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By: Paul Leicht, Paul Emerson Leicht
Oct 17 2014 5:20pm
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Crises Modes
By Paul Emerson Leicht, October 2014

 A Spelljammer doodle
Spelljammer ship the Sky Squid.

Introduction:
Since June people have been in Vintage Masters limited queues. Until they went offline last week. This week VMA prices have sunk down to low points, particularly for the Vintage format only cards. What is going on? I asked this question in the comments section of this week's FFTR (with AJ + Josh) and got an unexpectedly comprehensive answer from fellow PureMTGO user, TheKidsArentAlright (great name by the way, I love the Who) here: puremtgo.com/node/11715#comments

He explained how the format has been sinking because of a lack of attendance to Daily and Premier events. He linked to a MTGOacademy article by Enderfall (a well known Vintage player)  which is an Open letter to Mike Turian (the fellow most likely to be influential in WOTC decisions regarding Vintage Online, I presume.)  I didn't read the whole thing in detail because TKAA was kind enough to encapsulate it for me and frankly I am dealing with the beginnings an Autumn cold while writing this so my focus is already pretty splintered. Here is his whole comment:

So that's one crisis. The potential stillborn death of Vintage format a mere 5 months after its inception. And with it the Classic format since that was subsumed by it. Our troubles don't end there, however. It has been 4 months since the beta rollout (into v3.4xxx) and there are still many severe problems with it. Some of these problems have directly led to other crises (like the Vintage diaspora). We harp and we make lists and we post angry or bemused posts and the response thus far has been mixed.  We have posted bug reports and discussed the bugs that annoy us, in Chat Support (the Room for discussing difficulties with MTGO). 

Improvements:
According to this article by Chris Kiritz. The graveyard is about to get a facelift. This is to treat a long time (albeit very minor if irksome) problem in the play scene. Sure I think there are higher priority things to fix but hey the Graveyard should be nifty to use soon.  

And Binders will be getting benefit of the filters that you can use for decks which will not alleviate the major problems with the Trading Scene (http://puremtgo.com/articles/state-program-september-19th-2014) but they will help a tiny bit with setting up trade binders. 

The part where he talks about "Continuous Improvement" seemed very good news indeed until he talked about the Loading Screen. Which as far as I know is still as annoyingly slow as ever. Hopefully when he talks about it improving he means sooner rather than later. 

In all it sounds like Chris and crew are not actually asleep at the wheel as perhaps feared by the Chicken Littles among us. On the other hand if the tone of future changes amount to basically nothing important improving, this could be yet another serious crisis. One of confidence. We are almost already there as it is. I don't know how long before that state of affairs affects WOTC's bottom line but I can see plenty of signs already of things spiraling out of control. By the way if you are wondering what happened to the What's Happening page that told you important stuff like if the servers are up, that's here now.  And the newly formatted version of the news page

As the comments section in the FFTR podcast article indicates, Leagues sound like they are on track and may add the needed impetus to bring some of our core player base back to the fold. Even if there is no Vintage League immediately, having another way to play Magic on MTGO can't be a bad thing. I remain hopeful if concerned.

Taurean Mauler Mirror Entity Chameleon Colossus

Tribal Changelings unchanged:
Meanwhile one of my favorite formats to play on MTGO (Tribal Wars Legacy) remains crippled by a very simple failure on V4. The failure of the client to recognize the keyword Changeling properly, so that a 60 card deck with some number of changelings + some number of other creatures of the same tribe adding up to 20 doesn't count as a legal tribe. Part of the difficulty may be a stupidly technical one. Since the type line says Shapeshifter instead of all types the client apparently does not bother to implement the Changeling keyword properly. This means any tribe with less than 5 unique members in it does not count as legal when you add in the appropriate number of Changelings.

You can read more about our request to WOTC to fix this (since they restored Tribal Wars as a format last July, after an extensive campaign to get it done by the community) here and here. Still no reply since last week so I guess we can assume the ignorance is deliberate and not merely an oversight by busy worker bees.  

