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By: Xaoslegend, Michael Allen
Sep 02 2010 9:42am
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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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Ya, I'm pretty ignorant about by Xaoslegend at Fri, 09/03/2010 - 13:33
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I'm pretty ignorant about Java Script issues beyond some simple signature stuff and cut and paste embedding. (mostly just what's in the article)


Salutations Orgion, I love by Xaoslegend at Fri, 09/03/2010 - 11:31
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Salutations Orgion,

I love and agree with everything you have to say heh. Your appraisal of how card legalities will work in reality seems pretty accurate. I'm not a javascript writer atm, maybe I can figure it out and maintain the list with a little research.

Hope to see you across the battleground sometime =P.


In the article you said " by Flippers_Giraffe at Fri, 09/03/2010 - 13:12
Flippers_Giraffe's picture

In the article you said

" 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"

So the format is classic I'm guessing and then in one of your comments you said

"The cards that are banned in legacy or pauper (is there a banned list for pauper?) are naturally banned in Heirloom"

So it's not Classic but Legacy?

It makes quite a bit of difference.

Hey Flippers_Girraffe, Cards by Xaoslegend at Fri, 09/03/2010 - 13:29
Xaoslegend's picture

Hey Flippers_Girraffe,

Cards that are banned in legacy are "naturally" banned in Heirloom because their sale price is high not because of any explicit card banning in Heirloom.

Sorry for any confusion.

Cards are only banned in Heirloom because A) the cost more that the cap for any version of the card on MTGO, B) they are not from a legal MTGO released set. (so that doesn't include premium sets and premade decks ect or promos).


The card I had in mind is by Flippers_Giraffe at Fri, 09/03/2010 - 13:51
Flippers_Giraffe's picture

The card I had in mind is Channel from FTV Exiled, its online as a mythic and under a dollar but banned in legacy.

To be honest I'm going to be giving the format a miss until there is a defined list of cards that are playable as its just too hard making a deck without this.

Flipper_Giraffe, I will try by Xaoslegend at Fri, 09/03/2010 - 14:03
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I will try to have a list up somewhere by next article's publishing (hopefully next week).

Channel is banned because it has only been printed in a premium set(and maybe a promo?) It would have to be released in a main set like MED, an expansion or base set to be considered based on its price. (it's not even considered a mythic for Heirloom since premium and premade decks do not establish rarity for Heirloom.

Have a good one.


Interesting.... by rpitcher at Fri, 09/03/2010 - 14:59
rpitcher's picture

Well done article, and interesting format.

I see it as a challenge, and if I find the time to try it, I probably will. Time is the issue, though, as I don't have the time to play all the Magic I want to play.

A potential problem comes to mind though:

Knowing how dirty deeds tend to find their way into anything competitive (at least when value is involved), here's a scenario.

As Heirloom events happen, some stronger archtypes become apparent. Let's say there's 5 or 6 popular, successful archtypes, and a handful of second tiers ones. Three or four of the suuccessful ones use a couple of the same commons. My clans spends several dollars at the mtgotraders to deplete them of their stock of those commons. This might bump the price to be illegal*, thus removing some popluar arcthtypes from the format for the next month. My clan comes up with a deck that works when the other popular ones are gone from the format, and we falsley dominate an event**

Okay spending several dollars might deplete any possible gain in value, but my point is that IT'S POSSIBLE.

* buying out stock DOES affect prices, as illustrated by a recent transaction of mine. I was buying 3 copies of a M10 rare for $1 each. After my transaction, the store only had M11 copies of that rare left, and they went for more than a dollar.

** Anyone that knows me or my clan realizes that dominating an event is not something we ever do. However, my scenario is valid :)

Hey Rpitcher, I'm thrilled by Xaoslegend at Fri, 09/03/2010 - 15:30
Xaoslegend's picture

Hey Rpitcher,

I'm thrilled that you're considering giving the format a shot. For your scenario all I can say is: "Fear is always with us."

If it gets to the point that people are working that hard to skew things I suppose I'll just have to throw up my hands and say: "Heirloom is a smashing success!"

