3/17/2014 MM: "How To Write An Article"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Making Magic, which goes live Monday morning on magicthegathering.com.

I definitely enjoyed this article and will be using it in the future. It was direct (and as a result I think a bit drier than normal) but effective. I write for PureMTGO (look at my sig!) so hopefully this can help and I'll keep it bookmarked.

Myths of Theros: Part 1, Part 2, Born of the Gods Myths

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Momir Basic Primer

It was interesting to read this in the context of the last 10+ years or so of Magic writing that I've read.  Off the top of my head, I can list some writers that know these tactics (sometimes unconsciously), and those that don't.  This is an excellent article for anyone who has to write - whether it's an essay, a term paper, a presentation, or a tournament report.  (I wish MaRo had gone into the details of how to write a good tournament report - I feel like this is becoming a lost art....)


What I see sometimes, particularly in the Magic community, is that the size of the audience means that the writer can never please everyone.  Take maybe the most well known Magic writer, Mike Flores.  For some years his columns were in depth, based on history, in jokes, and the "lived knowledge" that the community developed.  It was almost unreadable by new players, and sometimes ridiculed as being too inward-looking and overanalyzed.  His newest column is starting from the basics, and now is getting the opposite response - it's too basic for some, and (for me) is missing some of that joie de vivre of those years of experience.


So my point is - knowing your audience means knowing how, or even if, you can reach all of them.  Some articles are just not for everybody, as the response to MaRo's past articles shows as well ("Elegance", anyone?).  But the good news is that if you fail, you get another chance next week!

Maybe it's just me, but I'm more interested to read the article that opened cold with "For a week, we didn't shave." than the one that blathers on for a paragraph about what Tempest week means, and why it's important to MaRo before hitting that line - the first grabs my attention and makes me want to read more; the latter, I'm already asleep by that point, know where the line's going to end up (it's going to turn into a story about how Tempest got designed, and the not shaving will either be some kind of team-building exercise, or an illustration of how intense and poorly managed the process was)


When I click on an article, I'm starting a process of discovery. If the first paragraph hands me a map, then I'm immediately in a different mindset - instead of exploring and seeing where the path takes me, I'm focusing on the destination and any major landmarks on the way. "For a week, we didn't shave." is an open invitation for exploration, inviting the question of where it's leading, but if I'm looking forward to getting somewhere, it's just a distraction.



Of course, it goes without saying that the follow-up is vital - if I'm exploring to find out where the opening line is leading, then it has to lead somewhere (it doesn't have to be immediate if what comes next is engaging, particularly if it promises to get there eventually, but if the article ends without explaining it, I'll feel cheated) - and if the meat of the article is worth reading then the opening filler is less significant, but I'd be more receptive after the former opening than the latter.

M:tG Rules Advisor

MaRo wrote:
And we're back to devotion of five. I should point out here that the best way to figure out what the right number is supposed to be is to keep shifting it around during playtests to get a feel for what works best.

Actually, if you read the wording on the devotion costs, the number didn't shift around at all - it was merely worded differently. It stayed at 6 until it dropped (only once) to 5. It was worded originally as creature if 6 or more, and then reworded to non-creature if 5 or less (the same thing), non-creature if less than 6 (again, the same thing), and then finally it dropped to where it was printed as  non-creature if less than 5.