The State of Magic Online

Posted in Magic Digital on January 31, 2017

By Chris Kiritz

Greetings, Magic Online players!

We're several weeks into 2017, and I want to take a moment to reflect on last year and discuss a bit about what we're working on for the new year. (Teaser: it involves releasing sets online earlier than ever before.) Without further ado, let's get started.

Looking Back

2016 was a very busy year for Magic Online. From events to prizes to infrastructure, we made changes to every level of MTGO.

To no one's surprise, the most impactful change was the introduction of Sealed and Draft Leagues. While regular tournaments have their place, the convenience and accessibility of Leagues make them the most popular way to play Magic Online. Letting players play their favorite style of Magic on their own schedules has not only drastically reshaped online play, but how the MTGO team plans for the future.

Beyond Leagues, we also introduced new ways to play. Gauntlets let players play with decks they may not have the cards for. Our "You Make the Cube" contest allowed fans to flex their creative muscle, with Timothée Simonot's winning Twisted Color Pie cube available for all to play at the end of the year. We also tried some new event structures and continued to iterate on our pairing system for Leagues, all with the goal of improving your play experience. To make events more accessible, we reduced the entry requirements for Kaladesh Draft and Sealed Deck events, and we will be carrying this change forward in 2017.

This year also saw the introduction of Magic Online Treasure Chests, a new prize designed to get desirable cards into players' hands more often. While we've made a few tweaks since their launch, Treasure Chests have been well-received and will continue to be a prize staple moving forward. Check out Lee Sharpe's update for changes that started with Aether Revolt's release on January 25.

Last year we also announced significant changes to the Magic Online Championship Series (MOCS) that increased the prizes, the number of finalists who can participate, and the number of ways to qualify. Monthlies are now shorter and don't rely on tiebreakers to qualify players for the quarterly Playoff, while MOCS Opens allow players to try to qualify directly for the Final regardless of how many Qualifier points they have earned.

As far as the behind-the-scenes work, we implemented some infrastructure changes to make the client more stable and sustainable. We completely reworked the mana system to support the introduction of colorless mana with Oath of the Gatewatch. We've also added the ability to update banned and restricted lists much faster than ever before. In general, we've worked to make changes that let us react more quickly to any issues that may arise.

Looking Ahead

We want to make your Magic Online experience as awesome as we possibly can for 2017 and beyond. First and foremost, this starts with getting cards into your hands sooner than ever before. For Amonkhet's release, this means we're starting Magic Online events on Monday, April 24, right after the paper Prerelease!

Yes, you read that correctly. You will be able to play in Amonkhet Magic Online events the Monday after you attend your local in-store Prerelease. Furthermore, Amonkhet products will be on sale in the Magic Online store simultaneously with paper on Friday, April 28. And this change isn't just for Amonkhet, but for future sets as well.

This change was made possible by the hard work of the cardset team over the last few months. Releasing earlier, coupled with the ability to react to bans and restrictions more quickly, means that regardless of where you play Magic, your experiences will be more in sync than ever before. Moving forward, we're looking for additional ways to improve the card set to ensure we're delivering the highest quality sets we can.

Once you have new cards, we want to expand your opportunities to play those cards. We'll be reviewing our formats and event offerings and making sure that we have events support that meets the needs of a wide range of player preferences. From adding new event structures like the recently introduced single-game match Friendly Draft League to adding League support for additional formats such as Vintage, we'll be looking to provide as many game types as the player base can support.

We also want to improve your non-game experience. We'll continue to look at ways to make Magic Online more stable and performant. We'll be working on improving the trade performance and making it easier to manage the items you have available for trade. We'll be looking at improving how we present cards and how best to get fixes out even faster. Overall, we'll be focusing on fewer major changes this year and looking to refine what is already available in order to better position us for 2017 and beyond.

If you're looking to watch some high-level Magic Online play, the Magic Online Championship starts March 3, where sixteen of the best Magic Online players will be battling it out for their share of over $100,000. Look for a preview article soon. In addition, most Tuesday evenings you can watch the Vintage Super League on twitch.tv/magic, where some of the best Vintage players go head-to-head each week.

Finally, as our president, Chris Cocks, announced, Magic Online has become part of Wizards's new Digital Game Studio led by Jeffrey Steefel, who would like to introduce himself.


Hello to this amazing Magic Online community. I was drawn to Wizards of the Coast by the amazing worlds, characters, and games, but most of all by the incredible passion and energy of our players. I've spent the past 25 years delivering deep and engaging games to some of the world's most passionate fans, exploring iconic, beloved worlds from the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien, DC Comics, Monty Python, Disney, and I look forward to continuing that journey here at Wizards.

The Digital Game Studio's goal is to expand the breadth of digital experiences for current players and fans, and to reach out to gamers everywhere to encourage them to bring their passion to Wizards gaming. We're just getting started, but we're cooking up some exciting things in the lab—stay tuned!

Magic Online is the heart of digital gaming for Magic, and I'm thrilled to have this amazing team as a critical part of the studio, and this community as founding members of what I'm confident will be an ever-growing audience for Magic digital gaming.

Thanks,

Jeffrey Steefel
Vice President, Digital Games Studio

Farewell

Finally, I wanted to take a moment to say thank you to Worth Wollpert, who helped build the foundation that will let us deliver on our 2017 goals. Worth led Magic Online from its nadir to its greatest success, all while tirelessly advocating for the players. So, this April when everyone on Magic Online is playing Amonkhet on release day, take a moment to #BlameWorth one more time.

When you're not blaming Worth, however, you can reach the Magic Online team in the regular places: email us at magiconlinefeedback@wizards.com, reach out on Twitter to @MagicOnline, or directly to me (@ckiritz), Lee Sharpe (@mtg_lee), or Alli Medwin (@trulyaliem).

With that, Aether Revolt is here, so get out there, join the revolt, and play some Magic!

Thanks,

Chris Kiritz
Sr. Manager, Digital Product—Magic: The Gathering Online

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