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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Aug 29 2014 12:27pm
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State of the Program for August 29th 2014

In the News:

Wizards Announces Huge Changes to Standard and Set Rotation: This week, Mark Rosewater announced a huge change to the Standard format and set rotations. The article is here. As he said, this is one article you really want to read through, rather than just reading a synopsis. That said, here’s a synopsis: The old model of a block comprised of a large sett, then two small sets, followed by a core set, is gone. Instead, starting in 2105, we will have two blocks per year, both blocks being one large, one small set. Standard will change from being blocks in the last two years to being the last three blocks. The article has a nice graphic. In other words, a block will rotate out every 6 months, and Standard will be comprised of blocks printed in the last 18 months. I talk more about this in the opinion section, but I think my reaction is pretty similar to the Magic community as a whole: we like it.
Multiple Client Upgrades the Week: Wizards has released a couple builds and upgrades to the client this week. The first came after the weekly downtime. The second was an emergency hot fix on Thursday that fixed some of the trading bugs. The hot fix does not fix a known bug: “Dragging and dropping cards into the "You Will Receive" area during a trade will not properly update the quantity owned field. If you drag and drop cards you don't own, via repeated drag actions, this will cause a crash.” Instead, you need to double click on a card to get it to move. Details here. On positive note: Wizards did agree to look into adding a “take all” button to the trade window. 
MTGO Player of the Year Standings Return: Wizards is once again tracking the constructed and limited players of the year. You can see the top 200 limited players here, and the top 200 constructed players here
Bug Fixes in Draft Screen: Last week I mentioned that the draft screen was misbehaving. That appears to be fixed. It was working, this week, the way it always has. 

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. Here’s what we know, want or are tracking. 
Item (date it will return) and notes
·       Online PTQs & MOCS: END OF AUGUST! Latest update is here.
·       Leagues (2014) Wizards has promised that leagues will return this year. Details here.
·       From the Vault: Annihilation: (10/6/2014) Moved from August 22 to October 6th .
·       Duel Decks: Speed vs. Cunning (10/6/2014) Details here.
·       Khans of Tarkir: (October) Prerelease Oct. 3-6. Details here.
·       Commander 2014: (11/21/2014) Details here.
·       Modern Masters II: (May of 2015?) (Three GPs on the same weekend with format TBD? It’s MMA2.)

State of the Client: Deck Building

I’m not sure if this will become a regular part of the article, but I am going to do a couple overviews of certain parts of the client each week. We’ll see how long this lasts.
First, some background. I am doing this on either my desktop or laptop machine. The desktop is a Windows 7 machine with a decent nvidea graphic board. It is by no means a gaming powerhouse – it is what my local computer store built for me for about $800, including transferring my data from the smoking ruins of my last desktop system, about three years ago. My laptop is an anemic Acer Aspire 5532. My Internet connection is DSL, running at 1.5M down, 300k up on a good day, which is all that I can get here in the country.  This test was done on the desktop.
I could claim that I was testing drafts this week. That would be a lie. I did get into a number of drafts, but not because I was testing. The client ran without problems, this week, except that I somehow cast Burning Anger on my opponent’s creature. Almost certainly a sloppy misclick on my part. Fortunately, that only turned a blowout into a tough game that I was happy to finally win. The short version is that the new client works fine for drafts. 
This week I decided to try building a deck. This has been a huge problem in the past. My collection is huge. I keep a playset of everything, and have been getting paid in store credit for a number of years. My “one million words” account has about 40,000 cards in it. In the past, this has meant that performance has been terrible. A year ago, the beta client would not load. Six months ago, it would repeatedly lock up. Wizards has claimed that the client is much improved, but I was a bit worried. 
The test: I took a decklist I found interesting, printed it out and built the deck in MTGO from scratch.  I timed it. I was going to record the whole thing, but a video of someone typing card names, then clicking “add 4 to deck” over and over again seemed really dull. Besides, uploading videos over that slow DSL is a pain. 
I fired up the program, typed in my password and set my watch timer as my decks were loading. I started the timer at the point I clicked on the collection tab. It came up quickly. I changed the setting to list view, rather than card view, which I always did on the old client when building decks manually anyway. Then I started typing in card names and adding 4 to deck. Actually, since the list I was using was Reed Duke’s Yisan list, which has a lot of silver bullets, I also entered a lot of single copies and two ofs. 
The process was pretty boring. The vast, vast majority of the time was spent typing card names, with checking them off the paper list a close second. The searches were fast and, provided I avoided typos, worked fine. Even when I used filters (e.g. type “Forest,” click land, basic, show all versions) the searches were almost instantaneous. In the end, start to finish, the entire process took 11 minutes, and that included refilling my coffee and letting the dogs out and back in. 
Yes, it is infinitely faster to copy a digital list into the program, but I have to admit that a fair number of my decklists are written in the margins of agendas and so forth while on extended conference calls, so building from scratch is a reasonable test. Besides, I know importing digital lists works fine.    

