constructed and gave me a pack of cat sleeves he’d won in a previous tournament. This man’s kindness has won me his allegiance forever. I still use those sleeves in my limited events to this day.
Lastly, there’s a man I’ve seen before a few times in the shop, but have never got a game in with. He’s playing Vega, the Watcher. We exclaim in delight over our bird commanders when I put down Syrix.
“Team Bird!” We declare ourselves. Team Bird is short-lived.
In between plays, Mr. Best (as the name suggests, the best player at the shop and also one of two employees aside from the owner) is bringing Mr. Vega an assortment of cards that he’s requested.
Alela is churning out more fairies than we know what to do with and Team Bird is trying to cull them before they take over the entire board. Hazezon is lost in the desert trying to find his way back to a board state.
“What cards did you pick up?” I ask in between turns.
Vega grins with excitement and passes over a boulder box of newly acquired treasures. “These are for my brother-in-law’s girlfriend,” he announces. “I’m making her a Lulu deck!”
“Oh, the elephant one? Cute.” I rifle through a few of the cards that he’s obviously put a lot of thought into. This man is positively beaming with pride.
“Does she play a lot of Commander?” I ask. Other women are a rare occurrence at this LGS and I’m always in search of my long lost EDH gal pal. I don’t have a single one yet.
“Well, no.” He admits. “I made her a different deck a while ago but she hasn’t really played it more than once.”
My heart drops. This is, without fail, a conversation that I witness or am a part of on a weekly basis. I also frequently see these posts on MTG social media posts and forums.
We’ve all seen them. The “Look-at-the-Deck-I-Made-for-my-Girlfriend” or “Help-Me-Make-a-Deck-for-my-Girlfriend” posts.
He’s already purchased the cards so I keep my mouth shut. Instead, I suggest that he brings her around sometime. EDH is a social game and maybe she’d benefit from seeing how it can allow her to meet new people. However, he tells me she rarely wants to play – period. She absolutely hates it.
After Alela murders us all in a whimsical flurry of fairies, Hazezon asks me if Tom and I share all our cards. I explain that we make and have our own decks but share the rest of our collection. However, we do regularly borrow from one another as demonstrated by Tom playing my Marchesa, the Black Rose deck across the store.
“Do you have a partner? Do they play?” I ask.
“Yeah. I made her a deck, but she had a bad experience the first time she tried it and can’t be convinced to come back.”
It turns out that Hazezon’s girlfriend ended up being placed at a high power table and was bored to tears by Azorious bullshit. Shame.
Both Vega and Hazezon’s stories bring to mind the Chatterfang deck I was shown last week at a different LGS. “I made it for my wife. She played it once and never came back. But look how great it is!” Thousands of dollars were put into this sad, lonely squirrel deck. I felt bad for the guy. (And the squirrels.)
Sensing a common thread here? Although I’m sure all of these women appreciate the thought and money put into these decks, it’s rare that they play them more than once.
Instead, these efforts usually result in their creators sadly showing off their invention with no one to pilot them.
Please, for the love of Purphoros, stop doing this.
Below are my tips for getting your girlfriend, wife, or brother-in-law’s female cousin (twice removed) to start playing and enjoying Commander.
Step One. Invite her to visit the LGS with you. Explain the very basics of each colour. Show her the collection of precons and give some tips on how each of them will ultimately function. However, the most important part is to let her choose. Let this decision be entirely her own. Remember the excitement you had over choosing your first Pokémon? Your girl needs to have this initial experience in choosing her very first deck!
Step Two. Find some willing participants who either have precon level decks or are willing to sandbag it a bit to let her learn the mechanics and find her groove. Let this be a social experience and not one that’s too serious and feels like her worst memory of a high school math lesson.
Step Three. If she enjoys her time and wants to continue, provide resources on game-play and deck building. Don’t just hand her cards.
Remember, this lady doesn’t have your investment in the game yet. She needs to experience her own failures and take pride in the successes of her own decision making. You handing her a deck and fancy cards she hasn’t worked for and doesn’t understand the significance of will not form this love and attachment to her deck – no matter how awesome you built it!
I still remember the hot mess I created when I tried to update my Aesi precon for the first time. I put in vanilla crabs and Jade Avenger and things that I thought looked cool but had no synergy with the rest of my deck. I carried around this sad beaten up baggie of cards labeled “Aesi Maybes” and continuously swapped out cards while looking for that perfect balance. I hated it. I complained and I tantrumed and I swore off the game several times over before ultimately coming back and trying again to make my deck work. Eventually, things started coming together. And man, did I feel proud when I saw my deck take off like it was meant to.
Your girl needs these memories to look back on too! You can’t just do all the work for someone and expect the hard won love for the game that you already possess.
Simply handing her a deck and expecting her to be fully entrenched in the game is like handing someone a pizza and expecting them to be a chef the next day. You’ve given them none of the experiences, knowledge, or passion for cooking in simply giving them an item of food.
I think these are the best starting points that I can suggest for introducing any woman in your life to the game. However, if you have any additional tips or experiences, please share them in the comments!
With a bit of luck, time, patience, and the types of kind mentors that I was blessed with, our game stores will soon be teeming with other Lady Planeswalkers. I’ll have no shortage of gal pals to cry to in the bathroom about how badly I got bullied by Approach of the Second Sun in my last game. We’ll commission Wizards for sparkle encrusted versions of our favourite commanders. Rhinestones will be used as counters. Stickers will be used as outfit changes for our Najeela decks. We will threaten our opponents with Hallmark-Christmas-Movie themed dice.
Are you having regrets yet?
Whatever your feelings towards that last paragraph might be – my point remains. Do not make your girlfriend a Commander deck. (And if you’re dead set on it, at least do it together.)