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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Nov 15 2013 11:55am
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The State of the Program for November 15th 2013

This series is an ongoing tribute to Erik “Hamtastic” Friborg.
 

Public Service Announcement:

Don’t Panic. 
 
Magic isn’t dying. MTGO isn’t dying.
 
People have been paying me to write about Magic for almost 15 years now. I have been reporting on MTGO, and before that MODO, since Wizards first announced that they were doing an update to Shandalar.  I have reported on the panic when combo winter hit, on Affinity, on the Darksteel Prerelease smash, on the brown bar of death, on the v2.0 to v3.0 debacle and on and on. Yes, MTGO has a serious bug, and it is messing up organized play. Yes, Wizards completely screwed up the PR on this. 
 
Nothing new about this. 
 
Seriously, there is nothing new about any of this. We really have been here and done this a half dozen times before. (See below for details.) Wizards will squash the bugs, eventually. They have done it before. Wizards may not ever figure out how to handle PR, but the game is good enough that maybe they don’t have to (but it would be nice if they were even vaguely competent at it...)
 
Right now, the server is screwed up and events are down. Could be worse. It will get better – always has. Six months from now, MTGO will be back and bigger than ever. You may want your collection then.
 
But it may be a tough couple months until then.
 

In the News this Week:

ALL LARGE EVENTS CANCELLED: With this week’s downtime, Wizards is removing all of the following events from the system:
 
·       Online PTQs - CANCELLED
·       MOCS Preliminary and Final Events - CANCELLED
·       All Premier Events - CANCELLED
·       All Daily Events - CANCELLED
·       Thursday Night Magic Online - CANCELLED
 
Basically, anything larger than an 8 man queue is gone (except TTT.) This is because of the stability issues over the last few weeks. Worth Wollpert explained the reasoning behind this move here. On the plus side, they are working on this. On the down side, Worth promised a status report on progress in a month or so. That would imply that the events may be down for an extended period – meaning months, possibly years. 
 
We don’t know why Wizards took this action, but several people have put forth theories. I discuss them in the opinion section, and provide my guess for what we will see, and when. (I don’t think it will be years.) I’ll also remind everyone that this, and worse, has happened before.
 
New 8 Man Queues Added: Wizards has attempted to make up for the elimination of PEs and Des by adding more eight man queues. These include 8 man Swiss queues, as well as queues in formats such as Pauper and Momir Vig. However, this did bump off some of the less popular formats, like Hero’s Path Standard and 100 Card Singleton. Details here
 
MOCS and PTQ Crashed Last Weekend: The MOCS event last Saturday crashed after the 7th round. Wizards awarded packs and scheduled an invite-only event for everyone that was 5-2 or better. Details here. On Sunday, the online PTQ had 730 players, and it crashed. Wizards refunded entry fees, gave everyone a draft set, and will reschedule an invite-only event for the 6-2 or betters. Details here and here
 
Kibler Rants: Brian Kibler got his first chance to play in a MOCS event last weekend. (He has qualified before, but MOCS events often conflict with GPs or Pro Tours.) Kibler was 7-0 when the event crashed and he got booted. He was not happy. He fired off a bunch of tweets, and wrote a long blog post about that. Some of his arguments were spot on, and some of it was over the top and excessive, but it was widely read. He clearly brought a lot of attention to the mess, and Wizards responded by shutting down everything but 8 mans. I don’t think this is time to “blame Kibler;” his rant was a bit over the top, but the blame for this mess goes to WotC.    
 
History of MTGO Thread Repaired: Once upon a time, Roaring Possum created a forum thread covering the history of MTGO, from initial idea through v2.0, leagues, Chuck’s Virtual Party, v3.0, etc., etc. He has now updated the links so that history lives again. If you didn’t live through it, check it out. (Big thanks to RP for the thread. I used it a lot in researching the opinion section.)
 
Is MTGO Dying? This question came up in the forums. Algona, who has been always notable for looking at actual data instead of hyperbolae, and whose opinion I respect, crunched some numbers. From this thread
 
Is MOL dying? Always a good question.
1500 in casual, 3500 in tournies, uncountable bots in trade. Remember when 3k total players caused MOL to burn?
 
Was gonna try a 2 Tix Tuesday sealed. Maybe not, full through 3 PM. 48 tourneys * 32 players * 2 tix = $3,000? Of course, that's not including prizes.
 
Wandered over to look at drafts. 120 full cost THS 84, 4322, and 321 Swiss had fired between 8:45 AM and 11:00 AM. 50 full cost drafts per hour = 1,200 per day = 36,000 drafts per month = $2,00,000 per month net after prizes. In the first 5-6 years MOL averaged around 16k drafts per month.
 
EDIT: Given WWW's announcement on Wednesday, maybe MOL is dying? Gotta be honest this sounds an awful lot like the first meltdowns of V2 and V2.5. I'm completely surprised that V3 should have started developing these problems this late in it's life cycle.
 
