18 Ways To Improve Magic Online

Thursday, October 28th – It may be about time for some major updates to MODO, wouldn’t you agree? Geordie Tait provides 18 fixes to current MODO functionality, including online Cube and online Mental Magic!

Magic Online is like an old prostitute with a glass eye. It isn’t much to look at, and at times you might not feel like you’re getting your money’s worth, but it’s always there if you need to feed your primal urges. I have a checked past with the program. Before it was even released, I wrote a not-prescient-at-all article that highlighted a bunch of problems with the program that would never come to pass. Later, when it came time to overhaul the old beast following a changing of the programming guard, I took the opportunity to dig the needle in a little deeper.

All the time, I kept playing, and playing, and playing, constantly on the nod, cursing the needle through lips slick with my own drool. MODO always seems to get the last laugh on me, no matter how much I malign it. Magic: The Gathering is a great game, among the greatest of games, and so, Magic Online, warts and all, will probably always have a hold over me.

Lately, though, the old girl has been showing her age, and so I came up with Eighteen Suggestions that might make the program a little better. Your mileage may vary.

I put together some UI examples to show you what these changes might look like. Try not to get depressed at the crappy quality – doing a “real” UI overhaul requires you to chew Oreos until you’re dead broke – I didn’t have that kind of time.

1. Allow Proxy Cards

What Exists Now:

Magic Online players currently have no ability to create or use proxy cards. In order to use a card on MODO, a player has to own it. With the release of new sets, tech comes fast and furious, and the investment needed in order to complete playsets of all relevant cards can be huge. MWS and other programs fill in these gaps, but there’s no reason Magic Online couldn’t fill that niche and keep the community together.

What Should Be Done:

Magic Online has the ability to create perfect proxies, if Wizards is willing to let that happen. However, part of the incentive to actually buy cards is so you don’t have to see those ugly, sharpie-scribbled slips of paper anymore. For that reason, I think online proxies should be “playfully ugly,” as shown below.


That said, if WotC thinks that simply not being able to enter sanctioned tournaments is enough disincentive to play extensively with proxies, I’d encourage them to simply allow the creation of “perfect proxies.”

Players could add them to decks via an option that the program would automatically give them if they don’t own the card, like so:

Proxy Deckbuilder

Proxies would be notated in decklists by a different text color and a (P) notation or some sort of icon.

The Online Store could sell “perfect proxy packs,” which allow the creation of X untradeable proxies on an account, at a rate of something like one Event ticket for five perfect proxies. I think that’s a decent rate – something like 6-7 dollars would take care of a bunch of Scars playtesting needs, for example.

2. Allow X-Proxy Tournaments

What Exists Now:

Currently, all Magic Online formats require users to own all the cards in their decks. There are no provisions made for formats that require cards that are difficult to obtain.

What Should Be Done:

For formats like Classic, there’s a good chance that people might not have access to all of the cards. The addition of proxy tournaments would boost participation in these less traveled formats. The decklists could be prepared in the Deck Editor as already shown, and then used in tournaments that would be listed along with all the others, like so:

Classic List

While I can’t be sure that formats like Legacy and Classic are seeing participation drops because many MTGO users don’t have access to the cards, it seems possible. I know that I personally don’t even know where to begin, and having access to something like four Force of Will proxies would be at least some incentive to look into those formats.

The ability to create and allow proxies could be one route to establishing the “Vintage” format online.

3. Add automatic trading to the UI

What Exists Now:

Currently, automated MTGO trades are accomplished by third-party “bots.” The trading functionality of MTGO is up to the task for most tasks that mirror real-life trading, but there’s the potential for a lot more. When a third-party program is being extensively used to supplement a program is strong evidence that the program in question should investigate adding that functionality.

What Should Be Done:

Ideally, automatic trading would be almost invisible to the user, even if that user was online. Using an interface in the “Collection” screen, a user could set prices while setting cards for trade, as shown here:

Trading Set Prices

The improved trading UI would allow fellow players to browse that user’s binder even when they were otherwise engaged – in a draft, asleep, and so on.

