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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Feb 15 2019 1:00pm
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State of the Program for February 15th  2019
 
In the News
Chaos Draft Returns: Chaos draft is coming back. It will be around from Feb. 13th (next Thursday) through Feb. 27th
 
Paper Products this Year: Last week, Gavin Verhey posted an article recapping all the paper products released in 2018. It’s quite a list. The article is here. It is an interesting read – even if it isn’t directly related to MTGO.
Paper Prerelease at a GP?:  Wizards has announced the date for the paper prerelease for the next set. It’s the weekend of April 27th-28th. They also announced that GP London will that same weekend – and that the GP will be a prerelease. That will have a huge impact on attendance, and on local game stores in that part of Great Britain.   Is this a new experiment, or a scheduling mistake? Uncertain. Also the same weekend as the London marathon, and this could also be affected by Brexit, which could screw up travel and customs. I hope this doesn’t turn out really badly.
MTG Arena State of the Beta Article: Wizards continues to improve MTG Arena. This article covers best of three, an update to the deckbuilder, integrating Discord (the voice chat app – not chaos), etc. Read it here.
 
Nexus of Fate Banned on MTG Arena Only: Wizards banned Nexus of Fate for best of one Arena games. And only there. It is still legal on MTGO, in paper Standard and in best of three Arena matches. Article explaining the banning is here
 
MOCS Rescheduled: The MOCS Championship has been rescheduled from April 5-7, at Wizards HQ in Renton. It is now scheduled for May 17-19, location TBD. One post on the change is here.
 
Hasbro Earnings Report: Revenues for 2018 were down 12% over 2017. Much of that was due to the Toys-R-Us bankruptcy, which meant Toys-R-Us stopped buying and dumped its existing inventory. Magic was up. Details here
 
Judge Shirts Being Discontinued: Apparently, Wizards will no longer be providing judge shirts for GPs. Instead, they will be providing judge shirts for Pro Tours - maybe. CFB will be creating their own shirts for MagicFests. SCG already has its own judge shirts for SCG Open events. No real details – what little we know is from this judge blog.
 
Retrospective on Craig Gibson’s Work: An article on Craig Gibson’s two decades as the WotC official PT photographer is here. Lots of his pictures.  Craig took a number of pictures of me over the years, including my official judge center pictures.
 
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 MTGO.com. Not listed, but important: Wizards offers either one or two online MCQs each weekend, with qualifiers for limited MCQs running the days immediately prior to the MCQ.
 

Upcoming Events
Dates
Scheduled Downtimes
February 27th
Constructed Leagues End
April 23, 2019
Sealed Leagues End
April 26, 2019
War of the Spark
April 27, 2019 
Next B&R Announcement
March 11, 2019
Ravnica Allegiances Redemption
---
“Archery”
September 2019
“Baseball”
January, 2020
“Cricket”
Spring, 2020

 
WotC Premier Events
Wizards has announced a number of Premier events. No word on what sort of coverage we will see for events in 2019. There may not be any.
·       Feb. 15:   Memphis – Standard AND Strasbourg – Limited
·       Feb. 22: Cleveland – Limited
·       March 1: Los Angeles – Modern
·       March 15: Tampa Bay AND Bilbao – both Modern
·       March 22: Kyoto – Standard
·       March 23: Arena Invitational – will be streamed
·       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:
·       Ravnica Allegiances limited happening now
·       Chaos Draft Feb. 13th – Feb. 27th
 
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
Sunday, 8:00 am PT
Sunday, 10:00 am PT

 
Opinion Section: Burnout and MTG Arena
I started playing magic a long, long time ago. My first memories of the game were playing with a friend’s deck back around the days of revised. I remember buying packs of Ice Ages and Chronicles back when they were the new thing. I remember drafting Fifth Edition and Homelands. I started playing PTQs when the format was Urza’s block, and going to a GP with Enchantress and Survival of the Fittest deck.  
 
Over the decades, I have spent countless hours playing in tournaments, and countless more judging them. However, Magic has always been more about the social interactions than the winning. Magic is a fantastic game, and super fun to play. However, I like playing with people more than beating them. I’m not super-competitive; never have been.
 
My favorite Magic memories have always involved multiplayer games, or games with friends. It was the interaction. However, we live on a farm in the country. My “local” game store is almost an hour’s drive away. That makes weekday events hard to get to. Back in college I could study all day, then game all night – but I was walking home from wherever we were playing, and it didn’t matter if I was almost asleep. It’s not a good thing to be half asleep when suicidal deer decide to stand in country roads.
 
