Magic-League: The Coverage Chronicles

Written by Gerrardfo on December 30, 2010


I don’t even think I’m considered an administrator of this site anymore, but I’ll try to produce an article regardless. I told a certain marsupial a while back that I was planning to write something, but I’ve taken a great deal of time to produce. Years ago I would’ve written a summary of the memorable moments from the year, but given that I went AWOL in June (and wasn’t active before that time anyway), I doubt I have much to say about this year. However, I do have many stories from magic-league past, and this time the theme will be “Chronicle of the Coverage Department.”

I’ll admit that my past few articles have been incredibly scatterbrained. This time I’m going to focus on the stories of the coverage department from 2004 to 2008/2009. At the end of that time span was the ascension of Weedmonkey to Coverage Director, thus establishing a high point in the rapid escalation of Weedmonkey’s rise to staff level. I believe I went from j1 in November of 2005 to j2 in February of 2006, to Coverage Director later that month, to j3 that summer, to j5 (Judge Director) in mid-2007, and back to j4 in October 2008. Weedmonkey was promoted on a time series that was faster than mine (J1 February 2009, J2 September 2009, J3 December 2009) in the short term given he also achieved IRCoperator status quite rapidly on the side (I was a helpop for a few months before becoming a full IRCop). But, to reach the endpoint with Weedmonkey and today, we need to review how it began.

Prelude

In 2004 and 2005, I was mesmerized by the coverage pieces and profiles on the site. Back then God/Tacomaster was a contributor to coverage, and…

He was good at it. Yeah. There. And thankfully he continues to contribute.

There were no articles, there were no pictures, and the coverage administration piece editor was simpler than a game of pong with a broken joystick. Some of the pieces of coverage were over a year old (which was a big deal because the section rotated out older links as new ones were added, so new ones weren’t being added too quickly) and the entire section was about to border on completely inactive. I don’t remember the exact ordering of the rest of the events in which the coverage section became active again, but I was one of the driving forces behind it. Back then Koen and nico were around and energetic, so if you tabled a viable idea by Koen and he had the time, he was willing to listen. I was writing newer segments of coverage (I believe?), and those segments were relatively coherent. Thus, when another user advocated for me to Koen for articles, he was willing to look into it. Simultaneously, other judges were supportive of an articles section.

Coverage Minister

In February 2006 I was editing something for the site when, all of a sudden, malkolis charged into whatever channel I was idling in (#result?) and announced that he was posting a position for me on the staff page. The title? Coverage Manager.

Woot. I was going to tell all my frien…oh, wait. Just kidding.

I have no idea what official position for coverage existed before this, but the status of Coverage Manager wasn’t temporally-long-existing either. Two weeks later aule updated the site to appoint me as Coverage Director. Yeah, huge promotion—I received a 100% increase in pay (one day nico will send me a gumball in the mail, and I’ll have to reimburse him for shipping). Anyway, the differentiation between Manager and Director has only been important for the status of Judge Managers versus the Judge Director. Nowadays there is a lone Judge Director without a slew of judge managers; this system is more efficient given that it’s unclear what the judge managers were intended to do. Also, the judge director practically handled every matter on the site, so the system with more divided responsibilities is far kinder to the judge director. Some judge managers were purported to be in charge of the judge test or trainees, but everyone crossed task boundaries regardless of the position description (which was cobbled together in two minutes anyway). Simultaneously, the judge director made all final decisions anyway, so the extent of what the judge managers were supposed to be doing was unknown and unclear. Additionally, waiting for the judge director wasn’t always the most efficient strategy, and the judge managers’ recommendations and decisions were often endorsed by the judge director anyway, so the system was slow and ill-designed. Thusly, what emerged was a system in which one judge manager would handle a sizable portion of the judge director’s work and would discuss everything directly with the judge director, who would make the motions to officiate.

