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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Apr 27 2018 12:00pm
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State of the Program for April 27th 2018
 
In the News
Foil Legends Missing on MTGO: During at least early release weekend, the coalition for Dominaria packs appeared to be messed up. The foil copies of 38 Legends were nowhere to be found. Apparently, there is a collation error. It has since been fixed. 
 
Hasbro Earning Report Not Great: Hasbro’s quarterly earnings report was not promising. Games, as a category, were down. Some of this was due to the Toys “R” Us liquidation, but it appears Magic earnings were also off. 
 
1v1 Brawl Challenge: Wizards has added 1v1 Brawl to the weekend Challenges. It happens Sunday at noon, Pacific time. So far, 1v1 Brawl looks like an extremely blue format – be warned. 
 
“Drafting” Coming to MTGArena: The Arena devs have announced that drafts are coming to Arena, in a couple weeks. However, Phantom drafts will not be an option. More controversially, players will draft against seven AIs, not real; people. I’ll discuss what I think this all means in the Opinion section, below.
 
You Can Now Target Planeswalkers: One of the rule changes coming with Dominaria is that you no longer need to – and, in fact, cannot – redirect damage from your opponent to your opponent’s Planeswalkers. Instead, you can target the Planeswalkers directly. Also, if you bolt your opponent, you will not have an opportunity to change that to Jace, so be careful.
 
The Timeline
This is a list of things we have been promised, or we just want to see coming back.   Another good source for dates and times is the calendar and the weekly blog, while the best source for known bugs is the bug blog which appears sporadically on MTGO.com. Not listed, but important: Wizards offers either one or two online PTQs each weekend, with qualifiers running the three days prior to the PTQ.
 

Upcoming Events
Dates
Scheduled Downtimes
May 30th and June 27th (both extended)
Constructed Leagues End
July 3, 2018
Sealed Leagues End
July 6, 2018
Core Set Magic  2019
July 13, 2018
Next B&R Announcement
July 2, 2018
Ixalan Redemption Ends
May 23, 2018
Rivals of Ixalan Redemption Ends
May 23, 2018
Dominaria Redemption Ends
 

 
WotC Covered Events
Wizards will be streaming a number of events next year, including all four Pro Tours, the Magic Championship and World Magic Cup, along with 35 Grand Prix. Since Wizards does not schedule premier events on prerelease weekends and certain holidays, that means they will be streaming an event nearly every weekend. Here’s the schedule we have so far.
·       April 28–29: Grand Prix Bologna
·       May 5–6: Grand Prix Dallas
·       May 11–13: Grand Prix Birmingham (double-GP weekend)
·       May 26–27: Grand Prix Washington, DC
·       June 1–3: Pro Tour Dominaria in Richmond, Virginia
·       June 9–10: Grand Prix Copenhagen
·       June 15–17: Grand Prix Las Vegas (double-GP weekend)
·       June 23–24: Grand Prix Pittsburgh
·       July 7–8: Grand Prix São Paulo
·       July 21–22: Grand Prix Sacramento
·       July 28–29: Grand Prix Minneapolis
·       Aug. 3–5: Pro Tour 25th Anniversary in Minneapolis, Minnesota
·       Aug. 11–12: Grand Prix Brussels
·       Aug. 18–19: Grand Prix Los Angeles
·       Aug. 25–26: Grand Prix Prague
·       Aug. 31–Sept. 2: Grand Prix Richmond (double-GP weekend)
·       Sept. 8–9: Grand Prix Detroit
·       Sept. 15–16: Grand Prix Stockholm
·       Weekend of Sept. 23–24: 2018 Magic World Championship and Team Series Championship in Las Vegas, Nevada (exact event dates TBD)
·       Oct. 6–7: Grand Prix Montreal
·       Oct. 13–14: Grand Prix Denver
·       Oct. 27–28: Grand Prix Lille
·       Nov. 3–4: Grand Prix Atlanta
·       Nov. 9–11: Pro Tour "Spaghetti" in Atlanta
·       Nov. 17–18: Grand Prix Milwaukee
·       Dec. 8–9: Grand Prix Liverpool
·       Dec. 14–16: World Magic Cup in Barcelona, Spain
 
