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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Mar 30 2018 12:00pm
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State of the Program for March 30th 2018
 
In the News
Dominaria Rules and Gallery Up: Dominaria spoiler seasons is happening for real – sort of – after being spoiled early on the Chinese website. The Card Image Gallery is here.
 
Ixalan Redemption Back Online: Wizards has the redemption sets back in stock, so if you want to redeem, go for it.
 
Modern Cube Coming Wednesday: The Modern Cube will be back next downtime.   Details, and the updated card pool list, are here. 
 
Masters 25 Ends Wednesday: Masters 25 will disappear next Wednesday. You may want finish your leagues by then.
 
Wizards Hands Out Beta Keys via Twitter: Wizards tweeted out 20 or so keys to the MTG Arena closed beta. Nice if you were following Wizards on Twitter at exactly that moment and could claim the key quickly enough. If you are waiting patiently for your key, like me, you may have mixed thoughts on this development.
 
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
April 18th (extended)
Constructed Leagues End
April 18, 2018
Sealed Leagues End
April 23, 2018
Dominaria
April 23, 2018
Core Set Magic  2019
July 13, 2018
Next B&R Announcement
April 16, 2018
SOI and EMN Redemption Ends
April 28, 2018
Ixalan Redemption Ends
May 23, 2018
Rivals of Ixalan Redemption Ends
May 23, 2018

 
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 6–8: Grand Prix Seattle (double-GP weekend)
·       April 14–15: Grand Prix Memphis
·       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:
·       March 16–April 4: Masters 25
·       April 4–20: Modern Cube
·       April 23rd forward: Dominaria
 
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

 
Opinion Section:  The Economy of MTG Arena 
We have seen and heard a bit more about the MTG Arena “economy” where economy means the method of earning / buying / obtaining cards in Arena.  At least, we know a bit about what Wizards is doing now. It’s an early beta, so everything is subject to change.
 
In the current beta, players have been given some preconstructed decks to start their collections. The decklists of these precons are here. There are ten 60 card decks, but a lot of the cards appear in multiple decks.
 
Players are also given some 8 card boosters with their accounts. Regular players were given 3 boosters, each, of Amonkhet, Hour of Devastation, Ixalan and Rivals of Ixalan.   Certain big-name streamers were given 8 boosters of each set. These boosters are designed to be opened, not drafted. They contain one rare, two uncommons and five commons, and any of these cards may be replaced by a “wildcard” of the same rarity. Wildcards can be converted into any card of that rarity. For example, a rare wildcard could become a Glorybringer or a Scavenger Grounds, but once the choice is made, it is that card forever.
 
Gaby Spartz opened her packs on stream, and put the stream on YouTube. Her 32 packs is not necessarily a statistically valid sample, but it at least gives us an idea of the frequency of wildcards. In the 32 packs she opened, she pulled the following:
            Mythics Wildcards: 2
            Rare Wildcards: 11
            Uncommon Wildcards: 12
            Common Wildcards: 11
 
That’s data.
 
Players can also buy packs for gold. Players can earn gold by finishing daily bounties – things such as “cast 12 red or black spells.”  Players get one bounty per day, worth varying amounts of gold. Completing the above bounty earns 225 gold, and that is a low payout. Harder bounties earn more, and you can swap bounties if they don’t fit your decks or play styles. Players also get some gold and a card for each game they win (although the total number of cards is capped per day.) The developers have said that if players play 1- 1.5 hours per day, they can expect to earn 25 to 30 booster packs per month. Playing more, or winning more, can increase these numbers. 
 
Finally, players have a Vault.   Opening booster packs help “fill the vault.” Likewise, whenever you open a fifth copy of any card, instead of getting that card, you get some extra “fill” for your vault. Wizards’ goal is that players open the vault about once a month, assuming they play 30-45 hours that month. Gaby opened one vault. It had one random Mythic, two random rares, one rare wildcard and two uncommon wildcards, IIRC.   
 
Players will also be able to spend real cash money to buy gold. We don’t know what the rate will be, or how expensive online packs will end up being. We also have no idea what drafts will cost, how you enter them, or what prize payouts might look like. The current Arena client does not support limited at all.
 
