MTG:Tactics Game Review and Trip Summary by Christopher E. Otwell

Article Revision v2 — 2010 December 09

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DISCLAIMER: “I attended an event hosted by Sony Online Entertainment and Sony Online Entertainment paid for my flight, hotel, and meals in connection with the event.”

My Trip and Experiences with MTG:Tactics by Christopher E. Otwell

I was able to experience MTG:Tactics first-hand on 2010 December 3. The information and pictures used within this article are from a BETA version of MTG:Tactics. As such, some screens and information may be obsolete by the time that the software is released publically for commercial usage.

This Article covers my entire trip from 2010 December 2 through 2010 December 4.

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Day 1 – Wednesday Afternoon:

I arrived at the Hotel in Downtown Denver at approximately 6:00 pm. I was hoping to arrive a lot earlier, but the traffic on I-25 was horrible just inside of Denver. It took me over an hour to get from I-25 Exit 197 to Exit 210A.

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Met up with Tom Gustafson, my compatriot of MTGCast (http://www.mtgcast.com/) and discussed some things, among which included a discussion about his experience with the “Pan Handlers-Ring” on the streets at the 16th Street Mall in Denver. We talked a bit about what we would be doing for Thursday. Afterwards, I tell Tom that I will catch up with him at the Panzano restaurant, which is this high-end award winning Northern Italian Contemporary restaurant — http://www.panzano-denver.com/. According to Panzano’s website, it has been honored as such ‘Named Top 5 Denver Restaurant by The Rocky Mountain News, one of America’s Top Restaurants by Zagat Survey, given 4 Stars by 5280 Magazine and “To die for” in the Gabby Gourmet Restaurant Guide, Panzano is a little bit of Italy in the heart of Denver, just blocks from the Denver Performing Arts Complex, the Colorado Convention Center, all the major hotels and the 16th Street Mall.’

Day 1 – Wednesday Night:

In my hotel room, I get ready for Dinner by taking a quick shower and changing my outfit from jeans and business casual shirt into some clean Dockers, Shirt, and Tie. As it turns out, I was the like the only one that choose to wear a Tie to this dinner. While I was waiting on Tom, our Host from Sony introduced me to a number of people in our group, and immediately Tristan Gregson from ChannelFireball (http://www.channelfireball.com/) and I hit it off well in one-on-one chat and discussions about our various backgrounds and which site we were associated too. As it turns out, this was a precursor for many of the discussions to come between the two of us. Eventually, Tom shows up and joins our collective groups. I harass Tom for buying a Bud Light in Colorado — the land of many microbrew beers. Colorado, the State of thousands of unique beers, and Tom had to order mass-produced American p-water. It was sad, honestly. Anyway, after about 20 to 25 minutes of talking with Tristan and Tom, our Sony host is notified by the staff that our table is ready for us.

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We had a very nice dinner with a lot of people including: Tristan Gregson from ChannelFireball (http://www.channelfireball.com/), Tom Gustafson from MTGCast (http://www.mtgcast.com/), Chris from MTGOAcademy (http://www.mtgoacademy.com/), Trick Jarrett from ManaNation (http://www.mananation.com/), someone whom I forgot the name of from the Escapist (http://www.escapistmagazine.com/),
along with both of our Hosts from Sony Entertainment Online (SOE). Amongst the group, there was a number of interesting discussions held at the dinner table. We had dinner in the Panzano 5-Star Italian restaurant. Unfortunately, because of my recent medically required diet changes and doctor-required restrictions for eating, I cannot eat much from the available menu, so I settle on a simple Caesar Salad and some of the appetizers, and a small glass of Riesling Wine. In the end, the restaurant had a very nice atmosphere. However, Panzano would not be the kind of place that I would have chosen for dinner, since I cannot eat pasta at this time. Everyone else at the table had a number of fancy meals, deserts, and drinks throughout the entire dinner. Our Host from Sony paid for all dinners and drinks, including Beers, Wines, Scotches, Mixed Drinks, etc for both dinner and pre-dinner. This was also a precursor for more to come.