Opinion Section: The New Standard

Wizards has announced another change to rotations. (Details here.) This is nothing new. I have lived through several of these. The current version, with a rotation every fall and two core sets being legal at times, is a bit clunky. This one seems like the most rational of all. 
First off, it eliminates the Core Set. The Core Set, especially the versions with new cards, has always felt clunky. It is trying to do too much. A long time ago, it was comprised entirely of reprints. It was the “easy” set that was supposed to introduce new players to Magic, while also keeping tournament staples legal for formats like Standard and (back then) Extended. This lead to core sets with such easy to understand cards as Stasis and Necropotence in the bloated and bizarre Fifth Edition, or Hurkyl’s Recall in Xth. Later, Wizard added new cards to the core set, to attract more serious players. This brought us the simple-to-grok Hive Mind in M10. Not simple.
The Core Set always felt, to me at least, like one of those strange hybrid tools, like a chocolate hammer.  Tasty snack or something to drive nails?  On the one hand, the Core Set is supposed to be a training tool. On the other hand, it is supposed to provide a deep and interesting limited format.  In the future, Wizards will create four sets – two blocks – all of which provide )we hope) good limited formats. Wizards can also create products aimed at new players – things like the deckbulider’s toolkit and duel decks. I could also see some sort of base set with cards that are always Standard legal, and offered in some entry level package. After all, M15 has a dozen or so cards that are not boosters, but are Standard legal (e.g. Serra Angel).  Stores would appreciate having an intro product that didn’t get stale with rotations, new players could learn with simpler decks, and constructed players would not have much difficulty with Standard once they learned that Standard also included a hundred or so bad cards no one ever played. Not saying this will happen, but I would not be surprised to see it.
Mark Rosewater mentioned several more problems this change will fix. He’s spot on with most of those.  The biggest reason, though, is that Standard gets stale too soon. This will shake things up. Yes, it only reduces the time things stay legal a bit, but wouldn’t it have been nice if Pack Rat had rotated four months ago, instead of  two months from now?   It’s better.    
The other impact this will have is to end the third set rare pricing problem. With the traditional three set mix, people drafted the first set exclusively for months, then one pack of the middle set  and two packs of the main set for a few months, then one pack from each set in the block for last few months. Then result was that the smaller set was never drafted much, which the market for rares in the earlier sets in the block was becoming glutted. The result was that third sets tend to have more very expensive cards than first sets, even though the first sets have far more rares. For example, Time Spiral has one card, Vesuva, that costs more than $3. Future Sight, the third set in that block, has 11 rares worth over $3, including Grove of the Burnwillows at $22.70 and Tarmogoyf at $93. A niche card like Daybreak Coronet only costs five times as much as (Ancestral Visions) because a ton more Time Spiral packs were opened than Future Sight packs (for a number of reasons in addition to the third set problem, but that was a major factor.)
The third set problem is not the largest driver of card price, of course. Looking over the list of expensive cards further down the article shows that.  Liliana and Wasteland are first set cards, after all. The major driver is always playability, then supply. The change to rotation will not change that basic tenant.
The change to rotation will not really affect the cost of playing Standard, either. Serious players will always need chase cards, which will still be expensive. Those cards will lose value as soon as an archetype becomes unplayable, or even Tier Two. That doesn’t just happen at rotation, it can also happen when a new archetypes appears, at any time. Formats evolve, and cards like Sphinx’s Revelation or Aetherling lose value not because they have rotated, but because the metagame has passed them by. That is not going to change.
This feels weird. Wizards has announced a major change to the constructed environment, and It appears to be a good, balanced and well thought out  change. No one seems too upset. People are acting rationally, and not ranting or venting. It’s like we have suddenly teleported to planet Rationality. It’s a cool place, I hope we stay.
Update: just checked Facebook and the BBC News. We are most definitely not on planet Rationality. Bummer.

