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Team Gathering Magic's Favorite Articles of 2013

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What is it you hope for when you fire up your laptop or tablet and begin to devour the day’s Magic content? Are you hoping to be educated, improved, seduced, inspired, or fixed? As the magical landscape grows larger—with more sites competing for writers and the blog-o-sphere exploding—the gigantic amount of content produced daily can be staggering. What began as a few articles on deck techs has branched into Magic-produced shows, comedy sketches, art dissertations, psychological exploration, and more. With a limited amount of time each day to peruse the interwebs for the latest in Magic happening, adhering to your favorite tried and true writers can seem to be the best play. There is always that chance, though, of missing a diamond in the rough—a piece of writing that makes you pause, makes your consider, or helps you learn.

Wading through all the content produced in 2013, we at Gathering Magic are taking a moment to highlight some of the articles that connected with us and acknowledge the exceptional skill and talent of the many writers who enrich this game and community daily. The instructions given to the GM team were simple: Pick two articles—favorite article posted on Gathering Magic this year and favorite article from any other site or blog in the Multiverse. They could simply link me the articles and let the articles speak for themselves or expound briefly on why these article left such impressions on them. The whole team here would like to say, “Thank you,” for reading, learning, and exploring with us in 2013.

Adam Styborski – Writer, Content Manager – @the_stybs

Gathering Magic – “Past in Flames” by Jon Corpora

I don't always agree with Jon Corpora. I find myself split fifty-fifty between enjoying his misery at the hands of the Buffalo Bills and being annoyed by his quick-to-the-draw gut shots at nearly every Magic personality. But above all, I respect Jon and his way with the written word. Weaving embarrassing Magic R&D history, the mechanics of a combo, and gratitude for the current state of the game is a difficult narrative to manage; Jon made it look easy.

Gathering Magic – “The Life and Times of Quinton Hoover” by Glenn Goddard

I'm going to cheat and include a guest article as well because I get to make up the rules around here. Every time I begin to think I'm passionate about the game, I think about Glenn Goddard. As a player and organizer, he's astounded me with his collection and knowledge of Magic history. When Quinton Hoover passed this year, Glenn personally traveled to interview, write, edit, and share the story of one of Magic's iconic artists. Quinton will be missed, but his story will live on far longer thanks to Glenn's incredible work.

Multiverse – “Your Own Worst Critic” by Zac Hill

Zac Hill writes things, and you should always read them. While Zac's time in Magic R&D ended a year ago, his ability to distill and share profound lessons from his experiences remained. Receiving feedback about the things we create can be challenging for our egos and goals, but Zac's explanations for reserving responses and instead looking at the fundamentals underlying situations can put us on the right path. If you want to learn more in less time, start listening like Zac.

Past in Flames
Isperia the Inscrutable

Carlos Gutierrez – Writer, Associate Editor – @cag5383

Gathering Magic – “Cereals of Ravnica” by James Arnold

James did a ton of awesome work this year. His infographics this year were an incredible way to collect, condense, and highlight an incredible breadth and quantity of information. But “Cereals of Ravnica” managed to capture the flavor of one of Magic’s most well-loved settings and combine it with nostalgia for the terrible, terrible cereal commercials of my childhood. The execution is very clean and simple, and it brings a smile to my face every time. Besides, who can argue with caffeinated cereal?

Multiverse – “Frank Analysis – Finding the Optimal Aggro Deck via Computer Simulation” by Frank Karsten

Whether you’re talking about his metagame analyses, deck-building, or writing, I’ve always been a huge fan of Frank Karsten. There are three qualities that I’d say really define his approach to all of these things: thorough analysis, clear goals, and focusing on the details. This is perhaps best characterized by the results he’s put up with my favorite card: Gifts Ungiven. Frank broke the card multiple times, and he put up huge finishes because he knew what the metagame would be, figured out how to beat it, and found ways to tie everything together with Gifts Ungiven. His decks never lose sight of their goal and are always just complex enough without being too cute.

In this article, he combined everything I already liked about his approach to all things Magic with my academic interest in modeling chemical and physical engineering systems. Frank brought the same focused, simple analysis to Magic modeling in a way that I’m still fascinated by: straightforward problems, simple boundaries, but just complex enough that the results have actual meaning for real formats and decks. Frank’s article captures his approach to everything he does, and he is a real inspiration to me as a writer, player, and scientist.

Heather Lafferty – Writer, Community Manager – @RevisedAngel

Gathering Magic – “Michiko Konda: Miss Atomic Bomb” by MJ Scott

Being a fan of casual Magic, I am naturally drawn to Vorthos-style articles. Gathering Magic had amazing Vorthos content this year (in fact, I don’t think anyone does Vorthos better) with amazing infographics and Magic art history lessons, but it was a deck created to celebrate the heritage of a people that left me awe-inspired. One of the reasons I have always loved Magic is that the cards you play, style you play, and format you play so uniquely represent you. No one in the room looks the same, and neither do their decks. Even when the majority of the field is playing the top three tier decks, there will be little signs of rebellion and flavor. One person will have a completely foil deck while the other will have only Zendikar basic lands. I found this article both visually moving and connecting to the words, and I found the words themselves honest and sincere.

