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By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
Nov 16 2016 1:00pm
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Well, the Treasure Chests will finally be updated on November 16th, and along with making them tradeable, Play Points were replaced with boosters and the curated card list was refined. However, the most important part of the update is that the Conspiracy: Take the Crown cards are finally being added alongside Commander 2016 cards. I’ve been skeptical of this method of releasing these supplemental cards since it was announced, and while it could have been much worse, I still have plenty to complain about. Let’s start by going over which cards were put onto Magic Online, and more importantly which weren’t.
Commander 2016:
As would be expected, this is the major focus of the update, as the vast majority of the new cards made the transition online. In particular, Partner made it through unscathed, and was likely the majority of development time for these cards. We also got a Extract into Darkness-style new card, as Custodi Soulbinders was reprinted in a C16 deck and made it into the Treasure Chests. Another important carry-over is that Ash Barrens was not only put in the Treasure Chests but kept at common, which is very important for Pauper. However, things are not completely rosy, as this is the first Commander set where cards were left out. The major cut is the Undaunted cycle, and while it isn’t that important for competitive formats (unless red wants Mass Polymorph for some reason), it doesn’t seem that hard to code: all the effects are simple (the most complex is Divergent Transformations, and that is just Mass Polymorph) and worst case they could just fix the discount (which would be a functional difference, but not as much as the various bugs in the program). The other three missing cards are Manifold Insights, Cruel Entertainment, and Conqueror’s Flail, and while the artifact is strange, I completely understand the other two—Cruel Entertainment seems doable (though assigning A to control B’s turn is new), but Manifold Insights would probably require a new interface.
Conspiracy: Take the Crown:
Sadly, the Conspiracy: Take the Crown news is much less encouraging than the Commander 2016 news, which is expected when you see only 12 new cards from the set. The selection starts well, as the Eternal headliners of Leovold, Emissary of Trest, Recruiter of the Guard, Sanctum Prelate and Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast made it into the Treasure Chests. As expected, all the legends are in the set as well...except one. Yes, Queen Marchesa isn’t in the set, as Monarch was completely left out. This shocks me, as the mechanic touches all the major aspects of the game I was looking at (Palace Sentinels and Thorn of the Black Rose are relevant for Pauper, Queen Marchesa is now the only missing modern-era commander, and Palace Jailer was just seen at the top tables of the Legacy Championship) and it shouldn’t be that hard to implement unless the game can’t change control of things in the Command Zone (just make it an emblem). All of the voting cards were left out as well, and while it isn't completely unexpected (especially the voting-matters cards like Illusion of Choice), the voting mechanic should already be programmed in from the last Conspiracy—though it wouldn’t surprise me if each voting card is a separate case in MTGO’s coding. Finally, I’m surprised there aren’t many lower rarity cards (the only non-rare is Domesticated Hydra), as Pauper wouldn’t mind cards like Wings of the Guard, Grenzo, Havoc Raiser and Adriana, Captain of the Guard mean Goad and Melee have been coded in respectively, and there is certainly room for these cards in the proposed structure.
New Card Distribution:
One of the most important questions regarding the set was how the new cards would be distributed. Just throwing them in the curated card list would have been a disaster (even at an increased rate), and thankfully that isn’t the case as the new cards got their own “space” in the selection. It’s even better than expected, as rares and mythics share the same odds, and the ratios are the same as rares (a “pool” will have 5 of each common, 2 of each uncommon, and 1 of each rare/mythic). While I’m certainly not going to do the entire EV math right now (I’m sure someone on Reddit will have done so by the time this gets posted), I can calculate the odds of getting the new cards:
One New Card in a Chest: 26.5%
Two New Cards in a Chest: 3.1%
Three New Cards in a Chest: 0.1%
Average # of New Cards per Chest: 0.328 (one new card every three chests)
Average # of New Cards per 32 Constructed League Players: 12.45
Average # of Chests to open a specific Rare/Mythic: 232
Average # of League Players to open a specific Rare/Mythic: 596
That sounds like a lot, but there are a lot of League players (3847 as of this writing), and hopefully making Treasure Chests more-appealing (and slightly increasing the prize structure alongside that) helps that number increase, especially if paired with some targeted giveaways (putting Leovold, Emissary of Trest in the Power Nine Challenge Prize Pool or putting Recruiter of the Guard in the Legacy Challenge prize pool for example).
Curated Card List Changes:
Alongside the addition of all the new cards, there were some changes to the main curated card list, which can be split into three main parts. First and most importantly, they’re getting rid of a lot of the chaff from the curated card list, whether it’s cards that aren’t worth as much due to lower rarity cards being depressed on MTGO (Preordain, Searing Blaze), cards desired by the missing casual audience (Archive Trap, Darien, King of Kjeldor), or very-fringe Constructed cards (Circle of Protection: Red, Fury of the Horde). Second, some of the most obvious missing expensive cards were added: Legacy got True-Name Nemesis, Containment Priest, and Contagion while Pauper got Hoodwink (though that doesn’t explain Kozilek, the Great Distortion, since as far as I know it sees virtually no Standard play). Finally, a lot of new arts are being put onto MTGO (confirmed by the updated Treasure Chest information page): Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and Ob Nixilis Reignited get their Duel Deck art, Wave of Reckoning and Windfall got new art in Commander 2016, Candelabra of Tawnos got MTGO-exclusive new art, and The Rack will hopefully get its Duels of the Planeswalkers deck art/frame (which I believe is only on MTGO in gold border). Of course, while that’s the big picture for the changes, let’s look at the math to see how much better things are. Note that I’m using the original prices for the new arts, so these numbers might be higher, though some of that will probably be counteracted by prices going down due to the increased supply:

Total Cards Removed: 727
Total Value Removed: 236.8 Tickets
Average Value per Card (Copy) Removed: 0.33 Tickets
Total Cards Added: 128
Total Value Added: 672.9 Tickets
Average Value per Card (Copy) Added: 5.26 Tickets
Net Value Added: 436.1 Tickets
Wow, that’s a lot of value added obviously, but what’s more important is just how many cards were removed from the pool. Not only does this mean there are a lot fewer “bad” curated card results, it means you’re more likely to get the super-rare cards. Remember how the pool is formed: the frequency of each card is how many there are in one batch of curated cards (so for every 40 Condescends there are 6 Rishadan Ports and 1 Black Lotus), so reducing the total pool by almost 600 cards means 600 fewer curated cards need to be given out for every Black Lotus. Since each chest has 0.25 curated cards in it (using the same math as above), it takes 2400 fewer chests to loop the curated pool, or 2041 fewer completed Constructed League runs.
However, the math isn’t quite that simple. Thankfully (and to be honest, surprisingly), the odds of a curated card didn’t change when the new cards were added (the chances instead being taken from the Modern rare/mythic and Play Point/booster odds in the first slot and the commons/uncommons in the second/third slot), so the curated pool-loop is the same (minus the additional chest for 4-1-ing a League). For the overall analysis, I’m going to piggyback off the wonderful work of benbuzz790 from Reddit, who calculated the expected value of the original curated card list. This math isn’t going to be perfect, as benbuzz790 used buy prices and I’m using sell prices (and his prices are a month and a half old), but I am not going through all ~650 prices again if I don’t have to (even going through the ~50 changes was tedious). Overall the average value of a curated card was increased by 0.4 tickets, and most of that was just removing the chaff (as the new cards were only 1.8% of the curated card pool), which means that the expected value of a Treasure Chest was increased by about 0.1 tickets, which is good even before you consider the other changes (most importantly the new cards, which took slots mostly from the commons and Modern rares). Overall, the math backs up the intuition that the changes are very good in terms of expected value.
What’s Next?

