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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Dec 12 2014 1:00pm
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State of the Program for December 12th 2014

In the News:

Wizards Announces Modern Masters 2015: We guessed as soon as the announcement of three simultaneous GPs in a format “to be determined” were announced, but now it is official: Modern Masters will return next spring. It is also called MM 2015, which might mean that we can expect MMA every year. Maybe – all Wizards would say is that they will evaluate it. The GPs are announced: the GP in Las Vegas is capped at 10,000 players. Sounds insane, but they hit the 4,500 player cap last time. Modern Masters 2015 will be coming to MTGO, priced at $6.99. Details here.
 
R&D Challenge Today - Modern: Approximately three hours after this article goes up, Wizards will be holding a five round Modern event with Wizards R&D members participating. The event is Modern, five rounds, cost of 10 TIX.  No word on which R&D members will be playing.
 
Worlds Results: Worlds – both the World Magic Cup and the World Championships – have finished. Shahar Shenhar beat Pat Chapin in the World Championship. Denmark won the World Magic Cup. Coverage is here.
 
More Vintage Events Announced: Qualification for the Holiday Festival Vintage Championships has started. Wizards has added additional Vintage Dailies on Tuesdays and Thursdays from now until Dec. 19th. The events run at 11:30 am and 5:30pm Pacific time (UTC-8).  This is promising: the first event, at 11:30am Thursday, fired with 44 players. 
 
Holiday Cube Coming: The Holiday Cube – the one with power – will be online beginning next downtime. It has been revised. The list of cards in this version of the cube are here.
 
Wizards Rebuilds Its Websites: Just as I was finishing this up, Wizards unveiled their new websites. The new build looked pretty bad on Firefox on my home system, but it scales far better, and has useful things like menus and links, in IE. It looks okay on my Android phone.  Based on a very quick look, it appears to be better. The Wizard’s announcement of the changes is here.  
 
Extended Downtime for Wed. Dec. 17thThe downtime will begin with events ending at midnight PDT, and the program itself shutting down at 3am PDT.
 
Randy Buehler Starting New Video Series: Randy Buehler has rolled out a new video series. He is playing a single elimination event featuring 16 of the best Standard of all time. I did something like this years ago, back before the decks were complete online, so my matches were played out in paper. One the plus side, I played out a 32 deck bracket, and played 5 game matches with two games unsideboarded and three sideboarded. I always wanted to find time to redo these, but since he beat me to it, watch them here.    
 
Downtimes Shifted for the Holidays: Wizards has moved the downtimes scheduled for the holidays. Instead of downtimes on Wednesday, Christmas and New Year’s Eves, replacing them Monday downtimes on Dec. 22nd and Jan. 5th.  
 
Breaking News - Leagues Entering Beta: Last minute edit - Wizards has added Leagues to the  beta test.  The beta has three rounds, three matches per round, and a simplified pairing algorithm.  The numbers mean nothing since the purpose of the beta is to test the mechanism, not payouts, but it looks good.  You can add packs, edit your deck any time, etc.
 

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. This list is getting short, mainly because Wizards is so bad at passing on any information about future products or events. They generally have announced these events a day or two before they happens, which means most players never hear about them, and news compilations (like State of the Program) only hear about them too late for them to be included.
 
Item: date it will return and notes
Vintage Gold Queues: Dec. 10th to Dec 22ndVintage 2-mans, 10 TIX, winner gets 5 packs.
·         Modern Masters Drafts: Dec 10th to Dec 17th  
·         Holiday Cube: Dec. 17th to Jan. 5th   Holiday Cube is the powered Cube.
·         Mirage Block Draft Queues: Dec. 10th to Dec 22nd
·         Saga Block Draft Queues: Dec. 22nd to Jan 5th
·         Holiday Festival Vintage Championship: December 20th – qualifiers Dec 10th - 19th
·         Magic Online Player of the Year Event: Tourney December 13th.
·         MOCS Last Chance Qualifiers: Dec. 20th and 27th
·         Holiday Magic Online Judge Open: Dec. 27th. 1pm PST. Free phantom sealed for certified judges. 
·         Leagues (June 2015?) Wizards said leagues will return in 2015.
·         Modern Masters II: May, 29, 2015. Mirrodin through Zendikar. Details here.
 

