Magic Online Leagues: The Circle Is Complete

Posted in Magic Digital on August 24, 2016

By Chris Kiritz and Lee Sharpe

I've written a lot about Leagues over the past couple of years, but today I'm excited to announce that in two weeks we're delivering the last major piece of Leagues functionality: Draft Leagues. When Draft Leagues arrive on September 7, players won't need to reserve several hours of their day to draft, build decks, and play matches, but instead will be able to participate in drafts over the course of several days in smaller, more manageable blocks of time. Let's take a look at what we're delivering.

What Is a Draft League?

In essence, we've taken a Draft queue and smashed it together with a Sealed Deck League. When you first join the League, you'll automatically be placed in a queue with other players who are looking for a draft. When the queue is full, the draft will fire and you'll begin selecting cards for your deck. If for some reason you need to leave the queue before it launches, you'll be able to join again any time before the League closes.

When the draft completes, you'll transition to deck building, which is where the Sealed Deck League similarities begin. There is no time limit on deck building, so take as much (or as little) time as you need to get your deck just right. Once you've built a deck or two or 20, you're ready to queue up for a match.

While you join the player pairing queue the same way as other Leagues, the paring for Draft Leagues will use a stricter pairing algorithm that only pairs you with an opponent who has exactly the same record as you. For instance, if your record is 1-1, your third match will be against a player whose record is also 1-1. This ensures matches are always competitive, which is important because Draft Leagues will not specifically be looking to pair you with the players you drafted with.

And so there is no confusion, I'll say that again: your opponents in a Draft League are unlikely to be the same players you drafted with, but instead will be any player who is looking for a match and has the exact same record as you. This difference is necessary to ensure that players can play at their own pace. For those who are looking for the traditional Draft experience, we will continue to offer a single-elimination Draft queue.

Any New League Features?

Beyond just delivering a new kind of League, we've also added some features to improve the League experience and expand on what we can offer.

First we're replacing the current standings feature with a League Champions board that celebrates going undefeated in any League stage with a trophy. Since most Leagues only have one stage, this equates to going undefeated in the League. For Friendly Sealed Deck Leagues, however, players will have the opportunity to earn up to three trophies in each course through the League.

Players who accumulate the most Undefeated Trophies will be at the top of the Champions standings, with most recent achievement date serving as the final tiebreaker for players with the same number of trophies. We're keeping the filter options, so you can see how you compare to your buddies or clan mates.

Next, we've made it easier to know when a League ends so you know how long you have to complete your League matches—a change that lets us reduce the amount of dead time near the end of a League. We've added a note above the join button that shows exactly how much time is left so players can decide if they have enough time to complete the League before they join. We've also added some alert messaging to notify players when their active Leagues are wrapping up (along with how many matches remain) to make sure the end of the League doesn't sneak up on anyone.

Additionally, we've streamlined the join process by eliminating the locked cards confirmation dialog and added the information to the Entry Requirements dialog. Players are familiar enough with Leagues at this point that the extra dialogs were more annoying that useful.

Finally, we've added a couple features that are currently available in Limited tournaments but were not available for Leagues. First, we've added support for Phantom Draft and Sealed Deck Leagues, which gives us the ability to run Cube Draft Leagues as well as experiment with formats and structures that weren't available with our current Leagues. Secondly, we've added support for wacky Sealed Deck formats, such as the April Phools event from 2014, which will broaden our potential event suite even more.

While both of these features give us more flexibility in the kinds of events we offer, we'll be gradually introducing specialty Leagues and running them for limited durations, rather than inundating the Play Lobby with Leagues that don't have participation to provide the consistent experience players have come to expect. Visit MTGO.com to stay up to date on the latest League offerings.

What's Next for Leagues?

We're working on a small follow-up release that includes an overhaul to the general pairing system that will better weigh opponent quality against time waiting for a match. Players have also requested an easy way to view their deck during a game, so we'll be exploring this for a future release. We'll also be looking at ways to support the competitive Draft experiences that are embodied by the single-elimination 8-4 Draft queues.

That's about all the time I have, but for more info on what Draft Leagues will be available after the downtime on September 7, keep on reading to see what Lee Sharpe has planned.

