You’re probably familiar with the concept of “going down a rabbit hole” on the internet. You innocently click one oddball link and the next thing you know, you’ve spent two hours watching dermatology videos on r/popping. It can happen to anyone!
I recently fell down a “bad Magic YouTube” rabbit hole and I’m just so confused… who are these people? Who are the people watching these people? Now, there is certainly a ton of great Magic content available on YouTube, like a video of a pro narrating a draft – that makes sense to me. But some guy recording himself opening a booster pack… and then some other guy making a response video about the first guy’s pack opening video… and yet another guy making a video commentary on those first two guys’ interaction… I don’t get it and it creeps me out a little bit.
I feel like something is hinky. Like, with the whole world. I’ve been reading this author, Laird Barron, who does kind of eldritch horror stuff (e.g. The Imago Sequence; The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All). The guy’s work is just tremendous, I highly recommend it. The stories often involve a person who’s caught a glimpse of the inscrutable forces that exist just beyond our perception, and the inevitable ruin that comes from knowing too much.
That’s kind of how I feel when I see Tolarian Community College talking about whether it’s “worth it” to buy a Commander precon. I feel a creeping existential dread. My mind shatters, dashed upon the jet-black rocks of wackness.
Like I said: Hinky.
So, somehow I arrived at a video of this guy, Unsleeved Media, doing a hard-hitting investigative journalism takedown of this other guy, Bad Boy MTG. From what I can tell, both Unsleeved Media and Bad Boy MTG make completely terrible garbage content. Trying to say that one is any better than the other is like deciding which of your nuts to smash with a ball-peen hammer. It’s a distinction without a difference.
This guy Bad Boy (how can you be an actual adult human and choose to call yourself “Bad Boy?”) primarily does pack opening videos. If that wasn’t stupid enough, he also does “repack” opening videos. Repacks are eBay scams where a seller will bundle up a booster’s worth of loose cards and sell it as a “pack,” typically with a claim that somewhere in the pool of repacks there is a chance at a very valuable card. It’s a stupid idea that’s been around forever – here’s a 2011 Chas Andres article on repacks. It’s like buying a raffle ticket, I guess, and you just have to trust that they really will pay out the grand prize. Seems bad.
So Bad Boy allegedly faked some of his repack videos and Unsleeved Media exposed the deception. Total cringefest, a couple idiots slapfighting each other over nonsense. Bad Boy even starts crying in one of the videos. In the related videos sidebar, I see this other guy, DesolatorMagic, doing commentary on the issue and he’s gotta be the worst of them all. Holy cow, these people are wild. They suck more than anything I’ve ever encountered in this sphere. Yet, based on view counts, they appear to each have a bit of a fanbase. I am grotesquely fascinated. What is going on here?
That’s a screenshot of a Bad Boy video where he is autographing a worthless draft common for a fan, for some reason? What the hell for? Some non-zero number of people apparently facilitate this by sending money to this guy via Patreon. These people are allowed to walk around in society. They’re allowed to, like, vote and shit.
There is some self-sorting here that’s pretty interesting. I think people must feel a tribalistic urge to connect with other people who are roughly as dumb as they are. Apparently Magic-playing internet denizens, at least the YouTube-dwelling ones, will naturally identify an archetypal example of the general sort of player they themselves are, and gravitate toward that individual in a cultish fashion. This is often in spite of or, bizarrely, specifically because of an orientation toward anti-excellence. DesolatorMagic, for example, defines himself by aggressively sucking and being hyper-wrong about Magic. He and his fans don’t characterize it that way, of course, but the data is right there on the channel.
Is there any other field of endeavor where people intentionally glom on to personalities that objectively, willfully suck at whatever the activity is? I can’t think of an example. This isn’t the same as being, say, a long-suffering sports fan who sticks with a crummy team even though they stink year after year. In that scenario, there’s always a desire that the team will turn it around and do well. Indeed, Magic might be unique in facilitating this phenomenon. There seems to be a sizeable contingent that effectively enjoys sucking and is hungry for a sucklord to lead them in suckery. When competing sucklords (Unsleeved, Bad Boy, Desolator, others) clash, the resulting suckstorm is… I’m at a loss, my brain has liquified and poured out of my ears at this point.
I think it would be fascinating if we could somehow round up several of these people and hold a special tournament, complete with deluxe streaming coverage and deck techs, draft viewers and the whole enchilada. It would surely be nothing less than a landmark study in contemporary anthropology.