Fifteen years ago, we got decent (for the time) Internet here, and I downloaded MTGO. I could play from home. I could play leagues and casual play. I could interact with my opponents in chat, and the community in clans, chat rooms and on the Wizards forums. There were downsides – all matches were best of three, and drafts and constructed events played in rounds. You kept playing until the draft had finished all three rounds, the constructed event finished all 4-7 rounds, or you dropped. I played in a lot of drafts that I entered at 4am, and ended up dropping before the final round because I had to go to work.  Still, MTGO was Magic, and it was great.
 
I also remember playing a lot of more casual games, in more casual formats. I challenged people to Rainbow Highlander matches, and 5 color, and emperor, and on and on. The community organized Pauper leagues and tournaments long before Wizards recognized the format, and I played in those. Thanks to the chat rooms, we had plenty of player-run events of all types. We even had player-run Auction rooms. We also had rooms for casual play. 
 
Over time, though, we lost that. MTGO evolved, and while the program handled individual matches and sanctioned tournaments better, it lost many of the features that made it social, and fun for casual players. Wizards stopped supporting clans, and chat rooms. They eliminated their forums, and leagues went away for almost a decade, Wizards got rid of the causal rooms. MTGO became, more and more, a place to play serious, sanctioned, competitive Magic.
 
And I got less and less interested in playing on the program. Back when chat and social interaction actually worked, I played close to daily. Over the last year, I played MTGO maybe once a week. I played Magic with friends, at prereleases and the occasional FNM. I switched to online games with a lot more social interaction. 
 
I got burned out on MTGO. Not Magic, but MTGO. And it got harder and harder to write about the program. For decades, I have been writing about what worked on MTGO, and what didn’t. I wrote about what Wizards should do to support MTGO. I wrote about encouraging casual play. I wrote about finding a way to match casual players with casual players. I wrote about promoting MTGO at paper events, and putting coupons for MTGO drafts or sealed events in booster packs. I wrote about supporting content creators. I wrote about daily rewards, or rewards for playing certain formats or across formats. However, instead of adding more and different rewards, Wizards slowly removed the reward programs they had in place. Now, other than prize packs and play points, MTGO does not reward you for playing or using the program.
 
I wrote about finding ways to play that did not require so much time. That was a serious problem in the past. Single elimination drafts used to take three hours or so – and that was three continuous hours. Constructed events were multi-round, multi-hour events. The player base argued for draft and constructed leagues for a decade before Wizards even tried them. When they first tried constructed leagues, they were a huge success. Later, Wizards allowed experimentation with draft leagues, and that was also super successful. Too bad it took a literal decade for those to appear on MTGO.
 
The other stuff – support in booster packs, ranked pairings, casual support, etc., etc. – didn’t happen.   I eventually got tired of Wizards ignoring the community. I got tired of knowing what could save the program, and watching Wizards just ignore it. After spending literally tens of thousands of dollars on MTGO, I stopped being interested in MTGO and online Magic. 
 
And then came MTG Arena. At first, I was not really involved. I sent Wizards a request to play in the beta, and they ignored it for a couple months. Finally, they sent me an email invite, but with a narrow response period I could not meet. (I was traveling, without email access.) So I didn’t get into the closed beta at all. I did, eventually, get into the open beta. Fifteen years ago, I had a contagious illness, and had to stay home from work. I downloaded MTGO that week, and started playing. In January, I had something similar – a bad cold, so I downloaded MTG Arena. 
 
I like Arena. Wizards has done with Arena everything they should have done with MTGO. They have a matching algorithm that allows me to play my introductory decks against other players with similar decks. They let me play when I can, in short bursts. They even let me pause a draft when my dog has to go out, without missing picks. 
 
Arena has lots of daily challenges. I can play for an hour or so every couple days and earn a bunch of cards and a small pile of gold. I can play casual decks – for example, the mono-green introductory deck to which I have added a fourth Lawnmower elf and a couple odd lot rares and uncommons rewards cards – without being repeatedly stomped by tier one netdecks.  I can play pretty much anything (from the current card pool), without losing constantly. That’s not true on MTGO.
 
It helps that I can win on Arena. I have entered a couple drafts this month, and finished 7-2 and 6-3. I went 7-2 in a pauper event with a pure jank deck – even Pauper decks should not play a bunch of three mana vanilla 3/2s.   I have played far too little Magic in the past year, and I am rusty. Very rusty. I lose to onboard tricks. I miss interactions, and miss wins. I have very little experience in the current meta and draft formats. Despite all that, I am crushing Arena. Now it helps that I learned to draft, and still draft FNMs, in Madison, WI.   Even so, I am doing far better on Arena than on MTGO. I’m not sure if Wizards can sustain that. A big problem with Magic has always been that it tends to turn off newer or weaker players if they continually lose. So far, Arena is attracting enough new players that that does not seem to be a problem. 
 
