Making The Mana Drain Better!


  • TMD Supporter

    Hey guys,

    I was hoping to start a discussion about what might help out to make the site more usable and encourage substantive discussion. Specifically, I want to focus on how we can shape our usage of the site, rather than things that can be done with the software, or some other change to the technology, and instead focus on using what is already there.

    A couple things I think would help with this include, first, trying to use, and standardize the tags a little bit more, as they are a good way to focus on things we like. It also allows for easier usage in general for anyone.

    Secondly, I think trying to centralize some discussion around similar archetypes, as opposed to making a new thread for every version of every deck that changes slightly. Something that can be helpful for new players to vintage is a sense of the history of an archetype, this is helped in some ways by being able to read through previous iterations of decks. I think the way the site is being utilized right now, you have a bunch of long time vintage players swooping into newly made threads and dispensing their "obvious" knowledge, that doesn't make sense to the new players because they don't have the context necessary in the format. I think if we start to build up some threads on deck archetypes, with changes logged historically, rather than as new threads, we can help curb this problem.

    Maybe these are bad ideas, but I feel like themanadrain restart came with a lot of hope from long time users, and this new interface has a lot of promise, but we haven't yet lived up to that. If we want this to be THE destination for vintage discussion and content, especially for new players, we need to work on building up some community norms that will help facilitate that.



  • The typography is bad to such an extent it limits the level of engagement and writing on the forums. I wrote Brassman about this a week after the site launched, but I think the consequences of the typography are more evident now than they were then.

    It is extremely difficult to read paragraphs, and therefore most people avoid writing and reading them. I know I do.



  • @wappla I think I agree on this. But can you elaborate a little bit more about typography?

    I totally agree with this line of thinking, including the usage side rather than the softwear side. Placing more demands on Brassman both doesn't seem fair or productive.

    What I would like to see, are efforts to curate threads to make them resources. I feel like the future of the site is as a resource to new players. It would be great if every time a player wanted to get into Vintage, it was just a matter of course to tell them to get on the Mana Drain and start using "all the resources" there to learn the format.

    But that means we need to change our game around here a bit. It would mean, firstly, that people would have to go through and write out some very basic level instruction. Not theory, but stuff like basic card interactions. So that people just getting into vintage could look up cards and read a little blurb about them... (Why do people run Sensei's Divining Top? What kind of decks traditionally use it? What kind don't? etc. For a lot of cards.)

    We should be creating a systematic index of the most widely used cards, and a taxonomy of deck archetypes like the ones on the old Mana Drain. (Those were something like: Workshop based decks - Null Rod Aggro - Blue Control - Ritual Based Combo... If I recall.) And those categories weren't the cleanest, but they worked. I knew that if I wanted to look up stuff about Oath, that was in blue control... which could have been a big argument I guess. (Burning Oath is more closely related to TPS than to Delver! This is an outrage!) But if we can just move past that sort of thing and focus on functionality, we could make something very valuable.

    I run into people all the time in card shops, and when I tell them I play vintage they sort of roll their eyes and it's clear how completely esoteric and inaccessible the format seems to them. I wish I could bust out a smart phone and say, no, its the easiest to learn because the cards don't change that much. Once you learn it you've pretty much got it and here's this great site made up by players and fans that will walk you through the whole thing. Pick one of these decks and run with it.

    I'm really glad we are talking about this. And thanks again to Brassy to making it all possible. Keep it up man. You are doing great work.



  • My biggest issue with things is the infinite scroll. Ending the infinite scroll would be a godsend. Pages should exist.



  • I can say that as a new user and newer vintage player the site has had both its fair share of pluses and minuses.

    It excels as a forum for current discussion and topics but it's been very difficult (outside of a few notable exceptions) to find and digest the resources a newer player (like me) would be looking for (e.g., archetype discussions and match-ups, card interactions, deck philosophy and design). I know a lot of this material is likely here somewhere but it can be very difficult to locate, especially when you don't know exactly what you should be looking for.

