Spellsnare.com’s 2017 Deck of the Day column has concluded, with 365 unique decks across Standard, Modern, and Legacy being featured every single day of the year. It’s been a pleasure to write these articles and discover new and innovative decks. This article is going to dive into Deck of the Day from a few different angles and discuss what worked and what didn’t. If you’re looking for the quick rundown, here it is:
TLDR: Deck of the Day was a good idea, not executed terribly well on my part, and will not be returning in 2018 for a couple of reasons.
Let’s jump right in.
Recapping the History
Deck of the Day was an idea that I came up with in November 2016, during a time when Spellsnare was undergoing some changes, and we were looking for something new and exciting to offer our readers. Video content was something that we were looking at (and still are!) but the logistics surrounding that posed a challenge that we didn’t quite think the site was ready for. Instead, we decided on some form of recurring content that would not necessarily be the backbone of the site, but something that both new and old readers could expect on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
The Spellsnare historians out there may remember a Weekend Recap column from late 2016, in which I discussed the latest occurrences in competitive Magic. That column wasn’t terribly successful, but it was definitely a good learning experience for me. It helped me realize that readers aren’t necessarily looking for information they could find themselves.
Instead, readers were looking for insight from experienced players who could help them improve their own game. They weren’t looking for content that was so heavily focused on results and somewhat “news outlet-y”. An early idea that I had was to write a weekly or monthly article that would go over the most influential, impactful, or innovative decks of that period. This seemed like a good way to engage readers and communicate that they could return to the site every so often and find another article just like that one. However, my issue with this was that if it was a weekly or monthly column, it would need to be extremely detailed and engaging to ensure that readers would come back. This would bring this type of article too close to the current columns that myself and the other writers on the site were currently writing.
I wanted this new project to be something different from the rest of the content we were producing, in order to help the project itself take off as well as to diversify the content on the site. The conclusion that I arrived at was that what people were really hankering for was a consistent flow of decklists that would get them intrigued and excited. They wanted decks that weren’t necessarily the best choice for their next tournament, but were something that they could dive into and get excited about. What I landed at was that short, decklist-focused articles that gave a quick strategy overview were perfect for this.
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m currently a Junior at NYU studying Game Design. Back in High School, I had an awful work ethic. I rarely did nightly homework. I frequently did minimal studying for tests and instead put textbooks underneath my pillow in an attempt to learn information through osmosis. I did everything as close to the deadline as possible and very rarely took the initiative in anything I was doing. College changed all of that. I co-founded Spellsnare.com, I got a job editing articles for a Tech News website in New York City, and I put more time than was needed into schoolwork projects that interested me. I found a lot of satisfaction in undertaking projects and my work ethic dramatically improved. Since this change in my work ethic, I’ve always been willing to undertake new things and rarely say no to a new opportunity.
When thinking about this new content that was going to come to Spellsnare in 2017, I figured that doing it every single day would be a steep challenge, but one that would test my work ethic, which I couldn’t shy away from. Believe it or not, the decision to start Deck of the Day wasn’t actually made until January 1, 2017. I woke up fairly early and figured “Hey, why not”. I grabbed the first deck from MtGO results and we were off! The idea I had initially was that I wouldn’t be writing every single Deck of the Day, but that they would be written by all of the Spellsnare writers and it would give everyone an opportunity to write about a deck they found exciting. I ended up writing 364 of the 365, with #9 being written by Roman Fusco about a G/W Marvel list that he had found recent success with. It was also the only decklist we featured on Deck of the Day that wasn’t from MtGO, the Pro Tour/Grand Prix circuit, or the SCG Tour.
Unfortunately, Deck of the Day wasn’t an idea that excited other Spellsnare writers, so I decided for the health of the column it should have a singular voice for the rest of the year. Things were going quite smoothly, but a huge challenge was posed on July 10, when an article titled “Magic Online Posted Decklist Changes” was published on the Mothership. To summarize, Wizards of the Coast was going to be limiting the number of MtGO decklists released each day from 10 down to a measly 5. This posed a serious threat to Deck of the Day, as before this change I had more decklists available than I could handle, but this change would make the last 6 months of the column much more of a sweat.