Have fun in your Draft Leagues, and I'll see you in the queues!

—Chris Kiritz

Senior Digital Product Manager


What Draft League Structures Will Be Offered?

Draft is the most common type of play on Magic Online, and we are looking forward to adding it to our suite of Leagues. Allowing players to spread out their Draft play without committing to three matches in one sitting improves the event experience.

Constructed Leagues are all five matches, and Sealed Leagues are either five or nine matches depending on your preferred structure. While in theory you could play any number of matches with a Draft deck in a League, three rounds is so connected to the drafting experience that we've decided to leave it at that number. Besides, drafting a deck is one of the best parts of a draft, and we want to make sure you get back to that fun in a reasonable time frame! We also like how our existing drafts perform and wanted to focus on allowing you to draft on your schedule rather than shaking up the Draft structures with Leagues.

When Draft Leagues release, we're replacing the 6-2-2-2 Swiss and Pack/Win Swiss Draft queues with their League equivalent! Swiss structures are a natural fit for Leagues, and current participation in the queues leads us to believe we can support both styles. You can see the full details of what's available below.

As Chris noted above, single-elimination Leagues are currently not possible (though we are looking to add this functionality), so the single-elimination 8-4 Draft will remain available in queue format. The single-elimination 8-4 Draft also serves as a home for players who are passionate about only playing in-pod opponents in their draft.

When Cube is available, we'll run Swiss Draft as a League and single-elimination Draft as a queue. Other events, such as other Standard-legal set drafts, Year of Modern flashback drafts, phantom Sealed events, and New to Magic Online events, will continue as-is in queue form for now. These events have lower participation rates, and as we've discussed before, Leagues require a certain critical mass to be successful.

As always, we'll continue to monitor and evaluate the Leagues. If participation changes significantly or it takes too long for drafts or matches to occur, we will look into adjusting or consolidating the Leagues.

What Do I Get for Placing Highly on the Leaderboard?

Your name in lights at the top of the leaderboard for everyone who looks at that screen in the League, for starters.

But beyond that, we like to reward players who demonstrate a record of strong play on Magic Online. In addition to the leaderboard itself, we plan to introduce a function that will enable you to show off your accomplishments in the previous season to your opponents, or players who watch you stream. More information to come!

What Are Those Sweet, Sweet Draft League Details?

A note on timing: these Leagues will close at the same time as Kaladesh Prereleases begin, and end a several hours before that to allow drafts to complete.

6-2-2-2 Draft League

  • Start Time: September 7, 2016, after the downtime
  • Closed Time: October 7, 2016, at 10 a.m. PT
  • End Time: October 7, 2016, at 2 p.m. PT
  • Structure: 3 matches, each up to 50 minutes
  • Product: Draft EMN-EMN-SOI boosters
  • Entry Options:
    • 14 Event Tickets
    • 2 EMN boosters, 1 SOI booster, and 2 Event Tickets
    • 140 Play Points

Prizes:

Match Wins Prizes QPs
3 Wins 5 Eldritch Moon booster packs and 1 Shadows over Innistrad booster pack 1
2 Wins 1 Eldritch Moon booster pack and 1 Shadows over Innistrad booster pack 0

Pack/Win Draft League

  • Start Time: September 7, 2016, after the downtime
  • Closed Time: October 7, 2016, at 10 a.m. PT
  • End Time: October 7, 2016, at 2 p.m. PT
  • Structure: 3 matches, each up to 50 minutes
  • Product: Draft EMN-EMN-SOI boosters
  • Entry Options:
    • 14 Event Tickets
    • 2 EMN boosters, 1 SOI booster, and 2 Event Tickets
    • 140 Play Points

Prizes:

Match Wins Prizes QPs
3 Wins 2 Eldritch Moon booster packs and 1 Shadows over Innistrad booster pack 1
2 Wins 1 Eldritch Moon booster pack and 1 Shadows over Innistrad booster pack 0
1 Win 1 Eldritch Moon booster pack 0

See you in the Draft Leagues!

—Lee Sharpe

Digital Product Manager

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