You need to be logged in to do this.
When you have logged in, click the Refresh Session button and then try again.

Author Topic: Getting people to join your playgroup  (Read 140 times)

Morganator 2.0

  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1987
  • Karma: 1404
    • View Profile
  • Decks
Getting people to join your playgroup
« on: June 11, 2021, 04:19:27 am »
This forsaken pandemic is almost over. More people are getting vaccinated every day. There are increasingly more places that are able to safely reopen. If you're in one of those spots, now is a great time to start up a Commander playgroup, to find a playgroup, or to incorporate more people into your current playgroup. Commander is steadily gaining more popularity and all these new players will need a place to play.

I've done my fair share of community building. I've organized events and had to cancel them. I've played with good playgroups that were an absolute joy to be with, and bad groups that we now stay away from. You want a good group, a place where the only thing you need to worry about is a turn 2 Winter Orb. While reading this, try to remember that a lot of this is based on my experience and my personality (more on that later). If anyone else reading this has experience with organizing playgroups or events, please speak up. More information is always a good thing.

Setting up a playgroup

If you already have a playgroup and a place to play, you can just skip this section. If you don't yet have a playgroup, keep reading.

First thing, look to see if there are already groups in your area that you can join. Check out the local game stores (LGS from now on) and check their website to see if they have a commander night on their event calendar. You can call or message them over Facebook/Discord if the website doesn't say anything. You can also just do a Google search of "[city name] MTG" to see where people play. Libraries will sometimes have MtG players, and high schools may have it as an afterschool program (there is an age restriction here, you'll know if you're too old).

When playing at an LGS, make sure that you get along with the store owners and staff. It is very important. If you want good customer service, you need to be a good customer. Don't be a Karen. If the employee is off-duty, don't ask them to do store-related things for you. I've always made an effort to respect the staff and to make sure other people respect them. As a result, we get a lot of favors from the staff and we get away with a lot of nonsense. We've thrown together potlucks and birthday parties at the store. A friend of mine once said "You walk into [our LGS] and it feels like you own the place." That is what you want to aim for. Now sometimes you won't be able to get along with the owners. There's a store in my area where the owner thinks that Commander is ruining all other formats, and by extension, hates all commander players. Avoid.

If you look around and can't find any active playgroups groups, you'll have to be the one to start it. Go to an LGS and ask if they can set up a Commander night. Go to your city's/town's Facebook group or subreddit and ask if anyone would be interested in starting a group with you. Unfortunately I've never had to set up a group from scratch before, so my experience here is lacking. If anyone else can provide guidance here, please do.
Organizing events

So you've got a place to play. I'm going to assume it's at an LGS for the rest of this discussion. If there is already a commander night available you're set. If there isn't a night, you'll need to help advise the store owner(s) on a good night. From experience, Saturday nights tend to give the best attendance, with Sunday being a close second. Saturday at 6:30 PM gives people time to eat, they likely won't be working that day, and there's no work the next day so people can stay later. Perfect. The other thing you need to watch for when picking a day is if there are other major events happening that day. You don't want to have to fight for seating space. Pioneer and Standard also tend to have high attendance (Commander is often the biggest for LGS attendance). Tabletop games like Warhammer and X-Wing, by nature, take up a lot of tables. If space is going to be an issue, you're best off picking another night.

Next you're going to want to build up the group. More people means a wider array of decks. With enough people, there will be a place for every deck, regardless of power level. There will be more people able to give deck-building advice, more people to have fun with, and more people supporting the game store. There are a number of things you can do to entice more people to come. First, and this is kinda dumb, but it works...

Make a poster.

Posters get the word out. A strategically placed letter-size poster will get people's attention. It's very important that "Commander" is the biggest word on the poster, so that's the first thing people read, immediately queuing their interest. You also need to include the location, date and time, whether there is an entry fee or not, and what prizes are available (if any). For commander events I recommend that you make it door prizes where you have a chance of winning just for showing up, not for winning games. When people are playing for prizes, it tends to breed toxicity. Back to posters, you'll want to place the posters at head-height in strategic locations. The best places are:

  • The front door
  • Bathroom door, on the inside
  • On the drink fridge door

Always ask the store owners before placing a poster. Getting them to help with advertising the event will go a long way. Another thing they can help with is providing promo cards and packs. Store end up accumulating a bunch of promo stuff to give away. Making those a door prize is another incentive for showing up. The other thing you can do is offer a promo pack to anyone who introduces a new player to the group. Then that person might introduce people they know so they can get a pack, and so on.

In other words, turn the event into a pyramid scheme.

The last thing that I would do to add more people to the group is that I would go to other local game stores and "recruit" other people. Not every store has a healthy customer base, but there are almost always some good people there. I would go to these places, play some games, identify who the nice people are, and then invite them to my playgroup. I've managed to remove a number of people from these toxic groups and incorporated them into our group. So far, everyone that has made the switch has said that this group is much better.