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After much talking and dinner and after-dinner discussions, we broke up into a few groups. Tom and I decided to join Tristan and Chris from MTGOAcademy to play against them in a 2-Headed Giant Limited with 40-card decks using two of the Deck Builder Construction box sets. During the deck building process, we were all talking and trying to figure out a consensus on what we thought that MTG:Tactics was going to be for a game based on the cryptic amount of knowledge that we already had, and every possible extreme you could think of was discussed. We did not really agreeing on what it could be for a game, but I was leaning towards a pseudo-MMOPRG at this point. We all had hoped that was it could be good though. For the Limited deck construction, one box set was given to each team, with the teams being Tristan and Chris vs. MTGCast (Tom and I). While building the last deck for MTGCast, I got really sick, really quickly. This forced me to bail before I got to play any magic that night. The deck that I built for Tom was a B/U Control deck, and the deck that I was in the middle of building for myself was a R/W Aggressive deck with a splash of green for a Raging Ravine. The R/W deck included an Emeria Angel with 4 Terramorpic Expanses, lots of white Flyers, 2 Lightning Bolts, some red aggressive attackers, and 2 Pacifisms. The U/B deck included lots of targeted removal and card drawing, a few counter spells, and 3 copies of Control Magic.

After thinking about, I probably got sick from dehydration resulting from drinking the Wine that I had at dinner, which Doctors have told me previously that I need to avoid for the next several months because of it causing severe dehydration to my body. My current daily water intake is not even one-half of what it should be at this time according to my Doctors. Therefore, unfortunately, I ended up bailing out on the 2-HG limited action just before we would have started, and went to my room to lay down, drink water, and rest. Tom, Chris, and Tristan ended up playing some 3-person Commander decks, with Tom winning using Experimental Kraj for his Commander.

Day 2: Thursday Morning

I wake up at 6:30 a.m. feeling a LOT better than when I laid down to sleep, though I kept waking up through out the night to drink water cause of my body’s extreme thirst for liquid. While my sleep was not perfect, I was feeling a LOT better after I flushed everything out of my stomach with the water. It was time to get ready for the big day. Therefore, after a shower and a yogurt breakfast, I meet up with Trick Jarrett in the lobby at approximately 9:15 a.m. We talk about a few things, including the new Commander Format changes. Other people start to show up that are joining us over to the Sony Studios that I’ve not yet met, including Lauren Lee from StarCityGames (http://www.starcitygames.com/) who is the new editor-in-chief at SCG, Jeff from Ten-Ton Hammer (http://www.tentonhammer.com), and a few other people that are from MMORPG specific websites. In the end, there was close to 14 different websites represented within the overall Magic and MMOPRG gaming sections of Media coverage.

After all of us have gathered in the lobby, we were driven to the SOE Studios on Blake Street in downtown Denver. Once we arrived, they took us to the basement were we were provided a chance to meet John Smedley (President of SOE who is in-charge of 5 different Sony Online Studios), Mark Tuttle (SOE Denver Studio Head), Rhea Shelley (MTG:Tactics Lead Designer), and a number of the Game Designers. They also provided us a light German-style Continental Breakfast, while we went over the rules of engagement for the day and signed our disclaimer agreements. As it turns out, the entire staff of the MTG:Tactics development team are long, long time Magic Players as well, which gave several of us a better comfort level on if this game would have the same look and feel as Magic in the end. For example, I do not believe that Atari’s Magic the Gathering: Battlegrounds was created by Magic Players, based on the look and feel of the game, though I could be wrong. MTG:Tactics was created by Magic Players for both Magic Players and Computer Gamers. In fact, John Smedley was even talking about his many Alpha cards that are still used in his various Commander Decks today (A.K.A: The deck format formerly known as Elder Dragon Highlander), as well as many times that they would spend the Lunch hour breaks just playing multi-player Magic throughout the day. It should also be point out, that on this staff of designers are a number of people that have worked on the Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game (TCG), the Legends of Norrath Online TCG, several other Decipher Games including Star Wars TCG, Star Trek TCG. In addition, they are actively developing six of Sony’s online games at this site including PoxNora, and a few others.

