If you google the question "What is a Primer?" You get two definitions, the first is about painting, and the second (quoted below) is the basis of the context we use here:
Quote from Google definition: Primer »
An elementary textbook that serves as an introduction to a subject of study or is used for teaching children to read.
Obviously, we are not writing for elementary school here; instead we focus on the part that indicates it being an introduction to a subject of study. A Commander Forums [Primer] is a resource or introduction to a play-style, deck, or theme in Commander games. Since Commander is a singleton format, spanning a large amount of available cards, and is played in a variety of social groups from more casual to more competitive, no primer will be the absolute perfectly optimized list. Instead it aims to educate by giving a solid base to work from, within your own constraints.
All Primers approved by the Commander Forums Primer Committee are held to several standards of quality, including a depth of content and explanations, as well as concise presentation and layout for readability of the information presented. Do not feel like every thread needs to be a primer eventually. Primers are a lot of work to create and maintain. If you feel like you may have issues maintaining an up to date informational resource, and answer inquiries by other interested members, then I would strongly suggest you consider holding off placing an application.
Here are the lists of currently approved Primers, these can be used as examples or as a resource when building your own primer.
This outline details the expected sections to be found inside of a Primer. This list is one part of what the Primer Committee members use as a basis for evaluating applications. Some criteria are easily quantified and defined, others require more judgement.
A brief introduction into the thread so that the reader gets an understanding about the content that will follow in your post.
The introduction should be a short summary without including portions of important content.
Why play this commander?
If you can't give reasons as to why you enjoy playing your commander you probably shouldn't be writing a primer for them. Let readers know the pros and cons of the commander. Let them in on what sort of role they might play in the deck as well. If the whole point of your commander is to throw your opponent off because it's so terrible, then go ahead and tell your readers such.
Be realistic as well; we know you love your Commander, but if there are any problems or downsides to your Commander, be honest about it. Building a Commander deck can be a time consuming and involved process, and newer players to your deck should have a decent idea of what they are getting into before they commit themselves to it.
Comparisons to other similar Commanders, and how they may play differently from yours is important information to add. Not every commander in the colors you are in will be the best choice for a list, so it is important to comment on the other options and why they were not chosen.
This section informs users about what motivated you to build this deck. It contains brief information as to what problems you encountered, and how the deck evolved to meet them; how the deck has grown and changed, and how it is better now than it used to be. This gives readers a road-map to your creation process and the roots of the deck and why it is today what it is.
Personal Bio (optional)
This doesn't need to have much personal information outside of your Magic experience. We're not interested in your auto-biography.
This section is to add a more personal touch to your primer, or to show some extra experience in Magic in general. Most people are interested in hearing that you have enough Magic experience to be writing a primer. If you have been playing Legacy / Standard / whatever for the past 10 years, or if you have attended and/or won large-scale events, let people know. Tell people about your background going into writing this primer and why are you a good source for information.
This is essential for any deck and is a requirement in any primer. If you don't have a list of what you are currently running, then it can't be much of a primer.
Deck lists must be organized and in deck tags. Sectioning the list in some way is required, and we recommend sorting it by card type or function, as these two methods are the most easily recognized.
The main deck list of the thread needs to visible at all times and not under a spoiler tag.
If you choose to sort your list by another method, we strongly recommend spoiling that second deck list.
Within your deck list sections, sort the cards in a logical manner. We recommend either alphabetically or by converted mana cost.
This section is used to discuss current inclusions of your deck, and potentially alternate card options.
All of your cards in the deck should be listed, minus basic lands, and discussion about why they made the cut is mandatory. Even the most basic cards should be considered for explanations for the benefit of newer players.
When writing this section, it is best to assume the reader is not familiar with what a card does and how it interacts within your deck. This is an area to connect key cards together by explaining their interactions and synergies with the Commander. Providing good detail in this section is essential for any primer.
How do you pilot your deck? We want to know what sort of mindset you should be in when playing this deck. Let users know what your basic game plan is, then go into further detail.
The questions that the Strategy section should address are the following:
What are the deck's strengths and weaknesses, and how does the deck handle those weaknesses?
How should you pilot it at different stages of the game? Typically these are broken down into early, mid, and late game but it is not required to explicitly use these phases. This is an important concept and will specifically be looked for in your Primer submission, so make sure to include it!
When is the time to be aggressive or defensive?
What cards are critical to the success of your plan?
When and how do you search or try to draw into the critical cards?
When and how do you use the critical cards during the game?
What is your Commander's role in the plan?
What should you look out for in opening hands?
What should you mulligan away?
