The guest author contest winner, plus Higure comes to Vanguard

ChainMastering the Clans

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The letter H!ello from In-N-Out Burger! While I wait for my food, I wanted to tell you two things. First, I want to congratulate Jordan Kronick (aka ChainMaster) for winning my first "guest columnist" contest. I had five very solid submissions from the finalists, but Jordan provided the most comprehensive look at online clans while also writing in a nice, accessible style. Sit back and enjoy as he tells you everything you need to know about Magic Online clans. After that, I'll share a ton of inside news about the Betrayers of Kamigawa online release next week, plus a quick first peek at Vanguard at the end of this article.

Actually, since my food is taking awhile, I guess I'll tell you now. See, here's what--

BWAAA--AARRRK!


We interrupt your regularly scheduled program to bring you this late-breaking column– and your regularly scheduled IntoTheAether to bring you this late-breaking ChainMaster.

Welcome to my first appearance here on magicthegathering.com. I'm here today to talk about clans and Magic Online. I'll stop short of a lengthy introduction as I've got a lot to tell you and a steadily decreasing number of words to do it in. You didn't come here to read about me, after all. No, you came here to read about clans. There are lots of goodies here for everyone. For the beginner we've got a lot of useful information on just how clans work, and for those in the know, an interview with a man who stands behind one of the most well-known clans in the game. So let's start off with a brief question and answer period.

What is a clan?

That's really the big question, isn't it? And for the big answer I'm going to start with a bit of the definition provided to us by the MtGO help files.

A clan is a group of up to 20 players who band together

Okay we've got that one answered - clans are player-made groups. That being the case, it's only fair to ask another deceptively simple question.

What does a clan do?

Now we're getting to the meat of the issue. There are a few things that being in a clan gets you. First of all, each clan has a private room to talk in. These rooms are real useful for saying hello to your clan, swapping recipes and discussing the most recent IntoTheAether column. The clan window is also useful as a quick way to check if your friends are online. That's a very helpful tool for those of us who can't seem to keep our buddy lists below maximum capacity. Secondly, everyone in a clan is identified on their player info as being a member of the clan. A bit later on I'll talk about the prestige and notoriety that being in a clan can give you. Thirdly, Magic Online tracks the number of prizes won by each clan, so that you can get an idea of how you and your friends are doing in the tournaments you play. I find this to be both a useful tool and a shocking reminder of how many booster drafts I play in an average week.

That's about all we've got to go on, when it comes to the basic uses of clans. For some people, these are enough – but there's a whole world of fun to be had once you're familiar with the built-in functions. What do clans do? A much better question would be…

What do players do with clans?

There are as many things to do with a clan as there are clans. The most important thing that can be done with a clan has to be communicating with your friends. Pick any clan on the list and you'll find that the clan's #1 purpose is to help friends talk to each other, and most clans start with that in mind. Let's take my clan for example, venerable and oft-slighted Clan Mudhole. I'm the captain (the captain is usually the founder, although you can give the helm to someone else if you want to), and there are a handful of other Mudhole clannies. I created it so that we would have a common place to talk, as none of us really knew anyone on Magic Online besides each other. From the initial group of three, we expanded as more of our friends started to play the game. Not all of our friends knew each other, so it was a great way for them to get to talking and gossiping about us behind our backs. I use my clan as a way to introduce my friends who are new to the game to other people that can help them get started. I can't be online to help 24 hours a day, after all.

Multiplayer games give us another common use for clans. Very often you can find games set up by a clan to play against members of another clan. I don't claim to be an expert on clan politics, but there are more rivalries out there than I can count. Some clans play with a sort of “casual casual” attitude and some take clan loyalty to new heights. One of the most infamous multiplayer clans out there is Only Hell Will Fill Your Void (and their subsidiary clans). Ask anyone who spends their time playing Two-Headed Giant or Emperor and it's a good bet that they've heard of Only Hell – or seen them in action. I had the pleasure of interviewing NeoNetGen, the founder of OHWFYV, with an eye on getting the inside scoop from the captain of one of the most well known clans in the game. Only Hell has a reputation for being outspoken and for playing the game by their own rules. They boast at least 3 official incarnations and numerous unofficial groupie clans at any given time, with more than 50 members. I wanted to find out what their purpose is and also the secret to their success. So here is a segment that I would like to call:

My Dinner with NeoNetGen

I caught up with Only Hell's captain while he was in the middle of a multiplayer game. He was kind enough to take some time between turns to answer my prodding questions about the purpose and history of one of Magic Online's most notorious clans.

ChainMaster: okay first of all, how did Only Hell start?
NeoNetGen: you want honesty?
NeoNetGen: I got tired of playing by everyone else's rules
NeoNetGen: I got tired of being told what and what not to play
ChainMaster: did you envision OH growing so large when you started it? Or did that just kind of happen?
NeoNetGen: well I knew it was going to catch on
NeoNetGen: I was surprised
NeoNetGen: hell I fought tooth and nail with my leaders on going and making a #3
NeoNetGen: but no one is in MY clan unless I go and pick you out
ChainMaster: what do you look for in a new recruit?
NeoNetGen: they have to be willing to play away from the normal PC crap that 75% of the rest of the population plays
ChainMaster: do you think your reputation brings you the kind of opponents that you want to play against?
NeoNetGen: ill put it this way
NeoNetGen: when I'm done with this game I want people to say though he was a jerk he was willing to push the creativity envelope and make changes
NeoNetGen: that was my first goal
NeoNetGen: then after we started making strides in that direction we went after the ones that made the rules the way they are
NeoNetGen: we're the reason they invented "Gentleman's Rules"
ChainMaster: how much communication is there between you and the other OH leaders?
NeoNetGen: we have Voice chat that I provide the clan
NeoNetGen: and voice chat takes your relationships so much further then Text Based chat will ever do
NeoNetGen: we have members that don't live in the states so we like it for that
NeoNetGen: there's a reason we stand out and it was by design

Only Hell is perhaps the most organized and expansive clan in the game. With a website, message board, voice chat and very high visibility in the community, they show just how much effect a clan can have on the community as a whole – and how much fun that can be. Not every clan requires quite the rigorous recruitment policy or impressive array of web-based tools that they employ, but it's a good look at just what can be done with a clan.

