Great Magic Writing of the Week, June 30

A staggering amount of Magic content is published each day each day on a plethora of content sites, blogs, podcasts, and discussion forums. No matter how honest an effort you make, it's easy to fall behind and miss incredible articles because there just isn't enough time to read everything.

To that end, we've collected some of the best articles of the week covering a broad range of topics. If you're looking for articles, these are the ones you don't want to miss!

On Magic Coverage

What does Magic do right? Where is there room for improvement? This week we saw four articles by John Butler detailing how he thinks the coverage can be improved to help grow the viewer base. This four-part article may have some controversial points, but it has started discussions that can only lead to improvement of the viewer experience and the growth of the game. Read the articles and share your opinions; what do you think can be improved? John Butler - How to Improve Magic Coverage: Part One, Two, Three, and Four

In four parts, I will analyze Magic coverage[1] as if I were a consulting team brought in to increase the value of the Pro Tour to Wizards. To be fair, I wasn't a media consultant; my job was analyzing the tax and intellectual property ramifications of proposed changes to the tour broadcasts and structures. That said, I read the work of those consultants often for five or six years. I believe that the easiest way to break this down is in four parts:

Part One: Analyze current coverage from a statistical standpoint to see if there is even a problem to be fixed.

Part Two: Analyze long-term perspective shifts that need to occur at Wizards of the Coast to fix Organized Play and coverage.

Part Three: Without any additional monetary investment from Wizards of the Coast, I will describe what I would recommend to improve Organized Play and coverage in 2014.

Part Four: I will present a series of "quick-hit" fixes that would drastically improve coverage in the short term even without the structural and perspective changes I'm calling for in the first three parts of the article.

My goal with this series is twofold. First, to totally change the perspective on Magic coverage; second, to get discussion in terms of coverage evaluation focused on numbers rather than intangible goals. Please note that this entire approach will be how we approached it during a consultancy—by the numbers. The viewership statistics and related other data will tell us what needs to change if we listen to what those statistics have to say. As the old saying goes:

If you can't measure it, you can't improve it.

On Covering Vegas

What goes in to covering the biggest event in Magic history? In this article Blake Rasmussen shares the story of his weekend at Grand Prix Las Vegas as part of the coverage team, and contrasts this with some of his experiences at smaller events. If you want to know what goes on behind the scenes to make Grand Prix coverage happen, this is a great place to start. Blake Rasmussen (@blakepr) - Covering Vegas

I’ve been doing text coverage for Wizards of the Coast for a few years now and been doing it regularly for the last two. I’ve covered tournaments from Japan to Brazil to Philadelphia. I’ve been stranded during Grand Prix Hurricane (Philadelphia) and was witness to the first ever Players Championship. I’ve had beers with Pro Tour Champions and gamed for meals with, well, other Pro Tour Champions.And last weekend, I covered the largest trading card tournament ever held.

Grand Prix Las Vegas was, in some ways, exactly like every other Grand Prix. We called feature matches, wrote some analyses, interviewed pros, and tracked down stories. We wrote articles, and when we finished one, we started working on the next. It was more or less business as usual.

But in many ways, some of which you can read about on the official coverage page, Grand Prix Las Vegas was like no tournament I’ve ever been to before.

Obviously, the size was the big story. I’m used to large Grands Prix, having covered several two-thousand-plus-person tournaments. The throbbing masses that make up those spectacles and the organization necessary to keep things running smoothly have always been something to behold.

Vegas, however, was something else.

On Vegas and Infographics

Last weekend a record-shattering 4,500 players showed up to play Modern Masters Limited in Las Vegas. Want to know more? James Arnold and Nate Price teamed up to bring you some incredible details, statistics and trivia from this landmark event in Magic history. James Arnold (@thatguyjames2) - Grand Prix Las Vegas - An Infographic

On Young Pyromancer

Early on in the Magic 2014 spoiler season, Young Pyromancer is being heralded as the Red Tarmogoyf, Stoneforge Mystic, or Dark Confidant. Caleb Durward isn't quite ready to buy the hype, but is very optimistic about the power of Young Pyromancer. In this article, he explores a few shells that this new two-drop could fit into in both Legacy and Modern. Caleb Durward (@CalebDMTG)- The Young and the On Fire

I remember when Talrand, Sky Summoner was first spoiled. At the time, I had some small hope it would be Eternal playable, and even tested a copy in Vintage Gush combo, where it served as a reasonable backup win condition when Tendrils of Agony wasn’t an option. Even there, with all of the format’s fast mana and card draw, it was too clunky.The problem with Talrand in Legacy is that any deck full of spells that wants a 2UU finisher is better off with Jace.

