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The Complete History of Magic Online


Magic Online is nearly 15 years old. While it has undoubtedly had its fair share of ups and downs over the years, it is clearly the best way to play Magic in your underwear or draft against a pro in the middle of the night. Today we are going to look back at the history of Magic Online month-by-month and year-by-year. If you can think of anything that's missing, please let me know in the comments; the idea is to periodically update this article to make it as expansive and extensive as possible. Anyway, I present to you The Complete History of Magic Online:

Summer 1999

Leaping Lizard Software

A company called Leaping Lizards Software, maybe best known for their remake of the 80's classic Centipede for Hasbro, pitches the idea for an online version of Magic: the Gathering to Wizards of the Coast (WOTC).  WOTC is intrigued and after a "weekend of furious programming", Leaping Lizards has a limited version of MTGO built. Although it only contains four cards (plus basic lands), it was enough for WOTC to hire the company to develop the game.

In fact, WOTC was already thinking about producing a digital representation of MTG. They had just released the Magic Interactive Encyclopedia which was designed to allow for digital deck building. Once you purchased the program, all the cards were free — you simply "marked" the cards you had in your paper collection and used those to build decks and even play games (although it is unclear exactly how gameplay worked). The program was updated with every set release at no cost to the user.

August 2001

Internal alpha testing of MTGO Version 1 begins. 

November 2001

Wide beta testing begins and takes place in three waves designed to control the number of players and stress test the servers. The first wave installs the program onto WOTC's Retail LAN, the second wave releases a limited number of CDs in Premiere Stores, and the third wave offers the beta for download on certain websites. 

January 2002

Magic Online Set Redemption

WOTC puts out a press release announcing the redemption of the the "soon-to-be-released" MTGO. Wizards’ Nathan Sherman, brand manager for Magic: The Gathering explained, “Our R&D team came to us with the idea of building a card redemption feature into Magic Online and we saw it as a way to give players even more... Magic Online redemption gives players the ability and flexibility to play with the online cards or the physical cards. It’s about giving players as many options as possible.” For a $5 fee plus a couple dollars for shipping, you can trade in (redeem) a complete set of digital cards for a complete set of physical cards. 

The same press release givess us a first look at pricing. "Players will be able to purchase a starter game, which will include the online game CD, a certificate good for one online theme deck, a Magic: The Gathering rule book and the Magic Online player manual, for $14.99 (retail). Or, players can choose to download the game at no cost, go into a “free room” to play a sample game with a limited number of cards, and then move on to purchasing a theme deck and other cards when they are ready. Cards will be offered at $3.29 for 15-card booster packs and $9.99 for 60-card theme decks, the same price as the physical cards."

The announcements that digital objects (which is where the "MODO" comes from — Magic Online with Digital Objects) would be sold for the same price as physical cards set off a bit of an uproar in the community. Later in January 2002, WOTC responds to these concerns through their website. They give two main reasons for why prices on MTGO mirrors paper cards: first, they need to "maintain the health of the physical game" (meaning they didn't want MTGO to cut into the business of LGS's or the sale of paper Magic cards) and second, MTGO's development and upkeep is expensive. Just in case this response wasn't satisfactory, they concluded with a promise: "It is our promise to players that we will make Magic Online an excellent value, with awesome game-play, tournaments and prizes. It is our hope that many of you will choose to play Magic Online when it is officially released. Though Magic Online will never replace the face-to-face Magic experience, we believe it offers many new opportunities for experienced players, as well as new players."

July 2002

Magic Online Version 1

The Magic Online website launches. Two days later, MTGO goes live with a total of six sets (Seventh Edition, Invasion, Planeshift, Apocalypse, Odyssey and Torment) and approximately 1,500 cards. The plan is that new sets will be released alongside their paper companions while old sets (that were not already on MTGO) will be released over the course of time.