The Bug Blog Update

The Bug Blog is a weekly post by Wizards covering the most common known issues in MTGO. The blog is published late Thursday or early Friday, so I may be a bit behind. The most recent one up, as I write this, is from December 4th.  The only new bug that week was that the Jitte counters are obscured in play, but zooming on the Jitte lets you see them. 
 

Opinion Section: Snippets: 

A couple random musings on topics that came up this week. These are not really
 
The shuffler. A recent opponent – WhiteBaron, IIRC – reminded me that the shuffler was broken and that the kill switch was real. That might have been slightly tongue in cheek, but I have to admit that the shuffler did not like him in our match. Which leads to this:
 
Recently, someone posted an analysis or the “shuffler” code in the forums and elsewhere. The code they posted was, in fact, suboptimal. They also pointed out that the code was in the client, which could lead to shenanigans. However, Wizards pointed out that the code the commenter described is only used for generating sample hands. The actual shuffler code is more complex, and is located on the server. 
 
A quick note – over the years, I have had a lot of players tell me that the shuffler doesn’t work because they get far worse draws online in real life. Those players also tend to mana weave as part of their “shuffling” process. Folks, if you stack your deck, then do an incomplete shuffle, your deck won’t be random. It will, in fact, be considerably better than random. It’s considered cheating to deliberately present a stacked deck, so don’t do it in my tournaments. Better yet, just don’t mana weave.
 
Another random thought: I’m getting really tired of people complaining about red drafters in Cube. I know I did a bit of that, as have others, and I listened to Marshall complaining in LR podcasts for a couple weeks now. Get over it. Drafting red is a perfectly viable approach, if the Cube supports it. Yes, a red drafter will destroy someone who drafts a slow, controlling deck that does not have enough early interaction.  That fact does not make red evil – it just means you drafted a deck that is weak to a particular strategy, and had the misfortune to face that strategy. The only difference is that red tends to kill really quickly, so you tend to notice it quickly, then have the rest of the round to stew about it.  The painful part is losing. It’s like ripping off a Band-Aid. Red decks do it really quickly. The slow, durdley control decks do it slowly, hair by hair. Neither one is pleasant. So quit complaining about red and just draft to handle it.
 
Another nit to pick: people should quit complaining about the EV of Phantom Cube events.  Now I am not generally a fan of Phantom drafts when I am trying to accumulate cards for sets. However, Cube is a different animal. It is just there for enjoyment. I had avoided Cube, but finally dove in. I invested 10 TIX in a cube draft on my main account, but I had had such a bad run at KTK that I really wanted a change. I managed to win enough that I played a ton of Swiss Cube. My limited rating climbed 125 points, racked up a couple QPs and still have enough Phantom Tix left for another event. True, I did not win any packs, but that $10 investment produced hours and hours of fun, and it is still continuing. That’s better EV than any normal draft queue I know.      
 
A final thought: I saw a tweet earlier this week that said something like this.  Players, last year: “ahh, why just Aggro and mid-range? Why no combo? That’s so stupid!” Players, this year: “Why did Wizards print Jeskai Ascendancy? That’s so stupid!”   Remember, if you don‘t like the weather, wait, it will change. If you don’t like the format, wait, it will change. It you don’t like the players – well, you’re screwed.   
 

Value of Old Formats: Modern Masters

Modern Masters drafts are here. Modern Masters is a great play environment – the occasional big money card is just a bonus. Don’t count on rare drafting to pay for the events, though: the contents of a MMA pack are only worth about $4.71 on average retail, or $14.31 per draft set.  That sounds great, until you remember that drafts cost 25 TIX. You will want to grab the money cards when you see them, so here’s a list of everything worth more than $4.
              

Name
Rarity
 Price
Tarmogoyf
M
 $ 75.70
Vendilion Clique
M
 $ 46.62
Cryptic Command
R
 $ 29.20
Blood Moon
R
 $ 19.86
Dark Confidant
M
 $ 19.03
Chalice of the Void
R
 $ 16.40
Sword of Fire and Ice
M
 $ 11.23
Vedalken Shackles
M
 $   9.86
Engineered Explosives
R
 $   9.32
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
M
 $   6.94
Elspeth, Knight-Errant
M
 $   6.46
City of Brass
R
 $   6.13
Gifts Ungiven
R
 $   5.28
Sword of Light and Shadow
M
 $   5.06
Path to Exile
U
 $   5.04
Arcbound Ravager
R
 $   4.45
‚ēěther Vial
R
 $   4.18

 

Value of Old Formats: Urza’s Saga

We are about a week away from Saga block flashback drafts. It is a chance to play with Pestilence as a common, and draft black accordingly. On average, the contents of a Saga block draft set are only worth about $6.87, retail, so you will want to grab the money cards when you see them. To help you out, here’s a list of everything worth more than the price of a booster pack.
 

