In November of 2012 I was furious with Wizards for the naming of Dragon’s Maze, the third expansion in the Return to Ravnica block. The announcement of DGM was the big news of the week, but not everyone was responsive to the name. I was looking for a better outlet for my ire than Reddit. I approached Matt Jones and Zac Clark about writing for their fledgling MTG blog. One year and 50 columns later, here we are at the first anniversary of What We Learned.

What We Learned

We’ve learned a lot in the last year together covering the MTG community and all the biggest news in the game. Now, we look back and pick the ten best editions of this column, in chronological order, tracking a year of growth in the game, the community, this blog, and myself as a writer.

Nov 16th – Wizards Needs Focus Groups

This is where it all began. The writing and voice are rough, but the message was there. I still believe that Dragon’s Maze is undeniably the poorest named expansion of all time. Theros block has been okay for names. Theros itself is a fantastic, flavorful name, but Born of the Gods 
and Journey Into Nyx are both a bit too full of action for my liking. I would appreciate a return to simple names for next fall’s block.

Dec 28th – US Patent #US56623332

This was the first of several research pieces I wrote during my first year of writing this column. For this installment, in honor of the 20th anniversary of the game, I took a look at the design of Magic’s influence on the design of modern games. Wizards happens to have a patent on many of the mechanics of Magic, so it leads to some entertaining situations in modern games where they change things slightly to avoid using any game design aspect intellectually owned by Wizards.

Jan 28th – Not Playing Magic

I’m just noticing now how much shorter my older posts used to be. Those were the days. They were also days in which I was still playing Magic regularly. The question I get asked the most these days is how I can write regularly for a Magic blog when I don’t play Magic anymore. Perhaps I’m blazing a new trail, but I think it’s important for the fans of the game, who aren’t competitive players, or perhaps even players or even collectors, to have a voice in this community. Hopefully it’s important to Wizards as well. 10 months later I’m still not playing Magic and couldn’t be happier about it.

Feb 25th – Grand Prix Charlotte

Charlotte should still resonate in the minds of fans of the Pro Tour/Grand Prix circuit. It was an epic event, attended by over 2,600 players on a winter weekend. More people were playing Magic that weekend in sanctioned events than perhaps ever before. By now I was writing every week regularly and could do things confidently such as making predictions. I would revisit this column, and my thoughts about attendance, later in the year when GP Las Vegas completely changed the game.

Apr 22nd – Boston

A month after PAX East, two cowards committed an act of violence and terrorism at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. One of the privileges of writing this column is having a platform for expressing  my thoughts and opinions on virtually any topic. I used that opportunity to share my feelings on the events in Boston.

Jun 10th – The Chronicles Effect

It was only a matter of time before I started to delve deeper into the world of Magic finance. It is a big topic in the community and is one I had always intended to give coverage to, and one I will continue to cover into the future. I wrote a series of articles on Modern Masters and financial evaluation. The second of these articles, up until this past week, was the most widely read piece I had written.

Jun 24th – Luck be a Lady

Grand Prix Las Vegas made Grand Prix Charlotte look like Friday Night Magic in terms of attendance. An absolutely unreal 4,500 players participated in the event in the Nevada desert. I looked at the amazing sequence of events that led to Cascade Games hosting the largest Magic tournament in the game’s history, and how things had progressed in the months since I talked about the problems of GP Charlotte. Seven months into my writing career, my voice was becoming more refined and my writing more prolific.

Jul 1st – Coverage

In the wake of John Butler’s manifesto on Magic the Gathering coverage, we put together a list of the Top 100 professional Magic players in the world. The impact was immediate and put Hipsters of the Coast on the map in a massive discussion involving Aaron Forsythe, Helene Bergerot, Brian Kibler, Evan Erwin, and many, many more. The effects of the list were more far-reaching than Hunter or I had predicted they would be, though we knew we had something very special. So special in fact…

Oct 7th – MTG Top 25

… Wizards released their own version of the rankings three months later. I never played in a Pro Tour event. I never made day two of a Grand Prix, or top-8 of a PTQ. My greatest accomplishment playing the game was winning a couple Grand Prix Trials. But, I can now say that I have left my mark on the game. In creating the Top 100 list for Hipsters of the Coast we became partly responsible for Wizards taking a major step in re-branding their event coverage and creating their own Top 25 list.

Nov 18th – Magic Offline

For the first time in my life I actually felt somewhat like a journalist covering Magic the Gathering. The (most recent) crash and burn of MTGO was massive news, and while there isn’t a real Magic News Network (yet), I put together what I felt was my best piece of writing, perhaps in my life. The community seemed to agree and this has now dethroned my Modern Masters coverage as my most-read column. Hopefully it is a record I will soon shatter again.