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During the introductions on-site at the SOE Studios, a number of other people that I previously know were now present as well, including John Stephens of TCGPlayer.com (http://www.tcgplayer.com).

After the introductions were completed, they gave us a full tour of the entire SOE Denver Studio, which covered two floors of the building. After that, they gave us a training session on MTG:Tactics and allowed us to provide feedback on the overall look and feel of the product. This lasted for about 2 hours, after which we broke for Lunch. At lunch, they provided Beer, Sandwiches, Potato Salad, Fruits, and various other drinks.

After Lunch ended, we were split into two groups. The first group would get to play DC Universe and the second group would get to play MTG:Tactics. Originally, I was thinking that we would get to do both activities, but that was a misunderstanding on my part. Obviously, I took the MTG:Tactics in order to get first-hand knowledge of the game play.

Day 2 – My Thoughts about MTG:Tactics

In my humble opinion, other than Magic Online (MTGO), this is by far the BEST Magic-themed Computer Game that I have ever played. I used to own the Microprose’s Magic the Gathering (Shandalar) game, Atari Magic the Gathering: BattleGrounds, and Acclaim’s Magic the Gathering: BattleMage. This game play of MTG:Tactics was just amazing to play! It reminded me a lot of a cross between Shandalar vs. Warcraft 2 vs. BattleChess. MTG:Tactics is expected to be released during the winter of 2010/2011 timeframe, but no exact date was provided at this time.

According to the official press release material, the following was stated about the game:

[quote]

Game Description:

Magic: The Gathering – Tactics for the PC and PLAYSTATION®3 computer entertainment system brings the iconic characters, spells, and settings from the world’s premier trading card game to life in a fully realized 3D environment!

In Magic: The Gathering – Tactics, players take on the role of a Planeswalker, a powerful mage commanding devastating spells and incredible creatures. Players will take their skills into intense online tactical battles as they fight in richly illustrated environments with all five colors of MagicTM. Magic: The Gathering – Tactics brings the challenge, collectability, and community of Magic to the PC and PLAYSTATION®3. Free to download and play, registered players will be able to compete online against opponents around the world or take on the challenging opening chapter of the game’s story driven campaign. Players will be able to build more powerful spell books by purchasing booster packs and taking on additional campaign chapters through the game’s integrated story. Gamers can freely join the fun and open the door to a whole new dimension of Magic!

Magic: The Gathering – Tactics is currently in development by Sony Online Entertainment LLC in collaboration with Wizards of The Coast LLC.

Key Features

  • Experience a New Dimension of Magic:Characters, creatures, spells and settings from the rich world of Magic, fully realized in 3D!
  • Unleash the Power:As a commanding Planeswalker, players cast devastating spells such as Fireball, Doom Blade, Pacifism, and Lightning Bolt, and control incredible creatures like Serra Angel, Lord of the Pit, Colossus of Sardia, or Reya Dawnbringer.
  • Connect and Combat: Join legions of gamers worldwide for intense battles of thrilling strategy in casual and tournament formats.

Join the world of Magic: Begin your journey as a Planeswalker in Magic:The Gathering – Tactics and start battling right away for free!

[/quote]

I have gotten the opportunity to learn a lot about this game, and to experience first-hand on how to play it.

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The game is being released as a Free to download and enjoy game. It also provides the ability to expand your collection via purchasing boosters and Campaigns or other products. At the same time, you can expand your collection in a number of non-monetary methods as well. There was a discussion about the pros and cons of doing this as a free game vs. a subscription based game, and that there already exists a number of popular Free Games that allow you to spend money for gear and improvements on the market today.

