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By: Xaoslegend, Michael Allen
Sep 02 2010 8:42am
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This podcast is a recording of me reading the entire article. I included it for the convenience of those that for whatever reason would like to listen to the article instead of read it. I know that sometimes I enjoy listening to magic commentary while I do something else that doesn't require my full mental attention. You may still want to browse through the article if you've listened to it since certain elements like decklists are better enjoyed visually.

     So first let me explain the format:

     It's called Heirloom, C3POS, Crap Card Constructed or Budget constructed (some people use budget constructed as descriptive of overall cost not for this format specifically so that sometimes causes confusion)

      It's a Casual Competitive format on mtgo though you can play it offline as well. It is usually classic though I've seen people play standard and extended versions as well. The rules are that all cards listed on mtgotraders/cardbot that are common and $0.05 or cheaper are legal, uncommon $0.10, Rare $0.20, Mythic $1.00 As long as one version is cheap enough that makes it legal (Promo and premade deck cards are evaluated based on their original highest rarity from a legal set). Right now legality of cards shifts whenever mtgotraders updates a price, however in the future the popular idea is to make cards legal and illegal at the beginning of each month to last for one month.

      For example Cast Through Time Cast Through Time is $0.70 on mtgotraders, which means it's legal as its below $1.01 in cost. Counterspell Counterspell is Banned because its lowest cost is $0.60 well above the maximum of $0.10 for an uncommon (its highest rarity in a legal set). Lightning Bolt Lightning Bolt is also Banned because it's lowest cost is $0.08 above the $0.05 limit for commons, Jinxed Idol Jinxed Idol is legal because its cost is $0.20, tied for the highest cost for a rare allowed. (these legalities are as of this writing and may change at any time)

     So what do you get for all this time checking prices, learning a new meta, and painstakingly finding the diamonds in the rough with cards shifting in and out of legality at any given moment? You get a lot of things. If I had come up with a list of things I'd want to have in a constructed format it turns out I was a very good boy this year because Santa has come stocked to the drawstring with satisfaction. Of course there is that creepy whispery voice of his that says: "If you promote it they will come..."

     but we'll get to that later. I could make abstract claims about various aspects of the format but I think it's much more effective to make a case for it in the warm glow of a few well oiled machines: decks that illustrate the integrity of this format.

     You may recognize this deck from its similarity to successful legacy decks of the same type: Merfolk.

Silvergill Sovereign
Total Deck Cost $2.86 (minus basic lands)
4 Cursecatcher
4 Tidal Warrior
3 Tideshaper Mystic
4 Inkfathom Infiltrator
4 Silvergill Adept
4 Stonybrook Banneret
4 Merfolk Sovereign
4 Merrow Reejerey
2 Seasinger
33 cards

Other Spells
4 Force Spike
2 Spell Pierce
2 Boomerang
8 cards
19 Island
19 cards

Silvergill Adept


     This is a powerful format. If you want to learn to play magic constructed well, in powerful formats like Standard, Extended, and Legacy this is a good format to hone your skills. Try to get too cute in Heirloom and you will wake up in a bathtub of ice minus one kidney with a note reminding you of your appointment to donate the second. I gave this decklist to a guy in the casual room, a day later he messages me, "That merfolk deck is awesome! Got any others?". As a matter of fact...

     This is not the second deck I gave him since I'm somewhat sure in the casual room this deck would produce as much bile in your opponents as concessions. It's a style of deck that hasn't been competitive in a long, long time, and has been unwelcome in casual forever. We call this a casual competitive format, emphasis on 'competitive'. This is not your momma's casual format unless your momma is Rambo.

Scorched Earth
Total Deck Cost $3.76 (minus basic lands)
2 Simian Spirit Guide
4 Magnivore
6 cards

Other Spells
4 Jeweled Amulet
3 Raze
2 Spark Spray
3 Armillary Sphere
2 Molten Rain
4 Pillage
3 Stone Rain
3 Steam Vines
2 Icy Manipulator
2 Seer's Sundial
2 Flowstone Flood
3 Incendiary Command
2 Scorched Earth
33 cards
14 Mountain
1 Gods' Eye, Gate to the Reikai
4 Quicksand
19 cards

Scorched Earth

(Link to Flowstone Flood www.mtgotraders.com/store/EX_Flowstone_Flood.html)

     One of the reasons we've begun to call the format 'Heirloom' (other than trying to find a name that's catchy and not offensive, though I still love C3POS) is that you often find yourself playing with cards that just give you that nice warm nostalgia. Maybe they aren't good in other formats, but here they are often just the ticket. This next deck is especially good at foiling the aggro decks with Boil Boil  in the sideboard to keep the blue control menace at bay.


     Perhaps one of the best things about the format is how difficult it is to make a permission strategy viable. With the inherent banning of ubiquitous cards like Counterspell Counterspell, Mana Leak Mana Leak, Force of Will Force of Will and Rune Snag Rune Snag you're forced to use counters that are narrower in use or simply less efficient in mana cost. Because of how popular blue black is among the casual crowds favorites of the archetype tend to be inherently banned in Heirloom. Cards like Dimir Aqueduct Dimir Aqueduct, Jwar Isle Refuge Jwar Isle Refuge, Probe Probe and Agony Warp Agony Warp.

     Of course that doesn't mean the color combination has nothing to offer. Wizards has gone to the blue black well many times to fill out new expansions with themes that they understand and know the player base like. With so many good blue black control cards having been printed over the years there are certainly options, and this deck is about as much fun as anything to play.



     Of course the archetype has other hurdles to overcome to succeed such as the already mentioned Boil Boil as well as Choke Choke, Scald Scald and Guttural Response Guttural Response

     If you've been paying more than casual attention while skimming this article by now you've noticed total cost of these decks noted below their names on the decklist boxes. If you've been playing magic offline or online for very long you'll also know that the cost of these decks isn't just low, it's almost nonexistent. After building about 7 decks for the format without sacrificing power for the sake of reducing tix cost at any point I've come to about a $3.5 average for each deck. Which means for the cost of one online draft (assuming 4 tix per pack and 2 for entry and no overlapping cards between decks) you could make 4 Heirloom decks from scratch, if you have a decent collection already that number obviously gets reduced as well as overlap between decks.