(and if the PRE organizer/s figures out what happened and who did it I'm sure those players can be uninvited from that event)


I assume that shopping up the by feastoftheunicorn at Fri, 09/03/2010 - 15:46
feastoftheunicorn's picture

I assume that shopping up the price scenario will be minimized by the fact legal lists are fixed every quarter - (perhaps every year).


spoils of the vault
zuran orb
warped devotion
rootbound crag
endless whispers
animal magnetism
greater good
through the breach
proteus staff

Hey Feastoftheunicorn, Spoils by Xaoslegend at Sat, 09/04/2010 - 02:18
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Hey Feastoftheunicorn,

Spoils of the Vault- Ouch, but hey if you really want to find that card.
(not sure if there is some interactiong with this i dont know of)

Necropotence- BANANANANANARAMA! The cheapest version is $0.75. The card's highest rarity in a legal non-preconstructed set is rare. which means it's banned. (From the Vault: Exiled is a preconstructed premium set and Heirloom rules say that those sets do not establish rarity, it's rarity is set atm by MED2)

Mirari- Very nice, very fun, very legal (Highest rarity tied between Odyssey and Timeshifted and the Timeshifted version is $0.12 so very legal)

Zuran Orb- As much as it would be cool if this were legal it's not. (rarity set by MED1 as uncommon. It's lowest price is $0.12 just above the cap. Maybe someday but not right now)

Warped Devotion- Always a fun card.

Rootbound Crag- lowest price $0.60, rarity-rare, Banned.

Endless Whispers- Unleash whispers at your want.

Animal Magnetism- Yours to practice animalism with.

Greater Good- Nothing funny about this one, could be a good psuedo-dredge enabler.

Through the Breach- sneak attack go!

Proteus Staff- Heck yes.

Hypergenesis- This. Time to build my 9th Heirloom deck heh.

Good comment to FAQ some of the legalities on. There are a couple of details you have to remember for legality, so pay attention the the fine print(it is all rational and consistent)


Spoils of the Vault with by Rerepete at Sun, 09/19/2010 - 14:14
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Spoils of the Vault with Children of Korlis....

Why not just have a total by Theobill at Sat, 09/04/2010 - 03:52
Theobill's picture

Why not just have a total price system. That way you could check the legality of your deck in a single search on MTGOTraders. It would also be less susceptible to price changes because there is only one price that could affect it.

If you put the average price at 25 cents a card, you could also make it possible for people to play larger decks if they wanted.

Hi there Theobill, That's a by Xaoslegend at Sat, 09/04/2010 - 14:25
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Hi there Theobill,

That's a great question that has a complicated response. If you look through the comments on this article I think you'll find some pretty good rationales for the precise way that the ban system was enacted. I'll try to cover the bases again though.

I think what you're saying is: Why not just a cap at $0.25 per card regardless of rarity? (if this isn't what you mean let me know)

a single price cap causes the format to focus on lower rarities instead of higher ones which causes it to be dominated by exceptional commons and good uncommons. Heirloom is intended to play like traditional constructed formats by having a balance of power between all rarities without making the format expensive.

I don't know that a single price would make bannings fluctuate more or less, with 14,000-15,000 unique cards legal in the format it's hard to tell.

Having the price system narrowed down to one search doesn't seem like it's going to save much time looking at cards with 14-15k cards to look at. Doing more specific searches even beyond rarity will probably be the best strategy. (eg rares that mention "aura" in their text). The advanced search option makes this pretty easy to do in any case.

I'm not sure what you mean by being able to or not able to play larger decks. You can build any size deck you want as long as it's at least 60 cards.

I hope some of this helps you understand the thinking those of us who designed this format had when we conceived Heirloom.


I don't understand this by kalandine at Sat, 09/04/2010 - 19:30
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I don't understand this statement:

"a single price cap causes the format to focus on lower rarities instead of higher ones which causes it to be dominated by exceptional commons and good uncommons. Heirloom is intended to play like traditional constructed formats by having a balance of power between all rarities without making the format expensive."

This is completely inaccurate. No Planeswalkers, no global destruction, restricted discard options far beyond pauper, and even counterspell decks will be extremely limited for a legacy environment.

If you want a format that is affordable, so be it. I get that.

But to say that this format will play more consistent with traditional formats, is inaccurate.

I also don't understand what rarity has to do with how a Magic environment plays. If you mean that by allowing rares, the format will include more complicated cards than exist in Pauper, say that - it will most definitely be true.