While Young Pyromancer doesn’t pitch to Force of Will, it does come down early enough to be useful. Imagine casting a Cabal Therapy or Punishing Fire with this guy on the board. Historically, cheap creatures with unimpressive stats have seen play if they provide some crazy value. Unlike Dark Confidant, Pyromancer doesn’t draw a card every turn, but a free 1/1 in play is better than a random card if your deck is able to convert that board presence into a win.

On Magic Podcasts

What does it take to make a good Magic podcast? What are some of the awesome casts that you might want to add to your rotation? These are the questions that Heather "revised angel" Lafferty tries to answer this week, while sharing a very personal story that shows just how important a strong community can be. If you've been thinking of starting a podcast of your own, read this, take Heather's lessons to heart, and get started. You could just change someone's life. Heather Lafferty (@revisedangel) - The Night a Magic Podcast Saved My Life

I have listened to the Magical voices on deep nights, after the worst of calls, through long hospital stays with my daughter, and while soaking in the sunshine. I am a better player because I listen. I’m a happier person when I am surrounded by people who love our game so much they decide to take time out of their lives to record their thoughts, knowledge, and friendship. I can’t tell you what podcast you should listen to. I don’t know if you play Cube, Commander, if you want a little rebel in your earbuds or prefer something more refined. You might just want to laugh. Maybe you are more scholarly. But whatever you are after, I promise there is at least one MTG podcast out there for you.

On Surviving Slivers

Slivers got revamped for Magic 2014, but are they still as dangerous as before? Jennifer Clarke Wilkes shares the story of a shapeshifter who explores a hive for the sake of studying these new creatures. How have they adapted to this new environment? Are they still as dangerous as they were before? There's only one way to find out. Jennifer Clarke Wilkes - Prisoner of the Skep; or, How I Encountered the Slivers—and Lived to Tell the Tale!

A seeming eternity of struggling through the savagery of a benighted land at last brought me to the borders of the territory I had sought for so long. Ragged, starving, and harried by bloodsucking vermin of every description, I no longer resembled the bold adventurer who had set out to find glory and fortune in the wide wilderness. Shelter and sustenance were my primary needs now.

I surveyed my surroundings. I had come at last to the shores of the Eastern Sea, an ill-starred realm that had seen much conflict in past ages. The echoes of ancient mage wars still rang here, preserved in weird formations of unnatural stone and amber shapes that sprouted like some unholy forest from the wave-battered cliffs. Every rock, it seemed, held ancient monsters birthed in a primordial chaos, now preserved as eternal shadows in the tortured earth.

Strange marks scarred the stones and the thin, sour soil. They resembled the scars left by beasts to mark their territory, as bruins claw the trees. But these bore no resemblance to any spoor I had encountered in my many expeditions, and I began to fear I was among beings unlike anything familiar. The scoring seemed to change midway through an individual's passage, growing deeper and farther apart, then nearly vanishing as they became finer and smaller. I had crouched down by a cliff to examine a set of tracks more closely, reaching to extract my notebook and pen so as to record them with as much exactitude as I could, when a sound from above alerted me to danger. I started to look up.

Too late.

I was struck with all the weight of a basher's cudgel, and all sensibility fled for a time.

On Heroes in Magic

Sometimes we just have to give credit where it is due. The Magic community has some truly incredible members who do awesome things for the game and those of us who follow it. Mike Ringer, affectionately known as RobotLarge on the internets, recently started his Hero's Resolve column, where he takes the time to recognize the people who do an incredible job of representing our community and who make Magic as awesome as it is. One such person is Heather Lafferty, the RevisedAngel herself, and we can all take a moment to appreciate and learn from her how we can make Magic more awesome. Mike Ringer (@robotlarge) - Hero's Resolve #2

Heather Lafferty isn’t just an Angel, she’s a Magic the Gathering Hero.

If you’re as immersed in the online community for Magic the Gathering as much as I am you’ll know Heather as the Community Manager for the website, inventor of the article series “20 Tweets”, or most likely as @Revisedangel on Twitter. She’s one of the nicest people on Twitter so if you’re not following her, you should be.
Like most of us, there are many facets to Heather. The two that attracted me to following her Twitter account was her love of the Magic community, and her job. Heather loves Magic. It’s something she’s really passionate about. More than that though, it’s clear that she loves the community as well. That’s something I can relate to. I’m very passionate about community building. I can also relate somewhat to her job. Heather is an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician). As someone who also wears a uniform for a living, there is an unspoken bond that exists.

Being an EMT in Las Vegas, is no doubt a tough job. Recently, Heather shared a bit of just how bad it can be on her Tumblr account. Working as an EMT is obviously not just mentally stressful, but physically as well.

If you have suggestions for next week's recap you can mention us on Twitter, or share throughout the week in the comments below.