Commander Legends: Magic Online Edition

Posted in Magic Online on November 11, 2020

By Alli Steele

Commander Legends is a first for Magic Online. In the past, when multiplayer-focused sets (e.g. Conspiracy sets, Battlebond, etc.) have released, we've taken on some to all cards, yes. But we've never brought the full multiplayer Draft experience online before. And this time, we're adding them all. Every card in Commander Legends, the full Draft experience, even putting people into four-player games in the League's play queue. It's all here.

And it's here soon. Our next scheduled downtime is November 18 to introduce Commander Legends to the system. We're expecting to come back up around noon Pacific time, though that's only an estimate. For current information, you should follow @MagicOnline on Twitter. When we're up, we'll announce from that account. The Commander Legends League will begin the next day, November 19, at 10 a.m. Pacific time.

Please note that there will not be any redemption available for Commander Legends. As a rule, set redemption is only available for Standard-legal sets.

What changed that we're able to do this? We've talked in the past about a recent large upgrade to the Draft server. While we obviously couldn't talk about it at the time, Commander Legends was the third reason (alongside Double Masters and Supreme Draft) to make that overhaul. This left just one component: Multiplayer Leagues. And while that was a significant shift, it also carried with it some additional opportunities.

Which brings us to the next topic: coming with the release of Commander Legends, Magic Online will be offering Constructed Commander Leagues: join with your favorite Commander deck, play three multiplayer games against three or four other players, and earn trophies and prizes for doing so! Open Play isn't going anywhere, but for the first time, you'll be able to get paired up and play against other people you may not know. Importantly, prizes in this system will come from each other, rather than solely based on the number of wins you rack up over your League course. More details are below, but for now, just know that we're excited to have this new offering as well.

Commander Legends Avatars

There's no shortage of fantastic art in Commander Legends, so we thought we'd make some of the choice pieces available for use as player avatars. Each of these can be found in Treasure Chests, in Slot 4 where they don't compete with any cards or Play Points.

Nevinyrral, Urborg TyrantRograkh, Son of RohgahhBelbe, Corrupted Observer

Blim, Comedic GeniusEsior, Wardwing FamiliarFalthis, Shadowcat Familiar

Anara, Wolvid FamiliarRadiant, Serra ArchangelKwain, Itinerant Meddler

Jeweled Lotus

Climbing the Phase Ladder to the Next Level

We've said before that Magic Online's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness: maximum fidelity to paper. This provides tremendous strategic depth, lots of opportunities for customization, and a game that's frankly just plain fun. The challenge has always been replicating this experience while minimizing the challenges that come with it.

One of the biggest challenges of that sort, if not the biggest, has historically been insufficient control over priority. We've all seen in tabletop how someone will say "At the end of [the player before me]'s turn, I'll crack a fetch land" just as they pass the turn. It's easy to handwave and back up part of the game if there's cause to do so. On MTGO, that's not the case. We can't handwave rules and back things up, so we need to go stepwise through everything, asking people to confirm.

Well, we've made a significant step forward with the multiplayer turn flow, and it's releasing with Commander Legends: now, you can set your stops for each player's turns individually. You can also now set your stops for one-on-one play separately from your multiplayer stops. Here's how that works:

Before a game begins, you can head on over to the Account Scene (the gear icon on the right side of the navigation bar) and check your In-Duel Settings.

Account Scene

At the top, you can set stops just as we've all been doing for years now: when will it be important to respond to your Legacy League opponent? A check in the box means what it's always meant: by default, I want to get priority during this step or phase.

Below that, there's the multiplayer stop settings. You can set default stops for the three opponent slots separately. There are probably other things you can do here, but the really exciting thing is that you can turn off all stops except for the end-step stop for the player immediately before you.

But, you ask, what if you don't want those to be your default stops? What if you only want to set those in the middle of a game?

Glad you asked, hypothetical questioner. Let's look at some screenshots from the middle of a multiplayer game.

