There are at least 20 million people in the world who play Magic: the Gathering, according to Hasbro’s estimates. The wider Magic community is of course a sub-set of the larger gaming community, but 20 million is still a very impressive number. Within our small slice of the gaming community there are countless smaller groups that emerge. Whether it’s the half-dozen folks who play at your kitchen table, the dozens who play at your local shop or your college gaming club, or the hundreds who regularly attend regional events like Grand Prix and SCG tournaments, you’re probably a member of many Magic sub-communities.

Today we’re going to look at the 180,000+ person-strong community known as the Magic subreddit, better-known perhaps as /r/magicTCG. Obviously there’s plenty of ground to cover when it comes to Reddit, but we’re going to focus on an analysis that was done last week by a statistics/news website known as FiveThirtyEight. In their analysis, which focused on a Donald Trump community’s relationship to other racist and misogynist communities on Reddit, the author produced a lovely website allowing us to take a look at the Magic community and how it relates to other parts of Reddit.

This analysis may or may not provide us with any great insights into who we are as a community, or at the very least who the Reddit Magic community represents. After all, there are millions of Magic players and millions of folks on Reddit. The intersection of those two communities is just under 200,000 people, roughly 1% of the entire Magic community. Still, the analysis will give us some meaningful data about what it’s like to be a part of the Magic subreddit community, and that’s a good start at understanding who we are.

Before we begin, let’s talk about what this is and what this isn’t. I could try to explain it but Trevor Martin, the author of the FiveThirtyEight piece linked above, does a much better job:

We’ve adapted a technique that’s used in machine learning research — called latent semantic analysis — to characterize 50,323 active subreddits based on 1.4 billion comments posted from Jan. 1, 2015, to Dec. 31, 2016, in a way that allows us to quantify how similar in essence one subreddit is to another. At its heart, the analysis is based on commenter overlap: Two subreddits are deemed more similar if many commenters have posted often to both. This also makes it possible to do what we call “subreddit algebra”: adding one subreddit to another and seeing if the result resembles some third subreddit, or subtracting out a component of one subreddit’s character and seeing what’s left.

To begin we’ll use a simple gaming example to illustrate the algebra at work. For example, take /r/gaming which is the largest subreddit for the gaming community at-large. We’ll remove /r/pcmasterrace which is a community of over half a million members who tout the value of PC gaming over console gaming. Here’s what we’re left with:

  1. /r/bloodborne – 0.454
  2. /r/FinalFantasy – 0.423
  3. /r/dbxv – 0.403
  4. /r/residentevil – 0.403
  5. /r/zelda – 0.392

That’s a list of games that are more-or-less exclusively available on consoles and not available on PC, so the members of the PC Master Race community aren’t found in these communities. So let’s dive right in and get an understanding of which subreddits are most similar to /r/magicTCG.

  1. /r/EDH – 0.869 – Commander Format Subreddit
  2. /r/spikes – 0.821 – Competitive MTG Subreddit
  3. /r/ModernMagic – 0.814 – Modern Format Subreddit
  4. /r/CompetitiveEDH – 0.763 – Competitive Commander Subreddit
  5. /r/MagicLegacy – 0.745 – Legacy Format Subreddit

Just missing the cut and rounding out the top ten are /r/custommagic, /r/Pauper, /r/hearthstone, /r/FoWtcg, and/r/CompetitiveHS. So it’s pretty plain to see that the Magic subreddit is very similar to the rest of the Magic subreddits. In fact, if you check the sidebar on /r/magicTCG you’ll see dozens of related subreddits that all cover a small facet of the Magic community. Because of this, it might be more difficult to figure out who the Magic community is, outside of really enjoying Magic.

So what if we want to get at the Magic community that also participates in the wider gaming community? If we add /r/gaming to /r/magicTCG where are the similarities?

  1. /r/Overwatch – 0.769
  2. /r/EDH – 0.756
  3. /r/DarkSouls2 – 0.750
  4. /r/darksouls3 – 0.740
  5. /r/heroesofthestorm – 0.736

Just rounding out this list are /r/hearthstone, /r/darksouls, /r/Warframe, /r/wow, and /r/Games. You might think that this is just the same as the general gaming community, right? Well, not exactly. If you look at the similarities for /r/gaming you get a different set of games:

  1. 0.815 – /r/fo4
  2. 0.810 – /r/NoMansSkyTheGame
  3. 0.803 – /r/witcher
  4. 0.786 – /r/Games
  5. 0.783 – /r/Fallout

So what makes games like Overwatch, Dark Souls, Heroes of the Storm, and Hearthstone more attractive to the Magic community than games like Fallout, No Man’s Sky, and the Witcher? Competition. We already know that /r/spikes and /r/CompetitiveEDH are among the most similar communities to /r/magicTCG. Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, and Hearthstone have healthy competition and in fact require other people to play. Dark Souls is a bit of an outlier here, but for the most part there’s a clear correlation.

So now we know that /r/magicTCG is a competitive community. Add any other competitive community and the strongest correlations are still there. Add /r/fantasyfootball to /r/magicTCG and you get /r/spikes. Add /r/poker to /r/magicTCG and you get /r/spikes. Competition runs in the veins of the Magic subreddit.

So what else makes the Magic subreddit tick? Movies? Television? Comic Books? News? Politics? Here are some quick hits from the Reddit Subreddit Algebra calculation:

/r/magicTCG + /r/comics

  1. /r/custommagic
  2. /r/EDH
  3. /r/spikes
  4. /r/ModernMagic
  5. /r/Pathfinder_RPG

/r/magicTCG + /r/movies

  1. /r/EDH
  2. /r/comicbooks
  3. /r/spikes
  4. /r/StarWars
  5. /r/gameofthrones

/r/magicTCG + /r/television

  1. /r/movies
  2. /r/EDH
  3. /r/spikes
  4. /r/gameofthrones
  5. /r/asoiaf

Two trends appear immediately. The first is that the Magic community is the Magic community and that’s why we see /r/EDH and /r/spikes keep showing up. The strong similarities between those communities and /r/magicTCG is too powerful to separate. The second trend is that Magic players are into pretty geeky things, like Star Wars and A Game of Thrones. This doesn’t tell us anything new.

I probably went through a few hundred more algebraic equations but the only consistent trend is the homogeneity of the Magic community on Reddit. You can add or subtract any number of political, religious, athletic, and other varieties of subreddits to and from the magic subreddit and you still come up, for the most part, with other magic communities.

There are occasional controversies such as Crackgate and Zach Jesse that cause the Magic subreddit to become a cesspool of the sort of misogynist and racist garbage you often find in other corners of Reddit. There’s no denying that fact. The Magic community has plenty of amazing folks and some horrible folks. However, for the most part the Magic community on Reddit is about two key things: playing Magic and winning at Magic.


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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