My Two Cents About Magic Online

So what does Magic Online provide? Convenience. But convenience isn’t a part of the game.

I’ve noticed several articles being posted about the recent announcement of Wizards’ plan to sell packs of Magic Online cards for $3.29 a pack. Having read none of them, I thought I’d give my own unadulterated opinion on the matter – because I know you all care so deeply.

Basically, I believe that Magic Online cannot compare to the actual experience of playing Magic and therefore is a very poor”substitute” and an even worse”addition.” I speak not for those who are going to begin their Magic careers with Magic Online, only for those who are already established Magic players.

Why do I play Magic? Well, for one, it’s fun. For another, there’s a great community of people involved. Finally, the actual experience of going to a tournament and sitting down against an opponent who could provide you with anything from the closest game of your life to the most humbling defeat of your career is irreplaceable. However, Wizards hopes to replace one part of it: Instead of sitting across my opponent, I will be sitting miles away from my opponent, whose voice I will never hear and whose facial expressions I will never read. In my opinion, this is taking away too much.

See, Magic is more than just a game – it’s an experience. A book could be written about the experiences had at tournaments. Oh wait, it already has! Waking up at four in the morning to drive to a city you’ve never been to in order to compete against strangers for twelve hours is an adventure. Signing on and logging into a tournament isn’t.

Additionally, for those out there for whom Magic is just a game, the presence of your opponent is a key feature in your play strategy. Let’s say that you know from experience that whenever your opponent draws a land, he immediately drops it into play. In Magic Online, you never know whether the land your opponent just played has been in his hand for one or twenty turns. This is only one example of the necessity of an opponent whose breath you could feel if you tried.

Of course, a main problem that I foresee in Magic Online is inherent in its name, Magic Online. I don’t know about you, but my computer sucks. As in, it takes me fifteen minutes to download a small mp3 – on a good day! It doesn’t take much to boot me offline, and I know of several others whose computers are even worse than that. What happens when that person gets into the finals and gets booted? It’d be like getting up to look at the pairings for the next round, and, after turning around to walk to your table, you find yourself at home instead. Oh, and your car’s still at the comic shop. Bummer, huh? Is this what you say to someone who’s invested hours of his life at a tournament, only to get bumped offline?

Another problem with the system if, of course, the exorbitant price charged for cards. I, like many players out there, have many thousands of cards, including a nice selection of good, playable rares. And, they want me to start all over? Buying packs?? I hear that there is a trading feature online, but really! These things aren’t real! I have a hard enough time trying to convince non-Magic players that my pieces of cardboard are worth money – to convince them that the information on my hard drive is worth money is a whole other story, one that even I wouldn’t buy if I were trying to convince myself!

So what does Magic Online provide? Convenience. But convenience isn’t a part of the game. If you could sign on to an online basketball tournament, would you? Of course not. The whole thrill of playing basketball is to get out there with your friends and throw the ball into the hoop. It’s not who has the fastest mouse, but who has the best hook shot. Similarly, online tournaments can’t provide the same Magic experience that Magic tournaments can. There’s just no comparison.

And, what about casual games? Apprentice is good enough for me. The beauty about Apprentice is that it’s a playtester’s dream. You don’t have to play with proxies, and you can play against a multitude of opponents and decks. Even if I were convinced to participate in online tournaments, it would be those involving Apprentice, not Magic Online!

So that’s my two cents. You readers are free to take them if you want – but Wizards, you can’t have them.

Daniel Crane

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