menu

Editorial: The Future of Magic Online

Are you a Quiet Speculation member?

If not, now is a perfect time to join up! Our powerful tools, breaking-news analysis, and exclusive Discord channel will make sure you stay up to date and ahead of the curve.

In a short deviation from the usual financial news, today's topic is one near and dear to my heart - Magic Online. Many of you who follow me on Twitter or read my ManaNation articles know that I started up on MTGO a little while ago, and it's been a hell of a lot of fun. I've been playing Pauper decks like mad, and just finished building Boros Bushwhacker in Standard. While learning the ins and outs of the market, a number of things about the game interface have come up. It seems that Wizards understands how valuable MTGO really is - both to them and the players. To them, it's an amazing revenue stream that likely scales better than paper magic (although I haven't got raw data to back it up). To us, it's a way to play our favorite game 24/7/365 with near-perfect rules enforcement, instant access to cards, and a diverse metagame.

Given the value of this tool, it stands to reason that its interface should be top-notch. No disrespect to the folks who designed the current incarnation of MTGO, but the UI is really horrible and ugly. I've never seen a modern program with such serious text display issues. Regardless, none of the gripes with MTGO are new anymore, and I'm sure that the new designer WotC has brought on board will do wonderful things with the software. To that end, here are a handful of things that would make MTGO truly "Next Level". The overarching concept behind most of these ideas - to make MTGO as unobtrusive as possible. Magic is already complex enough. The last thing any player needs is a layer of abstraction between their thought processes and in-game execution. It should go without saying that these ideas are being published with the express consent for the designers of MTGO to use them in any upcoming versions without any form of compensation whatsoever. Just in case 🙂

Deck Collaboration

This one's really easy. Much the same way you can challenge a player to a match or initiate a trade, why not have a way for up 4 players or more collaborate on a deck? The person who initiates the deck can, while in the deck building window, invite people from their contacts list to view the deck they're building. Integrate this with the chat system such that a small button toggles the user's editing rights. Clearly, this would be disabled for deck building within tournaments. It would take very little coding to implement, but would make deck building with a clan or team or even just a friend very easy. Having trouble building a new Standard deck? Open up a collaboration with your Spikey McWinnerson friend and have him brew with you. Just like you would in real life magic.

Fix the Marketplace

This was the idea that sparked the editorial. I'm a finance guy. I trade, buy and sell cards more than I play these days. There's no nice way to say this. The Marketplace makes me want to cut out my own eyes. The gaudy bot ads, the ridiculous symbols and colors, the fact that I have to search someone's advertising copy instead of their inventory, and the fact that stores need to use an absurd credit system instead of being able to transact in cash all amount to a hideously inefficient dinosaur of a system that's a nightmare to learn and navigate.

The issue of transacting cash or cash equivalents is a very sensitive one. Once cash starts being transacted, tax issues arise. Once prizes can be given a cash value without multiple layers of abstraction, gambling laws start to apply. I'd sooner trust a chimpanzee with handling legal issues than myself, but it seems like the next big thing for WotC to do to Magic Online is figure out a legal and elegant way to make buying cards online similar to doing so in real life.

The Dominarian Credit

World of Warcraft has Gold. Second Life has Linden Dollars. Why not give MTGO its own currency? That way, we can stop dicking around with having 5 cents of credit on 20 different bots. It's awesome for sellers because when they pocket 5 cents on the dollar hundreds of times a day, they make an absurd amount of money. That's pretty awful for us. Perhaps some research into how Second Life handles the legal implications of their currency having an exchange rate, but this seems like a very important change for Magic Online.