Moreover, traditional formats do not have a balance of power between the rarities. Note the power level of Mythic Rares means that any of them that are barely playable in any constructed format will be out of the price threshold of Heirloom. Planeswalkers dominate the standard format at the moment and even big Jace is showing up in Legacy decks, clunky 4 CMC and all. Legacy is filled with rare cards that drive decks far more than the commons and uncommons. There is no such thing as a power balance between the rarities. On the contrary, commons are the home of the stalwarts of limited play and it is the exception rather than the rule that drives a common into a special place within a constructed environment.

Hello Kaladine, I wonder if by Xaoslegend at Sun, 09/05/2010 - 00:38
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Hello Kaladine,

I wonder if what you are taking issue with is a mostly a subjective matter of degree.

Global destruction: I'm not sure if youre just referring to creatures here but a wide variety of sweepers exist in Heirloom and I believe the format is in many ways too fast for most of the banned ones to be a huge issue in any case. We don't have Firespout that's true, but we have Pyroclasm and Infest among others. I don't think this is a format that will be defined by a lack of global destruction. There are many ways to skin a cat after all.

Discard options- Mind Shatter, Duress, Ostracize, Consult the Necrosages, Mind Sludge, Shrieking Grotesque, Blackmail, Addle, Distress, Last Rites.

Countermagic- some of the best options do not exist certianly but before the release of Mana Leak the counterspell options for Heirloom would have been stronger than Standard and still are vs Block. You still have access to key counters vs fast decks like Force Spike and Spell Pierce with plenty of other strong options.

While planeswalkers are conspicuously absent from Heirloom they are not a component of the game that has existed for that long now, and certianly not to the dominating degree they have been lately. Additionally they do not dominate all the main constructed formats. In Standard at this time they are certianly a huge component as about 50% use 4 or more and maybe 50% of those are 8 or more. The most recent Block results show 33% playing planeswalkers. The most recent Extended results show a disnict absence of the presence of planeswalkers in the top finishers, with only 2 being played in one of the 5 decks. The most recent Legacy results show 4 jaces being played total in 7 decks.

While Mythics in Heirloom will probably not be the key cards any time soon I think that rares will certianly be as proportionally strong in Heirloom as they are in any main format.

Heirloom will have it's idiosyncrasies like any format does from set release to set release and banning to unbanning. I stand by my statements however that Heirloom plays very much like any main constructed format however.

If you still disagree with this after reading this maybe we have to agree to disagree. You can also try playing some games of it yourself and seeing if the reality is as dissimilar to main magic constructed formats as you have asserted.

Have a good one,


My reasoning wasn't that it by Theobill at Sun, 09/05/2010 - 08:20
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My reasoning wasn't that it would be easier to pick out individual cards, but more that using the deck function on MTGOtraders, you could check the price of your entire deck in 2 clicks, so it would be easy to see if your deck was still legal.

When looking up the cards I by feastoftheunicorn at Sat, 09/04/2010 - 09:24
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Perhaps we should discuss the best way to search for cards

also likey

riftstone portal
ravenous trap
keen sense
ancient ziggurat

Hey Feastoftheunicorn, For by Xaoslegend at Sat, 09/04/2010 - 14:32
Xaoslegend's picture

Hey Feastoftheunicorn,

For card searches I usually have a starting card I want to play with or an archetype in mind then I search with that keyword and by each rarity individually. For example "goblin" I search commons 0-6 cents with "goblin" in the text then uncommon at 1-11 and so on(the advanced search doesn't include the last number in the search so 0.00-0.06 gives you all cards from 1-5 cents).

Riftstone Portal- always been a good one

Ravenous Trap- pretty nice graveyard hate for the format.

Keen Sense- hard to go wrong here

Ancient Ziggurat- Banned. Rarity set by Conflux at uncommon. Lowest price $0.20 above the $0.10 cap.


PRE schedule by Amar at Sat, 09/04/2010 - 14:58
Amar's picture

Any chance of you posting a time for these weekend events in the official Player Run Events room?


For those in the know it would be a convenient place to check, and those who haven't read the article might find out about them by browsing that room.

edit:n/m I see one was posted about the identical time I was writing this.

Hey Amar, Thanks for the tip by Xaoslegend at Sat, 09/04/2010 - 15:23
Xaoslegend's picture

Hey Amar,

Thanks for the tip but ya I was just discovering the room myself. If anyone has any other promotion suggestions I'd love to have the help.