     Let's look at the entry cost for some other formats, I already mentioned Draft, a format where probably only 10% of players break even or make money over time (I love Draft don't get me wrong, it's a very pure format, once you've payed the $14 entry fee it has the virtue of being an even match regardless of investment capitol much like Heirloom, an even playing field that's decided by wits and luck instead of coin and wits and luck.) Might as well start at the top with legacy.

     The latest Deck of the Week Legacy winning list costs: $787.39

     If I spent that much on magic all at once I think my wife would murder me, or at least make me apologize for the next 10 years, I don't know which would be worse.

     The latest Zendikar block Deck of the Week winner: $392.61 (ah Jace, the Mind Sculptor Jace, the Mind Sculptor)

     The latest Standard Deck of the Week winner: $253.46 (and that's without any Jace, the Mind Sculptor)

     The latest Extended Deck of the Week winner: $148.12

     The latest Pauper Deck of the Week winner: $10.92 (and that was goblins, one of the cheapest decks in the "Pauper" format)

     Top price for any of my 7 decks I've built so far: $5.23 (its an enchantress deck with Verduran Enchantress Verduran Enchantress, Mesa Enchantress Mesa Enchantress, and Kor Spiritdancer Kor Spiritdancer)

     Pauper deserves special note since it competes for the attention of many of the same people that would also be interested in Heirloom. I really wanted to like Pauper when I first heard about it way back when, and made some decks and played around with it a fair bit. I found that while I could certainly find enough money to build anything I wanted it still wasn't particularly cheap, and I would hesitate to try a new deck idea out because of cost quite often. For a format with it's name it has some pretty expensive singles in it. Some of this is because of natural market forces and some is straight up wizards exploitation and gouging by printing up-coming commons in preconstructed decks. Often as one ofs. It's a practice I don't see stopping any time soon, and in the far far future when all sets are online the market forces will weigh pauper down even more and wizards can still print commons from up-coming sets in their precons. Some of the most notably high priced cards for Pauper are:

Fireblast Crypt Rats Lotus Petal Daze

     Right now Fireblast goes for $2, Crypt Rats for $2.25, Lotus Petal $4.5 and Daze $10.5.

     There is also Snuff Out for $5.www.mtgotraders.com/store/DDD_Snuff_Out.html

     The other issue I personally have with Pauper is also one of the things that makes it unique: It's just not the same as magic with all rarities included. There are certain types of decks and facets to the game that pauper simply lacks. It's a different kind of magic altogether. This isn't a bad thing. Variety is the spice of life, and magic. For me however I want most of my constructed play to be more like "normal" magic, and to have something like Pauper as an occasional alternative.

     Another great thing about Heirloom is that the banning rules cut out of the format most of the unbalanced cards in magic. This does a couple of things. First it prevents combos that kill in the first few turns of the game and reduces the power of aggro to a point where its much less often going to get unbeatable hands that kill you by turn 3. Reducing the impact of these sorts of decks while at the same time reducing the power of permission makes the game more about skill and deck design with more consistent results in matches. It also makes many more cards viable for decks. After you take away the best magic cards you're left with a lot more cards that are pretty good, and now playable. I would say a larger number of cards are playable in Heirloom than any other format. This allows for far more variety of deck types to have the potential to succeed.

     Once Heirloom becomes a big format on MTGO another positive facet of the format will emerge: Whenever a card begins to dominate the format and appear too often it will inherently become banned by market forces pushing it's value too high. This will keep Heirloom eternally dynamic and robust. None of the stagnation that all other formats suffer from. (of course if it causes your singles to go up in price that you've been playing with that can't be too bad either right?)

     Videos always seem popular to liven things up and showing the decks in action often answers questions faster than writing about it. Here's a video of me playing one of my online buddies. I'm running a Goblin deck and he's running a BU control list slightly tweaked from the Dimir Conundrum deck I listed earlier.


     Here's another video, this time I'm playing my Lightning Slide deck against the Dimir Conundrum deck.


     Just to show how the decks play with decks from formats with more expensive cards here's a game of me playing with an Heirloom affinity deck against some kind of blue white casual control deck.


     So Heirloom has only one real problem: It's just not that well known yet. That's where you come in. If you like Heirloom as much as I do start playing it. Make some decks and look for opponents. Get your friends to play it and explain the format to anyone who doesn't know what it is in the casual and tournament practice rooms(player run events are tournaments after all). Post threads and articles about your experiences playing the format and building decks on any magic website you frequent (I hear Puremtgo.com is pretty cool). It may take a little effort at first, but in the end Heirloom is well worth the trouble.

     There are so many reasons to play Heirloom, and not greatest among them the cheap cost to play it. There are qualities to Heirloom that in many ways makes it a superior play experience to Classic, Legacy, Extended, Standard, Block and Pauper.

     For my part I'm going to sponsor weekend events for the format every week that are free to enter and have real tix prizes to win of at least 2 tix to the winner of the event and 2 tix to a random other player that showed up, depending on the number of people who enter I'll give away more prizes. I like this format so much I'm willing to give away some of my resources away to promote it. Find me online to get information about when each weekend's event will commence and any other details.

     If you see me online you can always message me about the format and challenge me to some friendly games of Heirloom. Join me in playing the heir to the throne of budget competitive formats that looms historically above the MTGO game rooms and will someday soon be whispered about in fear by Wizards of the Coast sales officers. (That fear would be misplaced of course since anything that makes magic more fun to play just increases the player base which will inevitably lead to more income. Oh and LSV? You're not the only pun master of this universe. You're on notice)

     I hope you've enjoyed this introduction to the best format on MTGO: Heirloom. I look forward to seeing better players than I am breaking the format and beating my concoctions. Feel free to copy my decklists and play them as is or tweaked to get yourself started.

Thanks for your time, take her easy my friends.

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Interesting by tempesteye at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 08:56
tempesteye's picture

It looks like an interesting format. But I have to be honest when I say that with a constantly changing card pool (which could make a deck legal one week and illegal the next) it looks like it could be a lot of unnecessary work just to keep track.
I think any format based on price, especially the secondary market price, is going to have a very high hurdle to overcome. What if heath has a common for .12 but other bots have it for .03? I think that price is just to variable to base a format off of.