I am really enjoying Arena. That has surprised me. I expected to have a lot of the same reactions I have had to Wizards official announcements and products I have had over the last decade or so: if it involves my friends and social interaction, I’m in; if it is just about competitive game play, not so much. Surprisingly, even though the social interaction is still lacking, MTG Arena is enough about playing Magic that I don’t mind. MTG Arena is a digital version of beer and pretzels Magic, and I can enjoy that for a couple hours a week.
 
Wizards is even adding Discord support and the ability to challenge your friends. Admittedly, they had to, since their first event almost died due problems in matching players, but it is still something. 
 
I don’t like everything about Arena, of course. I hate the deck editor. I’m not a fan now, and expect it will be infinitely worse if I ever get a card pool comparable to what I have on MTGO. I hate wildcards. I have redeemed exactly one, to complete a playset, then proceeded to open the same card in my next reward for the ultimate feel-bad. I’m not a big fan of the economy, and will not be grinding. As for trying to qualify for anything on MTG Arena – I remember the horrors of tie-breakers in the old 264 player leagues in MTGO v2, and I’m disappointed that Wizards does not. I expect that the current ladder rules will not survive long after the Mythic Invitational, and I hope no one gets seriously hurt grinding for it. This sort of thing has caused breakdowns and suicides in other games. I hope nothing like that happens with Arena. 
 
When I downloaded Arena, I spent the $5 on the intro package. I got some cards, gold and gems. Will I spend more? No. I have spent a small fortune on paper cards, and another small fortune on MTGO. Nothing Wizards is doing at the moment makes me at all confident that they will respect that investment in any way. They look to be winding down MTGO, while pushing Arena way to fast. They also are not telling us anything about anything. I am not at all confident that Wizards will not treat Arena the same way they treated MTGO – slowly reducing the casual end and concentrating on paid, competitive play until they eventually eliminate Arena for the next big thing. And until Wizards does something else, I will be just a free-to-play player on Arena. 
 
Magic has a huge pay-to-win component. Tier one decks have, over the last few decades, have had an increasingly higher percentage of rare, and now Mythic, cards. Decks are getting more and more expensive. For now, Arena is getting a lot of new players because it is the new thing, players can get free drafts and sealed events in paper boosters, and because Magic is a great game. However, over time, Arena is not going to be the cool new thing. We will see whether Wizards can continue to support casual players: whether they continue to have decent pairing algorithms, casual events and interesting play. If so, the game might attract a wider player base. If not, it will be a new MTGO, with a player base that is an order of magnitude or more behind other online games. And until that shakes out, I am not spending more money on MTG Arena. You burned me too often, Wizards. I was invested in MTGO, and Dreamscape, and the forums, and Duelmasters, and so forth. I have friends who bought Duels of the Planeswalkers. 
 
Magic is a great game, but I have very little faith in Wizards of the Coast anymore. At least, not as a customer.  
 
 
Cutting Edge Tech
Standard: The largest Standard event last weekend was the SCG Open in Dallas. The winning deck is no longer just a budget special – Mono-Blue Aggro has reached the mainstream.
 
 
Modern: We had a Modern GP with 1315 players. The winning deck was a UBr Death’s Shadow list, but my favorite deck had to be the seventh and eighth place Rock decks.   That would be what I would play. 
 
 
Pauper:  MTG Arena had a Standard Pauper event. I played a red deck made out of the limited cards I own on Arena. How limited – I only had three Skewer the Critics and almost no four-ofs worth playing (except Shock.)   I went 7-2, losing only to another powerhouse of the Standard Pauper scene – the decks running a couple dozen Persistent Petitioners. If I had more of them…
 
Legacy: Another combo deck that is stupid expensive in paper, but quite affordable on MTGO, won the Legacy Challenge last weekend.   Once again, a lot of goldfishing is recommended.
 
 
Vintage: Vintage is still heavily dominated by Shops, Storm and control decks, but some other decks appear on occasion. Here’s an interesting creature-based control deck.
 
 
 
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 over a decade now, and have never been overcharged or disappointed.
 
Standard Staples: Standard prices are all over the place again this week, but the movement is pretty slight. A few cards stayed below my arbitrary $5 threshold, so they fell off the table. Rekindling Phoenix may be next.
 

Standard Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
Arclight Phoenix
$42.44
$34.24
$8.20
24%
Doom Whisperer
$5.55
$5.50
$0.05
1%
Dovin, Grand Arbiter
$5.61
$6.32
($0.71)
-11%
Hydroid Krasis
$35.74
$33.13
$2.61
8%
Nexus of Fate
$23.35
$22.76
$0.59
3%
Prime Speaker Vannifer
$7.86
$8.30
($0.44)
-5%
Ral, Izzet Viceroy
$8.95
$7.88
$1.07
14%
Rekindling Phoenix
$4.54
$5.78
($1.24)
-21%
Seraph of the Scales
$7.08
$8.27
($1.19)
-14%
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
$15.87
$17.79
($1.92)
-11%
Vivien Reid
$8.60
$13.27
($4.67)
-35%

Eternal staples:  The Legacy/Vintage table was getting small, so I combined it with the Modern table.  The combined table is pretty quiet.
 