Name
Rarity
Set
Price
Show and Tell
R
UZ
$  49.47
Sneak Attack
R
UZ
$  39.11
Gaea's Cradle
R
UZ
$  30.06
Time Spiral
R
UZ
$  21.44
Exploration
R
UZ
$  19.64
Grim Monolith
R
UL
$  13.24
Goblin Welder
R
UL
$  12.80
Argothian Enchantress
R
UZ
$  12.69
Serra's Sanctum
R
UZ
$  12.66
Metalworker
R
UD
$  11.95
Back to Basics
R
UZ
$  11.25
Academy Rector
R
UD
$  8.35
Gilded Drake
R
UZ
$  7.56
Phyrexian Tower
R
UZ
$  6.78
Replenish
R
UD
$  5.28
Treachery
R
UD
$  4.32
Defense Grid
R
UL
$  4.29

 

Cutting Edge Tech:

Standard:  The World Championship finished last weekend. The decklists are here. Now Worlds is a multi-format event, and the metagame for this sort of event is going to be quite different from the normal run of MTGO decks.  Players at Worlds metagame for an event with 24 really good players. MTGO is more mixed, so I’m grabbing my deck of the week from the TCGPlayer Diamond event held in Indianapolis last weekend.   A Mardu Midrange deck, very similar to the deck I featured last week, won that event.
 
 
Modern: The Jeskai Ascendency combo decks are still going strong, but some other decks have taken down events. This one won a SCG Modern Open last weekend.
 
 
Legacy: SCG ran another Legacy Open last weekend.   The Top 16 decks were, once again, a reasonable mix, although the Top 8 was half Delver. The winner was – well, talk about old school!
 
 
Vintage:  Vintage Gold Queues will be up by the time you read this. So will the qualifiers for the Vintage Festival.  Here’s the winner from last weekend’s Daily.
 
 

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 almost a decade now, and have never been overcharged or disappointed.
 
Standard staples: Standard prices shuffled around a bit again this week. Overall, we are very slightly down. Some cards that had spiked recently dropped a bit. Goblin Rabblemaster is up, again – it’s almost enough to make people draft M15.   If I get the time, I will probably jump in an M15 sealed event. Six chances at a Rabblemaster, four rounds of reasonably fun Magic and good prize support. Why not. 
 

Standard & Block Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$12.77
$13.18
($0.41)
-3%
$8.72
$8.34
$0.38
5%
$18.47
$18.00
$0.47
3%
$11.51
$10.08
$1.43
14%
$13.77
$15.09
($1.32)
-9%
$7.46
$8.41
($0.95)
-11%
$20.59
$20.00
$0.59
3%
$19.15
$16.48
$2.67
16%
$11.67
$12.30
($0.63)
-5%
$5.77
$5.92
($0.15)
-3%
$14.79
$15.93
($1.14)
-7%
$15.74
$15.43
$0.31
2%
$14.47
$13.98
$0.49
4%
$5.63
$6.00
($0.37)
-6%
$9.78
$10.95
($1.17)
-11%
$11.19
$11.87
($0.68)
-6%
$14.57
$15.38
($0.81)
-5%
$10.79
$10.42
$0.37
4%
$19.43
$15.51
$3.92
25%
$10.49
$12.51
($2.02)
-16%

Modern staples:  Modern prices rebounded again this week. Prices were up pretty much across the board.
 

Modern Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$39.80
$42.08
($2.28)
-5%
$13.85
$13.53
$0.32
2%
$19.90
$19.13
$0.77
4%
$18.73
$18.79
($0.06)
0%
$13.67
$14.85
($1.18)
-8%
$27.46
$27.46
$0.00
0%
$18.42
$18.34
$0.08
0%
$13.73
$15.77
($2.04)
-13%
$23.40
$22.99
$0.41
2%
$48.32
$48.32
$0.00
0%
$25.41
$25.41
$0.00
0%
$66.34
$73.49
($7.15)
-10%
$22.09
$22.09
$0.00
0%
$56.40
$60.17
($3.77)
-6%
$37.07
$40.91
($3.84)
-9%
$18.66
$19.21
($0.55)
-3%
$41.22
$36.05
$5.17
14%
$38.17
$36.55
$1.62
4%
$17.64
$19.72
($2.08)
-11%
$75.70
$78.82
($3.12)
-4%
$19.31
$19.31
$0.00
0%
$45.99
$46.62
($0.63)
-1%
$22.84
$24.40
($1.56)
-6%

