Balancing Act

Posted in Daily Deck on December 17, 2013

By Mike Turian

Before joining Magic Online as its digital product manager, Mike worked as a producer for Wizards's technology department, a product manager for organized play, and as an R&D lead developer. He has played Magic Online since it came out in 2002 and Magic since The Dark.

I'm Mike Turian, the digital product manager for Magic Online. My role consists of running the live operations of Magic Online, including the communications (, and working closely with our technology team and our business team. While Chris Kiritz focuses on future projects for Magic Online, one of the responsibilities I have in my new role is to determine the event offerings that are on Magic Online on a weekly basis. I will be discussing the Magic Online events and how each of our event offerings contributes toward the suite of Magic Online event offerings.

I started this new role in June of this year. My diverse background with Wizards has given me plenty of opportunity to build up the experience needed for this new role. I have been working at Wizards of the Coast for close to ten years. Most recently, before joining the Magic Online team, I was a producer on the technology team at Wizards, working on projects such as launching Planeswalker Points and the Store Locator. I also worked as part of the team responsible for improving the Wizards event reporter software and our internal systems. Before joining technology, I was part of organized play, where I ran the organized play data analyst team. I was also working on programs such as Prereleases, Friday Night Magic, and Premier Play. I started with Wizards in 2004 with the Magic Ramp;D team as a card developer. While in Magic Ramp;D I led five Magic sets, including Scars of Mirrodin, Future Sight, and Worldwake. I was also the lead for Planechase, a couple of Duel Decks products, collation, and Ramp;D's market research efforts.

Mike putting together a deck back in Invasion/Planeshift Limited.

I love that Magic Online lets players play what I consider to be the greatest game ever made, essentially twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, if you decided to do so. Whenever Magic Online is available, there are multiple events that are waiting to start right away. With this exceptional accessibility to play real Magic anytime you wish, the challenge for us becomes offering the formats and events to strike the right balance of diversity of formats and making sure that each offering can get to a critical mass of players. My past responsibilities in organized play, technology, and Magic Ramp;D have rewarded me with a unique skill set and perspective about how to go about addressing this challenge.

One of the best parts about Magic is each individual's ability to play it the way that they choose. My personal favorites are drafting and competitive one-on-one play. I've met many people who have played Magic just as long as I have (nineteen years) who have never done a draft and love multiplayer play. Even though we have been playing with the same Magic cards for the past two decades, in a way, we have been playing completely different games.

With Magic Online we look to best balance covering the spectrums of Magic play. Take, for instance, our most popular Constructed format on Magic Online, Standard. We have Standard two-person events, Standard eight-person events, Standard Daily Events, and Standard Premier Events. We have the same basic offerings for Theros Block Constructed, Modern, and Legacy. Which makes for sixteen different styles of events within just these four formats. If I add in the Classic, Momir Basic, and Pauper we come to a total of twenty-three ways that you can join a Magic Online Constructed event. Then, if you throw in special events, such as the upcoming Theros Championships, and include playing the Standard format in the casual rooms, it builds a full picture of all of the different ways to play your style of Magic on Magic Online.

With such diversity of players coming into Magic Online every day, one challenge for the Magic Online team is creating play experiences that properly place players with others of similar skills and objectives. In casual play, our diverse format offerings allow for players to properly path to the right play experience for them. Players finding the right experience for themselves will help offer them and their opponents a better time playing Magic Online.

An example of where this works well is with our New Player Account Events. We have both a four-player Sealed New Player Event and a four-player Draft New Player Event. In order to join, you need to use 1 Event Ticket and 1 New Player Point and the winner of the event wins a Magic 2014 booster pack. In this example, we encourage only new-to-Magic Online players to join, as the only way you can get New Player Points is through signing up for Magic Online. Likewise, the single booster prize is among the smallest prize offering that is offered on Magic Online, so players who are seeking a large number of packs in a short amount of time realize that the event isn't designed for them.

Taking this same philosophy to other event offerings doesn't always work out the way we hope. Take, for example, the change in sixteen-player Sealed Release Events from the Magic 2014 release to the Theros release. We introduced a lower-entry event, going from 24 Event Tickets to 20 Event Tickets, and adjusted the prizes as well. This change alone took the event from one that rewarded the winners more to one that rewarded the participants who didn't win. A higher percentage of each players' entry contributed toward the six boosters of Theros that they would be playing with in the event. While this was an intentional shift, as we wanted these events to be more about experiencing the new set than about solely winning, it wasn't one that was as well received as we would have liked it to be. We will be making adjustments to our Sealed Release Events for the Born of the Gods release events coming up in February, to better strike the balance of rewarding the top performers in each event and the participants.

Mox Emerald | Art by Volkan Baga

On the Constructed side, you can see this balancing act being struck with our diverse event offerings above and beyond casual play. Two-player Constructed Events are for the player who wants to play a real match of Magic with an opponent who cares. Nothing is quite as frustrating as pulling off your amazing combo, god draw, or painfully annoying lock and then just having your opponent give up. The two-player event gives you the chance to match yourself with an opponent who you know cares about winning. At the same time, the two-player events have almost no wait time to start and when you are done with one you can jump back into another. These two factors (low wait time, step up in competition from the casual rooms) makes our two-player events the most popular events on Magic Online.

Daily Events, on the other hand, represent us encouraging players to build Constructed decks in certain formats. As all of us know, Magic as a tradable game takes a real dedication to get every last card to build that perfect deck. The Standard card pool typically has more than 1,000 cards available to choose among, and with a shifting metagame, a player needs to have access to most of them at any given moment. With Modern, Legacy, and—mid-next year—Vintage, the card pools are even larger but that fact is often balanced out with a more stable format due to less rotation. Throw in the fact that most cards that are played in Constructed are four-ofs and it builds a great picture of how come Daily Constructed Events have the best prize-to-entry ratio on Magic Online.

The return of Leagues to Magic Online represents another way for Magic Online to make sure that we reach out and offer every player style an event type that most appeals to them. Worth touched on the return of Leagues and Chris Kiritz will be discussing Leagues more in depth tomorrow, so stay tuned for that. While we work toward the return of Leagues we continue to have fun events that would be tough to do in non-digital Magic, such as Fowl Play (Sealed Deck with the sets with the most Bird creatures) or the Holiday Cube Draft Events starting on Wednesday, December 18th.

Magic Online is waiting for you to log on and enjoy your style of Magic, whatever that style happens to be. Putting up the right events is a balancing act and we are always looking to improve that balance. If your style isn't represented, we always look to make improvements to our event and format offerings but you need to let us know. I'm on Twitter (@mturian), in Magic Online (WOTC_MikeTurian), or using the email link in the footer of the articles ( has a new article up every Monday discussing what is happening on Magic Online). I look forward to talking with you.


Mike Turian

Mike TurianMike Turian

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Before joining Magic Online as its digital product manager, Mike worked as a producer for Wizards's technology department, a product manager for organized play, and as an Ramp;D lead developer. He has played Magic Online since it came out in 2002 and Magic since The Dark.

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