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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Feb 07 2014 1:00pm
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The State of the Program for February 7th 2014

This series is an ongoing tribute to Erik “Hamtastic” Friborg.
 

In the News this Week:

Banned and Unbanned: Wizards has released the quarterly update to the Banned and Restricted list. Standard, Legacy, Vintage – all unchanged. Modern – changed. (Death Rite Shaman) is out. Bitterblossom and Wild Nacatl are back. Everyone expected Wizards to shake up Modern before the Pro Tour, and they did. 
 
Banned and Unbanned for MTGO: In addition to the Modern changes, above, Wizards also announced changes to the B&R list for Classic and Commander. In Classic, Lodestone Golem and Sphere of Resistance are both restricted. In Commander, Sylvan Primordial is banned.  Wizards’ explanation of the modern bannings is here, and for Classic changes here
 
Final Flashback Drafts of the season: The format for the last week of announced flashback drafts - that’s this week – is Invasion / Planeshift / Apocalypse. It is a fun block. Invasion block was the “old” block back when MTGO was first released, and it was never drafted heavily. The cards used to be stupid expensive – but that was a long time ago. The average value of the cards in a draft set has now fallen to $6.19 retail. You can make money pretty much only by winning 8-4s, but here’s a list of the money cards to help stem the bleeding: 
 

Card
Rarity
Set
 Price
R
AP
 $    31.25
R
AP
 $    22.54
R
AP
 $       8.23
R
PS
 $       6.95
R
PS
 $       6.61
R
IN
 $       6.29
R
IN
 $       5.26
R
AP
 $       5.22
R
IN
 $       5.10
R
PS
 $       5.00
C
IN
 $       4.89
R
IN
 $       4.38

Born of the Gods Prereleases Coming Soon: The BTG Prereleases will begin a week from today. Details here.   Get ready to bust some packs – unless you have other plans for Valentine’s Day
 
Details of the Born of the Gods Championship released: Wizards has announced the dates and times for the Born of the Gods Championship qualifiers and finals. As with Theros, there will be both limited and constructed champions. Details here.
 
New Wide Beta Survey:  Wizards would like players to try the new version of the Wide Beta client, then fill out this survey.  The survey will be available until February 12th.
 
Wizards Looking for More Beta Testers: Wizards is still asking for more beta testers. This would cover testing of both the next sets and the closed beta of the new interface. You can get details and apply here.
 
HammyBot Update:   Hammybot is a great way to get cards and support the family of the late Erik Friborg. So far, Hammybot has raised well over $6,000! Don’t stop now!  Hammybot still has over 25,000 cards to sell, including a number of foil Mythics. Hammybot also has a nice collection of Foil lands, so if you want to pimp out your constructed decks… 
 

Opinion Section: Banned and Restricted List Changes

I get to write this section again. By my best count, this is the 43rd time I have written about changes to the Banned and Restricted list. Seriously. I was writing about Magic during the last century, and through all of this one so far. I wasn’t playing in serious tournaments back in the days when Type I and Type II split, and only vaguely remember the bannings following Necro Summer and Combo Winter, but I do remember
·         The emergency bannings due to the Jar Grim deck
·         Banning fast mana in Extended
·         Banning tutors in Extended
·         Banning Survival of the Fittest in Extended, and later in Legacy. 
·         Restricting Fact or Fiction in Vintage
·         The Affinity bannings
·         The Caw-Blade bannings
·         All the Modern bannings and unbannings
 
Heck, I even remember when they banned Lin Sivvi and Rishadan Port in Masques block, and seeing a player who hadn’t got the memo try to play them in a PTQ.      
 
I have read dozens of explanations for bannings posted by Wizards, and a lot of articles talking about the theory behind bannings by Wizards people – everyone from Randy Buehler to Aaron Forsythe to Mike Turian to Maro. I think I understand why things are banned – and what are not reasons for banning. 
 
Put simply, cards are banned when they warp the format to the point of driving players away. That’s the reason for most bannings: because having the card around makes players unhappy. Combo winter drove a lot of players away from constructed. So did Affinity – attendance at Standard tournaments fell while Affinity was legal. In the end, what matters is whether people like playing the game. If that isn’t happening, Wizards takes action. Where possible, they print cards that address the problem. If that doesn’t work, then they bring out the ban hammer.
 
