Hello and welcome to another edition of Sealed Success! With Modern Masters 2017 completely spoiled and the hype train not stopping at all I thought I'd take a change of pace and talk about Magic Online as an eSport. But before that, let's take a look at the upcoming schedule for the column:
Aether Revolt Draft #6, Aether Revolt Sealed League #2 videos, Aether Revolt Sealed League #3 videos
Aether Revolt Draft #7, Aether Revolt Sealed League #3 video, Aether Revolt Sealed League #4 video, possible MTGMM3 Review
Aether Revolt Draft #8, Aether Revolt Sealed League #3 videos, Aether Revolt Sealed League #4 videos
Aether Revolt Draft #9*, Aether Revolt Sealed League #4 videos, Aether Revolt Sealed League #5 video*
The ones with asterisks are videos I'm not sure I'll be doing given the release of Modern Masters 2017 on Magic Online. They may be replaced by an appropriate draft/sealed event, I'm not too sure at the moment. As soon as details for those events are up I'll make a determination and move accordingly. Until then continue to assume that we'll be sticking with Aether Revolt in the meantime.
Magic Online as an eSport
Normally when I've talked about Magic Online as an eSport I've taken the position that it can't be an eSport and left it at that, but what if it could? What would Magic Online/WOTC have to do in order to make Magic Online a viable eSport? There's a lot of ways you could go around it and a lot of people have their thoughts on it, but I'd like to lay out a few things that I think make other eSports good/viable and what Magic Online can do in order to join them. Now, none of these are in any particular order, so please don't think that one point is more important than another just because of where I placed it.
I've watched League of Legends and Hearthstone events and that the thing that stuck to me first is that even though we're basically watching people play video games, we're doing it in an elaborate setup. When you look at the event it looks good and you can tell that the tournament organizers/staff took the time to actually make a set for the players to play in. You're not just watching people on laptops, there's an actual background and you get the sense of awe and you feel like this is something important.
While I didn't watch this year's Magic Online Championships, I have in the past and the background set up just seemed very unappealing. If you want to market your product and event as a legitimate eSport, you have to bring the best you have to offer. You have to give your event a sense of importance and prestige other than what the community gives it. If you just pick out a random room for players to play in, it doesn't seem any more important than going to Friday Night Magic. From an outsider's perspective you have to immediately know that whatever you're watching is important, even if you don't know that details. Give Magic Online events more production value and Magic Online can start to build a better case for it as an eSport.
I don't follow League of Legends nor do I care to play it, but when I saw the past World Championships I actually watched it because it was visually appealing to me. I was in a situation where someone else was watching and I decided to watch as well. Other people around me came and watched bits of it as well, even if they didn't know what it was at all. It was visually appealing and even if you didn't know what was going on, it's not hard to be entertained by things blowing up.
Conversely, Magic Online has very poor visual appeal. It's much harder for a random person to be engaged in a Magic Online match because it looks pretty bland and it's hard to understand if action is happening. If the cards ran into each other or were animated and you could see one card kill the other then you could see action happening even if you don't know the game. Magic Online needs to be more visually grokkable to the unknown player because otherwise you can't build much casual appeal. As it stands Magic Online is a game that only enfranchised players can watch because if you're new, you won't know what's happening.
For the most part, the companies that make these games have the capability and commitment to throw a lot of resources at their games. They're able to build sets for their players to play in and fly them in and have great commentators because they have the resources to do so. If you want to make something great you have to invest a significant amount of time and dedication to make it have the best possible chance to succeed.
In my opinion, Magic Online as an eSport has to overcome the hurdle of not having enough resources dedicated to it. If you allocate more money into a better graphics design and you promote and market your game as others do, then it's much more feasible for Magic Online to become the eSport it wants to be. In its current state it only has minimal support and has grandiose dreams without the proper backing. There has to be a proper and smart concerted effort to bring Magic Online from the woodworks into mainstream gaming.
