Last week I wrote an article titled How to Be a Content Creator without Going Pro. It was received better than I expected, and I received DMs all week with more questions about overcoming the obstacles content creators face. In this article I will share more tips for finding your niche, earning fans, avoiding burnout, and growing your content business.
Finding Your Niche
There is a lot of opportunity in Magic: The Gathering content creation because the game itself has so much depth. From the competitive to the casual, from the lore to the art, and all the different formats in between, there is something for every fan to love. And don't get me started on MTG finance...
Any time there is something to love, there is a chance for a content creator to be the go-to for news, opinion, analysis, technology, or just a fireside chat about a shared interest.
For any niche in Magic you may want to fill, ask yourself this question;
"Who is the best content creator in this niche?"
If you can't answer it off the top of your head, google it. If Google doesn't provide an easy-to-find answer, there is an opportunity. Even if there is an established creator in this space, you don't need to give up. Consume their content and see what they are missing. How often do they post? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? What do they cover? Odds are there is something they are missing that other players are interested in.
Today I post daily YouTube videos of best-of-one Standard decks, but as a fan I have been looking for content in other areas. To ignite the mental Fires of Invention, here are a few spaces that could use a devoted content creator:
Historic hasn't been treated like a real format from a competitive perspective since it was introduced last year. This is a format that is played on MTG Arena by thousands of people, and it seems nobody is dedicated to Historic content full time.
When a Historic Metagame Challenge that awards Mythic Points comes up, or when the Historic Ranked Queue returns, a content creator who has positioned themselves as a Historic expert can expect to see a spike in views. If Wizards of the Coast announces a major Historic tournament, an even bigger spike could occur. Many players on MTG Arena don't even know how to play Historic! There is a huge opportunity to be their guide to the format.
Thousands of players are playing Brawl on MTG Arena and there isn't much regular content for them to consume related to building great Brawl decks or what the Brawl meta looks like. A Brawl expert could expect their content business to thrive as MTG Arena grows in popularity.
Sideboard Guides in Video Form
Sideboard guides are in demand in written content, but they haven't made a successful transition to video. I believe that a well-done ongoing video series on sideboarding would provide endless content opportunities and be welcomed in the community. To focus on the art of sideboarding, I would make each video focus on a specific match. The intro would show both decks and what the sideboard plan for the featured deck is, as well as what the opposing sideboard plan is expected to be. I would show a brief clip from Game 1 showing the key cards one has to think about when sideboarding. Then I would show games two and three, and the commentary would focus on how sideboard cards affected the games and match. A written sideboard guide for the deck could be posted in the description for copy-paste-printing for paper tournaments. This may take time to catch on and be accepted, but I think it would be welcomed and enjoyed in the long term. Best-of-three Magic on VOD faces the challenge of making for long videos, and the actual sideboarding part is only a couple of minutes within the videos. There is an opportunity to make a better version of video sideboard guides.
How to earn fans
When nobody has any idea who you are or what you are about, you have to earn fans by connecting with people who like what you like. In my early days that meant getting to know Magic Duels fans on Xbox Live and on forum sites like NoGoblinsAllowed. Today, I find that Discord servers have taken over as places for MTG fans to discuss what they love about the game. There are Discord servers devoted to Brawl and Historic, as well as servers devoted to several individual communities. Get in there and connect with people who love what you love.
"But CGB, how do I connect with people without seeming pushy or spammy by mentioning my content?"
The answer is to create content that solves problems, and make the content available to people who have this problem where they want to find the answers. Compare the following two hypothetical Discord conversations;
This might get you a view or two, but you have to understand that people are in Discord because they want to be in Discord. They are trying to have a conversation, not drop everything and pay attention to a stranger's video for half an hour. On the other hand, you could take this approach;
What is the big difference between the two? Example two gives the Discord user what they want to know in a form that suits Discord. The Discord user will probably appreciate and remember this interaction, since most interactions are much less in depth or helpful. Anyone seeing this interaction may click on your link and check out your YouTube/Twitch channel and save it for later.
Some of you big thinkers will note that this method cannot scale, and that is true. Eventually you will need more reach, but when you are starting out this method of being helpful and positioning yourself as an expert will earn you real fans that will support you during the early days.
"But what if the owner of the Discord server thinks posting my link is BM?"
