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A while ago, we had a discussion about the rationale for asking Magic questions on a separate site. Since then, the number of MTG questions here has gone through the roof. It is now the top game, by some margin, and responsible for 13% of all the questions on the site.

Since we adopted the Go site, I have been very impressed by the Go renderer, which makes really nice board images from a simple markup (example).

So, as one of your community advocates, I have been asking various people at SE about the possibility of rendering support for MTG (and chess as well). An answer I received today implied that if there were a separate site for MTG, support might be more of a priority.

I have a few questions for you:

  • Do you think Board and Card Games is a good solution for a place to ask MTG questions?
  • Would rendering support for MTG (symbols, automatic inline card images, ...) substantially improve this site for you?
  • Would you move to a new Stack Exchange site for MTG if it had such dedicated support?

My personal opinion is that this is a great site for MTG questions, and we would be a much poorer place without them. I also don't believe that a standalone MTG site would be successful. And I don't see why there is any advantage to implementing a renderer later, rather than now.

But it's really up to the community to decide whether this matters, or not. So - what do you think?

  • Snce there was an executive decision that B&CG is the MTG site, can we prioritize this feature here? – Jim McKeeth Apr 3 '12 at 3:13
  • You can get the automatic inline card images on any website, including this one, by installing the AutocardAnywhere extension in your browser: pwpoints.com/extensions – user2692 Apr 4 '12 at 7:45
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Where the Magic questions go, so goes my nation; I'm committed to the MtG proposal, but if it is determined that it isn't necessary and that Magic has a better home here, so be it. Regardless of where it is, however, what is important is that working with Magic posts is convenient - at the moment, it is not. If it is easier to ask questions on another SE, they won't get asked here.

At 183 out of 1,421 questions, makes up nearly 13% of all our questions. I can say personally (having been involved in said questions) that not having an inline JavaScript card preview is a tremendous pain. That particular feature is pretty much the necessary feature on dedicated Magic sites (whether they be blogs, deck builders, trade sites, etc.). I don't see symbols as particularly important, but having a card preview is key.

EDIT: After reviewing the information @KevinMontrose added, I totally understand the legal reasons preventing this from happening at the moment. However, as a stopgap (that could be expanded to image support, should it eventually be possible), could we automatically link to the Gatherer web page for the card in question? It should just require an alteration of any however-tagged cards to http://gatherer.wizards.com/pages/search/default.aspx?name=+["cardname"] (e.g. Lightning Bolt to http://gatherer.wizards.com/pages/search/default.aspx?name=["Lightning Bolt"]). That way, we use official sources without scraping, and have a methodology in place to expand to images if it becomes possible later.

EDIT II: THE RETURN OF EDIT: After some additional discussion in chat today, I propose a markdown syntax of [mtg:cardname]. This would allow the regex to be fairly simple (and similar to tag replacement, as the tag syntax is [tag:tagname]) - all it would have to be is a regex replace, replacing the suggested markdown with pattern of

\[mtg:(?<cardname>[^\]]+)\]

and replacement string of

<a class="mtglink" href="http://gatherer.wizards.com/pages/search/default.aspx?name=%5B%22$1%22%5D">$1</a>

Alternatively, if this type of one-off work is a pain, a structure for generalized HTML creation based on some simplistic syntax would be nice, to allow people to write user scripts to do the rest of the work. Some syntax to create a <span> tag with an easily-customizable class would let you move all of this into the "do whatever you want with these with user scripts" realms, instead of having to handle each of these requests as they come. Some may be more complex than others (Go, Chess, Mathematica, etc.), but others (like this) are simple.

  • The way of linking that you suggest is great. The next step would be automatic card recognition so if I write 'Lightning Bolt' and links automatically. I don't know what kind of development resources we have, but I've seen this feature on other sites and I really like it. – AndSoYouCode Feb 8 '12 at 11:38
  • Since this has been officially declined I suggest you post your answer as a new feature request. – Jim McKeeth Apr 3 '12 at 16:47
  • There's a browser extension that does exactly this - automatically recognises card names on any page you visit and links automatically, with popup images. It's called AutocardAnywhere and is available here: pwpoints.com/extensions – user2692 Apr 4 '12 at 7:47
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I see Magic:the Gathering as one of the keystone games for this site and would hate to see the community split off from here.

