This isn’t another article about women in the Magic community. That’s not to say that the topic has been exhausted because it hasn’t. That’s not to say that I don’t have more to say on the subject because I do. That’s not to say that the community doesn’t need more articles about how women are treated because it certainly does. But this isn’t any of those articles.

This is an article about how pro Magic player Daniel Fournier wrote a necessary but fairly straight-forward article about toxicity in the competitive Magic community, how the usual dialogue could be found in the comments section, how Matt Sperling wrote a perfectly predictable response focusing on the semantics of one of Fournier’s points, and how the women of Magic’s community on Twitter seem to have finally had enough of this bullshit.

Let’s meet the major players in our story:

Daniel Fournier, Professional Magic Player

Fournier is a writer for Mana Deprived, the content side of Canadian MTG retailer/tournament organizer Face to Face Games. Though he’s only appeared at four Pro Tours he made the top 8 of Grand Prix Montreal and Pittsburgh this year, establishing himself as a solid Standard competitor. He has four career top 8 finishes at Grand Prix tournaments and a lifetime 35-27-1 record on the Pro Tour. On Wednesday of last week he published an article titled Men and Magic: Building Community for Mana Deprived on the topic of the toxic environment that men create in the competitive scene that keeps women away.

Matt Sperling, Professional Troll (and Magic Player)

Sperling is a writer for Channel Fireball best known for his eponymous column, “Sperling’s Sick of It” in which he (mostly) complains about things that bother him in the Magic world. Sperling is an established member of the Pro Tour finishing in the Top 8 of Pro Tour Magic Origins and Pro Tour Magic 2015. Sperling is never one to back down from his political positions or from his positions on the politics of Magic the Gathering. His last Pro Tour appearance was at Pro Tour Kaladesh. On Friday he wrote a rebuttal to Fournier’s article on his personal blog.

So What the Hell Happened?

As I linked above, Fournier wrote an article about women in Magic. I recommend reading it, especially if you’re new to the topic. Articles exploring the question, “Why don’t more women play competitive Magic?” are about as old as competitive Magic itself. The oldest one I ever read was about the second Pro Tour ever.

The response to Fournier’s article was pretty much as expected and spawned a comments section that shouldn’t have surprised anyone. In fact, not even two months ago Brian Demars wrote a similar article and the response there was basically the same. The comments section of one of these articles can be split into three categories: people who just say “thanks” and move on with their lives, people who argue the point in a (relatively) rational manner, and some shitlord troll who spouts nonsense because they get off on it.

Things began to derail from the script when Matt Sperling and Magic Pro Tour Hall of Famer Kai Budde focused on one specific point in Fournier’s article:

Here’s the part of Fournier’s article that they’re focusing on:

The average number of women at each Pro Tour over the past season has hovered around, well, one. It’s hard to highlight a diverse cast in the feature match area when there is no gender diversity to be found. I personally like to view this as the ultimate metric of success for all efforts meant to make Magic more welcoming. Until there are a bunch of women on the Pro Tour, any and all efforts have not truly come to fruition.

Matt Sperling did delete some Tweets in order to come up with a better response, which I linked above. You can read it at your own discretion.

I want to reiterate that I’m not here to discuss the merits of either Fournier’s or Sperling’s articles but rather I want to talk about what happened afterwards. Many people in the Magic community took to social media to voice their thoughts on how they got into and/or out of competitive Magic the Gathering. You can click on these to read some longer threads/content.

So what made this article by Fournier and the response by Matt Sperling the catalyst for such an outpouring of support and discussion from the community? At this point I’m mostly speculating but I think there are two things at play. First, we went through this, as mentioned above, less than two months ago when Brian Demars wrote about this topic for Channel Fireball. Second, as Daniel Fournier points out in his article, there are more high-profile women in the Magic community than ever.

Melissa DeTora has a highly visible role as a former professional player and current member of the Play Design team for Wizards of the Coast. Gaby Spartz and Maria Bartholdi appear regularly on Pro Tour coverage. Women are managing the content of several high-profile websites. Streamers such as Rachel Agnes and Athena Froehlich can be seen on events like Vintage Super League and the Streamer Showdown. Emma Handy and Jadine Klomparens are among the most popular competitors on the SCG Tour.

Women are everywhere in this community in ways they simply weren’t five or ten years ago. Actually, just three years ago I wrote about the lack of representation in the community. At the time I noted that 33 different people were referenced in the design/development credits of the eight expansions making up Standard and only two of them (Jenna Helland and Alexis Janson) were women. Today that representation is through the roof. Not only because women like Melissa DeTora and Jackie Lee are in the credits, but because Wizards acknowledges that a Magic set is more than just the R&D team and there are countless women in the creative team, the brand team, and more teams involved with crafting a set.

Also three years ago, Jadine Klomparens became the first woman with an article published in 18 months by Star City Games. At that time, in 14 years of history, only 14 women had been published by SCG. At that time, a three-month window in 2012 was the only time two women concurrently wrote for Star City Games. Since then Emma Handy has become a mainstay of Star City’s roster and there has been significant improvement (though I believe Jackie Lee is still the only woman to ever have a premium article on that site).

Basically the community has changed, and it has changed drastically in the past few years. A lot of events have shaped this change. Wizards has taken an active role in driving it from the top down, both through storytelling and through their brand and marketing. Sites like Star City Games and Channel Fireball have also become supporters of progress both by helping to promote women who are great content creators and by publishing articles like Meghan Wolff’s and Brian Demars.

So when the fallout of Daniel Fournier’s article led to a much more vocal community response than in the past, I was somewhat taken aback and wanted to get to the root of what had happened. Had Sperling said something so vulgar that it warranted great outrage? Was there something else going on? No, it turns out the times are changing, the community has much greater female representation, and women are speaking out and supporting each other publicly in ways they haven’t done before.

So, the bottom line is that plenty of Women are speaking about the Magic community and how they feel it treats themselves and other women. Are you listening?

[Ed. Note – A previous version of this article incorrectly attributed Brian Demars article to Brian Braun-Duin]

Rich Stein is a former amateur Magic player who’s somehow found himself in control of a modest but popular Magic content site and has dedicated that site to nurturing the community’s Social Justice Initiates so that they may one day blossom into Social Justice Warriors, Priests, Wizards, and whichever other class they pick.

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