Simple enough question, right? I recently wrote to Wizards of the Coast customer service asking: “Can you tell me why I am unable to play Vintage (Type1) on Magic: the Gathering Online and whether there are plans to allow players to play with the older cards online?” My e-mail received the following response:
at this time 7th edition and later are the only sets available on Magic Online and only the Mirrodin Block and later are currently on sale. At this time three [sic] also no plans to release any of the older sets. Magic Online started with seventh edition and [sic]
And then a Customer Service Representative. I’m not quite sure what happened to Adam’s e-mail. Methinks he hit the send button before fully reading it. However, his answer is comprehensive enough: Wizards has no plans to release older sets. Period. I had hoped that with the upcoming version 3 of MTGO we’d have something to look forward to. Doing a bit more research, I posted my question in the MTGO forum and a member replied: "…the short answer is that it's unprofitable to program the older cards, even though they'd sell plenty of packs in the short term. There's also a lot of cards from earlier sets that WotC would much rather sweep under the carpet."
"There are plans to release a few individual cards from pre-IPA sets for promotional purposes, but there won't be any T1 staples among them."
A much more thorough reply and I appreciate the information. Still, not exactly what I wanted to hear, but what can you do?
A Little Dash of History With the resurgence of Vintage tournament play in the last year, this format has seen some serious coverage on Magic websites and I applaud this. Maybe it’s because I’ve been playing for over 11 years now that I have a soft spot in my heart for Type 1. However, I don’t just play Type 1, but also Standard (Type 2), Extended, and Sealed games. Eleven years ago I was still in graduate school so I had time to play until the cows came home. Now with “grown up” responsibilities, you can safely say that I can’t play Magic until the sun rises. It just isn’t going to happen. But that’s not a bad thing. I’m not complaining about my lack of time. I still like to play Magic though. Meeting people to play is a questionable, if not difficult, adventure. I find that I have limited time to play and sitting in front of a computer at 9pm at night is my most opportune time. In the past, I was able to use Wizard’s Magic the Gathering: Interactive Encyclopedia to play games online. Sure, the game portion left much to be desired, but I could play a Type 1 deck with someone anyone else in the world. Time passed and soon I found that I played less and less of those fun group Type 1 chaos games with my friends. Games in which we had 100 card decks and used cards like Chaos Orb, Time Walk and Tawnos’ Coffin for fun. Sure, I can dig out my old decks, but at 9pm at night on a weeknight, who the heck am I going to play a game with in real life? Enter our lovely friend the Internet. For more years than I can remember, players have been using Apprentice to play games of Magic online. Although there is no card art, in a pinch it gets the job done. I’ve never been a big fan of Apprentice and I’ve tried MWS (Magic Workstation) without much success. I had hoped that Wizards would agree to incorporate Vintage sets into MTGO so that all players could enjoy the glory days of “ripping” open a pack and seeing a Black Lotus. I still remember trading Shivan Dragons away for Lightning Bolts. The early days were an interesting time. But enough of my reminiscing about the past! Let me move onward.
Why Vintage? There are all types of Magic players. I happen to be a player who enjoys a good competitive Type 1 match with full sideboard. My favorite deck du jour is an older version of 4CC in which I use Cunning Wish to pull cards I desperately need out of my sideboard to win the game. Just as much as I enjoy a good competitive Type 1 match, I also enjoy a more relaxed Type 1 casual, multi-player game. Playing Type 1 with four players can be a blast. Games aren’t over in 5 turns. Instead the game becomes a balance of politics: Who will make the first move and is strong enough to survive his other three opponents?
Vintage has received a lot of bad publicity in the past, being labeled as “boring,” “games over too quickly,” and “combo heavy.” I would disagree with this, reminding people of the current Affinity lock that has Type 2 in such a blue state (hopefully, by the time this sees print, Type 2 will have been shaken up with bannings).
There are several Type 1 top tier decks and depending on the type of player you are, you can choose the deck that best fits you.
If you’re not into Type 1 tournament decks, then why not try casual Type 1? Building a wacky poison counter deck can be fun. With so many cards to choose from, the deck possibilities are nearly limitless. And what about sealed? Imagine being able to play sealed Unlimited online. Think about that. Being able to mimic the time when you could buy a few packs. Or how about playing a starter pack of Unlimited and some boosters of Betrayers of Kamigawa?
The point is: Legally, I’d like to have the ability to play multiple types of games online. As a consumer, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for more product. Understandably, Wizards has chosen not to move forward and incorporate past sets into MTGO. I believe this is a mistake; however, I would not envy the programmers’ task of making some of the Type 1 cards work for MTGO. It would be a near nightmare.
Unfortunately, a day will not come in which I can sit down at my computer and purchase packs from early sets online via MTGO. It’s just not going to happen. And that’s a shame.
Compromise with Us!
I’d like to make a comment here. How many years did it take for Lucasfilm to finally release the original Star Wars films to DVD? I married and had a kid before that happened. (We’ll avoid the debate about how crappy the Special Editions are. Sure, we all know Han shot first, but at least I can see the original films and hear them in glorious 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound.)
Yes, it took a long time for those DVDs to see the light of day and fans didn’t get exactly what they wanted, but the films that are available on DVD today look and sound amazing. I’m not going to complain about watching the Special Edition version of Empire. It’s all good.
