The Magic Show #112 – Sugar and Spice

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Friday, September 5th – Hello everybody, and welcome to another Magic Show. This week we’re going to take a long look at the new magicthegathering.com, check out Benjamin Peebles-Mundy’s draft tools for Magic Online 3.0, discuss the latest Shards of Alara spoilers, and detail a brand new way you can support the show. Let’s go!

Hello everybody, and welcome to another Magic Show. It’s time to get into the swing of things with our first non-live show in a month. Wow. I almost forgot how to do this stuff. Anyway, this week we’re going to take a long look at the new magicthegathering.com, check out Benjamin Peebles-Mundy draft tools for Magic Online 3.0, discuss the latest Shards of Alara spoilers, and detail a brand new way you can support the show. Let’s go!

I'm awesome. Say it. Say it... I'm awesome. - Wesley Hall

New Webite Blues

Man, this is exhausting. Why is it every time Wizards of the Coast comes out with a ‘digital product’ I’m now scared to death?

Let’s face it, Magic Online and Gleemax were no walks in the park. But hey, the new magicthegathering.com is coming! They’re going to fix all of the problems they had with Gleemax and Magic Online by having a nice, clean, simple… layout…

Damnit. Damn it Wizards, this is what you give us? THIS? This…thing? This Flash-laden monster of a website? Good lord. Let’s go over this one point at a time.

First, the Flash-based nature. I want to perform a little experiment here, and you can play along at home. I want you to think of your favorite website. You know, the ones on your Bookmarks bar, that rule your del.icio.us tags, and so on.

Now I want you to tell me the number of those sites that have Flash intros on them. Got the number yet? I’m guessing it’s zero.

Okay, so you counter with: But this is the official website for the game! It is a game website, not a news website or some other time-waster. So let’s compare to the largest video game in the world right now, World of Warcraft. Now, in your defense, you could say that WorldofWarcraft.com has a splash screen intro as well. It’s not Flash or anything because, I mean, who would cripple their site like that (…crickets…), but anyway, they do. You know what else they have at the top of the screen? A nice little banner that says “Continue to worldofwarcraft.com” You can only guess what happens when you click it.

But here’s the rub: When you go back to worldofwarcraft.com, a cookie has been set that notes this user has seen the splash page, and to not show it again.

Now it may seem silly to harp on this Flash intro so much. But there isn’t so much as a banner at the top allowing you to skip it, there isn’t a little checkbox that says “Please don’t ever show me this intro again in my freaking life please, thanks”, and the worst part is, the link to the actual site content, if that’s what you want to call it, is below the fold. What does this mean? This means that at a large majority of the resolutions, when you pull up the site, you can’t actually see the button asking them to continue on to magicthegathering.com.

Honestly, when I first visited the new site I thought something was wrong: Where was the rest? Maybe it’s still in transition, I told myself, and left. It was only when I came back again did I noticed the scrollbar on the side.

Now before I let this go, and God knows I’ve beaten this stupid horse almost as much as I can beat it, one last point. On this extremely magical splash intro, we’re introduced to the three options: Planeswalkers, Planes of the Multiverse, and Five Colors of Mana.

Do you know what we’re not introduced to? What Magic: The Gathering, the game, actually is! I can only imagine what a person stumbling on the site would think. “Well, I guess there’s planes and walkers and mana and stuff, but how this all comes together, hell if I know.” There’s no context. It’s just worlds, dudes, and ‘magic-y’ stuff. Only when you click the “Continue to MagicTheGathering.com” button do you actually see, right there, below the Discover The Planeswalkers banner, that says “What Is Magic: The Gathering?”

That’s a damn good question. Maybe you should answer it on the homepage.

All right, last point. And I mean this with all due respect. But why does this new website do its best to hide the wonderful daily content it produces? Do you realize you’re actively making it difficult to read the awesome Making Magic, Latest Development, learn about drafting from Steve Sadin and the metagame from Mike Flores? Because it takes several clicks to get there, plus you don’t mention this content or its updates anywhere else, and quite frankly I’m disappointed that you took the centerpiece of the previous website – which screamed “Hey, look at me! I’ve got content every frickin day!”, daily content, I might add, that you pay good money for, and then hide it behind two clicks and a “Daily MTG” label that could mean pretty much whatever you wanted it to mean.