I agree with all of this. I’ll discuss this further in the opinion section.
 
MTGOnline.com is now MTGO.com: The Magic Online has a news and information page. It has a long and complex URL, but MTGO.com is a ton simpler.  MTGOnline.com also works, and will continue to redirect you to the News and Updates page. Unfortunately, the news is pretty bad this week.
 
HammyBot Update:   It’s still around, and still a great way to get cards and support the family of the late Erik Friborg. So far, Hammybot has raised almost 6,200 TIX! Keep it going! 
 

Opinion Section:  What Happened, and Why?

Wizard has eliminated every large event – every event that could have more than 32 players at a time. They just chopped off a huge chunk of their revenue stream and upset a large chunk of their player base. It is a massive, self-inflicted wound. So why did they do it? 
  
We know part of the why. Three of the last four big events blew up. Wizards provided refunds or compensatory packs, which should wipe out all profits from those events. And the PR fallout was horrific. Wizards decided not to have that happen again.
 
But Wizards didn’t just eliminate the PTQs and MOCS – they eliminated everything that wasn’t an eight-man queue. Well, almost everything. Two Ticket Tuesdays are still around, as a fire on demand 32 player queue. I find that significant and interesting. More on that later. For now, let’s talk about why Wizards took this action.
 
First, I think there is no question that the program, as a whole, cannot handle large events. MTGO is broken in some significant way, and that problem corrupts large events. Events with hundreds of players were not finishing. They had to end. The next question is why everything else ended. Off hand, I cannot remember a PE crashing, and DEs seemed pretty much bulletproof. So why? 
 
I suspect that it was a mix of reasons. 
 
First, it seems clear that there is a fundamental flaw in the program that crashes large events. Some combination of events triggers the glitch. It seems to be a very low probability outcome, but when you have enough players and rounds, eventually the bug triggers and the event comes down. Since Wizards cancelled everything, I suspect that the bug is either not completely identified, or that it could potentially hit any event with a significant number of players, so Wizards eliminated them all. After all, Standard Dailies were pushing 200 players, so maybe they were, or could be, in the danger zone. Now Legacy and Classic Dailies were never that large, but if you eliminated all the other Dailies, maybe they would have been. Wizards didn’t take the chance: they just eliminated everything that could get large or go to a lot of rounds. 
 
So why is Two Ticket Tuesday still around? It has 5 rounds and 32 players. Now I’m speculating here, but I think Wizards wanted one event as a test-bed. TTT is a “large” event, but it only runs on one day a week, and if it crashes, Wizards only has to refund 64 TIX. If Wizards does have some idea what the problem is, and that problem is a function of number of rounds and number of players, then a single, low value, 32 player event might be a perfect place to test fixes in a real world environment. 
 
Some players have also argued that Wizards eliminated Daily events not because they were also vulnerable to the bug, but because the prize payout was too good. They believe Wizards took the opportunity to eliminate them, and will reintroduce them - with a lower prize payout - in the future. I wish I could say this was just conspiracy theory, and that Wizards is not that Machiavellian, but I can’t. This whole mess seems like Wizards was forced to shut down big events and threw everything else in, maybe because the small events were vulnerable, maybe out of an excess of caution, but maybe because they didn’t like the payout. I would not be surprised at all if we see Dailies return in a different structure, or with a different prize payout. This downward change to the prize payout has happened so many times before, with so little real explanation, that I can believe it. I can totally see them doing it this way, without explanation. Wizards, that’s bad. I have been pretty close to a WotC apologist for a decade, but I can’t reject the idea that you used this crisis to slash prize payouts for events that were not in jeopardy. I am also completely unsurprised that you won’t tell us about it.  Please, Wizards, learn to do some decent PR. It won’t kill you – but failing to do it just might. 
 
The third possibility is the scariest: that there is a security hole in the tournament management software that applies to events without a fixed number of players, and someone can exploit that hole to crash events. The corollary is that Wizards can’t easily plug the hole. This would explain taking down everything except 8 mans and TTT, but it seems less likely. Personally, I don’t think that is the problem. I certainly hope not. So far, the one thing that has always been true is that security on MTGO is good. I have never felt that my collection was vulnerable to anything but me making bad trades, or me revealing my password. Moreover, the fact that events will be down for months makes this root cause seem very unlikely. 
 
Personally, I think the problem stems from the Wide Beta Client – more specifically, the interaction of the Wide Beta client and the existing client. Before the new client, one of the defining features of MTGO v3.5 was that it was rock solid. It did not crash. Sometime the client lost connection, but the program as a whole did not crash. This was the main improvement over v2, and the main reason we were happier with v3 than v2. 
 
But v3 crashes now – at least, events do. The main thing that has changed (at least, that I know about) is that the Wide Beta client is now hooked into the client. I suspect that’s the root cause.  So, right now, drafts work. Small queue, fire on demand events work. TTT apparently works. Larger events are down.
 
It could be worse. Once upon a time, it was worse. Much worse. Like all sanctioned play gone bad.
 
