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The [mtg:cardname] syntax is better than nothing, but truthfully it's more trouble than it's worth, particularly with posts that have a large number of cardnames in them.

I think we need either a much shorter syntax (1-2 characters rather than 6), e.g.:

{Dark Confidant}
m-DarkConfidant
$Dark Confidant$

Or alternatively some sort of automating tool that just checks your post for cardnames and autolinks them. So you could write your post, then click the autoformat button, and ideally it would show a modal with "The following valid cardnames were found in your post, have we made any mistakes in identifying them?" and the user would have an opportunity to maybe uncheck one if it's a false positive.

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  • Not that it strictly matters, but speaking as a JavaScript engineer I know I personally would enjoy implementing this as a feature, would be fun. – temporary_user_name Dec 7 '15 at 21:50
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    Really, it's that much of a problem for you to add 6 extra characters? – murgatroid99 Dec 7 '15 at 21:57
  • On 30 cardnames? Yes. Yes it is. But you're the high-rep user with editing privileges here, I suppose if you enjoy adding these to everybody's posts, then who am I to interrupt your leisure work. – temporary_user_name Dec 7 '15 at 22:00
  • By the way, it took me less time to edit the card links into your question than it has to write an answer for this question. – murgatroid99 Dec 7 '15 at 22:39
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    I'd prefer no syntax at all, with links rendered on a per tag basis. If the question is tagged magic-the-gathering, automatically link all Magic: the Gathering cards. Likewise with Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh!. – Rainbolt Dec 7 '15 at 23:42
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    Brilliant idea! That handles murgatroid99's objections regarding this not only being an MtG site. – temporary_user_name Dec 7 '15 at 23:51
  • Even if restricted to questions with the MTG tag, there is still one issue with zero-syntax linking. It's a problem that you can even occasionally spot in articles on the official MTG site: there are a few cards, mostly instants and sorceries, whose names are single English words, some of which may be used in ordinary prose, not intended to refer to the card. If links are generated without any syntax, those words would become erroneously linked as well. – Dan Henderson Dec 9 '15 at 23:26
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    That's why I proposed a pop-up with a checklist saying "Are all of these intended to be MtG cardlinks?" And you can just remove any false positives like that. – temporary_user_name Dec 10 '15 at 2:47
  • In the rare circumstance where a question has to link 30 cards, it would be more efficient to simply compose the question in a text editor and use search and replace than to come up with a shorter but less useful syntax. – ghoppe Jan 19 '16 at 19:26
12

TL;DR: A shorter syntax and built in automatic linking both probably will not work well. But an extension or other client side tool that automatically adds links in the editor would be great.

New Syntax

On the surface, it seems that it would be reasonable to make card linking easier by shortening the syntax. But in fact, we cannot have any shorter syntax without causing problems, either there or elsewhere. There are three relevant pieces of the current syntax, and I contend that they are all necessary.

The mtg identifier

This site is not just a Magic the Gathering Q&A site. Those questions need to coexist with questions about other board and card games. Imagine that in the future some other TCG becomes popular enough that we want short links for its cards too. With the current syntax, we can just extend it naturally: [pok:cardname] for Pokemon, or [ygo:cardname] for Yu-Gi-Oh. But if the syntax for linking to the card doesn't contain the game name/abbreviation, then we'd have to come up with a new syntax for each. Even if that never happens, a syntax without the card name still precludes anyone else on the site using that to mean anything else. For example, if we used {cardname} as the new syntax, then we'd be saying "Nobody else can surround any text in curly braces unless they want a MTG card link".

The [] delimiters

The code parsing a post needs some way to determine where a card name begins and ends. Two of your suggestions, like the current syntax, have delimiters that cannot appear in card names, which makes that problem very simple. The other indicates the end with a space, with words separated by capitalizing the first letter of each. But that can cause its own problems with some cards. m-AcolyteOfTheInferno, for example, would probably be rendered incorrectly as Acolyte Of The Inferno, and if you forget to capitalize the linking words, it probably just won't work at all.

The : separator

As long as we need the mtg identifier, we need some separator so that we know that the game identifier is done and that we are in a card short link instead of a regular link.

Automatic card linking

It would be an even worse idea to add automatic card linking to the question editor. I mentioned above that MTG questions have to coexist with other board and card game questions; well, our editor is the same as every other site's editor. Adding that feature would require either adding it network-wide or branching the editor to add it just to this site.

User-side automatic card linking

There is another option. Someone could develop a Chrome Extension (for example) with a button that replaces card names with card links when writing or editing a post, so that you don't have to do it manually. This would be quite useful, and would not require anyone else to change anything.

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    I've seen automatic card linking completely destroy text on dedicated MTG sites. It would be horrific here. (Some card names are common words. Some card names are substrings of other card names. :O ) – Alex P Dec 11 '15 at 0:47
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One thing that should be remembered is that you are talking about saving some users from having to type in 6 extra characters when posting or editing a post versus a programmers time to implement the changes. While it would be nice is the amount of work that it would take worth a developers limited time when you are talking about a low traffic beta site?

When looking at the big picture you see there are a lot of big changes currently happening on the Stack Exchange network as a whole to improve the overall user experience and I would wager that would have so little in return that it isn't even worth considering until this site graduates beta and they have time to evaluate how much of a benefit this would give users.

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