The Good, the Bad and the Buggy - Why You Should and Shouldn't Play Commander on MTGO
We all know why you're here. You want to play more Commander but going outside is a genuinely terrifying prospect right now.
Drat, my LGS is closed
(Image: Stone Rain by Daniel Gelon)
You can play Webcammander with Spelltable but then you need a group pre arranged and you're rolling the dice with people's webcam setups. Typically it's not that big of a deal... But what if I offered you an alternative? Magic Online has been around for probably too long (and believe me, it shows) and has an active Commander community with games firing basically all the time.
It's not all sunshine, rainbows and auto yields, but there's a lot of pros that make the cons worth it, to me at least. For your consideration:
Pro: Automatic Triggers and Effects
(Image taken from Wizards Play Network)
We've all had it happen. You're playing a game, talking away with your friends, and someone misses a trigger or 10 and wants to rewind. MTGO doesn't allow you to miss those triggers, or any triggers. This is both a blessing and a curse. Your game states will remain accurate, people will be kept honest about paying for Pact of Negation, and Blood Artist runs the risk of crashing the program when Supreme Verdict resolves.
Seriously though, never missing a trigger is hugely beneficial for the game, especially if you're having a good conversation, which every EDH game should be accompanied by.
Con: Repetitive Triggers can be very frustrating
Speaking of Blood Artist...
There's something so elegant about telling the person responsible for wiping your board that they're "taking 20 from Blood Artist". That doesn't happen on MTGO.
Every trigger must be placed on the stack. There is an option for "save targets" under the auto yield options, but then you need to remember to turn that off if you ever want to change who you're draining. There's ways to smooth out the process, but it will never be as easy as in paper.
Pro: There's a lot of EDH staples that cost next to nothing
(Prices taken from MTG Goldfish at time of writing. If you’re reading this in the far flung future, I hope they have made MTGO a better program than it is today and these prices may no longer be accurate)
Just look at those numbers.
Those are some damn good numbers.
Budget often gets talked about when it comes to EDH. Can budget decks compete with non budget decks? On MTGO, the concept of a budget deck can be wildly different from paper, and the above screenshots, I think, speak for themselves. Sure it costs $10 USD to unlock the full feature suite of a Magic Online account, but that also comes with a bunch of cards for your troubles, including some playables! You can see what you get for your starter kit here: https://magic.wizards.com/en/mtgo/new
(Heads up, Cardhoarder will also give you free Event Tickets if you talk to them within 30 days of upgrading your account, which is a sweet deal)
Con (that to some is a Pro): Ubiquitous cards can be expensive
On the other hand...
Some people will find this appealing. Sol Ring is a very polarizing card which honestly, for how much a copy fetches on MTGO, may not be worth your consideration. You can snag a lot of powerful cards for that kinda cash. Of course it all depends on your level of disposable income and the power level you wish to play at. Now that being said...
Pro: Buying one card lets you use it in all your decks without proxying
This one should appeal to a lot of people. The proxy debate is a hot topic lately. If you're the kind of person who will buy one card and then proxy it for your other decks, you're in luck. MTGO only cares that you have the requisite number of cards for the deck, and having a copy of a card in a deck doesn't remove it from your collection.
Con: Deck Building Feels Kind of Soulless
The feeling of rifling through your boxes and binders looking for the cards that you want for your new deck just… Doesn’t exist on the platform.
Sure, most of the deck building steps for me are entirely the same. I think of a deck to build, hop on EDHRec and Google to get some inspiration, I crack open my favorite deck building website and I go to town and then… I click a button.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s super easy, and the instant gratification of having your new deck available to you is exceptional, but I won’t try to tell you that it’s exactly the same as rummaging through your collection and finding cards you forgot you owned, card you forgot you loved, and cards from great times in your life. Unfortunately, it’s just got going to happen.
But as I said...
Pro: Acquiring cards is very easy
To wrap things up, getting cards for your collection is super easy. There are online retailers with easy to use websites with automated delivery, PayPal or Ticket payment processing, and a highly liquid market for cards. There's also card rental for those of you who like to switch it up, and would rather pay a weekly or monthly fee to play the game. There's no real delay in getting your products, and you can import deck lists as shopping carts. Honestly, I've never had an easier time going from Idea>Brew>Goldfish>Game than I have since I started playing MTGO. To me, this is probably the biggest selling point of the platform.
If you're interested in playing Commander on MTGO, you're more than welcome to hop on our discord (https://discord.gg/6HYwkHs) for some advice or to pick up some games. We're always willing to lend a hand learning the platform. You should also check out Profs video on starting MTGO (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4acqXA6iWU). It's a little old, but basically everything in that video is still relevant and super helpful.
P.S. You never have to shuffle your cards, and pants are optional.