Magic Online's Fifteenth Anniversary

Posted in Magic Digital on June 7, 2017

By Lee Sharpe and Chris Kiritz

Over fifteen years ago, I was a young Lee Sharpe in my college apartment. I read on the internet that a beta was opening for an online version of my favorite game, Magic: The Gathering. I signed up immediately. And I did so many Invasion block drafts. This new way to play was filling a huge need in my life I didn't even know I had beforehand.

I loved playing online. It was hard to get people together to draft outside of the University of Illinois Magic Club that I ran, and my Magic weekends were mostly spent driving from Champaign-Urbana to judge events in St. Louis, Chicago, or Indianapolis. Since I was judging so much, Magic Online became the easiest way for me to play. I'm also an introvert, so it's nice to be able to play against others without spending socialization energy. Whether I ever skipped class because I was drafting will be left as an exercise for the reader.

Fifteen years later, I now work on that game! And have for ten years! I've jumped from software development to business intelligence to product management, but regardless of my role, it's been my job to help make digital Magic: The Gathering more awesome and help its players have fun. I'm very lucky to have turned a passion into a profession.

As Magic Online turns fifteen years old on June 20, we want to offer some special events so the community can celebrate the digital incarnation of the world's greatest game. I'll talk about that below, and Chris Kiritz will go over some exciting improvements to Magic Online, deploying with the upcoming June 14 build.

Battle of the Planes

What better way to celebrate Magic's long history than allowing you to choose your favorite among five of Magic's most iconic planes, build a Sealed deck from it, and play! This league will be available from June 14 through June 21. Here's the five different options you can choose from:

Plane Booster #1 Booster #2 Booster #3 Booster #4 Booster #5 Booster #6
Dominaria Onslaught Legions Scourge Time Spiral Planar Chaos Future Sight
Innistrad Innistrad Innistrad Dark Ascension Shadows over Innistrad Shadows over Innistrad Eldritch Moon
Mirrodin Mirrodin Darksteel Fifth Dawn Scars of Mirrodin Mirrodin Besieged New Phyrexia
Ravnica Ravnica Guildpact Dissension Return to Ravnica Gatecrash Dragon's Maze
Zendikar Zendikar Worldwake Rise of the Eldrazi Rise of the Eldrazi Battle for Zendikar Oath of the Gatewatch

This event will be phantom because we want you to choose your plane based on what you think is fun and want to play, not what cards you hope to add to your collection. This isn't like Gauntlet; you'll get to pick the plane you want. The details of this event will be familiar to those used to Magic Online phantom events:

Battle of the Planes League

  • Start Time: Wednesday, June 14 after the downtime
  • Closed Time: Wednesday, June 21 at 7 a.m. PT
  • End Time: Wednesday, June 21 at 10 a.m. PT
  • Entry Options:
    • 10 Event Tickets
    • 100 Play Points
  • Structure: Up to 3 matches played at your convenience
  • Prizes:
    • 3 wins: 150 Play Points
    • 2 wins: 100 Play Points
    • 1 win: 40 Play Points
    • 0 wins: 10 Play Points

Personally, I think I'm going to pick Dominaria, at least the first time through. Future Sight wasn't the best set for new players, but for those like me who enjoy Magic's rules quirks and the idea of different possible realities, it was basically a perfect set. It was also the set I first worked on as a software developer on the Magic Online game rules engine. Might as well learn on hard mode, right?

Note that in this League, matchmaking is not affected by plane choice. You could end up matched with someone who chose any plane, including your own. Once the League is over, I'll tweet out some cool stats and announce which plane emerged on top!

Extra Prizes Week for Amonkhet Draft Leagues and Constructed Leagues

To help further celebrate our anniversary, how about some extra prizes? Amonkhet Draft Leagues and Constructed Leagues will receive extra prizes from June 21 at 10 a.m. PT through the June 28 downtime as Magic Online's 16th year begins!

Drafters with enough wins will receive an extra Amonkhet booster (or two!), and Constructed players with enough wins will receive an extra Magic Online Treasure Chest. The prize structures are as follows (with extra prizes in bold). Entry options and structures are unchanged.