Cutting Edge Tech:

Standard: The format is finishing up where it began. Last weekend’s SCG Open was won by a black devotion deck that ran Nightveil Specters. I haven’t seen those in a while.    
Mono-Black Devotion (blue variant)
Steve Rubin, Winner, SCG Standard Open Washington DC
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
2 Lifebane Zombie
4 Nightveil Specter
4 Desecration Demon
4 Pack Rat
18 cards

Other Spells
2 Bile Blight
3 Hero's Downfall
4 Devour Flesh
3 Underworld Connections
4 Thoughtseize
1 Duress
17 cards
4 Temple of Deceit
4 Mutavault
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
3 Watery Grave
13 Swamp
25 cards

Nightveil Specter
Modern: PTQ season is almost over, but still interesting. We had a Modern GP last weekend, but I was more interesting it the PTQ I ran. Matt Severa won it, playing Faeries. The rest of the Top 8 included another Faeries deck, Amulet of Vigor, Red Bump, RU Splinter Twin, Affinity w/ Ensoul Artifact, RWU Keranos Control. The most interesting deck in the Top 8, though, was this one:
Kory Kuhn, 5-8th PTQ in Fond du Lac, WI
4 Galerider Sliver
3 Virulent Sliver
4 Predatory Sliver
4 Sinew Sliver
4 Frenzy Sliver
2 Two-Headed Sliver
3 Phantasmal Image
2 Syphon Sliver
2 Blur Sliver
28 cards

Other Spells
4 AEther Vial
4 Diffusion Sliver
4 Leeching Sliver
4 Cavern of Souls
4 Sliver Hive
8 cards
4 Mutavault
4 Mana Confluence
2 Reflecting Pool
2 Gemstone Mine
12 cards

AEther Vial
Legacy: SCG had a Legacy Open last weekend. The most interesting deck was the Mono-Red Sneak Attack build. It is a bit of a glass cannon, but nowhere near as bad as Charbelcher or Dredge. . 
Mono Red Sneak Attack
Terry Vanderwall, 9th Place, SCG Legacy Open
1 Worldspine Wurm
2 Inferno Titan
4 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
4 Simian Spirit Guide
11 cards

Other Spells
4 Griselbrand
4 Through the Breach
4 Chalice of the Void
4 Seething Song
2 Pyromancy
4 Sneak Attack
4 City of Traitors
3 Lotus Petal
4 Blood Moon
29 cards
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Arid Mesa
1 Wooded Foothills
6 Mountain
3 Sandstone Needle
4 Ancient Tomb
16 cards

Through the Breach
Vintage:  The Vintage Constructed Championship is tomorrow. Could be interesting.   Jacob Van Lunen wrote an article covering basic archetypes, here. LSV won a recent event with a 4 Color Young Pyromaster deck, which Jacob did not feature. 
Four Color Pyromaster Control
LSV, 5-0, Vintage Champs #7401670 on 08/25/2014
2 Snapcaster Mage
3 Young Pyromancer
5 cards

Other Spells
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Black Lotus
1 Brainstorm
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Empty the Warrens
1 Fastbond
2 Flusterstorm
4 Force of Will
1 Gifts Ungiven
4 Gush
1 Hurkyl's Recall
1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Lightning Bolt
1 Mana Crypt
2 Mana Drain
2 Mental Misstep
1 Merchant Scroll
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Ponder
1 Preordain
2 Repeal
1 Sol Ring
1 Time Walk
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Yawgmoth's Will
32 cards
3 Island
1 Library of Alexandria
2 Misty Rainforest
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Tropical Island
2 Underground Sea
2 Volcanic Island
16 cards

Young Pyromancer

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).
Card prices are missing in action this week. Partly because I am sick, and partly because the rush at work that contributed to me being sick. (Special shout-out to the colleague that came to work ill in order to finish his project, and infected all of us. Dude, you get paid sick leave for a reason. Use it!)  It takes about three hours to crunch all the numbers and produce card prices, and I just don’t have it this week. 