Actually, Wizards has banned cards for another reason – because they don’t work in tournament settings. I can think of two cards that were banned for this reason: Sensei’s Divining Top and Shahrazad. In both cases, the problem was that the card was routinely making it impossible for matches to finish in the 50 minutes allowed for tournament rounds. At events running 10 or more rounds, adding 10-20 minutes per round makes a huge difference. By the end of the day, that stretched the tournament out by two hours or so - hours in which the majority of the players were not playing and not having fun. Players are not happy when they are waiting, and they are not happy when events drag on and on. But banning for time reasons are rare. The most common reason are that formats are being warped.
 
The fact that a card or deck can be beaten is not enough to immunize it against bannings. Pretty much any deck can be beaten, no matter how broken the cards. The problem comes when the decks that can beat the problem deck are so bent that they cannot beat a fair deck – but the fair decks cannot beat the problem deck. Take Affinity, for example. Back in the day, it was not hard to beat Affinity if you played RG, with 4 Oxidize, 4 Shatter, 4 Molder Slug, 4 Eternal Witness and 4 Viridian Shaman maindeck.   That pounded Affinity – and lost to pretty much every more traditional fast aggro or mid-range deck.   Of course, Affinity destroyed other fast aggro and mid-ranged decks. That’s what I mean by a warped format.
 
Just warping a format is not always enough, though. Wizards is more likely to take action in some cases, and less likely in others.  Wizards is quite likely to ban things in a constructed format if that format is a bit stale – and about to be featured in a Pro Tour. A new, fresh format is a lot more skill testing for the players, and more interesting for the viewers, than one that is solved and dominated by a single archetype. Jund / Rock was not completely dominant, but it was pretty much omnipresent. (See Blippy’s charts, here.) Now the format is new, and the pros will have to brew up new decks. That makes me happy. Bitterblossom, OTOH, does not, but that is irrelevant. The question isn’t whether the cards make me, personally, happy or sad. The question is whether the changes will result in a format that is interesting, balanced and dynamic. I suspect it will, but we won’t know until the Pro Tour a week from now. 
 
Wizards also restricted some cards in Classic, in an effort to rein in the mana denial Workshops builds. Those builds were particularly at risk. Once upon a time, Wizards was okay with mana denial as a strategy. That was then – and Wizards has not allowed a land destruction deck into Standard or Modern for a long time. Stone Rain was last reprinted in Kamigawa block and Ninth Edition. Since then, all land destruction spells cost at least four mana. I’m sure some of the folks at Wizards have watched the videos of the last Classic Quarter Invitational, where the Shops player played a turn one Lodestone, then a bunch of Sphere effects on following turns and the opponent died on turn five after playing with four lands and zero spells.   Wizards learned long ago that most players don’t like losing like that, so archetypes that do that are living on sufferance.   Having Shop be dominant meant something was at risk, and at least these restrictions leave Affinity Shops mostly intact. 
 
Something that may have had a minor effect – the cards that were restricted were not the ones that cost $100 per playset. Being expensive has never prevented a banning – look at Big Jace – but I wonder if the price of cards had some impact on the decision. I doubt it – the problem was the early mana denial. Tangle Wire is also a pain, but less of a problem before turn three or so. Without Moxes, a turn two Tangle Wire slows both players significantly.
 
In one respect, seeing Wizards making changes for the Classic format makes me happy. Wizards generally does very little for formats they don’t care about. The restrictions make me wonder if Wizards may be planning some events to push Classic. We can but hope.          
          
Another thought for Classic players – this restriction is temporary. Once the Power Nine arrives, hopefully this summer, the Classic B&R list will be scrapped and replaced by the Vintage list.   At that point, we will get to play four Lodestone Golems and four Spheres, but we will have to drop to one LED and one Brainstorm. 
 
Speaking of the difference between the Vintage and Classic B&R lists – here they are. Vintage bans a lot more cards, but that is only to be expected in a fully powered format.  
 