Time for the history lesson:
 
   
 
That was a bad time. And that was v2.0, not v3.0 – but bad stuff was happening way back then. For that matter, the v1.0 to v2.0 transition was not flawless, either. Here’s an announcement from WotC back then:
 
 
Also way back then, Wizards was giving out free product as an apology / “thank you for sticking with us.” For example, there was this thing called Chuck’s Virtual Party, which happened shortly after the above memo. And it imploded. That was followed by the Darksteel Prerelease. That was, as LSV would say, a dark time for all.
 
 
 
Version three of MTGO was announced at the end of October, 2003, after Chuck’s Virtual Party. The Magic Online III Launch Blog began in March, 2007 – four years later. The countdown to v3 began in December, 2007. V2.5 went dark on April 9, 2008, and MTGO was completely dead until V3 came up April 16, 2008. It would be months before the draft queues were back, and some events (namely Leagues) never returned.
 
And you all know the history of v4, a/k/a the Wide Beta.   We have been living that for a while.
 
So, based on having lived through it, I expect this go around to be a lot like the past ones. The prior version of the program has enough flaws that Wizards has to move forward, but the new version has its own problems. In the interim, maintaining both interfaces is too much of a strain for the programming team, and parts of MTGO break. It’s the way Wizards does business.
 
I see Wizards as having two choices. First, they could abandon the Wide Beta client and try to revert everyone to the current version. Since a lot of new players have never experienced the current client, that would be a pain. Moreover, the current client is hardly optimal. It’s possible, but I think Wizards has gone too far down the Wide Beta path to start from scratch. If for no other reason, I think it will take less time and expense to fix the wide beta than to begin again. 
 
The other option is to push hard to get the new client out, and then bring back events. If the big event bug is caused by the interaction of the new and old client, that should fix it. If the problem is due to a flaw in the new client, then they had better fix that. Either way, they need to get a stable, usable client out there, and get events back up. 
 
And they probably need to do it somewhat soon, before their player base bleeds away. 
 
Personally, I am optimistic. I think Wizards will get the new client out, it will work, and they will reintroduce a new set of events that provide a better fit for their entire player base – including the folks that played leagues, the grinders and the more laid back players, like me, who enjoy the challenge of drafting but are not really driven by competition and EV. I really am optimistic that they will get it right, more or less. Eventually.
 
More on that next week.
 
And, Wizards, we are going to need some serious thank yous for sticking with you through this. I’ll have more on that next week, too.       
 

PTQ Theros Tournament Report:

On a more positive note, I went to a paper PTQ last weekend. My wife was head judge, and the store had a full local judging crew, so I got to actually play this time around.
 
Playing in a paper PTQ is different from online. The event finished. It did not crash, and no one was ejected from the event because they lost their Internet connection or because the game server decided to ignore them. (Sorry, WotC, for kicking you while you are down, but after 10 years on MTGO, I think I’ve earned the right. Just this once.)
 
Anyway, the event was a lot of fun. The only downside was that turnout was almost double what Wizards had projected, which made the store a bit crowded. The judge staff did what it could: as people dropped they spread us out, but it was tight for the first couple rounds. Other than that, I had nothing to complain about. The store was well lit, clean and had free WiFi. I had arrived with the judges 1.5 hours early, so I got to sit and play with my laptop while they worked – but eventually I got my pool. Here it is.
 

1 (Calvary Pegasus)
1 (Lagona Band Elder)
1 (Leonin Snare-caster)
1 (Ordeal by Heliod)
1 (Traveling Philosophers)
1 (Wingsteed Riders)
1 ( Aqueous Form)
1 (Sea God’s Revenge)
1 (Thassa’s Bounty)
1 (Voyage’s End)
 
 
 
 
1 Thoughtseize yay money!
 
1 (Bouderfall)
1 (Messenger’s Speed)
1 (Titan’s Strength)
2 (Leafcrown Elder)
1 (Nylea’s Disciple)
1 (Nylea’s Presence)
1 (Phere-Band Centaurs)
 
1 (Guardian of Meletis)
 

I had intended to practice some on MTGO, but the weeks leading up to this were ridiculous. As a result, I had played in just two sealed events, one of which was the midnight prerelease. I pretty much sleep-walked through two matches in that on, the left, so I learned nothing. I had also done two online drafts and been eliminated early in both. What I had learned was that your opponent always opens with Wingsteed Rider on turn three, and Heliod on turn four or five. At least, that happened in four of the five draft games I had played to date, with the expected results.
 
In the most recent Limited Resources podcast, special guest Noah Weil said something like “if you go to the event cold, without preparing, you are not going to do well.” It’s pretty much true.
 
I struggled with the build a bit. That happens when you have too little practice. I laid out several color pairs, including UG, GWx, RG, etc. I found a couple three color mixes that had promise, but just didn’t seem to have quite enough power, or were confused on the speed vs. reach continuum. I mean, you can build a deck that is small, fast and aggressive, or one that is grindy and goes over the top, but if you build something that is half of both – something that goes not very big, and slowly – you probably have a bad deck. I built a couple versions of those.
 
