Building a Better Eternal Online

Yesterday, Lee Sharpe announced some big changes to the Magic Online Championship Series (MOCS) for 2016. For those of you who don’t know, the MOCS is the premier tournament series on Magic Online. Every month players who had accummulated enough Qualifier Points competed in a tournament, sending the winner to the Pro Tour as well as qualifying him for the Magic Online Championship, where people got to battle for an invite to the actual Magic World Championship.

In the past, the format of the monthly Season Championships used to be a mix of predominantly Standard and Limited, with the occassional Modern and one Legacy series. To the Magic Online Eternal community, that one “Legacy PTQ” used to be one of the absolute highlights of the year. I still remember on the qualifying deadline day in 2014, I went on a maraton streaming session from 5pm till 4am the next day and finished grinding the needed 35 QPs at 10am — only to show up to work at 11am; this is how much it meant to me.

When the big day came, Marc, Mattias and I all streamed the monthly championship with a 10 minute delay. Can you remember when you last saw a Legacy streamer put up a delay becasue the event he was competiting in was that important? Unfortunately, none of us made it to the Top8 of the event, but the eventual winner, Magnus Lantto, would go on to become to Magic Online World Champion and compete along the likes of Shahar Shenhar or Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa at the 2015 Worlds in Seattle.

Quo vadis, Legacy?

Why am I telling you all of this? Because as per the most recent announcement, Legacy (as well as Limited) is gone from the new MOCS. One has to give credit to the Magic Online team for the general way they remodeled the system, with QPs now stockpiling up over several seasons, allowing players to “save up” point over several months. Whether or not Platinum pros should be automatically invited to the monlthy qualifiers & quarterly playoffs is a different question that I’m not here to discuss today. What I am here is to talk about what can be done for them to live up to Lee Sharpe‘s promise of increasing Eternal support and making Magic Online one of the best places to play Vintage & Legacy.   Right now Legacy is in a state of recovery from a rather disastrous summer. Most Daily Events are firing again and it feels about two 8mans are taking off every hour. Still, joining a Daily Event and never seeing it reach the required number of 12 players will happen a couple of times and it’s always frustrating; yes, it’s annoying I didn’t get to play, but the much deeper underlying thing that’s bugging me is how that represents the current state of Legacy on Magic Online: there’s just not enough people willing to buy into it. And I can totally see their point. If it wasn’t for streaming and preparing for big Eternal events, just the kick of slowly grinding Tickets and PPs also wouldn’t do it for me, given the significant upfront cost. Add the lack of meaningful events and you know why eternalo isn’t what we all want it to be: competitive, fun and exciting.

The P9 Challenge and what we can learn from it

I’m really happy to see how openly Lee and his team have accepted our suggestion to implement a high-stakes Vintage event. The Power 9 Challenge is exactly what our community wants and proved to be a huge success among players. Take the Danish global Magic grinder Michael Bonde, he’s probably the best physical embodiment of how what an instant catch-on this new tournament series is:

 

Think of it, by implementing a new, awesome incentive for Vintage players, you made this guy buy spend money on your product that would otherwise have remained deep within his pocket. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, Michael also ended up winning the first Power 9 Challenge; if that isn’t a fucking Cinderella story right there, I don’t know. Interview Michael, let him talk about why he bought into Vintage for the event, and put it up on Magic Online’s blog. Drive more outside people into the format. Your team isn’t in it to make a Legacy player pick up Standard. Likewise, you won’t get the aspiring Silver Pro to pick up Espresso Stax. I mean, you probably could, but in the grand scheme of things, it wouldn’t be worth the effort. What you are looking to do is to get us Vintage and Legacy aficionados to buy into each other’s formats, pick up new eternal players and make us play in even more of your tournaments.

You wouldn’t believe it, but there’s even more than Michael’s example: the Power 9 Challenge attracted far more people than the Magic Online team would have ever imagined. They even scheduled a Vintage Daily Event half an hour after the challenge, in case the P9C wouldn’t meet the required 33 players to take off. Guess what, we saw a whooping 103 players for the first event and I can only seeing that number going up. Even Lee was highly surprised by the great turnout:

It is true that considering the buy-in and turnout, the overall prize support was rather underwhelming. But I don’t want to put too much blame on them considering how they apparently excepted less than half the players who ended up showing up. It’s also the easiest fix there could be: make the payout scale with the numbers of attendees, the way other large Eternal events and GPs handle it.

