Thraben University 6 Year Retrospective

Hey folks,

It’s been the better portion of a year since I last sat down and wrote an article for the ol’ website. I usually write my retrospective articles in June, but for reasons that will make sense in a minute, I decided to fire it off now.  My content has expanded quite a bit in the past year.  This labor of love that I started about six years ago has now turned into a real business.  Honestly, that’s really cool.  Minus tax season.  Not looking forward to that…  I like it when I tax people with a Thalia or Trinisphere, not when I have to sit down and crunch numbers myself!  

My content has gone a couple of unexpected directions in the past year.  First, I did not anticipate the reach that I would have. Roughly a year ago, BoshNRoll hit his first 10,000 view video; this was something that I thought was impossible for Legacy content.  This lit a fire under me to do the same.  I did a few months later.  At this point, I’ll probably hit 10k views on a video 5-10 times a month.  This is mind-blowing, and I’m so thankful that my hard work and dedication got me to this point; most content creators don’t get to make it this far.  The Magic community has shown me so much support, and the general positive tone of my Youtube comments and Discord channel is really a testament to the community I have built.  Honestly, I’m lucky that I made a content production push when I did.  The release of MH2 was a period of HUGE demand for content, and most of my top performing videos are from the period immediately after its release.  I suspect that the release of NEO will be another one of these great times to be a content creator; people are loving this set.  

Secondly, I drifted away from some of the content I focused on previously.  Vintage was something that I cared about quite a bit around the time of EW 2020.  Pauper has now replaced that spot in my heart.  That format has been very well received by my community, and the recent bannings combined with the release of NEO has left the format in a very healthy spot.  I would expect to see Legacy and Pauper dominate my content in the coming year, with some Vintage and Modern here and there.  In terms of analytics, my Pauper content is on par with my Legacy content, which is amazing given how recently I have started playing that format.

Finally, demand for my content has gone up greatly.  The wait time for a donation decklist used to be approximately 1-2 weeks.  Now it’s closer to a month. While having this much business is good for me, I don’t love how long this wait time is for the people who donate.  I haven’t come up with a true solution here yet, but this is something I’m currently puzzling through.  There may come a time in the next year or so where I move to donation decklists being a perk for people who have joined my Discord server, but I’m not quite there yet.

I currently find myself at a crossroads, which I why I am writing this article a few months early.  For the last 8 or 9 summers, I have worked for Virginia’s Governor’s Latin Academy as a spoken Latin teacher.  This year I find myself wondering if I should continue doing so, or if I should dedicate myself fully to being a content creator for the summer months.  The paycheck for Latin Academy is considerably larger than what I make doing content in a month, but really putting my nose to the content-creation grindstone could pay long-term dividends that far outweigh that check.  Can I say no to this check when I’m getting ready to buy a house with my girlfriend in the next year or so?  Should I focus on helping 45 students grow and foster their love for language learning?  Should I continue my commitment to this program I’ve been helping build for the better part of the past decade?  Should I instead focus on entertaining 10,000+ individuals as a distraction from the current woes of the world?  I know those distractions are important for me.  I’ve had a rough year.  My mother unexpectedly passed away at the end of the summer.  My cat got cancer and unexpectedly passed away a couple of months later.  I’ve been teaching during a pandemic.  War is breaking out in Ukraine as I write this message.  If I can bring a little spark of joy to someone’s day by playing some amusing jank and distract them from things like this, that’s a huge win.  Then again, for these 45 Latin students, Latin Academy is probably a life-defining or life-changing opportunity for them, especially if the Academy is held in person rather than virtually.  

It’s tough, and I’ve been struggling with this decision for a few weeks now.  If I try to do both, I probably end up in a spot where I just burn myself out.  You see content creators talk about this from time to time, but producing regular content is really tough when you have other life commitments.  

I have so many ideas for content, but time is a limiting factor.  I have some great quality of life improvements that I can make to the channel and some cool ideas for collaborative content.  Being able to dedicate my full attention to content means immediately solving some of the problems I have now.  My camera is sometimes out of focus in some videos due to poor lighting, especially in the winter months.  I can get a greenscreen setup and set up some professional lighting.  I just need the time to research, rearrange the office, and get things going.  My donation queue is too long.  Releasing seven days a week content instantly fixes that problem (at least for the summer!). I have standing offers to appear as a guest on about four podcasts, but doing these while keeping up my normal 5 videos a week is tough (Seriously, I’ll be in touch when I can!  I haven’t forgotten!).  I have a girlfriend.  I have a weekly DnD game.  I try to socialize once a week when I can.  My life is busy.  It’s a good busy, but it is busy.  I know my fellow podcasters are in a similar boat.  

Ultimately, after struggling with my choice, I came up with this decision.  I’ve decided not to work my Latin Academy job this year. I’m going to see what I can accomplish in a few months of being a full-time content creator. As my first major move towards this, I’m starting a Patreon for my content. I’ll be focusing fully on content creation during the summer, and the Patreon will house some exclusive written content and be a way to fund some of the projects that I have in mind for the summer and as well as some technological upgrades to my setup. Expect to see 7 day a week content from me on the ol’ Youtube channel. I’ve got some plans beyond just that. No spoilers, but I’ve got a pretty cool budding plan. After seeing how things go this summer, I’ll revisit my decision. If things don’t go well, I’ll continue to work at Latin Academy and put content on hold during the summer.  If the response to the Patreon is positive and the channel booms as a result of dedicating extra time to content, then I’ll continue to spend my summers as a full-time content creator. I may even find myself in the position a year or two down the line where I consider becoming a full-time content creator and set aside my day job as a traditional teacher.  At this point, that’s still a far-off dream, but it’s not unimaginable at this point.  

I didn’t write this article as an ad for the Patreon; it may end up serving that purpose as well, but that’s not my primary point.  I wrote this article to sort of show my thought process in a difficult time. It was a way for me to think through something that was weighing pretty heavily on me. Putting the words to paper gave me the resolve to follow through and take action.  Mental health is important, and if I can help normalize talking about difficult decisions and being open about emotions, that’s another, separate huge win for my content.  If you’re interested in supporting my content via Patreon, here’s the link.  There’s a few tiers with perks like additional written content.  Check it out if you’re interested in my content and are in a financial position to support me.  

As I finish reflecting on this past year and looking forward to the future, I would like to, once again, thank my podcast cohosts Bryant Cook and Brian Coval.  They have been instrumental to my success as a content creator.  For the budding Magic players or content creators out there, the biggest piece of advice for you is to not go it all alone.  Magic is a great game, but the full name is Magic: the Gathering.  Don’t forget that “gathering” portion as you go through your own personal journey.  Find some good friends, share your successes and failures with them, and make some great stories together.

-Phil Gallagher

AKA ThrabenU

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Phil Gallagher

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