The comments expressed in this blog are my own, and in no way reflect the opinions of anyone other than myself. Strap on your tinfoil hat and crack a moxie, because here we go.
Magic Online, A Love/Hate Relationship
I love Magic Online, I really do. I’ve tried Cockatrice and Xmage, and it’s a good thing those programs are free because I can’t imagine wanting to pay to play them. I love that MTGO allows me to play Vintage every day, and the client has allowed me to become a skilled Vintage player in a relatively short amount of time. I’ve defeated world-class players in my time on MTGO, and I think that’s due to the fact that I can practice so often.
Now that I’ve made it clear that I do indeed love Magic Online, I’d like to go into the things about it that I absolutely do not like, or that I think should change.
Prizes on MTGO
When Magic Online introduced Play Points I was very unhappy with that change. I didn’t like getting untradeable objects as prizes because they are not nearly as useful as the event tickets they’re supposed to be emulating.
I’ve since accepted the play points change, and for someone like me they aren’t the worst thing in the world. I win a healthy percentage of my matches, but I lose enough to not have to worry about collecting thousands of points. Unfortunately not all players can say such things.
Rich Shay has almost five thousand play points in his account! In order for him to be able to “spend” them he would have to join multiple limited queues at once, drop during round one, and sell the winnings. It would take hours and hours just to try to eke out some value from that pile of play points. The average value of Magic Online cards is so low that you couldn’t possibly hope to turn play points into an amount of Tickets that was even close to the same value! For example, I once turned a drafts worth of play points (140 I think) into about five tickets. This is much, much lower than the fourteen tickets that 140 play points is allegedly equivalent to.
Rich was kind enough to take a picture of his Play Point total for me…
Doubling Up on Event Costs
The other thing I didn’t like about the play points update was that the cost of daily events doubled! When events cost twice as much it really hurts the players with low win percentages. When events were six tickets a mediocre player didn’t have to feel so hopeless when they paid for an event. Nowadays spending twelve tickets must be a tough sell for those players that rarely win anything! It is no surprise to me that Dailies never increased in popularity after the change.
Recently us players got Treasure Chests added to our prize pools. Lucky us! I haven’t been playing dailies for a little while so I haven’t opened any chests, but I have heard a ton of stories about how bad the contents of these things are! Sure, sometimes you’ll win the lottery, but most of the time you’ll be left with a cruddy digital scratch ticket in your hands.
The plan to “fix” treasure chests is to make them tradeable. How will that POSSIBLY fix the problem? Booster packs are tradeable, but they’re worth money because people can enter them in drafts not because people actually open the things! The only people who will want to buy your Treasure Chests from you are casual people who don’t know or don’t care that they’re hemorrhaging money by opening the chests. The chests will end up like the MTGO prize packs were and they’ll be dirt cheap to purchase. I mean, you’ll know how much the prizes you’re playing for are worth, but you won’t be happy with that number.
So, us Magic Online players are now paying more to play and we’re getting less in return. I don’t like that. I know that Wizards can’t give everybody tons and tons of prizes, otherwise that would make those prizes worthless, but I do feel like we could be getting treated better. I have a few ideas about that.
Use Treasure Chests as Bonuses.
Instead of making the chests replace a known-value prize, just add one or two to the prize pool for the best finishers of an event. I’m not sure what the exact perfect ratio would be, but I think it could be something like this: For the low-level drafts (pack per win or whatever they’re called now) first place gets a treasure chest. For a Daily Event, going undefeated earns you a chest or two, maybe 3-1 gives you one.
The two-player, heads up queues currently only pay out in play points, which is beyond unexciting. Once upon a time I’d play the heads up queues until I won a draft set, then I’d draft the packs. I can’t bring myself to play one of these things when the only prize is more boring play points. How about finding a way to give the winner something interesting? If you win three of these matches in a row you could win a Treasure Chest. If you participate in say, 30 of these in a month, you get a Treasure Chest when the next MOPR (Magic Online Player Rewards) promos are given out. Leagues should go back to the prizes they used to have, but add some chests to the prize pool.
The idea of opening these Treasure Chests is not inherently bad, they just need to be done in the proper way. If the chests are a bonus, people aren’t going to get so mad when their contents are worthless! People might actually become excited to see the things, and that’s a good thing.