Thanks for taking a look at by Xaoslegend at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 09:41
Xaoslegend's picture

Thanks for taking a look at my article. I appreciate your concerns about the format. The inconsistency between mtgotrader prices and other bots will certianly occur (though the vast majority of the time mtgotraders has the best price) The important thing is to have a ultimate basis for banning and mtgotraders is a large enough entity that it fulfills this purpose.

The other fix to this I mentioned as up-coming in the article.
"Right now legality of cards shifts whenever mtgotraders updates a price, however in the future the popular idea is to make cards legal and illegal at the beginning of each month to last for one month."


mtgotraders are overpriced by Etriol at Wed, 09/08/2010 - 01:50
Etriol's picture

Though the vast majority of the time mtgotraders has the worst prise.
The main advantage of mtgotraders is the biggest cardpool.

Hey Etriol, I can't claim to by Xaoslegend at Thu, 09/09/2010 - 15:07
Xaoslegend's picture

Hey Etriol,

I can't claim to be an expert on vendor pricing but other than players selling their own cards and packs I have only on a couple occasions seen lower prices at another bot on a card I wanted (though I don't usually buy top singles so there may be a difference there I'm less familiar with)

Certainly the completeness of the Mtgotraders library is one thing that makes Heirloom possible and manageable.


"The other issue I personally by kalandine at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 09:23
kalandine's picture

"The other issue I personally have with Pauper is also one of the things that makes it unique: It's just not the same as magic with all rarities included. There are certain types of decks and facets to the game that pauper simply lacks. It's a different kind of magic altogether. This isn't a bad thing. Variety is the spice of life, and magic. For me however I want most of my constructed play to be more like "normal" magic, and to have something like Pauper as an occasional alternative."

But Heirloom by your own admission will not play like "normal" magic. I will not face a powerful counterspell deck as the best options are out of the price ranges you have set. I will not face a Storm deck, which is found in pauper and classic (maybe Legacy, I have no idea). Red Deck Wins is seriously impacted by the lack of Lightning Bolt and other staples. This will not have Planeswalkers, which means it won't play like any non-Pauper format.

I like the concept, but I think pauper's rise in popularity (and it is definitely far more popular now than it was three years ago) is due to two factors: a weekly Premier Event and, most importantly, the pauper filter that is available in the deck editor.

I would expect deck building to be a nightmare, and that obstacle is beyond huge for building a deck and, more importantly, ensuring the deck is still legal. I want to play Magic, not look through a price list before every game to see if I am still allowed to play a deck.

"For a format with it's name it has some pretty expensive singles in it. Some of this is because of natural market forces and some is straight up wizards exploitation and gouging by printing up-coming commons in preconstructed decks. Often as one ofs. It's a practice I don't see stopping any time soon, and in the far far future when all sets are online the market forces will weigh pauper down even more and wizards can still print commons from up-coming sets in their precons."

I suspect the inclusion in pre-cons will continue to decline. After the Mercadian Masques block is out, I just don't see the pre-cons being an issue. Sure, Elspeth vs. Tezzeret will include Scars of Mirrodin commons, but it is only coming out one month for Scars is released. The bigger issue on cost is that legacy sets that are released are not purchased at nearly the same level as newer sets, making powerful commons harder to find. Most of the cards you listed are not costly because of pre-con releases by Wizards, but beause they are powerful commons in out-of-print sets.

Hey Kalandine, Great to hear by Xaoslegend at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 10:33
Xaoslegend's picture

Hey Kalandine,

Great to hear from you. While there are certain things about Heirloom that are different than other constructed formats I think the essential elements of most exist. While you don't have combo decks that go-off turn 1-3 there are certianly combo engines that take over by turn 4-6 pretty strongly. Red deck wins type decks I think can be quite competitive, their power has been reduced but then so has every other top type of deck as well. While the exclusion of Planeswalkers for the time being is a certainty it's unfortunately also the source of a great amount of budget creep lately.

As far as popularity goes of course pauper has advantages, but one of the reasons it has them now is because players decided that while it wasn't supported by wizards it was still worth playing. Certainly one of the biggest issues for the format is the labor of having to look up cards. As far as legal cards becoming legal goes so far with my 8 decks I haven't run into it, but sometimes I'll be playing someone and I'll notice a card that's banned(I've started having an Heirloom sense heh). So then it's just about politely mentioning it and continuing to have a good time. The only critical time to check is for player run events where there are prizes and more scrutiny. Personally I always play the game windowed and constantly check prices for trading or buying anyway (or rare drafting) so it's pretty natural for me and not as bad as all that.

Whether its precon commons or out of print ones I find the budget creep of pauper making it's name less and less appropriate. It's still a great format, though I prefer Heirloom =].

onefinemess's picture

I haven't been playing much due to money issues, and I could never get into pauper for two of the reasons you mention (staple costs & the fact that it doesn't "feel" like magic without the rarities).

Do you have a site with the ban lists & events? Having a script that ran price checks and automatically updated the list would be pretty sweet....

Hey there Onefinemess, The by Xaoslegend at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 11:17
Xaoslegend's picture

Hey there Onefinemess,

The Heirloom community doesn't yet have such a website unfortunately for now it's mostly threads, youtube and articles and the integrity of the format. A script like you describe would be pretty awesome and maybe I'll start working on my blog a bit more to improve the resources available to Heirloom players (though I'm not stopping anyone else from doing so either, really I'm not =P)

good links to threads and such that aren't already in my article:

My youtube channel that has several Heirloom videos.