Thanks again,


Just want to say thanks to by Xaoslegend at Sun, 09/05/2010 - 18:33
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Just want to say thanks to everyone that showed up for our first weekly Heirloom event on 9/5/10 here. I had a great time.

Links to more detail about the event here with cardlinks: http://forums.mtgsalvation.com/showthread.php?p=5771777#post5771777 here to stay on puremtgo: http://puremtgo.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=1996&sid=e3ccd2787670e184...


grandpoobah's picture

Personally, in my opinion, the only viable price-list oriented format is one based, in principle, off of $1. The biggest problem Pauper has gaining more popularity is the perceived lack of power. People think it's boring (without actually trying it mostly). You can't cut below $1, or you will suffer the same fate, but worse. $1 is simple, easy to remember, and shouldn't make people assume it sucks. But really, it needs to be $1-ish, and you have to make exceptions for cycles. Cycles have to be all in or all out. For cycles, if 3/5 (assuming a color cycle) are legal, they're all legal, unless one of them is more than say $5, in which case they're all illegal. But you don't want to be in the business of choosing colors for people--this is especially important with lands.

Ultimately, you can't use a price list as an arbiter. You can't do it. Prices fluctuate too much between bots, somebody is going to buy a card for a legal price, only to later find that the "official" price is higher, and be pissed. And trying to maintain symmetry with cycles, and other corner rounding, you just can't use a price list, period. What you can do, is behind the scenes, refer to a price list to guide you, and make the official good/bad list. But for the cards that are close to the cutoff, you should do a quick search of other bots, and see if those cards are readily available for less than $1. If so, make 'em legal. By making an Official good/bad list, you can have it be reality based, rather than arbitrarily based on one vendor.

The good/bad list can only be updated upon the release of a new set. Update the list 2 weeks after a new set releases online, so the prices have a chance to stabilize. So you can't play new cards for 2 weeks; this fits ok with a budget oriented concept. After the good/bad list is updated, you have like a 2 week period where either list is ok; since you can't predict the changes to the list, you have to have a period where you can use either list (but discourage mixing them). Then you just add a provision for emergency bannings. If a card balloons to say $5 during the interim between sets, it gets an emergency banning.

Finally, make an "official" website for the list, with a decent search function. Add the ability to upload at least .TXT versions of decks to check legality. When new sets are released, do an article on the cards added and removed from the good/bad list. Advertise it as a budget format, explain that "most" cards cost less than $1, and don't explain how the list is made, just refer people to it. Since it cycles only as often as Standard, and will probably have fewer cards added/removed per cycle than standard, then you should actually have a chance. People will be able to do most of their deck building without referring to any list, since $1 is easy to remember, and you'll only have to check corner cases. Make a special page for the corner cases, just for easy reference. After playing the format for a month or so, you'll start to remember them.

As to your concerns about "expensive" commons still being legal, I say phooey. $1 cuts out Rancor, Crypt Rats, Fireblast, Lotus Petal, Diabolic Edict, Exclude, Gush, and many more. The commons in the < $1 aren't likely to break anything, not with all the uncommons and rares available. You might even un-ban Cranial Plating, there's plenty more viable artifact hate at uncommon and rare.

Now, most decks will cost $20 or less (depending on how aggressively you price shop really), and you can make an awful heck-of-a-lot of fun decks for less than $5. Yes, the most expensive ones may creep to $45. But if you want to make even more budget offerings, you just have to follow the Pauper example, and make your new budget format come in Classic, Legacy, Extended, Standard, Tribal, Singleton, etc varieties. Just like with any other format, the top competitive decks will vary in price, some cheap, some expensive; buying the most expensive deck will in no way guarantee victory. Anyway, I don't think your goal should be "Cheaper than Pauper!" but instead, "More viable strategies and more cards playable than Pauper, for about the same price!" Pauper is already quite popular, so if you can manage a similar budget level, but introduce a more varied and interesting Metagame, then I think you win.

Hello Grandpoobah, Let me by Xaoslegend at Wed, 09/08/2010 - 20:43
Xaoslegend's picture

Hello Grandpoobah,

Let me start off by saying thank you for putting some time and thought into making your comments and that I'm not going to agree with their premise.