On the topic of the MOPR program (and other promo programs like MOCS). I really feel like the player base could and should be getting more for their money. There are no more six ticket events. The cheapest event is an eight ticket league, and the offerings get more and more expensive as you go on.
I love that MTGO rewards store activity, but I feel like this could be improved. Most of the promos are just not exciting. The promos that I have been excited for were cool enough that I spent twenty or forty dollars in the MTGO store to get them. The event participation promos cost a minimum of sixteen dollars to earn, yet they’re often lackluster as well.
I know it’s not possible to give away something crazy like a Black Lotus in the player rewards program, but I think that there are cheap-ish staples that could easily be made into MOPR cards. Gush was a promo recently, and that’s the kind of thing I’d like to see more of! Also, this program could also be used to give out a single Treasure Chest each month as well. The odds of getting something valuable seem pretty low, and if the threshold for earning one is high enough (say $40-$60 in the MTGO store or something) then there’s no reason you couldn’t get some.
Redemption and Selling Cards/Collections
I’ve never redeemed a set before, but this program is vital to the health of MTGO. When a new player talks to me about wanting to buy in to Magic Online there’s one concern the all seem to voice. People are afraid to plunk down money on digital objects because if MTGO were to go belly up they’d lose their investment.
I always tell prospective players that buying in to MTGO is safe for a few reasons. I explain that it’s easy to sell off your MTGO account to a dealer like MTGOTraders or Cardhoarder. If people know that it’s easy to convert digital cards into paper money they’re more likely to feel comfortable buying digital objects. Redemption is yet another way that digital objects are turned into physical product, and this does a lot to alleviate people’s completely rational concerns about the digital Magic medium.
Any steps to make redemption harder should be reversed. I know that the redemption policy is a pain for WotC, but without it they could kill their golden goose. After all, selling complete sets also benefits dealers, and dealers are extremely important to the health of Magic Online. Without reputable dealers selling cards through the web it would be difficult to get what you need to build a deck. The fact that you can buy (or trade into) a new deck in ten minutes makes MTGO an incredible asset to anyone looking to test specific decks.
A lot of people seem to be afraid that the redemption policy will be destroyed altogether eventually. I certainly hope that is not the case, because too many cards in the system is not good for anyone. Draft chaff is already cluttering up people’s collections to the point where some folks have multiple accounts just to hold junk cards. Too many extra cards make the common and uncommon staples lower in price than they otherwise would be, which could problem for the value of collections.
The addition of Play Points into the MTGO economy also has affected this aspect of the platform. When Event Tickets were the only currency it made cashing out an account even easier. Under the new system all accounts that participated in any form of constructed tournament will have untradeable objects they’ll be stuck with when they sell their collections. For some folks this won’t be a huge detriment, but I know that there are plenty of players who have gone infinite several times over with a product they literally cannot give away!
Play Points are not all bad. In some ways they have balanced out the prize values for events. If Wizards of the Coast could work on finding a way for people to turn extra play points into something useful then they would be perfectly fine for everyone. I really think that being able to buy packs from the MTGO store with play points would help a lot, or perhaps a prize wall.
Too many prizes would devalue people’s collections, but we are very far away from that being an issue. I sincerely believe that the prize pool across all the tournament offerings could be increased, if only slightly. Giving people more prizes will increase their desire to play, as long as those prizes remain rare enough to be valuable. Perhaps people could be given avatars for participating in events like the Power Nine Challenge or Legacy Challenge. I wouldn’t mind if a play mat feature was added, it sure would be a lot more relevant than that deck box feature (seriously, who cares if Karn or Jace is on the deck box for your Stax deck?).
I sincerely hope that this doesn’t come off as too negative. I really do love MTGO and I play it every day. I think that there are a lot of great people working to make things better, and I know they have a tough job on their hands. Hopefully improvements will be made and the eternal constructed formats I love so much will continue to grow.
Thanks for reading! If you’d like to help support this blog, or to help me travel to Vintage Champs 2017, click here! Feel free to leave any comments, or just send me some delicious spam. Smash me in Vintage on MTGO as Islandswamp, or heckle me on Twitter @josephfiorinijr – Rumble McSkirmish