Phase Ladder

The big change that you'll see here first is four arrows on the phase ladder. The one on the bottom is you, of course, and the three on top represent each of your opponents in turn. You can set stops just as you do now, either by clicking the arrow or right-clicking the step or phase and using the context menu that appears. And you can use the same "yield until here" functionality that already exists.

So, for example, if you know you don't have anything before the end step of the player right before you, you can click "yield until here" for that player. And of course, if everyone's yielding, games can move a lot smoother.

Playing in Your Commander Draft League

If you haven't read the Commander Legends Release Notes, that will help a lot in getting up to speed. However, even for those who know how the Draft rules work, it's important to go over how it works on Magic Online, so here it goes.

Commander Legends will be available as a Draft League, so you'll join the League the way you would any other Draft League: Navigate to the Limited Play Lobby by clicking the "Limited" button in the navigation bar at the top of the screen, then "Draft" on the left-hand tab. Click the event block labeled as Commander Legends, then the "Join" button. You don't have to draft right away, but you definitely can: just click the "Draft" button to join the draft queue.

You'll be grouped with seven other humans waiting to draft, and the Draft Scene will open. As with Supreme Draft, you'll take two cards at a time. Unlike Supreme Draft, in Commander Legends Draft, packs still get passed between players. Since packs have 20 cards, it's possible that some cards will table and be passed to you a second time, but only in the first two opened packs you see each round of pack-opening. While you're drafting, you'll be able to sort out your main deck and sideboard, though you won't be able to designate your deck's commander just yet.

After the draft completes, you'll be put into the Limited Deck-building Scene, slightly modified for Commander Legends. Drag your choice of commander (or two partners) into the commander section—it's where the sideboard is located when you're building Constructed decks, just to the right of the main deck. If you want to add the Prismatic Piper to your deck, you just need to click "Add Prismatic Piper," a button just above the commander section.

Limited Deck Building w/ commanders

Note that on Magic Online, you aren't limited to adding Prismatic Pipers to be your commander(s). If you want to add five to your main deck because you need legendary colorless Sea Snidds (a term for a five-mana 3/3), you can do it. You could, if the mood strikes you, go Snidd-finite, packing your deck full of basic lands and Pipers.

Beyond that? Your deck needs to be exactly 60 cards, including your commander(s). You need to follow the color identity rules from Constructed Commander play, though you can include duplicates. And just in case you need a refresher on these deck-construction rules while building yours, they'll be written in the commander section whenever there's no card in it.

Once you've built your deck, you'll see a big "Play" button in the League Details screen. When you click it, you'll be put into the queue to play a match. This queue will pod you and three other players up into a four-player game, which you'll play just like any other multiplayer Commander game save that each player's clock is 45 minutes instead of 60.

When you're done with your League, you'll earn prizes based on how many votes you accrued. That will look like this dialog box. But that's really a topic that deserves its own section for us to go into the philosophy of how we're approaching multiplayer events.

It's time to vote

Voting results

Multiplayer Events

With the release of Commander Legends, we had to update a large portion of the Magic Online Leagues structure to support multiplayer four-player matches. Knowing how much effort this would be, we wanted to make sure we were building long-term systems that could apply to more than just Commander Legends, particularly around rewards. Keeping this in mind, we settled on a simple design goal: focus on the fun.

First, all multiplayer events will be Leagues. The play-at-your-own-pace structure of these is a good fit for multiplayer matches that will tend to be longer than other events. Plus waiting for all the other matches in a tournament to finish before progressing to your next match is not fun. A League solves this problem, since the longest you'll need to wait is for three other players to join you in the League queue after your deck is ready.

Next, on the surface, Commander Legends is like other Draft formats, where players pick cards from a limited selection of packs, trying to piece together a cohesive deck out of packs of cards that shift and change as players respond to what gets passed to them. Players must still evaluate cards and make decisions on the fly, evolving their plans as they slowly bring that final deck into focus (or at least amassing a random pile of cards to build a deck from later). For Commander Legends, the abundance of legendary creatures and awesome cards make focusing on the fun easy during the draft, with no shortage of build-around cards and flashy effects.