The Demise of Bots

God, I hate bots. Haggling with a robot running on a computer somewhere in Siberia, barking at me in broken English, hoping that no one else is trading with them while scanning gaudy overly-colorful advertisements hoping to save 10 cents on a chase rare is not my idea of a good friggin' time. Don't get me wrong - I love the idea of automating the buying and selling of cards on Magic Online. I love it so much, in fact, that I'd probably pay WotC a monthly or yearly fee to set up a web shop integrated with MTGO. People want MTGO stores. That's why bots are wildly popular. Why not just legitimize them and integrate them into the game? Give players a "Free" option, which allows them to trade with one person at a time and basic automation options, then give online stores like ABU, MtgMintCard and MTGO Traders the option to pay a fee to run a fully automated shop. They can set card prices within the software, and also set up rules for how to handle unpriced cards based on rarity, stock, and average market price. Personally, I'd consider paying a nominal fee to WotC to set up a bot just to buy and sell stuff and I'm not anywhere near the size of some of these sellers. Since we'll be using DC (Dominarian Credits) instead of event tickets Wizards can still sell credits but let the stores, who are paying eRent to WotC, sell the booster packs. Imagine the paper distribution chain without the big distributors. WotC sets up a structure with which to sell large quantities of online booster packs to the dealers, who in turn sell them for market price. Instead of MSRP of 3.99, which is arbitrary, let the market figure out what's best. If a set is hot, it might go OVER the MSRP. If it's not being drafted much, it'll drop under. Either way, WotC gets its money for boosters on top of having the stores paying rent.

Crunch Those Numbers

From a financial standpoint, once you legitimize online dealers and integrate buying and selling into more of a storefront style operation, you can really start harvesting data. It might not be popular with some dealers, but knowing that the average asking price of Baneslayer Angel is 55 dollars, but the average Baneslayer only really sells for around 49 is superb information. Seeing volume information can be good for R&D;, as they can see what cards are truly popular. For tournament players, they can analyze that an uptick in the volume of Eldrazi Monuments means that they should start sideboarding artifact hate and wishing for Engineered Plague reprints. For speculators such as myself, seeing that only a handful of stores are selling Nissa Revane tells me that supply and demand are not meshing and the price is about to go through the roof. Again, this is dangerous turf - all the information NEEDS to be anonymous. It's OK to say that 50 Baneslayers sold in the last 24 hours. It's not OK to tell people that kbreid@mtgonline.com just bought 4 from ABUGames@mtgonline.com at 12:23:34AM for 49.99 each. Anonymous statistics let the game evolve to a truly magnificent level - a bunch of math and stat nerds of all people should see the amazing potential in that.

The Mailbox

Scenario - I'm on now. You'll be on later, while I'm at FNM. You need to borrow some stuff for a premiere event. I pop open the in-game email client, punch in your username, and attach some cards. When you log on, you receive the cards. If I'm
worried about you sitting on my email and me never seeing my cards again, I can set a "return" time between 5 minutes and 2 days. If not opened by that time, it bounces back to me. Email within the game also makes sense for teams and clans who build decks. Maybe not everyone's online to collab on the latest sick brew for the next PTQ, but you can just link to your awesome deck that you saved online and have your teammates make suggestions. Just like in real life.

Aliases

This one's really simple. My username on MTGO is "kbreid" (feel free to say hi and play some Standard or Pauper, by the way!). Some people have usernames like XxSephirothxX. I won't judge those rare wayward souls, but I WILL forget who they are after they've been on my list a while. The days of the "handle" on the internet are numbered. More and more, people are correlating the internet with their real-life personas, rather than using it as an escape. Thus, I really don't care if your username is BabyGurl6969. I'm going to right click, hit Information, and under "Alias" I'm going to enter "Louis Scott-Vargas".

Notes Notes Notes

I hear they're adding a note pad. Thank the lord. That's a really great feature that needs to happen. That needs to go a step further. Think about some combination of hash-tags from Twitter, pic tagging from Facebook, and post-it notes on your desk. They should be sortable, searchable, and fully customizable. For example, my buddy list right now has a ton of random bots on it, in addition to people I actually know. I have to remember why each stupid bot is there. Rather than commit it all to memory or keep a cumbersome spreadsheet, why not just let me "tag" that user name with as many adjectives I want? There's a bot named Mr Creosot who trades 6 of your commons for 5 of his, which is godly for filling out Pauper decks. So, I'll tag him #pauper. Then I find a bot that sells crap rares really cheaply, and tag it #craprare. The tags you make up are your own. Now, when I'm going through my list looking to buy every bot on MTGO out of what I think will be the new hot rare that's still 10 cents a piece, I can just filter #craprare and save about an hour of random clicking. It's the online equivalent of standing up and yelling "WHO'S GOT CRYPT OF AGADEEM FOR TRADE!?" And we all know how well that move works. 😉

Along with notes should be a history log kept for every user you've interacted with. A text log of every chat, trade, sale, purchase and game played with that user will serve to jog your memory in case you didn't make good notes last time you interacted. This will also let the financially savvy among us keep great track of our dealings. If I can simply open up my transaction log and see every purchase I've made over the last year, I can figure out if I'm making money or losing money!

