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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Apr 01 2016 11:00am
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State of the Program for April 1st 2016

In the News:

SoI Prerelease Info: Wizards has announced how they will handle the online Prerelease for Shadows over Innistrad.   They have made some changes, and the changes are all good. Stuff players don’t like – stuff like having to buy a prerelease object, paying more for the prerelease and having to find time for a DE – all gone. Instead, Wizards will offer Swiss drafts and sealed leagues at the normal prices. The sealed leagues will be real leagues, and include a prerelease foil. The announcement is here.        
SoI Release Events Canceled: A few weeks ago, I complained that release events offered no real added value; they just cost more for less value. I said I just wanted sealed leagues to start ASAP. Apparently Wizards agrees. We will no longer have the more expensive, pay only with TIX Release events. Instead, sealed leagues will begin as soon as SoI goes on sale. Likewise, normal drafts will begin immediately. Nice change.
No Downtime Next Week: Wizards has cancelled the downtime for April 6th. That means more time to play, but no redemption next week.
Shadows over Innistrad Paper Prerelease this Weekend: The paper players will have the cards shortly. Online, we have to wait a week or so.  The rules article for SoI is here. The card image gallery is here
Standard Rotation CANCELLED: This appears to be another example of Wizards listening to players. According to Wizards focus groups, players love playing with and against Siege Rhino, so Wizards has modified the rotation to keep Khans and FRF in the format for another year. This is a surprising development, to say the least. Details here.
Leagues Finishing Soon: The current “season” of leagues will end on April 13th. The leagues will close, then restart using the post-rotation card sets. Plan on playing out your matches by then. 
Legendary Cube Returning: The new, tuned and improved Legendary Cube will be returning next downtime. The Cube has been tweaked considerably. Mana fixing has been cut back and archetypes have been created.  These are both good changes – past Legendary Cube was basically all five color good stuff. The revised set is (Wizards says) more like a real cube environment. Legendary Cube will be up from March 30th through April 15th.   Details here.

The Timeline:

This is a list of things we have been promised, or just want to see coming back.   Another good source for dates and times is the MTGO calendar and the weekly blog, while the best source for known bugs is the Known Issues List. For quick reference, here are some major upcoming events.   In addition, there are either one or two online PTQs each weekend, with qualifiers running the three days prior to the PTQ.
Item: date and notes
·         Power Nine Challenge: Last Saturday of the month, at 11am Pacific.  Next one April 30th.
·         Legacy Challenge: Second Saturday of the month, at 11am Pacific. Next one April 9th.
·         No Downtime on: April 6, April 20, May 11, June 8 and June 22
·         League End Dates: all current league end April 13th
·         Shadows over Innistrad Prerelease: April 15-18, 2016. Details here.
·         Eternal Masters: online release June 17, 2016. Details here.
·         Eldritch Moon Prerelease: July 29-August 1. Details here
·         From the Vault Lore: releases online October 10, 2016.
·         Return to Homelands: March, 2017.
Flashback Schedule:
Flashback drafts are 10Tix / 100 Play Points / 2 Tix plus product, not Phantom, single elim and pay out in play points: 200 for first, 100 for second, 50 for third and fourth. 
·         Ravnica, Guildpact, and Dissension: March 30, 2016 to April 6, 2016
·         Triple Coldsnap: April 6, 2016 to April 13, 2016
·         Triple Time Spiral: May 4, 2016 to May 11, 2016
·         2 Time Spiral and 1 Planar Chaos: May 11, 2016 to May 18, 2016
·         Time Spiral, Planar Chaos, and Future Sight: May 18, 2016 to May 25, 2016
·         Triple Tenth Edition: May 25, 2016 to June 1, 2016
·         Triple Lorwyn: likely June 1 to June 8
·         2 Lorwyn, Morningtide: likely June 8 to June 15
·         Triple Shadowmoor: likely June 15 to June 22
·         2 Shadowmoor, Eventide: likely June 22 to June 29
Flashback This Week: Coldsnap drafts begin next Wednesday. Ripple it up! Cards worth enough not to pass include the following. Note that Counterbalance and Bauble are uncommons.
·         Zur the Enchanter   $ 5.15
·         Mishra's Bauble   $ 6.65
·         Counterbalance $ 15.96
·         Dark Depths $ 28.61