Deck Advice thread

Another deck advice thread

Goblin Animosity deck thread

Vedalken Affinity deck thread

Wirewood Horror deck thread

Hope some of these help, plenty of meat to chew on I think! =P


Pretty much what Tempesteye by Paul Leicht at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 11:20
Paul Leicht's picture

Pretty much what Tempesteye said is what I said in the comments of your initial remarks on Freed from the Real. Namely that the price fluxuations make it too random. In fact that is one of two huge problems. The other as Kalandine pointed out has to do with actually being able to read a list and compile a deck from it. Without an exactly listing to refer to this becomes a huge choir. I did build a rock variant using cheapish cards and was able to confirm that it was legal within the rules but it took me 3x longer than normal and in the end I deleted the deck because I knew it was crap. That is the other not so huge problem with this format. Appeal. Why would this appeal to me when I could play tribal, pauper, commander etc? Currently it does not, and frankly if everyone goes the easy route with ld and merfolk I think the format will die horribly.

On a different note I see you paid close attention to how articles are done here and really did a fine job presenting this. 5 fireballs for you.

Paul, Nice to hear more of by Xaoslegend at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 11:51
Xaoslegend's picture


Nice to hear more of your perspective. I appreciate the positive comments about my article a great deal. Thanks.

The price fluctuation issue I think I've commented on a bit, I will emphasize again though that I think given a monthly banned list having cards rotate every month is a great thing for the format and should the format become very popular certian problem cards and enablers would soon naturally become banned. (simian spirit guide, raze, jeweled amulet, scorched earth for the lando deck for example).

Rock is a type of deck that I think can emerge but will rely on synergies more than it will rely on individual card power(since those cards tend to be banned). my Wirewood Horror deck does pretty well http://forums.mtgsalvation.com/showthread.php?t=267869 but again it might be considered more combo than rock, but it plays alot like a rock deck and is a ton of fun (probably my favorite to play atm).

Appeal: If there were another format that offered what Heirloom offers I would be playing it already. All the other variants that I know of are just lacking in key ways for me. Theyre narrow of focus, have no natural way to purge problem cards, or are thought of as casual so much so that if you try to do your best to win people won't play with you. I've spent a lot of time playing Heirloom because it is in my mind a singularity that solves the issues I have with all other formats of magic. (that a lot of people have I'm sure)

i don't think this format by laughinman at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 11:30
laughinman's picture

i don't think this format will be able to compete with the other big contenders, but i had to comment just to make one thing clear:
Santa Claus is WR, not RG.

Hey there Mr. Laughingman, I by Xaoslegend at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 11:58
Xaoslegend's picture

Hey there Mr. Laughingman,

I appreciate your pessimism. It will be so noted in the ship's log. As far as Santa goes I'm sure there are many aspects to him to explore:

WR Santa Claus: The Judge "Have you been naughty or nice? Tell Me! I know anyway!"

GW Santa Claus: Patron of Gifts "Let my gifts protect you."

RB Santa Claus: Secular agent of Hades "They were right all along, I am here to corrupt the youth! HOHOHOHOHOHo!"


No, i mean, just look at his by laughinman at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 18:30
laughinman's picture

No, i mean, just look at his uniform.
Red - White.
That's all.

Why not just everything under $1? by asabmow at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 11:31
asabmow's picture

Its funny, I play and enjoy pauper quite a bit (I gave up more costly formats a while a go). But I was recently also thinking of how we could have a format that was both inexpensive like pauper and allowed you to play as many cards as possible.

However, I came up with a different solution than you. I think the format does have to take into consideration prices somehow, but your idea of different price points for different rarities, I think is just way way to complicated. So to simplify, the format should just be every card under a dollar (dollar store magic? anyone). Much easier to explain to new players, and I would imagine, much easier to develop the monthly format restriction list.

Yes, this does mean that in theory a deck could cost a maximum of $60 or so, but this is not how it would ever work out, as most decent decks are going to naturally contain a mix of commons, uncommons, and rares (and occasionally the cheapest mythic) cards, most which will be significantly less than a $1. I doubt most decks would go over $20-25, still very affordable. I think you have to expect a *little* more expense if you are going to play with a much larger pool of cards. When you get down to it, most decks in your "heirloom" format would be at least $10 anyway, often closer to $20, when you start including .50 rares and $1 mythics. And $1 dollar magic would still cut out those overly pricey commons.

A couple other things:

I think you exaggerate the expense of pauper a little bit. Many, if not all, competitive pauper decks will cost ten dollars or less, which, is still plenty affordable for almost everybody (and especially in comparison, of course, to the price inflation we've seen in other formats). The real issue with pauper is, as you mention, strategy limitation, especially when it comes to the more midrange decks that need decent finishers. (I have yet to see a rock pauper deck that wins on a regular basis)

One thing you should at least mention is the Peasant format, which allows a certain amount of uncommons. I haven't played this at all, but I know it is an option.

But thanks for an interesting idea, obviously you are not the only one thinking about this!


One More Thing by asabmow at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 12:04
asabmow's picture

Also, with a $1 limit, you essentially will have a pretty consistent list of those cards over $1, and a "watch list" of cards that fluctuate close to $1. The monthly update for most players would be just reviewing this "watch list" to see which cards fell below $1 for that month. I think it would make the format much more easy to get a feel for.

I tried to just go to mtgotraders, as you suggest, and list every card over $1. It was a bit difficult in that they don't have the search capability to exclude the foils and other more expensive versions of identical cards. If a trader provided this search capability, it would make things much easier.

* I just did a search for every card between .80 and 1.20, i.e. a "watch list" range, and it came up with around 1100 cards, but I would say at least 80 to 90 percent of these were foils, which seem to often go for $1, so the watch list would likely be closer to 100-200 cards.

While the filter does not by Paul Leicht at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 12:06
Paul Leicht's picture

While the filter does not exclude foils they are paired with their normal counterparts in each set where possible so it's just an extra line to scan. The thing that makes traders easier to filter though is the advanced search which AJ pointed out to me the other day when I was failing to find a coherent way to list what I wanted. Advanced search makes things much more flexible.

Whoa the advanced by Xaoslegend at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 12:34
Xaoslegend's picture

Whoa the advanced search(http://www.mtgotraders.com/store/advanced-search.php) on mtgotraders is pretty awesome. Thanks for pointing that out, That should make brewing for Heirloom almost as easy as any format.

