Behind the scenes with the Adepts, more Ravnica Block Constructed results, and some Rainbow Stairwell too.

Adepts: Making the Game Fun!

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The letter O!ne of the many great things about Magic Online is just how easy it is to get into a Magic tournament from the convenience of your home, any time of the day or night. You don't need to find tournament space, scare up judges, keep track of matches or do deck checks. The game itself takes care of just about everything, but even so sometimes human intervention is required to help keep things running smoothly. That's where the Magic Online Adept team comes in. I caught up with Kevin Boris from Wizards of the Coast to give us some insight into what it means to be an Adept and what they do for Magic Online players.

ITA: Kevin, tell us a little about yourself: age, background, job title & description, how long you've worked for Wizards, hobbies, interests, etc.
Kevin Boris: My official title at Wizards is Community Manager Online Games, I have worked for Wizards for 3 years and I am 28 years old. I enjoy Online Gaming and I am a hockey referee.

ITA: Have your skills as a hockey referee ever come in handy in your Wizards job?
KB: I find the skills go hand in hand. In hockey I must work with passionate people and find great ways to diffuse tough situations. This is no different from Magic Online.

ITA: What did you do prior to joining Wizards?
KB: I worked for a small import/export company. I was responsible for developing web-based stores and providing troubleshooting to our staff and customers.

ITA: What other online games do you enjoy?
KB: I have played many of popular MMO's out there. I find that with most of those games there comes a time where there isn't anything else to do and the game becomes repetitive. With Magic, I find as soon as I am comfortable with a new set, we have new content and cards coming out. The game stays fresh and exciting. I believe that is what keeps so many people in the game.

ITA: Do you get to actually play much Magic Online? What's your favorite format?
KB: As most Wizards' people say, I don't get to play enough. I would like to play more. My favorite format is drafts. I often enjoy the draft and building a good deck more than playing the game.

ITA: What is an Adept? How do you become one (process, prerequisites)? What are the duties and benefits of being an Adept?
KB: The official role for an Adept is to make Magic Online a great place to play. Our ultimate goal is to help the community have a good time and provide a safe and fun environment. When new spots are needed, we open up an application here and anyone over the age of 18 can apply to become an Adept. Adepts join the team because they love Magic and Magic Online. Most Adepts join the team because they love to help other players.

ITA: Can you delineate the specific areas of responsibility that individual Adepts handle? Is it assigned per shift or depending on the person?
KB: With each shift we have a lead that is responsible for handing out room assignments. We place more experienced Adepts in the tough rooms (Casual Casual, Draft 8 Player) that have a lot of traffic and require quick actions. We have started pushing players to visit the MASS room for general help since many of the same questions are being asked here. I find many players find that the question they have is also being asked by 5 other people. We also have shadow Adepts that hide in rooms and in games. Most players already know about the shadows, so I don't try hiding the fact that they are there. We are not trying to be sneaky; we just want to cover as many rooms as we can and keep the rooms clean.

ITA: Are there different "levels" of responsibility? How are the duties assigned? What are the hours? How many contacts do you receive per month as a team?
KB: Various Adepts have various levels of responsibility, but all Adepts are knowledgeable and can provide help. With each shift, our shift lead assigns everyone to cover various rooms. We provide 24x7 support, 365 days a year. We always have someone in game to provide help and keep an eye on the rooms. We receive ~20,000 contacts per month which range from rules questions to conduct issues to tournament questions to basic how do I play questions.

ITA: How long are the shifts? What rooms do you try to cover?
KB: Adept shifts range from 2 - 8 hours depending on how much time an Adept has. We try to cover all the main public rooms using regular and shadow Adepts. The most popular rooms are Casual Casual, Casual New and Draft 8 Player. Those rooms receive the most attention since that is where most players like to hang out. The Casual Multiplayer and Premier Event rooms are next on the list. This doesn't give anyone a free pass to other rooms, because a shadow could be anywhere. We have added Customer Service people that work in game over the past few months. Our goal is to extend our help that we can provide on the phone and with email. We are still developing the full details of how this will work, but we many problems like ordering issues that used to require a phone call can now be helped in game.

ITA: How many Adepts do you currently have on the team?
KB: Currently we have ~90 people on the team. Time devoted to helping is dependant upon each of the individuals.

ITA: Who is the most senior veteran Adept on your team?
KB: Each time we bring on a new group of Adepts we call each of them classes. At this point since Magic Online inception we have done 30 classes. Adept_Det, Adept_Blaze and Adept_Smith are the only one who have been with the team since Class 1 which means they have been with the game as long as anyone.