This stuff should be on the homepage. Something, jeez. How about instead of that silly Downloads section, which, for reasons unknown, links to zip files of desktop wallpapers instead of a page with resolutions listed instead like you would, I don’t know, guess was going to happen there… this is what you call “Mystery Meat Navigation” and it’s just not fun to use or explain. On the other hand, why don’t we get rid of this little box altogether and list the latest content updates on the site and link it directly from there?

How about we have another glowy-shiny-smokey thing in the Flash mist that says ‘What Is Magic?’ so people can have some idea of what is going on here? How about we make that the default selection to boot?

How about we provide a checkbox or a cookie that denotes whether a user has seen this, and that it shouldn’t bother them again?

How about we make Daily MTG the homepage, post-Flash intro if you must, so we highlight the content instead of advertisements?

So, what do I love about the new magicthegathering.com? The Draft Simulator! This thing is awesome! It’s a little rudimentary, and needs work on the A.I. and all, but seriously, this delivered just what was promised. I’m more than happy to complain when there’s a problem, but I wanted to take time out and give the love for this feature. I look forward to drafting a new simulator build every Monday. This is an example of a good use of Flash.

I could go on, but I won’t. I know you’ve got it in you, Wizards, and perhaps next time we can be a little less Flash-heavy and a little more content-inclined.

Magic Online Drafting Tools

A few weeks ago, our own Benjamin Peebles-Mundy took a look at the new “Record your drafts” feature found in the Game Play settings of Magic Online 3.0. Turns out that this feature created a simple text file of your drafts, what you saw and what you chose. However, as cool as this file is, it’s a little difficult in its formatting. This is where Ben comes in to the rescue.

On his site, Ben’s tools allow you to take this raw text data and turn it into an easier plain text format for emailing, Forum-tagged output for your favorite boards, “image” output for HTML-izing your draft, and “StarCityGames” output for those who want HTML in the same way that drafts are presented in the columns on StarCityGames.com. And all I can say is, this is frickin’ fantastic.

The ability to both record drafts and now have the tools to send them via email or post on forums has led me to actually draft on Magic Online again and makes me want to draft more often.

So kudos to Wizards of the Coast for this great feature, and for Benjamin Peebles-Mundy and his awesome tools. Now we have not one but two “Drafting With” series at StarCityGames Premium for you to peruse, all thanks to this effort.

Shards Spoilers Here We Come!

Okay everybody, it’s that time again. Shards of Alara is coming up and it’s quickly appearing that Shards of Alara is actually Planeshift 2.0. And by that I mean a ton of mana symbols, particularly those of the friendly variety, scattered across all cards. The skinny is this: Each tri-color section of the color pie, which is a primary color and its friendly colors, represents a “Shard” on Alara. These shards have broken off from one another, so the G/W/U shard has never seen the R/B/U shard. Suddenly these shards collide or… something… and all hell breaks loose.

All I know is it looks freakin’ gorgeous, and the story sounds awesome. So what about those preview cards, and what do they show us?

Let’s first take a look at Rhox Warmonk.

Rhox War Monk
Creature — Rhino Monk

Now this is a perfect example of Shards of Alara and its design. A ton of mana symbols, and a simple but powerful creature. Three mana 3/4 lifelink. Diggin’ it.

By the same token, check out Tower Gargoyle.

Tower Gargoyle
Artifact Creature – Gargoyle

This says a lot about the Blue shard, “Esper” and its make-up. This is a 1WUB 4/4 flying artifact creature. I repeat, this is a multi-color artifact creature. Sure they were introduced back in Ravnica with Transguild Courier, leading further into Scrapbasket, but this time they’ve gone all out: Every Esper creature, it appears, will also be an artifact creature. Each Esper card will also be an artifact. Take a look at Courier’s Capsule, sure to rock Standard in the upcoming months:

Courier’s Capsule
1U, T: Sacrifice Courier’s Capsule: Draw two cards.