What do you think? Can Magic Online be an eSport? Or should some different version of Magic Online take its place to help fix some of its problems?
Aether Revolt Draft #6
You know, I'm really not trying to force R/x, but when it's open it's open! Pack 1 was all about trying to position myself in the open colors and it felt that red and white were the best with green trailing slightly behind. There were some okay blue and black cards, but the problem there is the cards I was seeing were either too expensive or didn't do anything at all. I'd rather be proactive than reactive and with that in mind I took cards that could attack well.
Pack 2 was actually just a gift since I was getting passed all the good red and white cards after my underwhelming first pick in Embraal Gear-Smasher. Hungry Flames into Freejam Regent into Aether Chaser meant that I was hopping onto the red train and I wasn't going to get off for anything. Given that the pack that had Freejam Regent also had a Thopter Arrest, it gave me a good signal that white was going to be open coming from my left. This was a boon given that my second color also happened to be white.
Getting passed a Depala, Pilot Exemplar is usually a good sign when you're in those colors, but I didn't have the support to make her viable and had to pass her up. I think Depala gets a little worse now with Aether Revolt in the mix, but she can be quite good if you happen to be in the right deck for her going into the Kaladesh pack. In the end I think I drafted the deck that was best for my seat and it was a few cards away from being a great 3-0 deck. Sadly it wasn't meant to be and we ended up with a 2-1 record, which is still pretty good given my 16 land aggro deck. Longtime readers of this column know my preference for control/midrange decks, so doing well with 16 land aggro is definitely a surprise.
Aether Revolt Sealed League #2
4-2 to 6-3 isn't where I wanted to end up, but it's better than the alternatives so we'll take it. Overall I'm very happy with my deck and with a little more luck and better play this could have been a 9-0 deck. It had a lot of interaction and ways to get on the board early and punish my opponent for either not having good blockers or trying to double block my creatures. The top end was nice as well, giving me a use for mana if I flood out and to present an even bigger threat in the event my opponent manages to deal with my earlier threats. Not much else to say here other than hopefully we keep opening pools like these!
Aether Revolt Sealed League #3
Last week when I presented this pool I had the option of G/B Snek or Grixis Dark Intimations and I didn't know which one would be better. When I loaded up Magic Online, I had this thought that I had a Chandra's Revolution in my pool that I could splash in my G/B deck. I loaded up the pool and there it was, I actually did have a Chandra's Revolution that I could easily splash with Aether Hub and Unbridled Growth. With that in mind I redid the deck a bit and with the additional removal spell I felt a lot more confident about the G/B deck and took it for a spin.
It turns out that Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter was important in both matches, one in a winning effort and one in a losing effort. She's almost like a Pack Rat, although not as good as Pack Rat was. For one, you need to untap with her in order to make a token and furthermore, you need five mana as opposed to three mana. If you can untap and protect her then there are very few cards in the format that are better than just making an X/X token every single turn. She immediately puts your opponent to the test to see if they have a way to remove her from play. If they can't and you have five mana and a board state, the game is very much in your favor. If they do have a way to remove her, then play goes on at a mana advantage to you but the game gets tougher to win.
Going 1-1 isn't bad and I do feel a lot better about this pool. I think 3-2 is the more likely outcome for this deck, 4-1 would definitely be a stretch. What do you think? Did the red splash help out the G/B deck at all?
While my default answer is that Magic Online is not an eSport, I do think with the proper backing and support that it has a chance to contend with the major names in eSports right now. It's up to Wizards of the Coast to make strides into the world of eSports if that's truly a goal of theirs. It can't be a passive attempt; it has to be calculated and impactful.
Next week I'll be back with another draft and my sealed leagues. If you have any comments, questions, or concerns leave them in the comments section below. As always you can subscribe to my YouTube channel here. You'll find content for this column much earlier than normal along with exclusive content for the channel.