    I'd like to mention that as a newer vintage player @Islandswamp articles on goldfish have been incredibly helpful in providing some of that missing (or hard to find) content. The Mana Drain is filled with an incredible wealth of knowledgeable individuals but the dissemination of that knowledge does feel limited by the current medium.



  • @Prospero said in Making The Mana Drain Better!:

    My biggest issue with things is the infinite scroll. Ending the infinite scroll would be a godsend. Pages should exist.

    IIRC this has been a toggleable setting for quite a while.


  • Administrators

    Thanks for making this thread, jake :D

    I'll follow this thread closely and hope to have more substantive comments later ... but for now, some quick hits:

    @wappla - Going to Profile->Settings (click on your user icon in the upper right) and there's a drop down menu called "Skins", when the site launched there was some bad CSS that made skin selection act funny, but that's been fixed. You should be able to select from a list with a variety fonts and color schemes - hopefully one there makes the site more readable for you?

    Meanwhile I'm working on new default skin for the site (based off of the Journal skin, with a larger font size, more contrast, bigger spacing between paragraphs) - and I plan on reaching out to a few people (yourself included) for feedback when it's finished. If that's an area that interests anyone else reading this thread, let me know and I can give you a heads up before rolling it out to the whole site.

    @prospero - you can see the site paginated if you want to! Just go to Profile (your user icon in the upper right) > Settings, and there's a section called Pagination where you can define how many posts you want per page, etc. Personally I like the infinite scroll, but users can customize that for themselves.

    Settings also has a few other neat options, like being able to get a regular email about new threads, or changing which threads give you notifications, or changing your landing page for the site.

    The fact that these features exist and people keep asking for them (you guys are not the first), means that I've done a bad job explaining what the site can do to new users. That's definitely an area that could use improvement, as well.

    @aniso - sadly, as much as I would love it to be, I think a lot of that content just isn't on the site. I haven't been able to figure out how to motivate people to write it. I hope newer players feel free to ask specific questions about those topics if they have them, but I know it would be more convenient if the information was already there, and easy to find.


  • TMD Supporter

    @aniso said in Making The Mana Drain Better!:

    I can say that as a new user and newer vintage player the site has had both its fair share of pluses and minuses.

    It excels as a forum for current discussion and topics but it's been very difficult (outside of a few notable exceptions) to find and digest the resources a newer player (like me) would be looking for (e.g., archetype discussions and match-ups, card interactions, deck philosophy and design). I know a lot of this material is likely here somewhere but it can be very difficult to locate, especially when you don't know exactly what you should be looking for.

    I'd like to mention that as a newer vintage player @Islandswamp articles on goldfish have been incredibly helpful in providing some of that missing (or hard to find) content. The Mana Drain is filled with an incredible wealth of knowledgeable individuals but the dissemination of that knowledge does feel limited by the current medium.

    Thank you very much. I've been meaning to do some content for TMD specifically, but I've been really busy. Perhaps if I knew exactly where to start that would.help.



  • For starters, shoutout to @Brass-Man for being website god. This is a seriously quality site.

    I'd be happy to write a compilation thread for Dredge resources, at least; I haven't played long enough to write any sort of primer, but I have done all of the research that a new player would repeat.

    Similarly, I think it would be excellent for anyone who has done research on an archetype to post the results of their research. Much of the content we're talking about has already been written, it's just not all in one place - if we start with a plan of aggregating basic content on the major archetypes, that could help.

    I definitely think an @Islandswamp -led collaboration article/thread on common cards and interactions you'll see in Vintage would be a boon to the community, like, "If you want a single-article broad introduction to the cards and strategies you'll see, this is it". Sort of a Vintage intro sheet, with links to the Vintage 101 articles for deeper reading. I think after someone has read all of those, they'll have a good idea what archetype they'll want to pick up, and then they could come here to one of the aforementioned research-aggregate threads to learn more about, and discuss, that archetype.



