A Quick Note on the Recent WotC Improvements
The great thing about the opening of the DCI database and the integration with MtGO is the phenomenal amount of information that we suddenly have access to. Decklists, win statistics, ratings changes, all freely available, instantly, to be pored over, assessed, chewed up and spat back out against as opinion, new tech, and metagaming.
Take, for instance, the newly released MtG Facebook App. I can take a look at all the decks my friends have played on MtGO, what their matchups were, their win/loss ratio, how they drafted, the works. The decklist analyser is particularly fascinating, allowing you to see maindeck and sideboard cards evolve over a time (the timeline slider is a nice touch).
I think WotC made a great choice building a browser-based MtGO match replayer. I love being able to replay my friends games from anywhere, and the ability to browse the Top-8 games of all events is awesome.
The DCI integration is less fully featured, for obvious reasons, but with WotC making the effort of getting play-by-play replays of the Top8 of PTQs, PTs and GPs into the system, at least we can see those as well.
They’ve finally improved the decklist downloads. You can grab any decklist you can see in text format and now easily upload that into MtGO or print out to build in paper. The “email this deck” features is pretty sweet, especially for starting a discussion over Facebook about what cards to change. The integrating with Gatherer has been neatly done and the interface makes collaborating over decklists pretty sweet.
I guess the downside is that the app makes things even more competitive. Watching your DCI rating improve or shrink over time up against your friends can be pretty invigorating or depressing, but it’s not helping the social aspects of the game. Yes, you can hide your rating (or anything else – decklists, matches, etc) if you want, but you don’t sign up for this type of thing unless you’re ready to share.
I love love love the voice integration into MtGO. As usual you have to be prepared to mute the occasional idiot (this is the internet after all), but it makes matches, particularly Commander games, that much better. It was long over-due.
The improvements to game-finding are both a blessing a curse. Yes, it’s great you can see when your friend are on the client via Facebook and challenge them through the browser, but the new player skill-matching algorithm that WotC have implemented is bound to frustrate some of the better players who can no longer graze on the noobs to farm rating.
It’s the metagame analysis that the new DCI reporting that’s truly impressive. The ability to compare MtGO metagames and paper metagames is amazing. The archtype-reporting could do with some improvement, but it’s pretty understandable given the broad nature of how you might register a deck as a particular archtype. Regardless, having sweeping access to decklists in every format from around the world that the world’s best are playing is incredible. The privacy settings seem to be a little more stingent (try looking up the stats of that 14y/o kid who took down that PTQ in Memphis, you won’t find them) but the sheer quantity of data more than makes up for it.
The impacts have been startling. The most argued about has been card pricing. Suddenly even smallest changes in card demand and trends sees almost instant, over-the-top changes in card pricing both upwards and downwards. We knew pricing was fickle before this, but the dataflow has really exaggurated the effects. And netdecking has become infinitely worse with the “best decks” become far more rapidly known.
I wouldn’t argue that innovation has been stifled, though. It’s clear that metagaming has turned into an artform, and even though people claim those Top 8 performances to be “one deck wonders”, it’s become a lot more exciting to get behind the rogue-deck player carving up the Teir 1 decks.
I guess that leaves the most controversial topic, the integration of MtGO and DCI ratings. There’s been a lot of discussion about this, arguing both sides of the coin. Me, I’m not bothered by it, but people have to realise that the easy access to rated games on MtGO is both a blessing and a curse. It’s where the wild swings in rating now happen and you can easily ditch a couple of hundred rating points after a hard-night on the piss and some bad play decisions that wouldn’t happen in paper Magic. However, now that it’s happened, it seems inevitable, and I think in a few more years no-one will even question WotC’s decision. Just be glad WotC didn’t choose to integrate Duels of the Planeswalkers into the DCI rating trap as well.
Anyway if you want to find me, of course, you can hit me up on Twitter, MtGo, Facebook or DCI-Net as wrongwaygoback. Failing to comment on my recent abysmal performance at the MtGO GP is appreciated.