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. Black Lotus continues to lead the pack, but Wasteland and Rishadan Port are not that far behind.   .

 Black Lotus
 $    202.13
 $    139.68
 Rishadan Port
 $    134.71
 Liliana of the Veil
 Mythic Rare
 $     98.49
 $      93.20
 Mythic Rare
 $      92.00
 Mox Sapphire
 $      89.75
 $      88.66
 Mox Opal
 Mythic Rare
 $      86.98
 Ancestral Recall
 $      72.23
 Polluted Delta
 $      70.07
 Show and Tell
 $      69.95
 Flooded Strand
 $      62.98
 Vendilion Clique
 Mythic Rare
 $      61.76
 Hurkyl's Recall
 $      60.69
 Vendilion Clique
 $      60.19
 Mythic Rare
 $      60.10
 Time Walk
 $      58.21
 Mox Jet
 $      55.78
 City of Traitors
 $      48.23
 Mox Emerald
 $      46.75
 Mox Ruby
 $      45.96
 Mox Pearl
 $      44.99
 Misty Rainforest
 $      44.30
 Scalding Tarn
 $      43.83
 Force of Will
 $      43.78
 Tangle Wire
 $      43.50
 Mythic Rare
 $      42.80
 Toxic Deluge
 $      38.00
 Sneak Attack
 $      37.09
 Dark Confidant
 Mythic Rare
 $      36.73
 Dark Confidant
 $      35.48
 Gaea's Cradle
 $      34.62
 Karn Liberated
 Mythic Rare
 $      34.52
 Undiscovered Paradise
 $      33.63
 Infernal Tutor
 $      33.04
 Lion's Eye Diamond
 $      32.87
 True-Name Nemesis
 $      32.65
 Linvala# Keeper of Silence
 Mythic Rare
 $      32.29
 Noble Hierarch
 $      32.18
 Fulminator Mage
 $      31.25
 Tezzeret the Seeker
 Mythic Rare
 $      30.93
 Dark Depths
 $      30.58
 Twilight Mire
 $      30.50
 Cryptic Command
 $      29.05
 Cryptic Command
 $      28.70
 $      27.65
 Force of Will
 $      27.52
 Craterhoof Behemoth
 Mythic Rare
 $      27.50
 Voice of Resurgence
 Mythic Rare
 $      26.91
 $      26.84
 Goblin Welder
 $      25.77

The big number is the retail price of a playset (4 copies) of every card available on MTGO. Assuming you bought the least expensive version available, the cost of owning a playset of every card on MTGO you can own is [missing]. I am trying to crunch this on my laptop this week, and the results are screwed up. My poor anemic little Acer can’t handle the data manipulations necessary to convert the database to CSV, then import it into Excel. I think some entries are being converted to text instead of numeric values, leading to bad totals. On the big desktop I could easily write something to flag and fix those problems, but the laptop has real problems with that sort of number crunching. (Note: my little Acer gets slowest of the slow results from CNET testbeds, etc., but it was what I could afford when I bought it 4-5 years ago. OTOH, it does run MTGO.)

Weekly Highlights:

I ran a PTQ last weekend. Matt Severa won it, which is awesome. Matt was part of the old Madison Magic community, along with Bob Maher, Jr., Mike Hron, Adrian Sullivan, Bob Albright, etc. Good to see Matt back on the tour.
“one million words” on MTGO
This series is an ongoing tribute to Erik “Hamtastic” Friborg.
HammyBot Still Running: 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 over 24,000 cards left in the collection. Those cards are being sold at 10% below retail price. Erik died three years ago, so HammyBot does not include any standard legal sets, but it includes a ton of Masters Edition and Vintage cards, and some nice Modern bargains. 


Ive got maybe a little over by Paul Leicht at Sat, 08/30/2014 - 15:25
Paul Leicht's picture

Ive got maybe a little over half your collection size Pete and I don't have a problem building all the time. Sometimes the client memory leaks and that can cause everything to go slowly. additionally trades tend to load very slowly but the only time the editor lags is when I set the quantity slider to 0 owned.