You'll find in the comments similar proposals and assertions made with me countering with explanations that are substantial and precisely relevant to your proposals and assertions. I don't want to be repeating myself too much so I'll try to distill them down and direct you to my other responses if you want more nuance.

Why Heirloom's Price tiered system works better for Heirloom than a simple $1 cap:

1: a $1 cap emphasizes commons and uncommons over the other 2 rarities. (You get the best commons in the format but not the best rares, ie there is an imbalance there that translates into a more warped format)

2: Heirloom is quite powerful as it already is. Some people might not realize this from hearing just about it's rules but that's why I mention it's power and specific decks and cards that are legal before going into the dirty details of the tiered price system for determining legality.

3: I am almost done with the static legal list which will diminish a lot of the woes about price checking and complication. Heck you won't even have to know why a card is legal, just that it's on that list. (the list will change a short time after each new set is released)

4: $20-45 decks are a lot more than $2-6 decks and take away one of the fundamental arguments in favor of Heirloom: it's cheaper than Pauper.

In response to your other points and suggestions:

You say that using a price list at all is nonviable altogether. Yet you suggest that a more complicated case by case system be used.

Which system do you think is easier to defend from criticism? One where a tiny group decide the legality of each card and cycle on whim or one where a simple, clear and consistent rule is applied. Which system do you think is easier to generate a legal/banned list from as far as time goes?

You criticize using just MTGOtraders for price checks to make card legal or illegal.

I am aware of a sense that a private for profit company can't be impartial and reliable for this purpose. I generally mistrust private business myself. Unfortunately this is a format based on attempting to circumvent the market forces that make MTGO ungodly expensive to play constructed in outside of convoluted casual. In order to control the beast(the market) in this case we have to exploit the resources it offers to avoid it's costs. (the search engine, the price monitoring ect)

You seem to think the main goal was being cheaper than Pauper. It wasn't. The main goal of those that conceived this format was an affordable competitive format that mostly reflected the main competitive formats already played. The fact that using a 2.5X the cheapest version of a card rarity still allowed that very well was just an awesome bonus.

I didn't disagree with everything you had to say. (hard to, you said alot =P)

There are plans for an "official" website for Heirloom. As you can probably tell I'm the most motivated member of the Heirloom community and so doing most of this myself takes a bit of time so please be patient.

The legal list is coming within the next few days and I'll make it as easy to navigate as my computer illiterate nature allows and improve it as I can. I like your suggestion for being able to upload decks to check legality, If you or anyone has any knowledge of how to do that on a website I'd love to hear it. If not given enough time I can probably figure it out.

Your description of the procedure with new sets is close to my thinking on the subject. Which was Once per week just for the new cards then at one month for the new cards and all old ones until the next set release.

I would love to see interest in playing all sorts of different formats of Heirloom. Right now I think it's important to focus on classic to unify the small community we have until the community gets large enough to get bored with just one format and support fragmentation.

Again thanks for all your comments, it looks like you took a long time to write them and so I tried to take a long time to create my response.
I hope you'll give Heirloom a chance as it has been conceived and if not I hope you the best in whatever magic playing you spend your time with.


It's not that hard to put a by feastoftheunicorn at Thu, 09/09/2010 - 05:12
feastoftheunicorn's picture

It's not that hard to put a deck together actually. Xaoslegend, I praise all the work your doing for this format, sorry I couldn't play the last tournament, was trying to figure out how to get a myojin into play early (why is fist of suns not cheaper) - I have a deck ready now anyway.

Hey Feastoftheunicorn, No by Xaoslegend at Thu, 09/09/2010 - 16:03
Xaoslegend's picture

Hey Feastoftheunicorn,

No problem. We all only have so much time to get all the things we want to do done. I remember when Myojins ruled the casual tables, it'll be fun to see them in tournaments again. I look forward to seeing you there.


(Just remember it's Saturday this week)

Heirloom rocks! by Nagarjuna at Thu, 09/09/2010 - 08:40
Nagarjuna's picture

Hey there,

at first i would like to thank xaoslegend for all the work he is doing! He introduced me top a format, that sets a standard for me! U get all the mechanics of all sets printed up to now to create creative decks that have a deep stragey level. For the cost of 1 single played standard Rare, u geta whole competitive deck!

Thx for the first funny matches we had!

looking forward to play more and the tournament on Saturday!