In the end, I had blue and black splashes, (e.g. blue’s was Voyage’s End, Sea God’s Revenge, Horizon Scholar and Nimbus Naiad, with Mnemonic Wall if I had a great spell to recur), but they were just splashes. GW looked a bit schizophrenic, so I ended up building a RW shell. RW, though, didn’t look like it could do well splashing – it looked like it just wanted to race, and that it would just lose if color screwed. I ended up building RW, no splash. My last couple cuts, as time was running out, were Ray of Dissolution and Two-Headed Cerberus. The Ray was defensive, not aggressive, so I sideboarded it.   The Cerberus was double red, and I wanted to play 10 Plains, 9 Mountains. I was wavering between it and the Calvary Pegasus, and ended up with the Pegasus. I figured the 1/1 flier was easier to cast, and I had a fair number of humans. I’m still not sure that was the right call.
 
Here’s what I played. 
 
1 Battlewise Valor
1 (Calvary Pegasus)
1 Celestial Archon
1 Dauntless Onslaught
1 Favored Hoplite
1 (Lagona Band Elder)
1 (Leonin Snare-caster)
1 (Ordeal by Heliod)
1 Setessan Battle Priest
1 (Traveling Philosophers)
1 (Wingsteed Riders)
1 Arena Athlete
1 Dragon Mantle
1 Fanatic of Mogis
2 Ill-Tempered Cyclops
1 Labyrinth Champion
1 Magma Jet
1 Ordeal of Purphoros
1 Spearpoint Oread
1 Titan of Eternal Fire
1 (Titan’s Strength)
1 Akroan Hoplite
10 Plains
9 Mountains
 
1 Ray of Dissolution
1 Two-Headed Cerberus
1 Vanquish the Foul
1 Wild Celebrants
 
Round one, I was evenly matched: my opponent had also last shuffled Theros cards at the midnight prerelease. Game one, he cleverly hid his second color from me (actually, second and splash color – in other words, he was color screwed.) I won fairly easily. Game two I ended up with mana problems, after keeping a two land hand. However, I had Akroan Hoplite on turn two. He had played a 2/2 on turn two, and beat and tapped out for another on turn three. On my turn three I missed my land drop, but had Ordeal of Helios, so I suited the Hoplite up and smashed. On his turn, he beat with one guy, but left a pair of 2/2s back to block.   I drew the other Ordeal instead of a land, so I cast it, attacked, and stacked the triggers correctly. The Ordeal of Purphoros killed one 2/2, and my guy got past. On his turn, he cast the scrying Act of Treason to steal my Hoplite, and I had to explain that while he controlled the Hoplite, I still controlled the aura, so I got the 10 life. A bit of careful play later, I was 1-0. 
 
Things got a bit harder after that. I won’t go into much detail about later rounds.   A few highlights, though.
 
Round three, IIRC, I proved the old adage that you should never scoop until you are dead. He had a giant Mistcutter Hydra, a monstrous Arbor Colossus and a Sealock Monster in play, and some other stuff. I had nothing but a small collection of weenies and Ill-Tempered Cyclops, but he was down to five. I was pretty much dead in two turns, but decided to swing all out and see if he screwed up his blocks. I started combat by pumping my Arena Athlete with a Titan’s Strength, to scry and lock down one of his big blockers. I swung with nearly everyone, and he spent some time declaring blockers – but he forgot that the Arena Athlete had been pumped and let it through. I was careful to ask him if he had finished declaring blockers. He said he had. I told him I had no effects. He said he was good. I asked “resolve damage?” When he said yes, I said “take five.” One thing about being a judge, I know enough to be very careful about announcing my actions, especially if my opponent appears to have forgotten something. I don’t want to give him or her any grounds for backing anything up. 
 
I got to play Adrian Sullivan in round four, which was nice and nostalgic. We decided that we last faced each other in a PTQ back about 2001.  In that event, he was playing PT Junk, and I was playing GB Survival. What I remember most about that match was that he had a ton of duals in his mana base, and I was using Recurring Nightmare on a Cartographer to get back Wasteland. It took me forever to kill him, but I kept him mana screwed all game. Amazingly enough, he was friendly and talkative all match. If I were in his place, I would have been grumpy as hell.
 
Adrian was also RW, and he also had Labyrinth Champion. In addition, he had Hundred Handed One (which he made Monstrous both games), Stormbreath Dragon (which he also made Monstrous) and Anger of the Gods.   He even managed to three-for-one me with Boulderfall, which I thought was unplayable, but he was running a bunch of land to support his fatties. The match was very tight, with me having to make the best possible use of all my guys and pump to stay in the game. Game one, I managed to off Hundred Handed One with a monstrous Ill-Tempered Cyclops: he only had one pump spell, and I had two.  
 