Just in case anyone has forgotten, this is still an early, closed beta. Wizards will wipe accounts and start over, possibly with a different mix of cards and precons, at least once more when they move to open beta, and again before the client goes live. And they may change the economy each time, or even more often.   My best guess is that the new client will go live with the release of the set codenamed “Spaghetti”, in fall. At that time, Standard will contain Ixalan, Rivals, Dominaria, this summer’s Core 2019 set and “Spaghetti.”  The economy won’t be set until that time, and even after that, it may change. But let’s assume it looks something like what we have now, and look at what that might mean.
 
With twelve 8 card packs, plus the precons, players will be starting with a fairly small card pool. On the plus side, the precons do provide a reasonable mana base. The precons have playsets of Evolving Wilds, plus all the common two-color lands, like Meandering River. That is a huge help. The precons also include at least one copy, and often two copies, of a lot of staples like Negate, Magma Spray, Abrade, Cancel, Opt, Golden Demise, Essence Scatter, Moment of Craving and so forth. It is not a lot, but it is a start.  
 
If Wizards is right, and a player plays for an average of an hour or two per day every month, they should end up earning about 30 packs. Say we are better than average, or play a bit more, and end up with the equivalent of 32 packs, plus the Vault.   That means they will earn, on average, about what Gaby opened.   It is not clear if that total includes the random cards won in every game win, or not. Let’s assume not. Let’s further assuming that my hypothetical player wins 6 games per hour. (That’s ten five-minute games per hour, winning half of them – that may be too optimistic, but we will see.) That would be 180 random cards per month. Assuming the odds of opening a particular rarity are similar to the 8 card boosters, that means 180 game-win cards would equal about 22 more boosters.      
 
Wizards, if I get into the beta, I will totally try this.  An hour a day, on average. I promise.  
 
We don’t know how the cards for winning games are chosen. If I ran Wizards, and had unlimited budget to hire programmers, the prize cards would be weighted based on what the player was playing. In other words, if they won the match with a mono-red deck, the odds would be stacked in favor of the player getting a red card. But I don’t run Wizards, and their budget is not infinite, so it is probably random. Let’s assume the same odds as the 8 card boosters. Using Gaby’s packs as a guide, and assuming my player opened the equivalent of 48 packs, that player should have roughly:
 

Rarity
Actual Cards
Wildcards
Total
Common
122
20
160
Uncommon
80
16
96
Rare
27
9
36
Mythic
9
3
12

Let’s assume my hypothetical player wanted to build a Tier One Standard deck, and that they were willing to devote all their resources to building that deck.  Let’s further assume their goal is to build the deck that won last weekend’s MTGO PTQ. (An advantage – that deck is relatively rare and Mythic light, compared to other Tier One Standard decks.) Since Arena decks have no sideboards (for now), they will just build the 60 card main deck. The precons include six cards for that deck: 1 Adanto Vanguard, 2 Skymarcher Aspirant, 1 Trial of Solidarity and 2 Shefet Dunes. Current Standard contains roughly 420 uncommons (I’m ignoring reprints, and I’m including Kaladesh block), about 300 rares and about 85 unique Mythics. That means that the odds of our player opening, at random, any of the cards they need are fairly low. Let’s assume, however, that they get really lucky and open two rares and 4 uncommons for the deck. That leaves our player needing to convert Wildcards to make the rest of the deck. By my quick count, they would need to convert 14 uncommon wildcards, 26 rare wildcards and 3 Mystic wildcards to complete this deck.    
 
If my hypothetical player plays for three months, and dumps all their winnings and resources into building this one deck, they should have it done in about three months. Hopefully the deck is still good by the time it is finished. And I have to note that every three months another set is released, changing the metagame, so that will probably not be the case.
 