Maybe u can get mtgotraders as a support, while promoting the side all the way with heirloom!

Best wishes

Hey Nagarjuna, Thanks again by Xaoslegend at Thu, 09/09/2010 - 16:00
Xaoslegend's picture

Hey Nagarjuna,

Thanks again for your support and for the competition. I should have the legal list up today which will let me get back to writing the second article and posting some youtube videos of last week's tournament and start to get the next mtgotraders article submitted.

In many ways Mtgotraders is a large supporter of the format by posting the articles and having a great search engine for looking up cards(I won't say no to more of course...) The greatest support for the format is always going to be just playing it and encouraging others to play.

Thanks again,


Hey guys, The Heirloom raw by Xaoslegend at Fri, 09/10/2010 - 14:26
Xaoslegend's picture

Hey guys,

The Heirloom raw legal card list has been posted here http://puremtgo.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=2008&p=7552&sid=960e4f4ad.... I will have an easier to navigate list up as soon as possible. Thanks everyone for the games and being a part of Heirloom with me.


Heirloom Event by Nagarjuna at Sun, 09/12/2010 - 18:10
Nagarjuna's picture

Hey Guys!

Just wanted to say that playing an Heirloom Event is fun and competition on a realy high level!
Looking at pre-order prizes for Scars, PW all for 30-50 Bucks, I cant stay with Standard any longer and will head to play heirloom!

Best wishes

Thuh-Nagarjuna, You are now by Xaoslegend at Mon, 09/13/2010 - 22:57
Xaoslegend's picture


You are now Thuh-Nagarjuna to me. Just for future reference (AKA The-Nagarjuna, Thee-Nagarjuna, Tha-Nagarjuna)

Sorry standard Thuh-Nagarjuna is belong to us.


I think this could work by badmalloc at Thu, 09/16/2010 - 01:09
badmalloc's picture

Very interesting stuff. I enjoy playing Pauper, but I've often wished there was a format that had a larger, more varied card pool but still was cheap to play. Setting a price point (per rarity, if you must) seems like the most direct way to limit cost while maximizing card pool size. For example, while pauper's "filter" is simple (has to be common) it is wasteful because there are uncommons or even rares that are cheap but not allowed, and as the price of pauper staples show, it doesn't always solve the problem of being cheap.

The Heirloom format has these properties:
1) cheap
2) large pool (similar to "real" magic)
3) dynamic

1 and 2 are certainly good things, but 3 seems to be where most of the concern lies. I admit that a dynamic card pool (meaning cards can rotate in and out of legality somewhat frequently) poses significant problems that need to solved, however, like Xaoslegend has pointed out, I think it is necessary.

I think if you want 1 and 2 then you have to have 3. At first I thought it would be better to form an eternal list of legal cards per set. This would be much simpler, but I think that if Heirloom became popular at all then this would end up failing to be cheap. In any format, you start to see the same (most powerful) cards appear over and over in competitive decks. This will drive up the price. We see this in Pauper, but it would be even worse if the format allowed rares because rares are much less common than commons. Crypt Rats is expensive but it's still common, if the same kind of demand was put on a rare card the price would go up even higher. In addition to price this makes all the competitive decks feel the same. The dynamic pool solves both the price and "netdeck" type feel to tier one decks.

I personally love to build my own decks. I'm always a little disappointed to know that the most optimal solution usually already exists and furthermore is probably expensive. In a format where the most powerful cards and decks will always be rotating out, the deckbuilder will be rewarded and the netdecker will have less success. To me, this is a very cool feature.

But on to the problems.

1) frequent format shifts

Players spend time grokking the format; this is an important part of the game. You really become a better deckbuilder when you know what cards exist in the format. With a format of this size that is a very challenging task. If the format is constantly changing this makes this way too difficult and frustrating. Also, even though this is a budget format, people want to protect their investments. They want to know that they'll see some use out of their purchases.

I think this problem is entirely solvable. The first step is to do what has already been done and post a "static" list of legal cards. This is the law, the definitive list. Players don't even have to care about the formula determining legality, they just know these are legal and they're cheap. If you need to check a card for legality just see if it's in the list.