Some enhancements to make the site easier to use for our most popular game are appropriate.

  • The MTG proposal was finally closed by Aarthi. A great decision in my opinion :). – Demento Mar 27 '12 at 22:39
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I'm -ing this, it's not something we can reasonably implement unfortunately (I do generally like the idea, as a lapsed MTG player myself).

The rub is, Wizards doesn't provide an official API for fetching card details (in this case, images). They have the (excellent) Gatherer site, but it's focused entirely on actual people.

The most recent reference I can find to a Gatherer API is from 2008, and isn't promising:

Q: Is there an API for access to the oracle card reference (Gatherer)? If not, is there a chance that there will be one? I'd love to create a fan site that has access to actual oracle data? –Jay, Omaha, NE, USA

A: From Dave Guskin, magicthegathering.com Web Developer:

Hey Jay,

Unfortunately, we don't have an external API for Gatherer with our current system. (For those who are going "huh?" API stands for application programming interface, similar to the way many websites query Google's search directly for their own search mash-ups. External APIs, meaning interfaces that anyone on the web can use, take a bit longer to develop and put additional strain on servers, but do allow the community the freedom to develop their own look and feel around the services.)

There are no current plans to implement an API like this in the near future, but it's certainly something we'll keep in mind when developing out improvements to the Gatherer system and other tools we have in the works that build on top of it.

Looking around at other sites, it looks like they've either scraped Gatherer or are hot-linking it (as Draw3Cards appears to do). Hot-linking makes me very nervous, period, unless it's explicitly allowed; content just disappearing a puff of smoke when an implementation detail of Gatherer is changed is pretty scary (I'm ignoring the conscientiousness of it for now, though that's pretty rough as well).

The Terms Of Use also seem to forbid either approach for commercial entities. So we're out of luck both technically and legally.

  • What about magiccards.info ? – Alex P Jan 20 '12 at 20:34
  • @AlexP - doesn't seem to have an API either, and unless they have a license from Wizards to provide one the legal concerns are still present. Basically, we need a Wizards blessed way to do this; and there doesn't seem to be one. – Kevin Montrose Jan 20 '12 at 20:44
  • Thanks for looking into it, Kevin! – Alex P Jan 20 '12 at 21:30
  • Thanks for your detailed answer. That is a problem. The Gatherer site has a feedback page where bugs can be reported and features requested. I sent a quick email asking about potential API support. Perhaps I'll get a response. – ire_and_curses Jan 21 '12 at 2:51
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    If copyright and linking is an issue why are we allowing pictures of the cards on the questions? Same with the full-text? – Neal Tibrewala Jan 23 '12 at 6:12
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    @NealTibrewala - there's a world of difference between individual users uploading possibly infringing content (IANAL, but I'd guess it'd be covered by fair-use) and Stack Exchange (as a commercial corporate entity) scraping an explicit non-commercial database. – Kevin Montrose Jan 23 '12 at 6:59
  • It might help short term if there was a way to include hover-over images at all. Manually linking to/uploading images isn't really an option when giving a deck of cards, but would be useful when referencing a few cards. See the earlier feature request here: meta.boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/491/… – tttppp Jan 23 '12 at 13:20
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    @KevinMontrose You really should check with a lawyer then. As someone who's done work in this area, it's my observation that the result is what courts look at (can you see the content or not as a regular user) and not the mechanism behind the scenes. User uploaded, linked via a third-party, or scraped directly may all be the same. – Neal Tibrewala Jan 23 '12 at 16:33
  • This all makes sense, and sucks really hard. :( – adamjford Jan 24 '12 at 21:50
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    draw3cards.com/questions/7675/… – ripper234 Jan 25 '12 at 13:39
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    I'm wondering about the viability of changing them to links directly to Gatherer - it would at least be more convenient than everyone having to do them by hand, and it could be used later if Wizards ends up allowing it. I elaborate a little in my answer. – Ian Pugsley Jan 31 '12 at 3:02
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    Maybe I'm naïve, and this is a 10-year old post, to be sure, but does this not still work, and is it not still legal? wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.aspx?x=mtgcom/arcana/172 — see my jsfiddle – ghoppe Feb 1 '12 at 2:22
  • If they wanted to, they could easily block the images using the referrers. Since they aren't doing that, I'd say they are implicitly authorizing you to hotlink, even if their TOS suggests otherwise. Of course this is not legal advice. – o0'. Feb 8 '12 at 18:29
  • There's a browser extension called AutocardAnywhere that will give you the hover images on any site, regardless of whether the site itself has any support built-in. It is available here: pwpoints.com/extensions – user2692 Apr 4 '12 at 7:49
  • @KevinMontrose Please take a second to review meta.boardgames.stackexchange.com/q/726/1583 and let us know if that is applicable – Stephen Apr 19 '12 at 1:18
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  • Do you think Board and Card Games is a good solution for a place to ask MTG questions?