2018 Magic Online Championship Series and other events
Complete details, including schedule, rules, and which online events qualify you for which online or paper events is here.   In addition, Wizards will be offering these special formats:
·       April 23rd forward: Dominaria
·       May 16-23: Triple Lorwyn
·       May 23-30: TBA
·       May 30-June 6: CHK / CHK / BOK
·       June 6-13: Battle of the Planes
·       June 13-July 6: Vintage Cube
 
Magic Online Format Challenges
These are high stakes events that happen every weekend.   They cost 25 Tix / 250 play points, and last a number of rounds based on participation (assume 5-8), plus a single elimination Top 8. Details, including prize payouts, are here. Start times are:
 

Event Type
Start Time
Saturday, 8:00 am PT
Saturday, 10:00 am PT
Saturday, 12:00 pm PT
Sunday, 8:00 am PT
Sunday, 10:00 am PT
Sunday, noon PT

 
Opinion Section:  But Is It Drafting?
Wizards has given us a lot more info on MTG Arena’s economy and future in the developer’s stream, here and in the reddit forums. The big news is that  MTG Arena is beta testing “Quick Drafts.” These are you-keep-the-cards drafts in which players draft against seven AIs, instead of seven real people. Clearly, this is yet another sign that Arena will be a complete failure, that Wizards has no idea what they are doing, and that Wizards wants to eliminate draft pods all together. And they are doing this because they cannot figure out how to program real drafts. 
 
Oh, and Magic is dying.
 
Okay, now that we have that out of the way, let’s look at this more detail – and maybe actually use our brains.
 
First, I suspect Wizards can build a program that lets players draft in 8 man pods. Many other programs have done this without problems. MTGO does it without problems. I am generally super pessimistic about Wizards’ ability to build programs, but even I don’t believe that they are building quick drafts because they cannot build a real draft. They can build a real draft – and they don’t need to test that function extensively in the beta.
 
Wizards has said that actual draft pods will be coming, but that it wants to experiment with drafting against AIs. Okay, Arena is in early beta. This is a perfect time to try out something like this. If they think they want AI drafts – more on that later – then this is the time to test it out. Especially the draft algorithms. 
 
I also suspect that Wizards is testing AI drafts because the beta is not all that big. Moreover, the devs have said that players will earn gold at a rate to support a draft roughly once every five days.  If a player grinds a lot, wins a lot or pays cash money, they can draft more often, but not a lot more often. With that sort of rate, and a limited sized beta, players could end up sitting in a draft queue for a long time before they get to eight to fire the draft. Once the beta gets large enough, and certainly once the program launches, Wizards will have enough players to support live players drafts. For now, though, quick drafts should mean that players can draft without an endless wait in queue.
 
So the next question is whether these queues can work. First picks are no problem – Wizards can start with a basic pick order, like the one in Frank Karstens’ article.   Wizards could keep things interesting by building biases into the AIs: for example, one AI might “prefer” red decks, so the red first picks are all bumped up a bit, and blue down. 
 
After the first pick, each AI would follow a modified pick order, based on the cards that AI has already drafted. Wizards could easily modify the algorithms to consider mana curves, number of removal spells, on-color duals, etc. All of that seems reasonably easy to program. What might be harder to do would be to have the AIs draft combo or fringe decks, like the mill deck. Of course, if the decks are truly fringe, maybe the AIs shouldn’t go there.
 
If the AIs don’t draft a fringe deck, that could mean the archetype is more open than it would be in a real player draft.   People who try to draft the fringe archetype, no matter how bad it is, (I’m looking at you, mill players) will be able to make their deck work slightly more often than in real life. Slightly more often is not bad. If it did become bad – if some fringe strategy was good enough to mess with the metagame – then Wizards could just move the fringe cards up in the pick list. Having the AI pick them around tenth pick could solve that issue, if and when it was an issue. After all, fringe strategies are normally fringe because they only work when things go perfectly. 
 