Of course, not all clans exist for the casual side of the coin. More than a few were created to make use of a feature I mentioned earlier – the prize counter. There is a great deal of competition to see who can win the most prizes in the game for all to see. I'm proud of the few booster packs that Clan Mudhole has won, but some of the numbers you'll find in the clan room are simply astounding. I love this aspect of the clan system. Call me a show-off, but I like being able to display my winnings to the world and to tell everyone just how good I am – without having to say it out loud. Our little tugboat of a clan may never top the list, but I still feel proud when I see what we've won.

A lot of the clans out there have requirements based on ratings for new members. Requesting that new applicants have a limited or constructed rating of 1700 or above is quite common, though some ask for people boasting numbers well into the 1800's. The highest-winning clans are often looking for people who can help them raise that little prize number, and they want the best. There's a lot of fun trading of the best players between high-ranked clans, depending on who can boast the highest winnings – and the best fringe benefits. Besides catering to the pros and semi-pros among us, it's not unheard of for these clans to take promising young players under their wing. Who wouldn't like to get drafting tips from the members of Fahrenheit 451 or Cephalid Sea Food Restaurant?

So now that we've taken a look at just what clans can do and what we can do with them, there's a big question waiting to be answered.

How do I get started?

Well, there's two ways to go about this. Firstly, if you encounter players who play the game the way you want to play it and are the sort of folks you want to talk to – ask to join up! Most of the clans out there, especially the casual sort, are always looking for more people to talk to and play some Magic with. If you're looking for a good competitive clan, check out the Clans room (there's an icon for it in the main room of Magic Online) and sort by Total Prize. The clan members will be listed with the captains highlighted in red. Drop them a message about joining, and most will be happy to tell you what can be done.

Don't limit yourself to the Clans room, though. Get out there and play some games. When you meet someone interesting, check their profile and see if they belong to a clan. If there's one thing I've learned from writing this column, it's that people love to talk about their own clans.

If you're more a leader than a joiner, you've got options. Start your own clan! Whether you want to be on top of the prize list or challenge Only Hell to a round of Emperor matches, starting a new clan with your friends is great fun. Just click the 'New' button in the Clans room and pick your name. All the names need to be approved by the administrators, so it may take a few days before you can get in on the fun. You'll know your clan has been approved when you've got the clan chat window on the bottom bar of your Magic Online screen. Then you can get out there are start recruiting.

Is that all?

I would wager to say that most players of Magic Online already belong to a clan, or have in the past, and why not? Clans are another function of the game, just like drafting or the multiplayer room. They are there for us to use. It seems to me that the most important thing about Magic is the social aspect. Whether you decide to play cards with some friends at your house, drive from city to city in search of the next Pro Tour Qualifier or sit at your computer to play, we all encounter others like ourselves. Magic brings people together, and clans are merely an extension of that process.

Like many of you, I recently attended the Betrayers of Kamigawa prerelease, braving deep snow drifts and ridiculous $3.00 soft drinks just for a taste of the new set. When I left the house to play cards, I did it knowing that my friends would be there – a group of guys who I've known for up to 10 years in some cases. And that's what I really went for, I think. I met these guys by playing Magic, and I've got as many or more friends online that I met the same way. In the world of paper cards we've got the ever-present Team Mudhole, and in the world of Magic Online there is Clan Mudhole. The clan accomplishes the same things that the team does. It brings us together to talk and hang out and play cards. Friends and community are among the most important things about the game of Magic, no matter how or where you play it. So join up or start your own. Trade secret tech and talk about what you did over the weekend. It doesn't have to be just another chatroom, it can be a part of your identity in the game and it can be a great way to get the most out of Magic Online.

Before I pry this column from my own greedy hands and return it to its rightful owner, I'd like to take a moment to give thanks to Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar for giving me the chance to write this piece, to Aaron Forsythe for an email he sent me about 5 years ago which encouraged me to write about Magic and to Adrian Sullivan for politely laughing at our Mudhole jokes.

Until next time, remember that there is safety (and fun) in numbers.

- Jordan Kronick


BWAAA--AARRRK!

Whoah. What just happened? I feel a little woozy, for some reason.

Although this is my "week off," I couldn't help but give a sneak peek at what's coming when Betrayers of Kamigawa comes to Magic Online. Next week I'll give you lots (and lots) of previews of what's to come. Here's something to whet your appetite:

Did you know that Vanguard is coming to Magic Online? Soon? In less than two weeks? It's true. Starting with Betrayers, your avatars won't just be fashion statements, they'll give you cool superpowers!

Ever dream of being a ninja? You're in luck! Attend any Betrayers of Kamigawa release event, and you'll receive a Higure, the Still Wind avatar.

Not only will you look wicked in your navy blue tabi socks, but whenever you're playing Vanguard you'll also begin the game...

...with a starting and maximum hand-size of 6...

...with a starting life of 23...

...and...

..."Whenever a creature you control deals combat damage to an opponent, put a random creature from your library into your hand."

Booya!

Oh, the possibilities...

Tune in next week for more juicy treats.

-j

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