28 May 2002

Joining The Gathering At Magic Online

Always wanted to play Magic the Gathering, but didn't have anyone to play with? And then when you looked around online for a suitable net application to facilitate virtual play, all you found were home brewed programs that didn't enforce the byzantine, self-referential nature gameplay rules and assumed you had an extensive background with MtG already? Well, fret no more, as Wizards of the Coast (and Hasbro or whatever behemoth multi-conglomerate faceless corporation that keeps swallowing up companies in pac-man fashion ...) and Leaping Lizard unite forces to bring Magic the Gathering to the virtual masses.

Magic Online is in open beta still, with a "live" production release slated for sometime in June - right now, everything is free, but when R-day comes, all will have to pony up real coin. You'll have to purchase cards just like you do in real life, and it appears that the pricing won't be much different than at your local game shop. Whether or not the powerful, crack-like addiction that inflicts the rabid MtG afficionado will trump the overpriced gouging, I'll not speculate. But I will describe Magic Online from the newbie perspective. My experience with MtG is almost zero and though I've amassed quite a collection of Star Wars CCG cards (now defunct, since Wizards/Hasbro received the Lucas license for Star Wars TCG, thus curtailing any more Decipher releases), I've only played the game a few times. My only encounter with Magic was limited to purchasing a starter 7th edition set and briefly perusing the rules. To get started, it's painless - just download the client from the link above or from fileplanet (( After installation is completed, simply start the client program and it will patch and auto-update. You can then join the gathering.

New players do seem to be a focus of Magic Online. There are basic and advanced tutorials available and they walk you through the fundamental aspects of gameplay. There are even some additional special topic tutorials dealing with split cards and how to understand X. Some more of these might be needed - or perhaps a hypertext glossary of all the common and arcane concepts (I'm still befuddled about regeneration). I did go through the tutorials twice, the second time after I got owned in my first few matches in the practice room. Actually, there are separate servers for registered accounts and guests. There is a **free trial** option that will allow you to play on a "guest" account where you can play with pre-constructed 7th edition decks. A little blurb says that you only get two hours on that account - so after 120 minutes, you can't be guest001283 anymore and when you relog, you can be guest001314.
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