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  • posted a message on Writing Advice and State of Magic Articles
    Welcome. This post is for those looking for advice on writing a Magic article. Part of my impetus for writing this was due to the recent article from Tim Aten’s article on Channelfireball title Aten’s Angry about it. I will stress that I am not here to pick on Aten. However, it provides a good platform for discussion.

    1. Know Your Voice

    I actually don’t like using the above title. Finding your voice can be misleading or at least confusing to younger or inexperienced writers. I would rather say to want to be writers is know who you are. That can be complicated though. I think many people don’t know who they are as a person. Then there is the camp of people who think they know, but they actually don’t.

    First, let’s talk about why it is so important. People respond well to genuineness. When you try to write from a place that isn’t you, people can tell. Saying someone is a poser is too negative, but don’t be a poser. If you aren’t naturally funny, that is okay. Not everyone is funny. If you try to write a funny article, it is not going to be funny. It just isn’t. Your identity will seep into your writing and people will know.

    Frank Karsten knows who he is as a writer. He loves numbers and his articles are great. Sure, his articles might not be your cup of tea as they say. People who do like those mathematical articles love them. Are they written well? Yes. Is there good content? Yes. Those articles are more than just content and well written words. Those articles are Frank. Do I enjoy his articles? No. I don’t. It doesn’t mean they are bad articles. From a writers perspective, they are great articles. If I was an editor for Channelfireball, I would say Frank is one of the best writers on the site. He know who he is and writes to those strengths.

    Now for Tim Aten’s article. Let me put on my editors cap. It isn’t a bad article simply due to its negativity or content. Tim actually makes some valid points and some of the snipes are clever...ish. If I was his editor, I would have made him rewrite the article. I would have made him rewrite it because it isn’t him. It just isn’t. As a writer, I do think it is important for writers to stretch with one caveat. You still need to stay within your lane. That article still needs to be you. I would have told Tim that I applaud his attempt at stretching. I would have told him that there is meat to his article. However, I would have made him rewrite it.

    2. Avoid Negativity

    Just don’t. Oh, you need reasons. For one, people actually respond better to positivity. They just do. Sure, there are those out there who like snark and such. In the end, many more people respond better to more positive behavior. Negative articles are just toxic. This doesn’t mean critical or constructive articles should be shunned. It is like dropping F-Bombs in your conversations. They just aren’t needed. The majority of negative articles will come off as whiny, toxic or complaining.

    If there is something bothering you and you want to write an article, you need two things: reasons and solutions. Most people can find reasons why thing A is bad. The problem is there needs to be solutions. In my experience, people can often do the first thing quite easily. Most people struggle with the second part. Finding reasonable solutions is hard. Suggested solutions are also opens up a writer to criticism as well. Most writers and people in general avoid hate that last part.

    3. Editors

    A good editor is hard to find. Once upon a time, I wrote articles here at mtgsalvation. It was a good time. Part of that was due to the great editors we had in the writer’s forum. Then, they left. One of them actually works at the mothership now. It is partly why I stopped writing. Not necessarily because I need someone to correct my grammar, but because my writing style desperately needs an editor. Some of my ideas or articles weren’t good. I needed someone to bonk me on the head and tell me to rewrite an article or I was being stupid. Does this mean I’m a terrible writer? No. I’m the type that likes to push boundaries or experiment. That means sometimes the experiment blows up in my face.

    This brings my to a larger point. The editors out there today aren’t editors. Some sites I don’t even think have an editor. There are two types of editors. There are copy editors. These editors check grammar, structure. People who add decklists and pictures to articles when they put an article up on their site are copy editors. They make things pretty and easy to read. The other editor is your head editor. Their job is looking at the content of the article. They are the big picture editors. They are looking for the valuable content in your article. They give constructive critiques. In one word, they give guidance.

    I’m not just writing this as a complaint. Here is why. Let’s say you want to write Magic articles. You write something up and send it in to somebody who calls themselves an “editor”. Ninety nine percent of the time, they’re not. If they don’t like your article, that is it. If you are lucky, they send you the sorry, but we aren’t interested letter. That is it. Many people won’t give you a second chance. It probably wasn’t best work. It doesn’t matter. You probably are officially blocked in their email. Here is why this is terrible. For one, most people aren’t great writers. It takes practice. That first article you submitted won’t be great. It just isn’t. A good editor’s job should be to cultivate talent. Their job is to find diamonds amongst the rubble. Their job is then to polish those jems.

