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To play M:TG over the internet, you must first choose the mode over which you would like to play.
The first, and most popular option is apprentice. This is a freeware utility that is released by Dragonstar Studios. It is updated with every new set as they come out and can be downloaded, with its updates, from www.magic4you.nu. The best part of apprentice, in my opinion, is that you have access to every card from every set without first having to buy them. This takes away the bias that has been included in M:TG since the day Alpha was released; that the more money you have, the better the decks you can make. This allows new players, or those who don’t have a sizeable income, to compete with older, richer players purely on skill. In this way it is a good test of your actual ability.
The second use for apprentice is in play testing new decks. Say you have an idea for a new deck, but would need to buy the cards to see if it works. Not sure whether to do it? No Problem! With apprentice you can make the deck and test it without having to buy any cards at all. Overall it is a very easy to use program, and you should have no problem finding opponents.
The main drawbacks to apprentice are the poor graphics that it shows. It does not use any artwork, and you cannot see the text on the card as you look at it. The other possible problem is that it does not have any of the game mechanics that the official games do. This makes cheating quite easy, especially as you can easily clear the record of commands made. You can play as many lands as you want each turn, and don’t have to tap to attack. This said, however, Apprentice is still a brilliant way of playing MTG over the internet, and as it is the most used option, you wont find it too hard to get an opponent.
The option to Apprentice is Manalink. This is the upgrade to Shandalar, the first ever MTG pc game. It looks better than apprentice, but isn’t as easy to use. The main advantages to manalink over Apprentice, are that it has all the game mechanics, so doesn’t facilitate cheating, and that it looks much better than Apprentice. This is quite a noticeable difference, because it uses the actual card art. The two main disadvantages to apprentice are that it is much less widely used. This makes it harder to find opponents, and difficult to find a league (I couldn’t find any). Also Shandalar, the original, is no longer available to buy. If you already have Shandalar, you might want to think about downloading this update, but otherwise, think Apprentice.
You will also need to build a deck. You can use any card ever printed, but I would recommend building one T2 deck, as tournaments and some opponents will demand this format. There are a lot of decks that come ready-built with apprentice, however most of these are very common formats that people will plan to beat easily.
Once you have decided which package to use and built a deck, you need to find an opponent. With either game, you can use a chat program, such as MSN, to play against your friends. You will probably need your opponent’s ip address to connect- with Apprentice, it can find this for you. If you are playing Apprentice and you want some more widespread competition, you might want to think about getting MIRC. (You can download a free 30-day trial from www.mirc.com) This is a chat program which uses channels, like chat rooms, to chat. If you have this and want to play Apprentice, you can go to #mtg (for a UK league) or #magicleague (US league) These are both popular places to meet new opponents.
This said, playing online is quite hard to master. You may want to practice on the single player (solitaire) mode of apprentice. However, once you know how to play, it opens up thousands more possible opponents.
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