From Trash to Trash

Written by Weedmonkey on February 08, 2011

In my Ask Weedmonkey article at the end of last year, I mentioned that I do write articles when I feel strongly compelled to from time to time. This is one of those articles.

In today's article, I will be highlighting an issue that I feel goes strongly against the spirit of the game, even at a professional level. I also believe this is something that the MTG community at large needs to pay attention to, as it is entirely possible that this isn't an isolated case going forward.

But first, to understand how the issue fits into the bigger picture, we first need to understand where we fit today.

Magic the Gathering: More Than Just A Game

The Magic of 2011 is different to the Magic of 2001. Ten years ago, there we clear juggernauts of the game - your Buddes, your Mahers, your Finkels. The tap symbol was still in a diamond, and the most expensive cards for you deck were unlikely to cost you more than $20 a pop.

Tournament-wise, the idea of being on the gravy train was far out of reach for many people. Having to pay for your own airfares for both Grands Prix and Pro Tours was difficult for players from some areas of the world - I recall one article many years ago which mentioned that Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa couldn't ever attend Pro Tours he was qualified for until WotC started paying for flights. For most hopeful players, it came down to reading Sideboard for tournament reports and maybe watching some matches on ESPN. For your regular FNM pilot, Magic was an enjoyable event for a friday night and weekends with friends. The articles scene and theory was by and large a grassroots establishment rather than the pseudo-professional media they are today (The Dojo was an early pioneer in this area).

As the years have progressed, Magic has grown and evolved (much to the discontent of doomsayers who think every small change will kill the game, I'm sure). WotC's implementation of paid flights for PTQ winners has allowed many people who couldn't otherwise make Pro Tour events. There are multiple competing sites with paid writers, providing a wealth of resources for Pro Tour hopefuls. The Grand Prix circuit has become a ritualesque event for some people, who every year grab some mates and plan one (or several) events to attend every year. I've met plenty of people who've taken a week or more of work and planned out a road trip to attend some events.

Magic in the present is less just a game and more a focal point for a growing community. Somewhere in the past ten years there was a point where peoples' ideas about Magic shifted from just a hobby to seriously considering it as a way of life. While there were some people who managed it before, today it seems possible for so many more people.

The C Word - Community

For people who regularly read these articles of mine (or rants, as some people may see them as), they would most likely have had enough of listening to me harp on about this. However, to me the idea of community is something very important both in and out of Magic. Part of the joy of Magic is being able to hang out with your friends and do something you all love, or take a trip with them to destinations you may have never been before. What makes Magic great isn't just the cards and the rules that govern them - it's the people who write, create comics, podcast and provide coverage for the good of everyone else who loves Magic. The sharing of joy is a wonderful.

Magic brings together people from all walks of life. Through this great game, I've met doctors, lawyers, students, band managers, drug dealers, mothers, fathers, a professional wrestler and many more. Some of these people I would never have had anything to do with on the street, and yet with Magic those differences don't exist because there's a language we all speak - that of slinging cardboard.

And sometimes, you get things such as this:

"Become Virtually Unbeatable At Magic: The Gathering."

"I'll Show You How To ABSOLUTELY DEMOLISH Well-Trained Opposition... Even If You've Only Been Playing MTG For A Week...!"

Seeders and Leechers

The above statement comes courtesy of Joe Soh, a Malaysian player whose apparent claims to fame are winning Malaysian Nationals twice (and in researching for this article, I could only confirm once such title), and being the brother of Terry Soh.

There are plenty of professional players who write about Magic - PV, Brad Nelson, Matteo Orsini-Jones and Pat Chapin (who's also written a book) to name a few. While many of these writers are paid for the articles they right, all of them to different degrees write because they want to share their knowledge with other people who love the same game they love (because if they didn't they would y'know, be writing books exclusively).

The difference between Soh's webpage and an eBook such as Patrick Chapin's Next Level Magic isn't the content - it's the delivery.

From Offers to Persuasion

When you first read Soh's website, you may feel as though you're reading one big advertisement for viagra or some weight-loss book. Overall, the effect of the website seems to play on the desires of players wanting to succeed at tournament level, and there are techniques being applied here to achieve this end:

  • Rhetoric. The amount of persuasive language highlighted on the page to try and persuade the audience of his credentials is numerous. Quickly scroll through the page. See the phrases highlighted in yellow? Many of them are good examples of rhetoric.
  • Modality. The position Soh comes from is that he is a professional player and that there is a high level of surety that anyone who buys his product will succeed.
  • Rapid Timeframe. Soh guarantees that the improvements to play skill are short in length - he claims that you can learn everything you need in a few hours (and as a teacher, if he can do that he's better than almost every other teacher who can achieve that level of success with the same scope as he's pitching).

