HEX vs MTGO: What Magic Can Learn From HEX

hex_logo_blackIf you have been listening to our podcast over the last few months, you’ve probably heard me mention HEX during nearly every episode. Hopefully you aren’t tired of me talking about it. (If you are, send me a note and let me know!) The reason I talk about HEX so often is simple; It’s what I am playing every week. And why am I playing HEX rather than MTGO? It’s better!

HEX Background

Cryptozoic Entertainment ran a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign back in April/May of 2013, raising $2.27 million to help fund the development of the first of it’s kind MMO TCG. What is an MMO TCG? Well, since one has never existed before, we don’t know everything that it can be. Let me put it this way: not only does HEX have similar game-play as many other TCGs, but when fully released, it will have something that no other TCG has ever had, a robust PVE (Player vs. Environment) component.

If you are familiar with HEX and MTG you are also probably aware that Wizards of the Coast filed a lawsuit back in May of 2014 against HEX alleging that “HEX infringed on WotC’s copyright, patent, and trade dress rights“. In more plain English, WOTC claims that HEX stole it’s stuff.

Earlier this year (2015) the judge in the case set the timeline for how the case will proceed. Bottom line: In May of 2016 the case will go to trial.

My Take on MTGO

What does this have to do with me and why I play HEX rather than MTGO?  I’ve had an MTGO account since 7th edition. But I’ve never felt comfortable playing MTGO. I’ve played a handful of times over the years. However, it’s always just been too intimidating for me. I can’t exactly explain why, but I think it comes down to the learning curve. Learning to play on MTGO has always felt like walking through a big city late at night with a bag full of money.

Wizards of the Coast has tried to make it more user friendly over the years. They have re-written it how many times? I think they are on version 4. Gold Border cards were supposed to help beginners get into it. New player points give new players access to beginner level game play. But they are always Always ALWAYS too little too late. I need to be able to graduate to wearing big boy pants on my own terms not when my points run out. And anyone can play gold bordered cards, so there is no guarantee that one will be evenly matched with someone on the other end. It’s just as likely that the someone on the other end is a guy who gets his kicks by beating noobs, and he knows just where to find them.

To be fair, Wizards of the Coast does have a beginners level product: Duels of the Planewalkers (DOTP), WOTC’s entry level digital game is not a bad way to learn the basics of the game. (Although it has it’s own aggravating aspects…it cheats!). You would think that mastering Duels of the Planewalkers would help guide a new planeswalker on a path that would help him master MTGO. Think again. Every year DOTP changes and every version is different than MTGO how MTGO works. There is no continuity between the two platforms! So learning one does not prepare you for learning the other.

What Makes HEX better?

HEX is better on almost every count.

1. You can play the AI instead of real folks until you build your confidence. Time is not limited for this. You can play the AI ’till the cows come home. The controls and cards and everything are the same between playing the AI and real people. That way when you graduate to playing real people, you don’t have to wonder about the key combinations to pass the turn or interrupt the battle sequence. This is a must! HEX wins in this category hands down.

In MTGO land you have two separate games. Start by playing DOTP. Then once you are so aggravated with it, because it always has perfect draws, go play MTGO. But don’t expect things to exactly look or work the same. (Note: HEX does not have perfect draws. It’s nice to feel like you are on a more even playing-field.)

2. HEX has a better a user interface. HEX’s combat interface just works. They have tweaked it since alpha release making it better and better. Eliminating anything confusing and adding prompts and graphical elements where needed. Going from one step of game play to another just makes more sense and is more simple to understand than MTGO. Perhaps this is just a personal preference, but it seems HEX has streamlined the interface in a way that meets the user’s needs. MTGO could really learn a thing or two from HEX.

3. Cheaper packs mean Cheaper drafts. Packs go for about $2 on HEX. (A little cheaper in the auction house). A draft will only set you back about $7 as opposed to the $13 or $14 it costs in MTGO. To a new player, this is a big deal. You can learn for half the price on HEX as you can on MTGO.

4. HEX takes full advantage of it’s digital foundation. This is the biggest boost to HEX. It’s the thing that really makes HEX different from MTGO. Yes, HEX has things in common with MTGO. It also has things in common with every other TCG out there! They all borrow from each other. HEX shines because it leverages it’s digital side, because it isn’t tied to a paper product.

MTGO has to work just like it’s big brother, the paper product. So it can’t operate outside the physical box. HEX can do things to the cards and the deck that would be impractical and even impossible to do with MTG. In the big picture, this is everything!

Conclusion

I’m going to keep playing Magic: The Gathering and, I have promised myself that I will someday have the courage to finally get over my hangup with MTGO. It will happen. I’m just thankful that HEX is around to help me build confidence to keep trying.

I understand that companies need to protect their intellectual property if for no other reason than to keep that property from become another Jello or Kleenex. I just hope the judge in this case can see through all the words and see that HEX really is good for the TCG community in general.

Leave a Comment