With these changes, it’s pretty clear that Treasure Chests are here to stay, and are overall a benefit for the MTGO community. The question is what will happen to the distribution next? In particular, what happens when Conspiracy: Take the Crown and Commander 2016 are no longer the new hot thing and demand is mostly satisfied? Presumably Commander 2017 will be released through Treasure Chests in a year, but we know the distribution will be changed at least every three months (if for no other reason than to add the new Masterpieces to the curated list), so ideally it could be improved during those times. Thankfully, Custodi Soulbinders shows that Wizards is willing to put “old” cards on MTGO, so it is possible to get things like the Monarch cards, cards desired for Pauper, and maybe even some of the “boring” pre-Mirage and Portal/Starter cards, especially since there doesn’t appear to be any new supplemental cards on the horizon other than Commander (though that obviously can change). As for the curated card list, there isn’t much chaff left, but you could add more alternate art/frame cards not available on MTGO—though looking through the updated Treasure Chest page, there are many promos, including many cards from unreleased supplemental sets (including the added ones for clarity):

That’s a lot of cards (none of which appear to be on MTGO), though the only new art from Conspiracy: Take the Crown appears to be Burgeoning (despite Inquisition of Kozilek and Phyrexian Arena appearing on the list), and that was a Commander 2016 reprint.
That’s all for today—I was worried this would be too short (and originally planned for it to be), but I found plenty of things to write about. The next time you’ll probably see a reprint-focused article will probably be a Modern Masters 2017 update—I hope I can get one done before the set releases.
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Very informative article! by MTGOrzo at Wed, 11/16/2016 - 13:28
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Very informative article! Shame to see Queen Marchesa omitted, but that added value is hard to ignore. Now with the ban of Peregrine Drake, I might actually que up in some pauper leagues.

Thanks for the compliment! I by Cheater Hater at Thu, 11/17/2016 - 03:34
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Thanks for the compliment! I hate how MTGO doesn't completely line up with paper, but hopefully Palace Jailer's time in the spotlight forces the MTGO team to put some effort into making Monarch work. (and that one of the "junk" slot can eventually be replaced with interesting new old junk--sadly I think a lot of that might be predicated on art rights for old cards)

Yeah, I think monarch is by JXClaytor at Thu, 11/17/2016 - 08:30
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Yeah, I think monarch is going to be incredibly hard for MTGO to add due to it's rules. I am not sure how many triggered abilities exist in the game that do not have a source, but monarch currently has two triggered abilities, and both of them have no source. I don't believe that it is as simple as making an emblem in the command zone, because I think that involves changing the rules of monarch as they are now.

That might be easier to do?

Yeah, I know making it an by Cheater Hater at Thu, 11/17/2016 - 20:15
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Yeah, I know making it an emblem is technically a rules change, but I don't know what functional rules change it would be (other than violating the "emblems are only for planeswalkers" heuristic). I mean, you can counter it with a "counter target colorless ability" card I'm sure, and they almost certainly won't make emblem-specific cards (counter target ability from an emblem). Hopefully Palace Jailer opens their eyes, as it certainly opened mine (I thought Throne of the High City would have been the card).

I think it is very simple if by Paul Leicht at Fri, 11/18/2016 - 09:28
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I think it is very simple if you think of it as adding one more boolean as opposed to one more area. The boolean is as follows: "Is this player the monarch?" If value=yes then all other players must be no. Then the question becomes, when to check for it. And the answer to that is after each player's combat step ends.

Then you can do all your other logic based on that boolean. It is a bit of a trick to insert into disorganized code something new but it isn't essentially all that complex in and of itself.

Hooray, WotC decided to show by Cheater Hater at Thu, 11/17/2016 - 20:05
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Hooray, WotC decided to show us all the new arts from the Treasure Chest!

Thankfully nothing I talked about appears to be wrong (only Avenger of Zendikar isn't in that post), though it continues the trend of WotC not knowing how to present information well.