These combine to present an unscrupulous if not outright fraudulent advertisement for a product. It's when the community is impacted that this issue becomes most pertinent.

Going Bust

Imagine a player that purchases Soh's guide. After reading it and playing in numerous tournaments, that player feels disgruntled because Soh's product isn't producing results. That player may stop playing at tournament level or even leave the game entirely (an extreme case to be certain, but a possible one). Others may feel cheated, and may develop a negative perception of the game as a result of the actions of one person.

The product itself is definitely nowhere near a quality high enough for the asking price based on the screenshots he has on his page. The spelling, grammar and punctuation is poor for what is supposed to be a published product, and the terms aren't technically correct in some areas (for example, there are some circumstances where you can cast spells/activate abilities during the cleanup step, and the end step is not the final phase of the turn).

The issue with a product such as this isn't the offering of the product itself - it's the delivery of the product in a questionably professional fashion. As a minor aside, the images in the product I am reasonably certain are blatant disregards of copyright - I cannot see WotC providing permission to use copyrighted images in such a fashion.

The Art of Social Action

I'm hoping that this article can bring debate regarding things such as this cropping up in the future. Going forward, the continual increase of Magic's popularity will ultimately result in an increase in the efforts of players to break out and make it to the professional circuit. What this also leads to however is people taking advantage of these players for their own gain.

As members of a wider MTG community, I do believe that everyone should attempt to contribute to improving MTG as a whole. Therefore, I put a challenge out to everyone reading this: If you believe that Joe Soh's efforts have been unscrupulous and designed to take advantage of uncertain players, do your best to alert others to the concerns you hold.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, this article will be seen by some as a rant and others as a legitimate concern. If nothing else, I want readers to take away from this feeling a greater understanding that we all contribute to Magic, whether it be directly or indirectly. We are what makes Magic, and we are what breaks it.

- Roo

Back to Magic: the Gathering Articles

by ShottyHorroh on 2011-02-08 07:07 CET

sick article. i cant agree more. nice title btw .

by maps on 2011-02-08 07:16 CET

He's for real. See above.

by sol02 on 2011-02-08 08:23 CET

is this kind of shit advertising like the one above me allowed in magic-league?

by Bejeezus on 2011-02-08 09:36 CET

Cool article.

by magicman85 on 2011-02-08 09:53 CET

I used Joe Soh's books and my winning rate has gone up at least 75%!!

by Frozen_Fire on 2011-02-08 11:02 CET

Cool article, the Soh issue is a real one and I think it's important to discuss about it in order to avoid any kind of delusion. By the way, I'm for the freedom of the information and I don't like that much people that don't want to share their knowledge if they don't get paid for it. The main reason is that if suddendly the most important informations about Magic will have to get paid, the whole community will suffer and a portion of players will stop playing. Making the informations free also helps the community growing.

by Lunari_ on 2011-02-08 11:24 CET

magicman85: 0*1.75 is still 0

by Bob_A_Wilson on 2011-02-08 13:59 CET

Good article. I can't believe you didn't mention Darwin Kastle as one of the pros who writes about Magic. I met him at GP Richmond (Rav block sealed) after I dropped round 3 from a whole bunch of Asians flying in to qualify for the Pro Tour that year.

I've definitely met a lot of cool people playing magic. At that same GP that I met Darwin, I also met some dudes from New Jersey who were staying at my hotel. We took a box of boosters, went up to their room, smoked some dank, dank weed, and booster drafted. Good times!

by on 2011-02-08 15:36 CET

Articles such as these are good to remind us what this game is all about: having fun.

Sure, competitive Mtg is fine and all, but it's not poker if you want to compare it to a way to make a living out of it. It's not that I'm a poker player, it's just that with all the expenses coming from the travelling, I dunno it simply doesn't seem feasible.

Now about internet articles and Soh's stuff, meh seriously you can read all you want, but in the end what matters is how much practice you have, and how much dedication you got for the game, and how much effort you put into improving your game.

by GreenBear on 2011-02-08 17:16 CET

You've got to be really stupid to believe those things, they remind of all those stupid cons for fitness machine's and stuff get a six pack in 20 days.

Now I've had a six pack since i was 12 and guess what its mostly genetics, some people no matter what they do are never going to have a six pack, just as i can do nothing and maintain a six pack. We all have one but how visible it is, is largely determined by how your body distributes its fat.

