There was an old tradition at TCGplayer where we would take a break from publishing new articles during the last week of the year, and instead we would re-post our favorite and most popular articles from the year prior. This year we are keeping content fresh and posting all brand-new articles, but I know there must still be something more to learn by looking back at the hundreds of articles our authors have written in the past year. Surely I personally have something to learn from examining the dozens of articles that I penned. It's a funny feeling to look back at a year's work of writing in a few seconds of clicking through pages of titles, while knowing each one took hours to write. Looking back at these articles today with the renewed perspective of a different place and time allows me to better see them for what they are and were, and I hope to gain some insight about what I did well, and what I didn't and which types of articles connect with the readers. I'm especially interested in looking back at predictions or claims I made and comparing them to what actually occurred. I'll also pour through the massive catalog of articles my fellow TCGplayer writers wrote this year, sharing the articles that really stood out to me and I think deserve a second reading, and shouldn't be missed if you didn't catch it the first time.
Looking at all of my articles together allows me to see the bigger picture, and this wide view gives me a look at the various styles and forms my articles took. There's a lot of ways to talk about Magic cards and endless things to talk about, so it's important that articles have a core idea to grow from and a structure to build upon. Without a foundation, an article can become a muddy mess that doesn't convey a message. If a certain type of articles is effective, I want to revisit it in the future, and I want to avoid any type of articles that have missed the mark. There are a few of my articles that stood out for their style.
I think this article does a lot of things right. To set the stage, the Modern format was at the mercy of the Eldrazi, and any player not on their side was fighting a very uphill battle. The nature of Modern meant that the majority of players were sticking to their guns through the onslaught, and they were truly in a bad spot. I wrote this article from a genuine place of looking to help players beat the deck the best ways I knew how. The article was written in the midst of my Modern testing a few days away from Grand Prix Detroit, so I was intimately familiar with the situation, and the article naturally took the tone of an embattled wizard fighting off the Eldrazi menace. I was testing a lot online, where Eldrazi was everywhere and forced people to find ways to beat them, at least some of the time. I had access to the best technology available, and I shared it in a concise format that shared exactly what to use and how to use it. In the end nothing was able to stop the Eldrazi, and they overran the three Grand Prix around the world that weekend, leading to the banning of Eye of Ugin just weeks later. It's not the type of article I could write any week, but it's exactly the sort of thing to come back to if a metagame is again taken over by a new deck. The current Standard situation with Aetherworks Marvel is almost similar, but the slower pace of players switching complex and expensive Modern decks meant that situation was more dire.
An article that I think is well-done, and in no small part thanks to the work of the team behind the scenes that produced the fantastic graphics that highlight my ideas throughout the article, which was written on the cusp of Standard rotation. There were hundreds of cards leaving the format and a brand-new set entering, and my article attempted to explain how many of the key pieces leaving the format would be replaced by new cards, and the implications that would have. Rotation leaves players with a lot of uncertainty, so I attempted to shed some light into the future to help them prepare for the road ahead. I think this article did that in a very effective style, and because Standard rotation comes with regularity, it's a type of article I could revisit. In the future I'd like to add more structure by breaking it into clearer sections for different types of cards, or from the perspective of the different decks in the format.
An article that I'm really not proud of, if not for the wordy title then for the obvious lack of focus in the article that the title belies. Reading back through the article, it's clear that I had some thoughts about the metagame and things to say that I thought were important and valuable, but I suspect that forcing myself into writing about such contrived categories restricted my message. I didn't do much to expand on the ideas I did have, instead going for more a wide shotgun approach that covered a wide area but didn't penetrate very deeply. Based on my introduction it seems like the article could have been the start of something great, but I stretched myself too thin over a weak framework, and the quality suffered. A better approach would be to break this into two articles that would allow me to expand each topic, or I might have been better off writing a more free-form style that included more of my thoughts on the current state of the metagame.
Writing about Magic - most of all when evaluating new cards - means making some predictions about an uncertain future. But things don't always turn out how they seem, and it's easy to focus attention on ideas and cards that don't end up panning out. Looking back at what I wrote this year, I'm glad that I was on the right track exploring Emrakul, the Promised End, which if anything turned out to be even bigger and more important than I predicted. It's obvious how strong the card is now, and looking back, I make a strong case for taking the card seriously.
One of the most fun articles of the previous year was my bold claim about Standard with this one. The article was published on the eve of the Pro Tour, where the pros would reveal their Eldritch Moon brews, and I stated that we would see powerful graveyard decks that hadn't been seen since the likes of when Dredge was last in Standard. I shared a decklist I found on Hareruya's website played by an old pro, who happened to be qualified for the Pro Tour, as evidence. As it turns out, many similar decks did appear at the Pro Tour, and the graveyard was a centerpiece of many decks. My article shared some exciting and relevant information to readers who weren't likely to hear it anywhere else, so I think this article was a win.
Sometimes things don't always go as we expect, and my prediction that Eldrazi would dominate Standard couldn't have been farther from the truth. When I wrote this, rotation was imminent and people were beginning to plan for the future format. A rotation-proof Eldrazi deck had just put up a great tournament finish, and it seemed clear that the deck would persist as a major player after rotation. As it turned out, rotation and the influx of Shadows over Innistrad changed the format enough that Eldrazi were barely even competitive, and no dedicated Eldrazi decks ever really established themselves as significant factors in the metagame. You win some, you lose some, but it's no surprise that the article that was farthest off was also making predictions the farthest in the future with the least information, and if the article is viewed as "this is how things could be, based on what we know now," more than " this is how things will be," then the article did a fine job, which is important to keep in mind for future articles.
It's not full of the newest tech nor does it have any specific advice, but this was my favorite article of the year. The intent was to celebrate the release of Eternal Masters, and the best way I knew to do that was to share memories that its cards evoke. It was fun to tell some of my best and most personal Magic stories and Reminisce about some of the reasons why we play this game in the first place.
Some of my favorite articles of the last year written by other authors also share personal stories, like Conley Woods' voyage of personal growth in " Exploration and Change," or Craig Wescoe's sharing the power of embracing yourself in "Be You." It's fascinating when a story leads to extraordinary success, which is what happens in Seth Manfield's story of how he won a Grand Prix.
Some of the best articles are those that elevate our game. Knowledge is power, and Jadine Klomparens drops it in "Dynamic Mulligans," which tells you exactly what you are doing wrong every time you decide to keep a hand or throw it back. Steve Rubin has only been writing here for a few months and focuses mostly on videos, but his "Kaladesh Sealed Workshop" was packed with information and a style I hope he revisits next year.
My favorite article by Raphael Levy was his personal "Three Stories About Magic," but his best piece of the year – and winner for the best video of 2016 – was "Drapht Around the World: South Africa." Levy is an avid traveler and in what is the first of hopefully many installments, he shares the story of one of the many communities of Magic players around the globe.
What are your favorite TCGplayer articles of 2016? What would you like to see in 2017?