    Let me tell you a story. I wrote for many years at mtgsalvation. I enjoyed it and did it for free. I always assumed that I needed to earn my writing cred before writing for any of the big sites. So, I put in my time. I wrote and wrote. I also wanted to get paid though. I didn’t want thousands of dollars. I just wanted some chump change to buy some cards here and there. After some time, I tried expanding to other sites. I had a couple articles go up here and there. I was smart enough to start by sending them those “safe” articles first. I got published. Once I got my foot in the door, I tried expanding into other territory. I got a couple more articles got published. However, I eventually submitted something the “editors” didn’t like. That was it. Most of the time I never got a response back. The phone went silent as they would say. After that, I would crawl back to mtgsalvation with my tail between my legs. They took me back of course. Why wouldn’t they? I wrote for free.

    This is off topic, but I must feel I need to defend my controversial or experimental writing style for two seconds. My intent was never to a radical. My whole purpose for my writing is that I wanted to write the articles people weren’t writing. This could be card sleeves or cosplay. It could be controversial, but I wasn’t writing for the sake of being controversial. I simply wanted to put something else out there besides tournament reports or deck techs. We already had plenty of those. Anyway, my two cents.

    To summarize, if you are a writer and expect an healthy exchange of ideas and thoughts between you and the editor, it isn’t going to happen. Those sites also want safe articles. This is probably for good reason. Most of the time that one or two controversial articles blow up in their faces. I can list dozens of articles on many sites that have blown up (in a bad way) on many major sites. Why take a risk on an article that can hurt sales? I get it and you should too if you want to be a Magic writer. The risk for them just isn’t worth it (most of the time).

    Sorry, I just can’t resist one last jab. The reason for this problem is due to the lack of good editors. A good editor can take any article and make it palatable for the masses. How did this or that bad article get out? Did it get overlooked? We just have bad editors. Yes, some blame is to be put on the writers. However, that isn’t their job. Writers are supposed to experiment. Writers as supposed to find new content or things to discuss. That is their job. Good editors make sure that it is acceptable before it goes out the door.

    If you didn’t like Tim Aten’s article, blame the editor. Don’t blame Tim.

    4. Practical. Practical. Practical

    Nope. Not a typo. As I write this, I am trying to choose my words to avoid sounding too cynical. I’m really not. Well, maybe a little. More of it has to do with my sadness for the writing world as a whole. As society has moved onward and forward, we just don’t appreciate a good quality article. We accept quantity over quality. I can see this in Magic articles in general. They used to be well thought out and insightful. They were longer. As the days pass, articles get shorter and shorter and shorter. Part of it simply has to do with pay. Magic sites just don’t want to pay for writing. They just don’t. We have too many idiots out there who will do it for free. Free doesn’t necessarily mean low quality. However, why spend 16 hours on an article when some site is going to only give you 5 dollars in store credit? It is simply the world we live in.

    If Maro makes mistakes, one of them has been his past statements on the lower quality of Magic writing out there today. He said it. It didn’t go over well. Somebody higher up probably told him to knock it off and we probably won’t hear about it again. The problem was how he presented it and then didn’t fully explain. On the surface, it sounds like he was simply being cynical. I think there is a lot of truth to it. The problem is that he never explained himself and the dynamics at work in the real world. Problem one: we don’t have good editors. Problem two: the financial incentives are terrible. Problem three: we don’t cultivate talent.

    I would like to install the virtues of practice, practice and practice to improve your writing. The problem is that it is very difficult to get those opportunities. You need to either know someone or be someone. It is hard to get the practice needed to write good or even great articles when the door is firmly shut on you. There used to be sites where one could get a foot in the door. The writing here at mtgsalvation was one of the few as well as others. Those days are gone. What people want is tech and they want it from the professionals.

