one million words's picture
By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Jan 18 2019 12:23pm

State of the Program for January 18th 2019
In the News
Ravnica Allegiance is Here: RNA is online. RNA drafts are live on MTGO – no waiting until Monday. MTGO will also have guilded leagues – league with one seeded pack that is tied to the guild you choose. (Yay! This is how paper prerelease events run, and it’s great.) The MTGO release info is here. The set mechanics article is here. The official card image gallery is here.    Enjoy.
MTGO Targeting Upgrade: One more upgrade – if you have a permanent that repeatedly targets something, you can “lock in” that target, so that the same target is automatically chosen every time the permanent triggers, etc. For example, if you have an enchantment that would ping a player every upkeep, you can set that to automatically target your opponent. (Although, if you want to deal damage to yourself, you can change that targeting.) 
Arena Payout Changes: Wizards has announced “fifth card protection” for Arena. If you have four copies of a rare from a particular set, and open a fifth copy, that copy will be replaced with a different rare or mythic from the same set that you don’t already own. If you own four copies of every rare in the set, then you will get 20 gems instead. Same with Mythic, except you get 40 gems if you own playsets of every Mythic in the set. To offset this change, Wizards markedly reduced the upgrade rate for individual card rewards earned in events.   Details here.
Pauper PTQ at MagicFest: Wizards is going to sanction Pauper PTQs at future MagicFests. And Gavin Verhey has said that Wizards will reprint Oubliette – a paper common that is current running selling for up to $50 per card. 
Legacy GP Kerfuffle:  Wizards has scheduled one of the few Legacy GPs this year for Easter Weekend in Niagara Falls. This has caused some blowback. The Hipsters of the Coast open letter on the issue is here.  Open question as to whether the next Legacy GP will be held on the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica, during mid-winter.    
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
None announced at present
Constructed Leagues End
Sealed Leagues End
War of the Spark
April, 2019
Next B&R Announcement
January 21, 2019
Ravnica Allegiances Redemption
September 2019
January, 2020
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, but most will be streamed.
·       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:
·       Ravnica Allegiances limited happening now
·       Ravnica Allegiances Guilded Leagues:  now through January 28th
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: Experiencing Arena
I was sick this week. I was at home, alternating periods of sleep with reading and playing computer games. I finally had time to play a significant amount of Arena. I had two main reactions after playing extensively over a four day period. My most common reaction was often “why didn’t Wizards do this with MTGO?” My other conclusion was that Arena was a perfect thing to play when you have a fever and are in that sleepy, muzzy state. Best of one matches are great when you keep falling asleep in between games. 
First off, I have to congratulate Wizards in the introductory matches and tutorial. The helpful voice was a bit annoying at times, but the tutorial was useful. I have been playing Magic for almost 30 years, and know how the cards work, but the tutorial did not bore me. Instead, it taught me the interface well enough to play games. It helps that the game play interface is decent – at least once I turned the sound way down. 
I also love the fact that Wizards provides rewards for daily play – something I call the Farmville model.   You get small rewards for doing stuff.   It works for other games. I may be particularly susceptible, but that sort thing gets me to play Guild Wars 2 pretty much every day, and got me on Arena five days in a row. I have begged Wizards to do this with MTGO for a decade or so; it would be nice if they finally added some daily rewards to MTGO as well. 
The rewards for the first couple days include unlocking new decks. That got me playing every day. Later on, I found the daily rewards less interesting. When I was sick, I played enough to win all 15 daily rewards, in addition to the daily quest and deck unlock. Now, having seen that drafts cost 5000 gold, I am less excited about those last couple 50 gold rewards. 
At first, I was excited by unlocking cards. However, I started tracking the cards I received as daily rewards. Here’s the list:
·       Street Riot
·       Bonded Horncrest
·       Poison Tip Archer
·       Colossal Majesty
·       Might of the Masses
·       Integrity / Intervention
·       Emissary of Sunrise
·       Foul Orchard
·       Leonin Vanguard
·       Sleep
And so forth. I flipped one rare: Lazav. I did add Colossal Majesty to a deck, but only because my green creatures deck was pretty bad and I had nothing better.   Everything else would have been moved out of my account on MTGO, or dumped in my “bulk uncommons to sell” box in paper. 
I was fairly impressed with the matchmaking algorithm. I played almost exclusively single game matches (aka best of one or BO1), and almost exclusively unranked constructed. For the most part, I found myself play against players with comparable decks, although I think their skill level was not as high. My opponents made a fair number of mistakes, and I won a lot, despite the fever. Or maybe they were just sicker than I was. 
I did buy the $5 welcome package, and used my gems to enter one draft.  The cheapest option was RIX / RIX / XLN. It turns out I don’t remember that format all that well, and I did some rare drafting. My deck was bad. As a result, I started out 0-2, then squeaked out four straight wins before being eliminated.   The draft was not bad, but I am going to wait for Dominaria before spending more gems on a draft. 
My most positive impression of Arena play is that games are fast. Opponents concede all the time, but you can usually find another opponent in under a minute. That’s great. The downside is that I noticed I was conceding more often than I do in real life. In many cases, Id concede when Teferi hit the board – I’d not even try to play it out. I was fine with BO1 in these cases, but I had nothing on the line. Rewards were all tied to how much you did – e.g. how many green spells you cast. Some rewards counted how many games you won, but at my level, there were no penalties for losing. 
I was fine with BO1 for the near-casual Magic I was playing when working on dailies. I cannot imagine doing BO1 for anything involving serious prizes. Magic’s constructed formats need sideboards, otherwise narrow strategies just crush decks that cannot be prepared for everything. Fortunately, Aaron Forsythe has confirmed that all major events in paper, on MTGO and on Arena will be BO3, so that’s something. BO1 is fun; BO3 is where serious Magic happens.
Playing Arena, I miss the social interaction.   You have five emotes, but since “Good Luck” is not included, I didn’t bother with them. In a couple hundred games, just one opponent said “Hello.”   I miss chat. I miss the opportunity to explain to my opponent how to do something they were struggling with, or teaching them how to use Siege Gang Commander after blocking with a goblin. (After the match, of course.)   for me, talking about the game after the game is an important part of paper Magic. It used to be an important part of MTGO, but wizards has gradually removed that from MTGO, and just ignored it for Arena. Sad.
I am not at all impressed with the Wildcard system.   I have redeemed just one. One of my initial decks was red, and really needed a Lightning Strike or three.   I used one of my uncommon wildcards to unlock one. Now, a week or two later, I have five copies: three XLN version and two M19 versions. I am miles away from any Tier one constructed decks, so I am pretty much paralyzed by indecision.   If I want to start grinding ranked matches, I will need a competitive deck, but I don’t want to start burning Wildcards until I figure out what I could conceivably build. Odds are it would be a red deck, but I have never much liked red decks. So I’ll probably use my Wildcards on shocklands, and see if I can earn enough reward cards to play something halfway decent. Give the recent downgrade on daily reward cards, that may take many months – at which time rotation will set me back even further.
Or maybe I’ll get sick again, and have enough time to grind all the way through the daily quests. 
Cutting Edge Tech
Not this week; Last weekend’s MagicFest in Prague was a big one. Some 2,500 players showed up to play Ultimate Masters. However, Ultimate Masters is 1) a limited format and 2) pretty much done. Standard is in transition as RNA arrives, and I didn’t see anything interesting in Modern or Legacy. More next 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 again this week, but the movement is pretty slight. The next set fast approaches, so expect changes as people begin speculating on the next metagame.