One note looks like you want to search one penny above the price cap you want so 0.00-0.06, for commons 0.00-0.11 for uncommons, 0.00-0.21 for rares, 0.00-1.01 for mythic! (just make sure you realize that some cards printed in premade decks are not counted as that rarity for Heirloom, eg Kird Ape does not count as a Mythic lol)

looks like 18 mythics are legal in Heirloom, (Platinum Angel go!)
2125 rares (ish, im not going to look for the exceptions right now)
5289 uncommons
7776 commons

seems like a lot of cardpool to work from heh

Hello Asabmow, Nice to have by Xaoslegend at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 12:19
Xaoslegend's picture

Hello Asabmow,

Nice to have such a detailed, thought out response.

I can't really claim credit for the pricing system myself. It was a meeting of several minds that eventually came to a consensus on the wisdom of it. (It's essentially 2.5 times the lowest cost for each type of card common being 2 uncommon 4 rare 8 and mythic $1 just to have an even, easy to remember number that actually allowed some mythics into the format without skewing the cost too much) The pricing system is about more than just keeping cost down and more than just having an easy system to remember (though I don't think what we came up with it that difficult)

We didn't want to emphasize or deemphasize any rarity because we wanted the format to reflect magic's core constructed formats. Putting the cap only at $1 emphasizes commons then uncommons rares very little and mythics hardly at all.

As far as the monthly list goes I think people are generally going to want a list of what's legal more than what's banned, so the shorter the easier, then again we'll probably just have a list of both so nothing about that is going to be easy lol.

(The rares allowed are $0.20 not $0.50 in case you misread that)

I may have highlighted the potential high side of pauper deck cost more than it's average but my representation of Heirloom prices is nothing but accurate. I've made 8 decks thus far trying to build the best decks I can and the top price has been $5.3 for a deck, with the average as I said at $3.5. So it is a very very very cheap format. (and again $20-25 for the $1 cap format is a lot more than that=P)

A monthly update of what has become legal and been banned will be a good resource for players once we get that going.

Thanks again for your input. Being challenged certianly promotes good idea making.


I see what you are saying, but... by asabmow at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 12:30
asabmow's picture

I just think with four different price points, you are going to have so many cards fluctuating every single month, that it is going to be nearly impossible to really grok the format from month to month. If the format changes my more than a 50 or so cards every month, it will just not be viable.

Asabmow, I hear where you're by Xaoslegend at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 12:38
Xaoslegend's picture


I hear where you're coming from. Can you explain in a little more detail why you think this would make Heirloom unviable (don't want the format going Falling Down on us without good cause "I'm not variant format viable!")


From a casual players by kalandine at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 13:31
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From a casual players perspective, I need my decks to remain legal in order for me to keep playing. If my deck becomes illegal every month, it will be too much work to participate in the format.

Standard and Extended only remove cards once a year, and the cards removed are predictable and known well in advance. The eternal formats never remove cards.

I still pull out my old Tribal decks, update with a new (or newly acquired) card, and its still legal. Same is true for Pauper. In heirloom, if I haven't touched a deck in three months it could very easily be illegal.

This may not be a big deal to you, but I don't know of many players that keep a price list in a separate window while playing (not really much point to do that unless you are rare drafting, but then you can close the window after the draft).

Many players do not have an large amount of time to play games, and any time spent checking deck legality is time not spent playing. For hardcore spikes, the shifting legality of the environment means that the metagame will always be indeterminate.

Hey Kaladine, Sorry I didn't by Xaoslegend at Fri, 09/03/2010 - 01:44
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Hey Kaladine,

Sorry I didn't see your comment earlier. I happy to hear from everyone that has something to say about Heirloom.

There has been a lot of discussion about how often to update a ban list in the thread. It's something that will be arrived at balancing the desire not to allow cards to become too valuable thus defeating the budget purpose of the format and allowing for as much consistency as possible for players.

I don't think that allowing card legalities to remain indefinitely once set would work. Some inconveniences are necessary to maintain the integrity of the format but of course were trying to arrive at a system that minimizes them.


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You should just forget about mythics all together (there appears to be only about 15 mythics between .80 and 1.20 anyway), and just call it quarter magic, i.e. all cards, regardless of rarity, at or under 25 cents. (Though I still think you would have too many card changes every month, but the deck prices would be closer to the range you are talking about).

Asabmow, I guess I just have by Xaoslegend at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 12:43
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I guess I just have a little more faith in magic players. These aren't exactly average people, playing magic already means a tendency to have an affinity for detail and complexity. With the money saved and the dynamic nature of Heirloom I think a little more time looking is something that will be worthwhile to many people.


It would make Heirloom unviable... by asabmow at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 12:47
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It would make Heirloom unviable because for every deck I build, there is a potential that much of my deck will quickly become obsolute when the next month list comes out. No one is going to make the effort to deal with a list of 500 cards that are now banned because of a 5 cent price change.

A $1 cut off would be much more stable, because, as you mentioned, no more than a handful commons and uncommons (the vast majority of the cards, obviously) will never fluctuate above $1.

Asabmow, I understand your by Xaoslegend at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 13:21
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I understand your frustration with this aspect of the format. Hopefully the positives will outweigh the negatives for you. While it's still possible to change rules for the format it isn't for me alone to decide and I'd have to be convinced that the positives of a change would outweigh the negatives before I would go to other players of Heirloom to try to convince them to make a change. Right now I'm still very happy with how it is right now, but I will keep your comments in mind as we go forward.


Hi Xaoslegend I've already by Flippers_Giraffe at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 12:55
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Hi Xaoslegend I've already looked into the possibilities of running a budget event but I'm involved in too many things to take it forward, so its great someone else is willing to take up the gauntlet.

A few points to note as my idea used a higher price list but that's not an issue. You really need to have your banned list up before you start doing events but may I suggest you do an include list instead as it will be a lot shorter and less work to maintain. It also makes it a lot easier for people making decks as they can see what they can include a glance

Also try and make the event playable in both US and European time zones as you will attract a much wider player base.

I will ponder on your ideas for a bit longer and look into a few ways of presenting an include card list that's easy to use.

Good luck FG

Hey Flippers_Giraffe, Thanks by Xaoslegend at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 13:30
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Hey Flippers_Giraffe,

Thanks a lot for all the positive comments. Any help would be amazing.

