Hello again Magic Community,
It’s been a quiet week again, or maybe I’ve been too busy getting stomped in RIX draft to notice the relevant happenings. It’s a real moment of self-assessment when you look up at your pool and realize you’ve drafted “four-colour ok stuff” for the third straight time. But you don’t come here to hear me bemoan my talentless scrub lifestyle. You come here for loose recollections of what happened this week in Magic News. And the first thing that happened is I spent a lot of time getting reamed on MTGO. Everyone got that part? Write it down, I’ll wait.
Blake….Got….Reamed. Good. (Also, some folks in the comments don’t read my name on the byline and have been calling me “Jester” in the comments? I am so on board with that you have no idea. It’s a sweet handle. Anything that can link me to 1980’s era Micheal Ironside from Top Gun can only be awesome.)
And while I was getting reamed, I noticed the next thing that happened:
MTGO Continued to Suck
You know what’s worse than losing a game of limited Magic? Losing a game of limited Magic in agonizing slow motion because every click of the “Ok” button to move on to the next phase creates a 15-second lag delay. I got to experience that a lot this past weekend. Sure, I’m playing to my outs, but I’m basically dead on board. I’m staring down a 2 turn clock and I’m on the “Impale or bust” plan. So I draw a card at the start of my turn. No good. Click Ok. Wait 15 seconds. Main phase, play the useless land I drew. Click Ok. Wait 15 seconds. Go to attacks. Swing for a bit of damage on the off chance this game turns back into a race. Click Ok. Wait 15 seconds. Second Main, no action. Click Ok. Wait 15 seconds. End Step. Click Ok. Wait 15 seconds. Opponent flashes in Wind Strider mercifully ending it.
Here’s a general rule of thumb: when something bad is happening, slowing it down never helps. Imagine someone chopping off your hand. Ow, right? Now imagine someone slowly sawing off your hand. See? Way worse! Losing at Magic is never fun, but someone has to lose and its part of the game. Usually that someone is me, but that’s nobody’s fault but mine. Thing is, losing on MTGO is so much more demoralizing. I have to click 15 times and usually wait for the thick fog of lag to dissipate. Then, instead of a half-hearted “GG” from my opponent and a look of pity from across the table, my best case scenario is my opponent saying nothing. If they throw some chat my way, you can bet it will be more dick-ish condescending bullshit. Although, I will admit I love those same assholes on the rare occasion that I win a match. Their salt is the perfect seasoning to my bullshit lucky-topdecking and completely undeserved victory.
Arena Economy Announcement
Wizards released an article talking about their plans for the MTG: Arena economy and on the off chance you haven’t seen a billion thought pieces about it, I can give you a quick breakdown. It’s a “Freemium” game with a real currency earned for playing the game, completing quests and winning matches, and a “shortcut” currency that lets you just buy shit for money. This isn’t surprising, this is the popular model and it works. This is the exact Skinner box contraption that the Mobile Game / AAA Developer / Facebook Java App / Life-Destroying South Korean MMO / Guy Selling Crack in a Gas Station Bathroom industries have already got down to a science. A literal science that was used to get mice to starve to death. Anyone who heard that MTG: Arena was free to play and didn’t know there was going to be a premium currency probably really enjoyed churning the butter with the Elders in the barn this morning. It’s a part of the modern world and we’ve all survived it this long. Except for all the dead people I guess, but what do they know, they’re dead.
The more interesting point was a lack of a “dust” system. This is actually a pretty huge deal. So, for those of you who’ve never played other free-to-play CCGs, most of them have a system where you can grind down your unwanted cards into a “sub-currency” which is called Dust, or Essence, or Particles or whatever. Anyway, these “atomized” cards can then be reconstituted into the cards you actually want. This is also pretty standard in free games, but was never how Magic operated, because it had trading between players. Operative word being “had”. Arena will apparently not support trading or auctioning cards to other players. So, you can’t grind your collection down for the cards you want. You can’t buy the cards you want outside of randomly getting them as prizes or in boosters. You can’t trade for the cards you want. And yet, according to Chris Clay in his article explaining all this, letting players get the cards they want is the guiding principal of their entire design, to the point where he bolded that sentence. To that end, packs and prizes will sometimes spawn “Wildcards” which can be traded for absolutely any card you want of the same rarity as the Wildcard. To explain this new system in real world terms, let’s pretend you wanted a BLT sandwich.
