With this article I surpass one million words of published, written Magic content.
Given that few writers in the history of the game have made it to this milestone, I decided today to look back on my career as a Magic writer to celebrate some of the highlights to this point, including how I've worked hard to give my readers what they want, told my personal story, written for multiple audiences, taught players how to improve at Magic, and how I've never shied away from defending what I believe, regardless of who agreed or disagreed with me. Throughout my career, my passion for writing about Magic has been as strong as my passion for playing Magic.
Before delving into the highlights, let's first try to conceptualize the size of one million words.
If you've ever written a paper for class, you're likely familiar with the standard typed, double-spaced format with one inch margins and twelve-point font. According to wordcounter.net an average page with these parameters is approximately 250 words. An average 10-page paper would thus be approximately 2,500 words long, which is about the length of a single Magic article. One million words would therefore be the equivalent of a 4,000-page paper! Can you imagine walking into class and being assigned a paper that long? Well, that's essentially what happened to me and it took me almost eight years to complete it at a rate of approximately one 10-page paper per week.
Another way of looking at it would be to compare one million words to other popular bodies of work.
1. The entire King James Bible has 783,137 words.
2. The entire Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien, including four books: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King, altogether total 828,045 words.
3. The entire Harry Potter series by JK Rowling, including seven books: The Philosopher's Stone, The Chamber of Secrets, The Prisoner of Azkaban, The Goblet of Fire, The Order of the Phoenix, The Half Blood Prince, and The Deathly Hallows, altogether total just over one million words.
If you were to print out all my Magic articles and put them on the shelf, they would take up about as much space as all seven of the Harry Potter books combined, and that is not even counting the 1,183 deck lists within the articles, the countless written responses to article comments, any verbal content in videos, or even the Ten Packs eBook I co-authored with Kibler, LSV, and PV. If I were to count any of that, I would be well past one million by this point. It's crazy to think that I've published as many words about wizards and sorceries as JK Rowling, but that's exactly what happened!
Now that we have an idea of the size of one million words, let's take a look back at some of the highlights of my writing career and of the many things I've accomplished.
I remember writing Five Homes for Brimaz, King of Oreskos. At midnight I was tagged with a flurry of tweets and Facebook posts asking for my opinion on the hottest new white creature that was just spoiled (the preview articles used to go up at midnight). At that point I made the decision to scrap the article I had already written and instead write a new one for the following morning. I stayed up all night brewing decks and writing an article all about Brimaz, King of Oreskos in order to give my readers what they wanted. It ended up being worth it as the article was exactly what everyone was hoping for! Also included in the article was a foreshadowing of my future Twitter handle change when I concluded the article with "Brimaz and his cat soldier tokens are my Nacatls for life!"
Every once in a while I allow myself to write a personal piece that deviates from my regular strategy or finance articles. Winning Pro Tour Dragon's Maze felt like one of those times where it was appropriate. An Undeserved Gift – A Pro Tour Champion's Report focuses on my experience of winning the Pro Tour. As previously mentioned in the conclusion of Living the Magic Life, my 17-year-long dream was to win the Pro Tour. Realizing that dream was a surreal moment in my life and this article offers a deeper glimpse into my personal life (and my faith) than probably any other Magic article I've ever written.
Ever since I first began playing Magic in 1995, I would often get asked, "What is this game you're playing?" This would be especially true when a large group of Magic players are sitting around in a hotel lobby, in the food court of the mall, or any other public place – laughing and having fun when a casual passerby stops to find out what's so interesting about Magic. I know that I am not alone in this experience, so I sought to understand just what Magic means to so many different people. The Appeal of Magic is the culmination of my investigation. The article is intended primarily for a non-Magic playing audience and to be a handy article that Magic players could link someone to anytime they were asked why people play Magic. It can also help each member of the Magic community to better understand and celebrate the common ground and differences between their own attraction to Magic and that of their peers.
The article was intended to be timeless and four years later it holds just as true as it did the day it was written. The one part I would change is in the beginning section where I say players construct a 40 or 60-card deck. I would amend that part to also include a 100-card Commander deck since that format has grown considerably in popularity since the time the article was written. I might also say something more about the self-expressive appeal of Magic. Nevertheless I would recommend bookmarking this article to show people the next time you're asked why so many people play Magic.
As a Magic writer, I take my primary job to be making Magic more enjoyable for my audience. For some it means designing a competitive tribal Cats deck for their next Modern FNM. For others it means sharing my perfectly-positioned deck list and sideboard guide the day before I use it to Top 8 a Grand Prix. I try to make my articles entertaining for the people who just want to have fun with Magic, but I also want to be as informative as possible for the players who want to win more at Magic. For this latter audience I see myself as a teacher, and in order to be the best teacher I can be, I strive to be the best student of the game I can be.
