Checking in with the Magic Online III team for a progress report and a release date.

MTGO III News, and More!

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Magic Online III News!

Justin Ziran
The letter W!e all know what you've been waiting for, so without any delay let's jump right into some MTGO III News from Magic Online's producer Brian Lindley and Magic Online Brand Manager Justin Ziran.

ITA: It's been a while since we've heard news here about Magic Online III. What's the current status?
Justin Ziran: We just wrapped up internal testing and are busy incorporating feedback from the team.

ITA: What functionality have you got nailed down?
Brian Lindley: The majority of what we call the "Core" game functionality is in place. This includes UI navigation, collection, deck editor, trade, community features (clans, buddies, etc.) and basic game play.

ITA: What functionality are you still ironing out?
BL: We are still working on the integrated online store as well as tournaments, leagues, and fixing as many bugs as we can. We are also working on the layout of the duel screen to make for an optimal (and familiar) game experience.

ITA: Is there any functionality that will need to be put off for updates after the initial MGTO III rollout?
JZ: We still have a significant amount of coding and bug squashing to go, but, at this point, everything seems to be on track. We've been pretty good about not letting feature requests “creep” into the current release. We'll be rolling out all the new stuff shortly after the release of the new client.

ITA: Will there be any “macros” you can set up to more easily repeat steps for combo decks trying to “go off”?
JZ: No, not at this time.

ITA: A lot of players utilize ‘bots for automatic trading and buying cards, getting price checks, etc. Will these ‘bots still function on MTGO III or will they require reprogramming?
JZ: As you know, we don't support any third party applications that interact with the client.

ITA: At the Magic Invitational, you mentioned players having free access to the Beta a week before MTGO III's release. Any more details? When is Beta going to be rolled out? What are the details on the “free week”?
JZ: We expect to be in public beta within 30-60 days. The beta will function much like our current betas – We'll solicit applications, select a pool of testers and then increase the size of the pool as we move through the process.

Regarding “free play week” – About 1-2 weeks before launch, we'll open the system up to everyone (with or without) and account and allow people to play on the system for free.

ITA: The Invitationalists got a first look at MTGO III; what was their reaction?
JZ: The players that got a chance to check out Magic Online III were impressed. They commented on the improvement of the look as well as usability of the new interface.

ITA: Do you have a ballpark release date? I believe it was reported on Londes that it would be sometime in Quarter 3?
JZ: We are shooting for a launch date of October 2nd.

ITA: Some fans have expressed concern about whether their PC will be able to handle more dynamic and rich graphics that are assumed to be part of MTGO III. Will there be an option to switch to a low graphics interface?
JZ: As in the current client, you'll always have the option to switch to spreadsheet mode and bypass all the 3-D graphics. In addition, we're trying to keep the 3-D graphics as manageable as possible. As you have heard, you'll need a basic 3-D card. Anything purchased within the past few years should work fine.

ITA: I get an email at least once a week from a Mac user wondering when or if MTGO will be available on that platform. Is there anything in the works yet?
JZ: No, no plans to support a Mac version at this time.

ITA: Any “war stories” you can share about some unforeseen challenges you and your team have had bringing MTGO III to fruition?
BL: We knew from the beginning that building MTGO III was going to be a significant effort, but were a little surprised at the amount of work it took to integrate the existing game rules engine into the new server architecture and communicating with the game client. It took us several weeks to get to the point where we could just start a game. And although the first game on MTGOIII was immediately conceded, we celebrated the fact that we finally got it working end-to-end.

ITA: What's the first thing you're going to do once MTGO III rolls out successfully? Throw a party? Take off to Disneyland?
JZ: Take a vacation!

ITA: Anything else you'd like to add?
JZ: We're focused on two things right now – Current card set releases and Magic Online III. Once we have those under our belt, we'll start talking about the fun stuff. As for Weatherlight, realistically speaking, we're probably talking about an early 2007 release given everything that is coming out this year.

Thanks, guys - October can't come soon enough!!

Dissension Release Events!

Dissension goes on sale for Magic Online this coming Tuesday, May 30th (Monday is Memorial Day holiday). Info for the upcoming Dissension Release Events (which start next Thursday, June 1st) was posted last week, but in case you haven't seen it or just gave it a glance over, let me highlight a few changes from the last release event (Visions).

The 2x Premier Events cost just 2 Tix (along with product), with all participants getting the participation avatar and the Top 2 getting the prize avatar. Each first place finisher will qualify for the 2x Championship on June 10th. The 4x Premier Events will just cost 4 tix (along with product), with participation avatars given out to all players, and the prize avatar going to the Top 4. The Top 8 players in each 4x Premier event will qualify for the 4x Premier event on June 10th. Note that there will be two separate Championships, and both will be 6x events with prize payouts down to 64th place! The winner of each Championship will get a Premium set of Dissension cards, and each runner-up will get a full regular set.

