With the year winding down, the time has come to reflect back on the year that was. Today we’ll be taking a look at some of the stories from 2015 that had the greatest impact on the game and on the community as well. Agree? Disagree? Leave your comments at the bottom with your top stories of the year!

The Top 10 Stories of 2015

10. The $40,000 Seance Challenge

This is probably the weirdest Magic story to come out in a long time. To recap the shenanigans, a user on Reddit some time ago was buying up copies of Seance and paying people to destroy their own copies. It was some kind of social or economic experiment. Early in December the same user resurfaced on Reddit offering to pay 90.5 bitcoin to anyone who was already qualified for Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch and was willing to play a deck that focused on Seance. For those of you who aren’t up to date on the current exchange rates, that’s roughly $40,000 USD, almost as much as the top prize for the Pro Tour itself.

Although the post has been taken down, any pro player who takes up the offer will have a lot of options as plenty of community members offered up their own takes on Modern Seance including our own Aaron Gazzaniga.

9. Travis Woo’s Pro-Hitler Rant

Early in November, former Channel Fireball contributor Travis Woo was suspended from his position with the well-known Magic blog as a result of some statements Travis had made on his live stream on Twitch. Those statements? Oh, just the usual Magic-tournament-accompanying commentary on Adolf Hitler and Mein Kampf. Although Woo reached out to share his side of the story, many questions were raised while few answers were provided.

The community outrage was thick on both sides with many offended that Woo could say such horrific antisemitic things on a live stream while others were equally offended that Woo was being fired from CFB for something that they believe is protected by “freedom of speech” laws. For the record, the former group is correct and hate-speech, while not technically illegal, is perfectly reasonable grounds to have your employment terminated.

So next time you think about regaling your audience with your thoughts on Mein Kampf just don’t. That goes for Travis Woo and pretty much everyone else as well.

8. Alesha, Magic’s First Transgender Character

If there were an Academy Awards-esque ceremony to celebrate the stories of Uncharted Relams, then one of the top nominees in the story-of-the-year category, if not the final victor, would be The Truth of Names by James Wyatt. In this story we learn the origins of Alesha, Who Smiles at Death, a Mardu legend who is not only a bad-ass military leader and fierce warrior but the first officially canon transgender character in Magic’s history.

At the time the story was unsurprisingly controversial. Though many were praising Wizards for broadening the diversity of their characters, there were predictable detractors. All of this happened back in February amidst plenty of other gender controversy which Jess covered well back at that time. This story, in a way, would set the stage for some of the bigger stories of the year.

7. Goyfgate

So this one time in the top eight draft of a Grand Prix tournament in Las Vegas, Wizards decided to spice things up. They chose a player to feature on coverage while drafting and then slipped a foil Tarmogoyf, one of the most valuable cards in the world, into the second pack of the draft, so that the entire community could watch the player agonize over the decision. The player  in question, Pascal Maynard, eventually decided to keep the Tarmogoyf, leading to immediate outrage across the community.

Owen Turtenwald said some things he’d regret. Pascal Maynard, to his credit, discussed the decision in detail and ultimately decided to sell this historic card for charity. In the end we got one of the most exciting moments on camera in a long time and perhaps the most exciting draft choice on camera ever.

6. Oathgate

Quick aside: what would we call these kinds of incidents if it weren’t for the Watergate scandal? Or what if instead of the Watergate Hotel the scandal revolved around the Ritz-Carlton? It would be a very different world.

In November the first leaks from Oath of the Gatewatch showed up. They were the now confirmed basic land Wastes and the new Kozilek. Many debated the validity of the leaks but then Wizards confirmed them at the World Cup. Then the floodgates opened and almost two dozen more leaks were revealed. Wizards was furious and the community was in conflict. Spoilers are a touchy subject but there’s no denying the impact they have on the game and the community. In the past, Wizards has cracked down hard after these incidents and we should expect no less this time around.

5. Birthing Pod Banned in Modern

I still get a little chuckle out of the idea of how many people quit playing Magic when Wizards banned Birthing Pod from the Modern format just before Pro Tour Fate Reforged. Wizards originally didn’t want to have any more Modern Pro Tours because they felt that pro scrutiny would just lead to more cards being banned in the future. But, it seems like the once-per-year Modern Pro Tour is here to stay, meaning changes to the banned list will also become an annual occurrence. Things of gotten healthier these days with plenty of writers discussing bannings and un-bannings in Modern with regular frequency, but when Birthing Pod got the axe the community was shocked.

Honestly the only thing that could top Birthing Pod‘s banning this year would be Splinter Twin getting the axe next year. Fingers crossed!

4. The Rising Cost of Standard

The soundtrack to this section should be the entrance theme song to 1980’s pro wrestling sensation Ted “The Million Dollar Man” Dibiase. Or, if you’re too young for that reference, maybe you can just pull up a clip of Donald Trump. No matter how you slice it though, one of the top stories of the year has been the cost of Standard. The community has rallied around a very elegant concept, the $1,000 Standard deck. These decks, loaded with Jaces, fetch-lands, Den Protectors, and other high-priced cards are the most expensive we’ve seen in many years. It’s driving many people away from Standard to Modern and causing a boom in the budget-deck industry.

The price explosion should go away when Shadows Over Innistrad replaces Khans of Tarkir in the spring, but the psychological damage has been done. Perhaps if the cost of decks comes back down to under $500 people will forget this little episode, but neither of those is actually very likely.

3. Story Time Takes Center Stage

In the past the story was always secondary to the game of Magic. Sure there were amazing things going on in the worlds of Ravnica, Mirrodin, Zendikar, and Alara, but those stories were relegated to novels that accompanied fat packs. Things slowly began to change though, first with the end of the novelizations and the beginning of the weekly Uncharted Realms series, and then with the entrenched integration of creative and design. While the process has been in the works for some time, it wasn’t until Khans of Tarkir that the changes began to really take shape. Khans block was incredibly story-driven but more importantly were the cards designed around that story such as Crux of Fate.

The picture has only become clearer with Magic Origins and Battle for Zendikar making the story a first-class citizen in the game’s design and development. Cards like Aligned Hedron Network are not just there to keep the power level in check but they also tell the story of the world of Zendikar helping give the players a stronger connection to the game world. The results so far have been incredibly positive and there’s likely no end in sight for this new integration.

2. Zach Jesse

I’ve already said everything I need to say about Zach Jesse. The fact remains however that this was, in my opinion obviously, the second biggest story of the year in the community. If any of you want to rehash any part of this story I can happily direct you to my inbox’s spam folder.

1. Gender Equality

By a huge margin, the topic of equality in the community was the story of 2015. Gaby Spartz got the ball rolling in April and by the end of the year the snowball included poignant columns by Meghan Wolff in June and our own Kate Donnelly in October. More importantly, there are more non-cis-male content producers in the game than ever before. Some of them are writing full-time for major outlets like Jadine Klomparens at TCG Player or our own Jess Stirba for Star City Games, or they’re hosting one of the community’s premiere podcasts like Erin Campbell, or building up a streaming audience like Gaby Spartz. All of them are paving the way for diversity and equality in the Magic community.

Most importantly, Wizards is getting the message. Characters like Alesha (mentioned above) and Ashiok are just the beginning. Diversity will increasingly become a major priority for Wizards and it’s one that we here will continue to hold them accountable for.

Let’s make 2016 the year we all hold ourselves more accountable for improving gender equality in the Magic community at our kitchen tables, our local gaming stores, and anywhere else we gather to play one of the greatest card games ever created.

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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