As it turned out, the physical limiting of decklists didn’t have as much of an immediate impact as I thought it would. There were still enough interesting decklists being released that I didn’t run out of material. This change only made me nervous during the last month or so, when Standard became incredibly stale and I frankly nearly ran out of decks to discuss, and would start each day refreshing the MtGO decklists page hoping for something I hadn’t yet covered. Fortunately, it worked out, but just barely.
Deck of the Day, for me, will be remembered as a project with a lot of successes and a lot of failures. One major success was the views that it brought the site and the readers who used Deck of the Day as an entry point to the site as a whole. Readers would also check back every day for a new deck, which was exactly my goal for the column. We also had readers comment on the articles and try to add their own knowledge or request other decks to be featured. Deck of the Day also gave me a ton of new knowledge about Magic and each format we featured. I knew almost every deck from each format, and this helped me out a ton against obscure strategies.
What Didn’t Work
Writing an article every single day is hard. Like really, really hard. Even though I managed to get it down to a science towards the end, finding that spark that turns an article from a collage of words into a piece of writing becomes progressively more difficult. Analytical writing requires a certain level of entertainment, as it is inherently not mandatory reading.
Towards the end, the Deck of the Day articles became much more repetitive and boring, and I found myself simply going through the motions of writing something that I had quite literally written hundreds of times before. After all, there’s only so much that you can say about Dark Confidant before you arrive at the true essence of the card and everything else has been stripped away, leaving you questioning what a 2/1 really means. Does the 2 represent the inherent duality of people and the two figures in the original card art? Does the extra card at a cost symbolize ambition, arrogance, and greed? What philosophical message is this card trying to send us? Is there one?
I entered most days of writing Deck of the Day the exact same way. I would see what new lists were published on MtGO, check new SCG and GP results if it was Monday, and sit down to write the article. I would finish the article and not remember what I had written the previous day. Sometimes, I would completely forget what I had just written. Good analytical writing is found when the writer explores the edges of the information presented to them and their personal opinions. Especially towards the end of this column, I was so deep in my habits that I found myself writing sentences that I could have sworn I had written in the exact same way before. The quality of the articles, at least in my opinion, decreased. There’s a reason why people have cheat days when they’re dieting, or they take a vacation every once in a while. Doing something every single day was much harder than I thought it would be when I started.
While Deck of the Day had an overall positive impact on Spellsnare.com, it did have one major site-focused drawback: They drew significant attention away from the longer, more thorough, and better written articles on the website. One of the strengths of Spellsnare.com is the diversity in the content we produce. We’ve had articles devoted to Standard, Modern, Legacy, Limited, EDH, and even multiple articles that gave advice on different types of team tournaments. There were immediately more Deck of the Day articles than any other type of article on the website, which simply took away from the great content that is being published regularly. Additionally, whenever a reader landed on our home page, depending on the day they visited, they could have the first several articles they see entirely be Deck of the Day entries, which would give them the impression that the website was solely dedicated to the series.
In hindsight, I would have had each Deck of the Day article only be visible on the front page for either 24 or 48 hours, and then move them over to their own separate tab.
Why It Won’t Be Returning
As you may have figured out already by the fact that this article is being published nearly two weeks into 2018, Deck of the Day will not be returning for the new year. To put it simply, the quality would likely be lower despite my wanting it to be better, and I don’t think that it would be a wise use of my time or meet the quality of article that I want to publish. I’m looking forward to spending more time on my regular weekly articles and producing more unique content for the website. Hopefully you enjoyed reading Deck of the Day while it lasted, and I hope that this Postmortem gave you some insight into how it came about, the production of the articles, the challenges along the way, as well as my thoughts and overall pros and cons.
If you’re interested in an archive of the Deck of the Day articles, click here.
Until next time,
If you’re excited for Rivals of Ixalan to shake up Standard like I am, read this article from Riccardo Monico, where he goes over the 10 Rivals of Ixalan rares that he thinks will completely change the shape of the format.
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