Features include:

  • Fully integrated, enforceable rules
  • All cards from 7th Edition and Invasion forward, complete with art and flavor texts.
  • Popular formats like Rochester and Booster draft, Standard and Block Constructed,
  • Several Multiplayer variants including Two-Headed Giant and Emperor.
  • Secure online trading and easy collection management.
  • Chat function, ratings tracker, and game replay option

February 2003

Two-Headed Giant of Foriys Avatar [VAN]

The Magic Online Invitational is held. Since streaming and Twitch were not yet a thing, fans are invited to watch the event online with one match from each round featuring live commentary in the chat. On the last day of the event, random players are selected from the chat to spellsling against the participants including Richard Garfield, Randy Buehler, Mark Rosewater, Aaron Forsythe and everyone's favorite whipping boy Worth Wolpert. Bill Rose wins the event. His reward? Getting a Two-Headed Giant of Foriys avatar made on Magic Online! The avatar is given away during events celebrating Magic Online's one year anniversary in June 2003 to anyone who logged into the program during the 24-hour period preceding the anniversary events.

In the same month, WOTC changes the tournament structure of events held on Magic Online. In the early days of MTGO, all eight-player events were 8-4s (eight boosters to the winner, four to second place, nothing for third through eighth). According to the announcement, "many players on Magic Online seem to live in constant fear that they will run into Pro Tour players when they draft, and would have no chance to win," WOTC decides to add the infamous 4-3-2-2 queues (disliked by lovers of value because they pay our one less pack than 8-4s or the yet-to-be-invented Swiss Queues). 

The justification for paying out one less booster is actually very similar to other player unfriendly changes that will happen over coming years: "A 4-3-2-2 payout really isn’t very friendly for someone whose goal is to win enough prizes that they can keep drafting “for free.” Anything less than first place gives them less than the 3-packs-plus-2-event-tickets entry fee needed for a new draft and even first place provides only a tiny profit. Worse still, there are only 11 total packs given out as prizes instead of 12 so every player’s “expected value” is slightly lower." This is an attempt to divide up players of differing skill levels and the way to do this is by making some queues less attractive than others.

Queues are also made anonymous as some players would refuse to join events with pros and some pros were getting spammed to death once their user name was leaked. In one famous instance Finkel gave up Kai's user name in the chat and Budde's screen was immediately overrun with messages, making the game unplayable. An 1800-room (in which only players with a rating of 1800 or better) is created to be a "frequent fliers" lounge for pro-level players.. 

March 2003

A large (2500 player), free, load testing tournament crashes the server. According to WOTC, a bug in the tournament code caused the crash and the development team realized there was no way of restarting the server without cancelling the event.

April 2003

WOTC announces MTGO will be hosting an open World Championship Qualifier. Entry into the preliminaries, which are held in multiple formats, was $10 and the Top 8 from each prelim received prizes and an invite to the World Championship Qualifier. The winner of the Qualifier received round-trip airfare and accommodations to the paper World Championships held in Berlin, Germany. The winner of the event? None other than Andrew Cuneo who became the first person to qualify for the Pro Tour from Magic Online. (Back in the day, the World Championship was considered to be a Pro Tour event).

May 2003

WOTC takes over the design and development of MTGO as Leaping Lizards "rotates out." Eighth Edition is the first set produced completely in-house by WOTC employees.

While this might not seem like a big deal, Rich Stein, in an excellent article published on Hipsters of the Coast, points out that "early on in the history of MTGO we are seeing a precedent set for two things that will come back to haunt us. First, we are building a platform in-house instead of through a professional software developer. Second, we are trying to push out software changes in-line with the release of paper-magic changes."

July 2003

WOTC gives away Royal Assassin avatars (the original Dark Confidant) in celebration of Magic's 10th Anniversary. The catch? Players must participate in a paper event to receive their prize. After participating, players could simply input their DCI number into the MTGO store and get the avatar automatically added to their account. 10 years later, promo codes are marketed as a major improvement to the platform.

July 28, 2003

Magic Online Version 2

MTGO V2

MTGO Version 2 is released alongside Eighth Edition. Along with V2 comes a bunch of new features like: improved trading including a "casual trade" room which was designed to mimic trading at a GP or LGS, new player tutorials, the implementation of the previously announced 1800 room (which paid out 9-5), and a trophy room to publicly display your swag. 