What worries me about this is the fact kids can be taken in by the gip. People dumb enough and lazy enough to try and take short cuts at everything in there life, deserve what they get. YOU HAVE TO WORK HARD AT SOMETHING IF YOU WANT TO GET GOOD AT SOMETHING. DEDICATE A SERIOUS AMOUNT OF TIME TO IT, MAKE SACRIFICES ETC.

We are becoming a world of quick fixies, which i hate and this book reflects an inherent social problem of people wanting all the glory with out putting in any of the effort. Serious short sightedness, the global disaster caused by the bankers perhaps best highlights this.

by Bob_A_Wilson on 2011-02-08 18:14 CET

I had a six-pack when I worked in a factory every day and rarely ate. Now, the only six-pack I have is the six-pack of Amber Bock setting in the bottom of my fridge. Granted I'm not overweight or anything, but rather my genetics just don't have that in their blueprints.

by oora101 on 2011-02-09 02:53 CET

I have to say, great article, i have to agree with Frozen_Fire, the info should be free. The only thing that matters if your serious is your playing style, how well your deck is built to suite you, and luck of the draw. I play just for fun, i wouldnt mind competeing in fnm every once in a while, but id get outed in the first rround, Im still working on building a deck that really suites my style.

by Nogginwack on 2011-02-09 03:30 CET

I will stick with starcity thanks.

by nasa on 2011-02-09 17:04 CET

did anyone point out right=/=write yet?

by Bob_A_Wilson on 2011-02-09 17:22 CET

nasa: roo was probably just fantasizing about gfo in a leotard.

by ManaLeak on 2011-02-09 20:13 CET

Thanks, weedmonkey for putting up the time to write such a thoughtful argument. Even though your psuedo name is weedmonkey. I do feel you almost established some ethos to write on this topic. I found the information not all that enlightening and have almost entirely dismissed this in my short term memory. Furthermore, I would like to say thanks for name dropping Soh in your watchdog rant of his product. Personally I perfer to read less subjective material. perhaps a more objective view of the community on magic league perhaps.

by thedarkness on 2011-02-09 20:46 CET


I laughed. :D

I see a lot of web pages very much like Joe Soh's. They're called flycatchers, and they're usually exactly what that is: a loud web site used to sell an e-book. Very very few of them are ever worth the price they ask, but unfortunately they're a "legitimate" (read: legal) business practice unless there's copyright infringement involved somehow. My mother lost a lot of money learning about them.

by Weedmonkey on 2011-02-09 23:53 CET

ManaLeak: my nickname is a misnomer, so don't read so much into that ;) As for the argument, I have had criticism from people weren't a fan of the article because it did come across as a rant, and I apologise to anyone that feels that way. My intentions for the article were noble.

thedarkness: There's copyright infringement :P

by R3wind on 2011-02-10 19:19 CET

I looked at the guys website and it's almost as bad as the Warcraft like a Pro or Evony like a Pro etard books. Good for you! I am all about calling folks out who are not good for our games and hobbies.

by eternal42 on 2011-02-11 08:31 CET

By mentioning it here are you not just giving him more exposure?

by Kookie_Mnstr on 2011-02-12 19:13 CET

very true eternal. i had never even heard of the book until i read this. but roo had good intentions when pointing him out here

by Nantuko on 2011-02-14 07:36 CET

You haven't experienced Magic until you:

a) Play 2HG against Brad Nelson, who doesn't stop talking about crotch chaffing.

b) Witness what would only be described as underlying homosexuality between Stephen Menendian and Patrick Chapin.

c) Jedi mind trick Gerry T out of a booster box.

d) Get banned from the DCI and still play professional level events.

by aqualad33 on 2011-02-14 19:32 CET

good article, I really hate those kinds of things. You are not going to be beating pro's who practice for hours and hours fine tuning their decks into perfection and practicing the right plays for each situation in a matter of weeks. That's like trying to win the olympics with a few weeks of practice. Even with all the "advice" any serious opponent will have the same knowledge and probably a great deal more. If you want to get good, suck up your losses and learn from them. Don't buy a book because it has flashy promises (also some good advice is to go watch tournament coverage and read some of the free content on star city games)

by NightLoki on 2011-02-17 16:37 CET

I liked the article, but it felt a little too focused on the problems rather than the solutions. What makes a good online community (magic or no) might be a decent article in and of itself.

by derflippi on 2011-03-08 20:55 CET


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