4. Add storefront functionality to the Marketplace

What Exists Now:

Currently, the Magic Online marketplace is just a series of ugly-looking horizontal ads. There’s no ability to do anything besides read an ad and, if interested, attempt a trade with the user, or send that user a personal message. I believe a lot more could be done.

What Should Be Done:

Implement the ability for accounts to design layouts for their marketplace spaces, with limited graphical support. Magic Online could charge a premium for this ability, for those accounts and users who fancy themselves profiteers on the secondary market, a one-time fee of $10, or even a low monthly fee might be appropriate. The prices for Magic: The Gathering cards and packs online closely mirror those of the physical game, but online, the secondary market is the Wild West. This would provide an easy avenue for physical secondary market giants to establish an online presence.

Marketplace copy

Online “storefronts” could feature graphical touts, clickable links to websites, “Buy It Now!” trade offers, and more. Certainly better than a big, gray horizontal bar run by some guy named “__________AAAAAAStorebot.”

5. Allow multiple simultaneous trades

What Exists Now:

Only one trade is possible at a time on Magic Online. For this reason, major online secondary market presences have up to a dozen linked accounts. These accounts clutter things up and basically constitute a workaround for a bottleneck created by MTGO.

What Should Be Done:

There’s no reason a single account couldn’t have an inventory of millions of cards, with the program’s functionality allowing it to serve many traders at once. Binders would have to be updated in real time, and cards would be available only as long as they weren’t included in prospective trades being offered by other slots. If a user happened to open the page to Koth, only to see the number of Koths “For Trade” decrement to zero, well… tough. As in the real world, the early bird ultimates the wurm. Normal accounts would still only be allowed a single trade at once, but WotC could add the capability for “Premium” accounts to have multiple trade windows open at once, for a reasonable fee. This would allow a seller to keep all his business under one easily recognizable roof, without the need to swap cards around, stock bots, or engage in any of the other logistics that are currently required to beat the trading bottleneck.

6. Allow trading hundredths of a ticket

What Exists Now:

Currently, one Event Ticket is analogous to an MTGO “dollar.” One ticket represents the least amount of “dollars” that anyone can pay for anything. Trading bots get around this by remembering their customers and offering fractions of a ticket in “change,” which is simply credit to be used later. A lot of users end up leaving this credit on the table.

What Should Be Done:

Almost everything could be kept the same (mouse clicks could increment the count by one full ticket, the Store would never sell fractions of a ticket, and so on) but players would be given the option to trade “fractions” of a ticket just to ease commerce. As I said before, third party programs are already MacGyvering this. Magic Online should follow that lead and implement a functionality that will reduce hassle for pretty much every player. It would be nice to just spend the proper amount without having to worry about losing value if I don’t go back to that same bot the next time… or the time after that… or the time after that… until I happen to arrive at a trade that works out to a nice, round ticket number.

7. Allow “quick-trade” one-for-ones advertised on Player Profile and Marketplace screens

What Exists Now:

Currently, it takes the following steps to complete an automated trade on Magic Online:

1. Right-click seller name.

2. Click to initiate trade.

3. Possible extra step: interact with bot to tell it if you are buying or selling.

4. Pick out cards/packs.

5. Type “done.”

6. Hit “Confirm.”

7. Review trade and hit “Confirm” again.

Sometimes there are plenty of extra clicks required, as a user must flip through pages of a binder, increment numbers of various cards, and so on. And god forbid the bot or seller is busy. Trading can take a long time.

What Should Be Done:

If you take a look again at the quick-and-dirty Storefront interface above, you’ll notice several buttons. Here’s what I imagine happening if you click the StarCityGames.com “Jace 50.00” button:

Trade Interface

This functionality would allow sellers to highlight priority items in their inventories and remove much of the complexity of trades for these items. Completing the transaction would be much more like entering an event than doing a trade as we currently know it. You click a button, and if you have sufficient numbers of the card or tickets required, you get one confirmation screen. If you confirm the trade, it’s done. Optionally, it wouldn’t require that you have the tickets/cards available for trade, in much the same way that an event entry doesn’t care if you have the tickets available. That seems more convenient to me, but the option could be there for people who like only their tradable cards and tickets to be usable.