I've written several general strategy articles aimed at teaching people how to see the game differently – how to understand its hidden complexity, and to learn how to win more. In Multilevel Thinking I apply an abstract poker concept to Magic strategy. In Becoming a Better Magic Player: Seven Exercises I examine seven board states, each with a broader lesson to be learned. In Five Tips for Stepping up your Game I learn from my own mistakes and distill them into teachable principles. In Tournament Preparation Tips I offer a practical course of action to improve your tournament performances. In How to be the Best at Magic I take a realistic look at the costs of becoming one of the best players in the world and explain how best to pay these costs. And in one of my own personal favorite articles, entitled Magic and the Art of War, I flex my artistic muscle and apply maxims from an ancient text to Magic strategy. But that's not why I like it so much! For each maxim I also found a female warrior character in Magic that I felt embodied the spirit of the corresponding maxim and made it sound like the maxim was a quote from that character. I felt this really brought the characters to life and celebrated the role of female warriors in Magic lore, many of whom I've played extensively in some of my favorite decks. That was the part that was my favorite! The strategies in each of these articles are fairly timeless and much can be learned from them even today, although a few of the examples are a bit dated and might require some research to understand the context.
After many experiments in trying to help people become better at Magic, I finally stumbled upon what I take to be the best and most actionable method for improving, which I wrote about in detail in The Single Best Way to Improve at Magic. The method is actually quite simple: you collaborate with another player about possible lines of play while facing a single opponent. This is best done while playing Magic Online together against an unknown opponent since a real life opponent will hear what you are talking about, which might alter their lines of play.
In the article I detail the long road it took for me to finally arrive at this method and how I also started a (now mostly inactive) Facebook group called MTG Fortified Area designed to pair people up who wanted to try out the method but who didn't have anyone to try it with or who didn't have a collection online. It all stemmed from my commitment to improving my own game as well as my commitment to that part of the Magic community looking to me for guidance to help improve their own game.
When Modern first became a format, it was essentially the Wild West and nearly every deck in the format was some type of combo deck that would kill by the third or fourth turn (or sooner). After a series of bannings and unbannings and a gradual expansion of the card pool as new sets were released, the format finally began to balance out. While most of the pro community spoke very disparagingly about the format, I continued to champion it as the best Constructed format in Magic. No other format other than Legacy allows so many different players to play whatever deck they want. And the main advantage Modern has over Legacy is the lack of Reserved List complications. In Legacy, people are priced out because staples such as Underground Sea cost too much money and there is not much that Wizards can do about it because the Reserved List prohibits them from reprinting the card. Modern doesn't have this problem since none of its cards are on the Reserved List. Wizards is thus free to reprint cards in future sets or in Modern Masters sets whenever the barrier to entry into the format needs to be lowered.
In addition to players being able to play a wide variety of strategies without getting priced out of the format by cards on the Reserved List, another great selling point about Modern is that your investment retains its value over time. If a player decides to start playing in Constructed tournaments, they can choose either Standard or Modern. If they choose Standard, approximately one year later half their cards will rotate out, making them illegal for tournament play and worth a fraction of what they paid for them. So unless you play every single week, the investment is usually not worth it. For anyone who plays less frequently, Modern is a far better format to invest in. You can build a deck and play with it whenever you want. Unless you happen to invest in one of the most degenerate strategies in the format with a risk of a key card getting banned, your deck will be legal and likely competitive (although perhaps needing tuned and updated) for years to come. And if you decide to sell your cards, they will usually be worth at least as much if not more than they were worth when you purchased them. Modern is simply the best Constructed format in Magic and I've held this view for years. Even when most of the pro community deemed the format terrible, I took the opposite stance and fought hard to show people what I saw in Modern, as exemplified in Why Modern is Great and You Should Play It!
I don't know to what extent my articles and my unwavering promotion of Modern played a role in the present health and flourishing of the format, but I do know that I'll never shy away from standing my ground and advocating for what I believe in, even at the expense of having to stand alone among my peers to do so. Modern is good for Magic and I knew it even if others didn't yet see what I saw.
In addition to the highlights mentioned, I've also produced one of the largest and longest standing bodies of Magic finance articles in the history of the game. And to my knowledge, no one has ever broken my record for the longest Magic article ever written, which was so big it crashed the TCGplayer website, forcing them to break it into a part 1 and part 2 just to fit it onto the website! My favorite part about that article was that for some reason I decided 12,000+ words wasn't quite enough and so I added a pair of bonus videos at the end of me playing the deck on Magic Online.
I've always been of the disposition to give more than is required and those videos tacked onto the end of perhaps the longest Magic strategy article ever written exemplify my approach to Magic writing. I've poured my heart and soul into my work and I feel as accomplished as a professional Magic writer as I do as a professional Magic player. There is also unquestionable sincerity in my writing as I've repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to share my strategies with my readers even before using them myself in an important tournament. I've never been one to hold anything back in my articles since I prioritize producing top quality content as much as I prioritize putting up strong tournament finishes.
It took me nearly eight years and 375 articles to make it to one million words. I don't know what the future holds, and I don't have any plans to stop writing anytime soon, but it's unlikely I will make it to two million. I embrace the fact that when all is said and done, I will likely be remembered first and foremost as the game's best white creature mage, but I would also like everyone to keep in mind that throughout my professional career I have been as much a Magic writer as I have been a Magic player and that my commitment to my readers has been every bit as strong as my commitment to the little white creatures.