one million words's picture
By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Dec 11 2015 1:00pm
Login or register to post comments

State of the Program for December 11th 2015

In the News:

Wizards to Cut Back on Live Video Coverage: This year, Wizards gave us video coverage of GPs or PTs pretty much every weekend, often broadcasting multiple events in a single weekend. Wizards has decided to eliminate competing coverage, and make the goal of the coverage will be “one broadcast in a given weekend to be a story about the weekend and part of the ongoing narrative leading up to or following a set's Pro Tour, and not simply about the one event.” Wizards has also promised some form of coverage without live video, and that all premier-level tournaments will be covered. Wizards also hinted at shaking up the coverage team. What they did not explicitly mention, but is clear if you read the list of events that will be broadcast is that video schedule will be significantly curtailed. This year we had live video from dozens of GPs, and we had at least something up every weekend (except for prereleases and some holidays.) Next year Wizards will broadcast 18 events – 11 GPs, the four Pro Tours, the MOCS, the World Championship and the World Magic Cup. Read the article here.
TCGPlayer $50K Championship Broadcast: I’m adding this bit of paper news to counteract the bad news above.  Last weekend, held its $50k event. The event was paper, but covered on I was traveling, so I did not get to watch much, but what I did watch was well done. Commentators included Frank Lepore, Craig Wescoe and Kenji Egashira. The videos are here.
Wizards R&D Challenge Today: An hour or two after this goes up, Wizards employees will be playing in a Standard R&D Challenge.   As usual, the event will be 5 rounds of straight Swiss, with many R&D folks in the event, then dividing their prizes among the other 5-0 players.
The Vintage (ne: Holiday) Cube is Coming: Wizards has decided to bring back Cube more often. That includes the fully powered Cube, which has been known as the Holiday Cube. However, since we are likely to see it more often, and not just on holidays, it is being renamed the Vintage Cube. It is also getting a few minor tweaks; most notably Time Vault is being cut. 
The Vintage Cube will run from December 16th through January 6th. These will be phantom events, as always, and prizes will be paid out in Play Points. Details are here.
Second MTGO User Survey Up: the second survey of MTGO users is up. It is looking for overall satisfaction with leagues. It is pretty much a blunt instrument – it just asks who happy or unhappy you are, with nothing on why. It took me two minutes to complete, and left me feeling like I hadn’t had an opportunity to explain anything. The article, and link to the survey, are here.  
January MOPR Promos: Wizards has announced the January promos. Have a look. Nissa’s Pilgrimage is the Event promo, Mommy Runes is the store promo. 
Last Chance to Admire Your Season 10-12 QPs: They will be removed from accounts during the December 16th downtime.
No Downtime December 30th: There will be no downtime on December 30th. You can play all that morning, without a break. The only downside is that redemption and MOPR grants will be delayed until the first downtime of 2016.  
Stoneforge Mystic Promo: The GP player promo for the upcoming year is Stoneforge Mystic. Does this mean it will be unbanned in Modern? It’s all speculation so far…

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. 
·         Modern League End Date: Wednesday, January 27, 2016
·         Standard League End Date: Monday, January 25, 2016
·         Pauper League End Date: Tuesday, January26, 2016
·         Legacy League: coming sometime.
·         Sealed Leagues: Summer 2016
·         Vintage Cube: December 16th through January 6th.  Details here.
·         Oath of the Gatewatch Prerelease: January 29–February 1, 2016
·         Regional PTQs on MTGO: Standard. February 20 at 3 p.m. Pacific and February 27 at 5 a.m. Pacific.   Details here.
·         Shadows over Innistrad Prerelease: April 15-18, 2016. Details here.

Opinion Section: Video Coverage Going Forward?