It really bothers me a lot that this is still an issue. Almost like "We restored your pitiful damned format for you, but we broke it a little so you can just eat crow and deal with it!" Though I know no one at WOTC is actually that petty or vindictive. (In my personal experience they have always been quite the opposite.) And while my imagination leans toward the darker thoughts I expect this is just a matter of it being really really really low on the totem pole of priorities sticking out of their offices. After all look at all the other crises they aren't dealing with. Those surely are higher up on the list of "Things to fix".

And if you feel like you have something to say about any of this you should. Wizards apparently wants to know. "LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK!" is the catchphrase they use. So do it. Don't let them down. 

A Quitter's Dilemma:
Recently while becoming active again in the Mothership forums I ran into an interesting discussion about this problem, the Quitter's Dilemma. The Quitter's Dilemma is: If you do not play a game out, your opponent is inconvenienced, and if you stay in you may be wasting your time, particularly if you have already decided the game is over.

Now my position is that conceding is a natural part of the game and we should accept it, even when the person doing it is being a bore about it. As several well known players including Nushai and AJ_Impy have said repeatedly: "Play what you want, concede when you want." I could not agree more if I jumped up and down while shouting it from the rooftops.

Abuse
On the other hand if you are getting abuse, report it. Screen shot it too. The cs report site will reply with a request for that anyway so get it done. Don't expect any more follow up because that won't happen. I don't like doing this and I expect most people with any empathy won't either but it is better than letting someone continue being that way to multiple players until someone finally does do something about it.
 

The thing is some people really get bent out of shape when their opponents quit. Heck I get a little peeved when I open a perfect (or nearly perfect) seven and then my opponent mulligans to 0 and quits. So I understand the feeling. Admittedly that happens less now for some reason. I am of the mind that if you mulligan to 5 or 4 (at the minimum) and still don't like your odds/hand then you play it out a couple turns since you never know what you are facing or how critical not drawing those 2-3 cards will be. If you can't be bothered then at least apologize to your opponent.

I think that is what people really object to the most. No one likes to be shut out or ignored and a little courtesy goes a long way. Most players will understand if you really don't want to play/can't play for some reason if you just communicate it.

Bad Chat is Bad?
This of course assumes you can chat. One of the many pet peeves I have about the current client is how it was designed to be antisocial. On the one hand your game log is in the chat screen at the top. So if you want to get the most out of your game experience you REALLY want your chat to be open and visible. But if you do not have a multi-screen setup you might find this annoying. Because the chat does not auto-dock, nor is there a function in the options to have it do so. If it did then at least it would be no worse than the previous version of the client. And since the client does not automatically remember settings you may or may not start your matches with your chat docked. If the client does remember, it does leave it where you left it. But this is all just to say the chat interface is bad and has led to some of the problems being complained about in the above thread even if people don't see it.

By all accounts I've encountered, Version 3 saw a marked decrease in chat usage precisely because it was a huge downgrade from Version 2 chat-wise. I seriously never expected it to be even worse in this version. We should be being encouraged to chat more not less. The separated window just does not work properly with most computer set ups. (And there are other issues to do with separate Windows while playing. Apparently according to one user, you can't reliably use the Function buttons if you have one open as it may steal the focus and thus not work.) As a player you want, nay need MTGO to be full screened. Thus you do not have room on your window space for another discrete object like a chat window. You want tabs and other modern space savers to take over the task of dealing with multiple windows. Not assumption of wealth, or hardware.

But MTGO chat has tabs you say? But they don't work like tabs should. They actually make it harder to have multiple chats going at the same time and the indication that someone has pmed you is barely even noticeable. The double arrow hideaway button that opens the menu that switches between your various chats is just an extra click between every interaction. And that is where it comes down to. No matter what you do, if you want to be sociable in MTGO you have to click more. And we all know that clicking more is the bane of the internet user.

The internet user needs good alternatives to clicking more often where possible. That isn't to say one shouldn't expect to click at all but wasted clicks = accrued mental fatigue and most people are adverse to that accrual. So what we have is a culture developing (or being nurtured even) where chatting is not encouraged, social interaction is minimal, the game is less enjoyable. The lack of chat interaction does not stop with the big picture functions either. Being able to auto-greet your opponents was something that not only saved typing sometimes but also gave people no excuse to be completely antisocial when being polite was just one click away.  Granted many used it as a way to avoid chatting but hey, Magic players are not renowned for their amicability.