Legacy / Vintage: Legacy and Vintage prices are pretty stable this week, except for VMA. The VMA drafts hit this week. Black Lotus is now worth less than a single Rishadan Port. For that matter, a playset of Wastelands – a Tempest uncommon – now costs more than a complete set of the Power Nine. Ridiculous. On the flip side, don’t expect VMA drafts back anytime soon. They were up this time because VMA draft was a Worlds format, and Wizards gave all the competitors VMA packs and drafts to play them in. That won’t happen again anytime soon.  
 

Legacy / Vintage Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$43.24
$48.76
($5.52)
-11%
$132.40
$146.09
($13.69)
-9%
$38.42
$38.42
$0.00
0%
(Containment Preist)
$24.00
$24.00
$0.00
0%
$28.74
$28.74
$0.00
0%
$28.00
$29.00
($1.00)
-3%
$9.15
$9.15
$0.00
0%
$29.92
$34.00
($4.08)
-12%
$29.89
$29.89
$0.00
0%
$27.30
$28.29
($0.99)
-3%
$25.96
$25.96
$0.00
0%
$17.24
$17.58
($0.34)
-2%
$10.60
$10.71
($0.11)
-1%
$98.49
$98.49
$0.00
0%
$34.56
$37.07
($2.51)
-7%
$54.26
$61.00
($6.74)
-11%
$140.77
$140.77
$0.00
0%
$49.47
$45.37
$4.10
9%
$39.11
$39.11
$0.00
0%
$34.59
$37.25
($2.66)
-7%
$41.70
$41.70
$0.00
0%
$12.88
$14.23
($1.35)
-9%
$36.68
$36.68
$0.00
0%
$101.61
$89.46
$12.15
14%

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.   For those of you who redeem, here are the retail price of one of everything set currently available in the store, excluding sets that are not currently draftable or not redeemable.    
 

Complete Set
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
Born of the Gods
$76.33
$74.94
$1.39
2%
Journey into Nix
$126.74
$116.92
$9.82
8%
Khans of Trakir
$113.47
$112.88
$0.59
1%
M15
$153.44
$140.95
$12.49
9%
Theros
$114.57
$110.94
$3.63
3%

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 return of VMA has pushed prices down – down far enough that Black Lotus is no longer the most expensive card online. Ancestral Recall is now under $50, and only the 15th most expensive card online. Mox Pearl has dropped off the list. Amazing. 
 
Name
Rarity
Set
 Price
Rishadan Port
R
MM
 $ 140.77
Black Lotus
B
VMA
 $ 132.40
Wasteland
U
TE
 $ 101.61
Misdirection
R
MM
 $   98.49
Tarmogoyf
R
FUT
 $   78.82
Tarmogoyf
M
MMA
 $   75.70
Liliana of the Veil
M
ISD
 $   66.34
Mox Opal
M
SOM
 $   56.40
Force of Will
R
MED
 $   55.59
Mox Sapphire
B
VMA
 $   54.26
Show and Tell
R
UZ
 $   49.47
Griselbrand
M
AVR
 $   48.32
Vendilion Clique
M
MMA
 $   46.62
Vendilion Clique
R
MOR
 $   45.99
Infernal Tutor
R
DIS
 $   45.41
Ancestral Recall
B
VMA
 $   43.24
True-Name Nemesis
R
C13
 $   41.70
Scalding Tarn
R
ZEN
 $   41.22
Batterskull
M
NPH
 $   39.80
Sneak Attack
R
UZ
 $   39.11
City of Traitors
R
EX
 $   38.42
Scapeshift
R
MOR
 $   38.19
Noble Hierarch
R
CON
 $   37.07
Tangle Wire
R
NE
 $   36.83
Undiscovered Paradise
R
VI
 $   36.68
Time Walk
B
VMA
 $   34.59
Mox Jet
B
VMA
 $   34.56
Toxic Deluge
R
C13
 $   34.44
Mox Ruby
B
VMA
 $   32.22
Daze
C
DD2
 $   32.13
Lion's Eye Diamond
R
MI
 $   32.03
Gaea's Cradle
R
UZ
 $   30.06
Force of Will
R
VMA
 $   29.92
Cryptic Command
R
MMA
 $   29.20
Dark Depths
R
CSP
 $   28.74
Daze
C
 NE
 $   28.00
Cryptic Command
R
 LRW
 $   27.46
Hurkyl's Recall
R
 10E
 $   27.30
Volcanic Island
R
 ME4
 $   26.55
Craterhoof Behemoth
M
 AVR
 $   26.16
Volcanic Island
R
 ME3
 $   26.10
Intuition
R
 TE
 $   25.96
Karn Liberated
M
 NPH
 $   25.41
Mox Emerald
B
 VMA
 $   25.33
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 $ 25,470. That’s down about $200 from where we were last week.
 

