SCG Daily – Diary of an Online nOOb: Day 1

I have played Magic a long time. I’ve won a (small) collection of Top 8 pins from PTQs, and a lot of cards. I’ve judged at Worlds and PTs, and have been paid in cards. I’ve written over a hundred articles on Magic, and have been paid in cards. I have a really, really big collection. And I’ve been playing for a long time. I had never played online. This week I will take you through the highs and lows of my first Magic Online experience.

I have played Magic a long time. I’ve won a (small) collection of Top 8 pins from PTQs, and a lot of cards. I’ve judged at Worlds and PTs, and have been paid in cards. I’ve written over a hundred articles on Magic, and have been paid in cards. I have a really, really big collection. And I’ve been playing for a long time.

I had never played online.

I live on a farm in a rural area. Up until recently, our phone line was garbage. On a good day, I was connecting at 22kbps. On a bad day, I wasn’t connecting (or connecting at 8kbps and repeatedly being disconnected). We have no cable TV service, much less cable modems. We have no competitors or alternatives, except satellite which costs a fortune and has a long




time. (As in lag time between send and receive, mouse click and response, get priority and time out, etc) Anyway, we talked about getting Magic Online over the years, but we always had a problem: downloading the program.

Last fall, I logged onto Wizards and gave it a shot. I had a good (for us) connection. My pop-up box informed me the download was expected to take 37 hours. Since we could rarely sustain a connection for more than an hour without it dropping, doing a 37-hour download seemed unlikely, but I gave it a shot. Five drops and reconnections later, the computer decided it had to start over from the beginning. Again. Like every time in the past. No MTGO for me.

Even Apprentice was too flaky to play.

Fast forward to this winter. Our local telco has finally sunk some investment into our area and improved our phone lines. No more phantom rings. No more (okay, far fewer) dropped connections. No more distant lightning strikes that still blow out our answering machines and phone line surge suppressors. (Note: a couple years ago, a lightning strike took out the surge suppressor, the modem and the mother board, but since it also melted the lightning rod cable on the barn and blew the back door off its hinges, that was somewhat exceptional.) More importantly, connect speeds have jumped and we may even be able to order DSL next month.

I was so happy I logged onto the Wizards site and tried downloading Magic Online. My pop-up box said I would get the program in only 19 hours. Half the time!

I gave it a shot.

No luck. Connection with server lost. Reconnect and resume, connection lost. And again. And again, until the computer restarted the download from scratch. Again. We still have dropped connections even with the improved phone lines.

So, fast forward to late last month. Ingrid had had the flu and it laid her up for two weeks. Now I had the early symptoms. I also needed a new memory stick, since the one I was using to haul files to and from work was getting full. I got a big one, and late one night I downloaded the install package at work and dumped it on the stick.

Two days later I definitely had what Ingrid had had. (We share everything.) I was sick, and after trying to do work – and falling asleep at the computer – I decided to install Magic Online. It actually installed. Then it downloaded the card images, but I slept through most of that. Many hours, and a dropped connection or two later, I had Magic Online installed.

Hoody Ho!

I fired it up. Since I’m not independently wealthy, I went for the try before you buy thing. Guest account, play with the other nOObies in the sandbox. I clicked on the room, did some random stuff, then finally clicked on a chair opposite an opponent. I had a game.

Well, first it told me to choose a deck. I correctly identified the pulldown menu and chose a deck at random. Exclusion or Expulsion or something. The one with Megrims instead of cards that actually do something. Then I tried the Blue one and Green one and, well, all of them.

Those precons are kind of boring.

I had read enough articles and rants about Magic Online to have a vague understanding of stops and settings, so I played around until I was reasonably happy with the appearance of my avatar and the game board, and had some idea what the game did. I had a few problems.

The game does have a tutorial. I didn’t read / watch it. That might have been partly because if men and instruction manuals ever occupy the same space it causes explosive rifts in the time-space continuum, but it was also because the tutorial was 92 meg and would have taken another 12 hours to download over my phone line. That wasn’t going to happen.

The most important event of my time in the sandbox was the response to my plaintive message: “I’m all screwed up. Tapped a land in my upkeep. Is there any way to untap this?” His response: “alt U dude.”

If you know nothing else about online, learn alt U. It’s amazing.

Tap mana in the wrong phase: Alt-U.

Target the wrong thing: Alt-U.

Declare the wrong attacker: Alt – U (or just click on it again.)

Lose the game and want a second shot: Alt – U

Actually, Alt-U ain’t gonna do squat in that case. Alt-U is good, not broken. Good trick though.

After a while, I got comfortable with the way the interface worked. I got to the point where I could modify the settings during a game. (e.g. I had turned off the stop at end of my precombat main phase, up until I drew my Monstrous Growth – and my Rhox.)

I won a lot of games, mainly because I don’t do things like Volcanic Hammer to the head on turn 2. Despite my misclicks and so forth, I can still outplay bad players.

Go me.

Okay, now the game was loaded, and I found I could tolerate the interface. Player interaction was a lot less than real life, but I didn’t have a 40 minute drive to the game store, and back, either. That’s nice. Nothing is worse than a long drive home at midnight after losing a draft – especially when playing for the rares and foils.

I decide to invest in MTGO.

Big surprise, eh? This would be a pretty short daily series if I had just uninstalled it.

Next step, though, was to talk this over with Ingrid. While we have almost got to the point where paper Magic is self-supporting, that wasn’t going to be the case with online. And the secret to a happy marriage, guys, is don’t mess up the money.

Besides, I was pretty sick and slightly feverish, so I figured my decision-making might be a touch impaired. I thought buying 100 tix, and 100 each of every available booster would make a nice start. The dogs thought that spending that money on dog cookies would be an even better investment.

After some negotiation, Ingrid and I decided on an initial budget of $100 a month, and a chance to earn bonus tourneys by completing various chores off the to-do list. On the plus side, since we live in a 120-year-old farmhouse with a dozen outbuildings, and since the former owners were quite elderly and had let the place run down, there is a huge to-do list. The downside is that entries are things like “put a new roof on the big garage,” “reframe or tear down the tobacco shed” and “paint the barn.”

Tomorrow: spending that first $100 bucks, and drywalling for tix.