We’ve erred from the point at hand. Aside from some co-existing squabbles regarding aule stealing malkolis’ thunder in posting my position, the establishment of the role of Coverage Director didn’t occur until early 2006, which was a few months after articles first appeared on the site. The establishment of “my” position also involved bothering nico consistently and considerably whenever he came online until he finally gave me some candy.

Articles

Though the site labels some of Koen’s old reports and my writing recommendations as the first articles, the first real article created when articles were formed as another category of content (beforehand there was only coverage and profiles) was by bouncyer. At this time, as I mentioned earlier, the articles lacked pictures and decent formatting. Most of the formatting was done via html tags in a giant text box, which was agonizingly simple and monotonous. The first article with pictures was CMA-Flippi’s Zur’s Weirding article, which appeared in May of 2006. Koen came online and upgraded the coverage administration text editor, enabling easier picture placement and smoother formatting with a more proper text-editing menu. (I believe Koen was still active in 2006 too, though he announced that he was relaxing some of his duties.)

What I really want to focus on in this section is one of the controversies behind the first few article contests. I am very grateful for the people who stepped up around this time and supported the contest by either forfeiting their master prizes (I have no idea how this worked exactly) or by voicing approval of it. To incentivize submissions, we decided to allocate some money towards a monthly article contest in which the author of the best article, as voted upon by the judges, would receive some amount of money. The reason we restricted the vote to judges was that we could privately tally judge votes without abuse issues. If we posted a poll on the forums in which all users to vote, there was the possibility that some lamer could massively multi-account and game the system. Anyway, in May the little gem known as SarcasticRat’s 300-card zoo was published.

I pause to commend SarcasticRat’s writing for the coverage department thus far. SarcasticRat knew how to liven content up, which was a reprieve from my robotic churning out of summaries of matches. Granted, at any one time a couple years ago a majority of the posts in the coverage section were mine, but that didn’t say anything about quality. As for SarcasticRat: he understood that there were more intricate parts to strategy and commentary that normal, robotic writers would miss. For (a hypothetical) example: nobody else aside from SarcasticRat would know how to handle the immense boner you get when you play certain decks. Hundreds of players have lost matches under the associated pressure and inexperience; sometimes they haven’t thought ahead to find the proper facilities or equipment, and other times they clean out knock over the table and receive harsh penalties for disrupting the game state. I lost a Chord of Calling mirror match in a master when, following resolving a Grayscaled Gharial, I knocked over my laptop…uh…yeah… and…some keys might’ve been hit…and…needless to say, I was inactive in my match due to purported computer difficulties, and the judges acted accordingly with the established guidelines. I was consoled thereafter that I might also have lost because I was trying to emulate Mountain Goat in blue, which was an enormous risk.

Anyway, SarcasticRat’s instant-classic overtook all other articles in votes and was clearly the winner. However, there was some controversy because a couple judges disagreed with the notion that a non-strategy article could steal the prize from a strategy article that tried to improve other players’ respective playing. The article contest’s goal was to stimulate submissions for strategy articles, and regardless of the humorous strategy in SarcasticRat’s article, there were more serious submissions. It could also be argued that SarcasticRat’s experiences with the MWS Shuffler were more indicative of true playtesting with a deck online (well, actually, that’s not even remotely true), but you catch my drift that his deck was unplayable (but only because the MWS Shuffler deities were jealous) and thus there wasn’t real strategy. Yet, respect was given to the hilarious, well-crafted article that tickled everyone’s Elmos, and SarcasticRat claimed victory.

I’ll also provide a brief note about editing back in the day. There were several submissions, which, for one reason or another that wasn’t a language barrier, barely passed as acceptable. I was misguided to think that it’d be efficient to edit them heavily so they’d be somewhat coherent. As I’ve suggested…it was an immense mistake (but, one more piece of content for the league sounded good when I had the time).

Banner Contest

I have no idea how it happened, but Neo and I (and niknight or Shyft?) were saddled with the responsibility of finding a new banner for the site, but I’ve now associated it with another lengthy process of selecting a winner. The problem was that there were many submissions, and we ultimately wanted staff to select the logo. Thusly, we let judges vote on finalists and had the staff select the winner (I might be off base, actually—fact check?).

