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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Feb 22 2019 1:00pm
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State of the Program for February 22nd 2019
 
In the News
Tabletop Mythic Championships (f/k/a the Pro Tour) this Weekend: Watch it on Twitch.tv/Magic. The preview article is here
 
How to Qualify for the Mythic Championships: Wizards has explained how players can qualify for the tabletop and Arena Mythic Championships.  Most important for us – you can qualify on MTGO. Details – and there are a ton of them – here.
 
Competitive Magic in 2019: Elaine Chase of Wizards organized play penned (typed?, dictated?) an article on the changes to Competitive Magic this year. She talks about Tabletop, Arena and MTGO, Duo Standard and about the changes to coverage.   Read it here.
 
Magic Breaking Records: Elaine Chase said, in this article, “More people are playing and watching Magic today than at any time in its 25-year history. Twitch viewership doubled during 2018. MagicFest attendance is at an all-time high. Store event participation reached new records with Guilds of Ravnica, and Ravnica Allegiance continues to break records. New player growth is the highest it's ever been.” Nice.
 
CFB Will Do Video Coverage: at some MagicFests. Coverage will appear on twitch.tv/channelfireball. Wizards will be paying for part of the costs, and CFB will eat the rest. The coverage crew for LA will be LSV and Riley Knight, Marshall Sutcliffe and William “Huey” Jensen on air, and Vincent Chandler, better known as PleasantKenobi, acting as a floor reporter
 
Wizards Eliminates MSRP for Its Products: Wizards will no longer set a recommended price for its products. Wizards says “We believe the elimination of MSRP will simply help us communicate better to our players and the places where those players shop.” Announcement here.  
 
Brian David Marshall Leaving the Pro Tour: BDM has announced that this weekend’s Pro Tour will be his last. BDM has been the Pro Tour historian forever. He also founded Neutral Ground, the original SCG or CFB. He also organized the first big organized tournament – before the Pro Tour. Losing him is even bigger than losing Craig Gibson.  
 
“R&D Talks” Video: Mark Rosewater sat down with Erik Lauer to swap tales about design Magic design. Cool video – I hope it becomes a series.
 
Jeff Zandi Gone: Jeff was a huge part of Texas Magic. I first met him at GPs, and wrote articles for the same websites. Great guy. He will be missed. Corbin Hosler did a profile of Jeff, here.
 
 
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 PTQs each weekend, with qualifiers for limited PTQs running the days immediately prior to the PTQ.
 

Upcoming Events
Dates
Scheduled Downtimes
February 27th
Constructed Leagues End
April 23, 2019
Sealed Leagues End
April 26, 2019
War of the Spark
April 25, 2019 
Next B&R Announcement
March 11, 2019
Guilds of Ravnica Redemption
Ends March 27, 2019 (currently out of stock)
Ravnica Allegiances Redemption
Ends July 10, 2019
“Archery”
September 2019
“Baseball”
January, 2020
“Cricket”
Spring, 2020

 
WotC Premier Events
Wizards has announced a number of Premier events. Here’s what we know about. Text coverage by CFBevents.
·       March 1: Los Angeles – Modern – video coverage on twitch.tv/channelfireball
·       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:
·       Chaos Draft Feb. 13th – Feb. 27th
·       Lorwyn Flashback Draft Feb. 27th – March 6th
 
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: Pro Tour Qualification Over Time
Wizards has made more changes to the Pro Tour / Mythic Championships, and the process of qualifying for them. This is a work in progress, and Wizards will likely tweak it further. And, yes, it is different. And some people will be unhappy with the results. But this is not the first time we have seen changes, and it will not be the last. Wizards faces a very basic problem: Pro Tours / Mythic Championships cannot be infinitely large, but the number of players they would like to have participate is.
 