Wizards is cutting back on their live video coverage next year. (Announcement here.) Basically, the announcement says that Wizards will only produce live video coverage of 18 events next year. That’s down a lot form this year, where we had GP or PTs broadcast nearly every weekend (except prerelease weekends.)    I want to look at this in some detail.
First off, this is clearly a cost cutting move. Producing live video the way Wizards does it is really expensive. I have been behind the scenes at several GPs and Pro Tours, and was even a small part of the production team for a few PTs years ago. It is a huge operation. Wizards has a half dozen or more professional grade video camera, including a 20+ foot boom rig for overhead shots. They have a full production studio – sound and video mixing boards, plus lots of processing power in the laptops, servers and communications gear to produce and transmit the event. Wizards is also paying for what should be a rock solid, high capacity broadband link, and the price for that sort of thing from a convention center is ridiculous. Wizards also has a team of 4-6 camera persons, which are either local professionals paid like professionals, or skilled people Wizards flies in. Wizards also flies in the on-air talent, the production crew and the folks in black shirts collecting data on hand contents, life totals, etc. Wizards is paying air fare, meals and hotel bills for those folks, either directly or as independent contractors. It all adds up.
At first glance, you might think that it added up to too much, and that’s why Wizards cut back so hard. On the other hand, it might just be that Wizards has figured out it can get more bang for its buck in other ways.
What Wizards is cutting back on is coverage of Grand Prix events. That coverage promotes Magic in general, but GPs specifically. GPs really don’t need promotion. GP attendance is not just at an all-time high, it is too high. GPs are routinely being capped because the largest available facility in the area may not be large enough. They are also so large that scorekeeping and logistics are almost infeasible. GP Vegas was huge – the distance from one corner of the play space to the other measured a kilometer. Seriously. Finding friends was difficult, and judges and staff were walking near marathons each day. 
GPs don’t need promotion. GPs really don’t need more people. Many of the GPs this year were capped, and people are discussing whether we should expect all GPs to be capped going forward. Given this, maybe it makes sense that Wizards is cutting back on GP coverage, while not cutting back on the coverage of Pro Tours, WMC, MOCS, etc. 
Another consideration is that Wizards may be cutting back on their coverage, but the article did not discuss whether the TOs for some of these GPs might be handling coverage on their own. SCG has done their own broadcasts on the GPs they run. ChannelFireball has done the same, and several other TOs have broadcast their own shows. It’s possible that many, even most, of the GPs next year will be broadcast, just not by the Wizards crew. 
The changes may be even smaller than that. Rashad Miller was the first person I know who broadcast live Magic events. His GGSLive crew wrote the rulebook on most of this, and his crew formed the nucleus of the Wizards broadcast team in the early years. GGSLive still broadcasts and produces events, so TOs might choose to hire same people and technology that Wizards uses.
Wizards may be cutting back on support for GP broadcasting, but they still appear to be supporting other types of video content. For example, Wizards is running frequent streamer showdowns, thereby giving some exposure to streamers people may not know. Wizards has supported things like the Vintage Super League.  Wizards was originally an underwriter, but they cut that back, too.   It is not clear whether Wizards is increasing or reducing their support for streamers. 
Having Wizards cutting back on direct support for video broadcasts may just create an opportunity for other parties to step up. When Wizards cut support for State Championships, the TOs themselves recreated States. Now we have competing State Championships, in different formats and run by different outfits. When Wizards first cut support for Type I, SCG created the original Open Series.
If Wizards creates less live content, a number of tournament organizers and groups can step up. Here are just a couple.
GGSLive: Rashad has been doing this longer than anyone – he invented live Magic broadcasting. He still works Wizards events, but his group and expertise may be available when Wizards isn’t broadcasting. 
StarCityGames: The early SCG Opens were handled by the GGSLive group, but SCG quickly moved that in house.   Now, after years of practice, SCG has a polished organization with a lot of expertise. SCG has been producing live shows pretty much every weekend that does not have a prerelease, Pro Tour or major holiday. SCG may be one reason Wizards seems less need to produce live content. The TCGPlayer 50K event is Milwaukee was broadcast, and what I saw looked professional. TCGPlayer was also able to pull together a skilled line-up of on-air talent from their writers, like Frank Lepore and Craig Wescoe, plus podcasters like NumottheNummy. I’m not sure whether their audience was large enough to justify it, but if they wanted to, TCGPlayer could certainly do more broadcasts.
ChannelFireball: CFB has broadcast a couple of the GPs that they organized, and they did a fine job. CFB also has the advantage of having some very good on-air talent writing for their site. LSV is probably the most popular commentator going, and he is closely involved with CFB. Marshal Sutcliffe is also involved with CFB, and could easily slot into their line-up weekends when he is not broadcasting for Wizards.   CFB also has writers like Efro, who could be a decent commentator, but it far more likely to be playing.
Randy Buehler / Vintage Super League: Finally, we have the video content produced by Randy Buehler. He is not broadcasting large public events, like GPs or Opens, but is creating his own tournaments involving selected pros and broadcasting those. Randy’s events go way beyond streaming, with commentators and the ability to see the battlefield and both players’ hands all at once. Randy also has side projects, like the Gauntlet of Greatness events. It will be interesting to see if anyone else can create something like the VSL, or whether the technical and logistical hurdles are high enough that others just stick to streaming. 
Summary: Wizards is cutting back heavily on their video production. However, I don’t see this as a “sky is falling” moment. A lot of other people are creating video contents – enough that cutting GP coverage should not hurt, much. 
Random MTGO Suggestion of the Week
Wizards really needs to give us something to do with surplus cards. For example, I have over 6,000 Plains spread among my accounts. I really don’t need 6,000 Plains, and no one wants to buy them. For that matter, no one will buy my 364 Pacifisms.  However, having that many cards in my collection does significantly slow down card searches and deckbuilding. 
My preference would be for Wizards to offer to buy surplus commons for play points – maybe a play point for 300 cards or something. Absent that, let me “box up” commons into sealed bundles, and store those with my sealed product. It would work like a binder, but once I had added all the cards I wanted to the “binder,” I could click on a button to wrap up the bundle and store it with my sealed product, instead of in my card collection. If, someday, I needed one of those cards, I could open the bundle to add the cards back to my collection.   
If you have a suggestion for an improvement to MTGO, send it to

