Posted by: Andy | July 7, 2008

MTG online

So yeah, I started playing Magic the Gathering Online recently, so I could get in practice and just plain play Magic with others.  The spectacularly sucky (and yet understandable) thing about MTGO is that you have to BUY a whole separate set of cards to play online.  Yeah, logical yet annoying I know.

Well, the good thing is you can just buy singles from various shops, bots and players for “tickets”, which cost a dollar each.  I bought maybe 3 packs ($4.07 is way too much to pay for a pack of the current set anyway!), and everything since then has just been cheap singles for decks I’m working on (almost all of which suck).

There are a ton of “fun” rares you can get very cheaply – I’m only getting stuff from the current Lorwyn/Morningtide/Shadowmoor block though, so I don’t know beyond that.  But stuff like the Lorwyn elemental incarnations (Dread, Purity, etc.) can be gotten for as little as .1-.2 tickets.  Plainswalkers for as low as 1 (Jace).  Most commons are < .2 tickets if not something like .03, and most uncommons are < .5.  Rares are where things vary wildly of course – the  Liege cycle varies from 2-6 tickets and the rare lands all run pretty high as well.  Bitterblossom is about 15 and Mutavault is about 30 if you’re curious.  Yes, one card, which I’ve seen 4 of in multiple decks, is worth more than most of my cards put together (not sure what I have now…but I’m sure 2 mutavaults would be more than the total value of all my cards).

What?  Back to the sucking.  Yeah, I suck horrendously at Magic.  OK, that’s not quite true – what does become evident though is that, in most cases, money = wins.  Certain cards some of us just can’t get unless we get really lucky on a pack (and then we’ve still only got 1 copy of that card, which isn’t very helpful), or draft a lot or something.  Basically, money.  Anyway, if you play a “true” casual deck like mine (not tournament worthy, no bitterblossom/mutavault/etc.), and you see the other person play one of these cards – mutavault is the main one that springs to mind, you will probably lose.  Unless they got a really bad draw.

Luckily there is always that aspect of raw luck to magic.  And while in general I’m against luck in games of strategy, if it’s all that’s going to get me a win once in a while, I’ll take it.  I saw that because I thoroughly trounced a guy playing what looked to be a pretty balanced tournament level faerie/bitterblossom deck with my lowly kithkin deck (with only 2 cards valued over 1 ticket, neither of which saw play) today.  Of course, these are the same people that won’t even say “Hello and gl” or “gl, hf” or even “u2” when a match starts, and don’t even have the decency to say “gg” when THEY beat you, let alone when you beat them.  They just join the game, smash you (sometimes VERY quickly) and then leave.  I guess that’s fun for someone with the mind of a 4 year old…but zero fun for me.

Yes I know that’s how you win tournaments…but this isn’t a freaking tournament!  It’s the “casual” room.  There is a room for practicing with tournament decks (at least I think there is).  Anyway, none of this is news, its a long time gripe with online games of this nature, I just thought I’d add my take on it.  To be clear: I don’t have any problem with these decks at all, they are pro-level, competive decks and HAVE to be uber to have a chance in that kind of gameplay.  I just don’t think they belong in the standard rooms.

There’s a nice comparison of some shop/bot prices here.  Cardhoarder has a bot (cardhoarder.bot is the screen name I think), and I get most of my stuff through there.  Very fair, competitive prices.  There are other bots and individual traders with better prices, so if you shop around you might get lucky.

I do find at least one or two decent people in almost every session though, and my buddies list of people to watch out for and maybe hit up for a game is growing.  So they are out there.

What else?
Hmm, the interface is decent, at least inside the game – although there are all kinds of arcane short cut keys you’ll need to look up.  F2 is a livesaver (it’s the same as clicking “OK”), and I hear F4 and F6 are pretty handy, but I’m weary because I already accidentally hosed myself once with F4.

Before you get into a game, the actual “room” interface is basically shit.  It’s passable at best and barely gets the job done.  The filters (the few they have) are woefully inadequate and the goddam listing window autoscrolls whenever a game is added/removed.  Using the “waiting” filter is the best you can do, which usually nets you less than a page of listings and only shows the games waiting for players. Of course, if you want to look at the larger list for some reason, get ready for lots of jumpy scrolling!

The “deck building” interface is pretty fluid, and seems to do the job well enough.  Having to hit “reset” everytime to get plainswalker cards to show back up is annoying though.

Conclusion:

It’s fun, but know what you’re in for.

And look me up if you want some very casual gaming (but don’t think I mean SLOW – you’d better click that goddam button and not leave me waiting for 3 minutes when you have NO MANA & NO OPTIONS for doing anything).

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