Commander is a game that requires a lot of skill to play well. It is often easy for people to recognize they need to shore up their game play or deck building skills. Commander also has politics or social interaction that can affect the outcomes of games. But there is one “skill” that is often overlooked and aims right for the heart of what commander is. It is the concept of being “That Guy.”
Who is “That Guy”
More to the point “That Guy” has a reputation. When someone asks “Who’s Johnny?” They are not looking for it’s an 80’s hit song that was included in the movie Short Circuit. The answer they are looking for is “He’s that guy who…” Though it is never vocalized everbody is askng this question of the members of your playgroup.
When you sit at the commander table what you do in game and out of game all rolls up into one and creates a reputation. You have control how people perceive you by the actions you display. Do you want to be “That Guy whom everyone groans internally when you show up to play, or do you want to be “That Guy” that brightens up the room as they walk through the door. It’s not about being popular but instead helping to create an environment that is fun to play commander so that everyone will have fun and secure a strong gaming group for the long term. Here are some thoughts on obtaining the reputation of “That Guy.”
Ending Games… The Gambler
Like The Gambler by Kenny Rogers, you need to know when to hold em and know when to fold em. That guy recognizes we want to all play commander and if they are in an unwinnable board state, then they will scoop so that another game will be started for the fun of all. This is especially true when the deck is strong and has won many games in the past in a similar fashion.
That Guy also recognizes that we build commander decks with crazy combos and win conditions and it is fun for commander players to play them. He will from time to time not scoop so that the player who is going off can play and have his fun too and positively affirm it. This is especially so if the deck that is going off does not constantly win. He is also gracious and a good sport. He is patient through it and is his own version of cheerleader for the winner. Also, if That Guy is going off for the win then, if it is something that has been seen before he will offer to agree the game is won and move onto playing another game of commander to keep more people engaged with what is going on at the table.
Keeping the Games Fun
In Basic Level Up Moment number four we talked about rats and wrestling play. This concept applies here with the “That Guy” Reputation. “That guy” may play decks that are really strong but he also plays decks that are even in power level with the group. If he dominates the board and it wasn’t because of a “God Draw” opening hand he will switch out to another deck often less powerful. That guy also will often not play his winning combo early so the game can continue and other players may have fun at the table.
This is hard for the Spike player because you play to win. There is some Spike in me and I honestly get it. But games get a lot more intense when you have multiple players targeting you over and over again because of how your deck plays. If you can dial it back it will be good for the table and good for you. A perfect example of this is you are able to search your deck. Instead of grabbing the game winning card early grab some card draw instead. It prolongs the game and lets people do some cool stuff. This is of course dependant on your meta. If you are in a very competitive meta and that is what your playgroup enjoys it may be difficult to achieve this. When you can dial back your inner Spike you may find you enjoy yourself more.
It’s Only a Game
That Guy understands that politics is part of the game. Whether it is someone targeting them all the time or you built an in game reputation that you will retaliate if someone does a specific something to your board state. The guy does not take these squabbles away from the gaming table. He is able to let in game circumstances go and treats everybody well outside of game. He can be quick to talk up other players and what they do right . Might even bring an extra treat to gaming night or buy someone a soda just because. He does these things from time to time to ensure the others know what has happened at the gaming table stays at the gaming table. The important thing is That Guy does not hold a grudge out of game.
New Additions to the Family
If your play group meets in a home usually there are not a lot of opportunities to meet new people and if you do it’s a friend so they have an in to feel comfortable. You can still make the atmosphere conducive to the newer players. This concept is especially important if your play group meets at an LGS or local game shop. You want to make them feel comfortable you can help them improve their game. Your goal is to make a positive impression that they will come back and play again with your group.
When trying to mentor game play,don’t approach at the with a list of suggestions but one maybe two quick comments in an evening or invite them into a discussion of game theory. Ever better yet point them to this website. Also, newer players that show up will want to show off their deck. Stick to the positives of the deck don’t be critical. They are really looking for a positive affirmation and it is best to give them one.
If you can afford it you can give a card here or there out of your collection that will improve the deck if one comes to mind. The cards do not need to be expensive, a gift goes a long way in making friends and influencing people. I remember getting trounced by a Maelstrom Wanderer player in a one on one game years ago. We talked and then he gave me a Fellwar Stone. I still remember that interaction to this day. It also encouraged me to continue to show up at the LGS and play even when I was new.
The Home Stretch
If you are an adult playing magic these things are especially important. No one knows what background any of us come from. How you represent yourself at the game shop does have an affect on others around you. You are modelling behaviors and you never know who is watching and what behaviors they will pick up. Even if there are not kids and teens around how you represent yourself is important. We all show up to play commander and have fun. So ask yourself are you adding to the fun or taking away from it? Adjust things as necessary. A play group that likes you is critical to the long term health of the group and you participating with them. That way when someone new walks by and asks “Who’s that guy?” the answer is “ That’s Johnny and he’s pretty cool. You’ll like him.”
As always I am looking to hear from you the reader. If you have any questions or comments feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.