For the release Leagues, everyone gets the participation avatar, and those who go 5-0 win the prize avatar. The Dissension participation avatar is Momir Vig, Simic Visionary; the prize avatar is Lyzolda, the Blood Witch.

Momir Vig, Simic Visionary (Hand +0, Life +4)
X Mana, Discard a card: Put a token into play as a copy of a random creature card with converted mana cost X. Play this ability only any time you could play a sorcery and only once each turn.

The first thing that jumped into my head when I saw Momir Vig was Kjeldoran Outpost (or, more recently, Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree). Momir can put out an uncounterable creature every single turn and force creature decks to overextend in order to try and get damage in, which would obviously make creature sweeper spells like Wrath of God really good. Also, like control decks in general, Momir likes mana; the more mana you have lying around, the larger creature you can summon up with Momir's ability.

The exciting part is the word random. Control decks rarely like randomness, and instead strive for consistency. You could pay one mana and get a Glitterfang token creature that hops back into your hand at the end of turn and vanishes. You could spend 5 mana and get a Golgari Grave-Troll, and with no creatures in the yard it would go “poof!” Momir is very much like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. If you can't stand life on the edge, then stay out of the Simic laboratory.

Luckily, odds are high that whatever creature you randomly bring out will at least be able to chump block for you, and eventually you'll crank out some huge beast that will be able to win the game for you. Each game with Momir Vig is going to be a wild rollercoaster ride that's a different puzzle to figure out.

There's a ton of land in this deck, but you want to constantly hit your land drops each and every turn, with extra land in hand easily cashed in for a creature. Don't forget, if you want to use your mana to play a spell, you can always spend Zero mana to put an Ornithopter into play!

If you get the Urzatron into play, you can start reaching for the really big boys! For convenience sake, I decided to put together a list of Standard creatures you could conceivably get for higher mana. Checking out the list, you probably don't want to get any higher than 9 mana. At 10 mana, you'd just get a Myojin with no divinity counters, and the two creatures above that aren't necessarily worth the mana investment in this deck.

7 mana: Oyobi, Who Split the Heavens, Vizzerdrix, Battering Wurm, Cytospawn Shambler, Enormous Baloth, Petrified Wood-Kin, Vine Kami, Ghosts of the Innocent, Kami of the Honored Dead, Konda, Lord of Eiganjo, Yomiji, Who Bars the Way, Patron of the Moon, Patron of the Nezumi, Pus Kami, Simic Sky Swallower, Ashen Monstrosity, Stalking Vengeance, Bounteous Kirin, Protean Hulk, Rootbreaker Wurm, Siege Wurm, Djinn Illuminatus, Skarrgan Skybreaker, Angel of Despair, Szadek, Lord of Secrets, Borborygmos
8 mana: Scaled Wurm, Sanguine Praetor, Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi, Bloodfire Colossus, Excruciator, Living Inferno, Goliath Spider, Patron of the Orochi, Thousand-legged Kami, Myojin of Cleansing Fire, Tidal Kraken, Tidespout Tyrant, Mindleech Mass, Myojin of Night's Reach, Sekki, Seasons' Guide, Verdant Force, Razia, Boros Archangel, Chorus of the Conclave, Sisters of Stone Death
9 mana: Nullstone Gargoyle, Body of Jukai, Blazing Archon, Grozoth, The Unspeakable, Kuro, Pitlord, Myojin of Life's Web
10 mana: Myojin of Seeing Winds, Myojin of Infinite Rage
12 mana: Iname as One
15 mana: Autochthon Wurm

Lyzolda, the Blood Witch (Hand -1, Life -1)
Hellbent — As long as you have no cards in hand, if a source you control would deal damage to a creature or player, it deals double that damage to that creature or player instead.
Hellbent — At the end of your turn, if you have no cards in hand, each of your opponents discards a card.

Much like Guildpact's Rumbling Slum avatar turbocharged Bloodthirst decks, Lyzolda obviously enhances a Rakdos full-tilt Hellbent deck. Jagged Poppet in particular becomes an absolutely savage beating. It would be rather easy to build such a deck, so I decided to try and cook up something a little different.

Iron Phoenix was an old-school deck that utilized some of the old “empty hand” power cards like Cursed Scroll and Ensnaring Bridge, with Peace of Mind to dump your hand and stay alive, and Shard Phoenix to get back some fuel as needed. 9th Edition has both Peace of Mind and Shard Phoenix and can combine nicely with Searing Meditation to get aggressively passive.