    I understand why Maro won’t and never will talk about the state of Magic writing. While it may be true, it is a very sensitive subject. It is a terrible thing to say, but it would be like going around and telling fat people they are fat. Yes, I could probably write that it more PC manner, but I am trying to make a point actually. If Maro elaborates, you are basically saying sites like starcitygames has terrible articles and their editors are morons. Again, being a little hyperbolic to make a point. While it may be true to some degree, it is very dangerous territory. Also, some of the problems doesn’t have anything to do with the available talent pool. A lot of it has to do with financial incentives. People don’t want to pay for articles. It is the digital world we live in. Sites don’t want pay for articles. How many people do you know complain about starcitygames premium? It is thee reasons for writer turnover and burnout.

    5. Positive about Podcasts

    Yes. I am going to say something positive. I don’t think I have actually been negative. I’m just being honest (although I could probably be a little more PC, but I’m not getting paid for this advice/article and I don’t want to spend too much of my life writing this).

    Do a podcast or stream?

    Why am I saying this? Well, Magic sites are for smucks. There is no money there even if you can get in the door. A podcast or stream allows for you to take control of your media/information or however you want to think of your work and intellectual property. If this is something you want to be a success at, you can make some semblance of a paycheck. There is patreon to help you in the beginning or possibly even into the future. There is also that youtube or twitch money if successful. Articles may hang onto life support a while longer, but there is no future there.

    I thought this was about writing?

    It is. A good writer is more than being able to type coherent words. A good writer is about content and understanding how to present that information. The skills necessary for being a good writer is the same skills as being a good podcaster or streamer. Good podcasts have some amount of work put into them before the podcast. That is the same skills writers utilize. Articles (good ones anyway) don’t suddenly materialize out of thin air. There is the idea. Then there is looking at all the angles. Digesting the material. Thinking about the different ways to present that material. The structure and order of the material in presenting it.

    I am going to point at the Tolarian Community College. The professor spends a good deal of time before that clip formulating his thoughts. He has done research. He probably has a script or at least an outline of his talking points. It is the same skills as a writer. Instead of writing those words on a page, the professor is simply speaking those words. If there was an example I would hold up, it would the community college. He is also making money. While it may or may not be making a lot of money (depending on your perspective), he is making a ton more than if he were puttings those words to print.

    The only downside is the lack of guidance. There are no teachers or editors. We have the audience, but they can be fickle or down right unhelpful. Rarely is there useful information to be mined in those comments. If people don’t like something, they just stop watching. Your fans will just pump up your ego. While it can be great having people tell you how awesome you are, it doesn’t help a person grow. Fans are sometimes useless in other factors. I’ve read terrible, terrible articles by professionals and people are just expounding upon their amazing abilities in the comments. I wonder “am I missing something”. Don’t get me wrong. It is great to have fans. It what supports us financially. Let’s put it nicely. I’m a parent and I support my kids whenever they draw a picture. I tell them it is great. It is what good parents do. Encouragement is a good thing in the right doses. I’m a fan of my daughters. This doesn’t mean their finger painting is the Mona Lisa.

    Maybe I will actually talk about craft of writing in the future, but that is it for today.


    Posted in: Personal Writing
  • posted a message on GWx Vizier Company
    Choke should definitely be included. It hits Jeskai, UW and Grixis really hard. There are other random blue based decks that it hits hard as well. If you want to make a blue mage cry, drop a choke onto the battlefield.
    Posted in: Combo
  • posted a message on [Primer] Infect
    My sideboard list looks temporarily like the following:

    I'm probably going to try to fit in one or two Choke. It sounds crazier than it may seem. Infect is mostly a forest/green deck. I'm also playing sultai. Grixis decks are mostly a blue deck along with Jeskai. The at times may have fast starts, but they mostly spend their time trying to get the game under their control. That is when they start deploying threats. You drop a Choke on them and they will be doing literally nothing. I think they run like one swamp and maybe a Blood Crypt.

    Relic of Progenitus is especially good against them and it cycles. Making Snapcaster Mage, Zombie Fish, and and Tarmogoyf less of a threat.

    You have to accept the fact you will never out value Jund. It is their thing and few decks can do it better. You need to go under Jund and kill them before they can take over the game. I may even ignore a Liliana to get there. It is counter intuitive, but ignore the Lilly. Hit them in the face.

