After reading David Spears’ and Nick Bartdof’s comments on Magic Online, I feel I must throw my hat in the ring and defend the most-used and most-loved online program available: Apprentice. I must state that I am clearly Pro-Apprentice and Con-Magic Online, for reasons I will answer as I bring up each point.
The first thing I did when I heard about it was post a few messages on the StarCity list and find out what people thought of it. Many people were highly supportive of the program and are dying for a new interface, since they’re dissatisfied with Apprentice. Since I also wanted to hear what a dedicated Magic channel thought, I went to #Apprentice and #MTG Online (so is Wizards gonna shut down this channel cause it shares the same name? Hope not…)
And here are the responses I got:
My question:”Will the release of Magic Online cause you to buy it and abandon Apprentice. It will feature online play, trading, virtual boosters, multi play” 🙂
<theprez> no magic players are lazy
<Qborg>Magic Online costs money
<dave2099>I’d rather go to a shop and buy boosters
<Londe> pay for virtual cards YESS
<absorb> is stupid
<dave2099>if they do that NeutralGround will go out of business
<CrazyPier>But whatever guys, you can play 60$ US for a product that has casual play features!
And then from the #MTGOnline channel…
<FC|Thrash_Go>it costs money
<CM2|Stoned_Rain> Would you download it from warez and abandon APP for it?
<CrazyPier> no I wouldn’t Stone Rain, but people on the Star City list have made points for it, and I wanted the pulse of a channel
<Simulant> I almost NEVER buy software
<Ludic> No one will pay much to get magic online
<Ludic> since they can already do it for free
<LeafBoy>i might buy it, depending on how much support it has, and how many people are actually going to get it. It looks good, but if people already have Apprentice, why would they buy Magic Online?
I know this is only six or seven people on a channel, but the feeling seems to be,”if it’s not free, I won’t get it or I’ll burn it off someone.” In my case, I won’t be buying it, since nearly everyone I do play online with uses Apprentice and is sticking with it. On to the points by Mr. Spears:
1) Entry fees. Mr. Spears states:”How about that monthly fee? For the moment, let’s call it 9.99. (I am not saying this is what it will be, or if there will even be one, but let’s go with that for a bit.) How much money do you spend traveling to tournaments in real life? Food while you are there? Entry fees? This can be compared to what you will have to pay to use Magic Online each month.”
Well, when I do go to tourneys, there’s a five-dollar entry fee, plus whatever money I spend on food and drink (say ten bucks) so it is actually cheaper for me to get Magic Online from this aspect. The problem is, this assumes that I will be playing Magic Online to the exclusivity of”real” tournaments, which is obviously flawed. I believe it will come down to this for many players: Pay fees to play online in the comfort of your own home or go down to the shop and support it, and meet your friends. Need I bring up David Phifer’s article about supporting your local shop?
2)”Still not convinced? How about this? Wizards plans on supporting online play like they support real-world play with sanctioned tournaments, a rating system, and lots of prizes. This will be separate from you DCI tournament play and ratings, of course – but so what? I can see a whole new breed of players embracing the game because this software makes it so easy to play.”
Again, this is spectacular, but MTGonline.org has its own ratings system, using the DCI ladder, where you can win boxes and packs for free in huge challenges. Additionally, you can get invited to Invitationals without having to have ludicrously high ratings. The new breed already exists, and it lives in various IRC channels. Many of them remain unconvinced of the need to get this program.
3)”I have practiced a lot of Sealed and Rochester Odyssey drafts in hope that it will help me as I try to qualify for San Diego. I know many of you are saying, why not use Apprentice, but it is just not the same. The interface for Magic Online is light years ahead of Apprentice, and getting a draft started is so much easier. Plus, you get the added bonus of actually winning cards when you play on Magic Online.”
I’ll concede that from what I’ve seen of the screen shots of Magic Online, it looks breathtaking. As for its being light-years ahead of Apprentice… Well, I’ll have to see this for myself. I find it hard to believe that it could be easier to start a draft with Magic Online, where you obviously would have to connect to a given network, where in #wiredraft or #e-draft you can simply ask for a draft and get one within a few minutes. As for winning cards with the electronic version, are these virtual cards or actual cardboard? Because you get the real thing in the Magic channels…
Now, on to Mr. Batdorf’s arguments:
1)”I actually like the idea of starting people on common ground. The thing that is wrong with Apprentice is that you can’t increase or decrease your collection of cards; everybody has all of the cards in an infinite amount. In this case, you essentially build up your collection right there online…”
Well, this is simply a question of opinion, but isn’t it much easier to test when you have every card at your disposal? I know when I want to test 1.X, I truly enjoy being able to build any deck and run it through a gauntlet. Would I be able to do this with Magic Online? How is serious testing encouraged if you don’t have a full pool of cards to go with? I know, I know; who really owns all these cards? Well, I know (or knew; the person referred to has stopped playing) people that had eight to twelve copies of every good card in a format so they could build multiple decks with them. Apprentice simply eliminates the sometimes-bothersome trading aspect and makes skill the deciding factor.
2)”I think that the game will be a success and will appeal to tournament players and casual players alike. The tournament players will love the round-the-clock tournaments that they can enter in at all times of the day and night. The casual players will love the thrill of beating an opponent that is halfway across the world with their Hydra deck. The players that live in areas not known for Magic players will enjoy the games they play online when none are available without a long-distance travel.”
I, too, believe this game will be popular with all sorts of people, but Wizards is going to have to be very aggressive with its advertising and product placement, so it can get players already sold on the product and those that may be more jaded and reticent to try something new. As for day and night tourneys, casual play, well… These can already be had in the above-mentioned channels, and where on Magic Online can you get conversations about the Earth’s shape, the Beatles, or details about other channel user’s private (?) lives at a moment’s notice? What sets IRC channels apart from anything else is their eclectic nature, their innate camaraderie, and sometimes fiery hostility.
In closing, now that I have answered the above points, I am going to do a little pushing of my own, for Apprentice.
Top Ten Reasons to stick with Apprentice:
10) Little dedication to resources from computer, plus gives access to Netdraft and other utilities.
9) Access to all the cards, even the goofy Invitational ones
8) Constantly supported channels that hold everything from Block Party to Standard to Rochester drafts
7) Timely updates as soon as spoilers are out
6) A great number of Pro players and their testing groups have IRC rooms and use Apprentice to test. If the Pros do it…
5) Variety of casual formats available through the interface: Chaos Magic, Rochester Draft, Standard, Vintage, Sealed Deck, Booster Draft – you name it, it’s got it. (Ummm…. Multiplayer? Emperor? No. Let’s not go overboard with this”variety of casual formats” stuff… – The Ferrett)
4) No monthly charges, no charges for tournaments, cards, excellent prize support for big tourneys
3) Wizards shut down DragonStar studios; sticking it to da man is all rebelly and stuff.
2) More widely-supported by the Magic community as a whole.
And the number one reason to keep using Apprentice:
1) It’s free. You just can’t beat something for nothing.