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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Jan 04 2019 1:00pm
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State of the Program for January 4th 2019
 
In the News
Ravnica Allegiance: We are in spoiler season for the new set. The set mechanics article is here. The official card image gallery is here.  Allegiance hits MTGO and Arena on January 17th.
 
Not much news – Wizards closes down over the holidays, and I spent the weekend in the woods. On the plus side, I got home in time to watch the Wisconsin Badgers win their bowl game.  Go Bucky!   (For those of you that aren't from around here - that's the football with the oval ball, not rugby, and Wisconsin is my Alma mater.) 
 
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 PTQ.
 

Upcoming Events
Dates
Scheduled Downtimes
January 16th
Constructed Leagues End
January 16th 2019
Sealed Leagues End
January 17th 2019
Ravnica Allegiance
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 – 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: Can We Trust Wizards?
Provocative title, eh? Maybe a bit clickbait, but not completely. So can we trust that Wizards was truthful in their recent statements about Magic, the Mythic Championships, eSports MTGO and Arena? Probably. They probably were not outright lying. Can we trust them to follow through?   Maybe, but given their recent statements and actions, I’m not certain that I do.
 
In my professional life, I am employed by a regulatory commission. I have spent many years talking to, and dealing with, large corporations. I have seen and heard hundreds of statements and promises from corporations. Many of them were true. Many were not – or were reversed shortly after being issued. 
 
If a corporation makes a statement under oath, or provides an affidavit stating that the statement is true, it often is. I have seen corporate representatives lie under oath, but that is really, really, really rare. However, Wizards public statements are not made under oath, and they do not provide affidavits. 
 
Corporations can also be bound by contracts. If a contract requires a corporation to perform certain actions, and they fail to do so, they are in default of contract. Most contracts include provisions detailing what happens if a party to the contract defaults.  With regards to eSports and so forth, Wizards has contracts with the 32 players in the Pro League, but not with the rest of us players. We haven’t signed anything – and neither has Wizards. Attorneys may argue about implied contracts, but that’s difficult case to make.
 
The problem is that corporations change their strategies, approaches, and actions over time. Their promises and offerings change. Once upon a time, Ford cars were only available in black. Booster packs contained 8 cards. Kird Ape was banned in Type I. There was something called Type I.  Now all those things have changed.
 
Sometimes corporations make statements that they have to draw back. Sometimes the situation changes. Sometimes policy changes. And very often, the people at the middle management level – the people that have to make the public statements and promises – get overruled. What was true last week is no longer true, because senior management says it has changed. And no one gives anyone sufficient warning, because those decision get debated, and eventually made, at a very high level. Decisions made at those levels can affect stock prices and markets and shareholder relations – and all of those reasons mean those decisions are announced in a careful – and seemingly abrupt – manner. And suddenly what was true last week is not true this week.
 
The problem, for me, is that Wizards has made a ton of reversals over the last year or so.   They pulled some money out of prizes, but promised that it would go to the pros in special 30th anniversary events. Then they spent that money on the Silver Showcase. Wizards promised six Pro Tours, but reversed that barely two months later.   And on and on. 
 
It does not help that Wizards is really tone deaf about their messaging.  Anyone who remembers the Silver Showcase, or the failure to promote World Magic Champs, knows that sometimes Wizards makes remarkably bad marketing decisions.
 
I have read all the announcements and statements from Wizards I can find, but I’m not sure I know all that much.   The problem is that the details are almost completely missing – and the details mean a lot. Here’s where I’m at:
 
Mythic Championships: these are the replacement for the Pro Tour. Some will be played on Arena. Some will be traditional paper (sorry, tabletop) events, at least for the Swiss rounds. Feature matches and Top 8 may be played on Arena – we just don’t know. We don’t know how many of the four Mythic Championships will be played on a tabletop, and how many on Arena. We also don’t know what formats will be played, or even if sideboards will be involved. Wizards has also said that everyone playing in the event will earn prizes – but we have no idea how much. Are the bottom half of the standings getting $500, or $5? We don’t know. 
 
Qualifying for the Mythic Championships: The 32 players in the Pro League are qualified for this year. Pros that had qualifications through the now-defunct Pro Players Club will be qualified for this year. Hall of Fame members will have invites through this year. You can qualify for the tabletop Mythic Championships through MTGO and the MOCS through this year. We don’t know anything about next year.
 
MTGO: Wizards is spending money upgrading on the program. They are also earning a bunch of money from MTGO.   They are not going to cut off that revenue stream anytime soon. 
 
