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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Dec 28 2018 1:00pm
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State of the Program for December 28th 2018
In the News
Ravnica Allegiance: We are beginning to get spoilers and previews for the new set. The set  mechanics article is here. The official card image gallery is here.   Allegiances hits MTGO and Arena on January 17th.
First Arena Tournament: Twitch Rivals held their first tournament on the MTG Arena platform. It was won by Caleb Durward. (Congrats, Caleb!) The tournament went off okay – more or less. It highlighted what Arena does well: the game play was splashy and the cards worked. The event also got a lot of viewers, considering that the event happened in the middle of a Tuesday, and was not very heavily advertised.  It also showed us what Arena does not do well. Matchmaking required players to find and challenge their opponents – like MTGO third party tournaments used to do. Those challenges were all single game matches, so to “sideboard” for games two and three players had to edit their decklists, then challenge again. Players had to restart games if the wrong player won the die roll for the game two or three – in at least one case players had to reroll twelve times before the right player won the die roll. We also had a game loss for a deck error, and had “judges” enforcing draws due to “time out.”   Just like paper!
Wizards Promoting a Digital Product:   Wizards is giving interviews and getting their message into mainstream (more or less) media.   About time. Example:  
Happy Holidays, People: It’s the holidays.  News is light. I’m in the North Woods, so deep in the woods I don’t even have cell service.
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 calendar and the weekly blog, while the best source for known bugs is the bug blog which appears sporadically on Not listed, but important: Wizards offers either one or two online PTQs each weekend, with qualifiers for limited PTQs running the days immediately prior to the PTQ.
Upcoming Events
Scheduled Downtimes
January 16th
Constructed Leagues End
January 16th 2019
Sealed Leagues End
January 17th 2019
Ravnica Allegiances
January 2019
Next B&R Announcement
January 21, 2019
WotC Premier Events
Wizards has announced a number of Premier events. Everything on this list in 2018 will be streamed. No word on what sort of coverage we will see for events in 2019.
·         Jan. 4: Oakland – Modern
·         Jan. 11: Prague – Limited
·         Jan. 25: New Jersey – Limited
·         Feb. 1: Sydney – Limited
·         Feb. 8: Toronto – Modern
·         Feb. 15:   Memphis – Standard AND Strasbourg – Limited
·         Feb. 22: Cleveland – Limited
·         March 1: Los Angeles – Modern
·         March 15: Tampa Bay – Modern AND Bilbao - Modern
·         March 22: Kyoto – Standard
·         March 29: Calgary – Modern
2018 Magic Online Championship Series and other events
Complete details, including schedule, rules, and which online events qualify you for which online or paper events is here. In addition, Wizards will be offering these special formats:
·         Ultimate Masters – now through December 26th phantom through January 11th
·         Vintage Cube – now through January 17th
·         Ravnica Allegiances – starting January 17th
Magic Online Format Challenges
These are high stakes events that happen every weekend. They cost 25 Tix / 250 play points, and last a number of rounds based on participation (assume 5-8), plus a single elimination Top 8. Details, including prize payouts, are here. Start times are:
Event Type
Start Time
Saturday, 8:00 am PT 
Saturday, 10:00 am PT
Saturday, 12:00 pm PT
Sunday, 8:00 am PT
Sunday, 10:00 am PT
Sunday, noon PT
Opinion Section: Arena Tournaments
Wizards has launched prize tournaments on MTG Arena. Right now, the events look a lot like early store events – they get played, players win prizes, fun is had, but they are little rough around the edges. Let’s talk about the pros and cons.
Pro: Arena is Cool to Watch. 
I’m biased against Arena. I know MTGO inside and out. I’m still an active paper judge, which means I stand around watching paper Magic a lot. However, I have to admit that Arena is a lot more action-packed than either of the alternatives. Watching Arena is like watching a highlight reel compared to a full game of football. Arena packs more action – or at least flashiness – per minute than either paper or MTGO. If you want to keep spectators engaged, you need flashiness. That’s why commercials have lots of jump cuts.
Pro: No Shuffling: 
One of the biggest problems with paper Magic is shuffling. It just takes time – and it is not fun to watch. I know – because judges watch shuffling. It’s one way we spot cheaters. And I can tell you from long experience that it is boring. It’s why coverage generally cuts away during sideboarding, and tries to talk over in game shuffling. It’s also why Wizards is trying to avoid fetchlands and the like where possible. Fetches mean shuffling – at least in paper. Arena avoids that whole shuffling thing (as does MTGO.)
Con: Single Game Matches
MTG Arena emphasizes single game matches in most of its play. I talked about why last week. However, Wizards realizes that serious tournaments need less randomness, and that means best of three matches. It has been the standard for Magic tournaments ever since Pro Tour I for a reason. MTG Arena supports three game matches – but it does not support three game matches in challenge mode. That has to change. This event had players rechallenging for games two and three – and restarting games if the wrong player won the die roll. Single game matches are great for casual play, or for grinding wild cards to make decks, but Arena needs to have large events run in three game matches.
