What I Love About Magic: The Content

Posted in Ways to Play on February 15, 2017

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

Back in the day, there was a popular service called AOL Instant Messenger—the innovative name for America Online's personal messaging application. When I attended college, that was cutting-edge communication. I could instantly, and freely, ping any one of my friends at their computer, and they could reach me too.

"They're printing new dual lands!"

That's (more or less) the message that first got me to read Magic content. You see, when Temple Garden was revealed, there were no "shock lands" yet. The idea of any land with multiple basic land types was limited to those that came in Magic's earliest days. My friend linked me to the reveal on DailyMTG.com—something I didn't know existed.

I first saw what would become a defining card cycle for the game, but also stepped through a window to a world of reading I never imagined. There were articles about multiplayer games and formats, drafting and evaluating cards, building decks with the barest collection, finding the best deck in a format, and so much more.

I found Mark Rosewater and his quest to write everything about making everything Magic in his weekly design column. I first read development's weekly article thanks to Aaron Forsythe's pithy and informative words. I was gobsmacked at finding so much Magic packed into one space.

And that was just the tip of a well-established world of Magic content.

Content for Content

The history of Magic content goes back further than my time with the game. I can safely assume that before the game was even released, those playtesting it with creator Richard Garfield had to be scribbling ideas for decks onto paper and sharing it with each other. Magic content is so vast and broad an idea that any meager thousand-odd-word article about it will fall short of capturing it all. While the era of websites creating hubs of content and creators began with the Magic Dojo, today's dizzying array of sites and selections of Magic content provides an incredible selection and variety.

I love Magic content because it so well reflects Magic, driven by personal choices and personal passions. Just like there is a Magic card or theme or strategy or format for everyone, so too is there Magic content for everyone—and it's made by anyone.

My journey to DailyMTG led to more. StarCityGames.com and Magic.TCGplayer.com became must-visit-every-day places to see what many of the game's greatest players were thinking. Online forums for Magic came, too, where I could talk about previewed cards—and read other players' obviously terrible opinions of them. I found more articles and sites that presented their own opinions. YouTube's individual-driven videos led to the pioneering of Magic video content with The Magic Show. Twitter erupted into the world, and I could instantly connect with other Magic players around the globe, getting linked to an avalanche of additional content.

I even put my own hat on, writing about playing the game for passion and friends. It's then that I caught a lucky break with Kelly Digges, at the time the editor-in-chief of DailyMTG; Serious Fun—the "casual players' column" on the official Magic website—followed.

Magic content is a bit like booster drafting: it's an ephemeral experience. Unlike Gatherer, there's no master database of every piece of Magic content ever created. Once its moment has passed, there are few ways to find older articles. Over the years, sites have shuffled handles, losing their legacy of content and becoming something new. Sites have closed, instantly dissolving a treasure trove of work. Authors have taken down things they produced, choosing to remove their Magic life from Google's ever-present search engine.

Magic content was historically produced with urgency. Competitive formats and the latest decks—two things that were constantly being refreshed—were only useful before the next thing came along. Weekly columns, still a staple today, constantly churned.

Every day was something new.

Magic content evolved, of course. As the demand for live video grew, live streaming of Magic events started. The demand for more content grew as the size of the community did, and with an unlimited appetite for content, I was tapped to help facilitate the creation of more. Before Gathering Magic was Gathering Magic—before Trick Jarrett replaced Kelly Digges leading DailyMTG, I began writing a second column and met some lifelong friends looking to create their own Magic content.

Just like playing games of Magic, working with someone to create Magic content or enjoying their content over time leads to bonds. I can name dozens of people I've "met" through Magic content, many of whom I've never shared a single game with, but I know what they do and do not like. I know the kinds of cards they will play and why. I know what they struggle with and seek most.

And, of course, I've actually met people through content as well. I've met Rich Castle—longtime producer for Inside the Deck—and his mom (and her amazing cats) through staying at his house in Florida. I go to PAX East every year, thanks in large part to the mutual generosity shared with Bruce Richard—who also wrote and continues to write about Magic. There are plenty of couches for me to crash on in Seattle thanks to connections made over weeks of words on websites neither of us visit anymore. In New York City, San Diego, and Madison in the United States, and in places across Europe and the rest of the world, I know people I consider friends who I only connected with through Magic content.

Connecting for Content

Enjoying content. Creating content. It's a feedback loop YouTubers and other creators live by today, and it's remained mostly unchanged through the years. Anyone who's sat in the editorial role of a site knows both sides matter most.

In time, my writing at Gathering Magic became leading Gathering Magic, and the network of amazing people I knew continued to grow. Now I didn't just see what was created every week, but tried to understand how others connected to it as well. Why did certain authors and topics return to the community consciousness regularly? Why did certain formats and article styles garner more readers than others?

How do I help someone express their passion for Magic in ways that delighted both them and the audience they were creating for?

Big questions led to bigger connections. Alex Ullman, Carlos Gutierrez, and Blake Rasmussen were three writers I connected with through editing a site. Now the former two help edit Gathering Magic, and the lattermost helps edit me in kind here on DailyMTG. All three have been influential to me as a content creator and as a person. I've been invited to weddings, invited them to gatherings of friends, and shared much more than what getting to the bottom of words about Magic cards requires.

Others passionate about Magic were empowered by a willingness to "give them a chance" to create content. Flavor text writers like MJ Scott and Ant Tessitore wrote about flavor and Magic story first. Seeing professional players like Gerry Thompson and Melissa DeTora demonstrate their skill, analysis, and ability to communicate ideas about Magic led to their opportunities on the development team for the game—a tradition older than Aaron Forsythe's tenure.

I love making that growth possible.

All these things I love about content—the people, the topics, the passions—are more than just things to enjoy and consume. Most content passes like a summer breeze, but the places it takes people are far more permanent. The Professor and Wedge are the first to come to mind when I think about Magic videos. I can't imagine learning to draft a new set without Marshall Sutcliffe's sultry breakdowns on the Limited Resources podcast. And classics like Rosewater's column and the development column—helmed today by yet another friend-through-Magic, Sam Stoddard—continue to be go-to content every week.

This Is Content

I could link you to the seminal pieces of content about topics in Magic. I could embed the YouTube videos that stand out to me from years to viewing. I could find articles that were a turning point in how I created my own content.

But what I love about Magic content most is how everyone loves it in their own ways, too.

Communities like Reddit host a variety of subreddits dedicated to different aspects of the game. Different YouTubers and Twitch streamers and sites cater to different audiences and content preferences. The diversity of personalization that Magic empowers carries through to the audiences and content created for them. The specifics of what I love about Magic content are just that: my own. What you love might overlap, but I'll bet there's something you love that I don't.

Magic content, like Magic itself, has something for everyone—and can also be created by anyone because of the love for Magic. It's the greatest love in the game I know.

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