Opinion Section: Five “Innovations” Wizards Was Right to Abandon  

I have now been playing online for over a decade. During that time, I have read infinite articles, talked to bunch of Wizards folks, participated in Wizards focus groups and went to Renton to win the Community Cup.   I have had a lot of chances to peek behind the curtain on MTGO developments. Here are five ideas that Wizards pursued for too long. Fortunately, all were ultimately abandoned.   
Honorable mention (mainly because it is not yet abandoned: unrestricted (Mishra’s Workshop)s.
5) Prerelease Objects: The concept was great: let players choose their colors/guilds/sides at the prerelease, and get special boosters emphasizing those colors. This worked well the first time, but less well when some colors were found to be overpowered. Online, the prerelease objects lacked the custom dice and other goodies, and the $5 cash price was a problem for some players who lived entirely in the TIX economy. The current approach to online prereleases (see above) is way better.
4) Animated Tables: In early versions of MTGO, one method of finding games was to use your mouse or keyboard commands to move an avatar through digital table to find an open seat. Really. Here’s a screen shot. It’s not photoshop.
3) Digital Playmats: back in Versions 2 and 3, you could choose the artwork you wanted to display behind both your battlefield and your opponent’s battlefield. They could be different. Back then, I liked to use the art from Undiscovered Paradise for my side, and something like Karplusan Forest for my opponent’s. You could even hack the art images and add your own artwork: Marshall Sutcliffe used a background with the Limited Resources logo. It was like having your own playmats. However, most pros don’t use playmats (see Sam Black’s recent article, over on the pay side of SCG), so Wizards eliminated the functionality in the current version of MTGO.
2) 3D Avatars: If you think the animated tables were a bit strange, you should have seen the avatars Wizards was working on. The V2 and V3 versions were quite cartoony, but Wizards was planning on a much more lifelike set of avatars, build on a 3D rendering engine. They would have moved and fidgeted, but the system over was killer. You think the current program is a memory hog – imagine grafting 3d avatars on top of these. Besides, they looked like this:
1) Legacy Tribal Wars: Sorry AJ, too soon? Definitely not something that should have been abandoned.
1) Digital Sleeves: This was something I learned about in discussions with Matt Tabak and Lee Sharpe in the Renton offices. Digital sleeves. It was a way of putting artwork on the backs of your cards. Back then, your library was visible, and the sleeves would have changed what both you saw and your opponents saw as your library. That part would actually have been kinda cool. The downside was that the digital sleeves program would have also have “worn” cards that were played without sleeves. Each time you shuffled or tapped unsleeved cards, it would increment the “wear counter” for the card. If a card took enough “wear,” it was unplayable in sanctioned events without digital sleeves. Sleeves would wear out as well, so you would have to buy new ones every so often. The digital sleeves program might have simulated paper Magic, but not a part I ever wanted simulated.

Judge Question of the Week

I have been training new judges for many years, and part of that training involves setting out scenarios and problems that teach various parts of the rules. They start simple – i.e. a creature with trample is blocked by a creature with protection – and more up. The goal is to determine what areas of the rules I need to teach, and what my candidate already knows. Lagrange asked me to share some, so I will keep throwing them out until people beg for mercy.
You are working as a floor judge at a Grand Prix. A player approaches you and tells you the following story. What is the correct response?
“Judge, I was playing in a Commander match and this happened. One player cast Thieves’ Auction with Confusion in the Ranks  in play. However, Grip of Chaos was already in play, as were several effects that gave things shroud, like True Believer (controller has shroud) and Sheltering Prayers (lands have shroud). Also, someone had both (Hanna’s Custody) and Mycosynth Lattice in play, making everything a shrouded artifact. I’m pretty sure we messed up the Thieves’ Auction resolution. How should that have gone down?”
FWIW, this is a surprisingly common occurrence. Players often like to demonstrate their knowledge of corner cases and/or try to stump the judge. Questions like these get asked a lot at GPs and large events. But, if you have a question like this, please don't ask the judges when they are really busy (like at the beginning or end of the round.)  Wait for a slow time.
As always, there are no relevant cards not mentioned, unless I can think of a good one. Also, you cannot refer this to another judge: you are the rules guru of the team today, and you are not too busy to answer.