During deck building, a normal Draft deck's focus is winning matches. Decks in Commander, however, often treat winning as a secondary consideration, where the primary goal is doing cool things with powerful cards. Commander Legends leans into the Commander paradigm and provides many opportunities to focus on the fun of doing the awesome things. How many opponents can you beat down with Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh? Can you build a deck to maximize Yurlok of Scorch Thrash's ability? Can you keep Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist safe while your opponents have armies of Salamander Warriors?

When the sole focus is winning, these questions may never get asked, let alone answered, when you're building your deck, so we decided to limit how much winning a match matters in multiplayer events. In a normal event, how much you win directly impacts how many prizes you get. In a multiplayer event, however, prizes are primarily based on getting your opponents to select you as their favorite foe. This means that the best way to earn prizes isn't just by winning but by winning players over to your side. How you do that is up to you. Will you try to impress others with powerful plays, or will cunning strategy convince them to vote for you?

In practice, voting for your favorite opponent occurs when you're out of the match. If you're eliminated, you can vote immediately or you can dismiss the voting prompt and finish watching the match. When the match ends, each player who hasn't voted yet will have an opportunity to vote for their favorite player. It is worth noting that players can't vote for themselves, so they must assign their vote to one of their opponents. In addition, if a player fails to vote for any reason, the system will assign any remaining votes at the end of the match to ensure all votes are distributed (and yes, the system will assign that vote to an opponent and never to the absentee voter).

The winner of the match earns a "bonus" vote for their victory (we think of it as currying MTGO's favor). After all the voting is done, you'll see the final vote results. Each favorite vote you earn is effectively a "match point" and will be added to the vote totals you receive from your other matches.

A Multiplayer League course consists of three matches, so if you do the math, you can earn anywhere from 0 to 12 points over the course of the League. When your League has run its course and you've finished all your matches, you'll earn Play Points for each vote you've earned, making every vote worthwhile. In addition to Play Points, players who earn 9 or more points during their League course will earn a trophy, so Multiplayer League leaderboards will highlight the most popular players. The full prize structures for Commander Legends events can be found below.

Commander Legends Draft League

Entry Options:

  • 20 Event Tickets
  • 200 Play Points
  • 3 Commander Legends boosters + 2 Event Tickets

Length: 3 four-player games, played on your own schedule

Prizes: 25 Play Points per vote earned

Commander Legends Phantom Draft League

Entry Options:

  • 10 Event Tickets
  • 100 Play Points

Length: 3 four-player games, played on your own schedule

Prizes: 20 Play Points per vote earned

Beyond Legends

Beyond focusing on the fun for Commander Legends, we made sure that Multiplayer Leagues also worked for Constructed, so in addition to Commander Draft Leagues we're launching a Commander Constructed League. For the first time in MTGO history, you can take your favorite Commander decks into a more structured environment and compete against other players for votes and prizes.

The entry, prizes, and basic structure of these Leagues are the same as the Commander Legends Phantom Draft Leagues, but you'll get to bring decks of your own design for your three single-game matches, complete with favorites voting.

Commander Constructed League

Entry Options:

  • 10 Event Tickets
  • 100 Play Points

Length: 3 four-player games, played on your own schedule

Prizes: 20 Play Points per vote earned

We also have a full slate of alternative play lined up for the rest of the year, including all-star events like Vintage Cube and new experiences like Vintage Cube Supreme Draft, leading right into the release of Kaldheim. The full alternative play calendar can be found on the calendar.

Finally, while we are delivering an update to the phase ladder during this release to better account for multiplayer matches (see above), we still have more significant battlefield updates on our roadmap. Unfortunately, due to some of the complexities around this year (you know what you've done, 2020), these updates won't be delivered until next year. If everything goes to plan, we hope to start sharing more after Kaldheim has been launched.

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