While I have written a handful of articles for Magic Online, I don't think I have ever officially introduced myself. My name is Chris Kiritz and I'm the business manager for Magic Online, wherein I manage the day-to-day operations of Magic Online. I also help Worth Wollpert in setting and realizing the overall vision for the program. I work closely with the R&D, development, game support, marketing, and community departments to make sure we are delivering the best possible experience we can. This role also means that I manage all of the programs we run on Magic Online.
As many of Magic Online's long-time players know, we have made concerted efforts over the last few years to tailor our organized play to suit the needs of all of our players, from the hardened pro to the novice spellslinger. This past year was no exception. Changes to the Magic Online Championship Series, the addition of New Player Tickets, and the introduction of the Magic Online Cube are just a few of the changes we made as we help shape Magic Online for the future.
Since we are in Magic Online Week on the DailyMTG, I wanted to take some time to talk about some of these adjustments, as well as some upcoming changes to our other programs and organized play options.
2012 Magic Online Championship Series
When we announced the Magic Online Championship Series (MOCS) last year, we knew potential changes to paper organized play and our own extended MOCS Season schedule might prevent us from holding the final Championship event at a major paper event. In addition, after three years of running the Magic Online Championship as an adjunct to Worlds, we know how long and strenuous those days can be for the players. Our finalists played six or eight rounds of high-level paper play and then followed that up with three or four rounds of MOCS, often resulting in exhausting twelve-hour days, with just enough time to scarf down some food during the breaks.
Decoupling the Magic Online Championship from a major paper event lets us really focus on it as its own thing, rather than struggling to shoehorn it into breaks in the paper schedule as in years past. While this means that MOCS finalists won't be playing in a paper event, they will be able to focus on this event as its own thing, rather than splitting their time between two high-profile events. This change has also given us a lot of flexibility as we look at where we might hold the 2012 Championship.
When looking for an appropriate location, we thought about hosting it by itself, similar to how we host the Community Cup, but we really wanted to make sure that it was somewhere exposed to more than the sixteen finalists and a handful of Wizards of the Coast employees. We also wanted to make sure that if there were spectators, there would be folks who were excited about Magic, about digital games, or—ideally—both. With those constraints, we finally settled on what we believe is an excellent showcase for the 2012 Magic Online Championship Series: PAX East! As a celebration of all things digital, PAX East is a great place to hold the Championship for the premier digital card game.
The sixteen MOCS finalists will battle it out in Boston, MA, during the March 22–24 convention for the title of Magic Online Champion; an invitation to the Magic World Championship , to be held in Amsterdam in August, 2013; and their share of $100,000;... and still have plenty of time left over to take in some of the sights at the show. Magic fans who are planning on attending PAX East will be able to watch the tournament in person, while everyone else will be able to check out each round's action live via our streaming coverage! Stay tuned for additional details about the championship in early 2013.
2013 Magic Online Championship Series
With the 2012 Championship Series wrapping up with the final Last Chance Qualifiers on December 22 and 29, respectively, let's talk about what we have planned for the 2013 Magic Online Championship Series.
If you hadn't heard, the MOCS is pretty popular—more popular than we ever imagined when creating the program a few years ago. Several times in 2012, the End-of-Season Championship events were at or near capacity. Magic Online still does not handle large tournaments particularly well (something we are addressing in the future). Because we want the best possible user experience in our highest profile and most prestigious programs, for 2013 we knew we needed to make some changes.
First, to accommodate growing demand and ensure End-of-Season events can complete in a reasonable time, each 2013 MOCS Season will replace the End-of-Season Championship with four Season Preliminaries ahead of one Season Finals. Players will use their 15 Qualifier Points (QPs) to join a Season Preliminary, and those who do well enough will be able to advance to the Season Finals the following week.
This is similar to the multi-day structure you might find with a Grand Prix or other large paper tournament, where players who do well enough in a Season Preliminary tournament will be able to join the Season Finals. Unlike a multi-day paper tournament, however, each Season Preliminary is a unique event and separate from other Season Preliminaries and the Season Finals. This means you do not have to play in all of the Prelims offered (only one) and the Season Preliminary results will not be combined with or added to the scoring for the Season Finals. The Season Finals is a separate event held the following weekend with its own standings, scoring, and prize schedules.