Let’s start with size. Wizards likes to cut to a Top 8 playoff on Sunday. They like being able to announce the Top 8 on Saturday night. The Top 8 playoffs also make better viewing when the players are not exhausted – which would happen if you had a couple rounds of Swiss Sunday morning, before the cut. I’m assuming the cut to Top 8 is a given.
 
Next, Wizards likes mixed format Mythic Championships – with a draft followed by a constructed format for Friday and Saturday.   That makes some sense. Years ago, Wizards had Limited PTs and Constructed PTs. The mixed format have proven more popular with players (except a handful of specialists), viewers and Wizards marketing department.   I don’t see that changing. Wizards has done three rounds of limited and five rounds of constructed art recent Pro Tours. A draft, deck construction and registration, three rounds of limited and five rounds of constructed takes about ten hours to complete.   That is about the maximum practical size. Any longer and everyone involved will be tired. Watching players make mistakes in the final round - which, as a judge, I have done many, many times – does not make for a good experience for anyone. Eight rounds a day is the practical maximum for these events.
 
Wizards also wants a clean cut to the Top 8. Having a competitor eliminated on tie-breakers doesn’t make anyone happy. It happens, but Wizards wants to minimize it. Practically, given the mathematics of mixed formats and draft pods, that means no more than 500 players at the event – and preferably less. Wizards announced a target of 300-400 last fall.
 
On the flip side, let’s look at all the players Wizards could invite:
·       The members of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame
·       Gold and Platinum members of the Pro Players Club
·       Top 32 players in the previous Pro Tour
·       The Top 8 players (plus those missing T8 on tiebreakers) in each of the 40 or so GPs
·       Winners of the MTGO qualifying events
·       MTG Arena grinders
·       Players making Top 4 of a Regional PTQs.
 
Based on last year’s numbers, that total would be well over 600 players. The overlap – for example, Huey Jensen is HoF, top 32 in the last PT, top 8 at a GP or three, and is doing well on Arena. Even so, Wizards has had some really big Pro Tours in the past, and they want to avoid that. I have judged at huge World Championships, Pro Tours and a 5,000+ player GP. More is not better.
 
So Wizards has to tweak and balance the number of invites for each slot. They are doing this now. They have done it many times before. No matter what they do, it has to be a compromise between keeping the attendance low enough, and inviting everyone who “deserves it.” An the whole point of a compromise is to balance the two (or more) conflicting goals. In any good compromise, both sides are going to be about equally unhappy.  
 
The first Pro Tour Qualifier I ever played in was in Madison, and we played eight rounds of Swiss, cut to Top 8. The first I Top 8ed was in Green Bay, and was just seven rounds of Swiss, cut to Top 8. I have played and judged in larger PTQs.   If I remember correctly, the largest US PTQs tended to be in Ohio, and pushed ten rounds. Constructed events were bad enough. Limited events, with an hour for deck registration and construction, Swiss rounds, a Top 8 draft and a three round playoff, were killer. And remember, these were single day events. I remember events finished long after midnight. 
 
They were too big, so Wizards cut them down. They had to do something, so they created the PPTQ / RPTQ system. It had some advantages, and some disadvantages.
 
Wizards did something similar with GPs. At one point, GPs were traditional Swiss, so they needed ten or more rounds on day one, and eight rounds plus Top 8, on day two. That made for really, really long days, and after a couple eleven round day ones, Wizards decided to make a change. They went to eight rounds day one and six rounds plus Top 8 day two, despite what that did to the cut. Instead, Wizards awarded invites to everyone that missed T8 on tiebreakers. A reasonable compromise, but one that made the Pro Tours larger. 
 
Since then, the price of GPs has increased a fair amount. Attendance has dropped, so the number of additional invites has decreased. Nowadays, it is often just the T8 players who qualify.  Not sure if the price increase is deliberately designed to reduce attendance, or if it just reflects the fact that events are expensive to put on. Probably a bit of both.  
 