August 2003

WOTC spends the month playing damage control while trying to fix the disastrous roll out of Version 2. On August 8th they release an article titled Why We Haven't Reverted. It is important to remember that Eighth Edition was the first MTGO set produced completely in-house and unsurprisingly, many of the big problems with the V2 roll out revolved around the set. It wasn't that the programming of the set itself was bad, but WOTC programmed the set in such a way that made it almost impossible to revert back to Version 1, no matter how bad things got. Here's how Daniel Myers described the situation:

"Once we released Eighth Edition cards online, reverting to version 1.0 became a monumental task. While we can still do it in case of catastrophic failure (in other words, we can't get the servers up at all under 2.0), chances are we'd end up with another week or two like last week. The system would be even buggier with Eighth Edition changes grafted onto the old code and we'd loose all the patches we've already added to the new version. So, should we have reverted before releasing Eighth Edition online? Looking back, the answer is yes. At the time, however, we didn't believe it would take as long as it has to get Magic Online back to any level of stability. Once we released the new core set, the point became moot. In short: We made some bad decisions. We're stuck with the results now and we're trying to fix everything as quickly as possible. We're just sorry that we ended up bringing you along on the roller-coaster ride."

By August 12th things were so bad that Chuck Huebner, President and CFO of WOTC, published a letter to the MTGO Community:

To the Magic Online Community:

I have been attending closely to both the performance of Magic Online Version 2.0 and to its impact on you, our players. Needless to say, the performance during the last two weeks fell far below my expectations and I am truly sorry that we have caused so much frustration for our long-time players and created a disappointing first impression for our new players.

The most common questions from you and from our team are: “Did we rush the launch?” and “Was our testing adequate?” We would never have launched this upgrade, regardless of deadlines, if we believed the product would not be stable. However, the only metric that counts is performance, and with hindsight we have to answer, ‘Yes we should have delayed Version 2.0 and tested more.’

Where does that leave us? At this stage, a rollback is not an option nor is it ultimately desirable. Despite recent performance issues, we have a more robust platform and a much better interface for new players. We are going to stay the course, painful as this may be, for the near future. The end result will make this worthwhile. When this is behind us we will throw a virtual party and celebrate together.

Thank you for your patience, feedback, and participation.

Respectfully,

Chuck Huebner President & Chief Executive Officer Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

August 20th, 2003

The situation continues to degrade and WOTC is forced to do the unthinkable: shut down MTGO. They did turn on a free, no prize beta server while they tried to resolve the growing issues.

October 2003

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

If you remember the letter from CFO Chuck Heubner, he closed with the line "When this is behind us we will throw a virtual party and celebrate together." This event becomes known as Chuck's Virtual Party and scheduled to run on October 25th and 26th as WOTC felt the program was once again stable with Dave Myers joyfully proclaiming "now that we are out of the wood we're ready to play."

The idea was simple: As a thank you to all the player who had stuck it out through the V2 change, on October 25th and 26th there would be fire-on-demand, nix-tix Eighth Edition and Onslaught Block Sealed queues. Plus, anyone who had logged on to MTGO between July 28th and September 28th would be given enough product to enter one of the Onslaught block sealed events for free along with a free special booster that contained one of three rares as voted on by the community. 

Of course the servers crashes during the party and the free events were cancelled early, only frustrating the community even more and making the overall situation even worse. Two days later, WOTC finally admits that MTGO needs an overhaul. Randy Buehler publishes a State of the Game article which set the stage for the MTGO rhetoric we've been hearing for the past 13 years. See if this sounds familiar:

  • MTGO "is a thriving brand that we here are WOTC are very happy with ... it's seen as a big success ... and WOTC is going to do whatever it takes [disappointed this didn't say "double our efforts"] to make sure Magic Online remains healthy and vibrant."
  • "The real story behind Version 2.0 is that all the new features we added gave each user more things to do, and thus the number of simultaneous users we could handle came down below the number that wanted to log in on a daily basis."
  • "In order to have a permanent solution to this problem, we are currently putting together specifications for an overhaul of the system that will allow us to handle more users simply by adding more master servers. This is a major project that will take a lot of time and effort, but our number one priority is to make sure that Magic Online is fully scalable so that it can handle all the users and all the new features that we could ever hope to add to it."
  • "We plan to manage our special events so they don't cause a large spike of simultaneous users. This probably means, for example, that we will need to limit the number of people who can participate in big tournaments (like Release Events) at the same time."
  • "The good news is that once we canceled last weekend's free tournaments, the game was stable again."
  • "The big picture is that Magic Online has been so successful that we're outgrowing the initial design of the game. In a weird way, this is actually a good problem to have. We are truly sorry that we put the Magic Online community through this, but we are optimistic that ten years from now we'll look back on this as the Magic Online-equivalent of the Homelands set: Mistakes were made and we shouldn't have done it that way, but we learned from it and the game survived just fine."

Fall/Winter 2003

Over the next few months, nothing too exciting happened in the MTGO world. WOTC started charging VAT in November and the release of Mirrodin was delayed by a week thanks to the excessive amount of bugs found during beta testing.

February 2004

WOTC officially announced Magic Online Version 3. David Myers (recently promoted to Communications Manager) stated "the conclusion the team came to is that, rather than some patchwork solution, Magic Online needs to be rebuilt from the ground up." Meanwhile prices of boosters increased to $3.69, mirroring the paper world, and tournament packs go up to $11.39.

May 2004

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Bob Maher wins the Invitational which is held partially on Magic Online. Part of his reward was being able to design his own card and the Magic world is eventually introduced to Dark Confidant, one of the most powerful and beloved two-drops of all time. Perhaps more interesting was Bob's initial design was a sorcery that gave an opponent 9 poison counters!

June 2004

Premiere Events (finally) return to Magic Online.

August 2004

The 1800 room (which was, over the course of its life, changed to the 1700 room) is removed due to a lack of popularity. According to Wizards, it takes between 45 minutes and several hours to fire a single 9-5 draft queue. The same announcement put the release of V3 at the "end of next year." Later in the month, WOTC announced the creation of the Classic format, which is designed to be the "Online Vintage" since many of the most important cards in real Vintage had yet to make their way into MTGO.

The second World Championship qualifier is held on MTGO. The event sent Toshinori Shigehara of Japan to the Pro Tour, but is notable for another reason as well: a then-unknown 18 year old MTGO player named Bradley Nelson (with a user name of FFfreak) is the only player in the top eight playing this deck:

2005/2006

No major changes to report. The MTGO team is still plugging away at V3. Over the course of these 18 months, several new-to-MTGO sets are released including Mirage (the first old set ever released on MTGO, released in December 2005), Visions, Weatherlight, and Coldsnap.

May 2006

Remember back in August 2004 when WOTC announced that "the end of next year" (2005) as the target date for the release of Version 3? Well 2005 has came and went without V3. On May 25th, 2006 Bennie Smith released a firm time frame in an article featuring interviews with Magic Online's producer Brian Lindley and Brand Manager Justin Ziran. "Public Beta" is to begin in 30 to 60 days with October 2nd being the launch date.

June 2006

Magic Online Momir Basic

Momir Basic becomes a supported format on Magic Online.

September 2006

A predictably great article by Frank Karsten has a V3 release update tacked onto the end. At this point Beta testing has not yet started (it was suppose to begin in June or July) and the launch date was pushed back to the vague estimate of Q1 or Q2 of 2007. Apparently the development team had tried a whole bunch of new and cool things, but decided to make it look as much like everyone's favorite V2 as possible. Brand Manager Justin Ziran states "The User Interface testing revealed a few instances where the new design was actually less desirable than the current design ... MTGO 3's interface mode will likely end up very close and comfortably familiar to the one of MTGO 2."

October 2006

Lorwyn Booster Pack

Booster prices increased to $3.99.

January 2007

Standard with Vanguards

Beta testing of V3 is to begin "shortly," with the launch date remaining sometime in the "first half of 2007."

Frank Karsten writes a metagame analysis of Standard with Vanguards, a MTGO-only format.

March 2007

The MTGO V3 Blog is launched and V3 moves into wide public beta.