Pro Tour Update

Grand Prix Kyoto

Rich Hoaen, Mike Hron, and Alexander Hayne traveled across the world to win GP Kyoto.

Rich Hoaen, Mike Hron, and Alexander Hayne traveled across the world to win GP Kyoto.

It’s not every day that a team of Canadians travels halfway around the world to compete in a high-level Magic tournament, but that’s exactly what happened this weekend in Kyoto. The team of Rich Hoaen, Mike Hron, and Alexander Hayne did just that, and won the entire event. 578 teams competed in the event, and looking at the names in the final standings, the Canadian trio was likely the only team of westerners. They went into Japan, won all nine rounds on day one, setting up a top-four appearance with a 3-2 record on day two. Hopefully this will start a trend of more North American players traveling the world for events.

Grand Prix Albuquerque

Owen Turtenwald won GP Albuquerque, winning back-to-back championships.

Owen Turtenwald won GP Albuquerque, winning back-to-back championships.

Another week, another Grand Prix championship for Owen Turtenwald. After years of building a reputation as a player who consistently made top-8’s but never emerged victorious, Turtenwald has now picked up back-to-back titles winning in DC last week and Albuquerque this week. I hope he’s got his flight and hotel booked for Toronto next weekend because he is absolutely on fire.

Oh, and another week, another North American Grand Prix with several ranked players in the top-8. This week it was (8) Sam Black, (16) Owen Turtenwald, and (20) Paul Rietzl competing in Standard for the title of GP Albuquerque champion. Also finishing in the top-64 were (10) Tom Martell, (13) Eric Froehlich, and (2) Josh Utter-Leyton. Four more ranked players participated but missed out on picking up Pro Points. Regardless, we should see similar movement in the Top 25 rankings this week, but will we see anyone new break into that elite group?

Top 25 Update

The top of the rankings remained fairly consistent, but the bottom was shaken up quite a bit thanks to last week’s Grand Prix DC. As many predicted, with so many pros in the top tables of a large North American event, things were bound to move around a bit. But, two things are very disappointing. First, no one new entered the list. On October 24th, a month ago, Jon Stern knocked Tzu-Chink Kuo out of the rankings. Since then, the same 25 players have been at the top in the world. I don’t know about you, but that makes it a bit less exciting for me. Secondly, the top three spots, held by Ben Stark, Joshua Utter-Leyton, and Reid Duke, have not changed since Duke jumped up to third, also on October 24th. The list itself is exciting, but the lack of movement is disappointing.

The Quick Hits

  • Zendikar takes on Invasion in this week’s installment of Battle of the Blocks [StarCity Games]
  • Heather Lafferty interviews content manager Jack LaCroix [Gamer Boy, Gamer Girl]
  • Sheldon Menery ponders the creation of a Commander RPG [StarCity Games]
  • Mike Linneman explores what Magic would be like in the 80’s [Gathering Magic]
  • Josh Silvestri discusses the importance of deck familiarity [Silvestri Says]
  • Adam Styborski presents several Commander variants [Daily MTG]
  • Blake Rasmussen reviews some MTG-related vocabulary [Gathering Magic]
  • MJ Scott challenges you to help her with the ultimate MTG cosplay [Gathering Magic]
  • PVDDR makes some top-five lists a la High Fidelity [PV’s Playhouse]
  • Someone won a 9.5-graded Beta Black Lotus on eBay for $27k [eBay]

Wallpaper of the Week

This week’s desktop monster, Stormbreath Dragon, has so many of the things I usually look for in my wallpapers. The focus is off-centered, there’s action, the colors are vivid… but for some reason I’m just not into it as much I thought I would be. There’s an awesome dragon on my computer screen and I’m just not that excited. Maybe if I knew why he was breathing lightning for no apparent reason I would be more into it. Who knows?

Grade: B

The Week Ahead

Happy Thanksgiving to our American readers. This Thursday turkey will be eaten, pie will be devoured, and family feuds will be rekindled. Then, on Saturday, two Grand Prix events will kick off in Toronto and Vienna. First, in the heart of historic Austria, the City of Music will play host to a Standard GP. This is Vienna’s first Grand Prix since 2008, and 5th overall. The Austrian capital will also host a limited GP in March next year. Toronto is hosting a limited GP this weekend, nearly on the 1-year anniversary of the Modern GP held there in December of last year. This will also be the fifth GP held in Canada’s largest city and provincial capital of Ontario. Toronto was also host to the Magic World Championships in 2001.

What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.

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