I'll leave it to the UI designers to figure out how to design the chat interface, but the abortion that is the right side of the screen is assuredly going away. Mousing over a card should be sufficient to display an oversized version, the online equivalent of picking it up to read it. In general, the UI should mimic paper Magic, and give only the information that's relevant to the game AT THE TIME. Floating mana symbols representing floating mana? Perfect! Red Zone opening up for Combat? Also perfect. The new way to visualize targeting is brilliant and elegant as well. Avatars are cute, but frankly are totally unnecessary to the game. I'd like the life totals displayed front and center, in a small status bar between the two fields of play. On that status bar should be the life totals of both players, cards in hand, graveyard, library, and any other relevant information to the game state like poison counters, storm count, etc. You can enable or disable showing these items in a preferences screen, or use an intelligent display. Let MTGO scan your deck list for cards with Storm and display the counter for the duration of the game. Same with poison counters! How hard can that be? This just serves to duplicate real-life functionality. I don't keep track of poison or storm counters every game I play, but if I play a deck with those abilities, I make damn sure I'm keeping track very closely.

Gatherer

When I'm building a deck, I often want to find a specific card for a specific job. Maybe I need to know what my life-gain options are in Standard, or maybe I want to find the best 2-power 1 drop in Extended. Magic's a complex game and all, but those are both easy queries to run on a database. Give deck builders access to powerful queries! Why can't I search the rules text of all cards in Standard with "*gain*life*"? Yes that might return some cards like "gains Trample until end of turn . You gain 2 life.", but you'll still get every card in Standard that's capable of gaining you life along with minimal "false positives". We're smart enough as a community to figure out how to use a basic wild card query. Give us powerful sorting and querying options so we can spend the time being creative, not digging through pages upon pages of cards.

Sounds and Alerts

Most people who have played MTGO for a while probably forget there are sounds. MTGO should be an almost transparent vessel that enables the playing of Magic online, not a game unto itself like Duel of the Planeswalkers. It should mimic real cardboard magic as closely as possible, and I cannot for the life of me remember the last time I heard a god damned trumpet sound when I declared attackers. Don't even make me think about having to turn them off. Just kill 'em. The only time MTGO should ever speak, squeak, beep, buzz or even flash is when the game requires action to be taken or a new message arrives. I'd love to know when my friend IMs me to say hi. I'd also like to know that I should alt-tab back into MTGO from eBay or mtg.com now that my opponent is done comboing off for the turn. That's when it's okay to do an AIM-style flashing icon and an inconspicuous beep. That's the ONLY time. The "Microsoft" style of throwing pop-up messages for every little thing and beeping constantly is no longer in vogue, so why should it happen on MTGO?

I've not said much about game play because I've been very happy with that aspect so far. It's a little cumbersome at first, but once I got my stops set correctly, I didn't have to do all that much extra clicking. One thing they need to add - more visibility to the "shortcuts". Pressing F2 for "OK" and F4 for "I'm done unless you got anything" and F6 for "I got nothing" is useful, but I'd really like a UI element that adds that functionality as well. It'd be nice to see a little green button that just says "GO" on it. That'd be the shortcut for "I'm done unless you got anything". Even though most times we say "go" and won't respond if they have an effect EOT, the game can't know the difference. Better to just ask for one more confirmation after an opponent plays a spell. When your hand is empty and nothing in play has an ability you can use, you can just press the "Got Nothin" button to save time.

Still Got These

One of the problems with the "I still had all these" issue is that players say it when it's not appropriate. Easy fix - if a player clicks the "reveal hand" button, enable the I Still Had All These Button. Only once a player has decided to show his hand in order to prove that ONE MORE SWAMP would have won him the game will you be allowed to show him "all these". This is far and away the most important change MTGO could implement, and if any one point is taken away from this editorial, it should be the preceeding point.

