No Sane Player Would Buy Online Cards: Boycott Magic Online!
I want you to act or react; that's the point of this article. Better yet, I want you to delete Magic Online from your computer and consider playing online Magic for free if you already own certain software.
Yes, you've read a good many rants concerning the downside of Magic Online - but have you ever really gone through an article that describes, point by point, the various arguments that support Magic Online? Do Magic players really know how they're throwing away the money they're spending? Are people clear in understanding that the digital cards you pay cash for are truly only rented?
Laziness and lack of knowledge have caused many people to sit on their rumps, accept the status quo, and shrug their shoulders. Are you complacent? Better yet, are you one of the sheep who thinks he is "beating the system" by drafting and winning prizes without having to buy new cards?
Think again, my friend. By supporting the illegitimate bastard child of Magic, you're condoning the watering down of the game. Your support shows Wizards that their "lovely" marketing plan is worthwhile and effective.
But let's start at the beginning before I put all the writing on the wall. Let's start at the beginning. If you're clueless as to why so many players are against Magic Online, here's Wizards' policy in black and white:
"In the game, you will create a library of digital objects that depict physical Magic: The Gathering cards and will obtain a limited license for the right to use such cards. You will not acquire any ownership interest in the digital objects."
Don't believe me? Well, here's a screenshot of the license from the game.
So what does that mean?
When you buy the digital cards with your hard-earned dollars, you're truly only renting the cards. When Wizards decides to shut off the servers, *blink*! Your digital objects become useless. You'll turn on your computer, try to connect to Wizards' servers, and you won't be able to play the game.
Who cares? I care. The fact that people are selling Magic Online digital objects on eBay for lots of money is insane. Why would you spend $10 for a digital card when you don't truly own it? Why would you be so dense as to support such a system?
Listing the Arguments
Let's go through why Magic Online users support the game, one at a time.
1. I live in the harsh wastelands of Antarctica and don't have anyone to play Magic with, so I use Magic Online. It's easier for me to play at home on my computer than making an effort to socially interact with people at a local comic store.
Look, we've all been there. You're tired from work or school, it's late at night, and the local comic shop closed hours upon hours ago. I do understand.
I also understand that you want to play Magic any time you want. Gone are the days when I used to go to the local diner and play Magic with my buddies until 6 a.m. The temptation to play Magic any time you want - man, that's a tough one.
Why should you resist? Solidarity.
Giving into using Magic Online is basically patting Wizards on the back and saying, "Thank you so much for screwing all of us Magic players. Not only have I spent a fortune on real life cards - but now, if I wish to play the same deck I own in real life, I must spend another huge amount of money to build my Standard deck online. Thank you, Wizards."
Am I saying you shouldn't play Magic Online? No. I am saying that if we all boycott Magic Online we can make a statement. There are other ways to play Magic (with great graphics) for free without having to give in and use Magic Online. Read on!
2. If you draft online and stay up until all hours of the night, you can win packs from eight-year-olds who don't know how to draft. Drafting online allows you to play Magic Online for next to nothing! Why should I stop this?
Another good argument. There are ways to play sealed deck online, for free, without Magic Online. I do know that with using MTGPlay (more on that program later), you can't Rochester draft easily. Drafting is an important part of the game, and I understand that players want to do this at any time of the day or night.
I'm not against drafting at all hours, but I am against professional Magic players who are helping to support a corrupt system. Magic Online is maliciously evil.
Any system that forces its players to pay full price for digital cards that you don't even own - it's pure, unadulterated evil. I can't find any nicer way to put it. The Pro Tour players who use Magic Online for drafting are supporting an illicit system. By "cheating" the system by playing in drafts to win your cards, you're thinking about only numero uno - yourself. The millions of other Magic players out there are being fleeced with the cost of Magic Online. Through your support, you're telling Wizards, "Heck, I can play for free so it doesn't affect me. I don't care. Charge players whatever you want. I'm out for myself."
As long as players continue to support the system, Wizards will not relent. Join the boycott.
3. I'm a scrub and don't know how to play the game. Learning Magic is difficult. There are thousands of cards, rules, errata; I need a computer to show me the way.
What is my response to this point? I'd tell the person to simply put their real life Magic cards down and walk away from the game. Just give up. Because if you're unable to learn in real life by having people teach you, then don't support a freaking greed-machine Magic Online system, ruining Magic for the rest of us!
Seriously, if you need a computer to tell you timing and rules, then just give it up. Magic started out as a real life game in which you socially interact with people - not a computer. There are no level three judges standing over my shoulders when I play a game in real life. Yes, I have many rules questions and these can be looked up if need be - but for the love of God, please learn how to play the game and stop spending your hard-earned money by throwing it out the window.