Round seven (of eight), I realized I was getting tired, and I really didn’t want to play anymore. I got my first warning that match, when I forgot to scry off my Battlewise Valor. I also got to play against Elspeth for the second time in the event. I had Titan of Eternal Fire w/ one human, Labyrinth Champion and Celestial Champion in play. He had Insatiable Harpy with one +1/1 counter, two Sentry of the Underworld, and a Fabled Hero on his side of the board. He pretty much tapped out to cast Elspeth, so he did not have mana to regenerate the Sentries. That meant that I would have been able to kill them with Dauntless Onslaught had he used Elspeth’s Second ability. He didn’t – after tanking a while, he made some soldiers and passed. I pinged Elspeth with the human / Titan EoT. On my turn, I attacked Elspeth with the Celestial Archon and he triple blocked. I pumped the Archon and the Champion, redirecting the Champion’s damage to Elspeth. I then hit the Champion again with Titan’s Strength, to kill off Elspeth. I was fortunate in that he hadn’t found another spell to target the Fabled Hero, or I never could have pulled that game out.        
 
That match had two firsts: my first warning for screwing up, and my first game loss. Yes, game loss. I ended the Swiss in first place at 7-0 and an ID in matches, and 14-1 in games. I managed to play my way around and over two Elspeths, a Thassa plus Bident, Adrian’s monsters and a trio of green bombs all out at once. It helped that I seemed prescient: I was able to foresee all of my opponent’s combat tricks – even down to Adrian’s Anger of the Gods. I may not have played much Theros, but after judging several events, I have watched a lot of good players and good matches. It helps.
 
Of course, as a judge, I don’t watch picks during drafts; I watch eyes, hands and players, not picks. That meant I really felt unprepared in the draft.
 
Pack one, I saw a bad rare and ended up choosing between Nessian Asp, Calvary Pegasus, Pharika’s Mender, Wave Triton and lesser cards. I was hesitant to commit to GB on the strength of a good Gravedigger, and was nervous about battling over Wx or Ux Heroic without a better first pick than a measly Pegasus or the Wave Titan. I decided to take the Asp, hoping to have face less competition over a green deck.
 
Pack two came down to a choice between two removal cards: Magma Jet and Pharika’s Cure. I have heard that black is heavily drafted, so I went RG. I was sad when I passed another Cure and a Returned Phalanx in the next two packs, but jumped into black when I saw a fifth pick Grey Merchant. I assumed that was some sort of signal that my upstream opponents were not in that color. So, when I reviewed my picks after pack one, I saw two fair green cards, four red cards, four black cards and some total chaff. Not a great start, so I began to plot out a RB deck. 
 
Pack two I opened Nemesis of Mortal and was passed Boon Satyr in pack two, so I was back in green. I had a couple more tough choices. I took Time to Feed over Sip of Hemlock early in pack two (Sip had tabled in the first pack, so I was hoping), and took Read the Ruins over Sip early pack three. Not sure whether either of those picks were right. 
 
Here’s what I ended up drafting:
 
1 Nessian Asp
1 Returned Phalanx
1 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
1 Unknown Shores
1 Mistcutter Hydra
1 Feral Invocation
1 Pharika’s Mender
1 Staunch-Hearted Warrior
1 Voyaging Satyr
2 Cavern Lampad
1 Fleshmad Stead
1 Nemesis of Mortals
1 Read the Bones
1 Sip of Hemlock
1 Boon Satyr
1 Time to Feed
1 Insatiable Harpy
1 Agent of Horizon
1 Boon of Erebos
1 Savage Surge
1 Rescue from the Underworld
1 Blood-Toll Harpy
1 Disciple of Phenax
1 Returned Centaur
1 Ordeal of Erebos
 
Sideboard
1 Shredding Winds
1 Viper’s Kiss
1 Satyr Hedonist
1 Pheres-Band Centaurs
1 Ordeal of Erebos
1 Loathsome Catoblepas
1 Magma Jet
1 Stoneshock Giant
1 Two-Headed Cerebus
1 Satyr Rambler
1 Bronze Sable
 
Fifteenth picks and cards not played: Vanquish the Foul, (Silent Artisans), Sealock Monster, (Fleetfoot Sandals), and a second Unknown Shores.
 
In round one, I faced another Madisonian, fellow judge and long-time player Ben Rasmussen. He was one of the UW drafters and his heroic deck was pretty good.   In game one, though, I baited him into an ambush with Savage Surge, and my Grey Merchant kept me alive long enough for Mistcutter Hydra to stroll past his blue blockers. Game two, he just powered past me when I stumbled on mana.   Game three – well, I threw game three away literally before it began. I was too tired.
 