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Yes, there are boosters that can be purchased in order to enhance your card collection. They are purchased using “Station Cash” (SC). SCs are used by several of Sony’s Online Digital Game Franchises, and
within MTG:Tactics, SCs are used to purchase Boosters. The prices will be either 299 SC or 399 SC in the end, but that was still “undecided” at this time. However, there are several ways to enhance your card collection, and you can theoretically fill out entire collections without ever buying boosters at all. This can be accomplished by just grinding Campaigns in the Player vs. Environment (PvE) mode, or by beating other players in general Player vs. Player (PvP) action, or by winning a variety of MTG:Tactics Tournaments online, or by trading a lot via the Auction House to improve your deck. There is also a method to redeem promo codes through the game interface, which could give you additional special cards, boosters, or boxes of product for use in game. An example of this would be if Wizards of the Coast printed on a Token Card from a real-life booster pack of Magic a one-time usage promo code that was provided for use in MTG:Tactics. The promo code structure that has been built into MTG:Tactics could also provide access to secret Campaigns, New Cards, Free Boosters, Free Booster Boxes, etc. The in-game store, which sells the Boosters and/or Booster Boxes, will also make available a Singles sales collection from time to time based on your Campaign accomplishments. So for instance, you are level 15, but you only own 3 Lightning Bolts thus far. It may then be possible that instead of acquiring that fourth Lightning Bolt, you could obtain it after you completed a particular Campaign Scenario instead of trying to dig for it from the Auction House or via opening Booster packs. At the same time, it is theoretically possible to fill out an entire collection of cards without ever needing to open a booster pack.

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Yes, you are can earn free cards by both beating the Campaigns as well as by Beating Opponents in one-on-one PvP or via “Open Tournaments” (Play as many games as you want in a designated amount of time vs. numerous players I.E.: League Style), or via 8-Man Constructed Single-Elimination Queues, or via 8-Man Draft Single-Elimination Queues. NOTE: The Campaign Mode was awesome for solo-play. Currently, the queues were only 8-mans. However, one of the suggestions that we tried to sell Sony on was the idea of having 4-Man Queues as well as 8-Man queues, especially for drafting. I do not know if the designers liked that suggestion or not, but I guess that the idea of the 8-man queues was just a left over idea from the history of Magic itself.

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Yes, there are PvE and PvP scenarios, ratings, rankings, etc… The game system tries to pair up random players based on deck power vs. ratings vs. PvP status, in order to give the fairest possible matchups. They do not want new players in the game randomly facing people with fully powered decks, as that could sour the experience for the newer players. However, that is primarily intended for random one-on-one PvP activity, and at this time, I do not know if that logic is being used during Tournament sessions as well. Within the game are a series of military style Ranks that you can achieve based on your PvP activities, accomplishments, and achievements. In addition, there is a complete leveling-based Talent Trees that you can achieve based on your PvE Campaign activities, as well as experience points towards a regular MMORPG style of leveling progression. NOTE: There is only one Planeswalker Character per account, unlike other MMORPGs, which allow you to have multiple characters (A.K.A: Toons) per game world. However, you can go through the same Campaign scenarios any number of times using any combination of decks if you so choose too, but leveling may tamper off in the process. As expansions are released, additional Campaigns will be added to the game, further enhancing the game play and replay-ability of MTG:Tactics. Every time that you complete a Campaign Scenario, win a PvP battle, or win a Tournament, you will earn new cards to add to your collection. This allows for you to constant improve your decks and capabilities of playing.

During the game play, there is no “Land” to worry about as mana is generated by a formula every turn. Each turn, mana is developed based on the proportions of mana symbols in your deck. IE: If 50% of the mana symbols in your deck are Red, then 50% of your mana each turn will be Red, etc… The Turn count for your Planeswalker will determine the total amount of mana that you produce each turn, with some exceptions such as Black Lotus or Birds of Paradise. For example, if this is turn 8 for your Planeswalker, and he has a deck that is approximately 50% Black cards and approximately 50% Red cards, you can expect to see mana generated similar to 5 Black and 3 Red for this turn. Remember, it does count ALL Mana Symbols, including those required for Regeneration, and not just casting costs, which is a prominent ability among the Black creatures. Therefore, while the number of cards might be equal, this could also skew the total amount of mana being generated at times. Also, except for a few specific exceptions, such as Black Lotus or Birds of Paradise, there is no mana fixing capabilities at this time, so attempting to use a deck with more than 2 colors of mana in it might be problematic. This was discussed as a possible future expansion theme, to allow for 3 to 5 color decks eventually, but probably not during the first year after launch.

