Jonathan Pechon

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Jonathan Pechon's
Therapy Sessions

01.22.04  Corrupting Modo

Iíve played a pretty fair amount of Magic: Online. Leagues, draft, the odd constructed event, Iíve managed to dabble a little in each of the primary fields of interest in the online game. This isnít to say that I have a fantastic rating at all; I havenít really put in the time and energy to push that into any sort of realm of respectability.

A big part of my problem is school. This semester is going to involve me spending a lot more time in books and writing than previous semesters have required. If anyone would like to come help me write legal briefs on random cases, please feel free to volunteer; I really, really could use a lackey (it might help get these articles in more smoothly, heh).

I guess the question here is, do you really gain anything from playing Magic: Online (a.k.a. Modo)? There are people who treat this as the best way to play Magic, and have moved their entire investment in cards online. The number of retailers who deal on Modo in various forms is staggering; it seems like *everyone* can be a businessman there.

But does it pay off? Is there really so much to gain from being able to draft at 3 a.m. every night of the week?

It really does depend on perspective.

I look at it a couple of different ways. Magic is, in large part, a series of mental exercises. Being able to observe a situation with a certain set of tools and then find an optimal play is essentially the key to the game of Magic. You need to know that, if you fail to kill this creature, you are going to lose the game because of it, rather than this other, less important creature. Itís a mental exercise, and it is this part of the game that draws comparisons to chess and other games of skill.

The key word that I take from the previous paragraph is ďexercise.Ē In order to bring your level of skill up to where you want it to be, whether it is in constructed or limited, you need to do reps in Magic. Playing sealed, drafting, playing your constructed deck against relevant matchups, whichever area you are looking into improving, you just need to play, and play a lot!

So why does online make this more convenient? For one, the league structure allows you to play sealed decks until your eyes are ready to pop out of your head. In the one league I am in right now, weíre in our second week of play and there are a LOT of people who have put in anywhere from 30 up to 74 matches with their decks. Throughout this, you are going to see cards played that you might be able to make a better judgment on.

An example of this for me was Mesmeric Orb. I got crushed two games in a row because my opponent played the Orb against me at critical times in the match. I also learned how to play against the card in the future, learning when I should be aggressive and when I should sit back and wait. Orb is a card that people havenít really agreed upon whether itís necessarily good or not in limited; this helped to show me that it did have some feasible uses in the right deck.

Draft online is a little bit sketchier. I guess this really depends on what kind of event you are practicing for; if you want to be better prepared for drafts at your local store, then you can jump into just about any queue and youíll get a draft with a comparable level of knowledge to what you might normally expect. However, if youíre preparing for a premier-level event, then you might want to take what you get with a grain of salt, especially in the 4322 queue. Some strange things happen that probably shouldnít happen in a draft can go on in there; #mtgwacky on EFnet regularly echoes with the calls of ďOMG 7TH PICK BONESPLITTER LOLOLOLOLOL,Ē when aberrations like this occur.

The strangest environment to test might actually be constructed, simply because it can be so difficult to find an opponent representing a real deck in standard. You jump into the casual room and sit at an empty table, looking to test your U/W control deck against the other decks in the field. When seven different people sit down with their theme decks or Grip of Chaos deck, you donít really get a lot of valid information from them. Serious testing takes some patience online; the best thing to do is to find a group of people who have decks built so that you can run your deck through a gauntlet of testing.

This begs one of the most painful questions to deal with on Modo: where do you get all these cards from? The biggest thing to remember when youíre thinking about playing online is this: you have to build a collection ALL OVER AGAIN. The degree to which you have to do this relates directly to the amount of money you have to spend. If you think that you are going to build a playset of cards for Standard by drafting, congratulations, youíve just set yourself up with what may as well be a full time job of drafting and trading in order to accumulate all the cards you want. If you have the funds to purchase sets or collections then that will greatly abbreviate the process; however, what you will have for some time is a mishmash of cards, maybe one completed deck, and a whole lot of people who are in similar circumstances.

So these are things to consider stepping into Modo. Itís a lot of work to get to a point where you have a range of constructed decks to play with, and the next set is always just a few months or so from release. Keeping up with the Joneses gets expensive, but itís just a question about whether you want to make the investment or not. As far as playtesting can go, every game you get in can help you learn something about a matchup that will propel you one step further towards your destination.

The biggest discrepancy is to look at Modo as something that you are going to generate a profit from. As a player, only a relatively small percentage of people have been able to, ďgo infinite,Ē meaning that they win enough drafts and tournaments where they have enough packs and cards to constantly be able to draft at their whim. It takes an extremely talented player and some luck to be able to generate this kind of bankroll; if youíre going to start playing, you need to disabuse yourself of this notion. Youíre here to either play casually or improve your game; arrogance will simply end up costing you a lot of money.

Thatís about all for this week. Next week, thereís going to be plenty to talk about regarding Darksteel; Iíll be at the prerelease in Dallas (well, Irving), so hopefully Iíll see some of you guys there. This set looks to be a lot of fun in limited; Iím really not sure if thereís a lot of cards that can make a significant impact on constructed, but time (and people better than I at constructed) will help to determine that.

Ciao until then.

-Jonathan Pechon

Sigmundí on IRC (EFNet)
Sigmund on Modo

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