Game three my opening hand had, IIRC, one forest, Mistcutter Hydra and five black cards. I mulliganned, and had no sooner pulled my cards and started turn them towards me than I realized I had drawn seven cards, not six. I told the table judge what I had done and spread out my cards. (The penalty is a warning; the “fix” is for the judge to take two cards out of my hand at random and shuffle them into my deck. It’s the equivalent of me mulliganning to five, but faster than making me shuffle.) That’s where it got a bit funny. The judge started his explanatory speech (most judges have one for most penalties), but Ben cut him off with “I’m a judge, he’s a judge, we know how this works.” Then the judge shuffled just one card away, and I had to remind him of that this was competitive, and I was supposed to lose two cards.  
 
Long story short, with the double mulligan I could not pull it out. He got off to a fast start. Eventually, I was at six, with five lands and Insatiable Harpy in play. I had Feral Invocation (which I should have sided out) and Time to Feed in hand. He had two fliers and a 2/2 with Aqueous Form in play, and swung with everything. I could not win if I blocked, but had a chance if I ripped a land, so I went to one. I ripped the land and attacked with the Harpy. He had no blocks and played no tricks, so I slapped on the Feral Invocation on the Harpy and went to five. I then played the land and tried Time to Feed, targeting my Harpy and his unblockable 2/2. He had one card in hand, but it was Gods Willing, so my spell fizzled – and that was the end of my PTQ.   
 
Sure was a ton of fun, though. 
 
Cutting Edge Tech: 
Standard: The biggest Standard tournament last weekend was the SCG Open in Dallas. The Top 16 is here. Lots of Esper, UW Control and RW aggro, plus this deck.
 
GR Devotion
Hal Brady, Winner, SCG Standard Open Dallas
4 Voyaging Satyr
3 Arbor Colossus
2 Xenagos, the Reveler
4 Temple of Abandon
4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
1 Nylea, God of the Hunt
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Polukranos, World Eater
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
4 Domri Rade
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
2 Scavenging Ooze
4 Stomping Ground
9 Forest
2 Mountain
 
Sideboard
4 Mistcutter Hydra
4 Nylea's Disciple
1 Destructive Revelry
3 Burning Earth
3 Wasteland Viper
 
Hero’s Path Standard: This is a new format created as part of the prerelease and release events. The new client includes a filter for the format, but the events stopped firing even before the great event massacre, so it’s done. 
 
Pauper: Pauper was doing quite well online. The most recent, and last, for a long while, Pauper Daily was won by Mono Black.   Details here.
 
Familiar Combo
PigNorton, Winner, Pauper Daily #6282026 on 11/12/2013
4 Azorius Chancery
4 Dimir Aqueduct
7 Island
3 Plains
1 Swamp
4 Terramorphic Expanse
4 Cloud of FAeries
2 Mnemonic Wall
4 Mulldrifter
1 Nightscape Familiar
1 Sage's Row Denizen
4 Sea Gate Oracle
4 Sunscape Familiar
4 Compulsive Research
4 Ghostly Flicker
4 Preordain
1 Reaping the Graves
4 Snap
 
1 Boomerang
1 Capsize
3 Circle of Protection: Red
4 Dispel
2 Lone Missionary
1 Sage's Row Denizen
3 Stonehorn Dignitary
 
Theros Block Constructed: We had another TBC Premier event last weekend, with another round of decks. This time the winner was a RWB deck. This will be the last TBC decklist for a while, unless Wizards starts printing the lists that win a random 8 man. 
 
RWB Dragon Control
_Nukesaku_, Winner, THS Block Constructed Premier #6281967 on 11/11/2013
10 Mountain
6 Swamp
2 Temple of Deceit
4 Temple of Silence
4 Temple of Triumph
4 Ember Swallower
4 Stormbreath Dragon
2 Anger of the Gods
4 Chained to the Rocks
4 Elspeth, Sun's Champion
4 Hero's Downfall
4 Lightning Strike
4 Magma Jet
4 Read the Bones
 
2 Anger of the Gods
3 Dark Betrayal
4 Peak Eruption
2 Pharika's Cure
4 Thoughtseize
 
Legacy: The SCG Legacy Open was sort of a throwback event, in that the Top 16 decks were varied. Sneak and Show did not dominate, for a change. 
 
UW Stoneblade
Timothy Thomasaon, Winner, SCG Legacy Open Dallas
3 True-Name Nemesis
1 Celestial Flare
1 Supreme Verdict
3 Snapcaster Mage
1 Batterskull
4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
4 Stoneforge Mystic
2 Marsh Flats
1 Spell Pierce
2 Vendilion Clique
1 Academy Ruins
1 Spell Snare
1 Umezawa's Jitte
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
3 Polluted Delta
4 Flooded Strand
3 Island
2 Plains
1 Counterspell
4 Brainstorm
4 Force of Will
1 Karakas
4 Mishra's Factory
4 Tundra
4 Swords to Plowshares
 
Sideboard
1 True-Name Nemesis
2 Swan Song
3 Rest in Peace
1 Supreme Verdict
1 Detention Sphere
1 Flusterstorm
1 Path to Exile
1 Venser, Shaper Savant
1 Manriki-Gusari
1 Pithing Needle
2 Meddling Mage
 

Card Prices: 

Notes: All my prices come from MTGOTraders.com. For cards that are available in multiple sets, I am quoting the lower price. Thus, the price I’m quoting for Thoughtseize is generally the Theros price. In certain other cases (e.g Brainstorm) I will note which version I track. All these cards are generally available from the MTGOTraders Bots, so check out mtgotradersbot, mtgotradersbot2, mtgotradersbot3, mtgotradersbot4, mtgotradersbot5, CardCaddy and CardWareHouse, as well as from the website directly. Now, on to prices.
 