This section should be detailed enough that a player unfamiliar with your deck could pick up your deck and play it with moderate proficiency.
Match-ups (required for 1v1 (Traditional only)
When playing 1v1 you should know who the real competition is and how your deck measures up.
Let users in on some of the tips and tricks for fighting back and winning against key opposition.
Several of the more popular or stronger Commanders should be included.
Due to the logistics involved in multiplayer games, this section is not required there, however if your deck has problems or requires differing strategies when certain archetypes are present at the table, or if it is tuned in a certain way to compensate for certain strategies, you should mention it in your strategy section.
Change logs track the changes your deck. They can help minimize users asking, "hey have you tried this card out?"
The change log will include both the outgoing and incoming changes, what reason prompted the change, and the date the change occurred.
Below you will find the minimum requirements to receive primer status for any thread. When reviewing applications, the Primer Committee thoroughly reviews the criteria established in this section to ensure the quality standards are met by the potential primer.
Threads must be a minimum of one month old before applying for primer status.
If your thread is only a month old we expect that you have heavily tested your list, and that your experience and knowledge is clearly demonstrated with the Commander and list in question.
No primers will be approved earlier than a month after any new card's release date.
In general, this requirement applies to new potential Commanders.
This policy is in effect because until a card has been in general circulation, not only you, but your opponents will not have sufficient exposure to a card to learn not only how to play with it, but how to react to it on a consistent basis.
Your experience and knowledge with the Commander/Deck List should be readily noticeable to anyone reading your list.
The content of any primer may have differing titles, but all sections that are not labeled (Optional) found in the Primer Outline section of this post must be found within your primer in order to receive consideration.
The Primer Committee does not judge solely on the existence of the content criteria, but also on the quality of the content, explanations, and depth of knowledge shown within them.
As an author of a Primer, you are expected to maintain your list with updates, explain your card choices, answer questions put forth, and help players who come seeking for it. Primers are here to be resources for a growing community, and part of that entails remaining up to date, and being capable of answering questions that come your way.
The Primer Committee will be reviewing not only your opening post, but will also generally look over the content of your thread and the discussions that take place. For some, this may be sparse, and we understand that some Commanders simply don't get as much attention as they deserve, but we expect you to be on top of it regardless.
The Primer Committee may revoke primer status on any post if the following activities have not occurred in a 6 month period from the time of reviewing active primers.
No updates/edits have been made to the primer.
The author has not posted about an update or responded to a question presented by a user.
There is no ongoing conversation from other users in the thread. In general, if the author is not active but the community is driving the communication, we will not suspend the primer status.
The Primer Committee also may revoke primer status on any post if the post has not been updated to reflect any EDH/Commander ban list changes, found here, within 2 months of the ban list announcement.
A dearth of information remains useless if it is ill presented or unreadable. This section aims to ensure that your Primer manages to convey the knowledge and information you seek to present.Spelling and Grammar
We understand that English is not everyone's primary language. We're not looking for a Master's Thesis here, but rather that attention has been made to detail and that your list is able to communicate your intentions.
While we're not here to be proofreaders, if we do have issues we'll try to help you out however we can, or at least give indication to the specific areas we feel need work so you can ask help of others.
Card Links and other URLs
Card links are a valuable tool to help players be able to quickly find information on specific cards. Since you play the deck, you already know them, but others may not, less so the older the cards are. New players will also not have an encyclopedic knowledge of the cards.
We recommend you card-tag as many cards as possible in your writing. More so even, within your Card Options and Strategy sections.
At the very least, card tag each card the first time you mention it, and again whenever there is a new discussion on it, for example, if a card shows up multiple times in two different combos that include it, at the minimum tag it the first time it appears in each combo.
Ensure that your card tags and URLs work properly. Fix any broken or dead links.
We don't expect you to be Usability Experts, Graphics Design Majors, or even have a mastery of PHPBB formatting tags. However, the advanced editor has a plethora of useful organizational tools to help separate your Post into easy to digest sections. There is also a Formatting Help announcement in this forum which you can refer to.
If you need help, read through the Formatting Help or take a look at an approved Primer. You can hit the [quote] button to look over how the writer formatted their post.
If you still have trouble figuring out how to use a specific tag, shoot the writer a PM, or shoot a committee member a PM, even if that specific member does not have the answer, they'll be able to help you find someone who does.
Spoiler tags are often used, and more often misused. It has become such a common issue that we have decided it gets its own mention here.
Spoilers are valuable tools for hiding information, minimizing clutter, and holding "on demand" information until it is needed.
Using spoilers exclusively as an organizational tool however creates a lot of clicking for your reader to open the content, which impedes readability and breaks the flow of your presentation.