ITA: What are the biggest misconceptions about Adepts?
KB: I think the biggest misconception is that the Adepts are a hungry police force that all enjoy pushing around players. As part of being an Adept we must moderate and control the chat rooms. We found that in early Beta and from other Chat Rooms and MMO's that some players simply enjoy disrupting the game and making the game a miserable place to play. Ultimately as a Community we don't want players to have their fun by harassing other players. Honestly we should not have to mute players or deny access for continued violation of the Code of Conduct, but the reality is in any public environment, we will always have those players who simply choose to not follow the rules.

ITA: What do you like the best about your job? What do you like the least?
KB: My favorite part about the job is working with the Adept team and finding new ways to make it easier to provide help to the players. We have a great team and a great group of people who give their time to help make Magic Online a great place to play. The least favorite part of my job is dealing with people who simply choose to not follow the rules or try to disrupt games, cheat, or create an unpleasant environment.

ITA: Do you have any "funny stories" relating to Adepts (either being one or regarding one)?
KB: I find that, more than having a particularly funny story, most of my days are just fun. We do have our own room within the game and I find it is a great place to just hang out and chat. The team is really tight and quick to help each other out.

ITA: What are important things to keep in mind that Adepts CAN and CANNOT do for MTGO players?
KB: Adepts can help with game and rules questions. The Adept team will try to help as much as they can and escalate issues that they cannot help with. Adepts are limited in their ability to help with store and ordering issues. When we have crashes and players need to request compensation for their events, Adepts are limited to providing a link on how to contact Wizards to request an event refund.

ITA: What are some of the tools Adepts use in the course of doing their jobs?
KB: Adepts are given a set of rules and policies that we are to enforce. The Code of Conduct (COC) is our baseline. Adepts have the ability to mute and kick players based on behaviors and histories. The severity of action depends on the violation and the history on the account.

ITA: How does the mute and kick functions work? Are there any other tools Adepts use to help enforce the rules?
KB: Adept and the Magic Conduct team have the ability to mute and kick accounts based upon actions. We have a scale based on player intention and account history. If an account were to come and start blasting racial slurs and swearing at everyone, they would be immediately kicked. If the case were someone posted a trade request in the wrong room they would simply receive a warning unless they have been warned for this before. We can review games and chat between players, which is why sometimes actions are delayed.

Tune in next week when we conclude our Adept overview!

Ravnica Block Constructed 4x Open

Sunday May 28, 2006
105 players

Things haven't changed too much since I covered the last Ravnica Block 4x Open. The combination of Golgari and Orzhov still rules the roost with efficient creatures, removal, and disruption and took half of the Top 8 slots. Even though JustMeBaby didn't send me a decklist, I did notice maindeck Castigates, which might give him an edge in the mirror match. A Dimir-themed deck built around library exhaustion has cropped up to battle the dominant deck to limited success; two of them made it into the Top 8 but failed to progress further. As in Standard, having access to all those painlands can self-inflict 2, 4, or more points of damage to a player, so a Gruul strategy of efficient beatdown and direct damage can often bring victory. SmokesMcCloaks had an interesting four-color good-stuff deck that utilized Niv-Mizzet and Skeletal Vampire (also popular in the Golgari/Orzhov decks) as finishers.

Why do I have the feeling that, once Kamigawa block rotates and those Dragons are gone, Skeletal Vampire will bust into Standard in a big way?

1st place, JustMeBaby (Golgari/Orzhov)
2nd place, ParrotmanZ (Golgari/Orzhov)
4th place, bruttibler (Gruul)
4th place, xTemplar (Golgari/Orzhov)
8th place, tomkong (Dimir)
8th place, SmokesMcCloaks (4 Color Niv Mizzet)
8th place, Mike Tyson (Golgari/Orzhov)
8th place, Dr.Caith (Dimir)

Golgari/Orzhov Control by ParrotmanZ, 2nd place RAV Block Constructed

ParrotmanZ:

“Hi, my name is Dolev Golan and I'm 17 years old from Gani Hadar, Israel. I have played Magic for about two and a half years. It's the first time I've playing this format but my clan (Team UMK) helped me out with this deck. The deck is simple, playing a lot of removal, acceleration and big dudes. From my testing, after Dissension hits RAV block, there will be some more aggro decks (like Blue/Green). The control decks don't really gain anything special except Simic Sky Swallower.”

Gruul Beatdown by bruttibler, 4th place RAV Block Constructed

bruttibler:

“Hi my name is Brandon Rutter, and I am a 31 year old construction worker (how many times do you hear that from Magic players?). I played Gruul to a Top 4 performance in the 4x, and I was very happy with my choice. By no means do I consider it the best deck in the format, but it appears to me that the majority of decks are leaning towards having major anti-control elements. In place of Last Gasp and Ribbons of Night, people are running Castigate and Nightmare Void to combat the other control builds. It did not seem like the decks I played against were ready for aggro. Gruul only really gains Seal of Fire from Dissension.”