April 2007

Worth Wolpert, Brand Manager for Magic Online

Worth Wolpert becomes Brand Manager for Magic Online. 

July 2007

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

WOTC announced the first Masters Edition, a series designed to get older cards into the MTGO system. Over the course of four releases, MED marks the first appearance of many older MTG card including Force of Will and the original duals on Magic Online. This allowed for the eventual development of the Legacy and Vintage formats on MTGO.

August 2007

WOTC released a Version 3 fact sheet at GenCon 2007 which highlighted the "vibrant online community," the ability for"24/7 play from the comfort of your own home," and "updated features to make the game more accessible" as reasons to start playing MTGO.

December 20th, 2007

WOTC began a 38 day countdown until the release of Version 3.

April 9th, 2008

Nearly 100 days later, MTGO Version 2 went dark for a week as WOTC prepared for the release of Version 3.

April 16th, 2008

Magic Online Version 3

Nearly five years after Chuck's Virtual Party led to V2 being declared a failure and more than two years after its initially planned release date, Magic Online Version 3 is officially released. Server problems were massive with MTGO being down almost as much as it was up over the next six months or year. It also took nearly a year for redemption to return. The lack of redemption massively decreased the value of both cards and tix during this time period — Shards of Alara complete sets were 45 tix, and tix were $0.75 each.

September 2008

MTGO Mountain

Mike Gills published the MTGO Mountain, designed to illustrate how organized play is intended to work on MTGO.

Also in September, From the Vault: Dragons, the first of the series, is released on Magic Online along with Masters Edition II, the second set in the MED series. 

October 2008

WOTC issued a warning to the community that CBSbot (which later becomes MTGO Library Bot, or ML Bot) "does contain pieces of malicious code and has the ability to compromise Magic Online accounts. If you are running this bot on your computer or have ever run it on your computer, we recommend that you remove it from your system and change ALL of your passwords, including any similar password you may use with any other company (such as E-bay, Paypal, Credit Card, etc). The seller of this bot has admitted to using a “backdoor” function in the bot which would open to his account allowing him to freely trade cards from accounts running the bot. We have verified at least one victim who had all of the cards removed from their account via this function." They also remind the community that they are not responsible for any losses or damages that may occur from running third party software.

Also in October, Gordon Culp published a Magic Online Development Update addressing some of the issues with V3. The team is "actively working on a redemption solution that is targeted to be available when we would turn on Shards of Alara redemption." There is no "ETA for leagues," but "they will not be implemented in 2008 at this point" and "Q1 2009 can be ruled out as well" but, "WotC has made an increased resource commitment to Magic Online."

December 2008

Magic Online Pauper

The common-only Pauper format is born. This new format not only creates demand for otherwise unplayable cards, but also provides a cheap-to-enter competitive format for players who will not (or can not) spend the money necessary to keep up with more expensive formats. 

The first Magic Online Holiday Celebration also took place. It featured Nix Tix drafts, 8-Player Sealed Swiss queues, and a Wolly Thoctar promo for everyone who participated in an event.

February 2009

Worth's State of Magic Online article gave an update on leagues, stating that Q1and Q2 of 2009 could be ruled out, but the plan was to ship leagues in the current [version 3] client."

March 2009

Magic Online Customer Appreciation Week

The chat loves Customer Appreciation Week. 

Also in March, WOTC announced the Magic Online Championship Series (MOCS), the premier event on MTGO. Players compete over the course of seven seasons to earn promos and qualify for the season championship. Winners of a season championship (or last chance qualifier) are invited to the Magic Online Championship, which has a $32,000 prize pool and a $13,000 grand prize.

June 2009

MTGO launched the Magic Online Live series which featured $5,000 tournaments at specific events and locations (Pro Tour, Gen Con, Nationals, etc) along with a town-hall style meeting between MTGO player and the MTGO development team.

November 2009

The first Magic Online Community Cup is held and the first in a string of victories by the Community Team over the WOTC Employee team occurs.

December 2010

The team will "talk more about" leagues in the first quarter of 2011. We also learn that the code name for leagues is ironically "sandwiches," one of the quickest and easiest meals on the planet.

