"Bane of the Builders"
On Wednesday, December 15th, Executive Producer at Wizards of the Coast, Chris Kiritz announced a long-term license agreement with Daybreak Games to develop, support, and publish Magic: the Gathering Online client.
Under this new license and over the course of a transition period lasting several months according to Wizards, the current Magic Online team would form a new studio under Daybreak Games umbrella and continue to manage the platform into the future. It is unclear as to whether or not employees on the current Magic Online team will be impacted as future employees of Wizards of the Coast or if their contracts we're sold as a part of this new partnership.
What we do know is Wizards and Daybreak have pledged to prioritize "...updating the battlefield with a focus on multiplayer and Commander play..." as well as "...continuing to modernize some of the underlying systems that run the game..." says Kiritz. This sounds to me like the long awaited and much needed overhaul of the MTGO client that players have been eagerly asking for since the days when Magic Online was referred to as Magic Online with Digital Objects. (MODO)
Unlike Magic Arena, the Magic Online economy is fairly stable and provides access to eternal formats like Pauper as well as cube drafts and other special events that may or may not be currently available at your local B&M.
In its current state however, there are many issues plaguing the playability of the client itself including memory leaks and other performance impacts concerning collection sizes, number of deck lists, and even the most basic of animations which require frequent relogs and restarts.
One one hand, the read on this situation could be that Wizards is simply wiping their hands of this old client in order to focus on Arena and designing traditional paper products. On the other, this could be a much needed pivot to the Magic Online digital product that will diversify their revenue streams as well as help players more easily play the type of Mtg they always wanted to.
As long as they focus their attention on what needs fixing and leaving alone what doesn't in order to make the best product imaginable, then this seems like a real win for seasoned grinders and new Magic players alike.
Time for some speculation. I should admit that over the holidays I've been transitioning to playing Pauper on MTGO myself in efforts to increase my understanding of the format and create more engaging Pauper content on YT and Twitch. That is to say, though I previously didn't have a horse in this race when it came to competitive "digital" Pauper, now I have a small pony that I hope to grow into a badass Pegasus to hopefully carry me to new heights in my Magic: the Gathering Pauper experience. I intend to stream more MTGO on my own channel in the coming weeks. In many ways, it has been like learning to play the game all over again which has been illuminating and fresh even if the metagame is a bit artifact heavy.
That being said, I recommend MTGO and I'm fairly optimistic to hear this news. Addressing the performance issues and slapping some fresh polish on this Shandalar-like software will be great for the state of the game for lovers of all formats who are long time fans of the classic model of play.
With the approaching colder months in North America, folks adapting to newer viral strains, and the need to play remote Mtg more than ever, the rebirth of a tried and true Magic experience seems like the perfect thing to look forward to in the coming year. While I don't personally take an interest in card values as a collector beyond that of accessibility and obtainability of cards as game pieces, it might be a good idea to invest in some Pauper staples before this transition. Then again, it might also be a good idea to hang back and wait to see what Daybreak can accomplish in terms of their monetization methods and new player experience. Time will tell, but as it stands online Pauper is as affordable as ever as you only need to obtain a playset of staples to use in any number of decks. Other than a few oddities (not looking at you Snuff Out), cards are very budget friendly with deck prices mostly running in the $1.50 - $40.00 range and the more singles you purchase the cheaper your decks will be in the long run as you will only need to acquire new pieces or atypical enablers. Additionally, card rental programs like Cardhoarder.com and ManaTraders.com exist if that's more friendly for your wallet.
Either way, I'm always ecstatic for the opportunity to help grow the Pauper player base and introduce new players to one of the most enjoyable Magic: the Gathering experiences around.