The other part of solving this problem has also been discussed. You have to freeze the format for periods of time. This can be done by updating the list only once a month, but I think quarterly updates would be better. Yes, this makes the format slightly less dynamic but I think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

You could time the format updates with set releases. So, maybe two weeks after each set is released on MTGO you post the new format list which includes the new cards and new bans. You need to have a central location (website) for the definitive list which has the dates the list will be legal and when the next update will be made. If I have three months to grok a format (at least) and three months to play with the cards I buy (at least) then I'm cool with dynamic format. I feel pretty strongly that a definitive, complete list and approximately quarterly change is important to the success of the format. If you update the format with every set release then Heirloom doesn't change any more than any other format!

2) difficulty in deck construction

This is also a major problem. Players need to be able to search and browse legal cards efficiently. This is how you build decks. I suspect this is preventing people from trying the format.

At first I thought the solution was to build our own deckbuilding tool. Then I thought we could just get a high quality open source tool and modify it to filter the legal cards based on the posted legality list. Then I realized an amazing program already exists that will do everything we need.

That program is Magic Assistant. I just downloaded it today, but as far as I can tell it does at least everything the built in deck editor does. And the best part is you can import the Heirloom legal list as a "collection" then filter only over that collection when building Heirloom decks. Very cool!

Here's how to build deck's for Heirloom with Magic Assistant:
1) Download Magic Assistant: http://sourceforge.net/projects/mtgbrowser/
2) Make sure you have Jave Runtime Environment installed: http://www.java.com/en/download/manual.jsp
3) Run Magic Assistant
4) Create a new card collection: From Card Navigator right click collections.. new
5) Right click, import this* text file (wait a moment). Now you have the Heirloom format
6) To filter/search click the arrows in the top right.

Make sure you are filtering on the Heirloom collection not the entire database. You should see "of 7307 cards".

3) difficulty in deck validation

This is less of a problem than the first two but it would be annoying to have to check all the decks you've already built for legality every (hopefully) three months. I'm not sure the best route to take here, but some options include:
1) Build a deck validation tool which loads in a .dek file and compares it to the legal list. The only trick here would be to map the "card id" in the .dek files to card name.
2) Post a list of newly banned cards with each format change. People should pretty much know what cards are in their decks and if they read the banned list they should be able to know which decks they need to modify.

I'm excited about this format. Maybe I'll build a deck or two and see some of you online!

the filter... by badmalloc at Thu, 09/16/2010 - 01:32
badmalloc's picture

The filter is just the list Xaos posted with a "X1" at the end of each line. This forum won't let me post it. Try this: http://wimg.co.uk/hfv.txt.

...the Heirloom filter by Nagarjuna at Thu, 09/16/2010 - 09:25
Nagarjuna's picture

Hey badmalloc!

Thx for doing the work for the heirloom filter even before playing it! I couldn't test it up to now, but hope to do so soon!!!

Your suggestions about 1.-3. are really important and constructive for Heirloom, i think! If one day heirloom will be relevant for the price value of cards, i will look forward to see it change a bit instead of having always the same dominating decks for years!

For older sets i don't see so much changes coming up for the static list, because the relevance of cards is set after a while to each format and the prices are "fixed" in common. Standard legal sets are always changing a bit, but all in all the relevant cards wont be to much to update them every month or quarter!

Hope to see u soon for a match or on Saturday 11.00 am for the next Heirloom Event.

Best wishes


Hey guys, Great comments by by Xaoslegend at Thu, 09/16/2010 - 15:36
Xaoslegend's picture

Hey guys,

Great comments by Badmalloc and Thuh-Nagarjuna. I want to take my time responding to these but I'll have to do that later. Obviously thanks a ton Badmalloc for doing that work for everyone who plays the format and will play it. My wife went into preterm labor on tuesday morning and has been in the hospital since. I've basically been living at the hospital with her since then. The event will still run on saturday even if I have to give the prizes to someone else and have them run it and award everything. Good luck with your Heirloom. Keep the faith.


off Topic by Nagarjuna at Thu, 09/16/2010 - 18:53
Nagarjuna's picture

Hey Xaos!

Everything conceivably good for you, your woman and baby.