4. I hate cheaters. I want to play Magic Online so that no one cheats. The computer is my friend and it will protect me.
Okay, let's take a step back. No one likes cheaters (except those who cheat). I am morally opposed to anyone who tries to cheat in a game that consists of cardboard. Think about it: Someone has to prove that their self-worth is larger than it really is, so they cheat to "prove" that they're good. How lame is that? I'm there right with you.
Cheating is wrong. Yes, it happens all the time in drafts, sealed deck events, Pro Tours, and so on. I'm glad that Wizards cracks down on cheating. I'm extremely happy that Wizards bans and suspends players... And yes, in real life, it's not easy to stop people from cheating. It happens all the time at local comic shops around the world. Players cheat.
Online, yes, it's great to use Magic Online so that people can't cheat - but is that true? Is it not possible for me to create two Magic Online accounts, log on with both accounts, and then rare draft? I can then take my cards and sell them on eBay. Or better yet, I can play against myself in the draft and win. I bet that some people have found a way to cheat the system. I wouldn't be surprised if people have (or will) hack into the Magic Online servers. If people can hack into Microsoft, sooner or later they'll break into Magic Online. Online play outside of Magic Online can be riddled with cheating.
Again, Magic players need to partake in a code of conduct. If you're a cheater and are discovered, you're done. Players should shun you. No more reindeer games for you. I've played many games using MTGPlay and I haven't encountered much cheating. Most "cheating" turns out to be a misunderstanding of how a card is played or simply forgetting to do something (untapping land and so on.). In online play, I enjoy having to be on my toes - to make sure that I have done all that I'm supposed to in playing a game. To me, this mimics how you need to be aware in real life.
5. When you go to the movies, you pay your free, watch the movie, and come home. You partake of a good experience. The money you've spent hasn't physically bought you anything. Why are you so upset about thousands of players using their money to "rent" digital cards to have a good time? Isn't it the same thing as seeing a movie?
Out of all the arguments, I think this is one of the strongest. When we have free time, we spend our money on activities. We buy time to play games at arcades but we don't take the game home with us. What's the difference in sitting at home, buying time to play games online?
I disagree with the theory behind the renting of Magic cards. Let me explain. If I am playing a game of Mortal Kombat, I don't need to spend more money in the game to get more abilities. I simply put in my coins, know the moves, and fight away. Imagine spending fifty cents on a Mortal Kombat game and your character only had two legs with no arms. Wouldn't you want to spend the extra money to have your character obtain two arms? I surely would.
With Magic, you can spend $9.99 on a preconstructed deck, but you're going to get trounced when you play constructed Standard. Other players are going to smack you around with their Astral Slides and Exalted Angels. You're going to want to buy more cards online.
And there's the rub: If you own an Astral Slide deck in real life, you're going to want to play the same deck online. You might have spent over a hundred dollars to put together the real life slide deck. Now you'll have to trade and buy all the digital cards to rebuild your deck.
Who has the time or money for that? Not me.
And if you do have the time for that, man, why not take a step back and get some fresh air. Think about what you're doing! The argument for drafting online makes more sense to me than playing Constructed Standard online. Wizards is forcing players to make a choice: Where do you want to spend your money? Online or in real cards. Considering the fact that I've owned some of my real life Magic cards for nearly ten years, I can't conceive of spending a lot of money for digital cards that you don't even own. Ten years from now, will you still "own" those cards? Not if Wizards shuts their servers.
Looking at Magic Online as watching a movie is not a sound comparison. When you pay to see the movie, you get the whole deal. The beginning, the middle, and the end. In Magic Online, you can partake in limited fun, but you don't have access to the full range of cards. You're being restricted in that your $9.99 only buys you a preconstructed deck. Several tickets will get you a draft event, I know - but I've asked drafters to join the boycott. To realize that in the greater scheme of things, challenging Wizards' pricing structure will benefit them in the long run.
Remember, Magic Online is marketed as a game. A game is something that brings hours upon hours of enjoyment for objects that you own. You spend X amount of dollars and in twenty years you can pull out that Atari 2600 and still play it. It's not, you spend X amount of dollars and whenever Wizards decides to pull the plug, you're done.
Games are collectible. Gee, isn't Magic a collectible card game? How collectible will your digital objects be when Wizards servers shut down? Think on this: Wizards stopped supporting the Magic: The Gathering Interactive Encyclopedia after only four years. I've been playing Magic for nearly ten years. Why should I have to keep re-investing my money in new and enhanced online services? Wasn't the $40 or so that I spent on Magic: The Gathering Interactive Encyclopedia enough? Or, if not, then how about the Microprose games that I bought?
(Remember Spell of the Ancients?) How many times does a player need to spend money for an online game? I bought my Unlimited cards in real life nearly ten years ago, and I'm still using them. Now that's what I can an investment! Don't rent digital cards. Buy real life ones.
