Mike McArtor Memorial
Mike McArtor, copy editor of DailyMTG.com, coworker, friend, and one of the best men you could ever hope to know, died on Monday.
Mike loved his job. He loved editing, he loved Magic, his friends, and his chickens, not necessarily in that order. If you've read anything on this website over the past several years, then you've seen Mike's work. Since Mike started, no word went out to the public without Mike first looking it over twenty different ways, making sure Dragons was capitalized (except when it's not) and we were correctly using Edition, or not. He was one of the silent giants of the Magic community.
I want to share my favorite story about Mike, one that happened just last week. We were playing a social deception game that involved lying and obfuscation, things Mike hated. He was honest to a fault. We played one round, and both he and I were good guys. That he was the good guy was practically a given.
For the second game, I once again thought he was a good guy. He said something that made it seem he was good, and in all my time with Mike, he had never once lied, never deceived. He would make pacts in Risk Legacy and then keep them for the entire game, no matter how far ahead he was. A promise was a promise and lying wasn't a thing he did.
So imagine my surprise after I convinced the entire table that there was zero chance Mike was a villain that he turned out to have actually been one of the bad guys in the game. He revealed his hands—carefully hidden under the table—after the game: they were shaking and his palms were sweaty. That's how nervous the whole ordeal had made him.
I was proud of him. It had been a masterful con. But Mike? Mike felt bad. He felt bad for deceiving me. That was the game, but it physically hurt him to lie to a friend, even if it was just for a game.
I still don't know how to write this. I'm not doing him justice. I just want my friend back, correcting my words and reassuring me that everything in editorial has been handed off, the last thing he said to me. It was important to him that his job was done before he did anything even remotely personal.
So it might take us a bit to get up and get our breath back. Mike was the backbone of DailyMTG.com, and he's simply not replaceable. Today and tomorrow, we're running no other articles. We'll return on Friday.
In the meantime, those of us who worked with him, gamed with him, and stood with him every day want to say a few words.
We just wish he were here to edit them.
–Blake Rasmussen, DailyMTG.com content manager
As far as I can tell, this is only the second time words I have written will appear on DailyMTG.com without first passing through the hands of Mike McArtor. The first time was during one of his very rare bits of vacation, and now this.
Mike and I started at Wizards on the same day. We were hired in 2011 as a team. I brought the Magic knowledge and the broader content management vision; he had the knowledge of how English worked. Individually, both of us would have failed at our new job, but together we formed a symbiotic pairing which allowed us to excel.
It's unbelievable for me to think that he's gone. Just yesterday, I asked him to edit a presentation for me. Sunday, we spent the day together and drafted with the global community team. He drafted the most emblematic Mike McArtor deck I can think of during our Conspiracy draft. Over the years we've played perhaps hundreds of games of Magic. And then this happens.
Yesterday, Blake and I both knew something had to be wrong. Mike had gone to an afternoon appointment, but normally he returned like clockwork. If something was going to delay him he would let us know. Both of us. Twice, probably. So when he didn't turn back up and we couldn't get a hold of him, Blake and I were concerned. I felt very uneasy leaving the office and seeing his backpack and laptop still sitting on his desk and chair. I drove by his house on the off chance he had just gone home ill. So when I got the call that he had died, I wasn't completely shocked. It literally had to be something of nearly that level for him to have simply disappeared on us.
There was no question that DailyMTG.com had to go dark in his honor. There was simply no other way for it. He loved this site, what it stood for, the writers and the readers. Mike would have continued editing DailyMTG.com for years to come. This was the perfect job for him; a continually changing editorial challenge with new content and new rules.
Never have I seen a person get as excited as Mike when we would learn something, or change something. Whether it was how to properly handle Ashiok (a topic which Mike wrote a full page on for our editorial manual) or even just working with legal to ensure that we properly titled our products in articles. Mike loved this job.
While Mike strove to be invisible as an editor, he most certainly was not to us, and it will be the invisible marks, rather than the editorial ones, he left on all of us which I will carry with me forever.
I only knew Mike McArtor for a bit more than six months—half a year.