Cutting Edge Tech:

Standard: The format may be winding up, but we are still seeing new archetypes – or at least decks that manage at least one good showing. If you would like to try it out, you have two weeks left in the Standard league. GL.
Aven Control
Tom Noddy, Third place, SCG Std Open, Richmond
3 High Sentinels of Arashin
4 Wingmate Roc
4 Jeskai Windscout
4 Aven Skirmisher
4 Aven Battle Priest
2 Aven Tactitcian
3 Aven Skycaptain
3 Aven Surveyor
11 cards

Other Spells
4 Dig Through Time
2 Treasure Cruise
2 Valorous Stance
2 Disdainful Stroke
3 Ojutai’s Summons
17 cards

4 Flooded Strand
4 Plains
3 Island
4 Battlefield Forge

4 Prairie Stream
2 Sea Gate Wreckage
4 Wandering Fumarole
15 cards


4 Disdainful Stroke
4 Matter Reshaper
3 Spatial Contortion
4 Tide Drifter
4 cards
High Sentinels of Arashin
Modern:  No Modern GPs last weekend. The SCG Classic event had a fair number of non-Eldrazi decks, but it was just a Classic event, not a larger Open.
Legacy: The Eldrazi menace has reached Legacy.   Here’s another version.
TELEFONTELAVIV, 5-0, Legacy League
4 Eldrazi Mimic
3 Endbringer
4 Endless One
4 Matter Reshaper
4 Reality Smasher
4 Thought-Knot Seer
0 cards

Other Spells
2 Dismember
2 Warping Wail
4 Chalice of the Void
2 Mox Diamond
2 Umezawa's Jitte
14 cards
4 Ancient Tomb
3 City of Traitors
4 Eldrazi Temple
4 Eye of Ugin
2 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Wasteland
4 Cavern of Souls
21 cards

1 Dismember
2 Warping Wail
Ancient Tomb
Vintage: The most recent Power Nine Challenge may well be the last one with Shops unrestricted. Maybe. On the other hand, Montolio, who has been playing Shops at events since Classic, switched decks this week.     

Card Prices

Note: all my prices come from the fine folks at These are retail prices, and generally the price of the lowest priced, actively traded version. (Prices for some rare promo versions are not updated when not in stock, so I skip those.)   You can get these cards at web store, or from their bots: MTGOTradersBot(#) (they have bots 1-10), CardCaddy and CardWareHouse, or sell cards to MTGOTradersBuyBot(#) (they have buybots 1-4). I have bought cards from MTGOTraders for over a decade now, and have never been overcharged or disappointed.
Standard staples: Standard prices are mixed again this week. We are in the doldrums before a major rotation. Some of the rotating cards are dropping off the table. And Jace crashed, which was only to be expected once Wizards announced that he was to be the May store promo.  

Standard Cards
Last Week
% Change

Modern staples:  Modern is also in the doldrums. People are waiting for the B&R announcement next week. 

Modern Cards
Last Week
% Change

Legacy and Vintage: Legacy and Vintage are mixed this week. Stuff is oscillating, but the percentage changes are small. It’s all small stuff. 

Legacy / Vintage Cards
Last Week
% Change

Set Redemption: You can redeem complete sets on MTGO. You need to purchase a redemption voucher from the store for $25. During the next downtime, Wizards removes a complete set from your account and sends you the same set in paper.   Pretty soon, I’ll be adding Shadows and removing Khans and Fate Reforged.

Complete Set
Last Week
% Change
Battle for Zendikar
Dragons of Tarkir
Fate Reforged
Khans of Tarkir
Magic Origins
Oath of the Gatewatch

The Good Stuff:

The following is a list of all the non-promo, non-foil cards on MTGO that retail for more than $25 per card.  These are the big ticket items in the world of MTGO. Worth promised to user the promo program to up the supply of some needed cards. These may qualify. 

Rishadan Port
$ 185.78
Black Lotus
$ 142.20
$ 105.30
Liliana of the Veil
Mythic Rare
$   89.42
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
Mythic Rare
$   70.56
Tangle Wire
$   67.12
Mox Sapphire
$   65.94
$   62.78
$   61.63
Ancestral Recall
$   51.99
Mythic Rare
$   51.98
$   50.96
Mythic Rare
$   50.85
Ensnaring Bridge
$   49.62
Gaea's Cradle
$   47.34
Ensnaring Bridge
$   46.34
City of Traitors
$   42.99
Time Walk
$   41.52
Ensnaring Bridge
$   40.76
$   40.23
Mox Jet
$   39.94
Horizon Canopy
$   39.11
Chimney Imp
$   38.79
Scalding Tarn
$   38.61
Show and Tell
$   37.98
$   37.07
Mythic Rare
$   36.87
Infernal Tutor
$   36.71
Mox Ruby
$   35.18
Grove of the Burnwillows
$   34.53
Mox Emerald
$   34.45
Food Chain
$   34.17
Mox Pearl
$   34.00
Voice of Resurgence
Mythic Rare
$   33.78
Mox Opal
Mythic Rare
$   33.73
Mox Opal
Mythic Rare
$   33.49
Force of Will
$   33.09
Cavern of Souls
$   32.90
City of Traitors
$   31.77
Archangel of Thune
Mythic Rare
$   31.67
$   31.46
Mythic Rare
$   30.80
Underground Sea
$   28.93
Dark Depths
$   28.61
$   28.58
Fetid Heath
$   26.81
Blood Moon
$   26.67
$   26.65
Underground Sea
$   26.63
Celestial Colonnade
$   26.23
Lion's Eye Diamond
$   25.89
Volcanic Island
$   25.49
Verdant Catacombs
$   25.41
Blood Moon
$   25.18
Undiscovered Paradise
$   25.04

