Magic In 2012: Miles To Go Before We Sleep

Jon Agley takes a look at the variety of ways Magic extended into other areas of the media, like local newspapers, in the past year.

The volume of Magic: The Gathering content on the Internet is simply astounding. Little changes, probably taken for granted, really show off how this ‘little’ card game has grown into a legitimate phenomenon. Remember when Magicthegathering.com used to, you know, take breaks for the holidays? Now they just have more articles about more exciting things. Force of Will (to keep!) and Black Lotus (just to touch) are some of the daily Magic offerings today, both of which handily beat a theoretical reposting of an article about the Standard metagame last March.

This means that work for a lot of us Magic writers is really cut out for us, especially if we’re not pro players jetting around the globe and having earrings made out of copies of Sphinx’s Revelation.

Interesting side note: The gold market fluctuates a bit, but today gold is worth $1,666.85/oz. According to Wizards, a Magic card weighs .064 oz (non-foil).

Do you realize what this means?! An earring made out of five copies of Sphinx’s Revelation is worth more than a 1oz pure gold earring.

Something to think about ladies and gentlemen.

Anyway, as 2012 comes to a close with neither a bang nor a whimper (save those people who sold all of their possessions because a calendar told them to do it), let’s take a look at the variety of ways that Magic has begun to extend its Emrakul-like tendrils into other areas of the media.

Etsy: Let’s Get Into the Holiday Spirit

In the spirit of gift giving this holiday season, let’s start with a look at a relatively new Internet market called Etsy. The basic premise of the site is that individuals and small groups can market and sell their business products to others. This site is home to many ‘crafters,’ and Magic has begun to impress its own unique stamp on the brand.*

Magic-Themed Notebooks: This is one of the most prolific items on the site, and they are relatively cheap to pick up. These are basically spiral-bound notebooks the size of Magic cards with (usually) basic lands as the front and the archetypal Magic back as the back… While relatively simple in design, odds are we’re not going to be handcrafting notebooks any time soon, so these are a neat new semiotic technique to see if the guy standing next to you is really Mark Rosewater.

Magic-Themed Touch Lamps: I can easily see this appealing to the more collector-oriented Magicians among us. There are a variety of designs from which to choose, but these are fully functioning desk lamps with well-designed mana symbol light shields.

Unique Deckboxes: There are a variety of tradesmen and women on Etsy, and one of the most frequently posted (but always varied) products is the deckbox. The one to which I link in this entry is actually made of leather and hand-tooled and colored with the AVR expansion symbol and the current mana symbols, but there are a variety of different products available from different vendors.

There are a variety of more typical products on the site as well (by "more typical" I mean things that frequently appear at Magic tournaments, such as 3-D life counters and cards), but this site should emphasize to us how much Magic has grown as a brand. Not only is there a robust secondary market for cards (remember, the five Sphinx’s Revelation earrings could be a hit item this season), but there is a secondary market for handcrafted merchandise made with recycled cards and other symbols borrowed from the game.

You know you have it made when there is a baby onesie featuring a joke from your game. Kudos Richard Garfield, you’ve joined the onesie club.

Magic News: The Good and The Bad

Proliferation of sites like StarCityGames.com aside, the term "Magic: the Gathering" has appeared in 244 distinct US-based newspaper and newswire stories since December 18th, 2011. Although some of these stories were simply Hasbro press releases (which generally will appear to be linked to Magic because they own the intellectual property), that’s pretty impressive given the game’s already burgeoning ‘net presence. As is the case with most things, though, the dispersion of news has had both good and bad elements, many of which might be interesting to us as a community of Magic players.

The Good

Hasbro the Good Guy: Since its purchase of Wizards of the Coast, Hasbro, Inc. has gotten very mixed and critical press from the mainstream Magic community. Changes to Organized Play that are not appreciated often are blamed on Hasbro’s ‘bottom line.’ This story shows another side of the company, which provided funding and games to families affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Magic Donations: Originally appearing in Pennsylvania’s York Dispatch on October 27th, Comic Store West holds an annual food drive for the needy. One way that they obtain food is by holding Magic tournaments and using canned goods as a tournament entry fee. My own local store in Bloomington does something similar (Standard FNM during November/December is free with the donation of a canned good). In fact, I imagine that this happens in a lot of stores, and I’m surprised that I haven’t heard more about it.

Public Interest Magic Stories: Although these sorts of stories often escape archiving, there have been a number of stories like the Wausau Daily Herald’s "Battle lines drawn during game nights in Schofield." These newspaper stories often focus on explaining what Friday Night Magic is to the broader local community and are often very positive and complimentary of the practice. This particular story notes that a draft is cheaper than going to a movie and collects quotes from some players and the local storeowner.

As both a Magic player and as a fan of the game, I think that these stories go a long way toward normalizing competitive Magic game play. I’d love to see more of these in the new year. One thing that local stores might consider doing is contacting local news sources and encouraging them to do a story on the local gaming community, especially if (as in the above story) they are involved in giving back to the community as well.

Magic Trading as an Income Source: Ethics of making a ‘killer trade’ aside, this article from the Union Leader (New Hampshire) puts a positive spin on Magic trading as a means of getting through some of the rough financial spots stemming from college. The article doesn’t go into the depth of a Chas Andreas special, but for a news source that isn’t related to MTG, it’s an impressive piece of copy.

The Bad

Magic and Murder: While the increase in theft at large Magic events has resulted in alterations of some local tournament policies in the past year, Magic cards now have sufficient financial value that they have been suspected of being a motive in murder. In the case linked here, two twins killed a man and stole tens of thousands of dollars of Magic cards from him. Interestingly for Magic players, a more inflammatory version of this story was originally published in the Tampa Bay Times on November 4th (according to Lexis-Nexis), but the article itself no longer appears when searching the Times’ website itself.

The New Year

Even with all of the Magic-related media that exists, there is much room for our beloved game to grow. Sites like StarCityGames.com have done a phenomenal job of promoting the game outside of the official channels, but now we might consider returning even further to the mainstream with which we briefly flirted on ESPN2 in the 1990s. With a significant increase in streaming traffic for Magic and other games like League of Legends, a heightened news presence in the mainstream media, and support of its fans, might 2013 be the year that Magic returns to a slightly bigger screen?

* Disclaimer: I have no relation whatsoever to the vendors I’m pointing out in this section.