Additionally the lack of emoticons and more importantly auto-linking of cards makes discussions far less enjoyable and interesting/informative than they used to be. And lastly the removal of the ability to post an entire text list into chat means that sharing decks and deck ideas is more cumbersome than ever before. I don't know that this last was intentional. I suspect it is just a "too bad" side effect of the From-The-Ground-Up reinvention of the chat interface (wheel) that happened 2+ years ago and was never put back together properly because, extra features are extra. Even when they are clearly useful, needed and not really extra.

No chatting = No Manners:
It does not take much for people to forget their manners online. In fact being unable or unwilling to chat removes the only possible way to keep your opponent from being upset when you abruptly quit (it could still happen but explanations help) or when you are stalled (because of lag, RL or what not.) I can remember many a time when my opponent said "brb, baby crying" or something like that in Version 3. Now people just leave the keyboard because they don't even regard the chat interface at all. It is shit. So why should they?

Admittedly the older players, the veterans (like me), the more experienced players and those who are sociable make sure to use the chat as poor as it is to their advantage and also to make sure that their opponents don't think less of them. And thankfully that culture has not be entirely lost to version 4. But it is a thin line between hating chat and not using it. I have been tempted on occasion to not bother struggling with the docking to get the chat in the right place before the game begins or between the play/draw choice and mulligan/keep choice. I can imagine those without patience just let it languor unheeded as an extra window whilst they proceed to play. And since many of the newer generations of players are more consumers of Video Games than social board/card games they may not even think of other players as real people. Instead they may see them as objects to be overcome in their quest to win more.

I expect that is probably the case more with teenagers who generally are less socialized and tend to be less empathetic to begin with. (Though generalities go out the window once individuals are engaged.)

While I am talking about how messed up chatting is on MTGO I might as well show you something:

What if your buddy list has 400+ friends?????
Names blurred to protect my friends.

So you may notice that my buddy list now stretches from near the top of the screen to nearly the bottom of the screen. This is because I cut my list down (over time) from hundreds of buddies to just those most important to me. The amount that is remaining, 26, JUST FITS the client. Because this implementation of the design is terrible.

Villainous Wealth

Greed is Good??
This thought is the original one that excited me enough to start this article. Because of Villainous Wealth. Villainous Wealth is one of the cards in Khans that really caught my immediate attention. I had to wait a few weeks to get my play set as I knew they would not stay at 2-3 tix each and currently I think they are about .05 on Traders. Which is their natural nadir since junk rares usually hit bottom fairly quickly online. I am predicting Wealth will not stay a junk rare for too long though. It has some potential to blow up your opponent's game plan.

It gets much better when your opponent's deck is full of the power cards that I think of as making up Standard format's Lego blocks. Nothing says fun like punishing your opponent for playing with greedy cards. And by punish I mean Genesis Waving to get them yourself. This of course works best when your opponent has few lands since lands just hit the exile pile without effect, stealing a slot that might be a game ender otherwise.

It is not a bad thing to stuff your deck full of $10-15 tix cards (if you have them/can afford them) because they tend to have pretty decent synergy and the rewards are enormous. Dig through Time? Courser of Kruphix? Goblin Rabblemaster? Sorin? Sarkhan? Of course! :D All to the merrier. But what if your opponent gets to cast a bunch of those goodies? If you are playing counters then of course it isn't really an issue. Once you see what is coming you can just say "no!" and you'll probably get a concession while you are at it. 

The reverse is that if you're not playing goodstuff.dec and have a bunch of really very situational cards your opponent may end up whiffing more often than you want. Especially if you lack good targets for spells caught with the wealth. That happened to me a lot at first as I faced deck after deck of budget this or budget that with very poor cards indeed to choose from. Even when facing something interesting I have been faced with seeing for example 2 sweepers when I have all the creatures. And this is still a good thing as it reduces the number of answers your opponent may draw into so in that sense it is a type of mill/denial.


