Welcome back to another Community Spotlight segment here at GDC. This is where show off an amazing person, website, organization, or store who is doing great things in their community. We are all about encouraging people to get involved in making the Magical world around them a more fun and inviting place. You know, like the Social Contract.
Today we are talking with Wally D, the founder of MTG Casual Play, a website I recently discovered while scouring the Internet to see what other Commander authors were up to. As the name implies, the website is about all things casual and Magic.
Wally uses his site to encourage people to play and write about Magic. He’s got a pretty big stable of writers, and even so the website has a section dedicated to showing you other articles on different websites you may be interested in.
When I approached Wally he was immediately friendly and inviting. He’s a positive personality, running a site all about having fun. Check it out when you get some time.
Sean: Wally D, I believe you mentioned that Wally D was actually your nickname. Without compromising your anonymity more than you feel comfortable, where does Wally D originate?
Wally D: Hey there Sean. Thank you for selecting me for your interview article, as a reader of your work on General Damage Control, I am honored. Yes, Wally D. is actually a nickname that originated from my time in the military. It is derived from my last name of Wallace and the first initial of my legal first name. I go by Nick, but use Wally D. for most of my online personas (including Twitter and my Fantasy Football website) and with about every other venture I set out to do.
Sean: I read somewhere you started playing Magic back in 1997 during tempest. How did you get into the game?
Wally D: That is correct. My buddy Jared is the one responsible for getting me into playing Magic: the Gathering. He called me on the phone and said he found a game that I was going to like. I went to a local game store to buy Magic cards and showed up at his house with a starter pack of 5th Edition and three Tempest Booster packs. My other good friend, Tom, was already there along with a couple other guys that were going to show us how to play the game. Two of the first rares I ever opened were Nevinyrral’s Disk and Lord of the Pit. To this day, Nevinyrral’s Disk is one of my favorite cards, and I include it in a lot of Commander cards. I still have the original one I opened almost 20 years ago. In fact, I was lucky enough to have it altered and signed by the original artist Mark Tedin.
After learning how to play Magic, Tom, Jared and I pulled in a few more friends and played 60-card, casual multiplayer. Our kitchen table days lasted until 2001 when we shelved our cards and took a 10-year break from Magic. We had to do that adult thing for a while and our spare time and money went to our families and kids.
Sean: Talking about playing for a while, I saw on your site all the Commander articles were labeled EDH. That’s pretty beardy these days. When and how did you get into playing Commander? Was it before the name change?
Wally D: In 2011, I had two buddies at work that recently returned from Afghanistan. During conversation of their life overseas they told me they played a lot of Magic: the Gathering to pass the time. I dusted off my old 60-card Legacy decks and invited these guys over for a few games. After a while, one of them said, “60 card decks are fine and all, but you have got to try EDH.” I borrowed his mono-white EDH deck and have been hooked ever since. Within a month I had three EDH decks and just purchased the Devour for Power Commander 2011 precon. I brought in my old playgroup and mixed them with the younger kids and we started having EDH night at least one Tuesday a month…a ritual that we are still doing five years later.
In my articles I like to have a healthy 50/50 balance of using EDH vs Commander to describe our format. I look at the analytics of my website quite a bit and EDH is still quite prominent in search terms. Besides, it was introduced to me as EDH, so by default, that is usually what still rolls off the tongue in discussion and writing. On a side note, I remember the Legendary creature of the deck being called the “General”. This term feels a little awkward to me nowadays and I stick with calling it the “Commander.” I will, however, use the term “General” in some of my writing to break up repetitiveness in an article or as a healthy synonym.
Sean: Your website is like ours, in that it focuses nearly exclusively on the casual side of Magic. What motivated you to want to start writing articles online?
Wally D: I have always had a passion for writing. When I was in high school I was the Editor of our school literary magazine, inducted into Quill and Scroll for Journalism, and wrote an essay that won me a trip to Washington D.C. Unfortunately, after graduating in 1991 (before most Magic players were born) I strayed away from writing. Years later I decided to take college classes and, at the ripe old age of 39, received an Associate Degree in Web Design.
Writing blogs in college was boring but it did rekindle the passion I had for writing. In my first year of playing Commander I binge read every deck building article and primer I could find. I wanted to soak up ideas and create my own decks that were efficient and bubbled with synergy. Reading articles motivated me to want to write my own. Once I had enough experience playing Commander I installed WordPress on my GoDaddy server, set up MTGCasualPlay.com and began my MTG writing career.
Sean: The articles of yours that I’ve seen have been Commander related. Since most of our readers our interested in Commander above all else, how much of your site is focused on the best format in Magic?
Wally D: It truly is the best format in Magic, isn’t it? Honestly, if it wasn’t for Commander I probably would not be playing the game today.
On MTGCasualPlay.com, almost all of my articles are focused on Commander. I do admit, however, that I will throw out the occasional article about current events, limited or other casual format.
With regards to the other writers on MTGCasualPlay.com, most of them are Commander oriented, but we do get casual looks at other formats from time-to-time. If you don’t mind, I would like to recognize Kuchisama. He is a fantastic writer that has been with our website the longest. He plays a lot of 60-card casual but his column, “Multiplayer Madness,” will occasionally bleed into Commander subjects.
Sean: On that note, who is currently your favorite legend to use as a Commander and what’s so awesome about them?
Wally D: My favorite commander? Oh my goodness. Pulling a favorite weapon out of an armory of 26 Commander decks is quite the task. 26 decks? Yep. Finally, a chance to admit that I have an addiction to deck building.