The big number is the retail price of a playset (4 copies) of every card available on MTGO. Assuming you bought the least expensive versions available, the cost of owning a playset of every card on MTGO is $ 27,880.  That’s up about $100 from last week’s number. Still doldrums.   

Weekly Highlights:

I’m playing a bit of old Standard – one last chance to play with Khans cards. And I’m waiting for the prerelease.   I’ll be playing SoI this weekend. 
“One Million Words” and “3MWords” on MTGO
This series is an ongoing tribute to Erik “Hamtastic” Friborg.
HammyBot Super Sale: HammyBot was set up to sell off Erik Friborg’s collection, with all proceeds going to his wife and son. So far, HammyBot has raised over $8,000, but there are a lot of cards left in the collection. Those cards are being sold at MTGOTrader’s Buy Price.  

Judge Question of the Week Answer:

You are working as a floor judge at a Grand Prix. A player approaches you and tells you the following story. What is the correct response?
“Judge, I was playing in a Commander match and this happened. One player cast Thieves’ Auction with Confusion in the Ranks in play. However, Grip of Chaos was already in play, as were several effects that gave things shroud, like True Believer (controller has shroud) and Sheltering Prayers (lands have shroud). Also, someone had both (Hanna’s Custody) and Mycosynth Lattice in play, making everything a shrouded artifact. I’m pretty sure we messed up the Thieves’ Auction resolution. How should that have gone down?”
First, an experienced judge would know that these cards have never, in the entire history of Magic, ever been in play at the same time.   Despite this, the player began his statement with “I was playing…and this happened.”   He is lying to a judge, and should be disqualified. If he is not playing in the event, enroll him, DQ him and drop him from the event. 
Note: this may seem a bit harsh, but please remember that the date on which this is published has certain significance and traditions, at least in the US.     


Everybody Has Jokes by PanteraCanes at Fri, 04/01/2016 - 12:10
PanteraCanes's picture

Wasn't sure if the play mat part was a joke? At worst it is a net zero, but lots of people liked them.

The other one I was not sure of was the flip Jace price drop?

The prank was ruined when JVP by Sensei at Fri, 04/01/2016 - 12:30
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The prank was ruined when JVP was listed at its normal price in the most valuable cards section at the end.

Or maybe that was put there on purpose as a wink+nudge. Anyway, no mythic has ever been a participation nor store promo.

I didn't even read the write by PanteraCanes at Fri, 04/01/2016 - 12:55
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I didn't even read the write up blurb before the prices. OK, it makes a lot more sense now.

Nekusar, the Mindrazer says to check your facts

Nice prank but what's with by Sensei at Fri, 04/01/2016 - 12:11
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Nice prank but what's with the link to the clash packs? I would have RickRolled

Wow by Lagrange at Fri, 04/01/2016 - 12:27
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Wow! I did not know that they postponed the rotation. Immediately after I read it here I went and bought up cards for 1000s of tix. I dont think that all the vendors are aware of it yet. I am gonna make a nice profit on this investment :)

Also, I am happy that they went away from the digital sleeves. I always play with my mtgo cards unsleeved, I dont like the way it feels to hold on a sleeve.

I can't tell if the table by xger at Fri, 04/01/2016 - 13:51
xger's picture

I can't tell if the table thing is a joke. I actually liked the tables...

Well, I can tell you that by longtimegone at Fri, 04/01/2016 - 16:15
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Well, I can tell you that when I first saw screenshots of the old tables, I *thought* it was a joke.

It was just more enjoyable to by xger at Fri, 04/01/2016 - 17:38
xger's picture

It was just more enjoyable to look at then a unsorted or sorted poorly wall of text.