Every new Account will acquire at least a free Starter Deck to start playing with. One of the debates that we had was if (and how many) random boosters should also accompany a new account as well, or if the existing default Starter Decks were sufficiently large enough. Further beta testing will probably cause this topic to be re-addressed prior to official launch.

There will be an Auction House, much like WoW has, for the in-game digital cards. The Auction House will eventually have Website, iPhone, etc… Support for people while they are not in game, but that functionality might not be ready for official game launch. The purpose for the Auction House will be to allow players to buy and sell cards to other players for an in-game currency allowing both players to work on building better decks and collections, as well as give it the marketplace that most MMORPGs thrive upon for activity.

The in-game currency’s name may change due to confusion with MTGO, but at this time, it was being called “Tickets”. Each MTG:Tactics ticket can be acquired for $0.10 each from the MTG:Tactics Store. The choice of having currency be based on a dime was so that the Auction House can support the buying and selling of Commons and Uncommons among the players, and give the granularity that is required to make an Auction House work. NOTE: We were arguing for a new term to use instead of Tickets because of confusion with MTGO, but to also keep the price point for the in-game currency at $0.10 because of the Auction House’s needs. In hindsight, I wish that we would of encouraged $0.05 for the price of tickets, as this could have futher improve the Auction House’s ability to sell Commons and Uncommons overtime. Universally, everyone in the room thought that it was a huge mistake in MTGO’s current design, by making that game’s tickets equate to $1 each. This was because it prevented WotC was introducing an Auction House for a game that now requires the existence of 3rd party ‘Bot’ Owners which gouge the marketplace of MTGO instead of allowing a true free market auction house to work. We wanted to break some of the direct comparisons to MTGO, because it is a new game with a different focus. NOTE: Tickets cannot be used to purchase SCs, at least currently. Not sure if they will change that or not, but the original design decision is that Tickets cannot be used to purchase SCs.

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The “Glossary” (i.e.: what the term means in-game) was very explanatory and extensive. The following pictures are only a portion of those screens being displayed.

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The “Spellbooks” (i.e.: decks) are all 40-card minimum. There is no Maximum of total cards allowed in a deck, per se. However, there is a 10 (or was it 12) named card maximum for Creatures and another 10 (or 12) named card maximum for Spells. No more than four of any named card can be used in each deck slot, so yes there really is a maximum, but not easily acquired. NOTE: You do not add Lands — See above for mana generation. Therefore, in theory, there is a maximum size, but we asked about having it increased in order to support those players that want to have 100 singleton Spellbooks to play much like a Commander format for in-game play amongst friends. The designers seemed to like the idea as well, so this might actually happen. In addition, you can view your collection in either a Visual Card collection method, or a Spreadsheet method, or in an individual card’s Animation method. At current, the deck itself canonly be viewed in a Visual Card Slot method. We asked the designers to add the Spreadsheet capability to that as well portion of the screen as well.

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There are rarities from Common to Mythic in game just like regular Magic Boosters. Each booster currently provides 10 cards. At the same times, just because a card is mythic, it does not necessarily reflect the Power level of that card. For instance, I had a Bone Dragon and Colossus of Sardia in my deck, which were both Mythic at this time. However, The Bone Dragon was sub-par for a flying dragon and rather slow on the initiative for action. Whereas, the Colossus was just amazing in how it would just SMASH creatures on the battlefield with little resistance, and it had a moderately good initiative to work with.
Unlike regular Magic, creature evaluation is not done just on casting cost curves, as initiative really does play an important role into the game’s overall game play as well as power level for the creatures. Creatures with a very high initiative can get several move/attack phases in between Planeswalker turns, vs. a slower creature like the Magma Golem with a low initiative, which might get one move/attack cycle in every 2 or 3 turns of a Planeswalker. This can greatly increase or decrease the power level of a Creature while he is in play. Goblins are typically the highest initiative creatures in the game, and can get in many turns quickly, but are easily killable by any damage attack. There are also targeted creature enchantments that can directly affect a creature’s initiative numbers. You can directly attack any creature or Planeswalker on the board by sending your army at that creature or Planeswalker.