I'm satisfied that it's an adequate solution.

  • Would rendering support for MTG (symbols, automatic inline card images, ...) substantially improve this site for you?

Dramatically, yes.

  • Would you move to a new Stack Exchange site for MTG if it had such dedicated support?

Yes. Immediately.

  • How about an old Stack Exchange site? :) draw3cards.com (disclaimer: I own the site) – ripper234 Apr 5 '12 at 6:47
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    @ripper234 An old SE site? (disclaimer: I already am a member) – Stephen Apr 5 '12 at 13:13
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    :) Must be a different username then. I'm sad about the situation ... about some people deciding to regulate the community and prevent mtg.SE from opening. D3C is living proof that there's demand for a pure Magic site. – ripper234 Apr 5 '12 at 19:58
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Most of my questions on this site concern MTG, it was the primary reason why I joined "Board and Card Games". Nevertheless I really enjoy reading many other entries as well and I think the mix this site provides is great. Love the community and I hope it will stay the way it is.

I am sure that excluding specific games like MTG, Go, Chess, etc. will hurt our site here on the long run and that's why I will not support the MTG initiative on AREA51.

Furthermore, if all the knowledgeable Magic players should wander off, I will most likely go back the old forums where I used to discuss MTG before I was here. Hopping over to the new MTG site will only support the foul trend of shattering established sites into smaller sub sites that cannot sustain themselves. I will stay with "Board and Card Games" and support it as good as I can.

Concerning MTG rendering: Having some nifty features to support discussion won't hurt, for me it isn't necessary to discuss Magic here. I never felt like I need any additional functionality to express myself.

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I'm not sure if this is really an answer, but there is a browser extension called AutocardAnywhere which will automatically transform card names into links which show the card image when you hover over it. It's available in the Chrome store (for free) and the description says it's also available for Firefox and Safari. If we're not going to have an official linking syntax, this may be the next best thing.

  • Very cool, works for me – Pat Ludwig Mar 16 '12 at 5:23
  • Check that...memory use went way up, recommend to avoid in Firefox on OSX at least. – Pat Ludwig Mar 16 '12 at 5:51
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Card markup would be very helpful. Answers that involves a lot of options or examples of different kinds of cards can easily go to 30-40 card links, which the poster has to edit in by hand. Running into an unfamiliar card and following the link is rather focus-breaking for the reader.


I think the sorts of topics this site can cover are different from the kind you'd see on a dedicated MTG Q&A site. Ideally, a large section of the stuff posted here should be relevant to "non-hardcore" MTG players -- players who do treat it a bit like a board game rather than its own special hobby, for instance. (I'll be the first to admit I'm not always very good at actually tailoring my answers to be useful to such players.)

I'd imagine a standalone MTG Q&A site would probably have a tendency towards more very specific questions -- stuff like "What's the best answer for Inkmoth Nexus?" or "How should my Legacy RUG deck sideboard to beat Zoo?" or "How can I improve my casual four-card combo deck?" -- with more of an assumption that players would know terminology, basic strategy, and weird bits of community slang.

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I don't play Magic, but I'm still occasionally interested in questions about it. I think this site is a great place for Magic questions.

I'd like to see support for card rollovers in particular, preferably in a way they could be used for other games too.

As for land symbols etc. I'm not bothered, as long as I'm not going to type them by accident! I like the way that go positions are handled with the "Wcm31" keyword, maybe something like that could be used?

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