Such an insignificant span of time. But the impact he had on me is all out of proportion to the number of days or hours he and I spent together. It took, seemingly, no time whatsoever to recognize his knowledge and wisdom, his compassion and understanding, his wit and seemingly irrepressible sense of whimsy. It truly was one of those instances where it felt like I had known him for years immediately after meeting him. I've had a few of those in my life and every one of those people became friends. And I'm exceedingly particular about whom I call "friend"—I have a large acquaintance, but very, very few friends. I don't doubt that Mike would have been one of the first new friends I made in something more than a decade.
I envy everyone who knew him longer than I did. And at the same time, my heart goes out to them because I cannot help believing that their sense of loss so greatly exceeds my own.
But there's also a very selfish part of me that knows that not a day will pass wherein I won't hate that I didn't have more time with him. More time to learn from him. More time to laugh with him. More time to play and tease and be the butt of his jokes and share stupid or bizarre memes from The Interwebz or just the latest trivia about animé….
People speak of "sudden, tragic deaths" and in all honesty, I still have difficulty believing and emotionally accepting the knowledge that he won't be around; that I won't get to see him smile and wave and say, "Hi!"
I almost dread the day when I see something and think, "I can't wait to share that with Mike!" And remember that I can't. I dread it because it will mean time has made me force the understanding that he's gone far enough back in my mind that I've forgotten for a moment. But I very selfishly yearn for that as well, because
I keep thinking of things I could write, but I don't think I can add much to what I've already written that wouldn't be little more than repeating feelings I've already expressed. And what kind of editor really wants to indulge in redundancy?
I'll indulge in it only so far as saying, "I'll miss you, Mike. Every
–Chuck Kim, content specialist and Mike's Minion (right-hand assistant copy editor)
I wept as I drove home, the news hitting me that one of my dearest friends and coworkers at Wizards, Mike McArtor, passed away.
Mike McArtor was one of the best I've ever been blessed to work with. We both started at Wizards around the same time and we both shared the same passion and excitement to be working on something that was such a part of our lives. Through the years that I've worked with him, we shared many conversations about the lore, insane card combinations, etymology, chickens, em-dashes and their uses, and his favorite Planeswalker, Elspeth.
Mike always made time to speak with me or answer questions, no matter how busy he was. Mike was one of the kindest, most soft-spoken men anyone could meet. Mike loved words and if you asked him about any given rule of the English language, he would respond, "Do you have about 20 minutes?"
It wasn't uncommon for an email from him to randomly have a picture of a kitten, chicken, gif, or a pun inside it. Mike had an amazing sense of humor, and his humor always would come seemingly when everyone least expected, but most needed it. I feel so blessed to have known him and I'm sure everyone who has been touched by him in their lives feels that way as well. He's helped me be a better person in many ways.
Mike, I will miss you my friend. I hope that as you move onto the next plane, you will be at peace.
–John Stone, associate technology producer
I knew everyone was going to write nice stories about Mike, so I thought, What if I wrote a mean one?" What if I thought of the worst interaction I ever had with him and wrote about that? The problem was there wasn't any. I literally never had a bad interaction with Mike. He's been my editor for four years and every single interaction with him has been nothing but wonderful.
Mike was happy, helpful and professional. He loved editing and he loved words and he loved helping people. When I heard from Mike it was always one of a handful of things:
- I had messed something up and Mike would politely say, "I think you meant __________ ."
- I was trying to do something weird and Mike would say, "Let me make sure I understand what you want to do."
- He would say, "I need more podcasts."
The third message meant that I had to go up to Mike's desk with my thumb drive so he could download another two months of podcasts. That's the time I most often got to see Mike in person as most of our interactions were in email or on the phone. While my podcasts would download, he and I would always chat. The fact that I never get to do that again rips me apart. There are so few people as good and honorable as Mike that losing one early seems unfathomable.
So thank you Mike, for always making me look good and doing it with a smile. You were my favorite editor (don't tell the others) and I will miss you dearly.
Mike edited my articles, but I pretty quickly could tell that he wasn't just editing them. He loved reading about Magic, and one of the highlights of sending him my articles was when he responded about how he loved the deck I was talking about, or how he hoped to see a particular card be good, and often within minutes. That enthusiasm carried over into his work, and every interaction I had with him was incredibly positive, even while he was simultaneously being just as effective at getting the actual work part done.
I had the fortune of getting to meet Mike in person at Pro Tour Magic 2015 in Portland, and we talked about Magic, chickens, and more. I am really glad I had the chance to meet him, and at the same time am equally sad that it will never happen again. My heart goes out to his family, his friends, and his coworkers. These groups overlap greatly, and I'm proud that I am a member of two of them.