March 2010

Legacy comes to Magic Online. WOTC also announced that Classic will become a "specialty" format, with daily events and queues being eliminated except for special occasions.

March 2011

Leagues are featured as part of the 2011 development plan with "design being updated to take advantage of new infrastructure and features." Leagues are "in the project queue behind the digital object storage and collation updates."

August 2011

Modern comes to Magic Online. Players are given textless foil Lightning Bolt promos for competing in release events.

October 2011

Event Decks are removed from the Magic Online store. Chris Kiritz reported that Event Decks, "while very effective in paper ... do not appear to meet the needs of the Magic Online player."

December 2011

Masques block, the last paper set yet to be released in digital form, is brought to Magic Online. This marked a milestone for MTGO as all cards from Mirage forward (with the exception of a few cards from the Portal series) were available on the program. Cards from pre-Mirage sets will continue to be added to the system though releases like Masters Edition.

In December, WOTC also puts out the call for players willing to help beta test the in-development Version 4 clients.

May 2012

Cube drafts come to Magic Online for the first time and include a 64 player tournament run over LAN at PAX East which awards Best Buy gift cards and booster packs as prizes.

June 2012

Worth announces a giveaway celebrating Magic Online's 10th Anniversary. Prizes are based on the year an account was created and ranged from a foil Shards of Alara booster and a non-foil Unhinged full art land for new accounts, to foil Unhinged lands, boosters, and the entire series of premium decks for older accounts.

October 2012

The Community Team lost the Community Cup for the first time.

November 2012

Magic Online Holiday Cube

WOTC announced the first iteration of the Holiday Cube which contains the first digital representations of the Power 9.

December 2012

In his year end executive summary, Worth reported that 2012 was a great year for Magic Online: "New players are coming to the system faster than ever before. People are sticking around longer in the system and playing much more while they're there. Engagement with the program is way, way up. We've set all sorts of records this year, and as you might imagine, the release of Return to Ravnica came with a whole host of new broken records, including the most concurrent users on the system we've ever had at one time (for Return to Ravnica Prerelease weekend), and several others." In the same article he mentioned that the fabled leagues are in the "preplanning" stage with an expected roll out sometime in 2014.

February 2013

WOTC announced it was increasing the fee set redemption by 400 percent, from $5 to $25 dollars because "the costs associated with printing, processing, shipping, and the general administration of the Magic Online Redemption Program have increased to the point at which we must make a change." In coming years, this change will be pointed to by many as a significant blow to the MTGO economy and the reason for decreased booster prices and stratified card prices, problems that WOTC is eventually forced to solve.

June 2013

Mike Turian, Digital Product Manager for Magic Online

Mike Turian becomes the Digital Product Manager for Magic Online with a job description that includes "leading the daily business of Magic Online, including communications (the "What's Happening" page, the Magic Online Calendar, "Weekly Announcements," the newsletter, and in-game announcements), all Magic Online scheduled, premier and queued events, and the general Magic Online client."

August 2013

WOTC announced the creation of non-tradable Phantom Points which replace Cube Tix (Cube Tix were basically the same thing, but only usable in cube drafts). Originally one Event Ticket was valued at 1.67 Phantom Points. The same article announced New Player Points which are given  to new players (on account creation) and can be used to enter special new player queues. 

October 2013

WOTC posted a Wide Beta Update stating, among other things, that Version 4 would not be released in 2013. WOTC announced Two Tix Tuesdays, 32-player phantom sealed events that only cost two tix to enter and pay out a total of 13 boosters to the top eight players.

November 2013

Brian Kibler - Delete Magic Online

Kibler kills MTGO. In a post on his blog titled The Magic Online Championship Series Should Not Exist, the handsomest man in Magic on tilt after timing out due to a MTGO error while 7-0 in a MOCS, tells the community they should uninstall MTGO. This is despite the fact that the servers were, by most reports, much more stable than they had been over most of MTGO's history (although there was a recent string of repeated problems with very large events). In response to the blog post, WOTC suspended all premier and daily events until further notice. The MTGO economy crashes, losing 11 percent of its total value in a day.

