Commander has always been the format that brings players together. Whether you’re playing in your dining room or at your local gaming shop, Commander players share a sense of community that can be lost in other formats. The people behind the upstate New York Commander Sealed convention are bringing that feeling of unity to one of the largest independent conventions in the United States this September 15-17 in Rochester, NY.

Much of the event is focused on bringing players together for the wonderfully chaotic and aptly named Commander Sealed event. Imagined by founder Dean Gootee back in 2019, the event is a way to focus the goodwill of a community built around Magic into helping a good cause. This year, Commander Sealed is channeling its fundraising efforts to two charities, The Trevor Project and Trans Lifeline.

Backed by local gaming shop Just Games, Commander Sealed continues a tradition of helping people of all needs and backgrounds under the shared spirit of the player’s favorite card game.

More Than Just A Magic Event

For 2022’s Commander Sealed, the folks behind the event, together with players, raised over $15,000 for the Trevor Project, more than tripling the amount earned in 2021. This year, Commander Sealed is looking to outdo themselves once again, this time raising funds for two charities at the same time with a new Dueling Charity event.

Two fundraising events happening simultaneously, with vendors and content creators as well as players and people watching from the stream funneling their donations to whichever charity resonates with them the most. There are also tons of side events running over the course of the convention, with opportunities for players to play with streamers and content creators.

Live stream viewers can influence which tournament has screen time by donating to the charity of their choice, with the leading charity getting screen time once the tournament enters the final rounds. The team behind Commander Sealed is hoping to make the viewing experience a little more engaging for those watching by keeping players onscreen connected to microphones and letting the table talk come through so players can follow along at home.

Toward the end of the three-day convention, host of the event and charming force of positivity Gunnar Wuher is getting a special tattoo by Counterspell Tattoos, also picked by the livestream’s chat donations, who will be running a booth all weekend long.

Once you’re done getting your latest ink, you can join another major highlight of the event: the charity auction. Up for grabs this year are complete sets, various sealed products, artists’ proofs, playmats, and even highly exclusive art pieces, like Eli Minaya’s original sketch of the card Vivien’s Talent from March of the Machine.  Also up for auction is an original Kaja Foglio painting, the first one they have done in more than 15 years.

Both charities will come out on top after this event if last year’s success is any indicator of the community’s desire to help out. The first charity to hit its fundraising goal, a $12,000 goal for both charities, gets all players a special Treasure token and the knowledge that their support is helping thousands across the nation.

Since its formation back in 2019, Commander Sealed has been working to become one of the largest supporters of LGBTQ+ and Woman’s Rights in the Magic ecosystem. Earlier this year, in celebration of Pride Month, Commander Sealed featured a person, aspect, or prominent event about pioneers in Woman’s Rights and LGBTQ+ movements every day on their social media accounts.

These highlights were inspired by Rochester’s own civil rights leaders, Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony. Rochester has a long history of backing major movements, with the city celebrating its Pride parade in July instead of June to ensure that citizens can attend parades in other cities like Toronto and New York City.

This year, Commander Sealed hosted its first Pegasus Pride Awards, giving three players free entry to the Main Event who otherwise would not have been able to attend. Billie, Ruby, and Jordan all won free entries, as well as a guest appearance on a stream hosted by Commander Sealed Guest Emmara, Goddes of Blunder.

Cosplay fans have a special red carpet event happening on Sunday. Hosted by k0ppk0pp and judged by MagicCon Minneapolis best-in-show winner Mishamigo, the event is a grand way to highlight some of the most creative and talented attendees to the convention.

Rebuilding From COVID’s Aftermath

With support from Just Games Rochester, Commander Sealed is working to ensure everyone has a safe space to play. Just Games has a long history of looking out for its players, shifting to using Spelltable to host games while players were safely quarantining at home. Bringing their knowledge of tournament organization and social distancing needs to Commander Sealed, Just Games has done everything it can to provide a safe environment for players.

If you plan on meeting lots of other players or competing in several events, following local, state, and federal recommendations is the best way to keep you and other players safe. Commander Sealed encourages anyone who wishes to wear a mask to do so. Other ways to keep yourself and others safe include being up to date on vaccines, washing your hands frequently with soap and water, and trying to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with your hands as much as possible or until you get a chance to wash your hands.

If you have questions about what else you can do, Commander Sealed has a page set up to check on COVID-19 policies, and you can always call the store at 585-586-0586 and speak with staff directly.

Sharing The Experience Through Streaming

As fun as it can be to tune into a stream of an event, there’s always a little bit of a disconnect that viewers are going to experience. The host of the event, Gunnar Wuher, wants to bring players and viewers together for Commander Sealed, bringing a more personal approach to streaming events than many other events have tried in the past.

“We understand that there are people in our community who cannot attend these sorts of events due to financial burden or lack of Transportation,” Wuher said when asked about how big a role streaming is going to play for the convention. “I know plenty of people who don’t even have the PTO to be able to take the weekend off and attend. Last year, I saw that Alan from Mental Misplay was doing a live stream of the finals. I have had experience with doing live streams previously and decided that I would try to facilitate to the best of my ability the biggest live stream I could muster.”

Wuher and the team over at Commander Sealed want to take all parts of the convention to viewers across the world, helping to make the event more relatable to every person watching. “I especially want to make sure that they can have an opportunity to attend an event as unique as this.”

“Which is why we have a roving reporter who will do interviews and show off what people would be missing had they not attended themselves. We hope that this viewing experience will bring you into the room and show you the most important things that are going on during this weekend.”

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