Last time I talked about de-emphasizing Limited content.
Again, I personally enjoy playing Limited (and pretty much everyone but #FloresRewards inventor Osyp Lebedowicz likes playing limited for pleasure more than Constructed). But when challenged with growing a Magic audience — at least given the experiences I had via 15+ years of Magic publishing across basically every major Magic website, in both content creation and editorial positions — Limited draws less than Constructed.
It is in that spirit that I have to say the same thing about Tournament Reports.
This might surprise you because I am one of the founding fathers of the tournament report (mine was this one, fourteen years ago; and a PTQ winner)… But from a publishing standpoint — at least for new sites (or sites looking to grow) — tournament reports should not be a go-to medium.
Back in 1999 I submitted a winning tournament report for the 1999 Ohio Valley Regional Championship; I finished Top 4 with my Hatred deck and was a front page columnist at The Dojo. This was after Who’s the Beatdown, mind you.
I got rejected!
That was the first time I was taught to raise an eyebrow to tournament reports-as-feature content. It was not for the better part of a year, when I published a front page report by Matt Urban (at this point I was editor of The Dojo) that tournament reports started to turn around in terms of validity as front page features.
To be honest at the time we were kind of tight for content, and I needed a feature. Back in those days we had columnists whose names you probably recognise — Hall of Famers like Gary Wise and Zvi Mowshowitz, Jamie Wakefield, David E. Price, and the emerging Anthony Alongi — but as consistent as half my columnists were, the other half, not so much (this is something that all the Magic websites continue to struggle with, by they way). So I bent and published Urban’s submission as a front page feature (by the way it was great).
Today tournament reports are published on essentially every Magic website as front page / feature content; at this point, the single article that any Magic writer has ever been paid THE MOST for (to my knowledge) was a PT-winning tournament report (and a great one).
That said, for every A+, inspiring, tournament report, there are dozens — or more — that bring relatively little value.
Before we get into what’s wrong with tournament reports, let’s focus on the flip-side. What’s right about them?
The best tournament reports are enchanting.
They are like the best Twitter feeds, and the best personal blogs. They give you a window into the happenings of someone else’s real world, and that, in and of itself, can be valuable. Now when the player wins — particularly in Constructed — sports a new strategy, does something that will cause a shift in the metagame, then the tournament report can deliver a great deal of value and help readers predict what will happen next week (if appropriate).
Another kind of tournament report I like — which is closely related to ongoing development articles, week after week, of a single strategy — help readers see something to conclusion; hopefully something they can cheer for. The absolute greatest example of all time was during Urza’s Block Constructed, when Dave Price sent in disappointing report after disappointing report, falling deeper and deeper into Road Warrior hell… But came out in the end, winning the absolute last PTQ in a triumph of Black creatures.
If you’ve never read it, I think it is still BDM’s favorite tournament report: House of Horrors
It’s not like you can miss that line in the middle…
Is your next Dojo article going to be as depressing as last week’s was?
What happens if we don’t get Dave’s amazing payoff? What I wouldn’t love is a stack of unsuccessful tournament reports; and nothing against Dave (because the last one in the line of reports was so very great)… But especially across a format (PTQ, GP, etc.) a stack of not successful tournament reports where the writer — however known — just plays archetype decks brings very little value to readers.
Ultimately, half of what makes a tournament report interesting is how interesting the guy (or lady) writing it is. Really interesting writers can write anything and readers will lap it up eagerly. In situations like these, the medium — tournament report versus any other option — is halfway irrelevant. The person — and the passion injected into the piece — is what makes it worth reading.
Otherwise… What is a reader getting out of it again?
Many tournament reports — my own, at least some of them certainly included — are collections of complaints and bad beat stories with little the reader can take away.
I played a deck I got off the Internet.
I went x-2; here are my sideboarding strategies (just kidding).
Um, I guess here is something halfway interesting that happened at the airport (provided you know who the jokers in my story are).
As with anything, there are good, bad, great, terrible tournament reports. Again, I have nothing against the tournament report in general… Certainly I would love to read all the great ones that I can! It is more an issue that we have too many, and the sites publishing some of them would be better serving their readers with more tech, more multimedia… or even more personality!
Now the sad intersection of Limited + tournament reports… Ugh.
Even harder to be great (but some still are, sure).