I imagine there would be tools in the UI for both storefront and regular users to create these “Trade It Now!” buttons and embed them in their Marketplace ad spaces and Player Information screens. These buttons would be set up to automatically “grey out” if the seller no longer has sufficient copies of the card/packs/tickets to complete the transaction. Likewise, it would return an error message to erroneous clickers who don’t have the goods, in the same way that an event returns a message when you try to enter without sufficient product.

These buttons would allow users to complete trades in seconds that otherwise might have taken several minutes, depending on lag, bot response, remembering to make everything tradable, sellers being busy, sellers forgetting to take their marketplace ads down once they’re out… and so on.

8. Add calendar functionality to the UI

What Exists Now:

Currently, in order to see upcoming Magic Online events, you have a couple of places you can go. First, you can look in the various event rooms of Magic Online. However, events are listed in several different places (“Premier Events” and “Daily Events” both have tournaments that would interest many) and only very recent events and events that will be happening within about 2-3 days are typically listed.

Alternatively, you can visit
this page

and check out upcoming events there. This page is a good resource, but it’s a couple of clicks away and isn’t intuitively linked from the main program. It also doesn’t have links to information I want, like prize and qualification information. Prize information is available if you click on event names in Magic Online itself, but again – these event lists are only populated with closely impending events.

What Should Be Done:

What I would prefer is something like this, integrated into the main program:

Events copy

Calendar day fields would contain a short blurb about major events of the day. A click in a day-box would bring up a full hourly event calendar for that day (and multiple entries for the same hour would be possible, too – no reason to limit that, if multiple events are occurring at the same time). A click on an event name would bring up two different choices – either I could choose to go to the event room for that event and join the event, or I could bring up a list of pertinent information about the event, like the format, entry fee, qualification requirements, the number of byes I’m eligible for, the prize structure, and so on.

No need to use military time, as in the example above – it’s just a quick and dirty UI hack, remember. I just don’t want to get dumped out to the web for event information.

9. Add qualification thresholds + dates for upcoming events that require QP to the UI

What Exists Now:

If you want to see your current number of QP, you have to go

and CTRL+F your account name on a huge, unwieldy list that’s updated in the opposite of real time. It’s updated in unreal time. If WotC spotted you a free qualifying point just for being born, it might be reflected on the list by the time you’re able to grow a moustache.

If you want to see what perks your QP entitle you to, you can do that on an event-by-event basis by scouring various pages on the Magic Online site or by clicking the event name of an upcoming major tournament that says “Must Qualify,” at which point you’ll be redirected to a webpage that, somewhere, will contain the information you need.

I’m not saying you can’t gather all this information yourself – you can. I’m just saying, Magic Online should be more self-contained in this way.

What Should Be Done:

I propose to make it so that when you click on an event name, an information box pops up showing, among other things:

1. Your current QP

2. The number of QP required for the event.

Formerly, this would’ve been on two different webpages. I’ll show you a screenshot of this information box a little later.

10. Add monthly and yearly point standings to the UI

What Exists Now:

Nothing – in order to find out who’s winning the Magic Online POTY race, you need to go to the website. It isn’t just one click away, with a button exclusively for that purpose, either. It’s a couple of layers down, and again, the list is as long and unwieldy as (let’s just move on).

What Should Be Done:

Add a button to the front page that says “QP Standings” or “Online Player of the Year” race. Take all the

and put it on those lists. Make sure it updates in something close to real time. When a man wants to know whether The_Great_Dustini is 600 points ahead of him or just 580, he wants to know without suspense.

That said, while I’ll never be even close to the MODO Master that Dustini is, I haven’t yet been blown out by Serra’s Ascendant while playing for Top 8 in an M11 Sealed Premier. (Attack, Giant Growth, untap, maindeck Solemn Offering your Sorcerer’s Strongbox, and live the dream.)

This did in fact happen to The_Great_Dustini, leaving me to feel fortunate that I wasn’t in his shoes, despite the 600 point advantage. His opponent even had the “Still Had All These” Hunter’s Feasts in the chamber when all was said and done. The_Great_Dustini would go on to Top 4 GP Toronto, while his opponent would go on to chow down on a can of dental adhesive.