The problem with relying on a staff vote is that there are only but so many staff members who are active at any point in time, especially three or four years ago before Weedmonkey, brimstone, and Kaesh were on board as staff. There have been points in time when there are fewer judges, but there were still many more votes at the judge level than at the staff level. The other concern with the staff vote was time; it could take a frustrating amount of time to acquire enough votes through the “let’s wait to hear what x has to say” process. When we attempted to create a magic-league t-shirt in 2006, we waited weeks to accumulate enough votes to break ties and crown a winning design.

The banner contest (series) demonstrated a type of loss of momentum. To clarify: after concluding the first one, we decided it’d be neat to host another one.

Worst. Idea. Ever.

Nobody was around to maintain said contest (I took two weeks off for a summer program), and it collapsed soon after its announcement. It had a dearth of submissions, and nobody was responsible for reinvigorating it or reminding staff about it. New ideas that keep the community active and engaged are great; however, when there isn’t a lot of spirit behind them (and given that the previous contest took ages to announce a winner), we wind up being lackluster.

Temporary Death

In April of 2009 we received a certain C&D letter that left a visible imprint, especially on articles and coverage. Images were stripped from articles as part of an effort not to infringe on anything—and without the images, many of the articles lacked a special luster. Sigh. Nico and I discussed multiple sleepless nights over that dreaded day—both the ones that existed prior to the letter as fears that it would one day arrive, and the ones that followed when the league was in a state of uncertainty.

I lost much of my remaining motivation to do anything with coverage after this time because it was unclear what magic-league’s future would be, and the articles might not exist. Oh, and I was busy with school, which precluded me from being a presence on the league.

When I finished up school for the year and returned home, I found that some new faces were wading around the metaphorical coverage department. And…they were posting podcasts, writing coverage pieces, and were reinventing the wheel.

Staff Meeting

In November 2009 we convened a staff meeting to discuss the magic-league staff positions. Most of the old positions had vague and meaningless descriptions, and there were positions with all of the work and positions that entailed much, much less work. To increase efficiency and reduce the workload on some individual members, we splintered positions and established clearer borders in positions. We also decided to recruit more staff because…well, we didn’t have many people who were active, and we needed to fill positions with people who were responsive to kill an image of the league slowing down. I was obviously not participating much in the way of coverage, as opposed to a certain Australian who was rapidly ascending the ranks on the server while producing content. Thus, Weedmonkey was tapped for promotion, and I was recycled into another position with tasks (sealed database updates, master rating updates) that I could fill despite my busy schedule.

Aftermath

I dropped off the face of the Earth in June, and Weedmonkey has been producing articles and coverage with a new site in the meanwhile. These articles have been filled with community-building endeavors and brutal honesty about his reflections on the league. This…is good. I was also shocked to learn he didn’t have a profile on the site until recently—and I’m amused that he wants to meet the red-headed stepchild of the league. I’m notoriously bad at meeting people from the league, but we’ll see.


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Comments:
by Lynolf on 2010-12-30 22:13 CET

"Have a great new year, Magic-league players!

Gerrardfo"

Doesn't seem that difficult to me...


by jfc on 2010-12-30 23:46 CET

;(


by FLOCKA on 2010-12-31 00:32 CET

at least I know I'm not the only one who is/went AWOL. that shit is not fun AT ALL.


by Bob_A_Wilson on 2010-12-31 02:43 CET

Welcome back Gfo!


by RiQuSP on 2010-12-31 10:42 CET

I remember I send you an article once, about a PTQ top 8 with a rogue deck.. It was however, never posted or replied on.

=/


by aule on 2011-01-05 19:30 CET

Way to minimize my part in making you Coverage Director. SAD FACE.


by JBieber12 on 2011-01-05 23:26 CET


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