As much as I would like to have a banned list up before the event right now I believe that to be an operation that could take 10 hours to achieve, and right now I'm a little tight on time to dedicate that much time to it but certianly will try to find that time soon. The include list I believe would be longer than the banned list (certianly for uncommons and commons, rares include would be shorter and mythic include would be shorter)

I will try to make myself available on the day of each tournament foe at least a few hours before hand to confirm legality. If a card is bening played that is banned that has not been certified before the tournament (ie if you get checked before the tournament youre good for the tournament) it will first be a warning then you'll have 10 mins to switch out the card, 2nd a game loss, 3rd a match loss.

What do you think is the best time for maximum convenience to MTGO players overall?


Time wise I'd say the best is by Flippers_Giraffe at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 14:20
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Time wise I'd say the best is reg at 12:30 EDT (17:30 British Summer Time) start at 13:00 EDT (18:00 British Summer Time).

Note that these times do conflict with other player run events though On Saturday you will conflict with Tribal Apocalypse and a pauper event. On Sunday you conflict with BYOS and another pauper event.

First a negative thing and by Lord Erman at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 13:02
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First a negative thing and then a positive one...

I too think that it is a very time consuming format in terms of deck building. For every 75 cards in the deck, I have to check prices every time (well yeah I know, excluding those few basic lands of course); which means 75 times price checking.

Is this card legal? Which copies of that other one cost how much? This is an uncommon in that set but a common in the other, so is this legal? You know that this is not too appealing to most.


But I don't care. I will do that once and will be done with it for a whole month. Which for me will mean 4 weekend tournaments. I personally always look for new challenges and opportunities to test my deckbuilding skills (which I believe is good), and I will join your tournaments with the most wicked and Spike-y deck you can imagine if the starting time is EU friendly.


Hi there Lord Erman, I love by Xaoslegend at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 13:33
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Hi there Lord Erman,

I love your attitude, that's the spirit! I encourage everyone to do whatever they can to win (that isnt cheating). A competitive format is called competitive for a reason. This week I'm planning to run the event on Sunday. I'm still trying to settle on an ideal time. What are good hours for you?


asabmow's picture

I really do hope the best for you, it will take a lot of work. I'm just not sure you are going in the right direction.

According to mtgo traders there are about 650 commons between 3 cents and 6 cents (I'm assuming half of everything listed are foils, which appears to be the case). There are about 1750 uncommons between 5 cents and 15 cents. And there are about 700 rares between 10 cents and 30 cents. So we are looking at 2700+ cards that are fairly close to your price points. Even if only a small percentage of those fluctuate, say 10 percent, we are looking at 270 cards changing every month. But maybe I'm completely off, and only say 1 percent of the cards change every month, so 27. I hope that's the case!

I agree with the above poster, until you post a banned list/legal list out two months in a row, and see what kind of turnover we are talking about, we won't really know, but I just don't see good things for Heirloom as you've currently described it. (And the banned list itself, of course, will be several thousand cards).

But seriously good luck.

Interesting by Lythand at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 16:48
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Seems like an interesting format. One I may give a try. I do admit like others before me, that the time constraints to look up pricing will be a pain, but it seems like it can be a fun format. Hopefully you can get the price issues worked out. You have a tough road ahead of you.

Article wise I think you did a good job. I don't like all the bold text. I understand you were trying to exagerate your point, but I am not a fan of all the bold. A few can be ok.

Pauper being expensive, I have to disagree with. You mentioned some commons that are expensive. True, but a majority of the decks are not expensive. And even the ones that do have the mentioned cards, or others of the same price range, usually do not run a bunch of expensive commons. So if a deck that runs Crypt Rats is 10 tix, then 8 of that comes from Crypt Rats, and the remaining 54 cards fall into the remaining 2 tix of the cost. Still cost effective. I do see where your point is comming from, but an exagerating I think.

Another point I want to comment on and let me quote from the article. "For a format with it's name it has some pretty expensive singles in it. Some of this is because of natural market forces and some is straight up wizards exploitation and gouging by printing up-coming commons in preconstructed decks."

I have to disagree with the point about WoTC exploiting and price gouging. If they did price gouge, then From the Vaults: Relics would of been $100 straight from thier store. I also have a friend of mine who used to run a card store and he said that it would be illegal for them to price gouge thier stuff. Price gouging is a result of a secondary market reselling a product in high demand. WoTC is not the secondary market.

A good article overall and as I mentioned, I hope your format works out for you. It would be fun to play something different and cost effective.

Hey there Lythand, Thanks for by Xaoslegend at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 18:55
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Hey there Lythand,

Thanks for the positive appraisal of my article. You may be right about the bold text, I may have gone a bit Bold crazy, I'll try to tone it down next time. Thanks for letting me know it bothered you.

For time issues I'd like to mention again that what Paul Leicht brought up: The mtgotraders advanced card search is amazing.

All Heirloom commons that are legal on MTGO

All uncommons

All rares

All mythic

(The advanced search will be on the top of the page for further adjustment such as by color key word set ect. Just make sure you pay attention to the caveats of the legality rules which are pretty common sense eg. Necropotence is not a mythic, it's rare. premade decks do not establish rarity)

I tried to focus on the potential expensiveness of pauper and its upward trend but I can see how I may have lost the fact that the avg competitive pauper deck is still probably about $8(maybe slightly lower) I wasn't trying to say pauper was bad I was just trying to illustrate how much cheaper this format is and to make clear the differences between the two formats to demonstrate the value of playing either one or both.

Maybe price gouging is not the correct phrase here. I meant to express my belief that wizards are well aware of pauper and that their motivation for printing exceptional commons(in premade sets/decks) that have not been released online yet previously is often an economic calculation, and one that frustrates part of the purpose of pauper.

I really hope you give the format a try. It's been so much fun playing these last few weeks for me and the more people who are involved slightly or majorly the better Heirloom will be for everyone (including me of course).

I believe I'll run the free entry Sunday tournament with tix prizes supplied by me at 12 AM Pacific standard time(in California USA). Let me know if anyone thinks that's a bad time to do it or if you plan on coming. (there will be a door prize to a random person that attends to the end that doesn't win a prize otherwise.


reminds me of an old format I used to play by Doomhed at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 19:13
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we used to play a singleton format where you could have only 15 points worth of cards. rares were 3 points, uncommons 1 point and commons free. This was prior to the release of onslaught.