11. Add Top 8 decklists from major events to UI + ability to port to deck builder

What Exists Now:

Currently, winning decklists from major MTGO events are available online at… you guessed it… the Magic: The Gathering website, some
interminable number of clicks away from where I want them – in my Deck Builder! They can be found
under the event coverage

links, and there’s no simple way to import them to Magic Online. It’s a laborious process.

What Should Be Done:

What I’d prefer is something like this image, where you can simply click on the winner of a given event from a Constructed tournament and get his deck:

Standings copy

Once you click, it would open up in your Deck Editor immediately:

Justice Decklist

This would streamline a process that could take 5-10 minutes to just a few seconds. Again, this wouldn’t give players access to anything they don’t already have access to – those lists are a matter of public record. It just speeds things up and lets you avoid dumping out to the web to copy down a list and input it card by card, a vast improvement. I think immediately moving from the account name to the decklist will make it easier to more closely associate account names with their decks, which is nice.

12. Allow player notes

What Exists Now:

PokerTracker didn’t help me much since I’m terrible at poker, but I did see the usefulness of “Notes.” Magic Online doesn’t have functionality like this, and if you want to take notes on a certain player or account name, you need to store it in the old noggin’ or use Notepad.

What Should Be Done:

Rather than right-clicking on some random rube and seeing

notation, something like “joedonk 4 koth, vegeta66252 1 jace” or “sorry my poor english,” you could use the space for something useful:

Thage Interface

This information could be anything – the user would be the one entering it. They could keep track of another player’s tendency to draft certain colors, to play certain Constructed decks, make note of a player’s skill level relative to their own, or do any number of other things. And of course, the old “I owe this guy X of Y card” would be in play as well.

I can’t imagine this would be very difficult to implement – it’s just a bunch of text, and could be stored locally.

13. Make all ratings public again + make note of finishes

What Exists Now:

Currently, ratings are hidden, and nobody knows how anyone finished in anything or what events they’ve won unless they happened to see the name on the main page/event screen/website. This news fades fast, though, and it just vanishes into thin air. Kai Budde won seven Pro Tours, and nobody is ever going to forget it. MODO isn’t on nearly the same scale, but I believe we should aspire for it to be… and currently you could win ten premiers in a row and in a month or two, nobody would know.

What Should Be Done:

Simply, ratings and top finishes should be listed in Player Information screens. The rationale for hidden ratings is just flat-out pandering to the lowest common denominator on both sides of the issue. What are we, eight years old? Come on – just make ratings public again; this is ridiculous. Ratings are the best way we have to measure wins and relative success, and Magic: The Gathering is a competitive game. If you’re in an event with a K-Value, you should be prepared for your rating to be public. The people who caused this change to happen just disgust me – again, both sides. I hate the people making the fun, and I hate the people who can’t handle being made fun of who go crying to their mommies.

This is a mental sport, people. We need to keep track of these things. Please, stop sucking your thumb and put on your big boy pants. And as for the mean older brother who made fun of your 1383, call an ORC on him. Every time. After enough vacations he’ll get the message.

The screenshot below doesn’t actually show ratings, but gives you an idea of what a detailed “Trophy Case” sort of history might look like:

FFFreak Interface

Anyway, to conclude, bring back ratings and make rating-related verbal abuse a bannable offense, and encourage people to report it.

14. Add ratings-based qualifications for major events

What Exists Now:

Currently, ratings are hidden and don’t do anything for players in terms of qualification for tournaments (or anything else). In real life, though, players are able to qualify for events based on rating. I don’t see any reason why this shouldn’t be true of online tournaments as well.

What I Should Be Done:

Ratings should mean something. One way to add meaning to ratings is to give people perks for high ratings – such as qualification for major events, or byes. Information about this could be incorporated into the UI. You can see my suggestion for one-click tournament qualification information here as well:

Event QP Info

I do remember that when I used to look at the lists of top-rated MODO accounts, many of them were just languishing there, inactive. So if high ratings are going to grant significant perks, rating decay should be pretty aggressive, and an account should need to play something like ten sanctioned matches per month to remain on the top list and/or eligible to receive tournament invites and byes. That might seem like a lot, but really it’s just a Sealed Deck event or two, or 3-4 drafts.

