Where do we go from here?

I have no idea why I had to manually close my polls after their duration of 1 week had expired, but I did. Now, what did I learn?

You should all be able to see the polls’ results. The total number of answers is low enough that it may be important to mention I voted myself in them for testing reasons.

So, I can expect to have a grand total of 28 readers in the near future! While that number could actually have been more disappointing, not really by a whole lot – if you compare it to readers of random private blogs, this might sound somehow reasonable, but I used to be writing for a public in the Magic community. Zeromagic itself used to have seven times that audience even when it was already on the decline, and my writings on PlanetMTG and Magic Universe reached a near 4-digit number of people once.

Obviously, that lies in the distant past now, but the important thing here is that both my own expectations and that of my readers with regards to quantity and quality of my articles are still heavily colored by those times. I am used to pour a lot of effort into my writings, but that commitment is hard to justify once I neither get recompensed for it, nor contribute to a large community. Now that my readership has shrunken to the size of an (admittedly still over-average well received) private blog, I need to learn to adjust the style of my entries to fit that.

First and foremost that means to really blog about exactly those topics I feel like blogging about, and nothing else. I might lose a few more readers that way (really just a few, if the poll doesn’t lie), but I have nothing to fight for anymore. With an audience nearing a three-digit number, I would consider to cater to my readers’ preferences a little to nurture that audience, but we’re not anywhere close to that, so Zeromagic will now complete the transition from public to private.

This means that I also no longer care for expressed preferences which topics people like to read about or not. I might take up a suggestion if I like that idea, and I’m always happy about questions, corrections, criticism and advice; but from now on I will write about whatever I damn well please and nothing else. My motivation to blog will still be tied to the amount and quality of the feedback I get, though. Just note that comments in the vein of “I do not care for this topic” no longer hold any value for me even when accompanied by “…but I’d like to read something about XYZ”.

Regarding the topics poll: I am a little surprised by these numbers. For one thing, I’d been under the impression that my rants about everything that’s wrong with Magic were rather unpopular with a large segment of my readers, but that doesn’t actually seem to be the case. (Maybe everyone annoyed by them has already left for good?) I had also thought that my card design entries were more popular than anything I wrote about general strategy and limited, and that my Next Level Cube entries weren’ quite as unpopular as they turned out to be. Obviously I have been misled by feedback: People rarely commented on my strategy content, but I got a lot of encouragement – partly even enthusiastic! – for my card design and Next Level Cube entries.

In the end, though, what it comes down to is that my readership has already downsized to those people who are willing to read whatever I write – note how over half of you are at least interested in my Next Level Cube writings, even if only a quarter checked that they wanted to read that content specifically. Since it is usually tied to both fundamental game strategy and limited gameplay, if those are topics you care about, you might want to take another look at that content from those angles.

One point of data from those polls might actually stir me into action. Fourteen people checked the box for the following statement:

I rarely, if ever, play limited in DCI-sanctioned events or on Magic Online, but I’m generally interested in improving my skills and then playing more

There is actually a small audience for beginner-level limited advice among my readership? Is that really so? As I already explained, I will not refocus my writing for my small readership (and even less for a segment of it), but there might be another way to serve those people.

Before I get to that, however, let me explain a few things about the kind of content I am already publishing in that vein: Some of you have remarked that they cannot take away a lot from my pictures of winning decks. That is unfortunate, but there really is no way that I go to the trouble of posting lists again for two dozen people. (I also heavily doubt that readers who have to click many of those card links to see what a card does will be able to learn a lot from those lists either.) You should be aware, though, that just clicking those pictures should be enough to see a decently-sized version of them with clearly readable names. (At least if you read my articles on a real screen rather than a smartphone…)

You should also be aware that examples of winning decks are a great learning tool for intermediate players (in contrast to real beginners, no matter the presentation) – mostly because they are an opportunity to ask questions and start discussions! Why did I play card X, but left card Y in my sideboard? Did that mana base work fine, or did I just get lucky with a risky build? How much did specific cards or synergies contribute to the deck’s success? Do I believe this was a legitimate 3-0 deck, or did it overperform?

A deck which won a draft cannot be compared to a constructed deck which won a Grand Prix. It shows no absolute truths, whereas the success of a deck that fought through a tournament with over thousand players presents the viability of that deck (in that metagame) as an indisputable fact. A winning draft deck is not something to marvel at, or to emulate. It is, however, a great starting point for discussions. You want to get better at limited? Well, the first step is to get familiar enough with the cards so that you know what most of them do just by looking at their name! (Actually, my screenshots even give a little more information, since you can also see a card’s frame color and mana cost.) Without that, you won’t be going anywhere anyway.

Once you reach that point, however, my entries about winning deck lists are a great tool at your disposal! That is because I am both a really good drafter and limited deck builder, and because I am willing (and actually enjoy) to talk about those topics. Look at my decks, think about them, and ask questions – not just to yourself, but in the comments! I will very probably answer them. Maybe someone else will also chime in. These kinds of discussion are learning. You cannot expect to really get better by just passively reading articles, watching videos or listening to podcasts (especially not by the latter two!) – you need to engage. (Also, you obviously need to practice, but that is another topic.) My blog entries are a resource – use them not just by skimming over them, but by creating and participating in discussions!

