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You Lika The Juice? Of Godbooks And Event Coverage

Bennie Smith touches on two community issues today: the banning of the Guillaumes and the future of text coverage in an era of new media.

This week, I wanted to touch on two “community issues” that have come up recently, one which certainly got a lot of people stirred up, and
one that just got me stirred up. If community issues aren’t your thing, don’t worry, you can skip ahead to the New Phyrexia Standard decks
I talk about afterwards!

The Spoiling of New Phyrexia

News broke late last week
that the source of the leak of the entire set of New Phyrexia had been found and that the culprits had been punished with some pretty hefty suspensions
from the DCI. While the punishment seemed appropriate given the massive setbacks to the hard work and plans Wizards had in store for New
Phyrexia’s release, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of sympathy for Guillaume Matignon. While Magic print magazines are exceedingly
rare these days, there used to be a ton of them out there, and print reviews were a valuable piece of the PR puzzle to hype new sets as they came out.
The drawback of the print media—and why it’s pretty much gotten pulverized by online media—is that there is generally a pretty high
lead time between writing the set review and getting it to someone’s eyeballs. Once the writer sends it in, it needs to be edited, laid out, sent
to the printing presses, and then mailed out.

For many years I was part of the print media hype machine for new Magic sets. As a writer and Contributing Editor for Scrye Magazine, it was
always an exciting time when it came time to do a new set review. Each writer who would be involved in writing about the new set had to sign a
Non-Disclosure Agreement directly with Wizards of the Coast in order to get access to the new set. Now, I never got an actual, full-fledged Godbook,
but we would get spoilers in the form of an Excel file that pretty much had all the card details outside of artwork and card images (select card images
would be sent along to the editor for inclusion in the layout). My job was to digest the new set, pick out the top cards, and write a set review, the
same as Guillaume Matignon.

The excitement of seeing a brand new Magic set before 99.9% of the Magic public was always tinged with the stress of trying to do a high-quality job in
a relative vacuum. Think about how you digest a new Magic set when the spoilers start coming out—not only do you have initial reactions, but then
you have your friends, followers on Twitter, people on forums, and online columnists all bombarding you with their perspectives. Even the smartest
Magic players in the room will initially miss critical interactions that can turn Limited fodder into the next Constructed chase card until you start
bouncing ideas around. Folks who were charged with writing about the set a month ahead of time didn’t have those resources.

Of course, Guillaume Matignon is obviously a smart guy and a talented Magic player, so his ability to judge new cards is probably a lot higher than
that of folks like me, though I think I did a pretty good job based on my longevity as a player from the very beginning of Magic. Still, imagine
you’re Matignon, and you want make sure that your set review is as good as it can possibly be, that it’s worth the money the magazine is
paying you—and you’ve got Guillaume frickin’ Wafo-Tapa as a good buddy! The temptation to ask Wafo-Tapa for his help in writing the
set review must have been insane.

Now, what really blew my mind in the aftermath of the announcement was the intense anger that some people had towards Wizards of the Coast. Their view
was that they were giving a few select, top-level pros a massive competitive advantage by having this information a month before the rest of the world
and that this was some massive scandal. While their core point was a fair one, this outrage struck me as over the top and frankly attacking the victim
here—it’s Wizards of the Coast that was primarily wronged here, and while there is certainly an opportunity for improvement going forward,
we need to keep things in perspective.

Giving Matignon a Godbook was not gross negligence, but rather standard operating procedure, something that’s been done for well over a decade as
a successful part of each set’s PR campaign. Keep in mind that Wizards’ #1 priority is to sell Magic cards, and a big part of the plan is for the
PR arm to hype the set in the media. I’m willing to bet that most of the people who work in that PR arm are likely public relations people first,
with maybe only a few of them having played Magic before coming to work for Wizards. If any of them even knew that Guillaume Matignon was a top Magic
pro player—and the recent World Champion—they probably saw it as all upside. “The World Champ will be able to write a kickass set
review!” Only a former high-level Magic player who worked in the PR department, someone who was aware of all the people who had NDAs and would
have recognized Matignon’s name, would have had any reason to question years and years of standard procedure. I’m pretty sure most former
pro players who go to work at Wizards end up making Magic rather than selling Magic.

It’s only in times like these when some problems become obvious, and that’s when a company can make a course correction. I’d be
surprised if someone in Organized Play isn’t now huddled up with PR and Legal and drawing up some revisions to the NDAs going forward.

I hope my perspective here has given some food for thought to those who had unwarranted anger towards Wizards of the Coast.

Live Streaming Vs. Text Event Coverage

I have a secret to reveal that I’m a little bit ashamed of—I don’t watch the Live Streaming Event Coverage; instead I rely on the
text coverage to stay informed of how the tournament plays out. I’m a little bit ashamed because it’s obviously a pretty awesome thing to
have available for the StarCityGames.com Opens. I’m part of the StarCityGames.com family, and I do my best to both support and enjoy all that
StarCityGames.com offers. There has obviously been a lot of work and effort put into bringing this technology to the Magic community.