15. Allow random pack draft format/bring your own pack draft format

What Exists Now:

Currently, to soothe the appetites of those who like to play with classic cards in Limited formats, Magic Online has a rotation of various “Nix Pax” formats, as well as the re-release of older sets (like the recent Urza’s Legacy) online, and also Master’s Edition, which is full of older cards. Still, if you have a hankering to draft Invasion or Onslaught again, there’s no easy way to do it without slavishly waiting.

What Should Be Done:

I think it would be fun to implement a permanent “Nix Pax” queue at a cost of fifteen tickets (a small premium) where each drafter gets three random packs of product, generated when the event begins.

Random Pack Draft

I believe this would be a fun, think-on-your-feet sort of format that would make up for in anticipation and novelty what it would lose in synergy. Despite the disparate card sets, I think the chance to get their hands on old cards would keep people coming back for more, and would also put more cards into the mix for formats like Legacy and Classic, leading to increased participation in events.

I know I would love to take part in some of these drafts. Prizes would be paid out in packs of whatever set was most recently released.

16. Allow “Cube” drafting

What Exists Now:

Currently, Magic Online offers support for a number of extremely fun formats like Momir Basic, EDH, and Two-Headed Giant, and Commander. Something is missing, though – casual Limited formats. There’s no support for “Cube-style” drafts. In addition to the “Random Pack Draft” idea above, this addition would add casual Limited formats that all could enjoy.

What Should Be Done:

Cubes could be built on the Deck Editor screen, and drafts could be populated by invitation, in much the same way that challenges are issued. The Cube “owner” would sit down in the casual room and wait until eight people were up for a draft. They could join the game and be allowed to browse a card list from the Cube while deciding whether or not to take part. Packs would be randomly generated from the Cube card list, which would have some manner of upper limit just so people wouldn’t make cubes of literally every card in Magic – maybe 500 cards at the top end. The draft would start with a personal message from the Cube owner, which might be a greeting or some explanation of the philosophy behind the Cube in question. Players would also be able to access Cube-related information while drafting so as to shape their choices. It might look something like this:

Cube Draft

I think this sounds like a lot of fun, and if WotC were to implement it, I’d go about the business of assembling my own online Cube and inviting my friends to play. Note that this is a great way to get people involved who don’t have accounts… I know many friends would pay a one-time fee of $10 to get a chance to stay in touch with me through regular online Cube Drafts. Like Singleton, this would also add value to “cool one-of” versions of cards.

17. Allow “Mental Magic” format

What Exists Now:

Currently, Magic Online doesn’t have support for Mental Magic.

What Should Be Done:

Mental Magic could be implemented pretty easily. Simply, pre-made “Mental Magic” decks would be provided, mirrors of each other (not necessarily sixty cards, mind you – the right mix of casting costs would have to be found), and at any time, a card could be laid as a Rainbow Land or a player could tap mana and then click a card to bring up a menu similar to the one that appears when you pick a card for Meddling Mage or Conundrum Sphinx. The player would choose a card, and his blank Mental Magic card would become a copy of that card:

Mental Magic

I think this would make a nice 2-man queue for the Constructed Room – a real battle of wits. Might also make a really fun format for the occasional tournament! Would Flores crush all comers?

18. Release the Power 9 online

Power 9

What Exists Now:

Well, Vintage certainly doesn’t… yet. Magic Online is like Noah’s Ark for Vintage – eventually the cards are going to get so scarce IRL that not enough copies will exist for the format to be widely played.

What Should Be Done:

Release the Power 9 online. WotC could charge almost any amount and people would pay it – I think $50 would be fair. I mean, that’s not even as much as one online Jace, and not even 1/100th of the amount you’d need to play Vintage in the flesh.

Vintage could experience a great rebirth online as a result of this move.

Okay, those are my suggestions. I believe that Magic Online would be a much better game/community if some or all of them were implemented. Considering how much I’ve spent in both time and money despite the shortcomings of the program, I can only imagine how much I’d spend if it were improved in even a few of these ways.

I’ll see you next week.

Geordie Tait


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