Tall, lean, with a pony tail and disarming grin: It wasn't the mental image I had concocted for Mike, but after talking with him a few minutes it was clear I had the real deal. Gen Con 2012 was where the first World Magic Cup took place, and the entire crew of Wizards folks out running the coverage included him. That was where I first met Mike personally, where we played a several games of Commander with other Magic luminaries.
Mike lost every game, not close, but you'd be hard-pressed to tell he didn't actually win them.
That's the Mike I'll never forget, and will fondly recall in the years and stories to come. Our weekly email banter when I submitted articles was something I looked forward to, and between his (multiple) threats to "call HR on me" and ending half of his replies to me with ":3" it was always a treat. Given his desk was so close to Trick Jarrett's, if I could make Mike laugh hard enough Trick would be curious enough to investigate—a real life two-for-one between friends.
While Mike's legendary friendliness and kindness has already showered social media and here, it was his clever wit that needs some spotlight. These are actual responses lifted from Mike's emails back to me over the years.
"Oh I've got today and tomorrow to come up with clever punishments for you, Mr. Stybs. :3"—in response to my apologies on being late with an article while en route to Seattle for the Pro Tour.
"In the great Pirate vs Ninja wars of the mid-00s I was (and remain) firmly on the ninja side."—in response to my love to pirates and Blake Rasmussen's hatred of "Talk Like a Pirate Day."
"What do you find most difficult about Commander?
Don't include this email. I'll just delete it."—in response to one of the weekly questions I ask in Command Tower.
It finally saw print, Mike. I wish you could delete it instead.
My relationship with Mike McArtor was mostly professional, but even at that, I felt I knew him well. It's because Mike made kindness, respect, and support for others an important part of his job. Each week, I'd send Mike an article, and each week I could expect a personalized and genuine message back—"Great job Reid, I learned a lot from this one!" or "Wow, this was a really fun topic!" (And this was after the hours of work I'd given him of putting my commas and apostrophes in all the right places!). After a while, it started to feel like I was simply writing an article each week for Mike to read. For me, writing for a friend instead of for a faceless audience took the anxiety out of what can otherwise be a stressful job. I think that Mike's small but heartfelt gestures made all our jobs a little easier and all our lives a little happier. We'll miss him. So thanks Mike, for your help and support.
Aside from the joys of saying Mike over and over again in the back-and-forth emails and assignment hand-offs, like so:
See attached for this week's Organized Play.
Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike. So many Mikes!
He was also a man who upheld the highest standard of editing. He was meticulous, had an eye for detail, but also knew when it was appropriate to keep the in-house style guide and Chicago Manual of Style enforced. He was the kind of editor who would catch your grammatical slip-up, and italicize that set name that you left without any formatting, but he also liked to say things such as, "It's totes adorbs," casually in both verbal and written form.
Outside of work, Mike was one of the warmest, friendliest, and most sincere human beings I've ever had the opportunity and fortune to meet. I hope he'd understand what it means to have the following published on the Magic website, unedited, as a testament to how critical he was to the operations of DailyMTG.com:
Mike, you were just packed full of lulz and other good feels. Like, so many peeps will totes remember all you've done as a Wizard and also as a human being. Live on in our memories, brohammer. :3
We'll miss you, dude.
–Mike Rosenberg, organized play content specialist
Mike McArtor was a coworker and teammate of mine, but he was much more than that. I had the distinct honor of calling him my friend as well. I am at a loss for words. My life is at a loss for his absence. Mike was a genuinely kind, sweet, and generous person, who I was lucky enough to get to know. His passing is tragic to me.
Rest in peace, Mike. I will miss watching Sailor Moon together, talking over lunches, and all the support, guidance, and animated gifs we shared. It breaks my heart that we will never be working together again like we hoped. I will miss you terribly and I mourn for all the plans we made together that will never be.