But let’s get back to the main issue: why would anyone want to draft against an AI? Well, these are you-keep-the-cards drafts. What’s the biggest downside to you-keep-the-cards drafts, at least in the eyes of serious players?   It’s that rare drafting messes up the draft. People pick rares and Mythics higher than they should, and snag needed constructed cards when they should be taking something better. Well, in drafts against the AI, that won’t happen. The AI will be drafting based on legitimate pick orders. You will never have to draft against an AI that’s on the precious metals plan. (The precious metals means drafting gold, silver and foil cards first.) 
 
For those of us that like to rare draft, or look at drafts as both a source of fun and a way to get cards, AI drafts will be great. If the other “players” are not rare drafting, then the hard to get mythics that are not all that playable in limited will get passed to me. Ditto lands and constructed plants. Do you really need a Sulfur Falls, Damping Sphere or Mox Amber for your Standard deck? You will be way more likely to get passed one sixth pick in an AI draft that you would in a draft against other players.
 
For that matter, if Wizards wants players to come back, they could tweak the algorithms just a touch, so that rares and Mythics go just a little bit longer than normal. That would mean players could snag them a bit more often, and the EV of such drafts would be a bit higher than drafts against real people. 
 
On the flip side, if Wizards wants sweet drafts, it might want to have the AI take “groan test” cards a bit higher. The Limited Resources hosts define “groan test” cards as cards that you just hate to see on the other side of the table. They are cards that make you groan and want to quit, because the game is just going to be miserable. By moving those up in the pick order, Wizards could ensure that those cards are less likely to be taken by the human player, especially in later packs. Since the AIs don’t play the cards they draft, having the AIs overvalue groan test cards means that real players will face them less often in league play. 
 
Drafting against a set of AIs will have another advantage for new players – no one will judge your picks. I know I have heard drafters say things like “how can this still be here?” and “doesn’t anyone know how to draft?” at local stores, tourneys and GP side events. That sort of thing can be really intimidating to newer players. It happens less online, but players still know they are being judged based on what they pass. Drafting against an AI could be far less stressful than drafting against real people, and that may be very attractive to newer players. At least, that’s what Wizards development team thinks, and they have lots of data from focus groups, player studies and other sources. They probably know.
 
Personally – and I know that I’m a single data point that signifies nothing – I expect that I will prefer to draft against AIs in you-keep-the-cards drafts, even if such drafts against real people are available.   Of course, that assumes that the draft AIs are reasonably competent, but I have little doubt that they will be.  Eventually. Once the beta has worked out the bugs. Sure, the AIs may be a bit wonky in the first week or so, but so are the real-life opponents I draft with – even on MTGO.
 
Drafting against AIs will make drafts far more accessible than waiting for a draft queue to fill, especially for less drafted formats. Right now, Wizards shuts down older format drafts as soon as a new format appears, because the draft queues were too slow to fire.   Having drafts against AIs might change that. It might mean that we could continue to draft XLN/RIX/RIX even once the new core set is out. Playing out the league matches would not be a problem – the problem in  past leagues has always getting the drafts themselves to fire.   
 
I suspect that Wizards will offer AI drafts for you-keep-the-cards, but probably offer real player phantom drafts, and possibly even real-player you-keep-the-cards drafts as well. At least, they may initially. However, if the AIs are even close to as good as the average real players, then I could see AI drafts becoming the norm. Yes, I know that that is not “true drafting,” but that same argument was made about draft leagues. Wizards offered both draft leagues and play-within-your-pod drafts for a while, but not for long. Players realized that getting in lots of matches was far more attractive than waiting for other matches to finish, and the play-within-your-pod draft queues withered and died.   I expect the same thing to happen if Wizards were to offer real player you-keep-the-cards drafts, and might well happen for phantom as well. At least, provided the AIs draft at least as well as the average online drafter. Actually, since the average online drafter doesn’t know the pick orders and archetypes all that well, even a simple AI should be better.
 