You have the ingredients to make a BLT in your kitchen, but every time you start stacking them together, WOTC comes and knocks your sandwich on the floor. You try to go out and buy a BLT sandwich but WOTC won’t let anyone accept your money, vehemently proclaiming you made it all pimping out teenage runaways. You try to trade sandwiches in the lunchroom with a guy at work, but WOTC gives him a death glare until he becomes uncomfortable and decides to just go eat in his car. Finally, exasperated, you ask WOTC what they will let you do to get your hands on that sweet, sweet Bacon-y goodness. Cheerfully, WOTC says that they give away a BLT every once in a while in a sandwich lottery system and that they sell tickets for a dollar. They then look you dead in the eye and say they designed this system so anyone who wants a BLT will be able to get one.
I feel like that metaphor was very strong, and also that I want Bacon now.
Angrath Gets Stepped On, Jace Scolds a Sphinx
Now, I haven’t paid much attention to Huatli in my story sections. There are a number of reasons for this. That number is one, and it’s because she’s super boring. That being said, there is no faster way to ingratiate yourself with me than effortlessly pinning a rival under the foot your giant dinosaur minion, which is exactly what she did to Angrath in the latest story update. It was awesome and the fact that Huatli is mostly still boring does not detract from it in anyway. Kudos, Wizards Creative, I genuinely enjoyed your Warrior-Poet, if only for a few paragraphs. You then followed it up by members of all four factions meeting up in a temple and arguing over a golden disc. There was some posturing, some fighting and a little goblin who screamed “Violence!” but overall it was pretty forgettable.
Although, Huatli seems to have had some sort of spiritual awakening and is connected to the Elder Dinosaurs now? That could be cool, too. WOTC’s story team has genuinely been doing a lot better throughout Ixalan than I feel they did in Zendikar or Innistrad so I’m cautiously optimistic. If she ends up riding Zacama into battle I will take back everything I ever said about her and also spray paint her on the side of my panel van.
Also in this week’s story Jace and Vraska stared down Azor. Disappointingly, Azor wasn’t some scheming mastermind who had a bunch of answers and a few startling revelations to leave our heroes crushed under the weight of his brilliance. He’s what happens when dementia affects the “Lawful Evil” segment of a D’nD Alignment Chart. He did a bunch of horrible things, for a bunch of shallow horrible reasons and he was completely unsympathetic the entire time. If the intent was to have a philosophical argument about how a system of law is only as good as the people who operate it, I would say we missed the mark hard. The only thesis of the piece seems to be “don’t let evil Sphinxes design your government”. Which is true, but doesn’t seem very practical? Jace gets a little more formal about being the “Living Guildpact” and sentences Azor to exile on the Useless Island. Was it climactic? No, but then this isn’t the climax of this story. And it did make Jace seem like he’s got his shit far more assembled than he did even just a few chapters ago. I said last time I’m on team Blue Gorgon now. If these kids hook up I’m prepared to call Jace’s rehabilitation into a likeable character complete. Emotional maturity, strategic use of situational tools to solve a problem AND no more pining over Liliana? At this point I’m even ready to forgive the stupid anime haircut he had for awhile.
And as for story revelations, we got one: Azor’s spark powers the Immortal Sun and it was designed to trap Bolas in the furthest reaches of the Multiverse, but Azor’s partner screwed up around 900 years ago and the plan never got off the ground. Presumably we’re supposed to think that’s Ugin, but I don’t know that that name ever came up in the story. Could be somebody else. Or since Bolas knows about the Sun maybe he just tricked Azor into giving up his spark and making him a nifty cool weapon at the same time. We don’t have the data to know anything for certain, other than this thing is definitely ending up in Bolas’ possession. I would call Bolas a Mary Sue, but apparently if you make the villain entertainingly smug enough it sort of counteracts that. Plus, Wizard’s is correct that if this keeps up, I’m really going to enjoy it when he finally eats shit, preferably under Gideon’s boot.
Standard Seems Healthier Post-Bannings
Real quick, and only because I bitched about it last time, let’s acknowledge that Standard seems to be better off now. There’s no way to tell if this will stick, but it looks like the crushing of Red and Energy has let a bit of a more diverse ecosystem flourish. It’s still possible a super predator is discovered and dominates the field again, but if things continue as they are then I’m prepared to give in to results-oriented thinking and call this a win for WOTC. No Tribal though, because Tribal is for casual scrubs like me.
And that’s it. Did you guys have a wacky theory as to who Azor’s partner is? Will you teach me how to win at RIX? Will any of you bring me a Bacon sandwich? I hope you liked this week’s article. As always I require positive comments to not hurl myself into a jet engine every morning. My life is in your hands.