Friendly Amonkhet Draft League

  • Entry Options:
    • 12 Event Tickets
    • 3 Amonkhet boosters + 2 Event Tickets
    • 120 Play Points
  • Structure: Single-game matches played at your convenience, until either 7 wins or 4 losses
  • Prizes:
    • 7 wins: 120 Play Points + 1 Amonkhet booster
    • 6 wins: 100 Play Points + 1 Amonkhet booster
    • 5 wins: 80 Play Points + 1 Amonkhet booster
    • 4 wins: 40 Play Points + 1 Amonkhet booster
    • 3 wins: 20 Play Points
    • 2 wins: 10 Play Points

Intermediate Amonkhet Draft League

  • Entry Options:
    • 12 Event Tickets
    • 3 Amonkhet boosters + 2 Event Tickets
    • 120 Play Points
  • Structure: Up to 3 matches, played at your convenience
  • Prizes:
    • 3 wins: 6 Amonkhet boosters + 1 QP + 1 Amonkhet booster
    • 2 wins: 2 Amonkhet boosters + 1 Amonkhet booster

Competitive Amonkhet Draft League

  • Entry Options:
    • 15 Event Tickets
    • 3 Amonkhet boosters + 5 Event Tickets
    • 150 Play Points
    • 3 Amonkhet boosters + 50 Play Points
  • Structure: Matches played at your convenience, until either 3 wins or 1 loss
  • Prizes:
    • 3 wins: 6 Amonkhet boosters + 150 Play Points + 2 QP + 2 Amonkhet booster
    • 2 wins: 3 Amonkhet boosters + 150 Play Points + 1 QP + 2 Amonkhet booster

Friendly Constructed League

  • Entry Options:
    • 8 Event Tickets
    • 80 Play Points
  • Structure: Up to 5 matches, played at your convenience
  • Prizes:
    • 5 wins: 80 Play Points + 8 Treasure Chests + 1 Treasure Chest
    • 4 wins: 80 Play Points + 4 Treasure Chests + 1 Treasure Chest
    • 3 wins: 80 Play Points + 1 Treasure Chest + 1 Treasure Chest
    • 2 wins: 40 Play Points
    • 1 win: 20 Play Points
    • 0 wins: 10 Play Points

Competitive Constructed League

  • Entry Options:
    • 12 Event Tickets
    • 120 Play Points
  • Structure: Up to 5 matches, played at your convenience
  • Prizes:
    • 5 wins: 180 Play Points + 16 Treasure Chests + 3 QPs + 1 Treasure Chest
    • 4 wins: 180 Play Points + 8 Treasure Chests + 1 QP + 1 Treasure Chest
    • 3 wins: 120 Play Points + 1 Treasure Chest + 1 Treasure Chest

Courses that end during this extra prize period will receive the additional prizes, even if they began before it. Courses must be completed before the June 28 downtime to receive the additional prizes. Leagues will be briefly paused on June 21 around 10 a.m. PT so our operations team can make the changes.

These extra prizes are part of our way of saying thanks for playing Magic Online, whether you've been here for 15 minutes or fifteen years. We do have one other way we want to celebrate with the format that has been drafted the most on Magic Online . . .

Vintage Cube

It's back! You know it, you love it, and from June 21 until Hour of Devastation events begin on Magic Online, hop in for Vintage Cube!

Vintage Cube League

  • Start Time: Wednesday, June 21 at 10 a.m. PT
  • Closed Time: Monday, July 10 at 4 a.m. PT
  • End Time: Monday, July 10 at 7 a.m. PT
  • Entry Options:
    • 10 Event Tickets
    • 100 Play Points
  • Structure: Draft, then up to 3 matches played at your convenience
  • Prizes:
    • 3 wins: 150 Play Points
    • 2 wins: 100 Play Points
    • 1 win: 40 Play Points
    • 0 wins: 10 Play Points

Vintage Cube Single-Elimination Queue

  • Start Time: Wednesday, June 21 at 10 a.m. PT
  • End Time: Monday, July 10 at 4 a.m. PT
  • Entry Options:
    • 10 Event Tickets
    • 100 Play Points
  • Structure: Draft, then 3 rounds of single-elimination matches
  • Prizes:
    • 1st Place: 220 Play Points + 1 QP
    • 2nd Place: 160 Play Points
    • 3rd–4th Place: 100 Play Points

For a list of the changes to the Vintage Cube since the last time we ran it, as well as a complete list of all cards in the Vintage Cube, click here.