Again, I don’t have much data to go on, but based on this, the free-to-play version of Arena really looks like it will never allow players to get to Tier One standard decks without a ton of grinding. Instead, if my numbers are even close to correct, then anyone wanting to play or test Tier One Standard decks on Arena will need to spend actual cash money. We don’t know how much. Wizards has not announced what 8 card boosters will sell for, or what you-keep-the-cards drafts will cost. However, the more the player spends, the easier completing the collection becomes. As the player’s collection expands, the odds of opening a card they already own four of increases, and those duplicates will help fill the vault. We don’t know, but the odds are good that you will be able to buy all the cards in an expansion for a couple hundred dollars – maybe less. We just don’t know.
 
Wizards may also sell challenger decks online. That would help make competitive Standard a reality. We can only wait and see.
 
Since Arena does not let you share cards, players will need to own everything to build all decks. That will be expensive. Alternatively, I could see playtest groups building particular decks on various accounts, then temporarily trading accounts to let members of the playtest team play both sides of a match. That probably violates the terms of use, but it seems sort of inevitable if Pro Teams are ever going to use Arena for playtesting. Or maybe they will just stay on MTGO.
 
I have to note that, if Wizards ever releases old cards on Arena, that same three months of grinding would buy a sweet Modern or Legacy deck. The four color Leovold deck that won last weekend’s Legacy Challenge had 3 Mythics, 34 rares, 12 uncommons and 11 commons. In other words, about what most Standard decks require.   But a player could probably play this deck, with only a few tweaks, for as long as Legacy exists.
 
The free-to-play model, based on the data I have so far, may not support serious Standard playtesting. It could, on the other hand, get players into the Eternal formats fairly easily. And once they had a deck, the odds are high that they could continue playing for a long, long time without any further investment. 
 
Once again, all of this is based on some very, very uncertain data. We don’t know the drop rate, and I am not at all sure I got the quest payouts correct. Moreover, this is early times. Wizards may make a lot of changes between now and goes-live. We can only wait and see.
 
Wizards, please let me in the beta. I’d love to test this out, and find out what I have got wrong.      
 
Cutting Edge Tech
Standard: This week, I’m going to feature the winning decks from each of last weekend’s format challenges. For Standard, however, I will use last weekend’s online PTQ. 


Modern
: And this week’s Modern Challenge winner.
 


Pauper
: Pauper challenge! 


Legacy
: And the Legacy Challenge decklist.


Vintage
: Montolio won the Vintage Challenge last weekend. This week we had a different Outcome.   

 
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 down overall. The Standard table is also shorter than any time in all the years I have been doing this (I think.)  And a half dozen more cards may be cut next week. On the plus side, it has never been cheaper to get into Standard.
 

Standard Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$6.24
$5.74
$0.50
9%
$16.93
$16.82
$0.11
1%
$22.00
$25.87
($3.87)
-15%
$5.41
$7.99
($2.58)
-32%
$6.16
$6.27
($0.11)
-2%
$10.12
$9.27
$0.85
9%
$23.34
$23.88
($0.54)
-2%
$4.35
$4.08
$0.27
7%
$4.87
$5.05
($0.18)
-4%
$29.41
$32.03
($2.62)
-8%
$13.32
$13.52
($0.20)
-1%
$5.37
$5.76
($0.39)
-7%
$5.05
$6.47
($1.42)
-22%
$19.37
$16.08
$3.29
20%

Modern staples:  Modern prices have recovered after their recent dip. We will see what happens as Masters 25 exits.
 

Modern Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$19.41
$18.65
$0.76
4%
$33.62
$24.21
$9.41
39%
$24.81
$24.12
$0.69
3%
$23.47
$23.73
($0.26)
-1%
$28.66
$29.50
($0.84)
-3%
$16.34
$13.78
$2.56
19%
$47.61
$43.24
$4.37
10%
$22.06
$21.67
$0.39
2%
$21.21
$24.08
($2.87)
-12%
$19.91
$18.19
$1.72
9%
$50.56
$43.75
$6.81
16%
$37.77
$35.88
$1.89
5%
$21.48
$26.68
($5.20)
-19%
$54.18
$51.74
$2.44
5%
$59.55
$62.24
($2.69)
-4%
$41.32
$50.91
($9.59)
-19%
$50.81
$46.87
$3.94
8%
$31.99
$26.56
$5.43
20%
$25.07
$26.56
($1.49)
-6%
$16.75
$17.26
($0.51)
-3%
$13.07
$14.07
($1.00)
-7%
$33.58
$37.79
($4.21)
-11%
$39.16
$41.44
($2.28)
-6%

Legacy and Vintage: Legacy and Vintage are generally pretty quiet this week. Masters 25 will disappear soon, so we will see what happens to prices afterward. Rishadan Port has fallen a ton, but that may not last. If it does, it will be off the table. 
 