–Clara Lawryniuk, former DailyMTG.com localized content publisher
It seems apt that Mike had our professional relationship down to two words, a weekly exchange that embodied acknowledgment, humor, relief, and a hundred other subtleties that I will sorely miss: "Thanks Rich." It can only be a poor facsimile, but he would literally—yes, literally–want nothing more from me in return:
Mike McArtor was my first copy editor. As I hadn't previously written on a weekly basis, I needed some work. Mike was helpful without ever making me feel like I didn't belong. I always made it a point to stop by his desk when I visited Renton, and I'll miss my weekly email exchange with him dearly. He always asked about doing a live draft together, and I'm so glad we finally got the chance to do so. Thank you, Mike. We miss you already.
"Have you ever imagined having someone replying to your article submission with the following?
"Sorry it took me a few hours to reply. Thanks! This was a great read."
Because that was Mike McArtor to me.
Mike is one of the most unabashedly kind people I have ever met. Mike always had something nice to say and never seemed to be flustered despite the constant pressure of deadlines and editing. He would even take time out of his busy schedule on occasion to send me what he liked about my article, or how he had played with a deck I posted and enjoyed it. In my 10+ years of writing for Magic, Mike is one of the kindest people I've ever worked with. If Mike ended up going to the Egyptian afterlife, where they weigh your heart against a feather, that feather would have dropped its side of the scale so quickly that Anubis himself would have had his jaw lying on the floor.
Mike edited practically everything I've ever published on DailyMTG.com. A piece of him is inside all of those articles. Though he's gone now, his writing and editing advice to me will live on in my words forever. For the rest of my life, I'll feel his presence looming over my shoulder as I remember to capitalize deck names, that Journey into Nyx uses a lowercase I, and to try and break my article into as many sections as possible.
Goodbye, Mike. Thanks for your unconditional caring. Thanks for your eternal teachings. And, most of all, thanks for helping us to all strive to be better people. Wherever you are now, may there always be Commander opponents for you to play with.
My interactions with Mike McArtor were fairly limited. We had weekly email exchanges about my column and the sporadic office visit and hopefully a draft or Commander game. Yet Mike was able to make a tremendous impression on me as someone passionate about words and games, who loved his job, and who elevated the mood—and the quality of writing –of everyone who interacted with him on a weekly basis without ever seeming like he was trying to do so. I miss him already and my heart goes out to everyone who had the good fortune to interact with on a daily basis.
Every single exchange I ever had with Mike McArtor was constructive, useful, encouraging, and ultimately positive.
How many people can you say that about?
I never worked with someone who was so quick to drop a "mea culpa" when it wasn't his fault or so willing to go the extra lap on even a small task.
For someone with an ultimately narrow perspective (like YT) Mike was a hell of a sounding board. There is no doubt in my mind that together we did better by the audience than I ever could have without him.
Sunday was a perfect day.
The Community team had descended on Seattle from all over the world for Global Summit—a week of discussions and meetings on Magic's inner workings. It was tradition for the American community team to treat them all to a day on the town. In the moment, it was a fun casual outing with friends from near and far, but I cannot think of that day now as anything other than the ideal send-off for a wonderful friend.
Mike and I split some pineapple bread while casually exploring Pike Place Market that morning with our small group. Our team adventured into subterranean streets and secrets on the Seattle Underground tour. We sang 'Happy Birthday' to Community Manager Davidé in terrible Italian. And then, to top off the perfect day, we drafted Conspiracy.
Mike loved Conspiracy. I started at Wizards shortly after its release and learned very quickly that, beneath the surface of Mike's kind and apologetic nature, lurked a charmingly vicious streak that only manifested in multiplayer games. I remember that Sunday when Mike drafted the Mike-iest deck imaginable; a blue-black monstrosity with more counterspells than pity. He proceeded to systematically mill me out of the game without attacking once. I remember laughing uncontrollably as he forced me down to my last two cards, too amused by his mock-cruelty to be genuinely upset. I called him terrible names. He smiled and shrugged and reminded me I should not be surprised. Underneath Mike's gentle demeanor he was a black mage through and through, and he adored reminding us of this whenever possible. We all laughed and ordered more food and immediately started a rematch.
Mike lived for multiplayer games in every sense of the term. He was witty, gentle, but above all else I believe what he loved most was being and playing alongside his closest friends. A mutual love of the work and the game brought us together, but what made that draft and those games special was a genuine companionship we all shared.
I will never forget the last draft we shared, and I will never forget our dear friend. I'm happy that the last day he shared with us was—truly—a perfect one.
–Alison Luhrs, associate community manager for Magic Online