The arguments that I have mentioned are some of the more pressing ones. Granted, people have probably come up with a zillion other reasons justifying why they'll spend money on Magic Online. But I'm asking: Can you do without the Magic Online game and focus your energy on other Magic online games?
Playing with the Past: FREE Online Magic Games
I've received e-mails from Magic players from all around the world after I wrote my "What Wizards Doesn't Want You to Know" article for the now-defunct Grimmoire.
They've thanked me for the knowledge I gave them. Many people just simply didn't know that there was a way to play with Alpha through Legions cards online for free. Granted, you do need the Magic: the Gathering Interactive Encyclopedia and MTGPlay (free software), but I've played hundreds of games online for free. And the graphics in the game are amazing! If you're not convinced, just check out the link to my article that contains screenshots of the game and full instructions on how to get started.
Look, there are always different sides to a story. You can spend your hard-earned money on Magic Online or you can try another way. Will it be an easy way? No, it may not. Finding a copy of the Interactive Encyclopedia might be difficult, but many people still have this game in a drawer somewhere and they're not aware that they can play online with now. To get started, the steps are easy:
- Install the Interactive Encyclopedia on your computer
- Install all the patches for all the sets from Nemesis on up.
- Load MTGPlay version 1.1.348
- Visit the MTGIE Chat Clubroom at http://www.geocities.com/mtgieclub/chatroom.html
- Play the game
I recently rebuilt one of my computers and it took me around ten minutes to get the software installed on my system. And once you're done, that's it. Just go find someone to play with, or spread the information to your friends, and create an online Magic night. With being able to play a four-player game, you can have hours of fun with nearly all Magic cards ever created. Yes, that's right. You can use Alpha through Legions, APAC lands, Portal Three Kingdoms cards, and even Unglued. You'll have an infinite amount of cards. Want to play a Type 1 deck with Moxen? Go for it. Or maybe you need to playtest a new Extended deck? Easy. Maybe you're really into Standard and want to build a Constructed deck with four of the hottest cards around? The good news is that you don't have to buy or trade for any of those cards; you'll have them all.
And if Wizards shuts down their servers and goes out of business tomorrow, guess what? You can still play with anyone in the world with all of the cards. How good is that?! You can play sealed with Alpha and Arabian Nights packs or do Onslaught Block. It's all up to your imagination. The time you were spending trading for online "digital objects" could be used to build new decks. See a new deck you want to try out from the StarCityGames.com forums? Just build it using MTGPlay. You'll be able to test out the deck and the sideboard in a matter of minutes.
Is any of this possible in Magic Online? No, no, and no! My frustration is that many people do not have this knowledge. I ask you: If you could play Magic online for free, anytime you want, wouldn't you try it? Wouldn't you give it a try?
The problem is that Wizards wants you to use Magic Online. It's spent a lot of money in making this the sanctioned game of the online Magic community. Wizards used to support the Interactive Encyclopedia, but their online game was horrible. MTGPlay (free software some guys created) fixes all of those problems and allows you to play one on one or up to four player games. Yes, you can't easily Rochester draft online, but you can play any Sealed or Constructed format you want for free. No need for tickets, buying packs, etc.
Magic Online could have been a great game, but no sane Magic player will want to spend money on online digital objects that match his real life decks. Players just don't have that kind of money. Being forced down one path is limiting and not your only option.
Imagine for a moment, if only another one hundred players come together from reading this article and set themselves up with MTGPlay and the Interactive Encyclopedia. Imaging visiting the MTGIE Club Chatroom and being able to play with those one hundred players. Isn't it tempting? Information longs to be free. You have a choice. As a player of Magic, you can support a system in which Wizards wishes to gouge you for online packs (that you rent and don't own) or you can play MTGPlay with the Interactive Encyclopedia and play the game for free.
The MTGPlay route isn't easy. It will take some getting used to (there's no level three judge looking over your shoulder - it's exactly like a real-life game. It's just you and another player - though you could have up to two other players join in spectator mode and they can judge your match), but it will bring you hours upon hours of enjoyment.
I am not against Wizards creating a viable online gaming environment; I'm just frustrated that Magic Online isn't that game. I would have paid for a subscription by month or would buy a ton of cards online if the price were a fraction of the real-life price, but I have only so much money and so little time. Wizards has ignored many players, alienating us from the online environment. Their choice has caused many of us to band together and forge our own path. You can be part of the problem (supporting an unfair price for rentable digital objects) or join the solution. Use that copy of the Interactive Encyclopedia you have in a drawer somewhere and play Magic online, for free, for hours. Spread the word, spread the excitement and most of all - spread the fun!