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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Aug 12 2016 12:00pm
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 State of the Program for August 12th 2016

In the News:

Hall of Fame Inductees:  Two more players have been voted into the Magic Hall of Fame.  This year’s choices are Owen Turtenwald and Yuuya Watanabe.  Details here.  Owen also managed to edge out Seth Manfield for Player of the Year.
Pro Tour Gauntlet to Return August 10-17:  Once again, we will be able to play with decks that did well at the Pro Tour, even if we don’t own the cards.  The gauntlet is, in effect, a constructed phantom event, with Wizards loaning you the cards for the duration of the event.  The gauntlet contains the following decks:  WB Control, Temur Emerge, Bant Company, BG Delirium, Red-Green Ramp, UR Fevered Visions, Mono-White Humans, Jund Delirium, UB Zombies, Naya Legendary, and Four-Color Emerge.  Full decklists are here
Premier Play Changes:  Last Pro Tour, Wizards announced a series of changes to the World Championships and Platinum Pro Tour club benefits.  The announcement did not go over well, and Wizards reversed itself. It also promised to work together with a group of pros and affected parties to re-examine the proposed changes.  Last weekend, Wizards announced the results of that collaboration.  Starting with the 2017-2018 season, Wizards is making some changes.  It is eliminating the free hotel rooms at Pro Tours (most pro teams were renting houses anyway) and adding that to prize pools.  Wizards is also making some changes to eliminate the current perceived need for pros to grind GPs, to prevent burn-out.  This includes eliminating the GP Master Worlds qualification slot, along with top Hall of Famer and so forth.  The invites for Worlds will go to the MTGO champ, the four PT champs, last year’s Worlds champ, player of the year, the North American, South American, Asian and European champs and the top 13 players (based on pro points) not otherwise qualified.  Overall, this seems to make sense, and pros are generally in favor.
Change to the Pro Tour Top 8 Bracket:  Traditionally, Wizards has run events that cut to a Top 8, and those eight players play three rounds of single elimination matches to determine a winner.  This has resulted in lots of intentional draws and concessions as players secure Top 8 slots.  This does not play well on coverage, and Wizards has tried various method of controlling it (“no draws” failed badly in the 1990s, and the more recent “higher seed plays first” is not enough.)  However, as Randy Buehler’s VSL has shown us, a single elim Top 8 is not the only option.  Wizards has crafted a new structure.  Going forward, Top 8s will have more of a “wild card” structure, and involve four rounds of play.  In round one, the fifth seed plays the eight seed and the sixth seed plays seventh.  In the second round, the winner of the 5/8 match plays the fourth seed, and the winner of the 6/7 match plays the third seed.  In the semifinals, the first seed plays one of the remaining players, and the second seed plays the other.  The winners play in the finals.  This means that ending up with a higher seed provides a huge advantage, which should limit the number of IDs at the top of the bracket.   Note: this only applies, for now at least, to the Pro Tour.  I could see Wizards using this for Grand Prix in the future, since they would only need to modify “Walter”, the software that runs large events, but I don’t expect this to come to MTGO or store level paper events anytime soon.  Of course, if players really like it, that could change.
Pro Tour Team Competition:  In the same announcement, Wizards has said it will be supporting a Pro Tour Team competition. At the beginning of the year, Pro players can register in teams of 9 players.  Those rosters stay the same all year.  Wizards will track the pro points won at pro tours.  Players in the top teams will be invited to the final pro tour of the year (if not already qualified), and the top two teams will compete at Worlds for a $200,000 prize pool. 
World Championship Roster Announced:  With Pro Tour Eldritch Moon over, we know all the participants in this year’s World Championship.  Worlds will start in a couple weeks (dates September 1-4), and full details are here.
Duel Decks and FtV Lore Announced:  Wizards has released the decklists for the Duel Decks:  Nissa vs. Ob Nixilis (here) and the contents of From the Vault: Lore (here).  The Duel decks will not be coming to MTGO, but FtV Lore will.  I discuss these in the opinion section, below. 
Randy Buehler Retires from Coverage:  After broadcasting at 72 Pro Tours and a hundred other premier events, Randy is hanging up his headset – at least as far as Wizards official coverage goes.  He will still be doing VSL and CSL, and other video work, but not Pro Tour coverage.  Actually, Randy would much prefer to be playing on the Pro Tour, but his wife works for Wizards, so he is not eligible.  If he were – well, before he became one of the first pro players hired by Wizards because of his PT knowledge, he was unstoppable.  His average finish at Pro Tours he played in was amazing. 
LS3 Top 8s:  Luis Scott-Vargas became the first player this millennium to make Top 8 in three consecutive Pro Tours.  That hasn’t happened since Jon Finkel did it 18 years ago.  LSV clinches the last Outstanding Hall of Famer slot for Worlds.
Tolarian Community College hits 150k Subscribers:  The TCC became the first independent YouTube channel to hit 150k – making it the largest YouTube Magic channel.  I’m definitely part of that total.  Sample here.

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 August 27th
·         Legacy Challenge:  Second Saturday of the month, at 11am Pacific.  Next one August 13th.   
·         No Downtime on these Dates:  August 31st, September 14th, October 12th, November 2nd, 9th and 30th and December 14th
·         Eldritch Moon Championship Finals - Limited: Saturday, August 27.  Details here.
·         Eldritch Moon Championship Finals - Standard: Sunday, September 2.  Details here
·         League End Dates:  all current leagues end October 5th. 
·         Duel Decks:   Nissa vs. Ob Nixilis:  paper release September 2016.
·         Kaladesh Prerelease:  October 7-10, on sale October 10th.  Product code KLD.
·         From the Vault Lore:  releases online October 10, 2016.
·         Commander 2016:  paper release November 2016.  No MTGO release, but key cards will be released online within another product.
·         Aether Revolt:  January 2017 release
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. 
·         (Pause for Eldritch Moon release events)
·         Triple Zendikar:  August 17 to August 24
·         2 Zendikar, Worldwake:  August 24 to August 31
·         Triple Rise of the Eldrazi:  August 31 to September 7
·         Triple Magic 2011:  September 7 to September 14
·         Triple Scars of Mirrodin:  September 14 to September 21
·         Mirrodin Besieged, 2 Scars of Mirrodin: September 21 to September 28
·         New Phyrexia, Mirrodin Besieged, Scars of Mirrodin:  September 28 to October 5
·         (pause for Kaladesh release events)
·         Triple Innistrad:  October 26 to November 2
·         Dark Ascension, 2 Innistrad:  November 2 to November 9
·         Triple Magic 2012: November 9 to November 16
·         Triple Avacyn Restored: November 16 to November 23
·         Triple Magic 2013:  November 23 to November 30
·         Triple Return to Ravnica:  November 30 to December 7
·         Triple Gatecrash:  December 7 to December 14
·         Dragon’s Maze, Gatecrash, Return to Ravnica:  December 14 to December 21
Flashback This Week:  Flashback drafts resume next Wednesday with triple Zendikar.  The money cards in that format are the fetchlands, plus Bloodghast, Mindbreak Trap, Eldrazi Monument and Pyromancer Ascension.

Opinion Section:  Special Sets and MTGO

Last week, Wizards gave us more details on a couple of products, including Duel Decks Nissa vs. Ob Nixilis and From the Vaults: Lore.  We also know that new Commander decks will be arriving in November.  We also know that the Duel decks and Commander 2015 decks will NOT be sold online.   Some Commander 2015 cards will be included in a future online product.   FtV Lore, however, will be on MTGO in about two months.  Let’s talk about this.
First, the Duel Decks.  Wizards did offer duel decks on MTGO years ago, but they did not sell.  Duel decks target more casual players, who want a balanced set of decks to pull out and play with friends.  Some players also modify the decks and play them casually.  The duel decks are aimed at the “kitchen table” crowd, and at groups who can agree to play a self-defined “just duel decks” format.  It works for them. 
Once upon a time, MTGO tried a duel decks only format online, but few people played.  The effort to code and maintain the format was far too great, and it disappeared.  In MTGO version 3, players could post a plaintive “duel decks only” request in comments, but that never worked very well.  With the current client, it is pretty much impossible to find pick up duel deck matches.  That means that the decks would only be bought by people who wanted the cards – but the average value of the cards in the duel decks is usually less than a quarter of the MSPR.  For all these reasons, Wizards stopped selling the dual decks online years ago, and I doubt we will see them back.  Duel decks have a significantly worse EV than cracking online packs.   There is no way Wizards would sell enough of them to cover the minimal costs of coding them and adding them to the store. 
Next up, we have the From the Vault: Lore set.  I was all set to hate this product.  I have forgotten how expensive old cards have become, and that not everyone played through these blocks.  I have also forgotten how good some of these cards are in casual decks, and formats like Commander.  Then I did the math.  Here’s the breakdown for both the paper and online versions.  
Beseech the Queen
$ 4.25
$ 0.03
Cabal Ritual
$ 1.60
$ 0.02
$ 3.35
$ 0.48
Dark Depths
$ 50.00
$ 12.58
Glissa, the Traitor
$ 2.90
$ 0.67
$ 1.29
$ 0.30
$ 7.29
$ 1.37
Mind's Desire
$ 1.69
$ 0.06
Momir Vig, Simic Visionary
$ 7.39
$ 0.56
Near-Death Experience
$ 0.55
$ 0.01
$ 3.39
$ 0.28
Phyrexian Processor
$ 1.09
$ 0.66
Tolaria West
$ 4.79
$ 0.41
Umezawa's Jitte
$ 34.19
$ 3.37
$ 5.00
$ 39.52
$ 128.77
$ 60.32
The FtV decks have an MSRP of $39.95.   The FtV reprint may push the price of Unmask down some, since much of the value of Mercadian Masques cards is due to the fact that only Joshua, me and maybe four other people ever played Masques block limited.  Dark Depths, however, is super expensive because it is that good, and that broken.   FtV: Lore is probably worth the price, if you play Legacy, or want to gamble on an investment.  The paper gamble seems reasonable – the online gamble is risky.  The online value of FtV: Lore is based on two cards, which Wizards could reprint in Eternal Masters II, or something like that.  Still, not a bad value – more so if you need the cards or just like foils. 
And that brings us to the new Commander decks.  In years past, Wizards tried selling Commander decks on MTGO.  Pretty much all the cards that are printed in Commander decks are generally either chase cards or super cheap online.  The Commander decks were only worth anything if they contained unique cards that were in high demand: cards like Containment Priest, True-Name Nemesis, Flusterstorm and so on.  Without a chase card like those, the cards in a Commander decks were worth a tenth of the Commander deck retail price.  No one bought those decks.  It was never worth paying $30 for a deck with $5 worth of singles.  While it feels strange to not get the Commander decks online, it makes a lot more sense to include the chase and unique cards in something like a new Masters edition or a special draft set.  Wizards did the same thing with the playable Conspiracy cards.  I just hope we don’t have to wait is not too long to get the cards, especially if Commander 2016 includes cards that actually affect the Legacy metagame.  

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 get harder as they go.  The goal is to determine what areas of the rules I need to teach, and what my candidate already knows.  And to have some fun.  Here we go.
You control a Devoted Retainer which is equipped with Oathkeeper.  I target it with Turn to Slag, which resolves.  What happens next?  Does anything end up in the graveyard?
Devoted Retainer 
Turn to Slag
As always, there are no cards of effects not mentioned.  No Leyline of the Void, no Absolute Law – none of that stuff.   The answer is at the end of the article.

Cutting Edge Tech:

Standard:  The Pro Tour was last weekend.  It was not all GW Tokens and Bant Company.  It was a lot of Emrakul, with a WB control deck coming out on top.  Coverage, including decklists, is here.   I could include a decklist here, but this link will take you to the Pro Tour Gauntlet, with eleven premier decklists. 
Modern:  A few of the new cards are showing up in Modern.  A recent competitive Modern league was won by a deck with six Thalias – three old and three EMN.  At the SCG Modern event, the eighth and ninth place decks were the same – featuring new Thalia, Spell Queller and Retreat to Coralhelm.  Interesting.


Legacy:  The largest Legacy event last weekend was the 286 player Big Magic Open in Japan (I think.  Asia for sure.)  The winning deck was Miracles, again, but the Top 8 had a decent mix of archetypes.   


Vintage:  Fewer Vintage events last weekend.  The most notable was probably Sunday’s Vintage Premier.  It was won by a Grixis deck featuring Young Pyromancer and baby Jace.  The more interesting deck was this fifth place deck, with 4 maindeck Thought-Knot Seers and a pair of Curious Homunculus in the sideboard.



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 was mixed this week.  More importantly, I added Eldritch Moon.  I grabbed everything initially at $8 and above.  We will see what stays.  Interestingly, most cards are up this week.    
Standard  Cards
Last Week
% Change
Collective Defiance
under $5
Gisela, the Broken Blade
Ishkanah, Grafwidow
Kytheon, Hero of Akros
(Selfless Spirit)
(Spell Queller)
Sylvan Advocate
Modern staples:   Modern recovered a bit this week.  A few cards were chased a little too hard, and are readjusting, but this looks a bit more normal.   Vendilion Clique may fall off the list – amazing given where it was a couple years (and two reprints) ago. 
Modern Cards
Last Week
% Change
Legacy and Vintage:  Legacy and Vintage are pretty quiet this week.  Nothing really interesting, but with all eyes on the Standard Pro Tour and VSL taking a week off, to be expected.
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. 
Complete Set
Last Week
% Change
Battle for Zendikar
Dragons of Tarkir
Eldritch Moon
Magic Origins
Oath of the Gatewatch
Shadows over Innistrad

 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.  The list looks pretty much like it did two or three weeks ago – but the prices are all shifted down a bit. 
Rishadan Port
 $ 236.84
Black Lotus
 $ 119.69
Liliana of the Veil
Mythic Rare
 $ 106.79
 $ 84.91
Mox Sapphire
 $ 54.51
 $ 52.54
Mythic Rare
 $ 52.22
Show and Tell
 $ 51.86
Mythic Rare
 $ 51.82
Tangle Wire
 $ 51.30
 $ 47.95
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
Mythic Rare
 $ 46.23
Gaea's Cradle
 $ 45.82
 $ 45.78
 $ 43.85
Liliana, the Last Hope
Mythic Rare
 $ 41.71
Voice of Resurgence
Mythic Rare
 $ 40.56
Force of Will
 $ 40.43
City of Traitors
 $ 40.35
Food Chain
 $ 39.33
Engineered Explosives
 $ 39.29
 $ 38.09
Engineered Explosives
 $ 37.04
Containment Priest
 $ 36.23
 $ 36.20
Volcanic Island
 $ 36.14
Ancestral Recall
 $ 35.63
Underground Sea
 $ 35.15
Volcanic Island
 $ 34.45
Ancestral Vision
 $ 34.44
Mox Jet
 $ 34.35
Cavern of Souls
 $ 34.23
City of Traitors
 $ 33.64
Containment Priest
 $ 33.51
Ensnaring Bridge
 $ 33.46
Infernal Tutor
 $ 32.36
Blood Moon
 $ 32.26
Lion's Eye Diamond
 $ 31.80
Inkmoth Nexus
 $ 31.59
Scalding Tarn
 $ 31.24
Time Walk
 $ 31.02
 $ 30.96
Mythic Rare
 $ 30.38
Horizon Canopy
 $ 30.23
Grove of the Burnwillows
 $ 29.78
Ensnaring Bridge
 $ 29.42
Underground Sea
 $ 29.32
Force of Will
Mythic Rare
 $ 28.94
 $ 28.91
Ancestral Vision
 $ 28.50
Celestial Colonnade
 $ 28.36
True-Name Nemesis
Mythic Rare
 $ 28.26
Mox Opal
Mythic Rare
 $ 28.16
Undiscovered Paradise
 $ 28.03
Mox Emerald
 $ 28.02
Mox Ruby
 $ 27.49
Blood Moon
 $ 27.41
Ensnaring Bridge
 $ 27.24
Blood Moon
 $ 27.19
Back to Basics
 $ 27.06
Force of Will
 $ 27.03
 $ 25.64
Mox Opal
Mythic Rare
 $ 25.42
Mox Pearl
 $ 25.29
Verdant Catacombs
 $ 25.08
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 $ 25,935.  That’s down a whopping $1,250 from two weeks ago.

Weekly Highlights:

GenCon was last week.  I had a ton of long shifts – 2pm to 2am every day.  That did not leave a lot of time for other activities – not if you eat, bathe and sleep, which is required if you judge.  (Falling asleep during a ruling is frowned upon.)   I did manage to play some games (Burglar Bros is great – super fun.)  I also managed to squeeze one draft in.  I was drafting WB, after rare drafting a Hanweir Battlements first pick.  Pack two, my neighbor passed me Hanweir Garrison, and I changed over to RB aggro.  Note – this is not recommended.   The format does not really support a deck built around a bunch of vanilla 2/2s, and changing colors in pack two is also usually an invitation to a train wreck.  In this case, it worked out.  I managed to meld my monster a couple times, and split the finals.  
Having a shift that ran to 12am was a bit rough, but after the main events ended, we put the Pro Tour feed on the monitor which had been displaying the clock.  
“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.    

Answer to the Judge Question of the Week:

You control a Devoted Retainer which is equipped with Oathkeeper.  I target it with Turn to Slag, which resolves.  What happens next?  Does anything end up in the graveyard?
Devoted Retainer 
Turn to Slag
Both Oathkeeper and the Retainer end up in the graveyard.  Turn to Slag destroys Oathkeeper, which happens during spell resolution.  This does trigger the “remove creature” ability, and that trigger waits to go on the stack.  Turn to Slag also deals 5 damage to the Retainer.  At that point Turn to Slag goes to the graveyard as the last step in its resolution.  Once Turn to Slag has finished resolving, state based actions are checked.  The Retainer is now a 1/1 with five damage, so it is destroyed.  Since the Oathkeeper is already in the graveyard, the “return equipped creature” trigger does not happen – the creature is no longer equipped.  No more state based actions apply, so triggered abilities are put on the stack.  The “remove creature from the game” trigger goes on the stack, but since the Retainer is in the graveyard (and has changed zones) the remove trigger cannot find it, so it does nothing.



More of the same, every week. by Claw at Fri, 08/12/2016 - 13:38
Claw's picture

More of the same, every week. Time to quit magic, i guess.

I wonder why WotC chose to by Rerepete at Sat, 08/13/2016 - 10:37
Rerepete's picture

I wonder why WotC chose to make the pro team competition teams of 9 rather than 8, but it does sound interesting.

Looks like both Selfless Spirit and Spell Queller are dropping. Speculation that did not pan out, perhaps.

Nah, that's usual for rares by ricklongo at Sun, 08/14/2016 - 14:59
ricklongo's picture

Nah, that's usual for rares in sets that are being massively drafted. Expect them to fall further, then perhaps rise again as drafters switch to Kaladesh.

It probably has something to by Cheater Hater at Mon, 08/15/2016 - 18:46
Cheater Hater's picture

It probably has something to do with the way the finals are going to play out--you can either just line people up top to bottom in 1v1s and not have a tie, or you can set them up as three teams of 3 (which again, can't tie). This is all an experiment at the moment, and that certainly can change.