Do I play that bomb rare when I could run 3 uncommons instead?

I tried to resurrect the format years later and the most popular deck was blue/red with scepter, top, counterbalance, trinket mage, fire/ice, counterspell, mana leak, daze, man lands x5, brainstorm, ponder, tinker, serum visions, etc. I think it might have only had one rare, which was a platinum angel.

Hey Doomhed, Singleton and by Xaoslegend at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 19:50
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Hey Doomhed,

Singleton and point systems are certianly interesting ways to go. The point system and singleton aspects help control the power level of the decks and make for a whole different play experience and that's always fun.


Please take this as by Doomhed at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 20:51
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Please take this as constructive criticism-

The problem with the format you have listed is that it totally relies on the secondary market. This is why the building on a budget MTGO series is such a joke currently. They build a "budget" deck that drives up the cost of the obscure gems in it to way beyond the average budget if you don't buy them 5 minutes after the article publishes. If you picked a format like the one I suggested, you increase the odds of being able to get that format turned into something wizards could actually support with a deckbuilding option.

I could see 15 point magic being a viable format if we actually got enough people behind it. Any attempt to make a format based only on price is going to backfire. It already happened with pauper. You are going to have cards inflated in demand until they reach exactly over the format limits, then they will not sell. This is not good for a format to lose cards due to them being popular. It seems the only thing you are trying to do is stop any form of netdecking or constructive collaboration and in the same shot, have a way to complain if someone "rips off your idea" and causes your pet cards to be illegal. I don't find having my cards made illegal based on other people liking the same cards to be a fun idea. It seems kinda odd that a format being published online has the inherent ability to shut down online collaboration.

for example, the most expensive deck you could build right now with the system I described would run a few hundred, but it would not be very good. the better decks would be the obscure and the aggro/midrange.

I understand it is currently your pet format, and your writing shows you care about casual competitive formats, but this is not going to be the way to do it.

Hey Doomhed, Thanks a lot for by Xaoslegend at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 22:09
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Hey Doomhed,

Thanks a lot for your perspective and for contributing to the conversation. I can obviously relate to the feeling that you know a format is awesome and that if everyone else could just see what you see that we'd have MTGO Utopia.

I understand that the idea of the most popular Heirloom cards becoming illegal immediately or at the end of each month is something that you don't like the idea of. For me it's one of the best things about Heirloom. I don't want to be playing against the same decks a year from now that I'm playing against now. I like building decks and if the main components of my decks quickly become banned I'll take that as the greatest compliment(if its because of me) and then go on to try to get the next set of cards banned(through the market). Eventually as cards have been banned long enough people will forget about them and they'll be legal for a month or two again and we'll have a constantly dynamic format.

The best thing about playing magic online to me is the playing not the conformity of ideas. When I first started playing magic it was casual and much like the wild wild west. You never knew what they'd bring and they didn't know what you had, and that made it awesome. I think sometimes people are so used to certain conventions that they can't see the value of alternative paradigms.

I don't think it's very likely that wizards will support another budget format officially unless pauper were somehow to lose 90% of it's players.

I also don't think wizards particularly cares for budget competitive formats. They like formats that promote people buying things from the MTGO store.

I think 15 point magic has a lot of merits but I don't think it occupies the same magic utility space as Heirloom does. 15 point magic is a moderately budget format vs official formats but not when compared to pauper or Heirloom. It's a singleton format which takes it into it's own realm of magic playing experience dramatically different than most constructed formats in fundamentally structural ways.

Both formats are good, but they don't compete for the same motivations people have to play them and so shouldn't try to displace one another.


Fat chance of heirloom by Paul Leicht at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 22:50
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Fat chance of heirloom affecting card prices. No offense but it would have to be huge for it to start really having an impact. The reason pauper does is because it is huge. I am not saying it couldn't ever happen but the likely outcome is prices may slightly fluctuate a little while people fill out gaps that they need but overall the price increases/decreases will come because of outside forces (standard cards becoming staples/losing staple status for example. .1 Rares have the most likelihood of gaining value because most of the time this is just the deflated value until people find out what the card is good for. Then it rushes up overnight and levels off somewhat higher.)

What bothers me about this format and makes it a definite no go for me is what Doomhed alluded to. The fact that the format is tied to the secondary market which is not only volatile but interpretable. (You can buy certain rares on certain bots for 50% or less of their price on traders.) Making Traders the arbiter is fine for simplicity's sake and why not? Heath deserves a bit of advertisement considering all he does for us. But I don't think it is a healthy idea. I did try it as I said before and I do think it is intriguing if painful. What I would like to see is a concrete and complete banned/restricted list that will NOT change every month much less every hour. Then you might have something. Maybe a quarterly review (about the time that the new sets come out.)

Hey Paul, It's certianly true by Xaoslegend at Fri, 09/03/2010 - 00:51
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Hey Paul,

It's certianly true that it will take some time before the format starts to have a secondary market impact. For that time period it will be a small enough group of people playing that the format will be one that rewards the individual or group play testers and builders that work at it and will certianly keep the fear of cards changing legality constantly mostly hollow.

Once it gets popular enough to effect prices a static banned/legal list can be arrived at once every month or two months or quarter as you suggest. Since we haven't actually enacted that plan yet it's not something that isn't flexible. I would tend to support the most popular timing for that though I think it would have to be at least within a few weeks of a new set being released(including old set reprints MED sets ect) to keep people from being antsy about wanting to play new cards.


Pauper in spirit by Amar at Thu, 09/02/2010 - 22:55
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I love the idea. It's basically pauper in Spirit, if not in Letter. And that's good. It's why our Sunday evening Peasant PRE has a $10 cap on card prices.

The problem of course is the logistics. It's of course very helpful to have MTGOTraders as a single definitive source, and better to over-exclude than to have ambiguity. But in theory, you could lose a card legality not only week to week but in a few hours due to outside sources. Say for example Punishing Fire just after the Grove of the Burnwillows combo took PT Hawaii. That's a rare case certainly (and the card came down again eventually) I'd hate to be in a situation where you say "that card is illegal" and they say "I just checked yesterday, it was fine!" Which is likely to happen eventually.

