Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
A first look at Magic the Gathering - Tactics

A reader alerted me that Magic the Gathering - Tactics had launched, and a day later SOE sent me the newsletter confirming that. So I downloaded the game, and gave the game a spin.

Magic the Gathering - Tactics is pretty much what you'd presume from the name, a mix of a trading card game with a turn-based strategy game. From Magic the Gathering the game inherits the monsters and spells being "cards", from which you build a deck, draw a random hand during combat, and play the "cards" using mana you get every turn. But combat is like many other games with "Tactics" in their name turn-based strategy on a board of squares, with tactical elements like zones of control and flanking. The mix works reasonably well.

Nevertheless I wasn't very happy with MtGT. I don't have anything principally against the Free2Play business model, but MtGT looks very much like an Allods-like overpriced ripoff to me. Not only are the cards quite expensive ($3.99 per booster), but in addition to that you also need to pay to unlock the chapters of the single-player campaign, at $5 per chapter. Yes, you get your starting deck and the first chapter for free, but then you'll basically pay $1 per new single-player battle. You can replay those battles, but only the first time gives any reward. So just buying the full campaign already costs you $20.

Due to the cards in the boosters being random, you need to spend over $50 on boosters before you have enough cards to build decks of other than your two starting colors effectively. SOE suggests you buy a virtual box of virtual boosters of virtual cards for just $83.99. *Cough* Ripoff *Cough* And to trade these cards they offer the auction house (which has filters but apparently no sort function), in which cards can only be traded for gold. And of course the gold for that you can buy for Station Cash. I haven't tried the multiplayer functions yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were tournaments which cost money too. Magic the Gathering - Tactics really feels as if it nickels and dimes you at every move you make.

I think that is a strategic mistake from SOE. If for example the PvE campaign was free, more people would play the game for longer, and then sooner or later start buying cards. As it is, you reach the paywall far too early, and one "daily" battle isn't enough to keep you motivated to play. The game isn't bad, but the cost structure risks to strangle it before it can take off.
I was really hoping to finally learn to play, and enjoy, MTG... but I don't think I'll bother with the 1GB download if it will actually take that much money to play :(

Buying virtual cards for the same price as physical ones really doesn't seem like a good deal.
@Paul: This would be the wrong game to learn to play MtG. While part of the game mechanics have been borrowed from MtG, MtGT is a completely different game. What you need would be the considerably cheaper Magic the Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers, available on various platforms, or on Steam for the PC.
"facebook" model... if only tactics were used in financial departments too, we'd see less of those.

Well, if SoE wants to kill the golden chicken before it hatchs eggs, eh. :)

I remember in the 90's it was the same "rake the cash asap" with the "internet" startups mentality. get a % of a % of projects now, rather than potentially more later. Easier to put a figure in a PPT than a excel pivot chart.
In terms of cost to benefit ratio, I prefer both duel of the planeswalkers and MODO
What really irks me is that any time a TCG comes out in online form, the price of the online virtual "cards" remains the same as the price of physical cards. It's the same with eBooks.

It's an overestimation of the value of their content, I think; publishers of all that media assume that people assign all of the value to the content, and none to the package/form factor, and I think that's really missing the mark.

I couldn't bring myself to spend $4 on a pack of virtual cards; not when I could head down to my FLGS and pick up the same in physical form for the same price.
When I first saw the game play I immediately labeled this game as "Heroes of Might and Magic the Gathering". Its not a bad concept and could have done well.

However, the pricing model and the somewhat unfinished look to a lot of the game are causing major angst with the peeps.

I haven't seen such a forum bloodbath since Elemental first came out.
In general, the entire TCG pricing model is fast becoming overpriced in a day and age where 0.99 cents for a cheap game or addon is the norm.

At most, I'll shell out $10-$15 to do a draft in person with friends and stuff, but that comes with an added value of an entire afternoon/evening's worth of entertainment.

$4-$5 for a booster pack just doesn't excite me. I don't think it ever did.
I think MtGT will be one of the biggest disappointments of the year, at least for me, it's hard to imagine something could beat it.

I tried the game, lured by the perspective of free play I could later enhance by paying. Turns out the free play lasts an hour, and things are really expensive - for the price they ask I would much rather buy physical cards that hold more actual value, or even mtgo cards that allow a wide range of free or cheap activities once bought and can even be exchanged for physical ones if I really wanted to.

Then there's the whole other side of failure - the game itself. It's slow, laggy to the point of being unplayable. While doing the single player missions I often thought my units ignored me or the game crashed, only for them to move 15 seconds after I issued the command. In threads with complaints about the game you can find people describing that trying to play against another player often results in a loss by timeout if you have more than a few units, since the game basically freezes if you try to move any of them.
Seems like SOE is trying too hard to milk the f2p/cash shop thing. Everything seems overpriced. LON is crazy as well. EQ2X is not a great deal compared to the regular game. It is like a kid setting up a lemonade stand in your neighborhood and charging $4 per dixie cup full. I don't care how cute your setup is. That price just doesn't work.

I started playing LOTRO for the first time just to pass the time until the next Rift beta which is today. Sure they are aggressive in that they are willing to sell you just about anything, yet my impression of the prices where that they were much more reasonable with the exception of the expansion packs. Crafting recipes for 10cents? I can't think of anything on the SOE marketplace that is that cheap.

I think SOE is going to kill their games though their own greed. So much for learning from fables like The Goose that laid Golden Eggs.
MtG has always been a stupidly expensive game. It has great game design for the most part, but the TCG business model is awful. MTGO has used the MSRP for a while now (so it's often *more* expensive to get cards there), and it's only the secondary market that has allowed the game to be playable on the cheap.

I like Magic, but the business model keeps me from playing. It's the same for sub MMOs, come to think of it.
I've been playing MtgT for almost a week now. I'm embarrassed to admit that I've spent more than $40 on it and I am far from having a decent deck. The game tactically is broken, there are random luck factors which doesn't work for a tactical game. The talent trees add more %'s to the mix (a 20% chance your creature would get +10/+10 boost, a 20% chance when you flank you deal extra damage). Too much randomness.

The client is bugged as hell. Last time our chat was sending double messages. Tournaments crashing, Client crashes, Disconnects, Bugged Dailies, Horrible UI design, Stupid Auction House, No direct trading, and really too many issues to list.

Take my advise and don't even go near this game. At least not right now. Wait till they fix their pricing policy (whoever brought up the idea of spending 1 gold to put a card in the AH needs to be fired, even ranked matches cost 1 gold each... !).
I wonder how much of this pricing is SOE or Wizards of the Coast? I have always felt WotC was way more greedy and "protectionist" of their IP than anyone else.

So i won't be surprised if WoTC is enforcing some sort of royalty that is so high, SOE have no choice.
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