#13 — Magic is a terrible spectator sport.
I might be alone in this, but I don’t find watching Magic coverage very entertaining. When I watch Super Smash Bros. tournaments, there is a lot of energy going on; the same is true for League of Legends and other esports. Viewers get excited about these games for good reasons. Let’s take a look at a couple things other games have that Magic is lacking.
For starters, games of Magic are long and highly contextual. Not actually being a digital game despite being in the esports ballpark (to some extent) really hurts here. There is so much information that is crucial to the viewer’s understanding of an ongoing game that is simply inaccessible to them. Sure, coverage provides life totals, match score and tournament records, but that’s mostly it. In some tournaments, coverage tries to provide the contents of each players Hands, but Graveyards, Exile and deck size are unknown to spectators. I’m not saying all of these zones are always relevant, but each of them is from time to time. In some cases, even commentators are confused about the contents of these zones.
Another issue is the fact that, as a spectator, I am more or less required to know the oracle text of all cards involved in the game. Personally, I am often behind on new sets and don’t recognise many cards by the time of the Pro Tour. This has a big impact on my viewing pleasure of the Limited portion of the Pro Tour. I actually really like Booster Draft, but watching Limited coverage is much less rewarding than watching coverage of Constructed matches because there are too many cards to show them all and a bigger number of cards is relevant in games of Limited than Constructed.
In general, the big problem I see with Magic coverage is the fact that it demands the viewer to have a large amount of information that is not actually shown on screen. In that regard, it might serve as a tool to get viewers who are already players to get a little more excited about Magic, but I have a hard time believing it gets those interested in Magic who do not already play.
The rules are too complicated to be explained during every game and some interactions just seem odd, almost like game play errors, when not properly explained (cards like Tidebinder Mage or Oblivion Ring come to mind, but even some forms of evasion can be confusing).
I don’t think Magic is a great spectator sports in terms of reeling in new players, but it can still cater to a broader audience of potential viewers that already play. I think there are some interesting ideas expressed in this article; just ctrl+f “Coverage Recovery”:
One point from the article linked above I’d like to touch on is the marketing of individual players. Variance plays too big a role in Magic for individuals to be dominating tournaments as players do in other (e)sports, but I think Wizards’ coverage has taken a step in the right direction by providing some coverage of team rosters leading up to and during Pro Tours. The Pantheon consistently putting multiple players in Pro Tour Top 8’s is a great storyline, and maybe team dynamics are still not being marketed enough.
#14 — That doesn’t mean Magic video content is useless.
All that being said, I still think recordings are a great learning tool. When I try out a new deck, it usually starts with a decklist that I see somewhere on the internet. Likewise, my sideboarding with a deck I haven’t played a lot with is heavily influenced by articles I read about said deck. If I feel I’m not winning enough with a deck, I will watch videos and try to see what more successful players are doing that I am not doing.
Magic video content is a great thing overall, but I prefer watching experience rather than experiments. Unfortunately, this criterion is not always fulfilled and there is a wealth of video content that evokes the impression that the person recording the video has never touched their deck before recording or isn’t focused on the matches that they are playing.
Owen Turtenwald recently expressed himself on the topic of video content, and I think his article is well worth reading if you’re looking to improve:
#15 — Streaming vs. Recording
As a consequence of these first two points, I have come to the conclusion that I’m not really interested in streaming Magic. As I stated before, I think video content is great, but I don’t think streaming is the way to go, as I don’t find it very entertaining and I believe recordings where the Magic being played gets more attention are more educative.
On a tangential point, I will try to start recording videos in the first half of this year. I am still building up my collection on Magic Online and exploring new decks in formats I don’t play much, plus I will need to buy proper equipment to record, but I’m definitely looking forward to producing video content.
#16 — I don’t read enough.
In the first issue of this series, I have expressed my feeling that I find a lot of content uninspired and often uninspiring as well. This is still true, but I might be using it as an excuse to be lazy when it comes to my consumption of Magic content, thus only hampering my education on the game.
Before I played on Magic Online, most things I learned about Magic did not come from playing myself but from reading articles, simply because of how limited my opportunities to play were at the time. Ironically, it was during that time that I was most successful, when I spent Mondays through Fridays only reading about Magic and the weekends playing.
I have linked to two articles this week, and I expect there to be more in the future. Maybe not in every issue, but #theweeklywars will definitely become a place where I share articles I believe to be great reads. Not just recent articles, but also some that I reread, or even classics I have never read.
#17 — I really like writing these.
I have to say, the format of this series is great for me as a writer. Sometimes, I have ideas that seem distinct to me personally, but don’t quite deserve their own articles due to their simplicity. Having a place for these ideas is great and I like the fact that I feel comfortable keeping these points short. When I write full-on articles, I often feel obligated to be very thorough, which can sometimes be exhausting.
#18 — Judging from my data, readers like tournament reports.
Both my #GPSeaTac report as well as my almost-but-not-quite BoM Paris report have generated an atypical amount of traffic for this blog, which leads me to believe that you guys like reading tournament reports. I will keep that in mind and will try to write reports whenever reasonable.
Do you have something to add to any of my points? Is there something you have learned about Magic recently, however small? I am always excited discussing Magic, and especially regarding coverage, I think there are some interesting perspectives and ideas that are yet to be explored.
Thanks for reading.