Second, we are eliminating byes as they currently exist. Instead, players who earn 35 QPs can just join the Season Finals directly, bypassing the need to play in the Season Preliminaries. Players who earn enough QPs are free to join multiple Season Preliminaries tournaments to try and make it to the Season Finals.
Finally, we are adjusting the prize structure for the Season Finals. Not only do the top finishers earn more prizes, the prizes go all the way to 256th place. In addition, players who do well in the Season Preliminaries will earn additional copies of that season's promotional card for their effort.
Speaking of promotional cards, we might as well show you the Season 1 promo card.>> Click to Show
Read the full rules for more information about the Magic Online Championship Series, how Season Prelims work, the details on other changes for 2013, and how to qualify for an invitation. Season 1 begins December 26, 2012, at 8:00 a.m. PST, so start practicing now!
Pro Tour Qualifiers
We have been very happy with the success of the Magic Online PTQs and will not be making many changes in 2013. Pro Tour Qualifiers return with the Dragon's Maze PTQs starting on December 23. Starting with this new season, we are increasing the prizes by adding more than four hundred booster packs and several full sets to the prize structure per event, matching what we offer for MOCS Season Finals. PTQs represent the highest level of Magic Online play, and we have updated the prizes to reflect that. You can check out the full Dragon's Maze PTQ schedule here.
In addition to increased prizes, starting with the Dragon's Maze PTQ season, players who win an onlinePTQ will also earn 1,000 Planeswalker Points. These Planeswalker Points are no different from those earned by paper PTQ winners, and will count toward paper Grand Prix byes and more. We are excited by this new addition that further integrates Magic Online with paper Magic play and we can't wait to do more. To learn more about the future of Premier Play in Magic as a whole, check out Hélène Bergeot's article from last week.
Magic Online Player Rewards Program
When we launched the Magic Online Player Rewards (MOPR) program several years ago, we wanted to reward players for their Magic Online activity, whether it was buying booster packs, playing in tournaments, or even just logging in. We did this with a Rewards Points system that is relatively complicated and difficult to present to players. Currently, you have to check out our newsletter to determine what your Rewards Points are and then estimate what they might be at the time they would be distributed and hope you have enough to earn the rewards you want.
This experience is not what we had in mind when we created the program. While we would like to make changes to the game client to make this easier for players, it actually requires quite a bit of server work that is lower priority than our other major projects, like the new client for Magic Online or our initial work on Leagues.
Rather than limp along with this system, we wanted to try something a bit easier for players to understand. Starting on December 26, the first day of the 2013 MOPR season, we will be launching an entirely new MOPR structure. Instead of collecting nebulous points that are difficult for the average player to track, there are four simple qualification activities for each monthly period and completing each will provide that reward at the end of the period:
|Participate in at least one (1) Constructed, Sealed Deck, or Draft tournament with a minimum of eight (8) players||Standard non-foil Event Participation promotional card|
|Participate in at least five (5) Constructed, Sealed Deck, or Draft tournaments with a minimum of eight (8) players||Premium foil Event Participation promotional card|
|Spend at least $20.00 USD in the Magic Online Store||Standard non-foil Store Activity promotional card|
|Spend at least $40.00 USD in the Magic Online Store||Premium Foil Store Activity promotional card|
While we know that we are giving out fewer cards overall, we hope that this simplified system makes it much easier for newer players to learn about the program and easier for all players to track what rewards they will earn each month. It will also give us additional opportunities to distribute promo cards that would have been used in the MOPR program in other ways, such as one-off tournaments or promotions.
The 2013 MOPR season begins on December 26, at 8:00 a.m. PST. Read the full MOPR rules and then check out the two cards we are awarding for January:
January's Event Participation Promo
January's Store Activity Promo
Phantom Sealed Deck Queues
A couple of years ago, we were looking for a way to make Sealed Deck play more accessible. Knowing that a big hurdle was the entry requirement, we introduced four-booster Sealed. With fewer boosters required for entry into the queue, we knew more players would be able to participate... and we were right. The four-booster Sealed queue was immediately more popular than the previous six-booster queue. Unfortunately, four-booster Sealed has a couple big flaws.