Personally, I’m not what you’d call an Early Adopter of new technologies. There are some folks who just cannot wait to get their hands on
the newest tech gizmos, people who wait in lines for it and dive face first into the latest/greatest. It’s not that I don’t want
to be an Early Adopter—I often read up on the newest thang and sigh wistfully, wishing I was out there on the cutting edge. No, I’m not an
Early Adopter because I have serious constraints on the money I have available. New technologies are often frontloaded on the opening price point,
rapidly dropping in price over the course of months. For me, it’s hard to justify spending several hundred dollars on something that will be half
that price or less if only I wait six to twelve months. Especially since some of the money I don’t spend on that Early Adopter premium can
instead be used to buy Magic cards!

Similarly, there are some serious constraints on my free time. I keep myself informed on big Magic tournaments by checking in on the website that
covers them from time to time during the day; after 10-20 minutes of reading the text coverage, I’m up to speed until the next time I can check
in. Watching the live streaming coverage demands significantly more of your time… and if I personally had that sort of time available to me to
watch the live streaming, I’d instead actually be at that tournament playing or watching, or at the very least at my local store playing some
live Magic myself.

This is not to suggest that the live streaming coverage has no value—there are obviously a lot of people out there who have the time available
and really appreciate having that option for coverage. I would suggest though that there are also a lot of people like myself for whom watching live
streaming is not an option, who rely on the text coverage to stay informed. The folks who are “connected” enough to be in on the live
streaming would also be people who would read the text coverage as well, right? So it’s not an either or thing—it’s not like a
decision to serve either the live streaming crowd or the text-only crowd; it’s more a decision on how large an audience you want to
serve with the resources and technologies you have on hand.

The text event coverage we get from StarCityGames.com and from Wizards of the Coast is top-notch, but I can’t help but worry that focusing more
resources on live streaming will end up resulting in less resources for text coverage. I strongly feel that text coverage should remain the primary
focus of event coverage—it reaches the broadest audience by being easiest to consume, either in bite-sized pieces during the weekend or all at
once days, weeks, or even years later. Live streaming and even podcasts are fantastic supplemental ways for the audience to experience the flavor and
excitement of the event, but it’s a smaller segment of the Magic community that has the time or opportunity to enjoy them.

What do you think—am I way off the mark here? Am I Old Man Jenkins, behind the times, and that text coverage is as passé as reading
newspapers? Or are there a lot of other Magic fans out there like me, who rely in large part on the text coverage to stay informed on how these big
Magic events play out? I’ve got a poll here for my own curiosity, but make yourself heard in the forums or in
the poll feedback

that goes directly to awesome Coverage Content Manager Glenn Jones!

New Phyrexian Standard

Since everyone likes decklists, I figured I’d finish things off with a couple New Phyrexian Standard brews I’ve been working on and
can’t wait to try out once I get my hands on the new cards. I’m particularly pleased that one of the cards I’m most excited about
playing with is an uncommon—Beast Within. I know I’m not the only green mage who’s still reeling in amazement about this card,
something we would have never guessed Wizards would print in a million years. I guess the only person complaining about this card is Sun Titan, who
wishes it was a 1/1 Elf with flash rather than an instant. Oh well, you can’t please everyone…

Beast Within is the kind of flexible removal spell I’ve been looking for in my G/B Glissa, the Traitor deck, and there are a couple juicy
artifact creatures I want to add to the mix as well.  


Hex Parasite has gotten plenty of hype, and while it’s not always going to be totally amazing, a cheap artifact creature with a useful ability is
fine as a four-of in a Glissa/Fauna Shaman deck. Spellskite is another card I’m pretty high on, especially in this deck—it’s an
artifact that can protect Glissa from random Lightning Bolts, is an 0/4 that can block Beasts within, and can even be fetched out at instant speed with
Kuldotha Forgemaster if need be. Oh, and nice Splinter Twin you got there, chief, think I’ll make extra copies of Spellskite

With the increased artifact count, I decided to go ahead and add the Forgemaster/Colossus combo back into the mix, especially with Spellskites out
there for added protection. The deck felt a little light in knockout punches without it.

Another card I’ve been chewing over is Karn Liberated. I know the seven-mana cost has most people thinking he’s a 2-3 copy per deck kind of
card, but my thought is that an extra copy drawn makes a perfect candidate for the first +4 exile ability. Starting a new game with Karn Liberated in
play is pretty much game over before it begins, making the ultimate a game-ender. On the planeswalker slant, I started thinking about Garruk
Wildspeaker to accelerate Karn out quicker and Gideon Jura as a way to protect Karn long enough to get to his ultimate, and this is what I’ve
cooked up so far:


Since I’m playing white, the Squadron Hawks seem to be a no-brainer, and when you’re playing Hawks, it’s tough to not also bring in
the Stoneforge package. The anti-aggro Batterskull (and Sword of War and Peace) seems particularly good in a deck with the Karn game plan. With
Everflowing Chalice and twelve planeswalkers, I’d really like some Contagion Clasps, but I don’t think there’s room for it. Not 100%
sure on Tectonic Edge, since I don’t want to stop myself from getting to seven mana for Karn, but I figure I just might need to kill a manland to
survive. I like the looks of this deck because, though Karn is a beating and something to work towards, the rest of the deck can kick enough ass to win
without Karn.

Random Amusements

 

Take care,
Bennie

starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com

Make sure to follow my Twitter feed (@blairwitchgreen). I check it often so feel free to send me
feedback, ideas, and random thoughts on Magic and life.


New to Commander?

If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:

My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):

Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus: