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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Apr 29 2016 12:00pm
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State of the Program for April 29th 2016

In the News:

Amazing Pro Tour Top 8:  Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad – the 100th Pro Tour - was last weekend and it did not disappoint. The Top 8 may have been the strongest ever assembled – certainly the strongest this century. In the end, Steve Rubin won out over three Hall of Famers, two Players of the Year and the reigning World Champion. The Top 8 had eight very different archetypes. Coverage, including decklists, is here.
 
Pro Tour Gauntlet is Here: Wizards is letting us preview the best decks form Pro Tour SoI. The Gauntlet will let you play with one of the decks, chosen at random, in three round Swiss bouts. The Gauntlet includes all of the Top 8, plus five more interesting decks from the 8-2 or better list. Details and decklists here
 
Wizards Axes Modern Pro Tour: Wizards has announced an end to the Modern Pro Tour. Going forward, all Pro Tours will combine Standard and draft. Aaron Forsythe explained the reasoning here. Wizards is not abandoning the format.  Presumably some GPs will be Modern (schedules and format not yet announced), but Wizards has said that one of the upcoming PPTQ and RPTG seasons will be Modern. 
 
Pro Tour Info and Pro Players Club Changes: Wizards has announced the locations for next year’s Pro Tours: Dublin, Nashville, Kyoto, Albuquerque, plus the World Magic Cup in Nice. Wizards has reduced the appearance fees for Hall of Famers and platinum pros, but the rest of the packages remain the same. At the same time, Wizards has announced an increase to the prize pool for the Magic World Cup. The First Place prize will rise to $70,000 this year, and to $100,000 next year. Details here. Recording of the live announcement here. I’ll talk about this more in the opinion section.
 
Backlash to Wizards Cuts to Platinum Status: The above item included significant cuts to the annual compensation for platinum level pros. The inevitable backlash has occurred, but a number of pros have written really balanced and sane responses to the article. They are not rants, but are very clearly condemnations. I noted articles by Jon Finkel, Matt Sperling, Brian Kibler, and others, and a long Facebook post by (Levy? - one of the French pros whose name I can’t read. Sorry, my bad – I have horrible handwriting.) Someone has started a change.org petition to reverse the cuts, and some streamers (Kenji, joined by Gabby Spartz and probably others) have stopped streaming this week in solidarity. The Vintage Super League has also been delayed because at least some of those pros are/were considering pulling out. Finally, players are using the Twitter hashtag #paythepros – but don’t go too far back. That hashtag was also used in 2012 for the NFL vs. football refs dispute.   More on this – the cuts to platinum, not football refs – in the opinion section, below.
 
And Wizards Reverses Course: The feedback, the streamer boycott and the Reddit and Twitter storm all had an effect. By Tuesday, Wizards had restored the Platinum benefits for 2016/2017 to their prior levels. Worlds prize payout will stay at $250k for 2016. Wizards will re-evaluate the changes for future years, but promises more player involvement. Read the article here.
 
Magic Documentary Film Out: The folks behind the Walking the Planes videos have produced a feature-length documentary on Magic and life on the Pro Tour. The film features Melissa DeTora, Reid Duke, Huey Jensen, Chris Pikula, Owen Turtenwald, Patrick Chapin, Shahar Shenhar more. Article on the film here. Details here.  Irony on the release of this coming immediately after the cuts to platinum everywhere. 
 
Windows XP and Vista Users Need to Upgrade:  After NEXT DOWNTIME, MTGO will use .NET 4.5.2, which is not supported by XP. Vista users need at least Service Pack 2. Without it, MTGO will not run. I know upgrading is a pain, but XP has not been supported for years. 
 

The Timeline:

This is a list of things we have been promised, or we 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 May 14th.  
·         No Downtime on: May 11, June 8 and June 22
·         League End Dates: all current leagues end July 27, 2016 
·         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.
 
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. 
·         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: Flashback drafts are coming back next downtime. The format will be triple Time Spiral. Enjoy the format. The only money cards are Ancestral Visions in the rares, and Pendelhaven, Lord of Atlantis and The Rack among the “Time Shifted” cards.
 

Opinion Section: Organized Play Changes

This has been a crazy week. I have started this section a half dozen times, and every time things change faster than I can write. Here’s where we are, as of mid-week.
 
Last Friday, the Pro Tour was looking great. Limited was interesting, but Standard was seriously over-performing. Two icons of the community were undefeated, playing decks that were not Bant Company, with stars like Finkel just a step behind.   Saturday also delivered. Sunday, I slept in too late, and by the time I woke up, most of the people I was rooting for were eliminated.   Then we got the Wizards announcements about Modern Pro Tours and the cuts to Platinum. And the backlash.   On Tuesday, Wizards backtracked, at least partly.
 
Let’s break these down.  But first, some background on why promoting pros is important. 
 
Magic is a collectible card game. It was the first, but by no means the only one. Over the last 20 years, literally hundreds of CCGs have appeared, been played, and died. I have written about this many times in depth.   The key to Magic’s survival is the Pro Tour, which is an amazing marketing tool for the game. The Pro Tour provides a goal for players, a reason to play certain formats, and a group of celebrities that promote the game. That is hugely important. People watch sports like Magic, or any sport, partly because they like to see the game being played, but partly because they are rooting for certain teams or players.   Watching a football game (round or oval football, makes no difference) is always more fun when your team / favorite player is competing. Same with Magic.
 
Years back, I used to work on the broadcast side during the Top 8 at Pro Tours. That let me see the viewership numbers. Viewership would plummet when the last big name was eliminated. Wizards understands that. The only question is what they need to do to effectively create and support those celebrity players. There’s a balance – Wizards needs to support enough celebrity players to keep viewers excited, but not so many that faces start getting lost in the crowd. 
 
Modern gone as a PT format:
Wizards tried this once before, remember? A little over a year ago, Wizards announced that all Pro Tours going forward would be Draft and Standard, with no Modern. The community erupted, and Wizards agreed to keep one Pro Tour each year Draft and Modern.   Since then, we have had two changes: the first was the new rotation schedule, which keeps Standard far more interesting than it used to be. Secondly, the last Modern PT was not too exciting, unless you consider endless heaps of Eldrazi exciting. Wizards will still be using Modern as a PTQ season format, and presumably for GPs, just not for Pro Tours. Reaction to this announcement was almost entirely positive, and I agree. My only concern is whether the GP schedule will include Modern at the expense of Legacy.
 
Hall of Fame appearance fee cuts:
Previously, the Hall of Fame members were paid an appearance fee of $1,500 for each Pro Tour they attended. Wizards will be eliminating these payments, except for the Pro Tour at which the new HoF class is inducted.   
 
Generally, this has received little attention, even from the pros directly affected. The HoF is large – a bit over 40 players at the moment, and growing every year. A significant number of those pros no longer play competitive Magic, while a handful more only appear at occasional Pro Tours. Many of the HoFs are no longer known to the wider Magic community, and a few are known only to people like me, who have been writing about the PT for 15 years and have watched many of these folks play (with old card frames and without sleeves.) Wizards does not really get its money’s worth when some of these old pros arrive, hang out at the lower tables and don’t make the Day Two cut. Having them together for the induction ceremony once a year is great, and worth the payment, but that is probably enough. 
 
Platinum appearance fee cuts:
The part of the initial announcement that caused a lot of consternation was that Wizards was, effective immediately, cutting the appearance fees that Platinum level pros receive from $3,000 per Pro Tour to $250.   Platinum pros would still receive invites, airfare and hotels for all Pro Tours, plus all the benefits they get for other level events, but the appearance fees were to be dramatically slashed. 
 
More importantly, these changes were to begin with the next Pro Tour. This is huge, because Platinum status is based on the number of pro points you earn in the prior year. Players who are currently Platinum got that status because of a lot of hard work in the prior year. Likewise, players that are at, or close to, Platinum for next year have got to where they are by playing a lot of Magic in a lot of places. Getting to Platinum requires a ton of travel and expense, and players were making the choice to undergo that effort because of the Platinum benefits Wizards was offering. To have those benefits revoked suddenly and without warning was shocking. It was probably not illegal, since Wizards had included lots of disclaimers in the fine print, but it felt unfair. Players felt that Wizards was reneging on promises made.  The backlash was severe, and by Tuesday Wizards had announced that Platinum players would continue to receive the full appearance fees for this year and next. 
 
Why did this happen?
We don’t know exactly why this happened. Wizards’ statement made little sense on this point, being basically: “the program was not doing what we wanted it to, so we changed it.” Wizards was increasing the prize pool for the world Magic Championship, and it was pretty clear that they were doing it by getting the money out of appearance fees.   But that’s what, not why.
 
After thinking about this for a while, I think the changes probably came about this way. I think it began with Wizards looking at their eSports numbers. Right now, Hearthstone has a significant chunk of Twitch viewers – at least an order of magnitude more than Magic, maybe two. (Midday last Tuesday, Hearthstone had 89,300 viewers, while Magic had 465, but many well-known streamers were boycotting that day.) Wizards had announced during their most recent earnings call that eSports was important, and that they would be working in that area. I suspect that Wizards employees were tasked with fixing that problem. One facet of the problem is that Magic has no big money tournaments, unlike the big players on eSports. 
 
I’m still speculating here, but based on a couple decades of experience with the way large corporations operate, I think I understand what happened.   I’d bet staff pitched the idea of a big money tournament, along with other changes, to senior management. I’m betting that senior management bought the idea, but refused to approve any more money until the next budget cycle. The employees were told to make it happen – but to make it happen by cutting existing expenses and moving money around. Now Wizards had already cut coverage and other expenses recently, so I suspect Wizards’ staff had to look for other parts of the marketing / Organized Play budget to find the money to pay for their one big event. Since a ton of expenses are locked in quite far in advance (contracts with TOs and venues for large events, design and printing expenses, etc.), I’m guessing they had few options. Appearance fees for the highest level pros probably looked like the least bad option. Maybe it really was the least-bad option.
 
I have been put in situations like this. Senior management approves the part of a plan that includes the doing, but denies the part of the plan that pays the costs. The directive is to do it, and find the money somewhere. I would also expect that the staff went back to senior management and said that there were no easy cuts, and that the cuts they would have to make would require betraying promises.   (I’m speculating, but that’s how I would have handled it.   Also how I have seen this sort of thing handled many times.) 
 
I also suspect that Wizards staff knew there would be a backlash. Maybe even senior management knew there would be a backlash. I really doubt that senior management knew just how harsh that backlash would be - #paythepros could not have been what they were expecting. And once the level of disaster was evident, senior management approved the partial roll-back. The cut to Hall of Fame appearance fees stuck, and that will partly offset the increase in Worlds prize pool. Maybe Wizards will eat the rest. Maybe we will see cuts in other areas, like coverage. And maybe Wizards will approve more money for Organized Play next budget cycle. I have no idea – I’ve got the speculator turned up to eleven here. 
 
I have also read the theory that this change by Wizards is a reaction to the judge as employee lawsuit: that Wizards wants to avoid anything that might give players the same argument. Maybe, but I don’t quite see it. Judges are clearly doing work. Players are playing the game for prizes. There is no model or analog for Magic judges other than “employee,” or “volunteer.” For players, there is probably precedent from other sports. Pro golf, pro bowling, NASCAR, pro tennis – all have players supported partly by winnings, partly by appearance fees and partly by their teams and sponsors. I would think that the relationship has been adequately defined in these sports. However, this is just my impression – I have not looked for precedents or even thought all that hard about players as employees. Besides, if Wizards was making cuts because appearance bonuses could be argued to be wages, then Wizards would have eliminated appearance fees entirely, not just cut them 90%.  
 
Why Not Just Raise Prize Payouts?
I have thought through many possible scenarios which would have lead Wizards to the decision they made, and the only plausible ones begin with the need for a high-value tournament. Wizards needs a big money event if it wants to be considered a real eSports player. (They need some other things, like a better MTGO client, but a half-million dollar event is easier to create.) I also think they should just budget the additional funds to increase the prize payout for both Worlds and the Pro Tours.   The PT payout has been pretty much the same for a decade or so. Of course, it’s not my money. I don’t know how much Wizards budgets for advertising Magic, and how that is split between things like prerelease packs, advertising, coverage, events, support for stores, special promos, etc. etc. There are almost certainly way more important expenses than available funds. And Wizards cannot just allocate more funds, because it also has to make a profit. Companies and products that do not make a profit do not continue.  
 
And I’m Writing the Same Article All Over Again:
So, maybe Wizards was in a bind. And maybe they had to make a hard choice, and take away something that some players valued, because something had to give. I can understand that. Life involves tradeoffs. You look at your options, and the ramifications of each of those options, and choose the one with the least-bad outcome. 
 
And then you implement that option in a way that minimizes the downside, or at least sugar-coats it as well as possible.
 
Wizards has made a lot of tough choices over the years. They have cut formats and modes of play, and banned cards. They have changed the compensation for pros many times: by creating and eliminating the Masters Series tournaments, changing Pro Player levels 1-9 into Pro Player Silver/Gold/Platinum. In 2007, they made significant changes, then rolled them back.  They changed to qualification via Planeswalker Points, then rolled that back. Same in other areas. Wizards cut Legacy Tribal Wars twice, and rolled that elimination back twice, before eliminating it completely (for now?) Over the 15 years I have been writing about Magic, I have seen Wizard reel back a lot of promises they have just been unable to keep. 
 
I can forgive them that. Life is a series of compromises; you choose the best ones you can. Sometimes you have to disappoint people: your friends, yourself, your customers. It sucks, but that’s just the way the world works. 
 
That said, I have trouble with how this has worked out for Wizards. Way, way too often Wizards has made one of these hard choices and reneged on a promise that they had made. Maybe that was unavoidable, and maybe they did choose the least-bad option. However, in way, way too many cases, Wizards does not seem to have thought through the consequences and ramifications of their choices. Take the massive cuts to appearance fees – how could Wizards have missed that eliminating payments that players had already spent time and effort earning would be perceived as unfair? (And not just perceived – taking away something players have sacrificed to earn is unfair.)   I have real trouble believing that Wizards does a decent job of evaluating outcomes if something like this surprises them. But this happens again and again. I’m tired of writing articles were I end up asking “how could Wizards not have foreseen this?”
 
Here’s the other problem – way too often changes of this kind strike like thunderbolts out of the blue. Wizards give us no warning – the changes are just announced, often cloaked in platitudes and positive language. In 2007, Wizards announced significant cuts to pro player support with no warning or explanation. The pros banded together and fought back, and Wizards had to roll back the changes. One of the concessions that Wizards made at that point was to establish procedures and pathways for communications between Wizards and players, including the pros. These lasted the better part of a decade, until last weekend, when Wizards once again announced huge cuts without warning or consultation. And once again, they have had to apologize, roll the changes back and promise better communication in the future.
 
There is a better way. Psychiatrists, sociologists, marketing professional all studied this endlessly. Politicians and salespeople have known this for millennia. To get buy in from those involved, you explain the goals/needs, and why those goals are important for everyone. Then you lay out the cuts and costs, and ask for feedback. Once you have made your decision, you explain how you have allocated the pain, and why. Sometimes there are no good outcomes, but if everyone affected is equally unhappy, that is probably the best you can do. (I used to do rate design for utilities – that’s the secret to allocating price increases fairly.)  
 
Sometimes choices will inevitably cause pain. All you can do is warn people it is coming, show them that you have done everything you can to minimize the pain, and then do it. 
 
Or you can hit someone over the head with a club, giving no warning at all, then look away and whistle. Or just say that “we are whacking away like this because it better meets our goals.” Any MBA ever created can explain that this approach is just bad.   For that matter, most first graders can tell you this is a bad approach. 
 
Too bad I have to keep writing articles about how Wizards just doesn’t understand this, or maybe just doesn’t understand that it is important to talk to us, their customers.   
 
Sigh.
 

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.
 
I control a Bearer of Overwhelming Truths (a transformed Daring Sleuth). You have no blockers. I attack. Before damage, you cast Jace’s Scrutiny, making my Bearer a 0/2. The Bearer connects. Do I get to investigate?
 
 
As always, there are no relevant cards not mentioned: the Bearer has no counters or equipment on it, and no static abilities affect its power.
 

Cutting Edge Tech:

Standard: We had a Standard Pro Tour last weekend. It was awesome. The Top 8 featured some of the game’s best players, playing eight entirely different decks. Coverage, including decklists, is here. I also checked out the decks that did quite well in the Standard rounds of the Swiss. This deck did not make T8, but it is interesting. I’m considering taking it to league.
 

Sultai Midrange, Grzegorz Kowalski, 8-2 in Standard at the Pro Tour
Creatures
Non-Creatures
Sideboard
 
 
 
 
4 Forest
1 Island
5 Swamp
 
 

 
Modern: Modern may no longer be a Pro Tour format, but it is still being played. It will be played a lot more once we get closer to the next Modern PTQ season. For now, though, it is pretty diverse. The newly unbanned cards are coming back, but not in huge numbers. From the last list of 5-0 league decks, I only found one Thopter deck.
 
 
Legacy: Last weekend, SCG ran state championships across the country, instead of Opens and Classics. The only Legacy results on display were league results. So here's a fun deck - and a song to get stuck in your head, earwig style.    . 
 
 
Vintage:  Nothing this week. The VSL delayed another week, due to the PT and the fall0out from the on-again, off-again changes to Platinum level. Next week, we hope, the ten player VSL S5 qualifying tournament begins.
 

Card Prices

Note: all my prices come from the fine folks at MTGOTraders.com. 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 MTGOTraders.com 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: SoI is here, and we have seen the Pro Tour decks. Prices are dropping. Several of these cards are likely to disappear next week – I tend to cut anything under $5. However, I may wait. Prices are very cyclical early in a format, and it is early.      
 

Standard Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$30.68
$34.38
($3.70)
-11%
$3.30
$8.24
($4.94)
-60%
$4.93
$8.90
($3.97)
-45%
$23.02
$22.44
$0.58
3%
$24.17
$22.28
$1.89
8%
$5.49
$9.01
($3.52)
-39%
$6.39
$18.39
($12.00)
-65%
$15.62
$18.02
($2.40)
-13%
$19.24
$20.72
($1.48)
-7%
$60.51
$69.15
($8.64)
-12%
$29.74
$10.97
$18.77
171%
$6.63
$8.79
($2.16)
-25%
$8.64
$8.87
($0.23)
-3%
$7.20
$9.71
($2.51)
-26%
$9.49
$3.52
$5.97
170%
$8.46
$6.68
$1.78
27%
$21.06
$13.54
$7.52
56%
$7.39
$15.78
($8.39)
-53%
$4.98
$9.70
($4.72)
-49%
$5.66
$7.81
($2.15)
-28%
$7.71
$5.72
$1.99
35%

Modern staples:  Modern took a hit again this week, but not a large one. I doubt the elimination of the modern Pro Tour had any impact – odds are better people are just slowly working back into the format. 
 

Modern Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$18.75
$21.86
($3.11)
-14%
$20.39
$21.59
($1.20)
-6%
$35.49
$35.87
($0.38)
-1%
$22.69
$24.35
($1.66)
-7%
$22.19
$26.51
($4.32)
-16%
$28.46
$28.02
$0.44
2%
$14.09
$17.48
($3.39)
-19%
$29.42
$38.67
($9.25)
-24%
$16.40
$13.72
$2.68
20%
$27.91
$28.63
($0.72)
-3%
$21.14
$25.00
($3.86)
-15%
$26.95
$34.89
($7.94)
-23%
$20.19
$24.00
($3.81)
-16%
$82.35
$104.45
($22.10)
-21%
$9.58
$13.15
($3.57)
-27%
$28.97
$34.91
($5.94)
-17%
$25.59
$34.36
($8.77)
-26%
$38.63
$41.61
($2.98)
-7%
$49.14
$57.45
($8.31)
-14%
$19.99
$20.33
($0.34)
-2%
$18.75
$19.86
($1.11)
-6%
$33.68
$34.67
($0.99)
-3%

Legacy and Vintage: Legacy and Vintage are down again this week. I suspect people are selling old cards to pay for Shadows over Innistrad limited - liquidating what they don’t need in expectation of Eternal Masters.
 

Legacy / Vintage Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$50.46
$54.70
($4.24)
-8%
$142.52
$148.44
($5.92)
-4%
$24.53
$25.97
($1.44)
-6%
$20.09
$22.45
($2.36)
-11%
$36.47
$33.58
$2.89
9%
$35.61
$35.61
$0.00
0%
$17.90
$20.84
($2.94)
-14%
$43.31
$44.39
($1.08)
-2%
$33.62
$33.09
$0.53
2%
$103.60
$104.63
($1.03)
-1%
$42.22
$42.15
$0.07
0%
$65.27
$67.88
($2.61)
-4%
$161.65
$162.15
($0.50)
0%
$32.80
$36.10
($3.30)
-9%
$57.92
$66.85
($8.93)
-13%
$40.19
$41.86
($1.67)
-4%
$57.58
$65.85
($8.27)
-13%

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.   Nothing strange about the hard fall in Shadows cards. The prices I had last week were just days into the set being available. Prices will drop after that.
 

Complete Set
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
Battle for Zendikar
$62.76
$64.23
($1.47)
-2%
Dragons of Tarkir
$131.01
$138.03
($7.02)
-5%
Magic Origins
$153.72
$140.92
$12.80
9%
Oath of the Gatewatch
$103.40
$78.24
$25.16
32%
Shadows over Innistrad
$117.15
$173.88
($56.73)
-33%

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 use the promo program to up the supply of some needed cards. These may qualify. (Gaea’s Cradle made it!) The list is down to about 50 cards this week. I’m guessing people are selling now, expecting to rebuy at lower prices when Eternal Masters gets here.
 

Name
Set
Rarity
 Price
Rishadan Port
 MM
Rare
 $ 161.65
Black Lotus
 VMA
Bonus
 $ 142.52
Misdirection
 MM
Rare
 $ 103.60
Liliana of the Veil
 ISD
Mythic Rare
 $ 82.35
Mox Sapphire
 VMA
Bonus
 $ 65.27
Wasteland
 TE
Uncommon
 $ 61.00
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
 ORI
Mythic Rare
 $ 60.51
Tangle Wire
 NE
Rare
 $ 57.92
Wasteland
 TPR
Rare
 $ 57.58
Tarmogoyf
 FUT
Rare
 $ 57.36
Tarmogoyf
 MM2
Mythic Rare
 $ 52.46
Ancestral Recall
 VMA
Bonus
 $ 50.46
Tarmogoyf
 MMA
Mythic Rare
 $ 49.14
City of Traitors
 EX
Rare
 $ 46.70
Ensnaring Bridge
 ST
Rare
 $ 44.72
Gaea's Cradle
 UZ
Rare
 $ 43.31
Mox Jet
 VMA
Bonus
 $ 42.22
City of Traitors
 TPR
Rare
 $ 40.79
Time Walk
 VMA
Bonus
 $ 40.19
Scapeshift
 MOR
Rare
 $ 38.63
Exploration
 UZ
Rare
 $ 36.47
Underground Sea
 ME2
Rare
 $ 35.94
Food Chain
 MM
Rare
 $ 35.61
Batterskull
 NPH
Mythic Rare
 $ 35.49
Mox Emerald
 VMA
Bonus
 $ 35.38
Mox Ruby
 VMA
Bonus
 $ 34.90
Voice of Resurgence
 DGM
Mythic Rare
 $ 33.68
Infernal Tutor
 DIS
Rare
 $ 33.62
Ensnaring Bridge
 8ED
Rare
 $ 33.43
Show and Tell
 UZ
Rare
 $ 32.80
Lion's Eye Diamond
 MI
Rare
 $ 32.79
Mox Opal
 SOM
Mythic Rare
 $ 32.50
Force of Will
 MED
Rare
 $ 32.08
Mox Pearl
 VMA
Bonus
 $ 31.39
Underground Sea
 ME4
Rare
 $ 30.92
Archangel Avacyn
 SOI
Mythic Rare
 $ 30.68
Celestial Colonnade
 WWK
Rare
 $ 30.55
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
 OGW
Mythic Rare
 $ 29.74
Ensnaring Bridge
 7E
Rare
 $ 29.42
Daze
 DD2
Common
 $ 29.40
Mox Opal
 MM2
Mythic Rare
 $ 28.97
Crucible of Worlds
 5DN
Rare
 $ 28.55
Crucible of Worlds
 10E
Rare
 $ 28.46
Griselbrand
 AVR
Mythic Rare
 $ 27.91
Horizon Canopy
 FUT
Rare
 $ 26.95
Containment Priest
 C14
Rare
 $ 26.32
Fetid Heath
 EVE
Rare
 $ 26.19
Volcanic Island
 ME4
Rare
 $ 25.85
Scalding Tarn
 ZEN
Rare
 $ 25.59
Blood Moon
 9ED
Rare
 $ 25.48
Containment Priest
 PZ1
Rare
 $ 25.41
Volcanic Island
 ME3
Rare
 $ 25.36

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 $ 26,300.  That’s down a whopping $2,100 from last week’s number.  Some of that is Shadows over Innistrad losing their prerelease premium prices, and some is the general sell-off after the PT.  Eternal Masters may have some effect – as have pros upset at Wizards for the whole Platinum fiasco.
 

Weekly Highlights:

Rollercoaster of a weekend. I was looking forward to States, but life intervened and I could not play.   The Pro Tour was awesome, but everyone I was rooting for got knocked out in the first round of the Top 8. Then came the organized play mess, showing that Wizards just does not understand that professional Magic players can do math and understand variance – and that Wizards just does not know how to communicate
 
PRJ
 
“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:

I control a Bearer of Overwhelming Truths (a transformed Daring Sleuth). I attack, and you do not block. Before damage, you cast Jace’s Scrutiny, making my Bearer a 0/2. The Bearer connects. Do I get to investigate?
 
 
 
The answer is no. The rules tell us to treat zero damage as if the damage did not happen.
 
 

31 Comments

WINDOWS 10 STINKS for mtgo by mindlesslemming at Fri, 04/29/2016 - 12:08
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DO NOT BUY a windows 10 pc machine. its f ducking terrible. crashes constantly even with all the windows 10 setting on auto update and share with "whoever" software. stick with a windows 7 OS if you need a new machine

Hasbro by Sensei at Fri, 04/29/2016 - 12:32
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WotC could easily double the payouts on Pro Tours and probably on Grand Prixs and still profit from M:TG. It's a matter of hitting their profit targets and what kind of expenses they want to tolerate.

I think there is a slight by xger at Fri, 04/29/2016 - 13:56
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I think there is a slight disconnect in your argument. You acknowledge that this could be a senior management mandated change (which could include Hasbro, people who are probably not all that familiar within the specific inner workings of magic). Then you claim the "how could Wizards not foresee this?" I think it's entirely possible Wizards did, but their hand was forced anyway. At least I hope that's how it played out.

The thing about the Pro Tour by ricklongo at Fri, 04/29/2016 - 15:04
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5

The thing about the Pro Tour is that, even though 99% of players will never get to get on the "gravy train" (do they still call it that these days?), aspiration is a strong force. The fact that there is a professional circuit, with people making their living out of it, is cool enough that people will get that extra push to attend stuff like GPs, PTQs, WMCQs, and even LGS tournaments every weekend. Even if most of them know deep down that they will probably not get anywhere as far as professional Magic is concerned, its existence adds a whole new level to the excitement of competition.

Plus, Magic is a game of extreme variance, unlike most other e-Sports, which are more reliant on pure skill and dexterity, meaning they have to account for that when they decide on how to split prize money. The current PT champion might very well not crack the top 72 next tournament, because that's just how the game is.

Bottom line: making the professional circuit as top-heavy as Wizards wanted, just for the sake of having a big cash prize in a single yearly tournament to put into the spotlight, is a great mistake that undermines the feasibility of actually living as a pro player - and, as a result, the aspiration of thousands of local tournament players everywhere.

minor q re: judge question by laffyFleur at Fri, 04/29/2016 - 19:28
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i know I must be missing something. Bearer of Overwhelming Truths is a 3/2. Jace's Scrutiny gives a creature -4/0. You say "Before damage, you cast Jace’s Scrutiny, making my Bearer a 0/2." Why not -1/2? It doesn't change the answer to your question, just curious what I'm missing.

Because power can not be by Paul Leicht at Fri, 04/29/2016 - 19:59
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Because power can not be reduced to a negative. That would lead to confusion about maybe actually gaining life from an attacker with negative power.

it can be reduced to a by laffyFleur at Fri, 04/29/2016 - 20:39
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it can be reduced to a negative on MTGO & happens all the time. the negative numbers are necessary to properly account for further modifications--for example, if you put a +1/+1 counter on a creature that is -2/7, it becomes -1/8, not 1/8. if you cast giant growth on a -2/7 it becomes 1/10, not 3/10. is this not true in paper?

(it's true that a creature does 0 *damage* regardless of whether it has 0 or negative power, but you absolutely see negative numbers on power all the time on MTGO, precisely for the reason I give above).

Yes and in paper magic you by Paul Leicht at Fri, 04/29/2016 - 20:44
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Yes and in paper magic you still keep track of the negatives so that the math works that way too. But for PRACTICAL purposes the power =0. This means that not only does it deal 0 damage but spells that compare power see it as 0 not negative.

ah, i see your point. i think by laffyFleur at Fri, 04/29/2016 - 20:46
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ah, i see your point. i think it's fair to say we're both right (how often does that happen?)!

"This means that not only by longtimegone at Sat, 04/30/2016 - 04:04
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"This means that not only does it deal 0 damage but spells that compare power see it as 0 not negative."

No, it uses the negative number. If, for example, you cast Tragic slip with morbid on a Wild Beastmaster with it's trigger on the stack, your opponent's whole team is going to have a bad day.

Not to mention there are two by AJ_Impy at Sat, 04/30/2016 - 04:32
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Not to mention there are two creatures that start with negative power, namely Char-Rumbler and Spinal Parasite. Damage which is less than zero is treated as zero, but power that is less than zero isn't.

I stand corrected then. I by Paul Leicht at Sat, 04/30/2016 - 05:55
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I stand corrected then. I recall what I explained as the official answer years ago when this came up but *shrugs* old man and unreliable memory + not too bright, clearly.

As per usual Pete, your by Paul Leicht at Fri, 04/29/2016 - 19:58
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5

As per usual Pete, your wisdom strikes to the heart of the matter. Wizards are absolutely terrible at communication. It is a skillset that is only slightly better than their ability to create and maintain a happy player experience on MTGO. And I think the two problems are interrelated. They post stuff on tumblr, twitter, and facebook in order to be "with the millenials" but miss a good portion of their player base entirely when they had a perfectly usable home base in their own site until they deliberately and with malice aforethought wrecked it. (Killed it.)

