State of Magic Online 2018

Posted in Magic Digital on February 8, 2018

By Chris Kiritz

Greetings, Magic Online players!

With 2017 in the books and 2018 under way, let's look at how 2017 went and what we're aiming to accomplish in 2018.

2017 in Review

If 2016 was a year of big changes, 2017 was primarily a year of smaller refinements. The star of the show, however, was updating our release schedule so players could play new sets on Magic Online earlier than ever before. This change took a lot of behind-the-scenes effort from our card set team, but I think we all agree the effort was well worth it. More players played more Magic Online than ever before, and we set records for concurrent players several times this year.

Beyond earlier releases, we continued to iterate on our events, including adding single-game-match Friendly Draft Leagues, Vintage Leagues, and 1v1 Commander Leagues (more on this one below). We also explored more Cubes, Gauntlets, and Flashbacks to find the right mix of play experiences. Weekend Challenge events returned to support smaller formats with premier-event-style tournaments. We removed the Preliminary PTQ events from Constructed formats to better meet the needs of Constructed players trying to win their way to the next Pro Tour. The addition of MOCS Open events gave players another top-tier premier option to play in and, for the best of the best, earn one of the 24 Magic Online Championship slots.

As for client features, we added a default trade binder that automatically updates as your collection changes to make it easier for players to get in and out of trades. We added (finally) an in-client prize display so you don't have to visit a website to see what prizes you could earn in an event. We decoupled our redemption process from system downtimes, so players could get their redemption sets without waiting several weeks until the next processing period.

Internally, we updated our infrastructure to be more resilient to small internet disruptions to reduce the number of times players get dropped from the client. We also delivered some upgrades to our internal tools to allow our Game Support representatives to help you faster. Finally, in 2017 we had about half as many downtimes as 2016, letting you play on your schedule more often than at any other time in Magic Online's history.

To close out the year, we explored some new promotions with the release of the classic-frame Power Nine in our Vintage Masters Flashback and our Play Point Bundles, both of which went well.

It wasn't all puppy dogs and sunshine, though. We did see some system stability issues at the end the year that bled into this year, but we've already taken steps to address those issues. We also had far too many instances where card bugs impacted a Flashback or Throwback event, so we're continuing to refine how we deliver these experiences at a very high quality.

2018 in Preview

For 2018, our plan is to continue building on 2017's successes. We'll continue looking for ways Magic Online can embrace the excitement of a new set release. You've already seen a sample of the type of experience we're looking at with the Rivals of Ixalan Preview League, and we have some ideas make that experience even better. We'll have more information around that as Dominaria's release gets closer.

We'll continue refining formats and event structures to ensure that we're offering the right play experiences for players (you can find the event schedule for the first part of the year at the bottom of this article). We're exploring what new Limited play types we might be able to add, either as crazy Sealed Deck events (like the Battle of the Planes last year) or Draft events (did someone say Chaos Draft?). We want to explore more Cube Draft options, including adding more cubes to the rotation so Cube is available more often. We'll continue tweaking Flashbacks and Gauntlets to build on their success from last year and make sure we're offering the most exciting events possible.

We also want to improve our data gathering around which events players find the most fun, so we can be confident the events we're offering are the most exciting for players. As part of that effort, all Flashback Drafts and crazy Sealed events in 2018 will be run as Phantom events, which lets us better evaluate the merits of the events based solely on play data. While we know that collecting old cards can be the draw for some of these events, this collectability prevents us from understanding whether players like the experience or just want the cards.

Similarly, 1v1 Commander had an exciting launch, but its current player base is not as healthy as it needs to be to support a League. Waiting longer than a few minutes for a match is not an acceptable event experience, so we'll also be looking for the best way to proceed there.

On the technical side, we're striving to continually improve stability and update features to make Magic Online more player-friendly. Improving the Play Lobby is at the top of this list, and we're currently looking at ways to make finding events and games faster and much more intuitive. The Home Scene and Collection can use some refinement, too, so we'll start evaluating some updates there as well.

We've also heard players' requests to release fixes faster, so we're updating our development and release process to allow this. Unfortunately, issues do still reach the public, and while we've gotten better at fixing the critical bugs quickly, this change will allow us to fix those mid-level issues faster as well. At the same time, we're building this process to work in a world with even fewer downtimes, as we're looking to cut the number of Magic Online downtimes in half again. And, of course, this is all on top of releasing a card set every couple of months at the highest possible quality.

Summing It Up

Whew! That's a lot of words, but the tl;dr is that I'm excited for 2018 and I hope you are, too. Our goal is to continue to refine and expand Magic Online so players can enjoy the sheer depth and diversity of play that has made Magic so engaging for the last 25 years. All while wearing their jammies.

As always, if you have questions or comments, email us at, or hit us up on Twitter @MagicOnline or on the Magic Online Tumblr. You can also find me directly on Twitter @ckiritz.

—Chris Kiritz
Senior Product Manager, Magic Online

2018 Event Schedule

Here is the current planned content schedule for the first part of 2018:

  • February 14–21: Throwback Ravnica Standard Gauntlet (details below)
  • February 21–28: Theros Phantom Flashback (details below)
  • February 28–March 16: Legacy Cube
  • March 16–April 4: Masters 25
  • April 4–20: Modern Cube
  • April 20: Dominaria events begin

If you're looking to watch some high-level Magic Online play, the 2017 Magic Online Championship starts March 3, where sixteen of the best Magic Online players will battle it out for their share of $200,000. Look for a preview article soon. In addition, most Tuesday evenings starting February 6, you can watch the Team Modern Super League on, where teams of some of the best Magic players will square off in some epic Modern battles.

Ravnica Era Gauntlet Details

The Ravnica Era Gauntlet can be found in the Limited Leagues area of the Magic Online Play Lobby.

  • Dates: February 14–21
  • Start Time: February 14 at 10 a.m. PT
  • End Time: Entries end February 20 at 11 p.m. PT; matches end February 21 at 2 a.m. PT
  • Location: Play Lobby -> Limited Tournaments -> Leagues
  • Entry Options:
    • 10 Event Tickets
    • 100 Play Points
  • Product: One randomly selected Phantom deck from this list. The cards in the deck will not be added to your collection.
  • Structure: Deck review, followed by 3 Swiss rounds
  • Prizes:
    • 3 wins: 150 Play Points
    • 2 wins: 100 Play Points
    • 1 win: 40 Play Points
    • 0 wins: 10 Play Points

Theros Phantom Flashback Draft Details

The Theros Phantom Flashback Draft can be found in the Limited Leagues area of the Magic Online Play Lobby.

  • Dates: February 21–28
  • Start Time: February 21 at 10 a.m. PT
  • End Time: February 28 at 10 a.m. PT
  • Location: Play Lobby -> Limited Tournaments -> Leagues
  • Entry Options:
    • 10 Event Tickets
    • 100 Play Points
    • 2 Event Tickets and 2 Theros booster packs
  • Product: 3 Theros booster packs. Note: This event is Phantom. Cards drafted will not be added to your collection, even if you use an entry option that includes booster packs.
  • Structure: Draft, then up to 3 rounds at your convenience
  • Prizes:
    • 3 wins: 150 Play Points
    • 2 wins: 100 Play Points
    • 1 win: 40 Play Points
    • 0 wins: 10 Play Points

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