Tournament Structure Support: From what I have heard of the event, the “pairings” were announced in chat, then players had to find and challenge their opponents.  That works it has worked for player run events on MTGO for decades. However, it never works perfectly.  Some players misunderstand, or challenge incorrectly, or have the wrong deck selected. MTGO events have large event support baked in – and that makes the events run much more smoothly.  Arena needs this.
Con: Round Timing 
I was in the north woods when the event happened, so I missed it, but I understand they had people looking in on individual matches that were running long and asking how much longer they would take. If it wasn’t close to finishing, but the round was running long, those “officials” called those matches a draw. It sounds a lot like paper Magic – but paper Magic has a clock, and standardized end of round procedures. Here’s my typical end of round announcement:
“Magic players, Time! - that is time in the round. Active player finish your turn, then begin your five additional turns. If you have any questions how this works, call a judge.”
Arena does not have a chess clock, or end of round procedures.   It does have a sort of chess clock lite, which dings players if they go into the tank too long, but that mechanism does not prevent a game from going long. It probably needs something like that – even some of the coverage people were brainstorming options after the event. 
Overall, MTG Arena seems to be working, and Wizards is running events on the platform. My biggest concern, though, is that the platform may not be up to it. Right now, it appears that someone is running pairings and so forth manually, in the background – probably on Wizards Event Reporter or the like. Having done scorekeeping for many dozen events, I can say that this can cause problems. Hopefully Wizards remembers the PR disaster when a software glitch knocked Brian Kibler out of a large MTGO event in which he was locked for T8.  Kibler quit MTGO and started his Hearthstone carrier as a result. Now Wizards has attracted Kibler and other streamers back to Magic: it would be a disaster if tournament problems set him off again.
Cutting Edge Tech
I’m hiding out in the Northwoods – specifically the Upper Peninsula – this week. We’re staying in Ingrid’s parents house on Lake Superior, enjoying the waves, the woods and the snow. But I don’t have cell service here, so I have not been able to track decks or play MTGO. Also, Wizards avoids holding events over the holidays, so fewer decklists. Etc. 
So no decklists this week. 
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 are all over the place this week. People are beginning to see spoilers for the next set, so brace yourselves for volatility.
Standard Cards
Last Week
% Change
Arclight Phoenix
Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants
Carnage Tyrant
Doom Whisperer
Karn, Scion of Urza
Nexus of Fate
Nicol Bolas, the Ravager
Ral, Izzet Viceroy
Rekindling Phoenix
Sarkhan, Fireblood
Star of Extinction
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Vivien Reid
Modern staples: Modern prices fluctuating somewhat – but that is pretty normal. Ultimate Masters is only available in phantom now, so we won’t continue to see new copies of staples entering the card pool. Prices may stabilize.
Modern Cards
Last Week
% Change
Legacy and Vintage: Legacy and Vintage are recovering a bit – but Ultimate Masters crushed a lot of prices.   Back to Basics fell of the list – around $50 before UMA, down to a couple bucks now. It was never that widely played – but Urza’s block was not widely opened, either. 
Legacy / Vintage Cards
Last Week
% Change
Standard Legal Sets: This table tracks the cost of a single copy of every card in each Standard legal set, plus Treasure Chests and the current booster pack. I’ll keep tracking these because they are interesting (at least to me).   
Complete Set
Last Week
% Change
Core Set 2019
Guilds of Ravnica
Rivals of Ixalan
Treasure Chest
Guilds of Ravnica Booster
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 is down a bit from last week, again. The Power Nine – the real ones, in the original frames – are on top of the list. Ultimate Masters is having an impact – this week True-Name Nemesis fell off the table.
Black Lotus
 $   165.20
Mox Sapphire
 $   101.42
Mox Ruby
 $     65.30
Mox Emerald
 $     64.83
Ancestral Recall
 $     59.45
Mox Jet
 $     55.74
Surgical Extraction
 $     45.41
Surgical Extraction
 $     44.49
Time Walk
 $     43.47
Mox Pearl
 $     41.58
Mox Opal
 $     39.19
Mox Opal
Mythic Rare
 $     38.20
Horizon Canopy
 $     37.75
Mox Opal
Mythic Rare
 $     37.08
Horizon Canopy
Mythic Rare
 $     36.90
Mythic Rare
 $     36.12
Dark Depths
Mythic Rare
 $     34.51
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Mythic Rare
 $     33.40
Horizon Canopy
 $     32.42
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Mythic Rare
 $     32.19
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Mythic Rare
 $     32.07
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Mythic Rare
 $     31.87
Force of Will
 $     29.00
Liliana, the Last Hope
Mythic Rare
 $     28.96
True-Name Nemesis
 $     26.86
Arclight Phoenix
Mythic Rare
 $     25.98
Liliana of the Veil
Mythic Rare
 $     25.98
Liliana of the Veil
Mythic Rare
 $     25.83
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 approximately $ 12,025. That’s up $100 from last week.      
In Closing
Happy Holidays!  I’ll have to drive into town to post this, then back to family, pine trees and snow. It feels like Christmas around here.  
“One Million Words” on MTGO
This series is an ongoing tribute to Erik “Hamtastic” Friborg.