First, and most importantly, Magic R&D does not do any set development around four-booster Sealed. This means that it is far more likely to be imbalanced and suffer from degenerate strategies that other formats won't experience. While trying something that has not been fully tested can be fun as limited engagements, such as the Zendikar-Worldwake-Rise of the Eldrazi drafts we offered a few years ago, we want to ensure that our organized play offerings are as balanced and fun as possible.
Second, thirty-card decks are not a standard size and the client does not handle them well. This causes confusion during deck building, as most players who are familiar with Magic Limited play have been trained to use forty-card decks, and quite often this confusion leads to players using forty-card decks in the format, putting them at a serious disadvantage just for building decks the way they have been taught to for years.
Now that we have the Phantom structure for Limited formats, we can actually offer a six-booster Sealed Deck experience with reduced entry requirements that still follows the rules for normal Limited play. This general structure has been successful with both Thursday Night Magic Online and the Magic Online Cube, and we want to extend it to be a regularly offered event. In addition, by switching to six-booster Sealed, we can also ensure that all formats we regularly offer are balanced and behave the way players would expect.
Starting December 26, we will replace the current eight-player four-booster Sealed queues with Phantom six-booster Sealed versions. These will be Swiss pairing queues that have an entry requirement of 8 Event Tickets and use the prize structure below:
|9||3 booster packs||1|
|6||2 booster packs||0|
|3||1 booster pack||0|
Of course, we will evaluate how this new format performs and will make changes as necessary. Make sure you give us feedback in our forums as well.
New Player Phantom Events
With Magic 2013's release this summer, we added New Player Tickets to each Magic Online New Account Starter Kit. The tickets allow players to join a limited number of Sealed Deck or Draft queues designed to let players get used to Magic Online or sample Limited Magic for the first time in a low-pressure environment. We reward players who win these queues with promo cards, but we feel that this doesn't completely capture the tournament feel.
While we don't want to ratchet up the competition level too much, we do want the players who win these New Player events to be rewarded for their effort. With that in mind, we are adjusting the structure of these events. Starting on December 26, each New Player Phantom Draft and Phantom Sealed Deck queue will require 1 Event Ticket in addition to 1 New Player Ticket. Each player in the queue will earn a copy of the current month's Thursday Night Magic Online promo card and the winner of the queue will receive one Magic 2013 booster pack. We hope players are excited about this change and use these queues to become comfortable with the Magic Online interface.
The Next Steps
As always, we will continue to evaluate and adjust our tournaments and other organized play programs to ensure we are offering a wide range of events that appeal to different kinds of players. These changes just represent some of what we have planned for 2013.
Our focus for the Magic Online Cube has been about the experience. At the same time, however, we need to make sure that experience is one our players enjoy. We will be taking a long look at the Holiday Cube results after we return from break to evaluate our second time around with Cube Tickets and make sure they are performing up to our expectations.
We didn't make many changes to our Constructed tournaments this year, and in 2013 we really want to reevaluate our eternal and specialty formats and look for opportunities that make sense for our players and Magic Online. The Power Nine will make it to Magic Online before the end of 2013, so we will definitely get back to you all on how we plan to introduce Vintage and what that means for everyone.
Beyond tournament play, we have several Open Play options that rarely see action, and we will look to see if there may be some chances to pare down the list or even replace some options with other formats that players are more interested in. Standard Pauper was added this year as an Open Play format, and there will almost certainly be places we can add and/or remove formats in 2013.
Overall, we are happy with where our organized play is, but we think we can do better. There are a lot of opportunities for us to improve the quality of the offering, and we want to make sure we carefully consider all of our decisions and continue in our quest to offer a great online Magic experience for everyone.
Have a safe and fun holiday and see you in the New Year!
Magic Online Business Manager