CU later

Hey guys, Family emergency. by Xaoslegend at Sat, 09/18/2010 - 02:45
Xaoslegend's picture

Hey guys,

Family emergency. My wife has been in the hospital for the last four days, she's ok but I can't be there for our 3rd PRE. I've given the prizes to Mr. Slippery (an m11 pack 20 tix and tons of foils) to all be given out to participants of the event(even more than i gave out last time). I'm hoping Nagarjuna gets my messages and helps make this another great event along with anyone else who might be there to keep it going smoothly and keep it fun.

join the heirloom room for the event ( /join heirloom in any chat channel)

I hope to hear great things about this event. Remember, were all brothers in this format, and it's a joy for me to know all of you.

Take screenshots and record video of the event as you can and post decklists here. I'll tell you where to send the media when i get back to the computer.

Good luck and good Heirlooming,


This Weaks Event! by Nagarjuna at Sat, 09/18/2010 - 17:43
Nagarjuna's picture

Hey Guys!

This weeks Heirloom Event is over and was a lot of fun! Still growing fast so! Decklists are posted here:


Thx to xaos for giving out Tix, Foils and a Booster! Thx to Mr. Slippery for hosting the Event today! And thx to u guys for showing up!

Best wishes

Hey Thuh-Nagarjuna, Glad it by Xaoslegend at Sun, 09/19/2010 - 01:52
Xaoslegend's picture

Hey Thuh-Nagarjuna,

Glad it was still great without me, I sure missed out not being there,

Some of the tix and the m11 pack were donated (by you, SekKuar Deathkeeper and Hoffefin so it wasnt all me =))

have a good one man-

Hope it all works out for by Paul Leicht at Sat, 09/18/2010 - 22:49
Paul Leicht's picture

Hope it all works out for your family.

Hey Paul, Tx for your warm by Xaoslegend at Sun, 09/19/2010 - 01:53
Xaoslegend's picture

Hey Paul,

Tx for your warm wishes, I appreciate it. I'm optimistic all will work out beautifully in the end.


Lightning Bolt is Legal! =) by MMogg at Sat, 09/18/2010 - 20:52
MMogg's picture

I agree with others that say it's interesting but time intensive. For example, Lightning Bolt is now at 5 cents, making it legal.


It seems like I hardly have time to keep abreast of fast moving formats like Standard I can't see how I would have time to play this format unless I kept to one archetype like Sligh or RG Beatz, you know, something that will probably always be tweekable and playable.

Hey MMogg, The format has a by Xaoslegend at Sun, 09/19/2010 - 01:57
Xaoslegend's picture

Hey MMogg,

The format has a static legal list now http://puremtgo.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=2008 so for large chunks of time the legal cards will not change, also making whole new decks is usually far cheaper in Heirloom than tweaking a standard deck is, maybe hard to be the best Heirloom player without alot of struggle, but being a good one should be doable enough without a terrible lot of time or money invested, especially with a ton of very good decklists already posted to draw from.


Hope your wife is fine Xao. by feastoftheunicorn at Sun, 09/19/2010 - 03:43
feastoftheunicorn's picture

Hope your wife is fine Xao. Sorry I couldn't make it. Because of the time difference, it's not the best time for me, won't be able to make it every week I guess.

The metagame will settle down eventually I imagine.

Thanks Feast, My wife is by Xaoslegend at Sun, 09/19/2010 - 16:01
Xaoslegend's picture

Thanks Feast,

My wife is doing well, she's just having to take it easy and eat lots of hospital food =P.

I'm sorry the new time is bad for you, maybe in a few months we'll do 2 tournaments a week with one on Saturday and one on Sunday. Until then of course I hope you can make it often.

I still have your tix and foil to give you from the first tournament. So I'll keep looking for you online for that.


I think that there is a by walkerdog at Thu, 10/07/2010 - 01:52
walkerdog's picture

I think that there is a problem with this format. It's not unconquerable, but still exists: if the format does drive something up, past, say, .2, for a rare. That card is pretty much banned forever, barring a 2nd printing. Do you know how little it takes to keep a price where it is at? As long as there is any sort of demand, it will hold steady. Eventually you have a weaker and more boring format than pauper.

That's an interesting by Xaoslegend at Thu, 10/07/2010 - 02:15
Xaoslegend's picture

That's an interesting theory,

If we manage to get all the possible good combos and synergies and cards banned due to values going up.. no you know its just not going to happen lol.

I see the line of thinking you're using here but its just not gonna happen unless MTGO becomes 90% Heirloom players and 10% other format players to allow enough demand to spread around lol.

Have a good one dude =P,