Cutting Edge Tech:

Standard: The TCG Player 50K was last weekend in Milwaukee. The Top 8 had one RG Aggro, plus lots of Four-color Rally and Abzan Aggro.  Abzan Aggro won. The Top 16 decklists are here.
Abzan Aggro
Adam Yurchick, Winner, TCGPlayer $50k Championship Milwaukee
4 Anafenza, the Foremost
4 Den Protector
2 Heir of the Wilds
4 Siege Rhino
2 Wingmate Roc
4 Warden of the First Tree
16 cards

Other Spells
4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
4 Abzan Charm
2 Dromoka's Command
2 Murderous Cut
2 Silkwrap
14 cards
4 Flooded Strand
2 Forest
2 Llanowar Wastes
2 Plains
4 Windswept Heath
4 Wooded Foothills
2 Canopy Vista
4 Shambling Vent
1 Smoldering Marsh
1 Sunken Hollow
18 cards

1 Dromoka's Command
3 Duress
1 Hallowed Moonlight
3 Self-Inflicted Wound
2 Surge of Righteousness
2 Transgress the Mind
2 Ultimate Price
1 Wingmate Roc
Siege Rhino
Modern:  Wizards has started publishing the decklists that go 5-0 in Leagues. A lot of different archetypes are showing up. This week’s long-lost classic is Jeskai Ascendancy. Remember this one?  
Pauper:   If you are looking to get into Pauper, or just curious about the format, you need to read Alex Ullman’s format overview. Also check out the half dozen or so other authors writing about Pauper on this website.  I’m considering jumping back into the Pauper League. If I do, I’m tempted to run back Temur Tron. If I don’t, I may play this. 
Legacy: The MOCS last weekend was Legacy. Haven’t found any coverage, but the Top 32 decklists are here
Vintage: The Vintage Super League LCQ finished on Tuesday, with David Ochoa winning four straight do-or-die matches to finish on top of the double elimination event. Decklists are here.

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 were jumping around a bit this week. Some of these moves are hard to fathom – for example, Anafenza fell but Den Protector rose significantly. The TCGPlayer $50k was all about Abzan and Collected Company, the deck Anafenza is best against. I’m not sure what would justify buying Den Protectors and not Anafenza – is Bring to Light Control really a thing?

Standard Cards
Last Week
% Change
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

Modern staples:  Modern prices climbed this week, almost across the board. The format seems to be doing okay.   The Modern Mayhem event seems to have helped.

Modern Cards
Last Week
% Change

Legacy and Vintage: Prices for Eternal format cards were mixed this week. Vintage staples were up. Legacy dropped a bit – probably due to people selling off the cards they bought for the Legacy MOCS.   

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
Fate Reforged
Khans of Tarkir
Magic Origins

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.  Wasteland is climbing. Last summer, I predicted that it would hit $100 by the end of the year. Might not make that, but it is heading back to the ridiculous.     