Wizards tried several different methods of qualifying for the Pro Tours. “Qualifying” for Pro Tour One jut involved phoning Wizards quickly enough. For subsequent Pro Tours, and for the next decade or so, Wizards used the same ELO rankings used by chess players. ELO ranking changes are based on the strength of your opponent, where strength is defined by their ELO score.   That means that if you are a high ranked player, beating a low-ranked player does very little for your score, but losing to a low- ranked player tanks it badly. As a result, a lot of the really high-ranked players - those who were qualified on rating – never played sanctioned Magic outside of the Pro Tours and occasional GPs. The risk to their ELO ratings was too great. 
 
Later on, Wizards experimented with other methods of ranking and qualifying players – methods like the Pro Players Club and Planeswalker Points. All of these methods met some goals, while not meeting others. Changing to these other methods introduced another issue – players that were doing well under a previous system, but were hurt by the changes. Wizards tried various tweaks to try to help these players, but that made the problem of Pro Tours being too large even worse. There just aren’t any good ways of inviting everyone without making the invite list too large.
 
Wizards is going to continue to struggle with this. Expect to see the invite system change again later this year, and in future years.  Like it has since the Pro Tour was created.
 
Cutting Edge Tech
Standard: Last weekend’s MagicFest – Magicfest Memphis – was Standard. The Top 8 had 2 Sultai Aggro decks, 2 Mono-blue Aggro decks, a Nexus Reclamation build, one white weenie deck and a Gruul Smash deck. And the winner – Red Deck Wins 2019. It is actually a Rb deck, but whatever. 
 
 
Modern: The Top 8 of the Modern Finals last weekend was lots of Dredge, with a smattering of Pyroclasm, Lanternless Lantern decks, and a Hollow One build. Also this:
 
 
Legacy: The largest Legacy event last weekend was the MTGO Legacy Challenge. The Top 8 had several Strom decks, some Dark Depths / Lands decks, and one Enchantress build. The winner was a deck running 8 Blood Moons and Chalice of the Void. It the deck for you if you enjoy preventing your opponent from playing Magic.
 
 
Vintage: Vintage is still heavily dominated by Shops, Storm and control decks, but some other decks appear on occasion. Here’s a new one on me. Cool.
 
 
 
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. Teferi fell hard – even though Nexus of Fate is still legal in MTGO Standard.
 

Standard Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
Arclight Phoenix
$49.75
$42.44
$7.31
17%
Doom Whisperer
$5.41
$5.55
($0.14)
-3%
Dovin, Grand Arbiter
$7.09
$5.61
$1.48
26%
Hydroid Krasis
$38.92
$35.74
$3.18
9%
Nexus of Fate
$24.59
$23.35
$1.24
5%
Prime Speaker Vannifer
$9.69
$7.86
$1.83
23%
Ral, Izzet Viceroy
$8.66
$8.95
($0.29)
-3%
Rekindling Phoenix
$6.23
$4.54
$1.69
37%
Seraph of the Scales
$7.78
$7.08
$0.70
10%
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
$8.33
$15.87
($7.54)
-48%
Vivien Reid
$4.63
$8.60
($3.97)
-46%

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
$11.65
$12.55
($0.90)
-7%
$11.45
$13.40
($1.95)
-15%
$20.30
$18.23
$2.07
11%
$16.70
$15.41
$1.29
8%
$9.73
$9.78
($0.05)
-1%
$13.13
$12.96
$0.17
1%
$15.20
$14.98
$0.22
1%
$17.94
$17.49
$0.45
3%
$13.48
$13.49
($0.01)
0%
$19.46
$19.72
($0.26)
-1%
$26.71
$26.20
$0.51
2%
$9.68
$9.67
$0.01
0%
$22.05
$20.68
$1.37
7%
$19.93
$18.00
$1.93
11%
$24.18
$24.07
$0.11
0%
$18.73
$17.43
$1.30
7%
$43.37
$43.62
($0.25)
-1%
$30.55
$30.54
$0.01
0%
$8.80
$8.70
$0.10
1%
$11.79
$10.72
$1.07
10%

