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Community Top 8

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Today, we celebrate the best community members of 2015. I wrote a nomination article about a month ago, and in came the submissions and serious pushes by a few podcasts and oodles of Tweets.

To kick off the final eight people, I think we need an introduction from the best community-minded person I know and Gathering Magic’s own Heather Lafferty, the @RevisedAngel herself:

I wish sometimes I could have cracked my first pack of Magic: The Gathering sitting at a table across from a room full of strangers and friends at an Innistrad prerelease with the magical boom in full swing, Friday Night Magics packed to almost bursting, and Grand Prix on their way to hosting five thousand people playing the game I adore. The energy, the vibes, the excitement all swirling around—connecting the serious card-slingers to durdlers like me would’ve been a perfect time to be new to Magic, to join a community full of thriving artists, alterers, podcasters, writers, designers, and players, this community forged on the backs of oddballs, loners, dreamers, fighters, and hundreds of hours of all-nighters, a community that was not always so abundant, so diverse, so deep. When I cracked my first pack, it could be, and often was, lonely. There were very few to share their wisdom, time, knowledge, and encouragement, and there were even fewer to care about this sweet rare I was holding in my hands.

Magic has needed the watchers at Wizards of the Coast to keep the game fresh, balanced, and viable, but it has needed community more so. The community cares when its favorite card becomes banned or how healthy Modern is or what LSV is drafting on a Tuesday night. Our community is special, thoughtful, loyal, excitable, and daring. Our community isn’t something that just happens. It was loved and hugged into existence by every person reaching out to another to discuss and play Magic.

What is the format of Cube but a giant box of Magical hugs?

One person, often with the help of devoted friends, invests all his or her time, money, and energy into building a unique and rich experience for his or her community to play. The person hauls around this Cube, tunes it, pours in hours upon hours so his or her friends might draft with a real, live Mox so the newbie at the FNM can play with history. These are the people in my community. This is what the Magic has become.

That is why what Mike is doing here is so important to me. This rewards the builders, supporters, huggers, and guiders. Taking a breath from the speculation, deck-building, painting, and podcasting to say thank you is what the Top 8 is. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for loving Magic and this community. Thank you for the multitude of readers who took the time to send Mike a little note, letting him know about a community-builder in your necks of the woods—and a thank you for the overflowing community-builders and supporters who were nominated. You do work, Magical people, and it is good.

These are your Community Top 8 of 2015:

  • Matthew Beverly
  • Nick Coss
  • Eric Freytag
  • Josh Krause
  • Christian Lobenstein
  • The Professor and the Tolarian Community College
  • Josh Putz
  • Ben Titmarch

Matt Beverly@MattyStudios

Matty, Rich, Kevy, Image via KevyMetall

Heavy Meta, in case you’ve missed it, is more than just a Canadian podcast. It’s this gang of Magic players that enjoys cubing, eating well at tournaments, and creating moments at each Grand Prix, outside the venue, that of course you missed. Attend one of their house cubing events, and you’ll feel FOMO something fierce as you sit at home seeing events unfold.

Matt—or rather Matty, as the community calls him—really is one of the masterminds behind this hidden community of Magic players, and from his nomination process, I learned, “He didn’t even mean to.” His podcast and community-building efforts really result in brotherhood as the end result, not profits. He has literally been able to “spawn off and create side communities.” From the Heavy Meta crew, to Heavy Meta SVU, to the HMSVU hash-tagged housing efforts, to validate a Canadian community and then spread rapidly with interesting content with energetic cohosts, he is the glue holding everything together. He’s now at the point at which a community-building effort can simply begin by retweeting a good idea. While his Twitter follower count may not seem substantial for his effort, he isn’t looking for fame. That’s not the point, and that’s why he needs to be recognized.

Heather, Gathering Magic’s community manager, wrote on Matty not long ago here. We’ve even told you to follow him on Twitter.

Nick Coss@IronChefNick

Nick Coss saved Eternal Weekend.

No one had more nominations than Nick Coss. I was actually pretty shocked how many people took time out of their days to write very personal stories and insight into why he is, by far, someone who needs to be recognized.

Prior to 2013, the Vintage Championship tournament was sponsored by Wizards of the Coast and was, for many years and many people, the highlight of Magic at GenCon. One of the prizes for the Vintage Champs tourney is an alternate-artwork a Power 9 card, the original artwork, inside a massive card frame, that Nick felt needed to be part of the tournament when Wizards stopped hosting the tourney.

Sure, some could say it’s a profitable venture, and as a businessman, a void existed, and he just came into relevance by filling that need. The problem with that logic is that Vintage tournaments, which he hosts beyond the Vintage championship, make pennies on the dollar. He does this because the man simply likes Vintage, and by God, if he can do something that people want, he’ll do it, whatever the cost. He works with people and cares about his community so much that his broad shoulders saved a format, despite the high upfront cost.

If the Magic Hall of Fame ever inducts community members—or has a separate category—Nick will be on there as a footnote for doing the right thing for Eternal formats when no one else would step up. He wasn’t in the best place or even at the right time, but it didn’t matter. It was important, and his conviction did the rest.

Eric Freytag@PucaTrade

For Magic players who weren’t around in the 1990s, trading was utterly awful. Price guides were slow to update, no one could ever decide on a “best” valuation system, and condition affecting pricing made utterly no sense. The Internet helped a lot, but balancing trades, making them objectively equal, did not exist until Eric showed up. From his nomination, “Eric changed the face of trading forever with PucaTrade. Having a one-sided marketplace has changed how we look at the basic method of trading MTG cards.”