Przemek Wołowiec's Civilian-Eye Look at the Magic Invitational

E3 Championship Winner Przemysław Wołowiec is back home from the Magic Invitational, so I thought we could check in with him and see what he thought of the experience.

ITA: So, how was the trip over to L.A. from Poland?
Przemysław Wołowiec: The trip was about 15 hours. First we flew to Munich then to L.A. The trip back was a bit longer because we had to wait 4 hours in Frankfurt for our plane. But it was definitely worth it.

ITA: Was this the first time in the U.S.? What did you think of the States?
PW: It was the first. The States are a totally different country, with enormous tempo of living and people strongly focusing on consumption. I guess it was an important experience for us European guys. L.A. is really beautiful.

ITA: Who did you meet from Wizards when you came over? What were the first things you did?
PW: We met Scott Larabee. The first thing we did was sleep.

ITA: How was it watching the Invitational unfold in person? What were you doing while the games were going on?
PW: The Invitational was a great event, it was fun watching it. We had to share our time between watching the players and the rest of E3. But in three days we were pretty much able to see everything.

ITA: Did you get to talk with or interact with many of the Invitationalists?
PW: We didn't talk all that much. They all were very focused on playing. I would have been too - the stakes were really high!

ITA: What was the most fun non-Magic thing you did while at E3 or Los Angeles?
PW: Swimming in the rooftop pool. We could see the whole city from the rooftop - it is a really wonderful view. And visiting all those nightclubs on Sunset Blvd and Hollywood Blvd...

ITA: The Invitational coverage didn't have much on the flavor of what was going on before and after the actual Magic games. What did you all do before and after the matches?
PW: There were some drafts and such, but mostly everyone just had loads of fun.

ITA: What do you think of winner Antoine Ruel's card idea?
PW: The card has a very powerful effect. If you flip it you get free card, you can see your opponent's deck and make his draw a little bit worse for each shuffling effect from his side - not bad!

ITA: Anything you were hoping to do but didn't get the chance?
PW: We wanted to go to the beach and see the ocean. Unfortunately there wasn't enough time.

My Mid-Atlantic Regionals Experience

It was a mixed bag. Personally, I didn't do so well with my U/G Simic deck, ending the day with a fairly miserable 1-3 run. I think the deck was good, but I didn't get to playtest with it enough and a few play errors combined with a few unlucky breaks ended my day pretty early. On the flip side, my good friend Kevin Davis took his homebrew Black/White control deck to a 5th place seed into the Top 8, and defeated a Black/White aggro deck to clench an invite to U.S. Nationals. Kevin and I have played Magic together for years, but as a National Guardsman, he got an extended vacation over in Iraq for a few years. I saw him again for Grand Prix--Richmond, and we've been playing Magic together ever since.

Kevin qualified for the Pro Tour once a while back (Pro Tour Lin Sivvi) on the back of a Necro deck, so it didn't surprise me when he started leaning towards playing a black-based deck with black card drawing. Kevin's always felt like swapping life for cards was a pretty good deal, and while he liked Phyrexian Arena, he rightly zeroed in on the power of Dark Confidant. Interestingly, he decided to run Bob alongside Sensei's Divining Top, a strategy that was mentioned in the Invitational blog when Dark Confidant was first revealed to the public – Dark Confidant “will occupy the same Standard format as Sensei's Divining Top for a full year, so you can expect players to use and abuse those two cards as soon as Ravnica bumps Mirrodin out of the format.” That really didn't happen; first, Bob was ignored by the metagame at large, but then once he started seeing play, it was sheer “suicide” – pack the deck with a fairly low curve, take the random life loss hit and win with the extra cards and sheer aggressiveness. Kevin took Bob full circle and matched him up with the card of his destiny, Sensei's Divining Top.

Bob Maher and the 4 Tops (2nd place, Mid-Atlantic Regionals)

Kevin:

“In 9 rounds of Swiss I only lost to a deck playing Wildfire, and drew with a guy playing Hide/Seek - he kept taking my Kokusho so I couldn't deal the 35+ life he had. When we played out the Top 4 for the plaque I only lost to the guy playing Wildfire. So 12 rounds and both losses was to a deck playing Wildfire, not too bad!”

Into The PREs! (Player Run Events)

Shadows of Sanctuary and CerealKillaz are proud to present a jointly run PRE (the thread is here), and I will be attending! Here are the pertinent details as posted in the thread:

When : Saturday May 27th at 9:00 pm EST
Where : /join ck
Who : everyone is invited !
Format : FFA EXT Timed 6 players per table banned card: Erayo, Soratami Ascendant
Prizes : Foil Terminate and whatever additional donations we pick up before the event (currently 2x Desolation Angel)

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