2016 was an incredible and terrible year by any metric, but before we get into that I want to talk briefly about next week’s (January 2nd) column. Next week we’ll be officially kicking off our Hipsters of the Coast 2017 initiative. We’re now in our fifth year of operation and the time to expand has come. This means we want YOU! Do you write? Do you illustrate? Do you make podcasts or vlogs? Do you stream games? We want YOU!

We will be aggressively expanding our content here at Hipsters of the Coast and that doesn’t mean just Magic the Gathering either. Do you enjoy Hearthstone? Overwatch? Eternal? Any other game? Gaming culture in general? We want to hear about your ideas as we shape the future of Hipsters of the Coast. Next week the application for new content will go live, so make sure you check back then!

Hipsters of the Coast in 2016

This year, despite being one of immense stress for much of the staff, was very successful for Hipsters of the Coast. In 2016 we made our first official preview card article when Jess previewed Sydri, Galvanic Genius. We also launched our Patreon campaign. Matt Jones brought you all Bob Ross-inspired full-art basic lands. This year saw the birth of the official Hipsters of the Coast playmat which you’ll soon be able to purchase for yourself. We also received our first piece of hate-mail in 2016 so I think that means we’re doing something right!

But 2016 was also a difficult year in some respects as we continue to grow the site and discover what we want Hipsters of the Coast to be. Overall we produced less content than in 2015 but our audience continues to expand slowly as we gained more FB likes and Twitter followers. We have big plans for 2017, which we’ll reveal next week, but for now let’s look at what 2016 meant for everyone else.

Top Stories of 2016

January – Wizards Vows to Improve Transparency

The year did not start well for Wizards of the Coast as they decided to ban a handful of judges over a spoiler controversy. This, coupled with several other PR gaffes, had created an aura of mistrust between WotC and their customers. So Wizards made the right decision and promised to be more transparent going forwards. So far there has been a massive improvement.

January – Splinter Twin is Banned in Modern

It’s safe to say that it’s been a rough year for Modern. The year began hopeful, looking forward to the winter Pro Tour to see how the top players in the world handle the format. Since then, Modern has suffered so greatly that the biggest recent story is actually about how to create a new format to replace it (such as Frontier).

February – Spoilers Over Innistrad

Spoilers have always been a problem for Magic but things seemed to be improving greatly until Battle for Zendikar block. When Emrakul was spoiled it was another sign that Wizards still has a long way to go before this kind of thing stops. The community does them little help as someone recently distributed theoretical packaging materials from a marketing survey as if they could include the names of upcoming expansions.

April – Pro Tour Compensation Changes

Wizards newfound love of transparency was quickly put to the test when they announced some very upsetting changes to pro player compensation. The community revolted because the changes would affect people who had spent the previous year working to achieve goals that had now been taken away. Wizards quickly back-tracked the change and created a new working relationship with pro players to discuss these issues going forwards. Later in the year, Wizards made the right changes.

October – Announcing HasCon and the 2017 World Championship

Hasbro announced they’ll be hosting their own convention next year, and Wizards announced that the World Championship will once again be a standalone tournament, de-coupled from PAX West. These are big announcements as they seem clearly in response to how Blizzard operates its business with Blizzcon and their own world title events. Magic clearly wants to be a big boy in the eSports world and this is a start.

November – The Twitch Partnership

While it seems like such a simple thing, for those in the industry this is a massive announcement. If Magic wants to be taken seriously as an eSport then it needs to improve its broadcast quality. We all know that. We talk about it constantly. Can Twitch finally make the changes that Wizards has struggled to make for so long? We’ll find out next year.

Predictions for 2017

I have to admit it’s hard to make predictions for next year under the imminent possibility of a nuclear arms race but I’ll do my best. I think 2017 has the potential to be a make-or-break year for Wizards of the Coast. 2016 was incredibly ambitious and is ending with players seemingly disgruntled about every single Grand Prix-supported format. Standard isn’t interactive enough. Modern is boring. Legacy is too expensive. Luckily this means that Wizards has a lot of room to improve.

One thing I hope we won’t see again is an oversaturation of products. One of the themes of 2016 was that there were too many supplemental products making it difficult to keep up. Manaburn returned but in a more literal way as players burned out from keeping up with all the information.

The most important thing we’ll see in 2017 is changes to tournament coverage. Already things aren’t too promising as the upcoming Legacy Grand Prix will not get video coverage. Until there’s a major sponsorship involved, which could happen thanks to the Twitch partnership, Wizards simply doesn’t have the money to produce high-quality video coverage of all their events. By the end of the year that could change, but only with a significant increase in sponsorship money. So hopefully you’re ready for the World Championship of Magic to be brought to you by Mountain Dew. I know I am.

There are more side stories than I can count for 2017 so here are a few more to stew on as you’re enjoying your holiday time this week. Will the judge community finally organize and separate themselves from the somewhat dubious labor model they currently operate under? Will international tournament competition become more difficult in a world that is growing more and more xenophobic by the day? Will competitive Magic become a legitimate scene on the eSports radar?

All this and more, in 2017! See you next year.

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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