I’m a Vorthos, so keeping up with constant finance shifts is an utter burden when I just drop into a shop for a quick Modern game. Via PucaTrade, I can now say, “This card is literally worth” X points, which equates to Y cards. Highly wanted cards can now go directly from my binder, in a shop, to an agreed upon trade in seconds. He has a great business idea, but that’s not why they exist. You can join for free and continue to have a free account . . . forever. That’s absurd.

They exist because trading isn’t accessible to everyone. If you live in rural Montana, your trading prospects are low. With PucaTrade, you can now be a full part of the finance community with a postage stamp. That’s empowering and revolutionary, and accessibility will always be a community-driven effort.

Christian Lobenstein — @MagicBlogsDe

If Matty is the end of the bell curve of a built goliath with Canadian Magic now fully recognized, Christian is the new German version of community-builder. Kai Budde is the top-down version of a pro pushing to build a community, using his recognition as successful Magic player. Christian is doing so from the bottom up. Christian has been hosting a German Magic blog site for several years, and he proclaims in the About Me section with simple words, “Willst du auch bloggen?”

"Do you also want to blog?"

It’s a simple how-to section, but it also means, by virtue, if you want to blog, it’s super-easy, and join me here in doing so. Anyone can make content on a weekly—or even daily—basis, but to encourage others to do so, to make it easy, and to guide you along the way . . . That’s why he’s in our Top 8.

Joshua Krause@OriginalMagicArt

I’ve seen people attempt to make Magic art more visible before. Hell, I’d argue I try week in and week out. I have yet to see someone’s work to organize a loosely based group of people into a supportive network of collectors looking for each other’s “holy grail” that got each of them into the game or that has significant special meaning. I didn’t nominate Josh, as I omitted myself, and I’m happy a few people nominated him for me.

Josh has, over several years, formed a community of MTG art lovers to share and celebrate their artwork at OriginalMagicArt.com. One nomination said, “He has created a platform for artists to advertise their work.”

Currently, Josh is the webmaster for a website with collector galleries along with a marketplace area where artists can post their original-art lists, encouraging sales. Josh takes a zero-percent cut on all of these sales. Normally, it’s 20%–30% for a gallery to showcase artworks. He charges zero dollars and just encourages collectors to post their art for free—and then he welcomes them into forums and a Facebook group, and there are more options soon.

He’s giving art-centric Vorthos folks a place to live through their art and find like-minded people. Also, unknowingly, he has made future curators very happy because less searching will be needed to find original artworks for exhibitions. With that fact alone, he’s a top community member.

The Professor Tolarian Community College — @TolarianCollege

What really kept me current when I came back to Magic after a break, as many of us take, was Evan Erwin’s The Magic Show. I enjoyed having video content to rapidly get back into the game. I didn’t know about the Professor, but I’ve now gone down the rabbit hole and will absolutely be linking to his videos when explaining a concept, as I know the more community connections we make, the better off we’ll be. I didn’t see many strongly produced videos on getting into the game until I saw this:

That is exactly what you need to know, and frankly, it’s not obnoxiously long like many introductory videos.

What I didn’t know is stated in one nomination: “He spends all of his own money to review products objectively so the viewer doesn't get ripped off.” Normally, samples are sent with nearly everything, and I hope that, in the future, from his making Magic accessible to new players, that manufacturers and reps will send him products to review so we can objectively know more information. I know if I make anything, I’ll be sending him a copy!

Josh Putz@TheProxyGuy

I remember seeing Josh’s work pop up on Twitter about a year ago by his “Z” icon. I was really against proxies in Magic before I understood how important proxies are to making Cubes complete. Again, he works in accessibility. As Reserved List cards become a speculation pick for finance gurus—he’s making cards to look like Reserved List cards by showing throwbacks to nod and wink at the phenomenon.

I really appreciate how Josh doesn’t just choose anime pictures, Power 9 cards, or beef-cake imagery. He really is taking this to a higher level of putting historical art imagery to coincide with the card’s mechanics.

Creating clever, nostalgic throwbacks using new cards is an amazing service to the community. With over twenty years of history, the new-made-old go viral regularly on reddit, Twitter, and elsewhere. The fact that these can’t be sold and are something he creates simply for the fun and joy they inspire is admirable. In fact, as mentioned in one nomination, “He’s also the source for keeping proxies legal, within the law, and reported on eBay when someone tries to sell one.” He’s legitimately a one-man whistleblower because selling a proxy is against the point. They’re entertaining ideas to be seen, not replacements for others’ hard work.

Ben Titmarsh@CubeTutor

I’ll let the nomination say everything needed:

Ben has basically designed, built, and operated the best Cube resource available on the Internet. He has provided it at no cost for users and has continued to develop it and add features in a collaborative way with the user base. A beta-testing stage has just finished, in which he tested some of the next version of features. This is just truly an amazing website. And the ability to host your Cube and see/share the many other types of Cubes in the community is just so powerful and enabling. I moved away from my established played group in NZ to live in the UK, and without Cubetutor, I would have had far less ability to interact with my favorite hobby.

He’s also British. I can’t think of anything better than cubing on a rainy day, in rural England, feeling great that you’ve been able to tweak it so effortlessly because of Ben. He enables Heather’s “hugs” in the form of the Cube format—to flourish.




I salute all of you; your recognition has been earned. One thing you can’t know yet, but will, is arguably the biggest prize for these eight people. That is yet to come.

  • You will celebrate your win at Grand Prix Las Vegas, if you are able to attend, with an exclusive event with Magic celebrity special guests—really. Details to be announced.

-Mike


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