We will see. The biggest question is how much drafts will cost and to what extent you can use draft winnings to fund further drafts. If you can, then I expect lots of drafters and real-player queues that fire quickly. If not, then I expect that Wizards will have to rely on drafting against the AI to keep drafts firing timely, and hope that players can find enough opponents to fire league matches. 
 
And we need matches, sideboards and all that other stuff, of course., but remember that the beta is still in early days. It’s too early to panic, yet. 
 
Cutting Edge Tech
Standard: It’s a week before Dominaria becomes Standard legal in paper. Most tech from last weekend is stale. The first events to include Dominaria cards will happen next weekend.  Joshua wrote an article highlighting three of the cooler decks from the first bit of league results. 
 
Modern: Last week, GP Hartford brought us yet another new winning deck and combo archetype.  Matt Nass won the event with Ironworks combo. This week the same archetype won the Modern Challenge. Get used to this – we may see it a lot.
 

 
1v1 Brawl: I will feature this format once, at least for now. There is only one deck worth playing: Baral. At the first Brawl Challenge, Baral not only won, but put six copies in the Top 8 and was the most common deck in the Top 32. Baral is stupid, and I am not going to bother following the format until Wizards bans it.   
 
Legacy: The Legacy Challenge winning deck is an innovative red deck. It isn’t completely a prison deck, but it plays a lot of prison elements.   It is very much a Blood Moon shell, but adds Rabblemasters to keep things interesting.  
Vintage: The Team Vintage Super Team is back, with team Vintage play. The team decklist rules make it questionable whether the decklists will be viable in more conventional tournaments, but the decks are interesting. The most interesting was Matt Nass’s Lich's Mirror deck. It cast Channel, then used Lich’s Mirror to rest his life total and draw seven new cards. The deck got a turn one kill (sort of) in the first game. LSV described the deck as “the sweetest and worst deck played in VSL.” Might be true, but it is fun to goldfish. (note: the deck has an inadvertent 13 card sideboard. Matt had to retype it from memory after the initial list vanished when a laptop battery failed.)

 

Card Prices
Note: all my prices come from the fine folks at MTGOTraders.com. These are retail prices, and generally the price of the lowest priced, actively traded version. (Prices for some rare promo versions are not updated when not in stock, so I skip those.)   You can get these cards at MTGOTraders.com web store, or from their bots: MTGOTradersBot(#) (they have bots 1-10), CardCaddy and CardWareHouse, or sell cards to MTGOTradersBuyBot(#) (they have buybots 1-4). I have bought cards from MTGOTraders for over a decade now, and have never been overcharged or disappointed.
 
Standard Staples: Standard prices are mixed this week. I have added most of the pricy Dominaria cards.   We will see which of them stay expensive, and which will drop once more copies are in circulation.
 

Standard Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$9.27
$16.25
($6.98)
-43%
$17.42
$16.25
$1.17
7%
$20.05
$17.96
$2.09
12%
$10.29
$10.32
($0.03)
0%
$9.27
$5.67
$3.60
63%
$15.80
new
n/a
n/a
$27.87
new
n/a
n/a
$12.58
new
n/a
n/a
$25.85
$25.61
$0.24
1%
$8.14
$5.47
$2.67
49%
$5.87
$5.65
$0.22
4%
$22.28
$24.11
($1.83)
-8%
$12.10
$10.17
$1.93
19%
$23.72
$26.60
($2.88)
-11%

Modern staples:  Modern prices fell hard this week. As an offhand guess, I’d say that people are selling Modern cards to fund Dominaria limited. 
 

Modern Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$17.46
$20.49
($3.03)
-15%
$29.78
$39.85
($10.07)
-25%
$18.84
$21.62
($2.78)
-13%
$26.73
$28.52
($1.79)
-6%
$22.64
$36.60
($13.96)
-38%
$13.44
$15.69
($2.25)
-14%
$56.08
$50.59
$5.49
11%
$27.60
$26.67
$0.93
3%
$15.72
$16.18
($0.46)
-3%
$23.78
$23.04
$0.74
3%
$65.26
$71.50
($6.24)
-9%
$32.88
$35.88
($3.00)
-8%
$22.33
$23.67
($1.34)
-6%
$52.29
$52.31
($0.02)
0%
$49.44
$55.24
($5.80)
-10%
$45.13
$42.17
$2.96
7%
$68.33
$63.47
$4.86
8%
$29.28
$36.73
($7.45)
-20%
$23.86
$26.32
($2.46)
-9%
$38.37
$40.47
($2.10)
-5%
$29.03
$32.12
($3.09)
-10%

Legacy and Vintage: Legacy and Vintage are generally mixed this week. 
 