Vintage
Classic
(not yet online)
Black Lotus
(not yet online)
(not restricted)
(not restricted)
(not restricted)
(not restricted)
(not restricted)
(not restricted)
(not restricted)
(not restricted)
(Mind’s Desire)
(not restricted)
Mox Emerald
(not yet online)
Mox Jet
(not yet online)
Mox Pearl
(not yet online)
Mox Ruby
(not yet online)
Mox Sapphire
(not yet online)
(not restricted)
(not restricted)
(not restricted)
(not restricted)
(not yet online)
Timetwister
(not yet online)
(not restricted)
(not restricted)

When we convert from Classic to Vintage, we will gain nine cards we don’t yet have. We will get back the extra three Lodestone Golems and Spheres, but thirteen other cards will be restricted. Fortunately, some of these, like LED and Brainstorm, are unrestricted in Legacy.
 

Cutting Edge Tech: 

Skipping it this week. In the paper world, we had the prerelease, so no major tournaments were held. Online, we had nothing but the old formats, without Born of the Gods and without the latest changes to the B&R list. This weekend, Born of the Gods will be playable in the paper world, and Bitterblossom will be playable in Modern. That should make next week’s Cutting Edge Tech far more interesting than a recap this week could ever be.
 

Card Prices: 

Notes: All my prices come from MTGOTraders.com. For cards that are available in multiple sets, I am quoting the lower price. Thus, the price I’m quoting for Thoughtseize is generally the Theros price. In certain other cases (e.g Brainstorm) I will note which version I track. All these cards are generally available from the MTGOTraders Bots, so check out mtgotradersbot, mtgotradersbot2, mtgotradersbot3, mtgotradersbot4, mtgotradersbot5, CardCaddy and CardWareHouse, or you can order them directly from the website. Now, on to prices.
 
The cost of entire sets is relevant if you redeem, but it is also a decent indicator of overall trends. This week, things moved around a bit. A lot of the drop, though, can be attributed to the rise and fall of certain chase cards. For example, a big chunk of the value of a Dragon’s Maze set is Voice of Resurgence, which dipped this week.
 

Complete Set
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
Dragon's Maze
$77.67
$83.25
($5.58)
-7%
Gatecrash
$112.36
$115.58
($3.22)
-3%
M14
$145.62
$144.28
$1.34
1%
Return to Ravnica
$160.88
$156.14
$4.74
3%
Theros
$112.00
$118.73
($6.73)
-6%

Standard prices are amazingly stable this week, given the chaos that Born of the Gods is bringing to the format. Only Mutavault is really moving. It’s climbing, again.  Time to draft some M14?
 

Standard & Block Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$7.56
$7.97
($0.41)
-5%
$19.41
$19.87
($0.46)
-2%
$6.39
$6.07
$0.32
5%
$16.33
$17.68
($1.35)
-8%
$20.73
$19.82
$0.91
5%
$24.45
$23.85
$0.60
3%
$12.71
$13.41
($0.70)
-5%
$6.76
$7.45
($0.69)
-9%
$15.38
$15.37
$0.01
0%
$31.64
$31.62
$0.02
0%
$7.25
$7.45
($0.20)
-3%
$7.33
$7.03
$0.30
4%
$29.35
$25.61
$3.74
15%
$10.38
$12.03
($1.65)
-14%
$9.53
$9.44
$0.09
1%
$31.84
$32.13
($0.29)
-1%
$15.96
$16.00
($0.04)
0%
$7.29
$7.00
$0.29
4%
$4.86
$7.44
($2.58)
-35%
$30.51
$30.64
($0.13)
0%
$6.73
$6.71
$0.02
0%

Modern prices are, overall, pretty stable. However, particular cards are very active. Bitterblossom has really climbed, especially when you consider it was $6.97 just three months ago. Liliana is falling, since players assume Jund is in trouble without Death Rite Shaman.  Not completely true:  the deck has been reduced to just very good.  In any case, the Pro Tour will decide the issue in the end.
 