Every turn, the Mana Pool is flushed with the start of your Planeswalker’s turn. Then a new set of mana is generated, and then that is carried through for all of the summoned creature’s special abilities and such until the next turn of your Planeswalker.

Damage is persistent throughout the game play of each Battle. For example, if your Prodigal Pyromancer, which is a 10 health creature, took 5 damage during an attack, then his health would drop from 10 to 5 and would stay that way until he is attacked again. There may be ways to heal damage on the battlefield, but I did not touch the White cards, so I am not entirely sure. I will find out shortly after I get my Beta key though about that. At any time after that during the course of the game, if the same Pyromancer took another 5+ damage, then he would die after his health was reduced to 0. However, something else to consider is that since all damage is removed upon regeneration, if you keep open the ability to regenerate a creature with mana, which could be a lot harder to eliminate over the course of a game. For example, I had a First Striking Black Skeleton Archer with Protection from Green & {B}:Regeneration and several decks have a lot difficulty in killing him. Often when they did, I left enough mana available to regenerate him as well, which gave me an advantage in several fights. As long as you keep mana open for Regeneration of your creatures, melee can be a bit tricky for killing waves of regenerators like Skeletons or Cudgel Trolls. Since you actively attack individual creatures and players in game directly, First Strike is also good overall, since every Melee Combat between creatures, means that the first swing is always done by the First Striker. If a creature dies, then he is dropped onto the battlefield as a corpse. However, if that creature survives the attack, then is granted a Retaliation attack as well against the creature that just attacked him. Each Creature’s Attack Power and Health are represented by powers of 10 initially, therefore a Zombie Giant might be a 50 / 40 guy with a 3 Initiative, but can move an average distance in a turn allowing him to get a few attacks in before he might die.

There are line of site boundaries and obstacles on the battleground terrains that must be worked and planned around. Players are encouraged to use the terrain to their own advantage. The deck that I played had included 4x Prodigal Pyromancer and 4x Embermage Goblins, so I was able to lay out a series of long-range archer-like creatures behind some terrains that could not be moved through, but could be fired over. This gave me several tactical advantages in some battleground maps. I was using waist-high barriers as a wall to protect my archers that proceeded to pick off my opponent’s creatures and Planeswalker from a distance, while they were trying to move into a melee combat position with me or find ways to eliminate my archery squads. The Flying ability was also important, as they could fly over the terrain for movement, where as ground creatures had to walk around it.

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SIDENOTE: This “archer squad” formation specific strategy actually won me the first Public 8-Man Open Tournament for MTG:Tactics with a 5-2 record in our 90 minute open tournament. 1 of my loses was on a board were I couldn’t use the terrain effectively to my advantage, and the other was to Tom Gustafson who had 3x Control Magic and used my own guys against me. In most games, I set up a position of quick attackers, and an Archery Squad, and then bigger and more powerful creatures to protect the archery squad as they wrecked havoc or to go on the offensive to keep my opponent’s army reeling from the onslaught. By winning the tournament, I earned myself a very cool looking artist-signed full-size poster printing of the Blue Female Planeswalker from within MTG:Tactics. I was given the choice of 3 different framed pieces of art that was taken directly from off of the walls of SOE’s Studios. I really like the piece of art that I choose.

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NOTE: Though to be fair to Tom, he did have 5 wins as well in the tournament and dominated the other players with his Blue/Red deck. No one else was close to either of us in Battle Wins.

Also, if you Flank a Creature or a Planeswalker in game, which means to Attack in melee mode from the Back-side of a target, you automatically achieve a Critical Hit, cause 3-4 times as much damage vs. normally against that target, so you have to pay attention to directions of your melee guys for attacking and positioning. However, when the Royal Assassin flanks a creature, it gets an auto-kill on the attack. His downside though, is that he is a 10/10 creature, which is very easy to kill.

Each Creature gets a turn sequence such as Move, Attack in either Melee or Archer mode, and then end-the-turn. There is also a Defense Mode, which increases that creature’s health for a turn cycle, but makes it so that they cannot attack that turn.