Community Wellbeing

Once you have the group together, you want to focus on cultivating a healthy environment. You want the store to feel like a second home, where everyone looks out for each other. Respect the rules of the store and don't harass the employees. Cleaning up after yourselves goes a long way. We were allowed to throw big potluck events because the staff knew that we would clean up after ourselves. When you're done for the night, wiping down the tables and stacking the chairs can make a world of difference. I'm also going to take a moment to rant about something. Men, clean off the toilet bowl. You can learn to aim better, you can sit down to urinate, or you can use the toilet paper that is conveniently nearby to clean up your mess. You don't have any excuses. Also remember that personal hygiene is important and it's something that MtG players have a bad reputation with. Be sure to shower and wear deodorant before going to the event.

If you're a more experienced commander player, be sure to lend a hand to the newer and inexperienced players. There will always be people that need deck-building help. Be welcoming to new people, don't be an elitist. More often than not, first-timers are really shy. If you see someone standing or sitting alone, you need to be the one to approach them. Keep it simple at first. "Are you here for Commander?" "Come join us at this table." If you see someone struggling to make a stronger deck, give them a hand.

Once the group gets bigger (~15 regular attendees) it's a good idea to make a Discord server for the group (or to get your own channel(s) if the store has a Discord server). We tried using a Facebook group in the past, but being able to compartmentalize different conversations is super useful. There are a few channels that you will definitely want:

Announcements: upcoming events and deals that might interest the group.
General: Discussion for anything Magic related.
Deck-building advice: Self-explanatory.
Spoilers: Newest set spoilers.
Trades: Place where people can ask for a certain card, or show off the new cards they've opened.
Memes: Everyone likes a laugh.
Off-Topic: Non-magic related topics.

Dealing with toxicity

You're going to encounter all kinds of people when running events. Misogynists, racists, gatekeepers, homophobes, and more; you don't have to tolerate any of these people. No store owner in their right mind wants to have their store earn that kind of reputation. I've been to stores with the reputation of having unfriendly players. Most of them aren't in business anymore. You want your store to be a safe space free of discrimination. It is up to the players to make it this way. I've often heard the expression that "trash attracts trash" but I don't think this is true. Toxic people will approach anyone. The difference is whether or not you let them stay.

There was a topic about toxic players in the past. Sometimes people are just unpleasant and that makes things unpleasant for everyone else in attendance. Speaking up is the best thing to do in these situations. I'm a pretty confrontational person, but if you're not like that, get other people to back you up. Minor arguments and disagreements will often break out and you don't need to get involved every time. But if there is someone with repetitive bad behaviour, something should be done about it. Unfortunately this is another part where I have a bit of a disconnect. I have no problem telling people off and it has helped keep away a lot of toxic behaviours. You might not be the same. If anyone else has some good advice to dealing with toxicity, please post it below.

Closing remarks

I can't guarantee that all of this will make you a perfect playgroup, but I'm hoping it's at least somewhat helpful. Commander is the largest format in number of players and the multiplayer aspect makes it more social than other formats.  A good playgroup goes a long way. This pandemic is nearly over and there is going to be one hell of a party. We had a full year of amazing commander products that we haven't been able to use yet. Make sure you have the right people by your side.


  • Patron
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1530
  • Karma: 324
    • View Profile
  • Decks
Re: Getting people to join your playgroup
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2021, 04:31:33 pm »
Thanks for the insight Morgantor.

To iterate on a few things. Our playgroups use Thursday nights from 6 till close which is 10:00 clock now which the owner extended the closing time because we asked and there is a larger number of people who show up. Our Saturday group starts at Noon and goes to close which is 6 pm. However on Saturdays on 2 of our facebook pages I do a shout out asking "Who is showing up today to play commander". One page is both playgroups page for commander and the other is the LGS page. New players are now starting to show up as well. When this happens we ask what are you looking for in commander because there is a diversity of players and decks. We explain that there are those who can play Cedh, those who play casually, and everything in between. We also help those new and starting out on how to build a deck. Giving them a guide to how we started out. Sometimes we'll give a card or cards to those players who can use certain cards. Granted they are low priced cards but it gets them going in the right direction of what they want their deck to be doing.

I do agree that like your group we do clean up after ourselves and that will always go a long way. Push our chairs back in, pick up any and all trash and throw it away. There is no reason that we should act like slobs.

As for toxic players. We just won't tolerate it or we just simply won't join you in any pod group. Toxicity has no place in our playgroups.

Our lgs store is smaller so if an employee is playing with us we don't bother asking them to do anything related to the store. The person behind the counter we know is the person who is running the store at that day.
A legend in my own mind or so what the voices keep telling me