Thanks to the Orb of Insight we also learn that while the FNM Thirst for Knowledge looked Shard-esque, it is not in Shards of Alara. Rather, we have some more interesting cards to devour. Such as this next one, called Goblin Assault

Goblin Assault
At the beginning of your upkeep, put a 1/1 red Goblin creature token with haste into play.
Goblin creatures attack each turn if able.

And while this looks like Bitterblossom 2.0, and some are calling it that with the ability to go first turn Llanowar Elves, second turn Goblin Assault, remember the key line that stopped Nom Nom (Tattermunge Maniac) from succeeding: “Must attack each turn if able.” That is such a huge beating. Sometimes Bitterblossom was fantastic because it was essentially Forcefield, as blocking definitely matters in today’s metagame. It’s cute that you can appear to get a heavy edge early, but after that this enchantment may not pay off.

However, remember with Bitterblossom, everyone dismissed it as being too detrimental an upkeep with its life loss. This one doesn’t even have an upkeep payment. I could imagine Turn 2 and 3 Goblin Assault would be pretty damn scary, but Turn 2 and Turn 3 Bitterblossom seems to always be scarier, life loss or no. Evasion and the ability to block are pretty important, I hear.

Lastly we take a look at a brand new Planeswalker. Yes, it’s Blue, and yes, it’s nuts. Check it out:

Tezzeret the Seeker
Planeswalker – Tezzeret
+1: Untap up to two target artifacts.
X: Search your library for an artifact card with converted mana cost X or less and put it into play. Then shuffle your library.
-5: Artifacts you control become 5/5 artifact creatures until end of turn.

Now this guy, like most Planeswalkers, may seem a bit unimpressive at first. Remember, Garruk was extremely underrated for some time after the release of Lorwyn. However, with Shards of Alara’s insistence on having Blue artifacts, with all of their creatures artifact in nature, this is about as close as we’ve seen to a blue Garruk.

But that’s not all, of course. This guy will be powerful in Extended as he can quickly and easily search up artifacts like Tormod’s Crypt, Pithing Needle, Umezawa’s Jitte, Sword of Fire and Ice, and more.

Also note he’s Flame Javelin proof. As long as you activate his first ability before passing priority this guy isn’t going down without at least two burn spells or a hit from Demigod of Revenge.

There’s even talk of this guy in Vintage – yes, Vintage – as the ability to tutor up artifacts and put them into play seems pretty good. Go find Time Vault, take an extra turn, untap it with Tezzeret’s first ability, go nuts? Yea. This is a Planeswalker that is truly scary.

Salute Your Solution

To wrap up this week I’d like to announce that misterorangeproductions.com is officially launched. This is my website for all things video that I do, including directing, editing, producing, and so on. Believe it or not, I do actually do more than just the Show. This site also allows me to do things such as recant stories about the first Magic Shows, a continuing series, but it most importantly affords me a unique style of fundraising.

Yes, it’s that time again. I’d really like to make it to Berlin for the Pro Tour, but I can’t without your help. However, I want to do something a bit more involved than just asking for $X, as there are more Pro Tours in exotic locations in the future. Instead I’m offering the ability to support the show each week through the purchase of trinkets – little icons that will display beneath the show, containing a personal message from yourself. You’ll also get your name in the credits of the show in which the trinket was displayed. These graphical trinkets are priced from $5 to $75, all based on the goofy nicknames I’ve given cards over the years.

Also, if there are any talented graphic artists out there who would like to design higher quality / better looking trinkets, I would be in your debt.

I honestly don’t like to ask for donations but many viewers have encouraged me to do so. This is my compromise: I won’t hit you up for $X; I’d rather give you a platform for support, at whatever donation level you feel is appropriate, and go from there.

So that’ll do it for another week of the Magic Show, folks. I would like to thank you for watching and do hope you buy a trinket or two in hopes of taking me to Germany.

Until next time Magic players, this is Evan Erwin. Tapping the cards…so you don’t have to.

Evan “misterorange” Erwin
eerwin +at+ gmail +dot+ com
dubya dubya dubya dot misterorangeproductions dot com