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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Jul 11 2014 12:00pm
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State of the Program for July 11th 2014

 

In the News:

Vintage Masters Drafts Ending – No, Just 4-3-2-2s: As of July 25th, VMA 4-3-2-2 drafts and on demand sealed events will end. Earlier this week, Wizards had proposed eliminating all on demand VMA events. Partly in response to community feedback, Wizards reversed course and stated that VMA 8-4 and Swiss drafts, along with DEs PEs and the Championship events, would continue until the fall set arrives on MTGO. Worth Wollpert admitted to making a bad decision, but he quickly reversed it when convinced it was bad. (More on this in the opinion section.)
 
New Client Help Available:  Wizards has produced a couple of resources to help people get up to speed on the new client. First, the customer service pages have this. (Note: give it as minute to load. When it first comes up, it shows a blank page. The tutorial will load in a minute or so.)   Wizards is also producing videos highlighting parts of the client. They are located here. The video on streaming should be interesting; it will release on 7/17.
 
MTGO 12th Anniversary Events Continue: Better a bit late than never, Wizards has announced a number of events to celebrate the 12th anniversary of what was once the Magic Online Digital Object.   The flashback sealed events are almost over, but you can still get into a couple sealed events (Space permitting) this weekend. Starting Wednesday, you will be able to play Cube and for real, keep-the-cards Modern Masters.  Details here.
 
Shakeup at Wizards? Apparently Jon Loucks is leaving Wizards.  Jon tweeted that he had found a new job with a startup. Not sure whether this is part of a wider shake-up, or if this is just staff leaving at the end of a project (not an uncommon occurrence.)  
 
M15 Prerelease and Release Events Announced: Wizards has announced details of the M15 release events. M15, like other prereleases, will let you choose a color and get a salted booster in that color, plus five normal M15 boosters for your sealed event. One difference – Wizards is giving everyone a free salted booster, and phantom tickets which can be used for free entry into a prerelease event. That means that the prerelease objects will be non-refundable this time around, so don’t buy any you don’t intend to use. Details here.
 
“Friendly” M15 Prerelease Events: Wizards is introducing a new event with the M15 Prerelease, in addition to the typical Swiss draft. They will be offering two flavors of Sealed events: “Competitive” and “Friendly.” Both events will cost 20 TIX and a prerelease pack. The difference is in the payout. Details here.
 
Match Wins
Competitive Payout
Friendly Payout
4
11 Boosters, 3 QPs
5 Boosters
3
5 Boosters, 1 QP
3 Boosters
2
1 Booster
2 Boosters
1
-
2 Boosters
Total Prizes
37 Boosters, 7 QPs
37 Boosters
Mana Pool Kickstarter: Chewie, the “lead dork” on the Mana Pool podcast, is running a kickstarter.  It is at over 80% with a couple weeks left. Chewie is trying to fund Mana Pool merchandise, plus some of the other projects he produces. Look, if someone can get $40k for potato salad, we can fund the Mana Pool.  Details on the kickstarter are here
 
HammyBot Discount Increases: HammyBot was set up to sell off Erik Friborg’s collection, with all proceeds going to his wife and son.  So far, HammyBot has raised over $8,000, but there are over 24,000 cards left in the collection. Those cards are being sold at 10% below retail price. Erik died three years ago, so HammyBot does not include any standard legal sets, but it includes a ton of Masters Edition and Vintage cards, and some nice Modern bargains. 
 

The Timeline:

This is a list of things we have been promised, or just want to see coming back.   Another good source for dates and times is the MTGO calendar. Here’s what we know, want or are tracking. I also created another list for notable bugs. If you know of one that has not been fixed (and you or someone has filed a bug report) please let me know.
 
Item (date it will return) and notes
·         V3 Client Shutdown (JULY 16th) Read the latest announcement here
·         Magic 2015 (7/28/2014) M15 Prereleases begin July 25th. Details here.
·         Online PTQs & MOCS: (not before October) Latest update is here.
·         Leagues (2014) Wizards has promised that leagues will return this year. Details here.
·         Duel Decks: Speed vs. Cunning (10/6/2014) Details here.
·         Khans of Tarkir: (October) Prerelease Oct. 3-6. Details here.
 
Bugs Needing a Good Stomping:
A ton of bugs got stomped last downtime. Here’s what I have been told still doesn’t work. Let me know what needs to be added.
·         Marchesa, the Black Rose has a number of display issues, and will not return if she dies with a +1/+1 counter.
·         (Descendants’ Path) forces you to cast the revealed creature to move the game forward.
·         Fact or Fiction bug: moving cards between piles too rapidly will crash the client. Move them slowly.
·         Athreos, God of Passage prompts opponents to pay 3 life or 3 mana – should only be 3 life. Trying to pay 3 mana will eat 3 mana AND 3 life.
·         Daring Thief inspired trigger is still bugged, but only for certain special cases. In most circumstances, it works.
·         Gather Specimens bugged. 
·          Mortis Dogs bugged
·         Thopter Assembly bugged.
·         Floodtide Serpent was bugged. Reportedly fixed now.
·         Balance is reportedly bugged. Haven’t confirmed.
·         Curse of Misfortunes
·         Tomorrow, Asura’s Familiar reportedly restarts the game when its ability is activated.
·         Wish lists don’t save correctly in the new client. You may have multiple versions.
·         Dual land text boxes don’t display correctly in the new client.