Multiverse – “Life in the Ring” by Sam Stoddard

If I’m being entirely honest (which I usually try to be), I am not an enormous fan of flavor articles. I find most attempts at flavor- and story-related articles poorly written and usually overindulgent. When you step out of the comfort of deck tech and strategy, you have nothing to hide behind. There are no numbers and stats to help you take cover. Your writing and imagination are all you have, and is laid bare for all the world to read and judge. I have always though Sam was an exceptional writer, so I took a chance and clicked on this article. I was not disappointed. Sam captured me from the first moment and was even able to turn this angel-loving wizard into a Rakdos fan—so much so that I even began constructing a Rakdos-themed Commander deck.

Michiko Konda
City of Brass

Inkwell Looter – Graphic/Comic Artist – @inkwell_looter

Here are some that stuck out in my mind when I tried to recall:

Multiverse – “Frank Analysis – Finding the Optimal Aggro Deck via Computer Simulation” by Frank Karsten

Hall-of-famer Frank Karsten runs computer simulations to determine the optimal deck in a format where only Lightning Bolt, Savannah Lions, Putrid Leech, Geist of Saint Traft, and City of Brass are legal. It's fascinating to see someone explore unique territory with unique methods.

Multiverse – “Design 104” by Mark Rosewater

Rosewater still delivers the goods week in and week out, and I particularly enjoy when he goes into principles of game design. I doubt there's a game-design course out there that's better, pound-for-pound, than just reading columns like this one from the MaRo archive.

James Arnold – Graphic Artist – @thatguyjames2

Gathering Magic – “Murder-Free Weekend” by Inkwell Looter

I’m a huge fan of Inkwell Looter’s work, but “Murder-Free Weekend” is mask-and-shoulders above the rest.

Multiverse – “Why Magic: The Gathering Struggles to Stay Relevant to Casual Slayers” by Steve Heisler

The AV Club’s article about Commander falling prey to the power creep is well-written and relevant, and it brings up an important conversation: how to keep the silliness alive and well.

Tymaret, the Murder King
Gifts Ungiven

Jules Robins – Writer – @JulesRobins

Gathering Magic – “The Play Paradigm” by Natasha Lewis Harrington

There are a ton of very good and very different articles, but if forced to choose, I guess I’ll go for “The Play Paradigm” . . . 

Multiverse – “Frank Analysis – Finding the Optimal Aggro Deck via Computer Simulation” by Frank Karsten

 . . . and “Finding the Optimal Aggro Deck via Computer Simulation” by Frank Karsten.

Mike Cannon – Writer – @MTGCannon

Gathering Magic – “Positive Magic” by Natasha Lewis Harrington

After reading as well as writing articles about Magic for several years, it's increasingly rare for me to read something and say to myself, “Huh. I never thought of that.” This article did that a number of times. As usual with Natasha's writing, it is well-researched and thought out. It is both an interesting peek into her research and a solid topic for discussion. It also has the power to inspire self-examination, which is something all of us could use a little more of.

Multiverse – “Magical Boy Lost” by Heather Lafferty

I feel as though anything I might write here would merely detract from the impact of this post. I urge you not only to read it, but to spend some time thinking about it as well.

Heart of Light
Conjured Currency

Mike Linnenmann – Writer – @VorthosMike

Gathering Magic – “Cereals of Ravnica” by James Arnold

“Cereals of Ravnica,” not close. Was so money.

Multiverse – “Conjured Currency: Money & Trade in Magic” by John Dale Beety

Here’s my boy JDB bringing his day job to the game (he works for HA.com in the coin department).

Natasha Lewis-Harrington – Writer – @Natasha_lh

Gathering Magic – “Let’s Talk about Breasts, Baby” by MJ Scott

When I was trying to choose a favorite article from Gathering Magic, several of MJ Scott's pieces came to mind. MJ takes on complex topics with an accessibility and cleverness that I admire immensely. I’m one quarter Japanese, so her Michiko Konda article spoke to me personally. And I highly recommend her article on Ral Zarek and the Male Ideal. But if I had to choose one of her articles to be my article of the year, it would absolutely have to be her piece on breasts. I have long been frustrated by the assumption that people who argue against the objectification of woman hate fun and sexiness. MJ nicely overturns this stereotype by illustrating the difference between exploiting the female form and celebrating it.

Multiverse – “Live Like a Gamer” by Mark Rosewater

During my severely depressed college years, I spent a lot of time being confused by Mark Rosewater’s articles. His message of optimism and personal agency was profoundly at odds with my cynical worldview. But logic and curiosity kept me reluctantly returning to puzzle it over again and again—He seems awfully happy with his life, and you’re a moody teen who’s almost failing half your classes. Is there maybe a slight chance that he knows something you don’t? I think Mark is a pretty amazing role model in a lot of ways, and this is nicely illustrated by his last column of the year: Live Like a Gamer. This particular piece pulls together a lot of the things I’ve learned from him over the years (and a lot of the things I’m still working on). Based on the responses I’ve seen, I am definitely not the only person who feels this way.

(I came very, very close to putting Heather’s “Magical Boy Lost” in this slot, but as Mike Cannon said, anything we say will only detract from the experience. Be sure you read that one, too.)

Hope Charm
Somberwald Sage


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