Legacy / Vintage Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$36.45
$32.57
$3.88
12%
$26.61
$27.66
($1.05)
-4%
$21.18
$20.53
$0.65
3%
$28.02
$28.77
($0.75)
-3%
$18.25
$18.51
($0.26)
-1%
$32.30
$33.76
($1.46)
-4%
$40.49
$34.96
$5.53
16%
$18.04
$16.06
$1.98
12%
$38.84
$40.52
($1.68)
-4%
$29.02
$29.74
($0.72)
-2%
$19.96
$24.04
($4.08)
-17%
$88.36
$86.71
$1.65
2%
$19.91
$19.29
$0.62
3%
$15.86
$14.15
$1.71
12%
$34.52
$34.65
($0.13)
0%

Standard Legal Sets: This table tracks the cost of a single copy of every card in each Standard legal set, plus Treasure Chests and the current booster pack. I’ll keep tracking these because they are interesting (at least to me).   
 

Complete Set
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
Aether Revolt
$99.12
$87.00
$12.12
14%
Amonkhet
$76.66
$69.40
$7.26
10%
Ixalan
$93.84
$83.53
$10.31
12%
Hour of Devastation
$60.10
$58.56
$1.54
3%
Kaladesh
$87.24
$80.04
$7.20
9%
Rivals of Ixalan
$84.42
$81.93
$2.49
3%
Treasure Chest
$2.53
$2.60
($0.07)
-3%
Dominaria Booster
$3.50
new
n/a
n/a

 
 
The Good Stuff
The following is a list of all the non-promo, non-foil cards on MTGO that retail for more than $25 per card. These are the big ticket items in the world of MTGO.  Horizon Canopy has dropped some, while Mox Opal is still climbing.
 

