Greetings all and welcome.
Take a walk with me and think back over the years to before the internet (I know it’s hard to believe we were ever without it!). Magic was in its infancy and so was I. Magic was played around a kitchen table with decks that always had to have that one Zuran Orb and Black Vise you had. You met after school with the 1 or two friends you had that could play, you knew nothing of the pro tour and having to travel almost an hour to get your hands on the new Homelands cards – because you really wanted a Baron Sengir for your vampire deck.
Fast forward a few years and Wizards released a few M:TG PC games that meant you can build decks and pit them against the awful AI of the computer.
Forward further, you get to university, you discover beer (or cider), which conveniently does not go well with unprotected cards and you finally invest in some sleeves, do some sanctioned tournaments and even play in a pre-release. You browse the net occasionally for articles and find out you can’t play or even afford the good decks. Oh well, more beer it is!
But then a revelation appears in Magic Online. You try to resist downloading it and installing it, but you fail miserably. Soon you haven’t slept for a few days, have a distinct caffeine tremor and can’t remember when you last changed your undies. When you break out the sunshine hurts your eyes and you realise you have lost many hours of your life you will never, ever get back.
Now, don’t get me wrong, MTGO is changing magic. It predicts the metagame, though online shifts are very frequent so don’t always reflect the real world. It allows people to get together and practice without the need for a kitchen table. And without having to buy the furniture surely you must save money? You’d think.
The biggest draw (to me) and the biggest problem I have had with MTGO is the constant supply of drafts. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (excluding downtime) drafts run whenever eight people are ready. These are single elimination with a choice between the 8-4 and 4-3-2-2 queues (number of boosters on offer as prizes) for most of the available formats. So you enter, open some junk rares, get knocked out round one, sulk a little and then you hear the inner voices:
Me: “Go on, just one more draft”
Good Me: “Well that is going to take some time and money…”
Me: “But… all you have to do is click here and here, a few numbers here and I’ll have the boosters ready.”
Good Me: “Well….
Me: “Or you can pimp off all those commons and uncommons and those unplayable rares you always end up with…”
Good Me: “But….”
Me: “Shut it! We’re signed up!”
When you have auto-complete for your credit card number on the MTGO shop site you know it’s going to be bad. After a few months and a spiralling credit card bill something drastic had to be done:
“Are you sure you want to uninstall Magic: The Gathering Online?”
I guess I can use the hours I regained to earn extra money to pay off my overspending.
But then there is a revelation. I had heard before about netdraft and it seemed a bit too complicated to actually get running. Then someone suggested www.O-Gaming.com. I already owned a copy of Magic Workstation (An invaluable purchase) and with a bit of help I got online and sorted.
For the uninitiated O-Gaming is a magic online league of sorts, with its own rankings and judges. Tournaments are run less frequently then MTGO but sealed, extended and standard are all there. More importantly draft is also run as a single elimination event with a java based website server providing a very clear if somewhat simplistic system. You do not get pictures or card information but that is something that you get used to. Similarly trying to build sealed or draft pools on a website with no space to move things about according to casting cost and colour is tricky too, but in fact I suspect it would make you a better player in the long run as you have to manage more in your head. The level of opponents is also variable but generally pretty good too.
Registration is a very quick and simple process, allowing you to get into the game quickly and effortlessly. People online are all very helpful and soon the feeling of being a noob settles and you can join, locate and play games with ease. The games themselves are played via Magic Workstation, which can also take a bit of getting used to, such as using the wrong shortcut keys and effectively cheating. Results are all entered on the o-gaming site as are the resulting pairings.
Mostly I have played in small tournaments though the occasional Grand Prix or large scale tournament also occurs. If you are bored you can always just sit in mIRC and talk to the random people there, though cleanliness of language is not always guaranteed.
But the best bit though – It is all free! Gratis! No money changes hands at all.
A few bugbears in the fact that people often drop meaning that tournaments can be shorter than anticipated and that the challenges themselves happen rather infrequently barely detract from the appear. All in all I have been convinced and have enjoyed many a wasted hour drafting and chatting. For those who claim they can just use MTGO to watch constructed games I say “BAH!” because I certainly don’t have that sort of willpower. My money is safe and I don’t have to worry about sunburn, making conversation or washing again.
Hope to see you all soon on mIRC #o-gaming,