Braids, Arisen Nightmare
9, Apr, 24

Magic: the Gathering Online Offers Digital Starter Decks for 5 Formats!

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Article at a Glance

There are a few different ways for MTG fans to engage with the world’s oldest trading card game. The most popular among these is typically paper play, which makes a lot of sense. This has been around the longest and offers a social aspect to gameplay that other platforms miss.

Magic Arena is another popular way for players to get their fix. While the client is beautiful and accessible, the issues with Magic Arena lie in its card pool. A majority of Magic’s cards over the last 30 years are missing, and the consequences show. While Standard and Limited are very popular on MTG Arena, other formats like Commander, Modern, and Pioneer are not available.

Lastly, there’s Magic Online. This dinosaur is another online client that players can use to play Magic from their own homes. It even has most of the cards from Magic’s history, and offers a wide range of different formats to play that are almost identical to their paper counterparts.

The issue with this platform is that it has not been easy for new players to get involved. The graphics look like they belong in the early 2000s, the controls are not intuitive, and the platform is very much not free to play. That said, despite these flaws, Magic Online remains the favored way for many players to engage in Magic from their homes, including myself.

One big point in favor of Magic Online in recent times is the new client handler Daybreak Games. This company has been doing an absolutely fantastic job making the game more accessible 24/7 for new and active players alike. They released a ton of new updates for the client that will likely have players swarming the online client in the coming days. Here’s what you need to know.

New Starter Decks!

Perhaps the most exciting addition for new Magic Online players is five new starter decks that should give players a helping hand into many of the formats that Magic Online offers. These decks will be available in the Account Upgrade Kit, which generally costs $4.99. Notably, if you want to access everything that Magic Online offers, you need to buy this kit, making these new rewards a bonus.

As you may suspect, because they are starter decks, these aren’t fully competitive 75-card lists that should immediately have you winning all of your MTGO Leagues, but they do look somewhat competitive. They remind me of the Challenger decks that were yearly available up to recently. While a lot of meaningful reprints were available in these decks, players generally needed a significant amount of upgrades to get the deck competitively viable.

Take Legacy Burn, for example. According to recent results on MTGTop8, the deck is more or less streamlined. You can take a look at a sample list here.

Compare that to the MTGO starter deck, and things look quite a bit different. Multiple cards in this list, like Bedlam Reveler, do not appear to see play for Legacy’s current state of burn.

Mono-White Humans in Pioneer has similar issues. The archetype, while historically popular, has been dying out. The archetype barely sees any play now, and the deck is quite aways away from the optimized construction. Multiple cards, like Boros Elite, Mardu Woe-Reaper and Precinct Captain are traditionally never found in optimized decklists. The four copies of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Thalia’s Lieutenant, however, are really nice to see.

Infect is another archetype that died quite some time ago in its appropriate format. You can still see this deck topping the occasional Modern tournament, but the archetype largely died out when the forced rotations from Modern Horizons sets took over the format. This one is quite far away from a traditional Infect list.

The Pauper Delver list is a lot closer than the others. Brainstorm, Lorien Revealed and a few other cards are missing, but most of the maindeck is there. The sideboard is a bit wonkier, but this deck should be particularly cheap to upgrade considering the full decklists is generally only worth about $40.

The Braids Commander decklist is not particularly competitive, but could be quite fun to engage in some friendly Commander leagues with.

To make things better, according to the article where these decks were first announced, this is just the beginning. New MTGO decks will be on their way in the Account Upgrade Kit as Daybreak Games continues to revitalize their accessibility to the client.

In addition to the five new decks, the Account Upgrade Kit will now also offer an instant collection of 5000 digital cards for players to tinker with. This includes 150 rare cards. While this may not be as big of a deal as it seems, it’s still nice to see players getting more bang for their buck with this mandatory purchase.

Tournaments are a Lot More Accessible!

One thing about Magic Online in comparison to Magic Arena, in my experience, is outside of the Qualifier Weekends that MTG Arena offers, Magic Online is a heck of a lot more competitive. Offering gigantic 400-player tournaments for massive prizes, Magic’s best commonly queue up on the MTGO client to fight for big prizes.

For players who want to test their mettle in weekly tournaments, the weekend was generally your only choice. This forces players who do want to participate in Magic Online’s challenges to make plans on the weekend to do so. Challenge times also largely favored players in the American time zones, making things even more difficult for abroad players who wanted a taste of competition.

To help remedy this, Magic Online has offered new Challenges throughout the week! A total of 17 new challenges will be available throughout the week, with a bulk of them occurring across Fridays. Most challenges will still occur on the weekend, but this should allow MTG players who have a big chunk of extra time throughout the week to compete in larger tournaments.

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Competitive Commander Support

Dockside Extortionist
Dockside Extortionist | Commander 2019

As of Wednesday, April 10th, Commander Leagues will be available on Magic Online. For reference, an MTGO league refers to a five-round event that players can play at their leisure.

Commander leagues, however, are quite different. Instead of five rounds, Commander Leagues feature only one. The prize structure is a winner-take-all method but does offer the full four-player experience. Both Limited and Constructed are available for Commander.

If winner-takes-all is not your style, there is a friendly Commander option where prizes are awarded via a voting system.

This is perhaps the most exciting addition announced for Magic Online. The new starter decks are quite interesting, but this is the first digital cEDH support that players have ever had access to. This could make competitive Commander both much easier to access, and could cause the metagame to shape up aggressively. With access to more sets, players can test different strategies more aggressively, discovering intricate breakthroughs quickly.

Incredible Updates

With all of these new features coming to Magic Online, we could expect an influx of new players interested in trying the new client. Competitive Commander Leagues are particularly interesting, giving players an online space to truly hone their cEDH prowess.

On top of all this, a pretty intricate creator program was also announced by Daybreak Games recently. With all kinds of goodies being offered, MTGO creators will not only get more support but could even grow in number. If you’re looking to get into online Magic, especially if older formats are your jam, Magic Online has a lot going for it right now.

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