  • What I would suggest doing is some kind of sticky thread where information a new player might want to know would be linked. For example me* and islandswamp both wrote introductory articles for Vintage which would be at one place. Followed by articles about archetypes. Then links to primers for example for decks to beat/established decks. The content does not need to be on this site but it would be nice if there would be at least links to it.

    It would actually be nice to have a stand-alone forum for decks. People could volunteer and write a primer sooner or later. But each deck group should have its own thread. I'd rather look for information in tons of pages under the deck than trying to find something on the whole forum. Vintage strategy could be used for card discussion and more general discussion about strategy. (especially when it will be flooded with new spoiled cards' discussion )

    *I wrote few articles too and I wanted to continue in that (I linked just the third one). I am not really sure what would interest new players as well therefore my series is on hold right now.



  • @Brass-Man I've tried the skins. They're worthless, they change some colors and the font and nothing else. Their presence indicates the forum software's designer has no idea what they're doing. A well-designed user experience doesn't need to provide us a menu of skins, let alone force us to use that menu to make things legible.

    I told you all of this and offered to help in any capacity eight months ago. If I sound frustrated, it's because I'm repeating myself.


  • TMD Supporter

    @wappla That criticism may be valid ( I am still a little unclear as what you are upset about in particular, as I find that reading the site isn't bad), but what we are trying to focus on here is behavior of users, rather than things that would be more work for brassy, because I feel like he has a pretty full plate.



  • I do think organizationally having the deck archetypes splintered off into subsections would be great. Sure, it falls on the user base to create primers and update and import old primers/explanations of origins into something useful.



  • @garbageaggro this site features almost exclusively written communication; legibility of words impacts behavior massively.

    A week after the site launched I offered him a first draft of an improved design as well as the standing offer of continuing to work on it under his direction, so I find your "pretty full plate" comment pretty insulting.



  • @wappla If you are saying that you are insulted by someone saying Brassman has a full plate, I feel like it's time to take it down a notch.


  • Administrators

    Please don't take it personally that I haven't been able to update the site's templating/typography as fast as I would have liked to. I haven't been able to update anything as fast I'd like to. As I said earlier in this thread, I've always been planning on upgrading it, and reaching out to you for input when I did. Unfortunately while better typography is a priority, it's not at the top of my personal wishlist, nor something that many users have asked me for. However, compared to some of the things I want, it's not the hardest thing to implement, so it's not exactly at the bottom of the list, either.

    The bottleneck for this particular change isn't design work, it's dev time. I don't know your background, but if you feel comfortable with web development, and you're willing to learn your way around NodeBB, it's a lot quicker for me to implement an existing plugin than build one from scratch (which is why some features, like polls, happen very quickly).



  • @Topical_Island I'm insulted by the explanation of "Brassman's full plate" when Brassman's workload is irrelevant to considering he isn't the one working on it. I spent a significant amount of time creating a first draft, sent it to him and offered to alter it as requested, and have been completely ignored for eight months.

    Instead of speculating why the post quality is so low on this site, and there is little in depth content, maybe we could finally do something about making it less painful to read a full sentence.



  • Why is the typography so bad? I only read it on mobile, but I prefer it to fx MTGSalvation.



  • @wappla My advice is to just choose not to be insulted for the time being. Lets just prioritize a list of things that should get done, and pick them off one at a time as they can be completed. In the mean time we could all be writing/linking in relevant info for newbies and trying to generate more traffic. That's always a good place to start.



  • @wappla said in Making The Mana Drain Better!:

    @Topical_Island I'm insulted by the explanation of "Brassman's full plate" when Brassman's workload is irrelevant to considering he isn't the one working on it. I spent a significant amount of time creating a first draft, sent it to him and offered to alter it as requested, and have been completely ignored for eight months.

    Instead of speculating why the post quality is so low on this site, and there is little in depth content, maybe we could finally do something about making it less painful to read a full sentence.

    I'm not so sure whats so painful about reading this site. I used the slate background and that really helped clean things up and make the flow of the site a LOT easier to follow. No background or most other choices and the site is not that great to read, though.


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