Nice article, thank you.The by MichelleWong at Sun, 12/30/2018 - 08:44
MichelleWong's picture

Nice article, thank you and happy holidays.

Mox Ruby is retailing for $65 but buying for $5 (one bot even offered me only $1 today for Mox Ruby, whereas MTGO Traders at least offered $5). For a $65 card, that speaks volumes.

re by Hearts at Sun, 12/30/2018 - 16:44
Hearts's picture

And they are the only "trendsetters" in mtgo, the bots. And they do not meet any hindrance from wotc, even though it is very easy to meet the bot with hindrances.

Bot is third party software, specifically disallowed by user agreement, all games / similar programmes have this in the user agreement.

It is wotc's responsibility to caretake my rights as customer, but they turn the blind eye.

Is it any wonder that we among many other sick things have cheating in mtg both online and in paper ?

Hearts, I am not blaming the by MichelleWong at Mon, 12/31/2018 - 10:04
MichelleWong's picture

Hearts, the bots are not to blame.

Mox Ruby by Cauchy at Mon, 12/31/2018 - 03:21
Cauchy's picture

Let us not make it worse then it is. Mox Ruby is not traded at a spread of $60. The VMA version is sold at 6.5 and bought at 5.5. The 1E version is sold at 66 and bought at 59. These spreads are not special.

Thanks Cauchy for clarifying, by MichelleWong at Mon, 12/31/2018 - 10:03
MichelleWong's picture

Thanks Cauchy for clarifying, makes sense now.

(On a side note Cauchy, the price for the Vintage Masters version of Mox Ruby used to be $60 and is now $5).

Pernicious Deed and Vindicate by Cauchy at Mon, 12/31/2018 - 14:52
Cauchy's picture

Pernicious Deed and Vindicate used to cost $100. I dont know why Mox Ruby dropped in price but Vintage has never seen a lot of action online.

I mean p9 (not the original by Paul Leicht at Tue, 01/01/2019 - 04:14
Paul Leicht's picture

I mean p9 (not the original borders though) have been down since VMA went of out print (finally) and the speculators dumped their load after realizing they would not be making their money back. That was 4 years ago. There have been peaks and valleys since then but moxen have been extremely affordable since then. I don't think you can look at Vintage for any kind of indicators of financial stability or volatility.

I think the real indicators would be modern cards which while they gain and lose value regularly have never really been cheaper in aggregate (to my memory.) That's a direct effect of the panics and people doomsaying rather than any real sign of the mythical end imho.

+1 I agree. I do hope they by Cauchy at Tue, 01/01/2019 - 07:39
Cauchy's picture

I agree.

I do hope they bring back VMA drafts soon.