Rishadan Port
 $ 176.68
Black Lotus
 $ 138.03
 $ 108.42
Liliana of the Veil
Mythic Rare
 $   98.46
 $   87.44
 $   87.06
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
Mythic Rare
 $   72.23
Mythic Rare
 $   68.60
Mythic Rare
 $   66.75
 $   66.39
Tangle Wire
 $   65.28
Mox Sapphire
 $   60.47
Infernal Tutor
 $   46.95
 $   44.11
Horizon Canopy
 $   43.95
Scalding Tarn
 $   43.18
Grove of the Burnwillows
 $   42.79
Ancestral Recall
 $   42.09
Show and Tell
 $   41.14
Blood Moon
 $   39.37
 $   38.83
Mox Opal
Mythic Rare
 $   38.74
Keranos, God of Storms
Mythic Rare
 $   38.13
Mox Opal
Mythic Rare
 $   37.90
Blood Moon
 $   37.19
Blood Moon
 $   37.01
Force of Will
 $   35.91
Mox Jet
 $   35.82
Mythic Rare
 $   35.55
Voice of Resurgence
Mythic Rare
 $   32.16
Time Walk
 $   31.24
Food Chain
 $   30.24
Oblivion Stone
 $   29.80
Mox Ruby
 $   29.72
Oblivion Stone
 $   29.66
Ensnaring Bridge
 $   28.52
Auriok Champion
 $   28.45
Gaea's Cradle
 $   27.30
Mox Pearl
 $   27.27
Cavern of Souls
 $   26.71
Ensnaring Bridge
 $   26.34
Force of Will
 $   25.52
 $   25.42
Ensnaring Bridge
 $   25.38
Mox Emerald
 $   25.29

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 you can own is $ 24,690.  That’s up almost exactly $600 from last week.   

Weekly Highlights:

“Work is a terrible price to pay for income.” This week, lots of work, no time to play Magic. Hoping that will change 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 


Every time I've looked by Paul Leicht at Fri, 12/11/2015 - 13:48
Paul Leicht's picture

Every time I've looked recently Hammybot has not been around and the mtgotraders staff didn't know why or when it would be back. Not saying it is nonfunctional, but...

The whole cutting of coverage thing has affected me 0%. I guess I have felt like it was not amazing coverage to begin with and honestly I'd rather watch cement dry. That's not to say it has never been good but much of the time it just feels like a distraction. So I am not unhappy they are drastically curtailing it.

As you know I vehemently agree with your suggestion to bundle old cards either to sell back to wotc or to store out of the way. This isn't really a problem on my own accounts as I have managed to store most of my extras on my beta account and while there are still plenty of cards I'd be glad to store out of the way (Because I will NEVER need them) it doesn't really slow me down that much. But I sympathize with people who have truly huge accounts filled with crap extras. (24k isn't very large I guess.) Clutter should be clearable one way or another.

Not sure why it was down when by mtgotraders at Mon, 12/14/2015 - 10:22
mtgotraders's picture
Not sure why it was down when you looked but it's been up as far as I know and it's up right now. We already paid Tami a very large amount around 6 months ago so there isn't' a ton left on it now. The plan is to keep discounting the cards until it's all gone and then pay her the final payment.
Nice! :D I did finally catch by Paul Leicht at Mon, 12/14/2015 - 14:17
Paul Leicht's picture

Nice! :D I did finally catch it and bought some stuff. You're right, not much left in the rares section.

Magic is sort of like golf to by ArchGenius at Fri, 12/11/2015 - 14:22
ArchGenius's picture

Magic is sort of like golf to me. I'd much rather be playing than watching.So it doesn't affect me either. I would be much more interested in cultivating local game store play than the Pro Tour. However I know that Pro Tour aspirations influence a lot of people.

zen by PanteraCanes at Fri, 12/11/2015 - 16:14
PanteraCanes's picture

I wonder if this means that more streamers will be around on the weekends? I know Nummont does not want to compete against any wizzards run event. If I have the time I would rather watch a streamer than one of those live events. Not a slight against any of the coverage teams it is just my preference.

WotC Coverage by Rerepete at Fri, 12/11/2015 - 20:41
Rerepete's picture

I usually only watch the T8 eliminations anyhow, so not much of a loss to me.

Wizards also probably looked by xger at Sat, 12/12/2015 - 22:26
xger's picture

Wizards also probably looked at viewership. I have watched the PT's, but never the GPs. I just don't follow a format enough to follow a GP. The GP viewing audience is probably pretty small. This also makes sense when considering double coverage--splitting an already small audience is rough.

Time Vault is not actually by TugaChampion at Sun, 12/13/2015 - 19:48
TugaChampion's picture

Time Vault is not actually being cut from the Vintage/Holiday Cube because it had been cut already.