Also, since a reader does not know the content being hidden, there is no indication of length or importance of a hidden section.
The following is a quick list for examining spoiler use/abuse:
If it's something the majority of users will be opening anyways, leave it open (intro, decklist, why play this general).
If it is crucially important to your decklist, strategy, or generally needs to be read, leave it open (crucial combos, decklist, strategy).
If it's extra information, that does not need to be read, but is there for those interested in something more in depth, spoiler it (nitty gritty details of how specific combos work, extra information regarding specific cards, change log, personal bio).
If it's really, really long, and should be hidden to prevent a person from scrolling 3 miles to skip it, spoiler it (Card options).
Please note that this outline reflects the bare minimum requirements for primer consideration. Applications that do not meet these requirements will be rejected. Even if your thread does meet these requirements, we reserve the right to deny your application until such time as you have brought your thread up to the standard we expect for primers. If you are unsure of what that looks like, please consult the list of existing approved primers to a better idea of our expectations.
In addition, don't be surprised if your primer is declined when first submitted. This is a normal part of the process, and committee members are more than happy to help you improve your thread to meet the standard we have set for primers. We're all willing to step in and help you with the coding, the formatting, and additional ideas for content on your Primer, so never fear that you're alone in this issue. We've all gone through the Primer Application process ourselves and we know that the feedback and criticisms can be daunting, but rest assured that we're on your side and are coming from the standpoint of coaching you through the Primer creation process.
UPDATE: As an additional supplement to the helpful tips above, there is also a Primer Template in the second post of this thread that you can freely use when creating your Primer template. By clicking the "Quote" button at the bottom of the post, you will be able to copy and paste the Primer Template into a Word document, a separate MTGSalvation thread, or another word editing document.
This template is offered as an additional resource for you when you're creating your Primer and is NOT the specific format the Primer Committee expects to see. If you're comfortable with the coding necessary to create a Primer, we proudly encourage you to customize your Primer to your preferences; this template is meant to be a starting point for you if you've not quite mastered all of the fine details of MGSal's BBCode.
Do note that if you edit your Primer in Microsoft Word that the apostrophe key in Word WILL NOT translate over into MTGSal's BBCode. The Primer Template can be found here. We hope that this will be a useful resource for you as you create your own Primer and that it helps you jumpstart your Primer creation!
Below, you will find the steps needed to apply for primer status. Once you are satisfied that your thread meets the requirements put forth in the Primer Outline, you can follow these steps to apply for primer status.
Create a new thread in this sub-forum.
Format the title in the manner of [your username] + [the name of the commander]. For example ISBPathfinder would create the following: ISBPathfinder's Jenara, Asura of War. This keeps things neat and clean.
If you are re-applying, just bump the thread you created earlier stating the reasons you are reapplying and the changes you have made to fix the primer since last application.
In the thread itself please provide the following basic information for us:
A direct link to your decklist.
Your experience with the deck. We are looking for some sort of estimate of the time spent tweaking, games played, duration of time you have been playing the commander, and so on.
The primer itself should sort of contain most of the rest of the information we'll be looking at, but if there is any extra information you would like to add to your application, or anything you feel we should know, this is the place to put it.
In general, the application process takes 2-3 weeks for the Primer Committee to review an application and respond to the applicant. At any given time during the process, if you have any questions for the committee, post them in your application thread and a member will respond as soon as possible.
If you have any questions on these matters feel free to contact our committee members on the matter. The following list of users helped us to create the primer outline as well as help decide on threads which are trying to obtain primer status.
This is a section where you talk about individual card choices that are located in your decklist. I also recommend you include other popular cards that other users may have used and include a brief description as to why/why not you’re running X card.
This is where you should talk about the nuts and bolts of how your decklist plays out.
Do you have a specific backup plan in case your primary strategy gets foiled?
This is where you would want to talk about these kinds of things.
The below sections WILL be looked for when you submit your Primer for the review process, so don't forget to include these sections in your Primer!
Early Game Strategy
What do your early turns look like? This will give readers an idea of the general playlines you engage in and give them a familiarity with what kinds of things they should be doing with your deck.
Now that you've established the necessary early game steps that make your deck successful, what does your Mid-Game look like? Do you focus on generating Card Advantage or Board Advantage? Removing threats or playing your own?
So you've survived the Mid-Game, and you're now in the stages where you want to be proactively winning the game. How does your deck do this? Are there specific combos in place that you need to execute in order to take out the table? Do you want to protect a large threat and ride that to victory? Give a brief description of how your deck actually plays out and wins the game.