Grand Prix:   They are rebranding GPs.  They will continue, at least this year. Some of the Mythic Championships will take place at / during MagicFests. Some number of players will be qualified for tabletop Mythic Championships at the MagicFests – but that could be one per Magic Fest, or the Top 8, or everyone going X-2 – we just don’t know. 
 
Wizards is Allowing Partnerships: Wizards has said some prize support will be available to third parties that sponsor Magic tournaments. Does that mean TOs like StarCity? Does that mean Pepsi can host a qualifier on Arena? No idea. 
 
Store Events will Qualify Players for Tabletop Mythic Championships:   Wizards has promised this. They also said Wizards will chose the stores that can host events this year / “in the first round.” How many stores? No idea. My bet is about one or two per large US state, or European country – but that’s just my best guess.  Wizards did say they were aiming for Pro Tours of 300-400 players. If that holds, and if they pay all competitors, they cannot qualify too many players through store events.
 
What Happens to the Pros?: 30 of the Top 32 pros, plus two alternates, have signed up for the Pro League. They get a mix of salary plus incidentals (flights, hotels, etc.) worth $70k per year. As for everyone else – no idea. Wizards has said that current pro player club level benefits will continue through next year, but we know absolutely nothing after that. Is there any point to grinding anymore? We don’t know. You can grind Arena, but that ladder is steep and we don’t know what it takes to even qualify for a qualifying tournament. 
 
That’s what we know – or don’t know. And we don’t know what parts of the above may be rolled back or changed.   Wizards is clearly trying to evolve Magic, and incorporate eSports. They are pushing Arena. In my opinion, they pushed the integration. Chris Cocks was brought in to create an eSports presence, and he is doing it. Wizards is moving ahead on that front. However, they are trying to figure out how to integrate Arena with their large and more profitable products – including MTGO and tabletop. 
 
That is clearly a work in progress.  It is, in effect, in beta. And it will change.
 
I believe that Wizards is trying to make this all work.   And I believe that they are trying to keep us informed – but they are so bad at messaging that I cannot trust what I am being told.   I hear what Mark and Aaron and Elaine and Chris Kiritz are saying, but I don’t know when they might be overruled.   I don’t trust that they can speak for Wizards anymore, but no one else is. 
 
I have spent literally tens of thousands of dollars on MTGO, and even more on tabletop Magic over the last couple decades. Now I’m hesitant to spend even $5 on the welcome package for Arena, because I have no idea what I am buying into. And that’s sad.
 
Cutting Edge Tech
Standard: It’s the end of the format – we will have Ravnica Allegiance in three weeks. But for now, here’s a deck that is doing okay on MTGO, and on Arena.
 
 
Modern: This deck has been beating me a bit too much for me to like it at all, but it is probably worth featuring. It may also convince me to complete my paper playset of Arclights.
 
 
Pauper: The Gush / Foil combo did not dominate the Pauper Challenge this week – unlike the last time I covered Pauper. Maybe the format has an answer. 
 
 
Legacy: The latest Challenge was full of the normal suspects. The Last Sun tournament was Christmas Eve, but since I didn’t cover decklists last week, it is still fair game. Besides, I have played this in paper and online.
 
 
Vintage: I’m not sure this deck is really all that good, but I played this in a tournament at Gencon a decade ago. I finished second, so good memories. The combo is simple – Animate Dead on a Worldgorger Dragon creates a loop that lets your tap your lands every iteration. Having a couple lands and a Bazaar in play means you can mill your deck, generate infinite mana and kill with Oona. Back in the day, I killed with Shivan Hellkite, but Oona works just as well and is on color.
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. The next set fast approaches, so expect changes as people begin speculating on the next metagame.
 

Standard Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
Arclight Phoenix
$27.96
$25.98
$1.98
8%
Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants
$7.92
$8.13
($0.21)
-3%
Carnage Tyrant
$4.38
$4.99
($0.61)
-12%
Doom Whisperer
$7.31
$7.23
$0.08
1%
Karn, Scion of Urza
$4.97
$5.84
($0.87)
-15%
Nexus of Fate
$6.38
$5.84
$0.54
9%
Nicol Bolas, the Ravager
$4.27
$5.45
($1.18)
-22%
Ral, Izzet Viceroy
$9.75
$10.20
($0.45)
-4%
Rekindling Phoenix
$7.28
$8.00
($0.72)
-9%
Sarkhan, Fireblood
$7.27
$8.34
($1.07)
-13%
Star of Extinction
$5.41
$5.98
($0.57)
-10%
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
$15.95
$20.03
($4.08)
-20%
Vivien Reid
$12.99
$18.23
($5.24)
-29%

Modern staples: Modern prices took another hit this week. We have a Modern GP this weekend. Let’s see if that does anything good for the format.
 