In this incarnation I use a lot of Theros block cards and many of them fit that "Lego block" classification even though there are a few oddities. Since it is a ramp deck I went with the land untappers, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Verdant Haven. Prophet is a bit of an odd ball here because his main purpose is to allow me to have blockers up on my opponent's turn after using Villainous Wealth on my own. Because tapping out without a guaranteed effect can be kind of bad. He also acts incidentally as a lightning rod since people will try and kill him quickly if they can. Perhaps to their own disadvantage.

I use Gild instead of Utter End because of the token. Having a lotus petal available makes a difference in how quickly I can cast Wealth. Clever Impersonator is the new clone/Metamorph and really is pretty wonderful while not being quite as castable as Phyrexian Metamorph is. With prophet out he can be an instant speed copy of anything important on the board.

As a Gold Mage, I find myself brewing a lot of five color decks. And since Khans features many fine Multicolor cards and mana fixers too I came up with Yet Another Five Color Deck:


This is a somewhat quirky tool box that does surprisingly well despite the crazy mana base and costs. The single Wealth is what started me thinking about how best to use the card, even in a deck like this it is really pretty awesome though without enough mana guys/lands it isn't usually the finisher it can be in the deck above this one.

If you recall last article I wrote about destroying the world and that deck is back again. But all the RTR cards are no longer legal in Standard so I found replacements from Khans.

 
Of the new cards,  I needed sac outlets and discard outlets. Since Lol Troll is gone I chose Prognostic Sphinx and Necromancer's Stockpile to bear that responsibility while Life's Legacy, Jalira and Scourge of Skola Vale deal with eating creatures. Nyx Weaver is for self-mill + early defense and occasionally gets back a card I need such as Jace or Rescue.

The combo is essentially the same as last time, however, with Bearer being the hitch that ties it together. Get one in the graveyard, Rescue it and sac it. It is very helpful if you can do that while having permanents on the board that won't die. Like Zurgo on your turn and the Rakshasa any time if you have . Bitter Revelation is the new fun draw card for black so I had to fit it in here somehow though I might replace it eventually with Silence the Believer or Utter End. Both of which are good instant speed removal.

The gods round out the deck with some needed functionality but they could probably stand to be any number of other things including the aforementioned removal or Banishing Light. Banishing Light on something you own and then blowing up the world is fun. Almost as much fun as doing it to opposing Banishing Lights.


The fun of this deck is in emulating Astral Slide decks of years past. We don't have red Akroma in Standard or even anything nearly that broken in the morph creatures but Ponyback Brigade Does a pretty good impression of Siege-gang Commander. Especially if you play it for 3 as a morph and then play an Enchantment card with Skybind out. And with Purphorous out you should be quickly shuffling for the next game.

or Temur + or Jeskai = Temurkai. I built this list with the help of a friend on Facebook as we just brainstormed ideas to combine these two wedges together. He doesn't play online and I don't play much paper, especially not right now so he came with his own list and I came up with mine.


Savage Knuckleblade is pure beatstick for very low cost. In addition if you can protect it with it becomes very hard to deal with. It can also hold back ground forces if you want to sit back on a Kiora and wait for the big guns. Trap Essence and Temur Charm give you some counters to play with and Jeskai Charm lets you do fun things like putting Sidisi on top of your opponent's deck in response to her trigger. Or anything in response to a fetch activation.

Overall I am pleased by how well Khans and Theros blend as I expected a bit more of a jagged fit. Many of the tools of each block complement each other and M15 adds some spice in between. I expect this Standard season to be full of interesting surprises whether it be on the competitive front or on the kitchen table.

Conclusions:
Magic has come a long way in more than two decades. I am hoping that by the time 20 more years have passed, not only will I still be around but I will still be enjoying it on MTGO. With my watch device no less. Or maybe my Amazgoogle GlassLens (TM pending) as I play the game purely with my thoughts + some psionic interface hardware. But regardless of how we end up interacting with the game, if it isn't Online in the future it will because of a stronger series of calamities than what we currently face. Crises abound in the real world outside of the game and it is easy enough to translate that stress into the feeling of hopelessness when too things seem a little grim with the game.