Modern Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$19.25
$19.25
$0.00
0%
$37.22
$37.22
$0.00
0%
$27.92
$15.89
$12.03
76%
$16.19
$16.19
$0.00
0%
$23.90
$21.31
$2.59
12%
$16.14
$15.51
$0.63
4%
$23.75
$26.59
($2.84)
-11%
$13.46
$13.17
$0.29
2%
$12.60
$12.00
$0.60
5%
$12.84
$12.00
$0.84
7%
$32.52
$35.23
($2.71)
-8%
$24.92
$24.22
$0.70
3%
$41.25
$36.06
$5.19
14%
$44.91
$46.26
($1.35)
-3%
$8.97
$8.50
$0.47
6%
$58.09
$74.35
($16.26)
-22%
$15.09
$14.67
$0.42
3%
$47.79
$51.63
($3.84)
-7%
$35.11
$21.20
$13.91
66%
$10.21
$12.05
($1.84)
-15%
$23.37
$20.65
$2.72
13%
$15.31
$14.63
$0.68
5%
$12.21
$11.00
$1.21
11%
$80.08
$80.08
$0.00
0%
$45.16
$41.46
$3.70
9%

Pauper prices were pretty stable this week. Snap and Cloud of Faeries dropped, probably residual effects of the Urza’s Block drafts and the elimination of the storm deck. Otherwise, pauper prices were quiet. 
 

Pauper Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$1.86
$2.00
($0.14)
-7%
$2.33
$2.47
($0.14)
-6%
$1.58
$1.35
$0.23
17%
$2.91
$3.01
($0.10)
-3%
$1.98
$2.66
($0.68)
-26%
$4.11
$4.11
$0.00
0%
$11.97
$11.97
$0.00
0%
$1.09
$1.09
$0.00
0%
$1.65
$1.65
$0.00
0%
$3.28
$3.05
$0.23
8%
$4.07
$3.67
$0.40
11%
$3.72
$3.83
($0.11)
-3%
$4.85
$4.16
$0.69
17%
$0.89
$0.73
$0.16
22%
$1.24
$1.23
$0.01
1%
$3.54
$3.50
$0.04
1%
$2.31
$2.31
$0.00
0%
$5.58
$5.58
$0.00
0%
$1.57
$1.89
($0.32)
-17%
$1.35
$1.13
$0.22
19%
$1.08
$1.08
$0.00
0%

Legacy and Classic prices were moving a bit more than usual. The big money cards climbed again. Force of Will is back over $500 a playset. Lion’s Eye Diamond is insane.   Workshop climbed a bit - yes, they restricted Lodestone and Sphere, but Affinity Shops is still fine.  The card is still insane.
 

Legacy / Classic Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$35.09
$32.90
$2.19
7%
$24.38
$24.38
$0.00
0%
$28.11
$26.79
$1.32
5%
$130.97
$130.97
$0.00
0%
$65.98
$68.78
($2.80)
-4%
$35.19
$29.13
$6.06
21%
$185.94
$185.94
$0.00
0%
$26.30
$26.30
$0.00
0%
$12.50
$12.50
$0.00
0%
$66.09
$66.09
$0.00
0%
$31.98
$29.48
$2.50
8%
$36.92
$36.92
$0.00
0%
$18.30
$18.30
$0.00
0%
$22.54
$22.54
$0.00
0%
$37.41
$35.33
$2.08
6%
$94.17
$94.17
$0.00
0%
$8.31
$8.67
($0.36)
-4%
$68.87
$68.87
$0.00
0%
$31.51
$32.55
($1.04)
-3%
$26.66
$26.66
$0.00
0%
$16.00
$16.62
($0.62)
-4%
$28.61
$28.61
$0.00
0%
$39.88
$40.69
($0.81)
-2%
Vampiric Tutor
$41.12
$41.12
$0.00
0%
$31.25
$31.25
$0.00
0%
$79.53
$79.53
$0.00
0%

 
 

The Good Stuff:

The Good Stuff starts with a list of the non-foil, non-premium cards on MTGO that cost more than $25 each. LED jumped again. Force of Will is now above $120. The list of cards over $25 is now 55 cards long, and that does not include foils or special promos. 
 
