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The 2012 Gathering Magic Year in Review

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Hello!

It isn't often that I write something for Gathering Magic that begins colloquial, but it's called for here. If you don't know me, I'm Adam Styborski and I'm the Content Manager for Gathering Magic. What a Content Manager is or isn't can be confusing, so this is a sample of what I'm responsible for:

  • Coordination, approval, and posting of all content, including articles, videos and news
  • Distribution of all content through social media channels, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+
  • Travel and media coverage for major Magic events

There's more to the story, but that's everything you can see. I live, breathe, eat, and miss sleep over Magic. It's a sweet job I had the absolute privilege taking over last year. I hear good things have been happening for our former overlord, and I'm confident that his streak of awesome will continue.

So what does it mean to look back? I could pull a list of the top hits from the site, the articles that received the most traffic, or my opinion of what the top content from the year way. I'll give you some of these things, but my style has always been to leave you with the things I learned rather than just a list of links. In no particular order, let's begin.

Everybody Loves Spoilers

It isn't exactly a secret that in the world of Magic content the spoiler is king. Tidbits, rumors, grainy camera photos, implied information from interviews, and every variation of quotes out of context drive the heart of the Magic rumor mill. Everybody is excited for new cards in the game, so it's natural that just about every Magic website devotes attention to it. We have news posts, individual spoiler databases, and visual galleries (now posted on two social media platforms).

 

 

Seems pretty simple, right? Keeping you up to date on the latest Magic news was the first lesson I learned.

If there's no news posted, nothing's happening.

Throughout the holiday break it would have been easy to set the site on sleep mode and wait until the new year to get everything updated. By now, we know there were dramatic changes to Magic Online, a week of bonus Gatecrash previews, and a Grand Prix in Indianapolis.

While I serve as the Content Manager here, I also work a full time job as an analyst for a major US auto insurance company. I have a wife and daughter, as well as family and friends beyond that. Like you, I'm busy with life beside Magic. But ensuring that Gathering Magic continues to share what you would want to know is critical.

So I found help.

Call to Arms
Greg Haenig is a longstanding member of the community, and works to keep the latest Magic information flowing. He works tirelessly during spoiler season to keep things up to date. Without him, we wouldn't have one of the best spoilers out there. I can confidently share what we know because it's always ready for us.

Carlos Gutierrez joined Gathering Magic halfway through the year as our Associate Editor, helping me do all the front-facing things that you love. From the backend for unique Magic event coverage to pushing news posts and social media, his hands have smoothed out some of the rough edges I started with.

I couldn't do it alone, and these two have made my job both easier to achieve and reach farther than I could alone. All of this in the spirit of keeping everyone on the edge of Magic. I've seen the difference in the metrics I measure; I hope you've experienced the difference in the quality of information available.

Everybody has an Opinion

Which article received the greatest number of views this year? Devon Rule's review of the Return to Ravnica information from the San Diego Comic Con panel.

Okay, well that was more news than article. (In fact, I recall someone reaching out to say as much.) If we take away news and current event articles, the "winner" was Devon Rule's introduction to his 1,000 Comander decks project. A narrow runner up was Jesse Mason's critique of some art in Avacyn Restored.

What do these two articles have in common?

  • Giving creative freedom to writers leads to powerful content.
  • Everyone has an opinion and perspective to share.

Both of these articles are examples of where my editorial guidance leads. I want what writers are passionate about to be shared, empowering them to explore what they find fascinating. There are a lot of tidbits about writing I could share but one that strikes me among the truest is a quote by Cyril Connolley:

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.

It would be easy to recycle similar content over and over. Formats can be reused, but something new should be brought to bear each time. Some writers build and test a new deck each week. Others play different games to distill the knowledge they have. However, it's not as simple as leaving writers be.

Without good oversight, writing is terrible in hindsight.

Jesse is passionate about equality, prejudice, and how each of us interacts with others around us. Our social structure is defined by nuance and scripts, often hidden inside innocuous and ordinary things. What makes something ordinary, after all, is simple seeing it constantly. Frequency of appearance itself doesn't make something correct or natural when we're dealing with human perception.

Devon is passionate about Commander. He recently joined the Rules Committee for Commander and has deep insight into the format. He wanted to tap into the diversity of ways we play by creating a platform for everyone to share with him directly. He's finishing up his analysis of the decks across this year, and provided a discrete way to incorporate more Magic than many of us imagine seeing.

Rule of Law
The difference between these two isn't in the ultimate goal: Creating healthy discussion that will equip all of us to consider complex things better. The difference is that Devon's call to action and follow up dialogue was inclusive, inviting, and already shaped so that it encouraged engagement.

I was too green to really dive in to giving Jesse the type of feedback that would have helped a good discussion. Each writer has different skills, and handle topics in different ways. MJ Scott recently approached the culture around males in Magic art and it didn't cause a fervor. Her dialogue was as inviting as it was frank. I recently rejected a different article from a different writer because it needed more work to cover the topic it approached.

Because I hadn't learned enough about editing I didn't do my job in challenging Jesse to create something stronger. My mistake put the trust and support of you at risk. It's my job to ensure that even when we cover difficult topics, as we should be, that it's in a way you can approach.

You don't have agree, but you should feel comfortable trying to understand where someone else is coming from. That's where a good discussion can take place.

Eras New and Old

There were many changes in and from the Gathering Magic team. A few that I remember most:

There were other things too, such as Mike Cannon getting called up to DailyMTG.com and nearly every other writer delivering articles on time with boring consistency, but it's the diversity of people who have contributed to the site that I didn't appreciate at first.

Submissions from the community are a priority.

Writers change, and so must the site:

  • Natasha Lewis Harrington brought outside research to the complexity of the Magic community.
  • MJ Scott returned from beyond to bring us something different each week again.
  • Jason Alt looked at the community and how we can contribute back.
  • Max Sjoeblom helped lead team Finland to 9th at the World Magic Cup.
  • Jay Kirkman shared his passion for preconstructed deck design.

There were many more submissions and new faces across the year, but it's the mix of who, what, and why each of them write that strikes me. There are so many interesting things in Magic I couldn't begin to numerate them. Without active participation from the community there wouldn't be Gathering Magic. We've established that.

It's without listening to and sharing the excitement you bring that would leave us lost. As many things as interest you I hope you have authors and articles sharing the things that interest them. I can't thank all of you enough, but I'll continue to work sharing what you share with me.

The To-Do List

Inspiration
So what's on the horizon for Gathering Magic?

  • More awesome stuff from faces new and old. (Come back tomorrow for something visual!)
  • More photos and information from events. (We'll be at Grand Prix Atlantic City in two weeks!)
  • More tweaks and changes to how we do things. (Remember images filling the title box on the main page?)
  • More improvements to the site and forums. (We have awesome forums if you didn't know!)

I can't make it clear enough that whether you email or mention us on Twitter, we're here listening to what you share. There aren't always easy answer at hand, but we take what you say to heart. We had a great year in 2012, better than I had first hoped. Next year is a whole new world to explore.

I hope you'll continue to join us on the ride.