I have confidence, however, that whomever is steering the WOTC ship will make some right decisions to correct what is going wrong and eventually the client will be better. Not just better than what it has been, but better than any previous client. It will be good enough to accomplish all that we want it to and then some. Because for it to fail so completely as to not get to that goal would be a phenomenal catastrophe for the gaming world, WoTC, Hasbro and us.

Magickly,
Paul Emerson Leicht, aka Winter.Wolf & Telir on MTGO.

13 Comments

Villainous Wealth in Limited by Rerepete at Fri, 10/17/2014 - 12:43
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I played against a nice Sultai/Temur Deck in a draft and got Villainous Wealth cast against my Mardu deck for 5 and lost my Act of Treason and Unyielding Krumar. Lucky for me he didn't cast it for 6 or I would have also been facing down my own Ponyback Brigade (and friends) instead of having it exiled. Needless to say it was soon gg.

The chat is really annoying. by Leviathan at Fri, 10/17/2014 - 14:12
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The chat is really annoying. As a person who plays mulitplayer Commander there is a certain social aspect to most games. However, when I have to spend time trying to get the chat docked, and then finagling with it because it takes up too much of the screen to be able to see the battlefield, it's just another reason to keep me from playing.

Good stuff Paul.

Thanks for the comments guys. by Paul Leicht at Fri, 10/17/2014 - 17:04
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Thanks for the comments guys.

@Re, I never got to use it in my own prerelease Sultai deck but it seems better when you can use mana dorks, land untappers and land auras to pump it up because nothing says "I win" quite like doing it for 13x :)

@Levi, thanks man. You make a really good additional point about the chat window. This is a matter of severely bad design and space management. I hope they get around to fixing this stuff soon. If it was just a few complaints here and there I would not expect much but the cry for changes is pretty universal.

-Vintage: Another thing that by grapplingfarang at Fri, 10/17/2014 - 23:40
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-Vintage: Another thing that really has hurt Vintage as a format was prize support. For a while they were paying out 2 Vintage Masters packs for a 3-1, while Standard/Modern payed out 6 current set packs for 3-1. In "Store value" this is 10 tickets less for a far more expensive format, and really hurt the affordability of playing competitively even more than the entry price already does. They have since switched prizes, but damage was done.

-Chat, not sure what else needs to be said other than I agree and that it makes things very tough to be social. I often open the JFF chat room and see nothing said for half hours at a time before I close.

-Villanous Wealth: The deck looks fun, but I feel like some more mana producers or card draw would fit better than Prophet. With no instants in deck, I don't see it having quite as big of an effect as in others.

I agree about Prophet though by Paul Leicht at Sat, 10/18/2014 - 03:47
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I agree about Prophet though I didn't make the changes, I considered a number of alternatives. One thing is, the deck runs 3x Silence which is almost a one sided sweeper when you can tap for 10 or so. In fact I've done so earlier this evening (after the server came back up finally) and blew out several games where my opponents thought they had me. Silence is golden when you take the teeth out of their creature offensive.

:D So I am a bit torn on what to replace Prophet with. It may be that a focus on more instants is in order or maybe run some 1 drops like the search font or mystics.

As to the empty room syndrome, I am sorry Grap if I have contribute there. I stopped using Juff regularly since it doesn't auto open when I join the play lobby the way it used to. And that I think is one of the major (criminally) broken things about chatting in the new client. Being unable to set default open chats particularly rooms you frequent is just beyond wrong.

Having it imitate mIRC would have been ideal. (You could set default rooms to open whether they were established, user created or merely ones you wanted to make temporarily while you were on IRC.)

Also the fact that the game chat doesn't open docked/stay docked by default with an option to change the state is absurd. Any time you see me on, hit me up for conversation man. You know I am always willing to jabber at ya. :D

I've got a fair few tasty by AJ_Impy at Sat, 10/18/2014 - 05:10
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I've got a fair few tasty ideas for villainous Wealth, considering putting it in a deck with Rosheen Meanderer.

so Koira's Follower + Rosheen by Paul Leicht at Sat, 10/18/2014 - 06:14
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so Koira's Follower + Rosheen = 8 mana...that's harsh.