See you in the Vintage Cube drafts! I'll be the one forcing mono-red. And now I'll turn it over to Chris Kiritz, who's going to share some improvements to trade and connectivity coming soon to Magic Online!

—Lee Sharpe
Digital Product Manager

Introducing Full Trade List

Greetings Magic Online players!

Fifteen years! Where does the time go? Seems like not that long ago I was sitting at my desk in the old Wizards of the Coast office (across the street from where we are now) working on getting the online store set up for the impending release of Magic: The Gathering Online. This was back when the Magic Online store was a regular web store rather than an integrated part of the game client. Several clients and fifteen years later, here we are, getting ready for another feature release. Let's get to it!

If you've been paying attention, improving trade functionality has been a major focus for the last few months, including making some behind-the-scenes performance improvements, increasing binder size, and adding the ability to return to the trade negotiation from the confirmation screen. With the full trade list, which launches on June 14, we're introducing the biggest change to trading since the binder system arrived with the latest version of the Magic Online client.

So what do you have to do to take advantage of this new system? Absolutely nothing. After the June 14 downtime, your collection will be updated to include a full trade list in your Decks & Binders pane. This new "binder" will automatically be updated to contain every digital object in your collection that could be traded, and will be updated each time you add or remove products, either through store purchases, events, or trades.

This change is designed to make it much easier to get in and out of trades, especially if you are new to Magic Online trading.

Trading in this new world is very simple. Just host or join a trade in the normal manner and your full trade list will automatically be displayed to your trade partner after the trade starts. The rest of the trade process is unchanged.

This new system is not replacing the binder system but is additive. If you want more control of the items you take into a trade, you can continue to create specific binders. If this is the case, when you start a trade, you'll be asked which binder you want to use as part of joining the trade. If you currently have trade binders but only plan on using the full trade list, deleting all your old binders will allow you to bypass the binder selection process.

If you'd like to browse your full trade list, you can open it up and take a look like any other binder.

Staying Connected

Beyond trade, another long-standing target for improvement has been client performance. Often we're working on ways to prevent crashes or improve basic performance, but this year we've doubled down on improving how the client handles your connection to our servers—or more appropriately loss of connection. If you're a regular Magic Online player, this may look familiar to you:

Historically, the Magic Online client has been very finicky with even the mildest connection fluctuations (that's a nice way of saying "drops your connection on the floor and stomps on it"), requiring players to restart the client with each disruption. In an increasingly wireless world, where a multitude of issues can cause brief connection interruptions, this can be especially frustrating for players—especially those in the middle of a draft or match.

With the June 14 release, we'll be updating the client to be much more resilient to these interruptions, essentially preventing Magic Online from dropping its "cargo" at the first sign of an Imperial starship. Rather than forcing players restart the client as the first and only response, Magic Online will try its best to recover from minor connection disruptions behind the scenes, ideally without impacting the play experience. Of course, longer or more severe interruptions will have more impact, and if connection is lost for long enough, the player will still be disconnected.

From what we've seen in testing, players should see much less of the connection-lost dialog, and much more of their matches.

2017 Part Deux

We're about halfway through 2017, and it's been a pretty great year so far. Clearly the star of the show has been Amonkhet, both as an awesome set and due to its delivery on Magic Online the day after Prereleases ended. We're excited to follow suit with Hour of Devastation, which will be playable just around the corner on July 9.

In addition, we've increased support for those non-rotating formats with the expansion of Weekend Challenges, added 1v1 Commander (with regular Commander returning on July 5), added Throwback Gauntlets to our event suite, and continued to run Flashback Drafts and Cubes.

As for new features, we're working on getting prizes displayed in the client (like they should have been from the start) as well as adding some tools to help our game support team support you if you do have a problem while playing Magic Online. If you have things you'd like to see us work on, let us know by emailing us at magiconlinefeedback@wizards.com.

It's been humbling and amazing to help deliver Magic Online to the best and most passionate fans in the world, and while we've had some ups and downs over the years, I feel very lucky to have been part of this community for so long. Thanks for being a part of fifteen years of Magic Online history, none of which would have been possible without your passion and support. Now, when does that Vintage Cube start again?

—Chris Kiritz
Sr. Manager, Digital Product

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