Each Planeswalker get a turn sequence such as Flush Mana, Generate New Mana, Cast Spell(s) by using your Mana and Cards in hand, Move, and then Attack (if desired) , and then end turn. It is important to remember, that a move will automatically end the turn, so you must cast your spells prior to moving around the battlefield. A Planeswalker’s melee attack is only 5 damage per regular hit. Since each Planeswalker has only 200 Health to start with, you want to avoid getting him into melee combat if you can help it. Once a Planeswalker’s’ Health drops to 0, that player loses the battle. You can avoid melee combat of a Planeswalker, either by casting creatures to put into the way (only 1 square from the Planeswalker when summoned) or by using spells to eliminate the Creatures Threats such as Dark Banish, Mind Control, etc when they get near-by. If you open spaces exist, then creatures can walk right by other creatures in order to attack the target of your choice too. The black spell to teleporting the Planeswalker out of an area of trouble is also a handy spell to have available in a pinch.

Each opening hand has 5 cards to start with, with a maximum of 7 possible if you draw extra cards. Every turn, you automatically draw 1 new card. Since there are no lands to worry about, this is actually a reasonable trade-off of spell cards available to the player. Every battleground is timed at 30 minutes per player. If you clock someone, you will win the battle. If you run out of cards in your deck, then the game still goes on until the Planeswalker is killed. Tristan and I talked about the possible scenario of using Obliterate (Destroys all creatures and cannot regenerate) after both players drew and cast all of their other cards, and what would happen in the end game. He thinks that the game would be a lame case of, like in Chess, where the Planeswalker has to walk over to the other player’s Planeswalker and just go beat down mode upon him. Whereas, I pointed out that if you have a significant time advantage, then you would just run away from the other player’s Planeswalker and intentionally clock him.

The Computer Artificial Intelligence appeared to be good. For example, the Computer knows when or when not to use multiple spells to kill a creature, such as Weakness & Lightning Bolt vs. a single bigger creature instead of killing 2 smaller ones, etc. On the other hand, it will use the Tangling Ensnare enchantments on the more powerful creatures and not on the weaker creatures, effectively eliminating them from the battle scenario. The Computer just does not waste spells like that on weaker targets if it can help it.

Currently, the game does not have a Graveyard like feature yet, and some of us wanted the ability to know or figure out how to tell when a player might still have something left in his deck. When a creature dies, it leaves a corpse on the battlefield that can be Zombified or Resurrected if needed later on. For instance, a Magma Phoenix does an area effect when it dies, but can be picked up from off of the battlefield for 3 Red Mana and then re-summoned again later on in that same Battle.

There was some discussion on if MTG:Tactics would also be providing real life Alternate Art Foils like the Duel of the Planeswalker game gets now as well, for the “possible future expansions” of MTG:Tactics, or other special in-game milestones. A final answer was not available at this time, but it could certainly be an option in the future.

Post-Gaming Experiences:

After the game experience was over with, we were brought back into an hour-long discussion with the designers about what we liked and disliked after the game. Many suggestions for improvements were made, and the designers were busy taking notes and asking questions about every topic under the sun related to MTG:Tactics.

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After the discussions were, a few one-on-one interviews were performed by Trick Jarrett, and some Swag was given out to us. The following is the list of Swag items that I got to take home with me:

- A Sony Online Entertainment themed Computer Notebook Carrying case

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- A set of the (not yet on the public Market) Sony Gaming Headset — 7.1 Digital Surround Sound Headset Model:DR-GA500

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- Some DC Universe themed Lanyards to give away to people

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- A DC Universe “Asset DVD”

- A DC Universe Bumper Sticker

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- A Batman Signal mini-flashlight keychain ring

- An All-Black Superman Hat

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- A Sony Online Hat

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- A Magic Planeswalker (White) Deck — The one that WotC gives out to people as advertising material