I'll have a large update on by Kumagoro42 at Sat, 10/18/2014 - 12:21
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I'll have a large update on my State of V4 article next week, I'll delve into chat.
For now, I just want to point out that with my current setup (a large 16:9 monitor) there was a good way to experience chat... until they took out the chance to dock the chat at the bottom, for no discernible reason. That way, I could see all my chat tabs horizontally, and what do you know, they would actually flash each on its own when someone was writing on them. It was really an improvement, but it was gone before I could even talk about it, despite actually fitting the horizontal flow of the client.

Anyway I don't have to re-dock the chat often. Mostly (say, 90% of my re-logs) the client remembers where I left it. (Of course, a functioning client should remember EVERYTHING and ALWAYS, that's without saying). I gather this varies from user to user, which is baffling.

So right now the in-game chat experience doesn't look much different from V3 to me (it used to occupy the same exact space it does now, no more no less), with some improvements:

1. the log is not mixed with the chat anymore, which made no sense as the log is an important game element;
2. the stupid, unkillable black box is gone;
3. you don't get automatically relocated to the last active chat, which was totally annoying and caused countless mistakes (it's funny, people seem to remember V3 like it didn't drive you crazy half the times, only because over the years most of us were terminally resigned to its flaws).

Greatest current flaw: the unavoidable, entirely useless notification of "Playername sent you a message", that has no purpose, lasts several seconds, and appears RIGHT OVER THE CHAT WINDOW (same as the other notifications, most notably the trade scene ones). This is seriously infuriating, black-box-style, because the only way to avoid being hindered by that notification box, that prevents you from typing, is to have the chat docked on the left, which doesn't feel too natural because (at least in the case of Western cultures), we're naturally wired to look at a screen/page from left to right, so the chat column would always be "in the way" when looking at the game area.

By the way, the basic emoticons are there. For instance, [sS] is the basic smiley. There's more, maybe not all of those that there used to be, but I'm sure they'll be back eventually. They have been correctly given very low priority. After all, old school Internet people (including me) don't even like the graphic emoticons too much. You want to use emoticons, use the damn ASCII characters. :P

Really good points, all, by Paul Leicht at Sat, 10/18/2014 - 16:30
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Really good points, all, Kuma. Also You should definitely do a section the various chat ills.

I don't miss V3 for everything but I do miss certain things a lot. With chat I could detach it from the dock and it would remain in the overall window where I decided to place it and at any size down to about 250px x 50px which was perfect to fit over a game chat for instance at the top and still completely track both. Or at the top right corner where nothing important happened. That they reinvented chat to be harder to manage, less flexible and flaky really really upsets me. Not as much as not being able to play at all but still...

As far as the Emoticons yeah I know the basics are there but for instance they don't actually show in the trade scene if you use them to search with (though they do the search correctly) and you can't use them to filter for say the untap symbol, the tap symbol, etc. That is mainly what I miss them for.

In the old editor I could say make 3fireball symbols and the editor would show me only spells that have 3 red mana in their cost or text.

And that's another issue I didn't bring up in the article that irks me, the editor filters are not boolean. You can't put "Trample & Haste" in the editor to only find cards with both words on them. It will show those with just trample, those with just haste and those with both.

And often it will show extraneous things that have nothing directly to do with the search word because it happens to be mentioned in the reminder text obscurely. (No one reads that stupid text normally.)

I always dock the chats on by Rerepete at Sat, 10/18/2014 - 12:26
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I always dock the chats on the left side of the screen.

It works out well for you?I by Kumagoro42 at Sat, 10/18/2014 - 14:29
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It works well for you that way?
I guess the majority of players use it on the right (I never even saw a screen shot with the chat on the left), also because that's how it was on V3.

It sounded weird to me too, by longtimegone at Sat, 10/18/2014 - 23:41
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It sounded weird to me too, but this latest time it lost my settings and undocked the chat for me, I tried putting it on the left instead. I'm liking it so far.

I find it a lot less by Rerepete at Mon, 10/20/2014 - 13:11
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I find it a lot less distracting on the left side