What’s there to learn from this? Most importantly: there’s a much larger cowd of people interested in playing Eternal formats on Magic Online than the guys behind Magic Online had ever thought. And there’s even more who are interested in buying into MTGO, but never really felt the final push to get go for it. At pretty much every Eternal event I attend one topic of conversation is always whether it would be worth breaking into Vintage/Legacy online and whether the costs would justified the playing opportunities one would get. It’s stuff like the Power 9 Challenge that definitely makes an impact, especially if you cultivate it with more and better coverage as well as increased payouts. In a perfect Magic Online world, anyone could be the next Michael Bonde.

The Eternal Championship Series

What I propose is an Eternal-centric tournament series that provides a larger incentive for Vintage and Legacy players. As of right now, QPs have gotten even more worthless than they already used to be 11 out of 12 months of the year for us. And that’s kinda sad considering how much time I spend using your product; after all, shouldn’t the MOCS be an additional outlet and reward for your heavily dedicated players like me (and others who are in the same spot)?

Lee, I agree. The MOCS has never been the place to support Legacy. Often times I would get to 15 or even 35 QPs in a season and not use them for anything. Like most Eternal players, I don’t really care too much about what’s going on in Standard or Limited, with the occasional interest in Modern. The one time the MOCS season finals was Legacy was a huge deal though and I wish we could get something like that on a much more regular basis. That’s why I agree with you that we should implement a new tournament series, dedicated to supporting Eternal enthusiasts.

What I have in mind is allowing players to earn Eternal Points (EP) through Vintage and Legacy. Allow for these points to be earned through 8mans, Daily Events as well as the monthly Vintage (and soon to be introduced Legacy?) Challenges; maybe have the champion of each monthly event auto-qualify for what would then follow as the quarterly Eternal Championship. The quarterly Eternal Championship can be a premier event that requires a non-trivial amount of EP to participate. I can’t tell you whether these events should be multi-format or if Magic Online could even do multi-format Constructed events, but that is something that can be worked out (and I probably wouldn’t mind either option). The important point is to have such a series in the first place, to show Eternal players the support we have been craving for for so long. One of the core elements of the global Eternal scene have always been those big tournaments such as the Bazaar of Moxen or Eternal Weekend. It would be nothing short of amazing if we could establish an online equivalent and allow us to wholeheartedly recommend Magic Online as a serious place to not only practice but actually play Eternal Magic.

Promos & the Sustainability

A very convenient side-effect of such a tournament series would be to finally cater more to the needs of the Eternal community with regards to season promos. Renmember how much we have been complaining about your selection of MOCS promos this year? I still recall making a second and third MTGO account just to grind those sweet Force of Wills back in the day. With separate Eternal Championship promos, we @Barook1985 will no longer have to discuss the desirability of Birds of Paradise with MTGO Rob Schuster (@RobertJSchuster), while also allowing for the format to become much more accessible and sustainable. Money definitely is an issue, especially because of the still low incentive to play Legacy online. By introducing actual Eternal promos, you would feed something highly desireable and useful into the system. Last time I checked Rob’s tweets, this seems to be exactly what you guys are looking for in a promo.

Conclusion

There’s this conspiracy theory I don’t subscribe to that WotC doesn’t like Vintage & Legacy and would rather see it die. What I do however believe is that we don’t see enough big paper tournaments such as GPs to support the Eternal scene. The reasons are probably of logistical nature or any other factor that paper-based Magic is limited by. In the realm of Magic Online, we aren’t very much bound by stuff like that. Because of that, the MTGO team has a great opportunity of really living up to their promise of making their program the place to be for mages of the Vintage and Legacy variety. I’m looking forward to seeing this potential unleashed in 2016.

Julian Knab

PS: Please reprint Rishadan Port

What do you think? Comment below.