Weekly Highlights:

I got a day off, and spent it drafting Cube and whatever was open.  Good times, v4 notwithstanding.  I did have to reboot once, and got one refund after a strange crash, but otherwise it worked.  And Magic is Magic, online or in the real world.
 
 
PRJ
 
“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 a lot of 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 cards, but it includes a ton of Masters Edition and Vintage cards, and some nice Modern bargains. 

 

11 Comments

I also noticed that oblivion by ScionOfJustice at Fri, 12/12/2014 - 13:29
ScionOfJustice's picture

I also noticed that oblivion stone's price has dropped like a ....... well you can figure that out.

good opinion pieces by eksiii at Sat, 12/13/2014 - 00:10
eksiii's picture

Sage wisdom in the nuggets -- thanks!

Mirage Drafts by wyluli1000 at Sat, 12/13/2014 - 08:50
wyluli1000's picture

Did the Mirage drafts really start on the 10th?! I can't find them anywhere. :(

I don't know if they did by TugaChampion at Sat, 12/13/2014 - 09:29
TugaChampion's picture

I don't know if they did because I never planned on playing them but many times I have to reset the filters and choose filters again to find the events I want. Sometimes because the filters aren't working, other times because some or all events are not showing. Resetting the filters fixes both problems.

Mirage Drafts by wyluli1000 at Sat, 12/13/2014 - 09:42
wyluli1000's picture

Thanks Tuga I'll give that a shot! :)

Mirage Drafts by wyluli1000 at Sat, 12/13/2014 - 09:52
wyluli1000's picture

They actually start on the 17th!

http://magic.wizards.com/en/MTGO/articles/archive/magic-online-holiday-f...

I swear I get mana screwed by Joe Fiorini at Sat, 12/13/2014 - 17:46
Joe Fiorini's picture

I swear I get mana screwed playing paper way more than magic online.

I've had weird stuff happen on Mtgo, like someone snagging my emrakul with a thoughtseize and then drawing it next turn. Highly unlikely, but very possible with a random shuffler.

I can't remember the last by Paul Leicht at Sat, 12/13/2014 - 18:25
Paul Leicht's picture

I can't remember the last paper tourney I was in where I did not have to mulligan (because doing otherwise would be stupid.) I think the actual answer to when was the last time I had a great draw in a tourney, would be "never".

A lot of people seem to think by Joe Fiorini at Sat, 12/13/2014 - 17:48
Joe Fiorini's picture

A lot of people seem to think that a random shuffle means that they'll get an evenly mixed deck of cards . That isn't true at all.

Yeah, there are far too many by longtimegone at Sat, 12/13/2014 - 22:58
longtimegone's picture

Yeah, there are far too many people out there who confuse random distribution with even distribution.

On Randomization... by Fred1160 at Mon, 12/15/2014 - 11:00
Fred1160's picture

A while back I played in a paper tourney and had a round where I just could not draw land at all.
After the match some guy goes, "You didn't shuffle your deck good." Huh? "If you had shuffled your deck good you would have drawn more lands."
I explained that is not how randomization works. It's not like the more you shuffle the better your draws are. I shuffle a lot. If tons of shuffling guarantee wins I'd be in the hall of fame by now.
With randomization there is always the possibility that you will be land screwed, land flooded, land starved, or just draw perfectly the whole game. The whole point of randomization is so that you can not predict what's coming up on top of your library. Maybe it's what you need and maybe it's not.
I played a guy who would play his cards unsleeved with the lands turned one way and the non-land cards turned the other. He was able to look at the top of his library and know if it was a land or not. I pointed out that this is considered not-quite-legal and he didn't believe me. I had to call a judge on him.