    For those match-ups, I'd bring in the two relic and sanctuary. After that, maybe one or two cards. More cards than that and you begin to dilute the deck too much.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts.
    Posted in: Aggro & Tempo
  • posted a message on [Primer] Infect
    Now that I have a little time. I will share my list and give actual reasons for my changes. First here is the BUG Infect list that I am playing.

    Let's go over the Pro's or reasons for playing Sultai first. The big reason is for the four extra infect creatures. If you asked me about UG Infect, I personally would say it isn't good. There is just too much removal and discard in the format. A single discard spell can leave you with nothing but pump spells in hand. In testing, I lost again and again to Jund. The addition of Plague Stinger brings it up to about 50/50. It depends on the Jund build. Jund decks with less Fatal Push and discard increases your odds. The same can be said for more expensive removal in the form of Abrupt Decay. This is the reason Grixis Death Shadow is actually a worse matchup than Jund. They run four Fatal Push and Snapcaster Mage with ways to filter through their deck to find them. Grixis Death's Shadow is more like 40/60. The worst match up (outside notable exemptions) is Jeskai Control. Path to Exile, Snapcaster Mage, Lightning Bolt and Lightning Helix along with counter magic makes it very difficult. It is possible to squeak out a win, but it is difficult. The match up is like 30/60. All of this said is before sideboard.

    The cons or reasons against the deck is the fragile mana. Blood Moon can be a pain. This can be managed and it depends on the Blood Moon deck. With smart play and being always cognizant of a potential Blood Moon, it can be managed. Sideboarding can get a player out of these situations. I guess it comes down to what you are comfortable losing to. At the moment of this writing, Blood Moon is around, but not like it used to be. I feel like the omnipresence of Tron is more of a problem than a Blood Moon.

    Now for the cards. I'm guessing the most eye catching inclusion is Unstable Mutation. It is better in practice than it looks. For example, you are playing against RG Valakut. The opponent turn ones Search for Tomorrow and Sakura-Tribe Elder on turn two to chump block your turn one Glistener Elf and follow it up with a turn three Anger of the Gods. To their surprise, you slap on Unstable Mutation. Sure they chump, but they can't bolt or Anger of the Gods your Glistener Elf away. It doesn't get a -1/-1 counter till your upkeep. Until then, it is a 4/4. Once you untap, you can protect your 3/3 with Vines of the Vastwood, Blossoming Defense, or a simple pump spell. Unstable Mutation is basically good against any deck relying on 3 damage spells for their removal. I know, I know. It is weird, but it has proven its worth. Over the course of multiple turns, it actually provides more pump. The addition of +3, +2, +1 is six power worth of pump. Not bad for one mana.

    The other oddball is Predator's Strike. The idea is basically to remove anything that doesn't pump. I haven't ever loved Apostle's Blessing. I get it. However, it doesn't give me any extra damage. Most of my creatures have invasion already. As long as Glistener Elf does a single poison counter, I am happy. Rancor has been hit or miss. It seems awfully terrible in the face of 1/1 spirit tokens. Keep in mind that Rancor can be seen coming, Predator's Strike is an instant. It actually makes a difference. Having an opponent believe they are chumping a Glistener Elf to only get their creature trampled over with a Predator's Strike is significant.

    On less controversial note, I would promote running at least one Sylvan Scrying in a list. When I am out of creatures, it finds an Inkmoth Nexus. When I need a pump, it finds me Pendelhaven. I would never run more, but it is versatile enough to warrant at least one.

    As for the mana, it is close. Watery Grave is the most likely to be changed. There are times, not often, that Watery Grave is the land you want to fetch. I'd vouch for the inclusion of the Island and Swamp more than the Watery Grave for things like Path to Exile, Ghost Quarter and friends. Otherwise, I think the mana is close to being right.

    A note about the sideboard, there is none as of now. I'm still tweaking. However, with the BUG version of Infect, Shapers' Sanctuary gets better since we are running more creatures. In UG versions, Shapers' Sanctuary just draws into more pump spells or lands too often. There simply isn't enough creatures to support a card like Shapers' Sanctuary.

