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The short summary is this:

  • The Interface is simply terrible. It looks like something made in 1998.

  • The fundamental game (magic) is fun, and it's rather addictive for that

  • It's expensive, especially if you aren't good. I'm mediocre-to-good, I guess. It feels like gambling

  • It takes a long time to play a game and it's hard to find that time

The first thing I noticed is that the interface is TERRIBLE. It's one of those confusing, 90's era messes. It's not Microsoft Bob bad, but it is BAD.

Before you even install, you download a downloader, which then downloads a launcher, which in turn downloads updates... but to launch it, you need to run a process named "renamer.exe", and you need to run it elevated. How sketchy is that?

It's awful through and through. After getting things running, it pops up with an initial screen offering a few simple options, but the options you really want are mostly in a menu bar along the bottom. Although this menu bar has several tabs, the one you really want is labeled "menu", even though it looks like a tab, has nothing to do with the front screen.

You know, I can't do it justice without screenshots. I'll have to get some later. The stack system is very confusing, and it commits all kinds of interface sins, like scaling text relative to the amount of text ("Visa" and "American Express" are different sizes), and popping up windows within tabs within windows (like "My Triggered abilities").

It's so bad, it really feels like Wizards just released the game in 2002 and never updated it again. What do you think "Always yield to FX: triggered/activated ability" means, without looking it up?

But moving on... I do find myself playing it a lot, especially now that I've figured out what the **** is going on in the interface, not an easy task, let me assure you. One of the most annoying things I discovered was that the first game I played was actually a 4-3-2-2 tournament, meaning that I got eliminated the first round when I ran out of time in a game that was winnable (losing 2-1).

I've played a few other drafts since. The baseline price is "2 event tickets plus product". So in a normal, 3 booster draft, that means 3 packs ($12) + $2 for the tickets.

Of course you keep the cards you draft. The prizes are determined by ranking and the type of draft. The defauit is swiss - 3 rounds, and you get 1 pack per round you win. There are also single elimination tournaments, 4-3-2-2 (# of packs per ranking), and the more agressive 8-4. They've also added 12-6 (which takes a few more tickets).

So if you win 2 games, you should do okay; maybe only having to buy a pack and the tickets ($6) for the next draft.

I lost my first draft, which was 4-3-2-2. I can't remember what I drafted, but I was so baffled by the interface I ran out of time in game 3.

Oh, and the timing - each player gets basically 25 minutes across all three games.

I resolved my next draft would be swiss, since I needed 3 rounds to get experience. I forget the per-game records, but I finished 2-1, so I got two packs. This deck was actually pretty solid; I had a moonsilver spear which, when it gets equipped, is basically an I win card. "Equipped on a flyer" is a trick though; the match I lost involved a very rough green deck. Green, when it gets what it needs, is very strong.

I took my two packs, bought 4 more, and entered 4 booster sealed. This format meant that finishing 2-2 (as I did) earned you 3 packs. My first opponent disconnected about midway through game 1 while losing. Unfortunately, I had opened nothing but crap, and I knew it. I lost my next game, but won the last one. My best card was Tibalt. Of course, he only came into my hand in my very last game. It was fun to drop him on turn 2, but it was not quite as much fun to watch my opponent miss his third land drop and do very little for the rest of the game.

I took those 3 packs and entered a 4-3-2-2 this morning (yes, morning; I'm an addict). I went 2-0,2-0,0-2. Again, I lacked bombs, but my opponents were bad; this much was obvious very quickly by the cards that were going around. Except the last one, who dropped Soul of the Harvest in both games on turn 6. Against my deck, with Mist Raven, Spectral Prison, etc - it was too much. The card draw really ground me down, though I struggled quite valiantly.

To me the most interesting thing is that, except for the first game, my worst finish is even. This implies (though the sample is too small) that I am better than the average player... which doesn't quite make sense.

With the cost of entry being so high, I imagine the clowns typically quit the game quickly, and the pool is somewhat rarified. So to be able to enter it, with only one draft in years under my belt, and be competitive... is surprising.

Also, playing a match either 1)Ends quickly due to single elimination or 2)Takes a whole evening. My experience has been that 3 rounds of draft takes 2 hours 20 minutes, but it varies greatly depending on the players; you may find yourself waiting 20 minutes after your games are done. But in any case, if you start at, say 8, and lose the first round of a single elimination, it's probably 9 or so. Do you want to risk being up past midnight? Well, this depends on your schedule, but for me it's rough.

Because each game I learn so much, I want to play again so badly!

Incidentally, according to this article, if you and your opponents are equally skilled, you can expect to pay an average of $8/draft or so. However, I've found that my opponents are generally either about as skilled, or else clowns. The clown proportion makes the economics better, but we'll see across a better sample.

I'm also interested in getting some "Qualifying Points", so I can compete at the season end. To do so, you need to finish first in a normal draft of 8 players, or first or second in the new, "10th anniversary celebration" 12-6 format.