I just realized something. This February marks the one-year anniversary of this website. Or, at the very least, a year since I started working on it! So, happy birthday, www.starcitygames.com.
For this special occasion, I thought I’d address a topic that doesn’t get a lot of coverage in the Magic world: how to write a good Magic article. It takes a lot of work to earn that coveted“Featured Writer” status, for any magazine or website. First, here are a few common misconceptions about high-level Magic writing. In my next article, I’ll go into the how-to’s of it.
Misconception One: You Have to Be on the Pro Tour to Write About Magic.
This is totally untrue. Thankfully, Jamie Wakefield dispelled this belief awhile back. Though most of the pioneers in the field were pro players, most of the Featured Writers on the current crop of websites have never finished in the Top 32 of the Pro Tour. Lots of them haven’t even been to a top-level event! The point is, super skill is not a requisite of great Magic writing. Sure, readers love to hear about the Pro Tour, and how to get there, but that isn’t why a lot of people play the game. Remember that when you start typing.
Misconception Two: You Have to Write Deck Analyses, Rants Or Tournament Reports.
Again, totally untrue. In fact, the internet is so totally saturated with those types of articles that, often, yours will simply get lost in the masses. A successful deck analysis must add a lot of insight into a complex deck archetype. Everyone wants to know how to play Maher Oath, but make sure you understand the deck fully before you even start working on an article. No one wants to hear about dissecting sligh, unless you have a radical new theory that makes it better. Even still, examine your idea carefully. Many theory articles fail simply because they are too complex, or too general. These are probably the most difficult pieces of writing.
Rants are usually a terrible read. Most people don’t even look at them because, after awhile, if you’ve seen one“Magic is dying” article, you’ve seen them all. For a rant to generate any positive feedback, it has to be both interesting and valid. Once you start hitting the exclamation button, it’s hard to lay off and, the more you use it, the less sane and logical you sound. Very little is accomplished by yelling, even if you are yelling very loudly. However, if you do, absolutely, have to write a rant, make sure to double check all of your facts. Due to the adversarial nature of ranting, most people are more than happy to correct your mistakes in a manner that is equally as rude as your rant.
The tournament report is, more and more, becoming a lost art. Remember why it is that you read tournament reports: to gather knowledge on matchups, hear about interesting plays and see what people are bringing to tournaments. If you’re going to write one, make sure to include details, and lots of them. No one wants to read this:
Rnd one: I mized some creatures and beat his face in.
2: Whatever. Little kids beat me when I don’t draw land.
Game 3: he came out fast, but I TD’d like a king and it was all over.
That could be anything, playing against anything. It could be Kyle Rose v. Gary Wise or it could be Thing Number One v. Thing Number Two– who knows? It has to be meaty! Tell us what happened. Describe your emotions, your opponent’s. What did you guys talk about? Was the round fast or slow? When I read a round-by-round, the very least I want to see is:
Name; Deck Type; Interesting Modifications (If Any); What Creatures/Spells Shaped The Game; What You Sideboarded In And Out And Who Won.
Take notes! It really makes the difference between your average report and the spectacular report. What works best for me is a little notepad. In it, write your opponent’s name and deck type. Whenever you or your opponent takes damage, make a little note of what caused the change. For example, I am playing stampy. Can you tell what happened in this match?
Chris Wolfechek; Mono-blue
That’s right! Turn four Masticore wrecked me. It killed my Pouncing Jaguar and my Wild Dogs (with Rancor!), then beat me in the head five times. How unfortunate. You’d be surprised how much of the match you will be able to recall, simply with little notes like these. They are also helpful during the tournament, to settle any disputes.
I read tournament reports not just to be informed of the metagame, but also to be entertained. I want to laugh with you, clap my hand on your shoulder when you win and shake my head in sympathy when you don’t. I want to watch you shake your opponent’s hand and wish them luck in the next round. I want to bite my nails while I wait for your tiebreakers. Most importantly, I want to learn from your mistakes. The more of these things I am able to do, the more inclined I will be to write you a thank you note, or read your next report.
Be original, be entertaining. Most importantly, be yourself. The best, most endearing writing is that which makes you feel as though the writer is actually just talking to you.
Misconception Three: No One Will Post My Articles Unless I’m a“Name” Player
While it’s true that the chances of anyone paying you for your writing are slimmer, if you aren’t a name player, it doesn’t mean anyone is going to hold it against you. More importantly, remember that there are several ways to make a name for yourself in the Magic community. You can be a great player, a great deck builder, or a great writer. As a writer, trying to get noticed, you should start in the Magic newsgroups. There, you’ll be able to correspond with players of all levels. If you are helpful and interesting there, people will notice. Many popular Magic writers, including Bennie Smith and Jamie Wakefield, have started there. Also, website editors, like myself, are often lurking in the background, scouting for new talent to crop up. Think of the newsgroups as sort of a try-out field for your ideas and style– with the talent scouts watching. Use it to develop your ideas, while getting your name out there for everyone to see. Most websites will post anything that is well-written and informative. Writing a solid B- paper will always get you on websites. But, that’s about all it will get you. Most good Magic players can be informative, so simply informative articles are a dime-a-dozen. To set yourself apart, you need to be interesting. If you are entertaining, as well as informative, then the chances of us giving you an offer increase substantially.
Remember that lots of“name” players are well-known because of their writing and not because of their play skill.
Misconception Four: Professional Magic Writers Are Unapproachable Egotists.
Well, I won’t lie to you: sometimes this is true. Some people, in general, are unapproachable and unpleasant. This is a fact of life. However, I’d say that at least 90% of writers, in my experience, are polite, interested and humble people who do enjoy what they do– and absolutely LOVE the idea of having regular correspondence with their readers. They aren’t going to insult you, or make you feel dumb, if you write them. They will help you understand their ideas, if you’re having trouble. If you have something to add to their discussion, they will listen and, oftentimes, bring your ideas to general attention in their next article.
Next week, we’ll talk about polishing your writing– making it look professional and impressing editors (like me!).
Contributing Editor, Scrye Magazine
“Best Witchcraft is Geometry
To the magician’s mind-
His ordinary acts are feats
To thinking of mankind.
– Should have been the flavor text on Morphling (were there room).