Magic Online Update

Posted in Magic Online on June 21, 2016

By Chris Kiritz

Hello Magic Online players.

The first half of 2016 is almost in the books, so I wanted to take review of the first six months, look at what is going on now, and discuss what we're doing for the rest of the year. Without further ado, let's get to it.

The Year So Far

We kicked off the year with Oath of the Gatewatch, an awesome set in which the colorless Eldrazi grow in power to menace Zendikar, the Pro Tour, and our development and QA teams. Turns out that when you need a full rewrite of something as fundamental as the mana system—in this case to support colorless mana changes that accompanied Oath of the Gatewatch—there can be challenges. While the update brought some much-needed flexibility to how players cast spells, it also introduced some issues we're still working through. For instance, Eternal Masters included over a dozen fixes in this area, including cards like Mana Bloom and several issues with paying costs and using undo (the full list can be found here).

Right after the Oath release, we launched Sealed Deck Leagues. The ability to play Limited-format Magic on your own schedule is something that has been missing from Magic Online for too long, and increased participation since launch shows that Leagues are simply the best way to play Magic Online for the majority of players. Moving forward, we'll continue to adjust our League offerings to fit the needs of as many players as possible, including creating friendly and competitive versions of the Leagues that have the population to support them, as we recently did with the Modern format.

Recently we also released two major infrastructure changes with our update to .NET 4.5.2 and our recent client refactor, which will help make the system more stable, allow us to address client issues faster, and ultimately focus on more player-facing improvements down the road. While these updates are not glamorous, they're necessary to keep Magic Online stable and sustainable. These changes also introduced some regressions we're working on fixing now.

Finally, outside of the technology realm, the 2015 Magic Online Championship was held in May. Congratulations to the 2015 Champion Niels Noorlander and the other competitors who battled it out for Magic Online's top honor. This year's event was spectacular, with great matches and awesome coverage. If you missed it, check out the coverage archive. We're exploring ways to make next year's version even better, so stay tuned.

The Here and Now

Now I hear you asking "Yeah, yeah, what you did in the past was great, but what's Magic Online doing right now?" So let's take a look.

We're right in the middle of our Legacy Festival, celebrating all things Eternal. Collect cards for your Legacy deck by playing in Eternal Masters drafts and Sealed Deck Leagues between now and July 6. Afterward, assemble your Legacy deck and conquer your opponents en route to the Legacy Championship on July 24. Full details can be found here.

Legacy not quite your thing? No problem, we are still traveling down memory lane with the Year of Modern flashback drafts! Currently you can relive the twisted nightmare that is the realm of Shadowmoor. On the horizon are trips back to Eventide, the shard plane of Alara, and the adventure world of Zendikar (before the Eldrazi made a mess of things). The full Year of Modern Flashback schedule can be found here.

If you're looking for current Magic, Shadows over Innistrad is still going strong with Draft queues and Sealed Deck Leagues. The next chapter begins soon, as it was just revealed that Emrakul has been twisting Innistrad for her own unfathomable purposes. Experience that horror in the Prerelease at your friendly local game store on July 16, or on Magic Online on July 29. Lee Sharpe will have more info on the Magic Online events in a few weeks, so check back on for more details shortly.

Outside of card releases, we're working to refresh in the upcoming weeks to make it more player-friendly. We're currently discussing the results of our recent feedback program survey and how we can use them to inform our decisions. In general, we want fewer hurdles between you and the information you're looking for, whether you are a seasoned vet looking for the latest event info or a brand-new player looking to get started. The event calendar update a couple months ago was just the first step in this process that we hope will make a must-visit destination for all Magic Online players.

Finally, speaking of meeting players' needs, we are currently finalizing the inaugural members of our Player Advisory Board. Our goal is to establish a cross-section of veteran Magic Online players who can analyze and discuss proposed changes to prizes, programs, and features with the Magic Online team, who will then take their feedback into consideration before finalizing the updates and rolling them out to Magic Online as a whole. Stay tuned for more information soon from Lee, who is spearheading this project.

Down the Road

We've looked at the past and the present, so now let's discuss what the future holds for Magic Online. With our latest batch of infrastructure changes done, our technology goal for the rest of the year is to address outstanding issues and deliver more quality-of-life updates. So what does that mean?

If you combine card set, feature, and infrastructure releases, we crammed seven major releases into the first half of the year. That put a lot of pressure on or development and test team and directly led to some of the hotfixes we saw earlier in the year. For the second half of 2016, we are going to focus on fixing some of the issues still lingering after the year's earlier releases. This includes fixing issues around alternative costs for spells and activated abilities, making sure the client better remembers your settings, addressing some lingering trade issues, and making tweaks to commonly used features to make sure they are as user-friendly as possible, like the recent phase bar update that added a lock to avoid misclicks.

We're also continuing to look at the way players play and develop offerings that meet their needs. As mentioned earlier, Leagues have been very successful, so we're looking to increase the types of Leagues available to appeal to even more players. We still have some players who can't play their favorite format of Magic without setting aside several hours, and we want to address that as soon as we can. In addition, our onboarding experience could use some work, so we're planning some changes to make getting started easier than it's ever been.

Once you're playing, we want to make sure you feel rewarded for the experience. We want to build off the success of Play Points and make sure that players of all types get prizes that match their expectations. This ranges from basic prize adjustments to exploring ways to better celebrate in-game success—like going undefeated in a League—to rewarding our most competitive players in the Magic Online Championship Series. These types of changes are tailor-made for involving the Player Advisory Board, and we are excited to include them in this process.

That said, even this list is just scratching the surface of the kinds of changes we'd like to make. We're committed to improving your Magic Online experience every chance we get, but your feedback is crucial to this process and making sure we're focusing on the right changes. If you have changes you'd like to see, make sure you contact us, either by emailing us at; reaching out on Twitter @MagicOnline or @ckiritz; or asking a question on our Tumblr. Tell us what you like or what you think could be improved. We're always listening.

Thanks for being the best fans around, now get back to your League match.

Chris Kiritz
Sr. Digital Product Manager

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