Magic Without The Gathering

A large part of the point of tabletop gaming is to get together to play. That hasn’t been possible recently.

I have three primary venues where I play Magic: with my day job friends, with my kids and their friends, and at our local game shop (LGS). I have been working at home since March, physical interactions with any friends have been absent, and our LGS can’t operate any events on the premises. It’s all very sad.

Fortunately, my kids still want to play.

Also, I made that webcam bracket and so I’ve been able to play a little bit of Magic over the Internet.

this is where I play Magic on the Internet

this is where I play Magic on the Internet

The tripod is wedged in place with its legs slightly opened for stability. The playmat isn’t square on the table because the camera isn’t: it’s easier to adjust the playmat angle than the camera. The light on the right is my daylight lamp and is the only illumination for the play surface. I turn off the room lights when playing because otherwise the cards are just white rectangles of glare as the overhead bulb reflects into the camera!

the webcam mounted to the tripod with my custom bracket

the webcam mounted to the tripod with my custom bracket

This is the bracket in operation on the tripod. The camera’s clamp looks more rickety there than it actually is – that’s quite firmly wedged in place.

The tools we’re using are:

  • Discord – great for voice chat, and the desktop client supports video. Point your webcam at your playmat and go. This is what our LGS uses, based on a template from Wizards of the Coast.
  • Spelltable – similar video option to Discord, but with Magic-specific features on top like life total and commander. When we’ve used this for video we’ve still been using Discord for voice. It has a limit of four players in a game, which Discord does not, but does have some basic video manipulation features.
  • OBS – this is not strictly necessary, but it can be used to supply a virtual camera to your video platform and that allows you to apply transforms to the video. Specifically, my webcam has its video mirrored. OBS will allow me to flip that, amongst other things I don’t understand yet.

I would also highly recommend against playing any deck that permanently steals other players’ permanents or lets you search someone else’s library. Both of those operations are very difficult to navigate. Pacifism is bad enough.

I’m very much looking forward to getting back to in-person play, but at least this is a way to play the game.

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