Name
Set
Rarity
 Price
True-Name Nemesis
 C13
Rare
 $       90.93
True-Name Nemesis
 PZ1
Mythic Rare
 $       88.36
Mox Opal
 MS2
Bonus
 $       71.33
Mox Opal
 MM2
Mythic Rare
 $       70.86
Horizon Canopy
 IMA
Rare
 $       69.47
Black Lotus
 1E
Rare
 $       68.94
Mox Opal
 SOM
Mythic Rare
 $       68.33
Horizon Canopy
 EXP
Mythic Rare
 $       65.52
Horizon Canopy
 FUT
Rare
 $       65.26
Force of Will
 MED
Rare
 $       59.35
Engineered Explosives
 5DN
Rare
 $       58.77
Liliana of the Veil
 MM3
Mythic Rare
 $       58.62
Engineered Explosives
 MMA
Rare
 $       56.54
Engineered Explosives
 MS2
Bonus
 $       56.08
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
 A25
Mythic Rare
 $       54.52
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
 WWK
Mythic Rare
 $       53.23
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
 VMA
Mythic Rare
 $       52.75
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
 EMA
Mythic Rare
 $       52.29
Liliana of the Veil
 ISD
Mythic Rare
 $       49.44
Wasteland
 TE
Uncommon
 $       46.05
Liliana, the Last Hope
 EMN
Mythic Rare
 $       45.13
Mox Diamond
 TPR
Mythic Rare
 $       43.15
Force of Will
 EMA
Mythic Rare
 $       42.09
Force of Will
 MS3
Special
 $       41.73
Wasteland
 TPR
Rare
 $       41.00
Force of Will
 VMA
Rare
 $       40.49
Cavern of Souls
 MM3
Mythic Rare
 $       40.43
Misdirection
 MM
Rare
 $       38.84
Surgical Extraction
 NPH
Rare
 $       38.51
Surgical Extraction
 MM2
Rare
 $       38.37
Dark Depths
 V16
Mythic Rare
 $       37.98
Mox Sapphire
 1E
Rare
 $       37.00
Black Lotus
 VMA
Bonus
 $       36.45
Unmask
 V16
Mythic Rare
 $       35.54
Wasteland
 EXP
Mythic Rare
 $       34.53
Wasteland
 EMA
Rare
 $       34.52
Mox Emerald
 1E
Rare
 $       34.21
Karn Liberated
 MM2
Mythic Rare
 $       33.73
Karn Liberated
 NPH
Mythic Rare
 $       32.88
Exploration
 UZ
Rare
 $       32.30
Tarmogoyf
 MMA
Mythic Rare
 $       32.19
Ancestral Recall
 1E
Rare
 $       31.89
Underground Sea
 ME4
Rare
 $       30.68
Mox Ruby
 1E
Rare
 $       30.50
Tarmogoyf
 FUT
Rare
 $       30.31
Tarmogoyf
 MM2
Mythic Rare
 $       29.95
Noble Hierarch
 CON
Rare
 $       29.84
Cavern of Souls
 AVR
Rare
 $       29.78
Ensnaring Bridge
 MS2
Bonus
 $       29.77
Underground Sea
 ME2
Rare
 $       29.74
Ensnaring Bridge
 A25
Mythic Rare
 $       29.61
Noble Hierarch
 MM2
Rare
 $       29.28
City of Traitors
 EX
Rare
 $       29.15
Tarmogoyf
 MM3
Mythic Rare
 $       29.03
Show and Tell
 UZ
Rare
 $       29.02
Ensnaring Bridge
 ST
Rare
 $       28.99
Chalice of the Void
 MMA
Rare
 $       28.62
Ensnaring Bridge
 7E
Rare
 $       28.16
Mox Jet
 1E
Rare
 $       28.14
Dark Depths
 CSP
Rare
 $       28.02
Karn, Scion of Urza
 DAR
Mythic Rare
 $       27.87
Ensnaring Bridge
 8ED
Rare
 $       27.60
Chalice of the Void
 MS2
Bonus
 $       27.44
Chalice of the Void
 A25
Mythic Rare
 $       27.34
Scalding Tarn
 EXP
Mythic Rare
 $       27.24
Chalice of the Void
 MRD
Rare
 $       26.73
City of Traitors
 TPR
Rare
 $       26.61
Gorilla Shaman
 ALL
Common
 $       26.47
Rekindling Phoenix
 RIX
Mythic Rare
 $       25.85

 
The big number is the retail price of a playset (4 copies) of every card available on MTGO. Assuming you bought the least expensive versions available, the cost of owning a playset of every card on MTGO is approximately $ 21,220. That’s down $530 from last week, despite adding Dominaria cards. The Modern crash hit pretty hard.
 
Weekly Highlights
Ingrid and I played in a two-headed giant prerelease, then ran a couple more later. The format looks interesting, but the bombs are a bit much. One opponent had two copies of Lyra Baneslayer. We didn’t win that one. I saw a lot more bombs over the weekend, but that might be partly because I was judging. No one calls me over because their opponent plays a vanilla 2/3. Players do sometimes call us to ask “does it really do that? Really?” 
 
PRJ
 
“One Million Words” on MTGO
 
 
This series is an ongoing tribute to Erik “Hamtastic” Friborg.
 

2 Comments

What's nice about a 1 deck by ArchGenius at Fri, 04/27/2018 - 13:54
ArchGenius's picture

What's nice about a 1 deck format like Baral Brawl is that you can build your deck to beat it. It's kind of fun playing 5 rounds of Baral Brawl when you have Hope of Ghirapur, Prowling Serpopard, Carnage Tyrant, and Nezahal in your deck.

I wish this were facebook so by JXClaytor at Fri, 04/27/2018 - 18:24
JXClaytor's picture

I wish this were facebook so I could like this comment.

Also did you have any issues with a spam filter warning?