Online Rotations

Posted in NEWS on September 6, 2002

First, an update on last week’s poll:

What card would you ban in Standard?
Upheaval 2250 27.4%
Fact or Fiction 1854 22.6%
Psychatog 1565 19.0%
Wild Mongrel 893 10.9%
Other 803 9.8%
Flametongue Kavu 565 6.9%
Circular Logic 287 3.5%
Total 8217 100.0%

I agree completely with this conclusion – if I had to ban one card right now, it would be Upheaval. However, I also agree with the previous poll, which concluded that nothing in Standard is ban-worthy right now.

On to new topics…

Most articles about the birth of the new Extended this fall talk about the loss of dual lands and long-awaited death of the Trix deck. However, that’s not the only Extended format worth discussing. The rotation brought about by Onslaught will also create a new format on Magic Online. My apologies to those of you who don’t care about Magic Online, but Wizards has received enough questions on this subject that we decided I should devote today’s column to this subject.

First of all, I know a lot of people are interested in knowing exactly when Onslaught is going to release online. I can't give you that information today, but I can tell you that there will be a press release on this subject some time in the next couple weeks.

As soon as Onslaught goes live, a couple of changes will take place in the formats that are available online. In the casual play room, Standard will bifurcate. That is, you’ll be able to select “Standard (pre-Onslaught)” or “Standard (with Onslaught).” In sanctioned Constructed tournaments, we’ll use the same strategy we use with paper-based Magic: Onslaught will not be legal right away. Instead it will rotate in a couple of weeks after its release, thus giving everyone a fair chance to acquire the cards they want and learn how to use them. Once that rotation happens, there will be just one Standard format in the casual play room as well. (Standard will just mean “Standard (with Onslaught),” of course.) Sanctioned Limited tournaments using Onslaught (including sealed deck "Release" Tournaments) will start up one day after the cards go on sale.

I think all of that is pretty much what everyone was expecting. The real news is that we are going to introduce the Extended format. Our goal, as with most things about Magic Online, is to mirror the paper-based world as closely as we can. (In general, we don’t want Magic to turn into two different brands; instead, our vision is of one game with two platforms available to play it on.) Obviously, there are a lot of sets available in the paper-based world that don’t exist on Magic Online so we can’t line things up perfectly, but what we can do is apply the same rules to both versions of Extended. That means that once Onslaught rotates in, online Extended will be Invasion, Planeshift, Apocalypse, Odyssey, Torment, Judgment, Onslaught, and Seventh Edition. In other words, every card that exists in Magic Online is legal in Extended and that will be true for quite some time. In paper-based Magic (starting when Onslaught rotates in), every set that has been released since Tempest is legal. It turns out that after the next Extended rotation – the one slated for the fall of 2005, when a block that doesn’t even have a codename yet rotates in, online Extended and paper Extended will have the same card pool. Three blocks leave Extended every three years and in 2005 the three blocks that leave will be the Tempest, Urza’s, and Masques blocks. That will leave Invasion as the oldest legal block and that will synch up both formats.

We've heard from a number of players who are worried that their Invasion block cards aren't going to be useful once they "rotate out." Part of the reason we're introducing Extended is to allay that concern. Invasion cards won't be legal in Standard once Onslaught rotates in, but there will still be plenty of places to use them. Personally, I expect Extended to become the most popular format in the casual play room (and the majority of play in Magic Online takes place in the casual play room). Most Magic players prefer to play with all the cards they own, and I don't know why that behavior wouldn't carry over to Magic Online. There will be plenty of sanctioned Extended tournaments too. (I wonder sometimes if we'll be looking back at online Invasion cards the way we current look back at Beta -- expensive and rare and cool.)

The other reason we're introducing Extended to Magic Online is that we think it will be an exciting format. You guys haven't seen Onslaught yet so you'll have to take my word for it for now, but I think Invasion and Onslaught will be quite fun when they are mixed together.

So we’ll be giving plenty of support to Extended inside Magic Online. There will be plenty of Extended tournaments, including some of the monthly championship series events. We’re even planning to use Extended at the upcoming Magic Invitational, which will be taking place entirely on Magic Online.

I think it will be neat to watch this new (smaller) Extended format evolve because two different cool things will be going on: The Invasion block will be pretty important for quite some time and each new set will add a much larger percentage of cards to online Extended than it does to paper Extended.

So that’s our plan for this fall – Onslaught will be legal in Limited tournaments the day after it goes live on the server and it will be legal in Constructed tournaments (both Standard and Extended) a few weeks later. Extended will get added to the casual play room as soon as Onslaught goes live and two versions of Standard will exist there between the release and the format rotation.

Before I consider devoting any more columns to Magic Online, I’d like to hear how many of my readers care about it.


Randy may be reached at latestdevelopments@wizards.com.