Or not.
 
The good people at MTGOTraders.com are kind enough to ship me a spreadsheet with prices for the 40k cards (regular, plus foils), etc. that I manipulate to create these tables. However, they ship Wednesday. That’s normally not a problem, but right now a lot of Chicken Littles are selling off their cards or collections. Prices have dropped, and the market prices are really volatile. Next week I will record the damages, but right now my data is dated. 
 
Personally, I think the next couple weeks might be a good time to buy. We know MTGO is in a mess, but it has been in worse places. It has always come back stronger. Yes, there are competing games, but there were the last several times around, and MTGO won its market share back. Personally, I am not selling out. I’m buying.
 
The Good Stuff:
The Good Stuff starts with a list of the non-foil, non-premium cards on MTGO that cost more than $25 each. Remember that these prices are from before the effects of the great event massacre, and the resulting sell off.   
 

Card
Rarity
Set
Price
Lion's Eye Diamond
R
MI
$ 157.72
Force of Will
R
MED
$   99.76
Rishadan Port
R
MM
$   97.63
Show and Tell
R
UZ
$   93.19
Misdirection
R
MM
$   79.52
Wasteland
U
TE
$   79.39
Tarmogoyf
M
MMA
$   72.78
Tarmogoyf
R
FUT
$   71.55
Gaea's Cradle
R
UZ
$   64.79
City of Traitors
R
EX
$   56.64
Liliana of the Veil
M
ISD
$   47.00
Underground Sea
R
ME2
$   42.68
Mox Opal
M
SOM
$   39.50
Natural Order
R
VI
$   38.36
Vampiric Tutor
R
VI
$   36.41
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
M
WWK
$   34.24
Sneak Attack
R
UZ
$   33.54
Underground Sea
R
ME4
$   33.20
Bayou
R
ME4
$   32.38
Tropical Island
R
ME4
$   32.28
Tundra
R
ME2
$   32.19
Bayou
R
ME3
$   31.69
Karn Liberated
M
NPH
$   31.62
Tropical Island
R
ME3
$   31.55
Volcanic Island
R
ME3
$   30.90
Tundra
R
ME4
$   30.46
Tangle Wire
R
NE
$   30.08
Sphinx's Revelation
M
RTR
$   30.00
Flusterstorm
R
CMD
$   29.49
Vindicate
R
AP
$   28.94
Volcanic Island
R
ME4
$   28.47
Jace, Architect of Thought
M
RTR
$   28.26
Vendilion Clique
R
MOR
$   28.19
Vendilion Clique
M
MMA
$   27.97
Mana Drain
R
ME3
$   26.69
Mishra's Workshop
R
ME4
$   25.96
Fulminator Mage
R
SHM
$   25.92
Mutavault
R
MOR
$   25.10

 
The big number is the retail price of a playset (4 copies) of every card available on MTGO. I didn’t calculate the big number this week. It’s changing too fast.   
 

Weekly Highlights:

I top eighted a PTQ. That’s highlight enough.
 
 
PRJ
 
“one million words” on MTGO.

17 Comments

Nice article and puts things by thewoof2 at Fri, 11/15/2013 - 12:35
thewoof2's picture

Nice article and puts things into perspective compared to our past pains. One point on your security hole scenario - I agree that WOTC having a full security hole is unlikely. What seems more likely is they are having denial of service (DoS) attacks. If someone is losing a MOCS, then they bombard the WOTC servers to crash it and try to get undeserved compensation and/or play in a make-up event.

Wiki on DoS - One common method of attack involves saturating the target machine with external communications requests, so much so that it cannot respond to legitimate traffic, or responds so slowly as to be rendered essentially unavailable.

The guest on our podcast by MagicGatheringStrat at Fri, 11/15/2013 - 13:25
MagicGatheringStrat's picture
5

We had a guest on our postcast, Competetive Pauper Cast (episode 13) that claimed that it was known that Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, is the cause of the bug and that players who know exactly what the bug is can crash Theros events at will and that was the reason that everything had to be taken down. Podcast available here: http://mtgostrat.com/2013/11/competitive-pauper-cast-13-sweet-taste-bitt...

I thought the Ashiok bug was by JXClaytor at Fri, 11/15/2013 - 14:07
JXClaytor's picture

I thought the Ashiok bug was fixed. :/

Ashiok Bug? by 3drinks at Fri, 11/15/2013 - 14:56
3drinks's picture

What's this Ashiok bug? I haven't played in a few weeks as we've got other stuff going on at the house.