Legacy / Vintage Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$28.05
$31.24
($3.19)
-10%
$22.99
$21.39
$1.60
7%
$23.15
$21.63
$1.52
7%
$30.30
$29.94
$0.36
1%
$18.58
$17.44
$1.14
7%
$33.13
$33.26
($0.13)
0%
$30.64
$35.07
($4.43)
-13%
$19.98
$22.31
($2.33)
-10%
$40.52
$40.52
$0.00
0%
$8.66
$8.86
($0.20)
-2%
$27.33
$26.27
$1.06
4%
$24.20
$18.94
$5.26
28%
$80.41
$84.48
($4.07)
-5%
$16.09
$16.77
($0.68)
-4%
$14.45
$14.14
$0.31
2%
$34.41
$33.20
$1.21
4%

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
$79.76
$77.74
$2.02
3%
Amonkhet
$69.28
$69.17
$0.11
0%
Ixalan
$77.73
$75.50
$2.23
3%
Hour of Devastation
$61.29
$62.03
($0.74)
-1%
Kaladesh
$85.90
$88.43
($2.53)
-3%
Rivals of Ixalan
$77.37
$74.23
$3.14
4%
Treasure Chest
$2.52
$2.60
($0.08)
-3%
Ixalan Booster
$3.98
$3.95
$0.03
1%
Rivals of Ixalan Booster
$2.46
$2.35
$0.11
5%

 
 
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.  True-Name Nemesis and good art Lotus still rule the roost.
 

Name
Set
Rarity
 Price
True-Name Nemesis
 PZ1
Mythic Rare
 $     90.32
Black Lotus
 1E
Rare
 $     81.20
True-Name Nemesis
 C13
Rare
 $     80.41
Force of Will
 MED
Rare
 $     63.92
Liliana of the Veil
 MM3
Mythic Rare
 $     59.66
Liliana of the Veil
 ISD
Mythic Rare
 $     59.55
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
 WWK
Mythic Rare
 $     56.88
Mox Opal
 SOM
Mythic Rare
 $     56.52
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
 EMA
Mythic Rare
 $     56.27
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
 VMA
Mythic Rare
 $     56.07
Mox Opal
 MM2
Mythic Rare
 $     55.11
Horizon Canopy
 FUT
Rare
 $     55.02
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
 A25
Mythic Rare
 $     54.18
Horizon Canopy
 IMA
Rare
 $     53.85
Mox Sapphire
 1E
Rare
 $     53.42
Mox Opal
 MS2
Bonus
 $     50.81
Tarmogoyf
 MMA
Mythic Rare
 $     50.64
Horizon Canopy
 EXP
Mythic Rare
 $     50.56
Engineered Explosives
 5DN
Rare
 $     47.91
Engineered Explosives
 MS2
Bonus
 $     47.66
Engineered Explosives
 MMA
Rare
 $     47.61
Wasteland
 TE
Uncommon
 $     47.31
Mox Diamond
 TPR
Mythic Rare
 $     45.74
Mox Ruby
 1E
Rare
 $     42.56
Mox Emerald
 1E
Rare
 $     42.08
Liliana, the Last Hope
 EMN
Mythic Rare
 $     41.32
Wasteland
 TPR
Rare
 $     40.72
Misdirection
 MM
Rare
 $     40.52
Karn Liberated
 NPH
Mythic Rare
 $     40.45
Ancestral Recall
 1E
Rare
 $     40.02
Mox Jet
 1E
Rare
 $     39.77
Tarmogoyf
 MM2
Mythic Rare
 $     39.65
Tarmogoyf
 FUT
Rare
 $     39.51
Tarmogoyf
 MM3
Mythic Rare
 $     39.16
Karn Liberated
 MM2
Mythic Rare
 $     37.77
Force of Will
 EMA
Mythic Rare
 $     37.38
Dark Depths
 V16
Mythic Rare
 $     37.06
Wasteland
 EXP
Mythic Rare
 $     35.03
Unmask
 V16
Mythic Rare
 $     34.60
Surgical Extraction
 NPH
Rare
 $     34.47
Wasteland
 EMA
Rare
 $     34.41
Cavern of Souls
 MM3
Mythic Rare
 $     33.84
Cavern of Souls
 AVR
Rare
 $     33.62
Surgical Extraction
 MM2
Rare
 $     33.58
Exploration
 UZ
Rare
 $     33.13
Force of Will
 MS3
Special
 $     33.05
Mox Pearl
 1E
Rare
 $     32.63
Noble Hierarch
 CON
Rare
 $     32.21
Noble Hierarch
 MM2
Rare
 $     31.99
Underground Sea
 ME2
Rare
 $     31.92
Force of Will
 VMA
Rare
 $     30.64
The Scarab God
 MS3
Special
 $     30.37
Dark Depths
 CSP
Rare
 $     30.30
Underground Sea
 ME4
Rare
 $     29.94
Time Walk
 1E
Rare
 $     29.79
Containment Priest
 C14
Rare
 $     29.75
The Scarab God
 HOU
Mythic Rare
 $     29.41
Collective Brutality
 EMN
Rare
 $     28.66
Chalice of the Void
 MS2
Bonus
 $     28.58
Containment Priest
 PZ1
Rare
 $     28.47
Black Lotus
 VMA
Bonus
 $     28.05
Show and Tell
 UZ
Rare
 $     27.33
Scalding Tarn
 EXP
Mythic Rare
 $     27.01
Gorilla Shaman
 ALL
Common
 $     26.47
Scalding Tarn
 MM3
Rare
 $     25.90
Ensnaring Bridge
 ST
Rare
 $     25.46
Scalding Tarn
 ZEN
Rare
 $     25.07