Afterwards, we were shuttled back to the Hotel to prepare for Dinner at the TAG restaurant (http://tag-restaurant.com/). This restaurant is known for a unique combination of contemporary Continental Social Food. This was a very cool looking atmosphere for a restaurant. Our menu selections for the entire group included three appetizers, three entrees, and two deserts to choose from for each person in the party at the dinner table. Just about everyone from the Media group, as well as all of the Sony Software Developers and Sony Designers were in attendance for this, which easily made our entire group nearly 50 people in size. The Appetizers consisted of Sushi-Tacos, Kobe Beef Sliders, and Asian Seafood Potstickers. Everyone, except for Tom Gustafson, ordered the Steak Dinner entree. I ate some of the Appetizers, but due to either the Kobe Beef Sliders being far too under cooked for my taste, or my stomach just not agreeing with the Sushi-Taco in some manner, I ended up getting very sick at dinner and proceeded to skip the entire main dinner Entree in order to allow my stomach to settle down. Eventually, I did have desert though in the form of the unique looking and tasting Banana Cream Pie, which I did enjoy a lot. In the end, while the atmosphere was very nice, the food was a HUGE letdown for me, and I probably will not be going back to that place if I was expected to buy my dinner from them. In retrospect, I should have still ordered the Steak dinner to bring home, even if I did not eat it at the restaurant itself. Throughout Dinner, Tom, Tristan, and I discussed many different topics about a number of things, which did make the evening to be enjoyable overall.

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After Dinner was over, the vast majority of the Media people and several of the Developers and Designers all went to another bar for some Karaoke action. Tom, Tristan, and I decided to go back to the hotel instead, along with a couple of the other Media people. A group of five of us in total decided to walk the four blocks back in the freezing cold to the hotel room, since the Sony hosts did not order us a cab to get back to the hotel. Unfortunately, I was expecting to be driven back, so I did not bother to bring my coat with me to Dinner in the first place. Damn that four-block walk was C.O.L.D.!

Upon arrival to the Hotel room, I decided that I needed to lie down for a few minutes before meeting back up with Tom and Tristan in Tristan’s hotel room. That few minutes turned into an hour, as I dozed off briefly. Eventually, I rejoin the others, and join in on the rest of a series of MTGO Draft Recordings that Tristan was recording and producing for ChannelFireball. Tom was doing commentary on how to draft an 8-4 deck. I join them just after they finished off the first round opponent in record time, playing a very solid U/W Skies style of draft deck from Scars of Mirrodin. For Rounds 2 and 3, I provide some useful and useless commentary for the recordings, before causing Tristan to lose game 3 in the final round of the draft because of a suggestion that I decided to make. Then again, while I do a lot of limited on MTGO, I typically will avoid 8-4s for a reason and instead will draft in the Swiss queues or just play 30-card Limited.

Between rounds, Tristan, Tom, and I have some great discussions about the good-old-boys network known as the “Premier Tournament Organizers” (PTO) and what influences that they have had west of the Mississippi. In 1994, the DCI organizers 13 of the most active Tournament Organizers for Magic in the US, and gave them a lot of power in how to hold tournaments as well as exclusivity for Prereleases and Pro Tour Qualifiers for those first several years of Magic’s tournament scene. As time, it became apparent, that it nearly takes an act of God in order to remove a PTO from his status of power and control, or he had to decide to retire from being a PTO. Some people have handled it well over the years, while others have not. There
was a lot of Praise and Props to Glenn Goddard and Scott Marshall, who are doing it right already, with a collection of Slops to several of the other ones that do not seem to have a clue on how to do it correctly.

Eventually, the time on the clock got late for all of us, so we all called it a night and parted ways, then headed off to bed.

In the end, this was an AMAZING experience to have had for myself personally, and for the MTGCast in general. One that I hope will occur again for us. I also hope that many new and exciting challenges and projects will transpire based on what occurred throughout the weekend.

Thanks for reading,

If you wish to contact me, feel free to email me directly at: otwellc@gmail.com

Christopher E Otwell

Below are just more random pictures that I made available for people to see, including a new Serra Angel artwork. If you want to see all of the other random pictures, check out my Facebook Album Page for MTG:Tactics, which has over 120 pictures on it with new ones added frequently! Otwell’s Facebook MTG:Tactics Photo Album

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