Well, this should be the last week before I get to try out some new Standard brews. This upcoming weekend is the M15 Prerelease on Magic Online, and with so few initial decks requiring that many of the new cards, it shouldn't be too hard to get copies of things like Chord of Calling (which I sold when I heard they were being reprinted), Garruk, Apex Predator, and Sliver Hivelord (yes, you read that correctly!). While Modern has also been a little slow to evolve as of recent, I did manage to find a pretty sweet Rakdos Midrange list that I'd like to take a look at today. Let's take a look:

DECKID=1207766

As you can see, the deck is basically Jund, but without green. We also don't have any cards that cost more than four mana, and only two of them at that. Along with a hefty 25 lands in the deck, this means the damage we end up taking from our Dark Confidants should be fairly minimal. We also have other ways to generate card advantage from both Chandra, Pyromaster and Prophetic Flamespeaker, a card I have been quite fond of in most decks I have found him in. Along with seven manlands, the deck ends up having a significant amount of versatility and threats.

While Magic Online user sam51087 only managed to go 3-1 with the deck, that's a fine record for a rogue brew in such a cutthroat format. Another surprising inclusion is - you guessed it - four Pack Rat. In case you didn't get enough of the two mana vermin in Standard, Modern is also making efficient use of the token producing two-drop.

The two Relic of Progenitus in the maindeck are a little strange, but there are a lot of matchups where they could be relevant from Living End to anything deck with a Gifts Ungiven / Unburial Rites package, which the deck looks otherwise ill-equipped to deal with.

I'm really curious to see how things go, so let's get to it.

Rakdos Midrange vs. Monored Burn

Rakdos Midrange vs. Monored Burn, Match 2

If you've already watched the videos, the first thing you should know is that I'm immensely disappointed that I couldn't deliver the quality of content that you would expect from me and I have no idea how these videos will be received.

Yes, there were only two matches this week. If you're asking me why, well, I'm sure you can take a look at the videos and determine for yourself. The first reason was that I was paired against Monored Burn twice. This is a terrible matchup for the deck, and not at all indicative of its overall quality. (Perhaps this is more of a reason for there to be more videos rather than less, but the second reason should clarify.) The second reason...well, you see, that's difficult. We have a pretty sweet deck to talk about and I don't want to make this an article about the new Magic Online client, but clearly there was a problem. In fact, between the first and second matches, the client crashed on me two times as I tried to trade for tickets to enter the match itself.

Now I know that all of these problems should (hopefully) get fixed, but it's very discouraging for someone like me that spends so much time within the client, week after week. For someone whose livelihood is actually somewhat dependent on Magic Online. The matches felt grueling and usually I'm looking for an excuse to enter queue after queue. I did around 80 Vintage Masters drafts, after all, which I know from counting the number of text files that each draft created.

I read a very compelling forum piece about the recent habits of Wizards on the Wizards forums by user Felorin. It basically mentioned the following (along with a lot of other very solid advice):

"Building a new client for 4.0 to add features, improve interface, maybe have a better memory management and display engine for the countless megabytes of art you have to manage to display thousands of high quality cards? Ok. How about you start with the OLD interface that people have invested a lot of mindshare and mastery time in, paying you millions of dollars in the process that they're willing to keep paying you more millions of, and SLOWLY change one detail at a time as you think of better ones? While keeping some of the same art style, color scheme, even ACTUAL pieces of borders and frames and interface art? Familiarity breeds comfort."

As I read this, it struck a chord with me. It was true. For the first time in over four years, I was hesitant and anxious to play Magic Online. I actively avoided it this past week. The last time I opened the client was Monday night, one week ago, and I hadn't played a game until I needed to for my videos today. Now this wasn't mere happenstance; I was afraid. I didn't know what to expect, and something that was once very comfortable and familiar was now alien to me. Felorin described it perfectly:

"I don't even KNOW yet if it's better or worse overall, and the part of my brain that wants some comfort while I'm working two jobs right now says, 'Boy THIS is going to take a long time to learn, and Hearthstone has been feeling pretty good lately.'"

