April 12 2016 Tuesday at 01:04 PM

It's a Bug Hunt - The "Priority" of Magic Duels

This part is tough.  Nothing puts a sour taste in a player’s mouth more than changes that seem completely unnecessary and make the game harder to play.

When the Shadows update dropped, one of the first things that I noticed about the gameplay was that priority no longer holds for instant-speed effects.  My first game on my Twitch stream was likely lost due to being unable to cast Mage-Ring Bully off Abbot of Keral Keep despite having two mana available, the game skipped ahead to my end step and there was nothing I could do.  Things like this are frustrating, and it has certainly left many people in the community very upset.  Tournaments like the Hakumite and Steam Showdown appear to have been postponed, saying that there is no way to create a competitive environment out of a game with so many bugs.  

That is another problem, there are SO MANY bugs.  Pieces of the Puzzle only recognizes some Instants and Sorceries as Instants and Sorceries.  Jace’s -3 gives a spell flashback, which exiles the spell after casting, but the spell doesn’t exile after being cast.  Blight Herder’s trigger leaves the two cards in exile instead of returning them to the graveyard.  Disciple of the Ring’s abilities don’t work at all anymore, she is a sad three-four for five mana who used to be cool.  Cards just are not functioning as they should, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.


541 comments, and over 200 within the first 12 hours of release.  I had this bad feeling in my stomach when I was waiting for the game to launch, and I saw a Reddit post titled “Expansion Bug Megathread” go up.  The patch notes alone gave the impression that this was not a polished product.

Can we expect priority to get fixed? 

Wizards is making this change to move the game along faster.  They see it as a solution to new players running out the timer every turn because they have Fog in their hand and an untapped Forest on the field.  It is clear that they didn’t test this game with any players who treat it as a competitive experience, because those players would have quickly pointed out that this isn’t how Magic works.  While they may improve the bugs such as the one I experienced with Mage-Ring being treated as an instant-speed effect, they will likely not allow us to return to a “hold priority” situation, and they will likely not even make it an option.

I have been playing this game a lot since the expansion dropped, and I have been loving it.  From a cards standpoint, we have the deepest card pool and more deck building opportunities available than ever before in Duels.  The joy I gain from the experience overcomes all the bugs, all the glitches, all the short-sighted Wizards gameplay decisions, all the shenanigans in short.  Some people have asked me how I deal with all that, and I will try to give you some perspective.

I have played Magic for twenty plus years, longer than surely some of you readers have been alive.  Magic has not always been the polished gameplay experience that it has come to be known as (at least in paper).  At various points in Magic’s history, the rules have been rewritten, and most of the time playing under new rules was like being stabbed in the gut, not unlike the first time priority skipped for me.  I remember the first time I learned the hard way that an Interrupt now worked at Instant speed.  I remember the first time someone blocked and killed my Kird Ape by activating Mishra’s Factory with “damage on the stack”.  About the time I was good at “stacking damage”, they removed damage from the stack and created state-based effects and such.  I played with Magic Online in the beta phase, when it had more bugs than I could even begin to recount.  These bugs didn’t just mess up your game, they crashed your computer!

Sometimes when I read about people getting upset and angry about the bugs in Duels, I can’t help but feel like they are complaining about a thunderstorm to a guy who has been through a hurricane.  

Yes, the cards don’t work as they read, and that is stupid, it is Stainless’ fault, it is Wizards fault for hiring them, and you deserve better for your money then this.  

Yes, Duels doesn’t follow the current rules of Magic, and if it did we would all have a better experience for it.

Can I control any of these things from the chair in my Magic Dojo, or from my desk where I write this blog?  No, I cannot.  Protests and “movements” should be reserved for serious social issues, and so should your frustration and concern.  As much as I long for a better Duels, I have to play the game I have, not the game I think I should have.  When I accept that this Duels, this version of Magic, is the game available to me, I can embrace it again.

What about gameplay?  As a player who is very competitive, and who cares a lot about winning and losing, I do have to adjust my gameplay to deal with this current issue.  The art of “sequencing”, or casting your spells in the proper order, has become a little more complicated with the priority issue.  Holding a land holds priority, and I do this more than I used to.  I also try to make my land-drop the last play on my turn if priority is a concern for that turn.  When looking at your hand and planning your turn, ask yourself “when will I lose priority and will it matter?”.  This has helped me avoid many would-be frustratingly painful situations.  You could always run Bonesaw and never play it, then priority will never skip on you :)

As for bugged cards, try to read them as they play, not as they read.  I play with Pieces of the Puzzle, but I try to read it as “Reveal the top five cards of your library.  If two of them are instants or sorceries, you MIGHT be able to put them into your hand”.  Obviously a bad card, but it makes you want the milling effect really bad to run it.  Disciple of the Ring reads “vanilla” to me.  Abbot of Keral Keep reads “maybe you get to play the card, maybe not”.  Even if the card doesn’t do what it says, learn what it does do, treat it as if it always said that, it keeps the pain and anger away.

In conclusion, it shouldn’t surprise you that the “scoutmaster” of Duels is trying to keep it positive, but if even a few of my readers can find more happiness in playing the game than I feel it was worth it.  As New Day says, it is all about the Power of Positivity (WWE reference).  


<3 CGB

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