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Review for 06/15/03 - The Apprentice

The Apprentice... Does this name inspire thoughts of epic quests in distant fantasy worlds? No? Hrmm, I suppose it doesn't for me either. But, in any case, this is the name the program that is quite possibly the best way to play Magic: The Gathering online. And we're not talking about some corporate money-making software that you have to pay monthly to play. This is freeware, meaning it is free. That's usually a good thing. Oh, and the phrase "You get what you pay for." doesn't apply here. This is a well-formatted, professional-looking piece of software with many useful and customizable features. I sounded a bit like a telemarketer in that last sentence, eh? I'll try to refrain from such propaganda in the future. In any case, on to the good stuff!

Probably the best aspect of the Apprentice is that fact that it completely evens the MTG (Magic:The Gathering, of course) playing field. Users have complete access to all Magic cards available, from Alpha and Beta to whatever the newest set is. Sorry to all of you Magic fans, but it lost its appeal aften 7th edition. As newer expansions are released, several locations have the card lists to download. This eliminates the unfair advantage that wealthier and more obsessed players have when it comes to buying card packs. Plus it means you can play without wasting money on Ebay looking for that one card you need to complete your deck. With the Apprentice, you can construct decks of any type, from any set, with a little patience and ingenuity. Just ask Shalmdi about that. The word "obsessed" is too lenient for him. I know that he doesn't often lose on the Apprentice due to the fact that he has spent countless hours browsing the card lists. And believe me, there are alot of MTG cards. Some people...

I'm sure you've gathered by now that you can play against others. This is done via IP connection. ..........I really don't have anymore to say about that. Pretty self-explanatory if you ask me.

It sports a few other minor extras, including custom skins, built-in chat, an integrated coin-flipper, and game options that are quite flexible (i.e. you can opt to begin games with 200 life, etc.) I'm sure there are more, I just can't remember them all right now.

Sadly, there are some downsides. Firstly, there are no card pictures. While not necessary for gameplay, I would love to be able to see that distinct Black Lotus image in play. Preferably on my side of the table. Also, game rules are obsequious to the point that things like life and hand-size are easily modified. Therefore, if you're playing with a stranger, extreme attentiveness is required. Lastly, and easily the most disappointing factor of the Apprentice, is that it is really hard to find others to connect with. Sure, once all of your friends have it you can play with them. But after you've dominated in that circuit, you will yearn for more. There are a few message boards out there designed to link players and a tournament will be held occasionally, but aside from that, it is frustrating trying to find partners to lose to. Believe me, I know.

In my opinion, all Magic junkies should have the Apprentice. Even those who aren't really interested but need a quick fix of electronic entertainment, this is the way to go (Though, for REAL entertainment, check out this review - JNES). Sure, it has its bad qualities, but you can't tell me that you don't either. I'm sure that if you're reading this, you have some hidden antisocial fascination...

Download your copy of the Apprentice at E-League. (I can't believe I am offering free advertisement like this.)

The Stadholder gives the Apprentice...
Red Blue Black Green White
This is the stuff Magic fanatics' dreams are made of! Maybe.

Comments from the other gods:

Shalmdi Sez: I LOVE THIS PROGRAM!!! I am a big fan of the game (I started playing in the good old days of MTG), but I got out of it because it was too expensive. I wasn't willing to put enough money into it to be a real contender, and the Apprentice fixes all that. Everyone has access to the same cards. Your deck is only limited by your imagination. Also, from a consumer standpoint, I think Wizards of the Coast should support this instead of their sorry Magic Online system (I am not paying cash for digital cards). After I created a deck on the Apprentice that I liked, I bought all the cards for it! First time I have spent money on Magic cards in over 5 years. Kudos to The Stadholder for getting this one right!

Yo, I think you can get card images now. Not sure though.
[=The Stadholder=]