Tobold's Blog
Friday, September 08, 2017

Today Hascon 2017 starts, the convention of Hasbro, one of the world's largest toy and board game makers. Obviously gamers have little interest in the latest news on My Little Pony or Monopoly, but as Hasbro bought Wizards of the Coast, who previously bought TSR, Hasbro controls two of the biggest names in tabletop gaming: Dungeons & Dragons and Magic the Gathering. But the one reason I am interested in Hascon is the promised reveal of "Magic Digital Next", the next generation platform for playing Magic the Gathering electronically.

Right now Magic Digital Next doesn't have a lot of goodwill from the community. Too much went wrong or was badly handled with the previous incarnations like Magic the Gathering Online or Magic Duels. Personally I am still quite angry that Hasbro dropped Magic Duels like a hot potato in June. They should have waited with that until Magic Digital Next is actually available, not 3 months before we get to see the first playable alpha version at a convention. I am also unhappy that they didn't even make the slightest effort to bring Magic Duels in a state where it would still be viable to play until Magic Digital Next is released. Instead they left it as it was after they added the Amonkhet expansion, so the computer is only ever playing decks around that expansion instead of using decks from all previous expansions. And more than half of the daily quests are still for online multiplayer only, which is a problem when players leave an abandoned game and the remaining players can't find matches any more.

Then there is of course the issue of "virtual property". Previous versions of electronic Magic sold you virtual boosters of cards. If you are forced to switch to a new product, you lose your virtual card collection of the previous versions and have to start over. Legally of course you never really owned those electronic Magic cards. But players don't feel like that, especially with platforms like MtGO where cards can be traded with other players for real money. I liked Magic Duels because it altered the rules of how many rare and legendary cards you can use, which made building up a full collection much more affordable. I doubt the next version will have that feature.

I am still on the fence about Magic Digital Next (I assume they'll announce another name for it this weekend). I left MtGO long ago because it was too PvP-centric for me, which resulted in an environment full of card sharks, scams, and toxic players. I mostly used the PvE part of Magic Duels, which for me was probably the best incarnation of Magic on a tablet. So my appreciation of Magic Digital Next will mostly depend on whether it supports more than a token AI and PvE play. These days far too many game developers have become extremely lazy, and beyond a tutorial make their games mostly PvP, basically using their customers as content for other customers. As they never solved even the basic problems of that approach for virtual cardgames, like stalling or quitting at the first sign of trouble, I wouldn't be interested in a PvP version of electronic Magic the Gathering.

[EDIT: The new name is Magic the Gathering Arena, more info here.]

Give Elder Scrolls Legends a try.

Good game, genuinely free to play. There's a campaign to start, and another you can buy for cash or in-game gold. Zero griefing in ranked P2P in my experience, only 2 players quit on me in hundreds of games [*] and I've never seen what looked like intentional stalling. You get a game within 15 seconds. And you can only talk using 8 emotes (I don't like that but maybe you do.)

[*] Quit at the start, I mean, as distinct from conceding when the situation is hopeless.
"I liked Magic Duels because it altered the rules of how many rare and legendary cards you can use, which made building up a full collection much more affordable. I doubt the next version will have that feature.

Hearthstone actually does this with limiting their legendaries. They exploit this by having the legendaries for each expansion be even more overpowered than the last. So while no single deck can have all of them, you need to keep buying them with each expansion or you fall behind. A deck with legendaries from launch would be at almost as big a disadvantage as a deck with no legendaries at all.

I would say they can only do this for so long before the balance becomes out of whack, but the current back of legendaries is pretty laughably overpowered and Blizzard shows no signs of stopping. I went back to play a few dozen games a few months ago, and roughly half of those games were entirely decided by some overpowered legendary.
Glanced over the info on the new MtG Arena webpage. I'm in the same boat as Tobold in that I'd much rather play it PvE than PvP, and did so in Magic Duels for a while. I see no indication of any sort of campaign or single-player support in this, beyond a presumed tutorial mode of some sort. On the upside, it's supposed to be "free to get hooked", so I might mess with it some when it arrives. They're making all the same promises they made with Duels, I believe, like launching expansion in sync with the online version, which are really tough to live up to. It could easily take them up to another year+ to get this thing ready for launch, in which case they'll fall several sets behind from the one they have ready for testing now.
I'm signed up for the beta of MTG Arena. I'm curious to see how it pans out, but hesitant to spend any real money on it due to the volatility of Wizard's online MTG endeavors. Don't want to see that money go up in smoke when they decide to drop yet another MTG game. Then again, there's that supposed MMO in the works, which could also be interesting.

I'm more interested in the paper version of the game at this point anyway. Some of the spoilers from Hascon have been nice to see, and I can already envision upgrades to some of my decks coming through. I suppose time will tell if the new digital version of MTG will be any good.
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