Magic Online was no longer an escape that I could use to brew decks on a whim or play a deck, make a couple changes, then play it again, all at instant speed. It was now this cumbersome, unfamiliar beast that trudged along slowly. It was a Swiss Army Knife that was now encrusted in diamonds, and while it shined like a polished stone, it was now infinitely more difficult to use it as a tool. I would find myself struggling to get the knife or the scissor out with all these diamonds in the way.

I remember how easy it was to look through your collection on version three. You could easily flip through pages and go to the tab (of the set) you wanted with one click. You could also alter all of the search criteria from the top of the screen with ease. The current version of the client has about six different drop down menus, and only one can be open at any given time. Opening another closes the rest so you can never at a glance see all of the search criteria your using. When I selected "mythic" to be displayed in "Vintage Masters," everything showed up from Dark Ritual (common) to Goblin Lackey (rare).

I have no idea why Swords to Plowshares (a common) or Fact or Fiction (an uncommon) was showing up when I only had the "Mythic Rare" box checked. I had no idea why foil Chainer's Edict or foil Fyndhorn Elves was visible (both commons). There was no rhyme or reason that I could ascertain. I mean, this is the deckbuilder. This is how we build decks! Magic is nothing if not a game that requires decks! It was disappointing because this is such a basic feature that should be working on day one, before a product is released, not more than a week after it has taken the role of "only usable version." At first I was wondering what we would end up calling this version, as the previous version was version three, and this was simply known as "the beta." Now I'm wondering if it will ever lose that moniker.

But I want to remain hopeful. Since the "beta" took over last Wednesday as the only official version, I combated naysayers left and right, preaching that the client isn't nearly as bad as I was lead to believe. I still don't think it is, but I haven't been eager to use it either. I think my largest complaint is that it isn't intuitive. Buttons that were once at the top are now at the bottom or the middle of the screen. Features that once required one click now require four. When a box pops up, the information it contains is ten times smaller than the box itself, and the box pops up in very random areas. Everything within the client opens a new window, from chat messages, to new games, to trades. I have two monitors. When I would be playing the game all the way on my left monitor, every time I got a "notification," which pop up when someone chats with you, it would appear all the way on the exact opposite side, in the lower right hand corner of my monitor. There was no way to change this, and the notification didn't Fade Away after a few seconds. It remains there indefinitely until you click the "x" to close the box. I don't know why this couldn't pop up within the client itself. All the necessary information in the game, from exiled cards to revealed cards, are all hidden by default not. I have to open up this drawer of tabs on the right side in order to reveal this information, and if I don't see the pop up that does Disappear after a few seconds, letting me know that cards are in those zones, I might have no idea my opponent revealed a card or suspended a Rift Bolt.

Will these things get fixed? Yes, I believe so. At least I hope so. And I'm hoping you'll still come along with me, week after week, for videos, and watch as the improvements get made. Version three wasn't perfect either when it was released. It took a lot of tweaking and reskinning, so I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt here (which is odd, as I'm giving the benefit of the doubt in regards to the ability to "improve a broken product").

I'm not sure what else to say about the matter other than I'm somewhat crestfallen about the whole ordeal. I don't want the comment section to devolve into a forum for us to air our grievances about the new client. I don't think that's productive. I think if anything, we should mention some things we do or don't like, and suggest improvements for the latter. I love Magic. I love Magic Online. As such, I felt as though I had to be honest about my initial impressions. I wanted to make sure I included an internet speed test and the specs of my computer in the first video just so there was no doubt that my machine and connection were fast enough to handle Magic Online. I'm not sure why my opponent's plays and actions were going faster than my own. The one discrepancy I could think was that it boiled down to size of card collection that was loaded or stored in the cache. With over 100,000 cards in my Magic Online collection, I could see that as being a hindrance, but clearly something that should be easily handled.

Alas, that's about all I have for today. I'll see what I can come up with for Thursday for you guys. If the client allows it, I imagine some Vintage videos might be in store, and then we should begin with some Standard again. After all, who doesn't like Dack Fayden? Thanks for reading.

Frank Lepore
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