    Final thoughts: I would not run U/G Infect in its current versions at a tournament. It just isn't good for this meta game and probably moving forward. Sure, you will see the occasional list make the top tables. Remember, sometimes you can just run hot. Jeskai is a terrible match up, but it is still possible to squeak out a win occasionally against them. People can also run cold against you. It is a powerful enough deck that it can pull out wins. Looking at the larger picture of the metagame as a whole, it performs terribly. The deck simply needs to run more creatures. Maybe Spellskite can help, but I'm not optimistic. It can work, sometimes. I'd be okay with the BUG version. I'm not delusional in thinking that it will make me a favorite, but it is better.

    Just my thoughts from testing and matches.
    Posted in: Aggro & Tempo
  • posted a message on [Primer] Infect
    I think if you build Infect correctly with a good sideboard; it is actually good. There are a lot of decks you simply can run over. Tron being the notable match-up. I actually don't find Jund to be all that bad, but I play an unconventional BUG list. Jeskai and Grixis are the worst matchups. With a lot of play testing and a good sideboard for these match ups, they are winnable. Snapcaster Mage is honestly enemy number one. If Grixis continues to decline, that is good news for Infect.

    I'm not going to put lipstick on a pig here. The field is a little hostile to Infect. However, you have to remember that Modern is a huge format. You can go to a Grand Prix and never face Jeskai or Grixis all day. Since Infect can steal a lot of games, you can go far with the right match-ups. This is why you will sporadically see Infect here and there. You can also go to a tournament with the "best" deck and still get wrecked.

    My two cents, the archetype needs to evolve. We can't keep trying the same thing and expect different results. Personally, I'm working on BUG Infect. I'm having good results with it. Yes, I get wrecked by Blood Moon, but I accept those risks and those can be managed to some extent.

    Good Luck
    Posted in: Aggro & Tempo
  • posted a message on GWx Vizier Company
    Personally, I think everyone is trying to get too cute with Walking Balista. I'm not totally against the idea, but I feel most people are overthinking it.

    If you have access to one or two black mana (One for Viscera Seer and Zulaport Cutthroat), I think Zulaport Cutthroat can be equally effective for an instant win.

    If you have Duskwatch Recruiter and infinite mana, grab every single creature in your library. Play every single creature with Zulaport Cutthroat being the last creature to come into play. Sacrifice everything. Your opponent is dead.

    Zulaport Cutthroat can still kill your opponent even through most graveyard hate (exceptions being Rest in Peace and Leyline of the Void). It still works with Collected Company and Chord of Calling.

    A person doesn't actually need black mana if a Chord of Calling is in the graveyard if running Eternal Witness. Play Eternal Witness. Grab Chord of Calling. Grab Zulaport Cutthroat. If you need Viscera Seer, just play the other Eternal Witness and grab the Chord again.

    If Chord of Calling isn't available for some reason, but you have a Collected Company there is an alternative. First, grab every creature except Viscera Seer and Zulaport Cutthroat with the infinite mana and Duskwatch Recruiter. With the deck sufficiently thinned (and after casting all your other green creatures minus the Eternal Witnesses), cast Collected Company. A player should be able to find the combo pieces needed to kill you opponent on the spot.

    Just saying.
    Posted in: Combo
  • posted a message on GWx Vizier Company
    Quote from Ajax255 »
    I agree with Linvala, Keeper of Silence being taken out of the main board. While on this subject Friday I shut Jund down with Linvala, Keeper of Silence game two. Linvala, Keeper of Silence stopped Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet zombie tokens and Scavenging Ooze eating the grave. I couldn't help but laugh.

    How did Linvala, Keeper of Silence stop tokens on Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. Yes, it has an activated ability, but the first ability is a replacement ability not an activated ability. Sorry, not trying to get snarky.
    Posted in: Combo
  • posted a message on GWx Vizier Company
    I'm been having a lot of success with a sideboard of Ghostly Prison. Depending on the Eldrazi deck, I've had games where it has made their deck right down laughable. With Eye of Ugin not producing mana, I've had games where they can't even attack with only one other land in play. Birds and Hierarch can drop it on turn two. Ghostly prison can be good against a few other match ups like Kiki-Chord and Zoo decks. It at least buys enough time to combo out.

    Anyway, just what I have found in playtesting.
    Posted in: Combo
  • posted a message on The Story of Mercury - Comments Good or Bad Welcome
    Thanks Benjameenbear!