Well, they shouldn't. You are providing real value for their Discord server. People are more likely to keep using a server where they get useful answers to their questions. If you do get flack from someone for providing value in their server, come over to my server where we have over 3000 MTG Arena players hanging out. Not only do I encourage the behavior I outlined in example 2, but I also have a #selfpromotion channel where you are encouraged to post all the links to your content that you wish, as often as you have fresh content.
Connecting with fans in Twitch chat
Another proven strategy to connect with fans (and other content creators) is to hang out in the Twitch chat of streamers you enjoy. Answer questions about the game when people have them, share your enthusiasm and love of the game, but don't post a link to anything unless the content creator says it is OK. My mods and I shout-out content creators who hang out in chat all the time. Most streamers enjoy being watched by other streamers, as we have things in common. If anyone in chat asks me questions about my content, such as when I will be streaming, I always says something like "@so&so I am here to enjoy StreamerXYZ's content today" if I am anything less than 100% certain that the streamer wants me to mention my content.
As a viewer, I start to tune out when a content creator starts complaining about the game/format that I love (unless that is their brand, I have channels I watch specifically because I find their style of complaining very entertaining). Usually within a week I stop clicking on that creator's videos. I mention this because there will be formats that are fundamentally bad, but if you have a brand built on positivity about that format, a viewer won't want to engage with you if your brand starts to shift to a pessimistic look. Just because you are frustrated doesn't mean your viewers are, and even if some of them are frustrated it doesn't mean that they want to come to your content to hear your frustrations. It is true that negative videos get more action on YouTube, but long-term negativity in your videos will hurt your brand if it was not part of your brand to begin with.
I made huge subscriber gains on YouTube last year during "bad" Standard formats. My competitors were complaining about cards that should be banned in their videos, or not posting videos at all. I was posting a video of me playing a different Standard deck every day, even though they weren't top tier decks and the format was solved.
During these time periods, was I sick of Standard as well? Absolutely! The Standard formats of 2019 burned out pros and content creators alike, but I kept my composure and kept growing despite it. Here are two of my secrets:
BIG TIP #1: Record content ahead of time
One of the biggest periods of growth for my YouTube channel came in early August 2019. Standard was a "dead format" because of the impending Fall rotation and the Golos/Scapeshift/Field of the Dead vs Vampires metagame. Posts on social media implied that most players were checked out of Standard. And I was in Spain and Italy!
For most of July 2019 I recorded two or three videos per day and scheduled them to post while I was traveling. When I was recording, Core Set 2020 was new and Standard was unsolved. I was having fun and it showed in my content. When the format plunged into broken degeneracy a few weeks later (as formats tend to do when people find the broken decks), I was on vacation recharging my creative batteries while the channel thrived. When you spot the solving of formats as a trend, not a tragedy, and prepare for it, you will be rewarded.
BIG TIP #2: Create a series
Fans need a reason to keep coming back to your channel, and content creators need a jolt when creativity stalls. If I had to come up with a new deck every day from nothing, I would eventually have hit the MTG equivalent of writer's block. A series gives fans an idea of what they will see, while giving the content creator a formula to autopilot their way through less inspired creative times. Here are some of the series I have used on my channel over the years, and many of my fans still talk about them fondly.
Quest for the Best - A mission to crown the best deck in BO1 Standard. Pick a bunch of competitive decks and some fan-favorite brews to play. Play five games with a deck in each round. A 3-2 or worse record is eliminated, a 4-1 or 5-0 record moves on to the next round. Repeat until one deck remains.
The Adventures of Young CGB - I started a free-to-play account from scratch and completed events, built decks, and progressed my collection without using any money.
The Color Challenge - I tried to win a BO1 Standard Event on MTG Arena with one deck from every possible color or combination of colors, from Mono Black all the way to Rainbow.
Can you create a series of videos with a deck for every single Brawl commander? Can you build a competitive Historic deck from every possible combination of colors? A series is a fun journey that you and your fans can complete together.
Do your best to complete the series if you start it. The views may not be what you expect at the start, but this is the kind of content a new fan can binge from the beginning. If you don't finish the series, fans will remember that, and they will resist getting too attached to your brand for fear of being let down.
I have a lot more to say, but this article might turn into an unintentional eBook! If you have questions, please hit me up on Discord or Twitter, I am happy to talk with you about content creation and share resources that have helped me along the way. The force will be with you, always.