Yeah the table paradigm is by Paul Leicht at Fri, 04/01/2016 - 18:09
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Yeah the table paradigm is interesting but I will say at first glance it seems chaotic and if you add in syncronized (or badly synced) sound and animations it gets to a drag both on machine and eyes. I got in the habit of turning off the sound for MTGO sound effects entirely during the beta because of it. While the wall of text is annoying in the way it jumps and is sorted (or not sorted) at least it is legible.

Back in the day when there by JMason at Sat, 04/02/2016 - 14:26
JMason's picture

Back in the day when there were 'thousands' of players on mtgo, if your object was to watch a game then the table view was the best way to do it, the tables stayed in one place. if you used the list view everything moved constantly. It's so much easier today with filters (and only a few people online).

Psh, I just did a quick count by longtimegone at Sat, 04/02/2016 - 17:15
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Psh, I just did a quick count of active matches, and there are thousands of player online right now just playing draft alone, to say nothing of constructed, leagues, and casual play.

The tables feature was not by Paul Leicht at Fri, 04/01/2016 - 14:30
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The tables feature was not the problem, the problem was the animation of all the avatars and the sounds used to simulate a busy room. While this sort of thing is funny the first time you see it, it gets old quickly.

Standard Rotation by ComixWriter at Sat, 04/02/2016 - 16:24
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So, the link about standard rotation does not reflect this idea.
Am guessing it's an April Fool's prank?
At some point, please share what were pranks, and what is real. Sarcasm and such pranks are somewhat unfair to fans with autism, like myself. If my vetted resources are going to joke, I can find news from other sources without that barrier to my understanding. Sorry if I sound like a wet blanket, but I have other outlets for humor and so-called jokes. Please advise...

Yes, because of the nature of by Paul Leicht at Sat, 04/02/2016 - 16:31
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Yes, because of the nature of the day (April Fool's) Pete traditionally posts some erroneous and obviously so info within his article to entertain his readers. Just be aware of the day you are reading this.

I'd love to know where you by longtimegone at Sat, 04/02/2016 - 17:17
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I'd love to know where you find pure untouched news outlets on April Fools day. Even real serious papers and news channels run joke stories on this day, I think it's just silly to expect a higher standard from a magic web site.

Thanks, Paul. I appreciate by ComixWriter at Sat, 04/02/2016 - 17:47
ComixWriter's picture

Thanks, Paul. I appreciate the direct answer.
Thanks, longtimegone. I just won't read articles on April 1st, then. Thanks for your compassion!

If you find this to be by longtimegone at Sat, 04/02/2016 - 21:02
longtimegone's picture

If you find this to be troublesome, frankly you might want to just avoid the internet on April 1st of each year, it's kind of a big thing. Lots of mainstream sites spend a fair bit of time on this kind of thing, Thinkgeek does pages for a half a dozen or so fake products each year.

There was a implication in by Paul Leicht at Sat, 04/02/2016 - 21:13
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There was a implication in CW's comment that he does not DO mainstream sites. And that this site is special to him. Hence his complaint. I don't think the complaint is valid here but I get it.

Imho avoiding the internet is beside the point in this case. That said a little levity in the form of casual >>wink wink<< tall tales is sometimes what the doctor ordered to lighten the mood. That's what needs to be conveyed. That it is not done out of malice and is done not because "everyone else is doing it" because that message is incorrect. We do it on April Fool's because being foolish is something we should all strive for occasionally.

Don't you think so?

sorry by one million words at Sat, 04/02/2016 - 22:16
one million words's picture

I hope I remember them all.

Rotation going ahead as expected. Khans and FRF will rotate shortly.

Jace normal price.

Return to Homelands is not coming in 2017.

9E Forest and Chimney Imp are both $0.01, not expensive.

Aven Control is not a deck.

And you don't DQ. But I don't remember the answer for the question. It depends on when the things giving shroud come back into play. It's complex. This actually happened in a game I was in. I conceded in response to the Thieves Auction.

Digital sleeves is sort of both. I was at Renton, and I did talk about this with Lee Sharpe and Matt Tabak. However, I am pretty sure none of us was serious.

Pokemon online does digital by JXClaytor at Sun, 04/03/2016 - 08:30
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Pokemon online does digital sleeves and deckboxes, but they matter more because both objects are present in the playspace, there are some really cool sleeves in the game, and you can show off, but it makes more sense there then it does in magic, because you see things differently.

If magic ever came up with a display like that I would love to see digital sleeves.