As you said like thunderbolts out of the blue. That is usually what I mean when I say a decision (any really) that they made seems draconian. No warning, no believable or palatable explanation and then later when (if) the decision is detracted a sense of shock that they were wrong. This DOES seem like a pattern relatable in some psychological manner. Like having a drunk uncle who steals the family car, wrecks it, apologizes, almost kills the family pet then manages last minute to save it and finally while in rehab, admits that they never did pay the utility bills that they were given responsibility for. In other words: Dysfunctional. I have felt that WOTC acts in a dysfunctional manner for a long long time now. It grieves me because in some important ways I do see the company as family. Very upsetting, Randy Quaid sort of family.

re by Hearts at Sun, 05/01/2016 - 12:00
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WotC isnt terrible at communication, on the contrary they are quite good at it.

This is all about wotc greed and a customer mass that is easy to mislead.

I don't agree with your point by Paul Leicht at Sun, 05/01/2016 - 13:15
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I don't agree with your point of view. Occam's razor shows me a different, less complicated scenario than everyone at WoTC conspiring to rip off and bamboozle their customers (us.)

While I empathize with the feeling of betrayal that comes with each heavy silence (tribal wars filter gone without response to the community who fought for them to keep it) or miscommunicated missive like "We are cutting Pros appearance fees...", I recognize that in the adult world compromises are made in order to get things done.

It is more likely that whomever was given the directive to change how the marketing budget is allocated simply didn't do their due diligence and didn't ask those who would know what the consequences would be and then gave a poorly worded order to do x and y and then left it to the proper departments to take care of the details.

If they handled it properly in terms of communication (give enough time so that this year's crop of platinum grinders still got paid for example), whatever their ulterior motives might be, there would be NO outcries at all. (This is a game after all where a large portion of the player base practically screams at them to take their money.)

Instead because it was done without warning and with no finesse, they got the backlash their poor communication deserved. #paythepros suddenly trending very heavily.

Of course corporate greed is always a danger with corporations (because they exist to make money for their shareholders) And certainly within the context of Wizards there will always be tension between making enough money to support all the programs and products they want to support and making enough to justify their ongoing corporate existence to the shareholders (Hasbro).

I think it is far too easy to just assign a monolithic motive to this faceless entity that makes the cards we love but in order to better understand the reason why this keeps happening we need to gaze behind the curtain and understand the fact that this is a company made up of individuals (people in fact) who may have conflicting and sometimes contradictory goals/job descriptions/functions.

To be fair I don't think we should let them off easy because of the screwed up nature of their corporate culture. I think it high time WOTC gets their crap together and starts showing us (the players) more respect by giving us better communiques and by listening to us preemptively instead of just when we yell really loudly. And they need to be more open about what it is they need and want from the player base. (As they were with the Modern off the pro tour circuit article.)

Communication is a two way street after all. If one avenue is shut off or dysfunctional then it isn't working properly at all and that could lead to problems that snowball out of control.

I also disagree with this, by JXClaytor at Sun, 05/01/2016 - 23:34
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I also disagree with this, but not nearly as much as I think I do. I think WOTC is good at communication in terms of hey, they have something to say that could be good for the game, but they are not good at full information, or letting their communication be overcome by noise.

For instance, the first time Modern was dropped as a Pro Tour format, they left out that the Standard rotation was going to be changed. Had they included that key bit of information, there still would have been outrage (because there is always going to be outrage), but it would have been more palpable. People I think were rightly incensed that Standard was going to be the main format, because Standard at the time had been easily solved and grew stale quickly. Had we been given this bit of information I think the narrative is able to change about how cool Standard will be on a faster rotation schedule.

Their communication in regards to the Platinum changes I think is one overcome by noise. I don't mean that they were hard to understand, what I mean by noise is why would they be making this change so close to the end of the season, when everyone that was grinding for platinum has already spent so many resources to make that costly grind based on what was promoted already. The noise here was because of the timing of the announcement. Had it been before this past season, or the timing not been effective at the next pro tour, I don't think #paythepros overshadows the documentary release or dominates twitter.

What I will give them credit for is mastering the art of the walkback communication. They've had to go back on PWP invites to the Pro Tour, the Modern Tour getting cut, the platinum changes. They are granted, very good at product announcements, but public relations is much more than that.

re by Hearts at Mon, 05/02/2016 - 12:44
Hearts's picture

When you are as greedy as wotc is you cant run a conversation that is predictable (like always take first and then give something lesser back just after), you have to become absurd so that the communication itself is extremely hard to approach in general.

Compare this to the Comp Rules, that's where they learnt this.

I disagree that WOTC is by JXClaytor at Mon, 05/02/2016 - 12:56
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I disagree that WOTC is greedy. Sure they are a business, and a business only has one reason to exist, that being profit, but they are too good to the community, they gave a lot of money to Christopher Rush's family after his passing. They are active with Extra Life. They have been active with Child's Play in the past. I cannot recall how many times I have seen them send product to a small child, or a solider, or a school club. To say that WotC is motivated by greed or communicates with greed only in mind I feel is not correct.

