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 ((http://www.fileplanet.com/index.asp?file=84649)). 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.

Forget the free servers, let's discuss the real servers, where you can create an account, buy cards, build decks, play casual matches, or compete in tournaments with prizes. First, you don't need to buy cards to play in the practice room - in there, you can just use the pre-constructed 7th edition decks and they even let you pick your favorite color. Your games will be recorded, and you can go back and replay your vicious thrashings to see what went wrong or revel in triumphant victories of the recent past.

What about the gameplay? It's done well - the only minor issue was when I was still unfamiliar with the rudimentary game actions, and if there was some lag on the server, a turn would skip by because I was clicking on cards and didn't realize the yes/no dialog box dissipated. The interface is intuitive enough, except that I didn't see any mouse click option for undo (Alt-U). It only took a couple of games in the practice room before I got the hang of things, including recognizing most how all the cards play, along with the various stratagems. After losing eight out of my first nine duels, I'm now on a eight game winning streak, trampling over other fellow clueless neophytes.

So, I then ventured into the casual play room to play with the real freaks. Oops, I need to buy cards -- not a problem, a little button fires up your browser and directs it to the Magic store where you can fill up your shopping cart with a selection of cards. For now, decks cost 10 points and boosters 3 points - and you get 150 points per week for free (during this latest round of beta). What a bargain! It takes a few minutes, but soon enough, your cards will display in your collection. Opening up the packages triggers that package ripping sound effect - yippee! Then go into the deck editor and build yourself a deck. I had no clue so I had to consult some deck recipes out on the net for a sampling of how to proportion the cards. I actually built a deck and beat down someone else - whoa, though I didn't think it was as enjoyable as the pre-constructed deck deal because my opponent had a whole bunch of crazy cards that did all sorts of goofy things (especially the black cards).

I'm hooked - I love it! But I'm not sure I'll be able to afford this habit - I venture that it depends on the answers to the following questions:

  • Will I be able to allot $10-15 a month for this game and still be able to play competitively? Mind you, I don't wish to be the uber MtG grandmaster, just be able to hold my own. I don't know Magic too well, but if it takes an abundance of rares to become a formidable player, forget it. Already, **the prices for decks and booster packs will be the same as they are in real life**. WotC is trumpeting an online card redemption feature, but I read it to say that it requires collecting a "full online set" first. Bah.

  • Will I become hopelessly addicted to an online game that slurps up all of my discretionary time, empties my bank account, causes me to lose sleep, and turns me into a hopeless catass?


it's cool,very cool
J'm from Poland Hey!!

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