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
$119.21
$121.29
($2.08)
-2%
Dominaria
$33.86
$42.61
($8.75)
-21%
Guilds of Ravnica
$120.65
$110.09
$10.56
10%
Ixalan
$25.63
$28.20
($2.57)
-9%
Ravnica Allegiances
$132.09
$111.63
$20.46
18%
Rivals of Ixalan
$28.65
$27.19
$1.46
5%
Treasure Chest
$1.87
$1.88
($0.01)
-1%
Ravnica Allegiance Booster
$3.16
$3.27
($0.11)
-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 still 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
Arclight Phoenix
 GRN
Mythic Rare
 $   49.75
Time Walk
 1E
Rare
 $   48.55
Surgical Extraction
 NPH
Rare
 $   46.48
Surgical Extraction
 MM2
Rare
 $   43.37
Hydroid Krasis
 RNA
Mythic Rare
 $   38.92
Dark Depths
 V16
Mythic Rare
 $   35.53
Liliana of the Veil
 UBT
Mythic Rare
 $   32.92
True-Name Nemesis
 C13
Rare
 $   32.90
Unmask
 V16
Mythic Rare
 $   31.65
True-Name Nemesis
 PZ1
Mythic Rare
 $   30.55
Timetwister
 1E
Rare
 $   27.37
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
 WWK
Mythic Rare
 $   26.95
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
 A25
Mythic Rare
 $   26.94
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
 VMA
Mythic Rare
 $   26.82
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
 EMA
Mythic Rare
 $   26.71
Force of Will
 MED
Rare
 $   25.98
Mox Opal
 MM2
Mythic Rare
 $   25.15
Mox Opal
 MS2
Bonus
 $   25.02

 
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 $ 11,740. That’s down about $90 from last week.   Mainly in Standard.
 
In Closing
Same ole, same ole.  Winter has given us the gamut this week - bitter cold, lots of snow, an ice storm, more bitter cold and more snow. 
 
Spring, please.
 
Other than that, some Arena, some MTGO and I should be able to draft at FNM this evening.  I hope. 
 
PRJ
 
“One Million Words” on MTGO. “4MWords” on Arena. 
 
This series is an ongoing tribute to Erik “Hamtastic” Friborg.

2 Comments

Lots of stuff by Wrath of Pie at Fri, 02/22/2019 - 15:14
Wrath of Pie's picture
5

Without an official MSRP, I expect that the hidden effect will be a double whammy to the traditional LGS model in that Wizards can charge the distributors more, and correspondingly the LGSs have to actually compete with Amazon and other major retailers which is not realistically feasible. There is secretly still some type of MSRP though - the price of a booster pack on MODO is the new index now.

In other news, GP London is apparently trying a new mulligan system replacing the scry with just drawing 7 each time and putting a card on the bottom for each mulligan taken. The side effect is probably to make all-in decks more prevalent which makes high-quality sideboard cards more important, and also encourages more aggressive mulligans, which will increase the time spent in pre-game procedures. It probably does make sense for Arena though, given the automation of shuffling, so I could see a change being made even if it does inconvenience paper players.

The scary thing about the GP system is that even with the current entry prices, they are likely operating at a loss. Free entry for those not playing in GP/side events will eventually be a thing of the past to help close this gap.

The way to make tabletop MCs smaller is simple - reduce the number of invitations. Given the frequency of GPs, limiting invites from those would be the way to do it, but the potential feel-bads are probably the greatest impediment to that happening. Honestly, if it were up to me, there would be fewer GPs, and then you have a play-in tournament of those who would normally qualify this way for a small number of MC slots, probably via Arena to minimize costs.

re by Hearts at Sat, 02/23/2019 - 06:30
Hearts's picture

We know when Arena will have player-to-player drafts and not player-vs-7bots drafts ?