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 $ 20,695. That’s up $360 from last week.
 
Weekly Highlights
Guild Wars 2 (my favorite MMO) dropped a new patch this week. Some of it addresses balance issues, and some fixes bugs. What caught my attention was the part that allowed characters to actually sit on chairs, which had previously just been part of the scenery. GW2 coupled that with a quest to find, and sit in, 42 different types of chairs scattered across the entire world. If you complete the quest, you get the title “Armchair Commander,” which you can display for all other players to see. I can foresee spending a couple hours over the next couple weeks on this quest. 
 
Arenanet, the company that makes GW2, put out a video introducing “Seat of Power.” You can watch it here. It’s a minute and half long, and totally worth watching. And, yes, this video is an April 1st video, but the gameplay and title are real. Players – at least a fair number – really are trying to get this title. It’s not content everyone will be interested in, but it works for some. More importantly, it illustrates a bit of what can be done by a company to interest different types of players, once they have their game functioning. It is the sort of special feature aimed at niche players I hope Wizards can eventually put into MTGO or Arena. 
 
 
PRJ
 
“One Million Words” on MTGO
 
 
This series is an ongoing tribute to Erik “Hamtastic” Friborg.
 

2 Comments

Arena Non-Rotating Formats by Sensei at Fri, 03/30/2018 - 18:58
Sensei's picture

I thought non-rotating formats won't be on MTGA soon if ever? Even if they did flashback drafts (not a given), it would be damn near impossible to build a Modern/Legacy deck. You would almost have to exclusively use wild cards.

Maybe there will be a MTGA format similar to Frontier: non-rotating but only from (IXL/Spaghetti/Insert Set and forward)

GFischer's picture

Regarding the "Frontier" MTGArena format - Somebody did some asset research and found an "Arena Modern" format, starting from Shadows over Innistrad:

"name": "ArenaModern",
"sets": [
"SOI",
"EMN",
"KLD",
"AER",
"AKH",
"HOU",
"XLN",
"RIX",
"DAR"
],

https://www.reddit.com/r/MagicArena/comments/87wczr/found_some_interesti...