December 2013

Worth released his yearly executive summary stating that "At the beginning of this year, we started making huge increases in the amount of money and resources we were putting against Magic Online, with a well-articulated four-year plan. Some of those efforts have been fruitful, but as we get to the end of the year we are realizing that we are going to need to reallocate most of the forward-facing 2014 investment toward backend efforts that will prevent service and event interruptions, like the ones we experienced several weeks ago but have been dealing with off and on for years."

On the same day, Chris Kirtz let everyone know that there is a "separate feature team developing Leagues" and that he is looking forward to sharing more about leagues "next year." On the topic of leagues, Worth stated that "work is well under way with this project and has been for some time," but "leagues are being designed only for the wide beta [version 4] client."

March 2014

Worth gives an update on the time frame for the return of MOCS and PTQs: "The momentum is positive, driven by Wizards of the Coast's commitment to deliver the best quality play experiences possible for you. The steps that we've taken to increase resources and improve processes within the Magic Online group have begun to bear fruit in the form of quicker bug fixes, higher quality cardset releases and faster responses to issues in general."

May 2014

Magic Online has a Wide Beta Spotlight which shut down Version 3 for two days to force players into trying out the new Version 4 Beta platform. As a reward, players were allowed to participate in Journey into Nyx prerelease events earlier than normal.

June 2014

Vintage Masters is released bringing the Power 9 to constructed play on Magic Online for the first time. The addition of these cards allowed for the creation of the Vintage format on MTGO and also hearkened the end of Classic ("online vintage"). Vintage Masters is also the first set (in paper or on MTGO) to incorporate the "Bonus" rarity, making the Power 9 essentially "super" mythics. 

July 2014

Magic Online Version 4

July 16th, 2014 Magic Online Version 4 becomes the only MTGO client as Version 3 is shut off. While there were numerous problems (most importantly involving lag and memory leak), the program does not go dark and most people were able play Magic.

Also in July, premier play (including Pro Tour Qualifiers and the Magic Online Championship Series) returned to Magic Online after eight months. The MOCS remained the same as before, but a PPTQ system is implemented for Pro Tour Qualifiers.

August 2014

WOTC reports that the release of Khans of Tarkir will be "followed by the launch of leagues."

September 2014

WOTC announced the formation of the Vintage Super League, a streaming event featuring several of the best and most well-known Vintage players in MTG. Over the course of the next year-and-a-half, the Super League expanded to include Standard and Modern, becoming a staple on Tuesday nights.

November 2014

It is announced that leagues will be in closed beta starting in December and if all goes well they will be released during the first half of 2015.

February 2015

Worth declares that beta testing of leagues has been successful "will allow us to deliver more polished, higher-quality experiences once Leagues launches for all players later this year."

July 2015

Magic Online Play Points

Lee Sharpe announces Play Points, a new form of MTGO currency designed to fix the troubled MTGO booster pack economy (a result of the redemption price increase years earlier). Starting in August 2015, all constructed events will pay out solely or mostly in untradable "Play Points" (rather than booster packs), which may be used to enter constructed or limited events. Play Points will replace Phantom Points, and are given a value of 1 Event Ticket = 10 Play Points. Also announced is the doubling of the entry fee for Daily Events from 6 tix to 12 tix, and massive changes to Pauper, Legacy and Vintage Daily Events, which become similar to scheduled 8-man queues. In response to this announcement, there is a significant sell off as players leave the game and as a result the MTGO economy crashes, losing about 12 percent of its value over the course of two weeks.

August 2015

It is announced that Commander 2015 will not be sold through the MTGO store. Instead, the 55 new cards released in the set will be awarded in special, non-tradable prize packs (along with cards from Conspiracy and previous Commander decks) that can be earned by performing well in Legendary Cube events starting in November.

Conclusion

And that's where we are today. That's what I managed to dig up from MTGO's fifteen year storied history. Is there anything I missed or misrepresented? Let me know the comments below, on Twitter (@SaffronOlive), or MTGO (SaffronOlive).


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