Standard Cards
Last Week
% Change
Arclight Phoenix
Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants
Carnage Tyrant
Doom Whisperer
Dovin, Grand Arbiter
Karn, Scion of Urza
Nexus of Fate
Prime Speaker Vannifer
Ral, Izzet Viceroy
Rekindling Phoenix
Spanw of Mayhem
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Vivien Reid

Modern staples: Modern prices pretty quiet this week. Ultimate Masters is no longer distorting the market, so prices are returning to normal.

Modern Cards
Last Week
% Change

Legacy and Vintage: Legacy and Vintage are down a bit, but not very much. Boring.

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).   Ravnica Allegiances is brand new, so this value won’t last. 

Complete Set
Last Week
% Change
Core Set 2019
Guilds of Ravnica
Ravnica Allegiances
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 a few cards longer, at just under 30 cards.

Black Lotus
 $ 188.68
Mox Sapphire
 $ 107.84
Mox Ruby
 $    70.91
Mox Emerald
 $    68.91
Mox Jet
 $    59.30
Ancestral Recall
 $    59.23
Surgical Extraction
 $    47.14
Mox Pearl
 $    46.08
Surgical Extraction
 $    45.47
Time Walk
 $    44.45
Arclight Phoenix
Mythic Rare
 $    35.24
Horizon Canopy
 $    34.66
Dark Depths
Mythic Rare
 $    34.59
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Mythic Rare
 $    31.56
Mox Opal
Mythic Rare
 $    31.34
Mythic Rare
 $    31.18
Mox Opal
Mythic Rare
 $    31.17
Horizon Canopy
Mythic Rare
 $    30.85
Liliana of the Veil
Mythic Rare
 $    30.42
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Mythic Rare
 $    30.29
Mox Opal
 $    29.70
Horizon Canopy
 $    29.53
Force of Will
 $    29.04
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Mythic Rare
 $    28.63
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Mythic Rare
 $    26.51
Liliana of the Veil
Mythic Rare
 $    25.91
True-Name Nemesis
 $    25.90
True-Name Nemesis
Mythic Rare
 $    25.62
Liliana, the Last Hope
Mythic Rare
 $    25.23

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 $ 12,555. That’s up about $530 from last week, most of which is due to RNA being added to the card pool.  Still pretty stable.       
In Closing
Lots of Arena this week, which is new. See the opinion section for why. 
My favorite article this week is pure click bait: 10 Magic: The Gathering Cards So Powerful They Were Banned (And 10 That Should Be). You won’t believe number – most of them. The only one the missed is Colossal Dreadmaw. Sometime, people get things so wrong it’s funny. This is funny.
“One Million Words” on MTGO
This series is an ongoing tribute to Erik “Hamtastic” Friborg.