 

Card
Rarity
Set
 Price
Lion's Eye Diamond
R
MI
 $ 185.94
Force of Will
R
MED
 $ 130.97
Rishadan Port
R
MM
 $    94.17
Tarmogoyf
R
FUT
 $    82.25
Tarmogoyf
M
MMA
 $    80.08
Wasteland
U
TE
 $    79.53
Misdirection
R
MM
 $    69.59
Show and Tell
R
UZ
 $    68.87
Gaea's Cradle
R
UZ
 $    65.98
Liliana of the Veil
M
ISD
 $    58.09
Tundra
R
ME2
 $    51.59
Tundra
R
ME4
 $    49.92
Mox Opal
M
SOM
 $    47.79
Vendilion Clique
M
MMA
 $    47.52
Vendilion Clique
R
MOR
 $    45.16
Karn Liberated
M
NPH
 $    44.91
Griselbrand
M
AVR
 $    41.25
Vampiric Tutor
R
VI
 $    41.12
Volcanic Island
R
ME4
 $    40.85
Underground Sea
R
ME2
 $    40.29
Underground Sea
R
ME4
 $    39.88
Bayou
R
ME4
 $    38.97
Volcanic Island
R
ME3
 $    38.64
Bayou
R
ME3
 $    37.74
Polluted Delta
R
ONS
 $    37.41
Tropical Island
R
ME4
 $    37.40
Batterskull
M
NPH
 $    37.22
Natural Order
R
VI
 $    36.92
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
M
WWK
 $    35.19
Noble Hierarch
R
CON
 $    35.11
City of Traitors
R
EX
 $    35.09
Tropical Island
R
ME3
 $    34.04
Fulminator Mage
R
SHM
 $    32.52
Mishra's Workshop
R
ME4
 $    31.98
Primeval Titan
M
M11
 $    31.94
Sphinx's Revelation
M
RTR
 $    31.84
Jace, Architect of Thought
M
RTR
 $    31.64
Sneak Attack
R
UZ
 $    31.51
Mutavault
R
MOR
 $    31.50
Vindicate
R
AP
 $    31.25
Primeval Titan
M
M12
 $    31.22
Voice of Resurgence
M
DGM
 $    30.51
Grove of the Burnwillows
R
FUT
 $    29.95
Mutavault
R
M14
 $    29.35
True-Name Nemesis
R
C13
 $    28.61
Flusterstorm
R
CMD
 $    28.11
Tropical Island
R
PRM
 $    28.00
Threads of Disloyalty
R
BOK
 $    27.99
Bitterblossom
R
MOR
 $    27.92
Mana Crypt
R
ME2
 $    27.75
Tangle Wire
R
NE
 $    26.66
Mana Drain
R
ME3
 $    26.30
Hurkyl's Recall
R
10E
 $    25.40

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 $27,250. That’s up about $450 from where we were last week.
 

Weekly Highlights:

Highlights of the weekend were the Prereleases. I ran one, and played in another. I went 3-1, losing as much to mana issues as much as to anything else. It was a reminder of one of the things you never have to worry about on MTGO. I had forgotten my sleeves, and played the old, battered lands the store provided. Those old lands tend to stick more than new cards, and if you are not careful with your shuffling, they stick and clump. The match I lost, I mulliganed no land, 7 card hands three times, followed by no land or six land hands twice. (The following round, I recovered my senses and got sleeves.) On MTGO, worn and sticky lands are never a problem. Online only players, you have no idea how great the automatic shuffler is.   
 
The prereleases were fun. The set is a bit too full of griefer stuff to be great, but it seems good. I’m just sorry we are being punished by the punisher mechanic, once again.
 
PRJ
 
“one million words” on MTGO.

2 Comments

Noble Hierarch got a nice by RexDart at Fri, 02/07/2014 - 17:02
RexDart's picture

Noble Hierarch got a nice bump from the DRS unbanning. Personally, I think Lily will soldier on, and now that DRS is gone you could look at Junk lists with Hierarch. KotR is greatly improved now that there are lands in the graveyard again, which is a boon for Junk, a deck that can boast beefier creatures than most of these rock-variants.

In fact, Liliana is already by Kumagoro42 at Fri, 02/07/2014 - 19:07
Kumagoro42's picture

In fact, Liliana is already back to 68 tix since Pete wrote this. Moan.
Only online card prices can have a chart where they lose 16 tix then gain back 10 in the space of a few days.