While I don’t like to play favorites, if I had to pick the deck that I have had the most fun playing with on recent game nights, I would have to say my mono-black control deck with Chainer, Dementia Master at the helm. Chainer isn’t an overpowering deck but it provides “edge of your seat” epic battles and game endings in my playgroup. Chainer is full of everything that is mono-black goodness including boardwipes, Grave Pact effects, enter the battlefield triggers and tutoring. Better yet, my playgroup tends to play with a bunch of fat creatures that Chainer can pluck out out of their graveyard. To top everything off, Chainer provides a cluster of different win conditions that include Exsanguinate, Kokusho Loops, or infinite combos with persist, undying or Nim’s Deathmantle. We can also win with good ol’ fashion creature damage too. An army of Wurmcoil Tokens or Grave Titan zombies usually does the trick.
If I were going to a Grand Prix I would probably load up my bag with Chainer (control), Prossh (aggro tokens), Surrak Dragonclaw (the anti-blue), and whatever new deck(s) that I have working on. White is actually my favorite color in Magic. However, I like to build, play and learn as many archetypes and color combinations that I can. Out of all of my decks I have only built one for competitive 1v1 play at my local game store, and that is Uril, the Miststalker.
Sean: It looks like you have over a dozen authors over on your site. How and where did you find like-minded players?
Wally D: Looks are just a bit deceiving on our author page. The current list shows all authors that have published an article within the last year or have written a significant amount of articles in the past. Currently we only have a small handful of us that are still active.
About once a year I will try to recruit new writers who want to try their hand at word slinging. Occasionally a Commander player will contact me out of the blue inquiring about how they can write articles for MTGCasualPlay.com. What we offer to a player considering to become a writer is a few things. Our website already has an audience, albeit a smaller audience, that receives about 200 visits a day. MTGCasualPlay.com provides handy plugins that help with formatting decklists, tagging cards, and uploading images. Finally, to post articles on our website there is no need to submit examples of previous work and no experience is required. If someone contacts me wanting to try writing articles or just wants a hassle-free place to write a Primer for their deck, then I will gladly give them the paper and pencil they need to do so. My dream scenario is that one day, a future columnist for Wizards, StarCityGames.com, GatheringMagic.com or GeneralDamageControl.com (smiley face) can point back to MTGCasualPlay.com as the website that helped them get their foot in the door as an MTG writer.
One of the few drawbacks about writing for MTGCasualPlay.com is that we fly without a safety net, ie, we do not have an editor. As the owner I will read and review every article posted and help out with images, formatting or search engine optimization, but what you see is the raw, untampered writing of each author. By the same token, an author can publish their work right away so articles never gets caught up in red tape.
In addition to new writers I also open the door to established authors that may already write on a different blog or website. Heck, you never know. Maybe an established writer wants to try and gain a few more followers or try to pitch their work to a different audience.
Sean: One of the sections of your site I admire most is the “More Reading” section. On that tab it shows a bunch of articles from all over the web. How do you go about selecting these articles and what do I have to do to get selected one of these days?
Wally D: Great question Sean and probably the easiest answer I can divulge. You are already included in the “More Reading” section. In fact, GeneralDamageControl.com has been included for a couple of years now. Let me explain. I installed a WordPress plugin on MTGCasualPlay.com called RSS Multi Importer. This plugin allows me to import multiple RSS feeds from websites of my choosing and then spits them out all on the same page. With the current settings, the More Reading page will pull in the most recent ten articles from each website and display them in date order starting with the most recent.
My current list of feeds includes General Damage Control, MTGCasualPlay.com, CommanderCast.com, The Command Zone Podcast (Jimmy and Josh from Rocketjump), and both Jason Alt and Mark Wischkaemper from GatheringMagic.com. It also includes a couple more undiscovered Commander bloggers I found over on Blogspot.com: The Command Zone by Thaumaturge and Eric from AyeCommander!
I would be ecstatic to add more RSS feeds to this page, but would like to keep the focus on Commander or Multiplayer Casual Play. I have tried to pull in Commander articles from websites such as SCG and TCG but have been unable to successfully parse out the Commander related articles.
Sean: While we’ve got you here, is there anything new going on with you or the site that you would like people to know about?
Wally D: You bet. I always have ideas brewing but some never come to fruition. I would still like to find a podcast that could call MTGCasualPlay.com their home. I attempted to create my own about a year and a half ago and found out that it is a lot more difficult and time-consuming than I could have imagined. I did publish our recorded Episode 0 of 103.1 EDH Radio a few months ago and am considering giving it another go.
I am also working on creating more content for the MTGCasualPlay.com YouTube channel. I plan on publishing Top 10 videos and few more deck techs in the near future.
In the meantime I will continue writing and publishing my Top 10 Set reviews. The Top 10 EDH Cards for Commander series seem to receive the most traffic and they are my favorite articles to write. In addition to Top 10 lists for new sets, I will still write and update primers for Commander decks along with other EDH centered content. I am also dedicated to finishing my EDH Finance article series that is geared towards obtaining reserved list cards for Commander. I’m currently a month or so behind, so I plan on catching up with that.
Once again I want to thank you for putting the spotlight on MTGCasualPlay.com. I am excited and looking forward to reading your new article series on GDC.
P.S. The current plan is to publish these pretty regularly-nearly once a week if possible. So if you want to get interviewed or know someone who would be a good fit for the focus of this series, reach out to me on Twitter. I’d love to hear from you!