OTOH, pre-listing every legal card sounds like a tremendous amount of work as well. It's probably the best way to go, just awkward.

Anyway it does sound like fun and I might like to check it out myself.

Hi there Amar, I'm pleased by Xaoslegend at Fri, 09/03/2010 - 00:59
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Hi there Amar,

I'm pleased you've found something that pleases you in our budget venture of Heirloom.

This issue you illustrate is why everyone pretty much agrees that a banned/legal list needs to be set down on some kind of regular basis that lasts for a predictable amount of time. Very early to long term I think it's the only way the format survives and grows. I will try to convince the other players of the format to agree on a timing system and get to doing this as soon as possible.

I can do a lot alone. I can do more with help of course and that last thing I want to do is fracture the small group that already plays with a dividing issue or because they feel like they weren't given ample opportunity to contribute to decisions.

I'd love to see you across the table sometime slinging your Heirloom brew against mine. (screename Xaoslegend)

All the best.


I likey by feastoftheunicorn at Fri, 09/03/2010 - 06:39
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I only just started playing mtgo (but played casual since joven's ferrets), went straight into pauper. But I think your format is better, as long as the ok list is updated quarterly or such (not monthly). And as long as I'm not the only one playing ;). Though I think the price of pauper decks is totally within reasonable bounds, and the metagame is very healthy - it's just the lack of space for innovation and deck building.
I assume also that all cards banned in legacy or pauper should also be banned (skull clamp, cranial plating)

Hey Feastoftheunicotn, Great by Xaoslegend at Fri, 09/03/2010 - 10:18
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Hey Feastoftheunicotn,

Great to have you on MTGO. Happy to hear that you like the format. You can always play me if no one else is around (Xaoslegend on MTGO) and I can direct you to a few other folks online as well.

The cards that are banned in legacy or pauper (is there a banned list for pauper?) are naturally banned in Heirloom as they're above the value cutoff for their rarity. (skullclamp is $0.65 at it's cheapest at uncommon, cranial plating $0.50 at its cheapest at rare)


Budget Masgic by Nagarjuna at Fri, 09/03/2010 - 07:45
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i realy enjoy pauper and maybe this format for the future!

The problem i see is, that realy powerful cards, like skullclamp etc., are cheap, because they are not legal for most formats because of banning etc.

So banning like in legacy and classic would be clever, like feast said before!

Hey Nagarjuna, Most of the by Xaoslegend at Fri, 09/03/2010 - 10:24
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Hey Nagarjuna,

Most of the worst offenders are already banned because even though they're legal in no real format they are still loved by casual players. Let me know if you find something of particular concern. Of course one of the intentions of the ban system is that the unbalanced cards will become banned eventually by secondary market effects. I would hesitate to support any none price related banning but then maybe theres some card or deck im unaware of atm.


budget tournaments by Orgion at Fri, 09/03/2010 - 09:58
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Rather than dissing the format, decrying it's unviability (not sure that's a word), I think people people have to accept that having a budget friendly format that plays like normal magic is going to take a little more effort than normal. To ensure that a format is always cheap to enter means you have to base it on a price list. It's unfortunate but there is no other way. The organisers have done the right thing in choosing a single and maintained list to base the format on but the card pool will always be somewhat less stable than your more regular formats. You can't have a permanently cheap to enter format and a perfectly stable card pool. It'd be like having your cake and eating it.

I really do think that there's a need for a "budget" format that plays with the whole range of magic. The price for some cards these days is ridiculous and even pauper isn't that cheap. And while Pauper, arguably the cheapest supported format,is entertaining it just doesn't play like normal magic. Think it does? Just look at the amount of true mass removal in the format - Crypt rats, Pestilence, rolling thunder at a push, decaying ruin for small things with the same name. How about reanimation? Exhume and Unearth. And don't get me started about actual valid reanimation targets either. There are whole archetypes that are complete non-starters in pauper. And while I admit that Heirloom isn't going to feel like full-blown magic either, what the Heirloom format will feel like is a competitive game in the casual room. And personally, I really like this idea.

You know, while the primary appeal of this format is that it WILL cost less, always, its perceived drawback, namely the deckbuilding based on a fluctuating card pool, could actually be interpretted as a strength. Just think! The card pool isn't ever going to be stale! Just a little something extra for your cogitation there.

Finally, I think you're all a little too worried about decks becoming out of date. I suspect that in general the only time cards will leave the format is if a) the cards are from a new set where the prices aren't stable yet (easily handled, have a settling period before introducing a new set to the card pool), or b) a card suddenly finds a home in a viable rogue tournament deck (you should be able to keep an eye out for this in general too). Barring those two scenarios I just don't see the cards exiting the card pool very often. What's more likely is that the card pool'll increase as prices continue to drop with a lack of interest and this certainly won't invalidate any of your decks.

Still I concede that the deckbuild could be made a little easier. What you need is someone with a little javascript coding experience to knock up a simple webapp that takes a deck from the MTGO client in .txt format and compares it to a maintained list of valid cards. A list of any cards not on the list can be returned to the user and the deck can be vetted as valid or invalid based on whether any such cards are found. People can then build a deck and then validate it in the webapp once a month to see if anythings changed. All you'd need then is a website to host it and someone prepared to update the list every month or whenever.

A simple enough coding task by Paul Leicht at Fri, 09/03/2010 - 10:09
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A simple enough coding task on the js end but the data maintenance part could be annoying.

Paul, Nothing that's really by Xaoslegend at Fri, 09/03/2010 - 10:36
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Nothing that's really worth doing is easy. And people are generally stronger than they think they are. ;).


Absolutely but in terms of by Paul Leicht at Fri, 09/03/2010 - 11:47
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Absolutely but in terms of work (coding), I look for effectiveness and value and annoyance plays a negative role in those. As I said the js part is simple logic, that pretty much anyone can write. Interfacing with the data tables mtgotraders uses might not be. Nor might it even be possible so you have to scrape each page which is more than simply annoying.