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Overview

Magic: the Gathering Online is a direct online adaptation of the paper trading card game Magic: the Gathering. Originally released in June 24, 2002, Magic Online was originally developed by Leaping Lizard Software before development was taken in-house by Magic publisher Wizards of the Coast.

Magic: the Gathering Online uses a virtual economy mirroring the paper market; packs of trading cards can be purchased for prices matching their physical equivalent, and events / tournaments require entry fees in order to participate. Cards from recent sets acquired in Magic Online can be "redeemed" for equivalent physical product for a fee, so long as one is redeeming a complete set.

As of 2007, director of digital Magic Worth Wollpert reported that Magic Online made up to 40% of Wizard of the Coast's profit from Magic: the Gathering's per year.

Basic Rules of "Magic: the Gathering"

  • Each player begins with 20 life and seven cards in their hand. (Note: Life total and hand size varies depending on game type, and can be adjusted.)
  • Cards are played using mana which are defined by the five basic land types, Swamps, Mountains, Plains, Forests, and Islands
  • Use creatures and spells to get your opponent down to zero life, or ten poison counters, or unable to draw a new card at their next draw step (no cards left in library). Any one of these states equals a loss for your opponent.

Card Types

  • Creatures: Cards that remain on the battlefield that can attack and defend. Many creatures also come printed with abilities, sometimes granting them functionality even outside of combat.
  • Sorcery and Instants: Cards that have one effect when played and are immediately discarded afterwards. Sorceries and Instants are effectively the same, the only difference being that Sorceries can be cast only during your turn, but Instants can be cast any time.
  • Enchantments: Cards that remain on the battlefield. Typically enchantments have a static ability that is active all the time, such as "creatures you control get +1/+1" or have an ability printed on them which you may activate whenever you choose.
  • Artifacts: Essentially the same as Enchantments, but represent physical objects, and have colorless mana costs. (meaning that any color deck that use any artifact) There's a subtype of artifacts called 'Equipment', that lets you attach the equipment to creatures you control for various bonuses. There are even artifacts that are creatures.
  • Land: Basic resource of Magic. You play lands and tap them for mana so you can play spells and abilities. Virtually every deck requires lands (in substantial quantities) simply to function.

Parts of a Turn

Beginning Phase

  • Untap Step
  • Upkeep Step
  • Draw Step

Precombat Main Phase

Play any available cards during this phase

Combat Phase

  • Beginning of Combat Step
  • Declare Attackers Step
  • Declare Blockers Step
  • Combat Damage Step
  • End of Combat Step

Postcombat Main Phase

Play any available cards during this phase also

End Phase

  • End of Turn Step
  • Cleanup Step

Formats

Magic Online has a variety of other formats (besides the classic duel) that can be played.

Commander - Based on the popular paper format EDH (Elder Dragon Highlander) which has been renamed to Commander. Players start the game with 40 life instead of 20 and a 100 card deck with no more than one copy of a particular card (besides basic lands). They also select a legendary creature from their deck to serve as their deck's general. The general starts the game in the Command zone and may be cast from the command zone. Any time the commander would go to the graveyard or to the exile zone, the commander's owner may choose to put it into their command zone, where they will be able to play it again. However, each time they want to cast it from their command zone, it will cost an additional 2 mana for each previous time they've cast it (so the first time they cast their commander, they do not have to pay any additional mana. The second time they cast it from the command zone, it will cost an additional 2 mana. The third time, an additional 4 mana). If a player takes 21 points of combat damage from a particular general, that player loses the game.

Freeform - A format where no cards are banned, players can play any number of the same cards and multiple avatars, and every set is legal. Basically, a format where players can "screw the rules".

Momir Basic - A format using the Momir Vig Vanguard avatar (which lets a player discard a card and pay X mana to get a random creature with a converted mana cost of X). The deck must contain nothing but basic lands and the Momir Vig Avatar. There's also similar formats involving the Jhoria of the Ghitu avatar (which lets players make a copy of a random instant or sorcery), Stonehewer Giant (which gives you a random equipment based on a creature's converted mana cost, or even all three at once.

Prismatic - Based on the format 5-Color. Each player's deck must be 250 cards and contain at least 20 cards of each color. It has an extensive banned list (most of which are various forms of tutoring spells).

100 Card Singleton - Each player can only have 1 version of each card in their deck (excluding the 5 basic land types, which can still be run in any amount) and their deck must be 100 cards.

Tribal Wars - One third of each player's deck must be of a single creature type.

Pauper - A format where only cards printed at common rarity are allowed for use. If a card was printed only as an uncommon, rare, or mythic rare, but never a common, then it is illegal for use in this format. This restriction makes the format accessible to those who can't afford to buy cards to make competitive decks in other formats. The Pauper format is featured on Magic Online as one of the formats to have their own tournaments.

Version 4 Open Beta

The new version of the MTGO client was released in July 16, 2014.

The new Login screen. Themes are set-specific.
The new Login screen. Themes are set-specific.

This new client features fully moveable and scalable windows and panes for most of the relevant section used by players, such as the chat and trade windows. Individual matches now spawn their own separate windows that can resized and docked to the player's content. There have been massive UI changes across the board, in both the design and the position of various elements of the client, this includes the seven main tabs (Home, Collection, Play, Store, Trade, Account and Help) which have been greatly enlarged and moved from the bottom of the UI to the top, in a much more prominent position.

The new Home screen
The new Home screen

There is now much more information provided to the player on the Home screen (which is the first area you see after logging in), important announcements, upcoming scheduled matches (with a new graphical timer indicating the time to the next match, and an extensive list of the matches appearing after that) and your friends are now all displayed prominently up front. There is now an in-depth notification and pop-up system in place, which the player can control to their liking, allowing you to get sound and text notice of a variety of important information. This includes: buddies signing in, trades that have been started with you, or that your opponent is waiting for you to make your next play in a match.

In August 2015, Leagues were re-introduced to Magic Online after being disabled for several years.

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