Golgari/Orzhov Control by xTemplar, 4th place RAV Block Constructed

xTemplar:

“Thinking about deck choice for RAV-GPT block tourney, I consider my deck the best choice. There is really only one Tier 1 deck, Black/Green/White. Others like Blue/Black mill (built specifically to combat Black/Green/White in fact) and Red/Green aggro can have good matchup versus Black/Green/White only if you totally ignore them in your sideboard plan. As you can see though, this deck is prepared very well. I will point out only one thing, Selesnya Guildmages, which are boarded in against Blue/Black mill function as both early and late game threats. I tried to focus heavily on winning the mirror match and I found a simple solution in Compulsive Research. Only fast land destruction can make it bad. Otherwise, you are very unlikely to lose if you successfully cast it. It helps you win the "I have more Skeletal Vampires" war, which is what the matchup is all about. When Dissension comes, I think one of the most defining cards will be Simic Sky Swallower as a great addition to this deck, maybe even four copies, because he is definitely better than Angel of Despair. On the other hand, Voidslime will be enemy No. 1 because lack of efficient counters is what makes Black/Green/White so dominant in the current Ravnica Block Constructed.”

Player Run Events: Rainbow Stairwell

I've touched on the player-created Prismatic variant format Rainbow Stairwell several times before (The Little Format That Could - which also includes links to other articles - and updated it for Saviors of Kamigawa here) Here is a RS Rules recap for those unfamiliar with the format, and if you haven't tried it recently, please click on the link, since there has been some significant changes since last I wrote about it. Basically, your deck must consist of 6 cards from each color and 6 artifacts. The 6 cards must contain one of each converted mana cost of that color from 1 to 6. No X spells, no gold spells, no split cards, and there are some specific banned cards you'll want to check out. It's a lot of fun designing your deck with the restrictions in mind. Do you run Sakura-Tribe Elder or Wild Mongrel? Smother or Last Gasp? Decisions, decisions!

MTGO clan Shadows of Sanctuary recently ran a player-run event on May 29th featuring the format and a whole slew of prizes given away (you can read the thread here). I thought it would be useful for new and old fans alike to check out the Top 2 decks from the tournament and the thoughts of the decks' creators:

RavenBlackheart:

“My first Rainbow Stairwell tournament really took off with me winning it all. This deck is a prime example of using what you have at hand and throwing it together deckbuilding. I actually made the deck 1 hour before the event started.

“Since this is a five color deck, mana might be a issue. I didn't want to put in too many mana sources though, since this would make it less efficient. The one-mana artifact is often an issue between Wayfarer's Bauble and Sensei's Divining Top, but I find the Top to be way more versatile. I used two land cyclers (Twisted Abomination and Noble Templar), Solemn, Reef Shaman, and I also ran Fierce Empath since it can be used to get any of the land cylers. Further I wanted some lifegain to be able to take some beating and still live to see the next round. Sun Droplet and Syphon Soul worked really well in FFA, Rakavolver and Loxodon Warhammer did their work as well. I found that vigilance is a great power to have in this type of game because it enables you to beat down your opponents without dropping your defenses. My fliers like Zanam Djinn and Rakavolver did most of the beating when I was lucky enough to get them.

“My most successful card in this thrown together deck was without doubt Genesis. It really made the deck win with the little graveyard removal I was facing. Exoskeletal Armor, Gaea's Might and Tribal Flames proved good for final kills and boost. I faced a little land destruction and went fast into trouble, since mana is one of the deck's weaknesses. I refrained from using mass destruction spells in this format, since angering people is a road you don't want to go down in FFA. With me winning this tournament it shows it's not all just about having the best cards, but also about the psychology involved in playing your deck. And in my case the luck factor which always plays a role.

“Thank you all for a great tournament and I am definitely going to play this format more in the future!!"

DIProgan:

“This was the first rainbow stairwell event I participated in and I was surprised not to find more combo decks. Instead it seems decks tend to go towards mana-acceleration, power, or card economy. Kicker and flashback cards are great to extend the low casting cost-cards' usefulness when you're going down the mana-route like I did. I considered using more Battlemages and Volvers, but there were just no openings for them, Orim's Thunder being the best multiplayer card ever and the dire need of manafixing was acquired in Kodama's Reach and Explosive Vegetation. So I ended up somewhat mana flooding with no sink other than Glarecaster (which is awesome), but it worked out fine this time. So what can be said about the RS experience? Well, Desolation Angel is a real powerhouse and I was lucky to have found myself some tech via Elvish Aberration and Gilded Lotus in the first round. The final, however, proved that nothing beats the right politics (luck clause) with myself and the winner of the event beating everyone else silly one at a time. In the next RS event, I will have a Desolation Angel of my own and blue will take its rightful place in card drawing with Fact or Fiction and Allied strategies. Red will get back to what it does best - deal damage with Urza's Rage.”

Make sure to check the Player-Run Events forum for the scoop on all sorts of fun tournaments!

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