Eternal Format Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$12.55
$14.63
($2.08)
-14%
$13.40
$12.36
$1.04
8%
$18.23
$16.82
$1.41
8%
$15.41
$14.42
$0.99
7%
$9.78
$8.40
$1.38
16%
$12.96
$12.30
$0.66
5%
$14.98
$14.94
$0.04
0%
$17.49
$17.09
$0.40
2%
$13.49
$13.07
$0.42
3%
$19.72
$21.54
($1.82)
-8%
$26.20
$24.43
$1.77
7%
$9.67
$10.62
($0.95)
-9%
$20.68
$20.07
$0.61
3%
$18.00
$18.11
($0.11)
-1%
$24.07
$22.81
$1.26
6%
$17.43
$17.25
$0.18
1%
$43.62
$33.00
$10.62
32%
$30.54
$27.78
$2.76
10%
$8.70
$7.69
$1.01
13%
$10.72
$10.92
($0.20)
-2%

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
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
Core Set 2019
$121.29
$125.07
($3.78)
-3%
Dominaria
$42.61
$46.53
($3.92)
-8%
Guilds of Ravnica
$110.09
$107.69
$2.40
2%
Ixalan
$28.20
$30.66
($2.46)
-8%
Ravnica Allegiances
$111.63
$109.26
$2.37
2%
Rivals of Ixalan
$27.19
$30.08
($2.89)
-10%
Treasure Chest
$1.88
$1.82
$0.06
3%
Ravnica Allegiance Booster
$3.27
$3.19
$0.08
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 list is led by the classic frame Power Nine, but none of the new frame P9 are on the list. Scarcity – and better frames – matter. 
 

Name
Set
Rarity
 Price
Black Lotus
 1E
Rare
 $ 208.11
Mox Sapphire
 1E
Rare
 $ 113.04
Mox Ruby
 1E
Rare
 $    78.96
Mox Emerald
 1E
Rare
 $    76.99
Mox Jet
 1E
Rare
 $    63.72
Ancestral Recall
 1E
Rare
 $    62.53
Mox Pearl
 1E
Rare
 $    54.40
Time Walk
 1E
Rare
 $    48.55
Surgical Extraction
 NPH
Rare
 $    44.23
Surgical Extraction
 MM2
Rare
 $    43.62
Arclight Phoenix
 GRN
Mythic Rare
 $    42.44
Hydroid Krasis
 RNA
Mythic Rare
 $    35.74
Dark Depths
 V16
Mythic Rare
 $    35.53
Liliana of the Veil
 UBT
Mythic Rare
 $    32.92
Unmask
 V16
Mythic Rare
 $    31.18
True-Name Nemesis
 C13
Rare
 $    31.04
True-Name Nemesis
 PZ1
Mythic Rare
 $    30.54
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
 WWK
Mythic Rare
 $    27.31
Timetwister
 1E
Rare
 $    26.72
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
 A25
Mythic Rare
 $    26.38
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
 EMA
Mythic Rare
 $    26.26
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
 VMA
Mythic Rare
 $    26.20

 
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 $ 11,850. That’s down about $10 from last week.  Insignificant. 
 
In Closing
Ever have one of those friends that rants about something for a while, then stomps out? Then they comes back in and say “one more thing” – and rant some more? And do it again?    
 
This winter is like that. Cold, deep snow, ice storm, more sub-zero temperature, another big snow storm, and on and on. Eight inches of snow yesterday, rain forecast for tomorrow,  snow all weekend.
 
Enough, already, winter. Please!
 
 
PRJ
 
“One Million Words” on MTGO. “4MWords” on Arena.
 
 
This series is an ongoing tribute to Erik “Hamtastic” Friborg.
 

3 Comments

You only need four copies of by JXClaytor at Fri, 02/15/2019 - 13:02
JXClaytor's picture

You only need four copies of a card on arena if it is unlimited to deck size. It will let you add any number. I played a 140 copy persistent petitioner deck earlier.

petitioners by pcjr at Fri, 02/15/2019 - 13:51
pcjr's picture

I had a lot of fun the first time I was paired against a 60-card petitioners deck in pauper with my 249 card deck.

Yeah I ran into that deck on by Paul Leicht at Fri, 02/15/2019 - 18:47
Paul Leicht's picture

Yeah I ran into that deck on Arena last night. Not as fun as it sounded at first.