Of course it helps when your parent company is named one of the most Ethical companies. Also one of the 100 best corporate citizens.

re by Hearts at Mon, 05/02/2016 - 16:02
Hearts's picture

This is not meant as direct continuation of the above;

- wotc makes cards and rules, and wpn.
- wotc makes dci (a department of wotc).
- wotc hires judges, for cards and some (smaller) amounts of money here and there, pays hotel for them (often), etc.
- Elliott is the HJ of the mtg world (probably were different one earlier, and before that, etc)
- when rules discussions come up, the more you press it, you eventually will be directed to Mr Elliott. Who is Elliott ? He is a volunteer us citizen, he can resign any moment and no player (or even wotc) can sue him for anything game related.

DCI or WotC this or that, the players last appeal possibility is something that can just resign from it all. This is how WotC runs their business, and I do not believe people understand what impact this has on how the mtg(-tournament) life is.

1: they make something.
2: they write the words for it.
3: They get the money for the product.
4: they let OTHER people interpret those words and (have them take the blame if they are wrong).

The disconnect is absurd.

(Possible) context ?; The judge lawsuit against wotc in California.
That judges are tired of;
- players that complain in social media and whatnot and are horribly wrong about it.
- getting multi-interpretable rules from wotc in front of every prerelease.
- not getting paid enough.
- other judges that interpret things wrongly.
- players that complain and are right.

:- wotc hires judges, for by longtimegone at Tue, 05/03/2016 - 05:07
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:- wotc hires judges, for cards and some (smaller) amounts of money here and there, pays hotel for them (often), etc.

This is incorrect. Judges are hired and paid by the company that organizes the tournament they are working in, not WotC itself. Star city chooses and pays the judges for their events, as do all the rest. The only events WotC directly runs and staffs are the 4 pro tour events and Worlds.

re by Hearts at Tue, 05/03/2016 - 13:34
Hearts's picture

I recongise much of what you say, but what do you know ?

Do you know the contracts between the various "TOs" and wotc ?
Just because we dont see Mark Rosewater or Scott Larabee around when at GPs in Lisbon, Miami or the South Pole doesnt mean that it isnt wotc that is the TO.

What you write is an assumption, a pretty reasonable one if it wasnt for that we are talking mtg and wotc. And when we talk mtg and wotc I choose to not be much reasonable and certainly do not assume anything, and in addition I put a question mark with everything.

That company is completely crazy !

Not ONE GP Ive been to have I heard; "the TO for this gp is...".

re by Hearts at Tue, 05/03/2016 - 19:14
Hearts's picture

Speculations...

You said youd never by Paul Leicht at Tue, 05/03/2016 - 20:12
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You said youd never seen/heard of a TO for a GP. That link presents you one. Unless you believe face to face (a legit store) is LYING and is in COLLUSION with Wizards??

re by Hearts at Tue, 05/03/2016 - 23:03
Hearts's picture

For what you know those people may not have a contract for doing anything else than providing the practical things for the GP (rent, carpets, tables, lighting, food, etc).

It is still completely up in the air who is the to, and to make the point crystal clear; it is nowhere defined or promised by wotc what a "TO" exactly is in the first place. (Does he have authority over the judges f.ex. ?)

WotC hold all the cards, and they havent ever defined or explicitly explained an inch more than they (feel they) have to.

But this might change now, with the judge lawsuit.

On mtgo it is like this;

Talk in support channel on mtgo;
me; *complain about something*
orc; there is nothing wrong
me; it is, terms and agreement says so
orc; no, code of conduct / terms of use do not say this (both linked)
me; do you have a history of previous versions of Terms of Use ? how many times it has been changed... and what was changed...etc
orc; We do not. That is our most up to date terms of use policy.
me; ...

They can change stuff overnight(i guess ?) and we cannot see previous versions - is that even allowed ?
It pretty much leaves the user powerless...

WotC is the worst kind...

re by Hearts at Tue, 05/03/2016 - 23:53
Hearts's picture

Just have to laugh about the vip packages they try to shove onto the players at these events, it is stupidity incarnated.

Yeah, i pushed a link or two on that site and it sure looks like they are goona do more than serve food.

The Vip plans are a super by JXClaytor at Tue, 05/03/2016 - 23:58
JXClaytor's picture

The Vip plans are a super racket!

Speculation is claiming that by longtimegone at Wed, 05/04/2016 - 07:31
longtimegone's picture

Speculation is claiming that the numerous different companies that run magic events are all secret fronts for WotC with nothing to back it up.

re by Hearts at Wed, 05/04/2016 - 10:34
Hearts's picture

Well, if you replace companies with judges you pretty much have the truth there.
The truth that is that a vast number of volunteer judges on many different levels have earned wotc like 700 million dollars over the 20 years they have run PTs/GPs/reg lvl.

WPN wouldnt be possible without the super nerds of our community - the judges.

Deep end? Meet Heart, Heart? by Paul Leicht at Wed, 05/04/2016 - 13:10
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Deep end? Meet Heart, Heart? Meet Deep end.

good opinion piece by eksiii at Sat, 04/30/2016 - 10:21
eksiii's picture
5

Great analysis and wisdom, as always.

What if WoTC simply raised the price of packs by $1? Selling packs seems like their main revenue-maker. Going up 20% would seem to make a big difference to their bottom line. And adults and kids (who get money from their folks) alike could probably stomach that, especially if it meant better events, better tourneys, and better MTGO. (All that is assuming Wizards plowed the money back into improving the world and business of Magic.)