Wrapping up, it seems like WotC is taking MTGO seriously and realizes its potential. If they can make MTGO unobtrusive, give it the social ne
tworking features it needs, and give dealers and individual traders alike a good interface for transacting business, it will gain ground quickly. If they can then find a way to let people trade in real cards for online cards, thus eliminating the "I don't want to have to get these on MTGO too!" argument, it will take off in a big way and make the company a LOT of money. When WotC makes money, they can hire more and better staff to dedicate to Magic development and everyone wins. Not every idea set forth herein is a great one, and there are surely challenges to be met before any of these ideas can be realized, but each and every one of them would be a boon to the online game. I encourage any readers who support these ideas to pass the link to the article around to ensure that the people who develop Magic Online at least have the opportunity to read and consider them. MTGO's a wonderful tool for Magic players new and old, and I look forward to growing with the MTGO community for years to come!

Kelly Reid

Founder & Product Manager

View More By Kelly Reid

Posted in Uncategorized

Have you joined the Quiet Speculation Discord?

If you haven't, you're leaving value on the table! Join our community of experts, enthusiasts, entertainers, and educators and enjoy exclusive podcasts, questions asked and answered, trades, sales, and everything else Discord has to offer.

Want to create content with Quiet Speculation?

All you need to succeed is a passion for Magic: The Gathering, and the ability to write coherently. Share your knowledge of MTG and how you leverage it to win games, get value from your cards – or even turn a profit.

10 thoughts on “Editorial: The Future of Magic Online

  1. Wizards will take care of those issues when v3.5 is released. You can search for the videos on youtube. It will be browser based (Safari, IE and Firefox) and uses the Microsoft Silverlight Technology. You can play it on Mac, Windows and Linux OSs.There's not a release date yet but I can't hardly wait for it to happen.

  2. Some of these ideas are great, some wouldn't happen in a million years I think…The number cruncher idea would be fantastic! But it would make speculating so much easier that I fear it'd put a person like yourself out of business. Everyone'd be doing it.The "mailbox" idea seems cute, but might invalidate the whole system of 'buying' cards. People would just borrow cards off strangers. Said strangers would feel secure about lending them because they'd be sure that they'd get them back.Or maybe I misunderstood the whole mailbox idea.I agree about those stupid noises that the client makes. Get rid of them!Letting the market decide the price of boosters is interesting. I'm not sure that wizards would be willing to let go of the monopoly it has on supply though.

  3. I disagree that making the financial data available would lead everyone to speculating. That's exactly what stock traders complained about when the same proposal was made for the stock market. However, it still takes research and time to invest in stocks even with all the data readily available.I say crack open the data and let people come up with cool new ways to visualize it.

  4. "The number cruncher idea would be fantastic! But it would make speculating so much easier that I fear it'd put a person like yourself out of business. Everyone'd be doing it." 99% of the community would have no idea what to do with the numbers. I'm sure of it."The "mailbox" idea seems cute, but might invalidate the whole system of 'buying' cards. People would just borrow cards off strangers."You misunderstand – the "return" thing is only if the mail isn't opened within a period of time – that way your cards aren't in limbo for weeks at a time. Once you mail the cards to someone, they become the possession of the recipient. If you want them back, just like in paper, its on you to get them back."Letting the market decide the price of boosters is interesting. I'm not sure that wizards would be willing to let go of the monopoly it has on supply though."They don't have a monopoly. Most players don't buy from the WotC store, opting instead to buy tix and then buy the packs from bots below MSRP. This way, they can make money selling boosters to dealers and let the dealers pay rent on an online store. Different business model, they might actually make MORE money. Let them award "Credits" as prizes instead of boosters so that players have to spend credits at the dealers (and thus, the only source of boosters is, at its base, from WotC.

  5. "Along with notes should be a history log kept for every user you've interacted with. A text log of every chat, trade, sale, purchase and game played with that user will serve to jog your memory in case you didn't make good notes last time you interacted."this already exists, to an extent. that is, you can access your chat history dated back to the launch of v3 with each user you've chatted with. Each history has its own .txt file on your hard drive somewhere. also, game logs are kept on the clientI agree with everything you say in this article, to varying degrees, except the "still got these". what are you talking about? I don't understand. good editorial though

  6. Thanks for your replies (to my replies) I appreciate you taking the time.I was looking at all the decks in standard, considering what would be the wisest investment… your articles have started under my skin, I've been thinking a lot about Quietly Speculating.It then occured to me that the smart thing to do would be to buy key pieces of Every deck, thus spreading the risk around. Any thoughts on that?

Join the conversation

Want Prices?

Browse thousands of prices with the first and most comprehensive MTG Finance tool around.


Trader Tools lists both buylist and retail prices for every MTG card, going back a decade.