But like any good fan, I had the Special Edition Star Wars DVDs years before the official ones came out. Shock, horror! Yes, through that wonderful invention called the Internet I purchased, from Malaysia, all three DVDs for $39—made from the Special Edition laser discs. They were better than my old VHS tapes and sounded pretty good in 5.1. They weren’t great, but they got me through in the meantime.
Years ago I attended GenCon and I asked a representative from Lucasfilm why and when the original Star Wars DVDs were coming out, informing him that I had already purchased bootlegs. My question flustered him and his trite answer didn’t satisfy anyone in the audience. The cold, hard fact is that people can obtain product from different countries. It’s a reality. Ethically, I’m not saying that I promote bootlegs. No, that’s not what I’m saying.
But I am saying this: Artificially creating a false sense of supply and demand on your consumers is limiting their choices. If a consumer wants a product and there is no official one available, but unofficial ones are available and free, what do you think the consumer is going to do? It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure that one out.
Enter the world of Magic online. Wizards of the Coast officially supports MTGO and they used to support the Magic: The Gathering Interactive Encyclopedia. Unfortunately, they no longer do. However, Apprentice, Magic Workstation, and other similar programs allow you to play card games online. Years ago Apprentice used to be supported by Wizards of the Coast. I do not know Apprentice’s status with Wizards today. But I do know that Apprentice does exist and is easy to download. Sure, you won’t have card art, but Magic Workstation is a totally different story. And with other programs available on the Internet, if you have fan made patches installed, you can play Type 1 online (with graphics for all the cards) in all its glory.
I believe that Wizards cannot have their cake and eat it to: They instituted the no reprint policy for Type 1 cards, choose not to release those cards for MTGO, and are having their lawyers shut down sites that allow players to game online. Instead of making your customers enemies as the music industry & Hollywood, why not compromise with and give customers what they want?
Add back sets in MTGO—how about one set a year?
- Choose a program that will become the officially sanctioned online tabletop version of Magic that would allow people to play games online?
- I can’t see choice #2 happening, but it would be wonderful.
For years now, I’ve played games of Magic online (without MTGO). I’ll bet many of you have, too. The software I’ve used acts as a simple tabletop with no artificial intelligence to enforce the rules. Thousands of other players do the same thing. Yes, we all keep quiet about it, but why should we have to hide in the shadows? Why can we not have a legitimate way of playing Type 1 games online? I’ve been playing Magic for 11 years and have spent a pretty penny on the game. I’m still buying cards, collecting, and playing games, but I’m not going to spend money on MTGO if it doesn’t have the sets I want.
Technology is becoming more complex. Bootlegs of DVDs, CDs, mp3s, and other digital media are on the rise. Magic is quickly falling into that category. Sometimes I’d like to sit down with a Marketing department and the Execs at Hasbro and explain to them what’s really going on. They see the number of people playing online at the MTGO servers, but they don’t know the full reach of the shadow world (of people playing games online without their software).
I cannot understand Wizards’ logic. They released years ago several online games that allowed users to play Magic online. Those products still exist and occasionally pop up on EBay for sale. How can you tell fans years ago: “You can play with all the cards up until the current set” and then suddenly say (after MTGO is released): “You can now only play with 7th Edition on up?”
I don’t get it.
Of course, it’s a financial decision and there’s a bigger picture here. But as a fan who has played with all the cards for 11 years, I do not wish to accept the fact that I can only play with a certain limited number of sets online.
I would like to see Wizards compromise with players. It appears that their compromise will be: “We’ll release special older cards as trophies from time to time.” I don’t think that’s good enough. If you push your customers away, they’ll find another alternative. If you do not compromise with people, they will turn from you. Now what did all us Star Wars fanboys run out and do on September 18, 2004? We purchased a copy of the Special Edition Star Wars Trilogy. Grumbling aside about the Special Editions, we bought them. We made up with Lucasfilm after they finally came through for us.
Wizards of the Coast can learn a lesson from this. They’ve chosen an online model which is difficult to program and has been filled with bugs. Implementing older sets into the game will probably be difficult, if not impossible, for some cards. However, there are choices. As I mentioned above, Wizards can work on one older set a year and add them to the mix. Or they can sell an online tabletop version of the game for a set price. Again, they’ve backed themselves in a corner with their business model. If they choose nothing, fans will continue to use the existing software out there to play games online for free. Wizards will not make any profit off of this.
I would hope that they would choose to compromise with the fan base. Look, I’m not out to break Wizards and bad mouth them. But I do disagree with their reprint policy, how cards are sold on MTGO, and refuse to play into their business model. Having spent good money on the Interactive Encyclopedia, I’m not going to spend $3.29 a pack in MTGO when I can use other software and play with all the cards for free. It’s just not going to happen. The genie is out of the box. If you want to play Vintage online, wouldn’t you? Why would you not play online just because Wizards chooses to not offer the cards?
Wizards, I hope you can hear my plea. There are millions of Magic fans around the planet and your choices are fairly limited. How many more gaming companies will release their product in Russia, allowing people to play online for free, before you realize that there’s a problem that needs solving? Please hear our request and work with us. Don’t push us away like the music industry has done. Would you rather be a company like Apple that offered people iTunes or be caught in the dust, wondering where all your customers went?
*I would like to personally thank Iloveatogs for the banner.