Writing Better MTG Posts

23:30 Fri 16 Mar 2007. Updated: 23:34 26 Jun 2013
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I’m not very happy with my post from yesterday. I think it was uninspired, didn’t have any great insight in it, and lacked any stylistic qualities to make up for these shortcomings. In addition, I think it would be hard for someone who doesn’t play MTG to get much out of it, while simultaneously lacking detail or analysis that would interest an MTG player. Okay, so it was bad—how can I do better?

I’m talking specifically about MTG posts. I don’t write many, but I am considering writing about my Wednesday night draft each week. Partly because I think it might have a positive impact on my play, and partly because MTG is a big enough part of my life that I think I should write about it. (This holds true even though right now it’s a smaller part of my life than it has been in over five years, and I’m just not playing that much.) Another reason is that I think it’s a good challenge to try to write about it so that it’s interesting—without losing the plot altogether and writing something like Jonny Magic and the Card-Shark Kids (which you’ll note I’m not linking to).

Beyond all that, I’m going to write about just because I want to write about it.

But posts like yesterday’s are far too poor to be repeated weekly (or ever), and the first step towards improvement here is structure. Creating a structure that I’ll write in means that’s time and effort I don’t have to spend planning, and it should also push me to make sure that individual sections are interesting.

What’s important in a draft report?

Expression of my experience and feelings. The idea isn’t to have some kind of pseudo-objective transcript of the games, but rather to be a vehicle for self-expression. If I’m frustrated and whiny after a loss, either that should come through in the writing, or how I got past that should come through in the writing.

Analysis of the draft and games as empirical data about certain approaches. MTG is a very complicated game to play well, and theories about how to do so, particularly within specific card sets, vary significantly. Each theory is just that, a hypothesis awaiting testing. The testing is imperfect, and provides far too small a sample size, but it nevertheless represents more or less the only data available. At the very least I should have a theory which I am able to describe, and analysis of how that theory performed that night.

People and personality. These are the things that make descriptions of the game interesting in a non-technical sense. Players have distinct and interesting personalities, and who they are as people—or at least some part of that—should come across in my writing. This was conspicuously absent from my post last night, and all the players mentioned might as well have been ciphers. (Even as ciphers, they could have been a lot better, improved immeasurably just by linking to their statistical profiles on http://sfmagic.org/. ) Reading yesterday’s post did not inform the reader, for example, that Jim is a critical mainstay in our group and that he is one of the reasons for the group’s longevity; nor did it even hint at the fact that Seth is at heart a filthy combo player who offsets his thirst for lethal Rube Goldberg card interaction devices with an earnest eschewing of tournament-style play.

Accessibility. I would like people who are not MTG players to be able to understand and enjoy the posts. At the same time, I don’t want to clog up the narratives with explication that will bore those who have a firm grasp of the game.

Joie de jouer. I want to communicate not merely that I love the game, but at least some inkling of why I love the game, and what about it keeps bringing me back.

So, a structure to support that:

  • Introduction/Scene Setting. A brief overview of the atmosphere that evening, any notable changes inside or outside the game, my state of mind, and so on.
  • Overview of drafting. This will be marked out as distinct from the article, and I’ll probably incorporate ways for experienced players to hide it.
  • Discussion of my plan for the draft. (This does assume that I have a plan.)
  • Overview of the draft pod, complete with who was where, who played what, brief notes on each of the players (including stats links), and my feelings on the overall skill level.
  • Overview of my draft, with focus on any difficult decisions and on where things went right/wrong. This will be accompanied by longer explanations for non-players, that will be marked as distinct from the rest.
  • My decklist. Duh. With links to card descriptions, which will also be present when I mention cards in the rest of the post.
  • A discussion of each of my matches, possibly with photographs of tricky board positions, and definitely with at least some information about my opponents.
  • The overall results, possibly with some commentary on season standings, races, etc.

That seems like a structure that should work significantly better. It won’t guarantee good posts on the topic, but had I had it last night the post would have been better.

2 Responses to “Writing Better MTG Posts”

  1. kevintel Says:

    That is a very interesting observation, Tadhg; I actually had the very same thought just minutes before seeing this in my feed reader. In fact, I nearly didn’t read this because I thought it would be more of the same as the previous MTG posts, and although I check your posts (how carefully I read them does depend on how much time I have at that moment, and you are a high-frequency poster, so it pays to be selective.) I had the same distinct sensation as when I eat raw oatmeal without milk or water. The experience, while healthy and somewhat informative, leaves something to be desired… ;-)

    So, while I’d worry less about structure, if I was you, I would make it more exciting (enhance the feeling of exciting gameplay) and maybe add some humour and asides too. You’re right about adding personalisation. As you know, a person can write interesting, entertaining, educational and insightful prose about anything, the subject matter doesn’t matter once you hook your audience. Maybe a question for you is ‘who is your audience and do they really want to have s much detail at the expense of a good read?’… Check out Will Wheaton’s blog (yes, the former Wesley Crusher, and he is a very good writer) to see how he handles writing about poker. It’s technical, but reads as exciting without needing to know too much about how the game actually works.

    Sorry if that reads like a kicking, but if I can help you improve those damn MTG posts, I’ll stick my oar in.

  2. Tadhg Says:

    Hmm, my posts are like raw, dry oatmeal, huh? I sense a powerful marketing campaign built around that concept…

    It’s not a kicking, no worries there—although you make it seem as if I write many more MTG-focused posts than I actually do.

    I’m familiar with Wil Wheaton and his blog, although I don’t read it too often. I have read plenty of poker coverage that works for people who aren’t that into poker, though, and the same for a bunch of other games. It’s clearly possible (although MTG does raise some different challenges.)

    As for the structure, I think it’s more important to the goals than you do. It’s not a goal in itself, but it should make reaching the goals of more excitement and entertainment easier.

    Or so I hope… we’ll see how it works out, probably starting next Thursday.

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