Modern Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$8.06
$9.64
($1.58)
-16%
$9.88
$11.53
($1.65)
-14%
$14.60
$14.40
$0.20
1%
$10.47
$10.83
($0.36)
-3%
$11.61
$13.95
($2.34)
-17%
$15.71
$16.34
($0.63)
-4%
$17.18
$17.22
($0.04)
0%
$29.41
$32.42
($3.01)
-9%
$31.43
$31.87
($0.44)
-1%
$13.89
$14.71
($0.82)
-6%
$13.43
$14.10
($0.67)
-5%
$16.30
$20.17
($3.87)
-19%
$21.24
$28.96
($7.72)
-27%
$30.88
$37.08
($6.20)
-17%
$9.06
$9.65
($0.59)
-6%
$19.32
$21.06
($1.74)
-8%
$45.54
$44.49
$1.05
2%
$8.48
$8.94
($0.46)
-5%

Legacy and Vintage: Legacy and Vintage are mixed, but are generally up. 
 

Legacy / Vintage Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$20.94
$21.77
($0.83)
-4%
$15.46
$14.97
$0.49
3%
$10.73
$10.72
$0.01
0%
$10.30
$10.71
($0.41)
-4%
$18.82
$18.59
$0.23
1%
$21.62
$21.62
$0.00
0%
$25.41
$23.83
$1.58
7%
$9.23
$9.24
($0.01)
0%
$9.93
$9.25
$0.68
7%
$13.42
$13.07
$0.35
3%

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
$136.28
$146.81
($10.53)
-7%
Dominaria
$47.27
$52.83
($5.56)
-11%
Guilds of Ravnica
$107.27
$104.92
$2.35
2%
Ixalan
$37.89
$40.28
($2.39)
-6%
Rivals of Ixalan
$36.07
$36.40
($0.33)
-1%
Treasure Chest
$1.80
$1.85
($0.05)
-3%
Guilds of Ravnica Booster
$2.59
$2.29
$0.30
13%

 
 
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 tale is a few cards longer, and True-Name Nemesis is back on.
 

Name
Set
Rarity
Price
Black Lotus
1E
Rare
$   168.61
Mox Sapphire
1E
Rare
$   101.07
Mox Emerald
1E
Rare
$     67.92
Mox Ruby
1E
Rare
$     66.71
Ancestral Recall
1E
Rare
$     59.23
Mox Jet
1E
Rare
$     56.75
Surgical Extraction
MM2
Rare
$     45.60
Surgical Extraction
NPH
Rare
$     45.54
Time Walk
1E
Rare
$     43.31
Mox Pearl
1E
Rare
$     42.49
Mox Opal
MM2
Mythic Rare
$     38.11
Horizon Canopy
IMA
Rare
$     37.75
Mox Opal
SOM
Mythic Rare
$     37.51
Unmask
V16
Mythic Rare
$     36.12
Horizon Canopy
EXP
Mythic Rare
$     34.98
Dark Depths
V16
Mythic Rare
$     34.51
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
WWK
Mythic Rare
$     33.24
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
A25
Mythic Rare
$     31.89
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
EMA
Mythic Rare
$     31.46
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
VMA
Mythic Rare
$     31.43
Mox Opal
MS2
Bonus
$     30.88
Liliana of the Veil
UBT
Mythic Rare
$     30.19
Liliana, the Last Hope
EMN
Mythic Rare
$     29.96
Horizon Canopy
FUT
Rare
$     29.41
Arclight Phoenix
GRN
Mythic Rare
$     27.96
Force of Will
MED
Rare
$     26.70
True-Name Nemesis
PZ1
Mythic Rare
$     26.64
Liliana of the Veil
MM3
Mythic Rare
$     26.23
True-Name Nemesis
C13
Rare
$     25.41

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 $ 12,010. That’s down $15 from last week.      
 
In Closing
I had a week off. Now I have to catch up at work. Which is about all I can do.  No Magic this week. 
 
I’m pondering trying Arena. I could devote a maximum of 3 one hour sessions to Arena per week – often less. Could I play passable Magic with that. I’m not willing to spend much money on the program – probably just the $5 welcome package?  Do I want to try?  Tell me in the comments.  
 
 
PRJ
 
“One Million Words” on MTGO
 
 
This series is an ongoing tribute to Erik “Hamtastic” Friborg.