MTGS Mini #9: Magic Software Review: NetDraft

MTGS Mini is the format that will be going up on Friday night/early Saturday from now on. MTGS Mini is a far more easygoing format. So sit back and relax while we relax... our standards. If this isn't your thing, take a break and we'll see you on Sunday night with Cranial Insertion!

MTGS Mini: Magic Software Review

There are many good reasons to want to play the new Magic Online that just hit the 'net. Magic Online, as proved at the Pro Tour level over the past few years, is a great way to test your skills online and improve upon them. Also there are always games to be found and you can play from the comfort of your home. Because of these and many more reasons Magic Online has been a hit despite the fact that some still profess they will never use it. The reasons for this are various and unique however one of the most commonly citied is the money. People can simply not see spending money on digital objects that are so intangible. But what if you were able to get all of these benefits without the downsides? Then you would be golden.

Are so many of us have known for a long time now. There are several pieces of software out there that allow you to play Magic online without paying. But, as they say, nothing is free and nothing is prefect. In order to help you find which are best and which are for you I will be reviewing these programs for you today and over the next few weeks.

Today I will be covering the most used, and generally best, free online draft cilent: NetDraft/iDraft.

Download and Installation

NetDraft can be found on several mirror servers but the most used location of it is Magic-League's download page. From there you may save the zip file to your drive which you will obviously UnZip and Extract. Once done a simple installation window will appear which asks you for very basic information and takes about ten minutes running a decent system.

The only part of NetDraft that can be a little irksome, and this is typical of most free online Magic programs, is the fact that with the release of each new set you will have to patch your NetDraft much like a PC game patch. These can also be found on Magic-League within days of completed spoilers. Once released and downloaded you will then have to extract the patch files and replace your old ones in order to have up-to-date card information. Once again this should only take a few minutes but an auto-update would always be nice.

On another note: NetDraft contains no Spyware or Ad-Ware whatsoever. Also, the free verison is the only edition; there is no “Improve this program for the low low rate of $19.99” here.

Basic Use

NetDraft is used for online Magic drafting and supports both Rochester and Booster with pack and time amounts decided by the host. Hosting, as with other freeware Magic programs, requires that you are unroutered and unfirewalled, something that can sometimes be troublesome. This problem can be remedied by the outside applet Hamachi. However, that brings up problems of its own. Overall, about 10% of any given population will be able to host drafts.

Once a draft is found the IP of the hoster can be distributed to those who wish to draft. They then launch their NetDraft and give it the given the IP to bring them to pre-draft screen. You will, generally, stay at this screen until eight drafters are reached although on occasion this may vary. However the distribution of these IPs can bring up problems of its own as NetDraft has no build-in network. Instead most resort to IRC channels to find drafts.

Once the desired number of drafters shows up they may challenge each other to matches to be played afterward on other freeware programs like Apprentice and Magic Workstation. The hoster then tells the program to seat them four spots away from each. The draft is then launched with all of the cards being displayed under the build-in chatroom. The cards are sorted by rarity and each have a color dot next to them to signify their color. Each card can also be right-clicked for all of the rules text. As each card is passed less and less of the card box is filled until it empties and the next pack appears.

Once the draft ends each player will be able to build their decks with in and out buttons. Sorting tools for manacost, color, and pack taken as well as color filters are also present to help with deck building. Once cards are decided, lands can be added and the deck saved. Each saved deck is also given a specific code so that if anyone attempts to change their deck it can be caught.

Nice Features

NetDraft does a lot of things correctly. Here are some of the nicer features:
  • Ability to save replay of drafts and review them later
  • Color filtering
  • Simplicity of design
  • The lack of general lag
  • Ease of use

Areas for Improvement

NetDraft however does need many changes to be on level with MTGO. Here are some of most important changes that may be necessary:
  • Build-In network for finding games
  • Improve hosting abilities.
  • Auto-Updater for new sets


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