    I can't tell you how nice it is to have good constructive feedback.

    I already know the spots you are talking about that are lacking. I got a little rushed, but also realized that I was going to change things in those sections. It is hard to devote too much time when I know that I will already be chopping something in the rewrites.

    I agree. There are too many characters in the story. I was trying to push the whole five color thing, but a failure in hindsight. My writing style also fits with that aspect. I am a big believer in rewrites and chopping during that process. The first time through I just toss the whole pot of spaghetti against the wall. After I am done, I then go back through and polish what was good and chop the chaff. In no way am I trying to justify anything here, I'm just relating my process.

    I will definitely keep your critiques in mind. I know I have been slacking, but mostly I was just waiting for some kind of feedback. Anything really. So, with that in mind, I greatly appreciate that you took the time to actually read my piece and to give me feedback.

    Posted in: Personal Writing
  • posted a message on Juliet - Blue/White Prison
    I think this idea would work a lot better with Esper colors. With black you get discard and extract effects. You could do something like turn one Inquisition of Kozilek into Surgical Extraction. Turn 2 Meddling Mage.

    I can get behind that. I think Gitaxian Probe should stay, but discard would be great as well. Thebreason that I think the deck has legs is there are a number of decks in Modern that have few win conditions. Runed Halo on Valakut stops that deck cold. The same is true for a number of other decks.
    Posted in: Deck Creation (Modern)
  • posted a message on 'Lock and tapped" Need help with suggestions. ( casual , budget)
    Quote from senress »
    Can you think of a way to make it fast enough for modern or any general tips? I just started playing Modern.

    The are a lot of factors that limit the decks possible in Modern. If classic control was a thing, it might be possible. However, there are so many decks that will kill you before you have cast your first spell.

    If you are new to modern, my advice is to watch some archive footage from recent big events. There's ton of stuff on youtube. You can also watch modern events through twitch on the weekend.

    The best thing you could do is proxy up some of the more popular decks and play games against yourself. It is a great way to understand those decks. It isn't supposed to replace regular Magic. Rather it is a great way to learn. Proxy decks are also good way to test new ideas out against.

    I'm definitely not trying to poo poo on your need to brew. I am simply saying this from experience that your idea is strong, but we just don't have the tools in the format to make it happen.
    Posted in: Deck Creation (Modern)
  • posted a message on 'Lock and tapped" Need help with suggestions. ( casual , budget)
    Not to be a downer, but it is probably just too slow for Modern. It was a great combo in Standard for a time. Just about everyone missed the combo. If I remember right, the WotC staff actually had to point it out because nobody was seeing it. They actually waited a couple of months before finally revealing the combo.

    Anyway, it is a fun deck for casual, but not a deck that will cut it at the tournament tables. Fun idea though.
    Posted in: Deck Creation (Modern)
  • posted a message on Juliet - Blue/White Prison
    Looking to the wisdom and hive mind of the community on this idea. It has potential of being either really good or terrible. The basic idea is to lock the opponent out the game completely. Not sure what kind of finisher would be good in the deck. Anyway, here it is.

    I don't know? Thoughts?
    Posted in: Deck Creation (Modern)
  • posted a message on Fallen Royalty - The story I wished to tell for a decade.
    Not a bad beginning. You have my curiosity and that is what is important.

    My first critique is that some general formatting would go a long way. I'm not a grammar police person, but the lack of it here simply makes it hard to read. For a rough draft, I wouldn't worry about making it perfect. However, some general structure would be greatly appreciated.

    For the language thing, I think you are doing quite well especially considering English is not your first language. I think you are being too worried about your language barrier. The writing so far is good. I'd worry less about the language thing and simply focus on your story. Besides, that is what editing and rewriting is for. Nothing is supposed to be perfect the first time. Many of my writing adventures need many rewrites and editing. It is a process.

    Otherwise, I look forward to what you have to write.
    Posted in: Personal Writing
  • posted a message on Legalizing the International Edition Cards for Legacy and Vintage
    An Underground Sea is running at about $100. Also, I don't think they have square corners. They are just like Beta.
    Posted in: Legacy (Type 1.5)
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