When you activate Ashiok's by Drbenwayy at Fri, 11/15/2013 - 15:50
Drbenwayy's picture

When you activate Ashiok's second ability, the game asks you what converted mana cost you'd like to choose for the creature to put into play and I believe you couldn't cancel or change that value.

Ahh. So you click it and by 3drinks at Fri, 11/15/2013 - 16:53
3drinks's picture

Ahh. So you click it and select, say, X = 2, but then want to change to X = 3 and it won't let you? And this crashes the game somehow?

Sorry, trying to figure out why such a thing would have such a profound effect on events. Thanks for the enlightenment.

I'm not entirely sure but I by Drbenwayy at Fri, 11/15/2013 - 18:03
Drbenwayy's picture

I'm not entirely sure but I believe that's what the bug was. I don't know if it would crash events (didn't listen to that link above) but I guess anything could be the issue at this point.

Appreciate the discussion. by Orgion at Fri, 11/15/2013 - 13:28
Orgion's picture
5

Nice article and appreciate the calm and considered perspective. Ironically though, having been through most of what you described, I wasn't panic'ing until I read in your article that others were :)

Strike one up for the suggestibility of your readership!

I agree. I think you should by urzishra14 at Fri, 11/15/2013 - 14:18
urzishra14's picture

I agree. I think you should buy into MTGO. Older sets haven't budged much. I'm gearing up for another 500 - 800 credit order to Cape Fear. I can't play paper MTG anymore, I just don't have the patience to go to LGS's to beat up on kids who are the same age as when I started playing cards.

What I find interesting is by xger at Fri, 11/15/2013 - 14:45
xger's picture

What I find interesting is that in all of the discussions about the DE's being taken down it is not mentioned that the crash was so bad that WotC stopped all running DE's and had to close all future ones (the long list of Do Not Join) and repopulate. While it may not have affected DEs in the past whatever the issue was certainly affected them this time.

Gatherling by Dabil at Fri, 11/15/2013 - 18:49
Dabil's picture
5

I have written Wizards about this, but I would be happy to allow Gatherling.com to be used to run by Wizards to offer competitive play to help fill the void until the issues with MTGO could be ironed out. That could help with their PR problems, especially if they decide to offer prizes.

Nice article, and thanks for getting the facts straight!

dabil - I love your program; by Bazaar of Baghdad at Sat, 11/16/2013 - 10:16
Bazaar of Baghdad's picture

dabil - I love your program; and that was a generous offer for the community. I hope WotC takes you up on that.

I totally agree great program by thewoof2 at Sat, 11/16/2013 - 10:31
thewoof2's picture

I totally agree great program and helps the community. What about having the ORC's run the events using your program?

Cards Crashing Whole Events by Katastrophe at Sun, 11/17/2013 - 03:12
Katastrophe's picture

Ashiok potentially being the source of the crash at least makes a little sense. (Very little sense though. I can see how it would crash a client, but not the server.)

I remember when MOX DIAMOND was crashing Tempest / Tempest / Exodus events. MOX DIAMOND. How does that even happen? The best part was the 'fix' they did. Rather than cancel all TTE events until the Mox was fixed, they simply refunded the entry fees for any draft which crashed. And just allowed it to happen. So whenever anyone at your table opened a Mox, not only was it a money rare, but everyone at the table got a free draft! LOL! Bad for getting in there with slivers and shadow guys, but great for getting paid if that's your goal.

For a while after one of the by longtimegone at Sun, 11/17/2013 - 03:18
longtimegone's picture

For a while after one of the updates, any attempt to put a leyline effect in to play from your hand would reset the match completely and restart it. I have no idea what that would do in a tournament rather than one off event. I've also seen bugs that caused the match to reset, then fast forward through all the actions in the game to get back to the point of the crash then loop again.

Given how bugs have been able to completely crash or reset an entire match, I can see how this could potentially crash an event expecting valid results returned from all those matches.

A simple PR fix for WotC by Ikoma_Aze at Sun, 11/17/2013 - 17:16
Ikoma_Aze's picture

A simple suggestion I saw in the MTGO forums... if WotC aren't planning to cut Daily event prizes/EV, they should just announce that they promise to bring back these events or something similar with the same (or better) prize structure. Assuming this is true it would certainly help a lot of people (myself included) feel much more comfortable with the actions WotC is taking. I think this would lead to greater confidence and less people abandoning MTGO.

Without such a "good PR" statement, it really feels a lot like their shady behaviour with respect to 4 booster sealed (where they got rid of them on tenuous grounds, and returned them later with worse prizes).

Anyway, great article as always!

Given Wizards history on by longtimegone at Sun, 11/17/2013 - 19:38
longtimegone's picture

Given Wizards history on promises of MTGO features coming back, what confidence would that really provide?

Wizards promised that leagues would return when the introduction of the current client led to their removal. That new client is now almost ready to be *retired*. Do you see any leagues yet? It's been five and a half years.