…or don’t. See, I’m just not sure I can trust your answers in these polls! People interested in my Next Level Cubes obviously are a small minority even among my few readers, but the feedback they gave me made me think there were a lot more of them. On the other hand, it feels like almost no one ever commented on my entries about limited – and that’s not just my winning decklist screenshots. I think I wrote an excellent post about sideboarding in sealed here, but noone seemed to care. Are you serious about wanting to improve your limited game? Then you need to engage. If those screenshots of winning decks aren’t interesting enough to you, this may be because you do not make them interesting enough – not only because you do not comment on them, starting discussions; but also because my desire to talk about them more extensively decreases with the amount of feedback I (do not) get. Why should I bother to write down my thoughts, when I see no signs that anyone is interested?

So, I doubt that there are really a good dozen of my readers who’d like to improve their limited game, but I guess it is possible. In that case, maybe there is something I can do for you. Be warned, though: It requires active participation from your side!

If there is actual interest, I would be willing to start a Magic Online Clan focussing on improving limited play (with the advent of sealed leagues, this now actually means both draft and sealed). Obviously, to profit from this, you need a Magic Online account. You also need to be willing to actually play draft and sealed there, which will most likely be a bit of an investment at first before you will get good enough to refinance a decent amount of event entry costs. Most importantly, though, you need to actually engage me (and others), both on Magic Online and here on Zeromagic!

I am not going to start another poll here. If you would like to join such a clan, please post in the comments. If enough people show interest, this may become reality.

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2 Comments on “Where do we go from here?”

  1. Simon Rau Says:

    “Regarding the topics poll: I am a little surprised by these numbers. For one thing, I’d been under the impression that my rants about everything that’s wrong with Magic were rather unpopular with a large segment of my readers, but that doesn’t actually seem to be the case. (Maybe everyone annoyed by them has already left for good?)”

    Ich antworte mal auf deutsch:

    Deine Schlussfolgerungen mögen nicht verkehrt sein. Wer kennt sie nicht, die ganzen Hardcore Fans, sei es von Bands, Fußballvereinen usw. welche eine Kritik an “ihrem” Liebling gleich mit einer Gotteslästerung gleichsetzen? Die meisten Spieler lieben Magic, auch wenn es sicherlich ebenso einige negative Punkte für sie gibt. Aber wenn sie irgendwann nur noch Negatives lesen, werden sie sich als Leser abwenden und nur ein harter Kern übrig bleiben. Es wirkt dann so, als ob jemand an der “guten alten Zeit” festhalten wolle und nicht mit Veränderungen kann. Oder eben doch kann – wie deine Analogie mit Drogenabhängigen auch auf dich anzuwenden wäre. ;-)
    Aber keiner weiß besser als du, dass Kritik ja sowohl negativ als auch positive Aspekte beinhaltet, auch wenn viele Kritik ausschließlich als negativen Begriff wahrnehmen (“kritisiert werden”). Ich glaube es gäbe einige, die sich auch mal über positive Veränderungen lesen wollen, auch wenn es vielleicht nur kleine Aspekte sind, wie eine schön designte neue Mechanik – Negative Schlagzeilen sind natürlich für breit gestreute News Seiten der Renner, aber für eingefleischte Fans einer einzigen, bestimmten Sparte funktioniert das meistens nicht so…
    Das sind meine Gedanken dazu, ich hab kein Problem über viel negative Kritik am Spiel zu lesen, aber es hat sicherlich einen Einfluss auf die Leserschaft.

    Nun stellt sich daraus die Frage, warum schreibt/blogged man – für die möglichst große Leserschaft oder für die, die sich auch um die Themen interessieren, die man selbst ansprechen möchte?
    Die Magic Designer stehen da vor einem ähnlich geschachtelten Problem: Sie müssen Umsatz machen – wäre dem nicht so, ich glaube sie würden mehr Dinge wie einen Time Spiral Block designen (Aaron Forsythe’s Lieblings-Set aber auch bei WotC intern als Fehler abgehakt weil zu komplex für Neulinge). Also ist WotC auch getriebener seiner Spielerschaft und den Gesetzen des Marktes! Dasselbe beim Artwork usw…die meisten Spieler wollen leider die CGI Art…vieles ist dem Mainstream des Spiels geschuldet, was in den 90ern noch nicht da war (ok und digitale Artworks gab es noch nicht in der Form).

    Man kann also WotC für alles kritisieren, sollte aber den Kontext ihrer Entscheidungen nicht außer acht lassen.

  2. For what it’s worth: I didn’t vote on your polls, because I mostly kept away from the internet (apart for social media) during my vacation.

    But by now you probably know, I read most of your stuff, am especially fond of Next Level Cube entries and enjoy your custom card designs.

    I do look at your winning decks, but don’t see myself contributing much to those posts apart from the odd question now and than, because just don’t play that much limited. Maybe 2-3 drafts for each set and 1 or 2 sealed events (though the sealed leagues on MTGO might change that in the future).

    In short, I’ll keep reading and I’ll comment when I feel I can contribute something.

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