 

Opinion Section:   Too Much of a Good Thing?

I was originally going to write about the impact of so many VMA drafts on prices.  It was moderately interesting, and would have been a fine piece. Then Wizards decided to end Vintage Masters drafts and on demand sealed events. That was Tuesday. We had questions – like what about Vintage and Legacy constructed events that pay out in VMA. Shortly after the announcement, Worth explained that Wizards was concerned about balancing the health of formats and the value of VMA cards. He also invited discussion. Discussion (a/k/a SHOUTING) ensued. On Thursday, Wizards basically reversed the decision: VMA 8-4 and Swiss drafts would continue until the fall set (Khans of Tarkir) is released online. 4-3-2-2 drafts and on demand Swiss sealed events would end.      
 
I have a couple observations here. 
 
First, Wizards made a bad decision when they announced an end to all VMA drafts.  (That’s not just my opinion – Worth Wollpert said so, too.) It was a mistake. In a perfect world, it would not happen. However, we live in the real world, and mistakes do happen. You try your best to avoid them, but they happen. The best you can do is admit the mistake, fix it, apologize and move on. Which is what Wizards did. 
 
So let’s look at how a mistake like this happens. Wizards was worried about what so many VMA drafts were doing to the supply, and therefore the price, of VMA cards. This was a problem for just one reason: VMA was too good.
 
Seriously. Vintage Masters limited was too much fun.
 
When Wizards created Vintage Masters, they had a number of conflicting goals. They wanted to make something special, and make money, etc., but the main reason was to get the Power Nine online and kickstart Vintage. The needed to increase the supply of a lot of Vintage staples, which were already expensive even when Classic was a really niche format, but not increase the supply of Power too much. (“Power needed to feel special.”) They knew a lot about what motivates drafters, grinders, collectors and other players. They knew a lot about price elasticity (meaning how supply will affect demand and price.) They knew how much fun R& D was having playing VM limited in house. Wizards also knew roughly how many copies of each card they needed to have in the system to both support Vintage and keep Power feeling “special.”
 
Basically, Wizards had to calculate how to offer VMA to hit that target. Wizards has three “controls” with which to aim: event price, types and frequency of events, and the length of time in which the events would be offered. Price was set high. That should have ensured that, once the EV of the event dropped below certain levels, players should have shifted to lower cost / higher EV events. And that was the problem. By my calculation, the EV of VMA events went negative a couple weeks ago. Even with the Power Nine lottery, the EV of the packs plus prizes was way below the 25 TIX cost of a draft.  
 
Wizards has a ton of experience with draft formats, including those other than the most current sets. Take MED sets for example. The format exploded when first introduced, and everyone tried “the new thing” and looked for the new cards. Over time, the initial peak dropped as “newness” and EV both wound down. Eventually, drafts fired at a very slow rate, since the only players were the few who really loved the format, plus those drafting away their last few packs. This sort of curve is well known, and I’m sure Wizards would have calculated it very carefully when they priced and time the VMA offerings. 
 
If people had acted the way Wizards expected, the original schedule and pricing would probably have put Wizards right on target. The problem, as I see it, was that VMA limited is too good. People are willing to lose money to play it. Two weeks ago, on the Limited Resources podcast, Brian Wong said that he was through with VMA. This week, he admitted that he was still playing, because “it’s just too much fun.” I am playing it every chance I get, despite the fact that the total value of the cards I opened in my last draft was under $5, plus the two prize packs.   
 
Wizards was facing the situation that people were enjoying their product too much. That’s a crazy problem to have, but it was a problem. Let’s take a look at the values of some VMA rares and Mythics. These are all the rares and Mythics whose value, in the weeks before VMA was introduced, were worth more than a pack. Note that the value of a lot of these cards has already fallen. In the past, Force of Will, Lion’s Eye Diamond and Vampiric Tutor had all once retailed for over $100 apiece.
 

Card
Rarity
 Then
 Now
Lion's Eye Diamond
M
 $ 64.28
 $  14.12
Tundra
R
 $ 44.72
 $  11.76
Force of Will
R
 $ 44.00
 $  25.63
Volcanic Island
R
 $ 32.14
 $  11.57
Underground Sea
R
 $ 30.42
 $  17.11
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
M
 $ 29.84
 $  17.41
Mana Crypt
M
 $ 28.85
 $   3.66
Vampiric Tutor
R
 $ 28.48
 $   1.17
Bayou
R
 $ 24.88
 $   6.90
Mana Drain
M
 $ 24.68
 $   9.94
Flusterstorm
R
 $ 24.63
 $   2.62
Mishra's Workshop
M
 $ 23.90
 $   9.19
Tropical Island
R
 $ 22.27
 $  10.14
Demonic Tutor
M
 $ 15.49
 $   3.74
Mana Vault
R
 $ 15.47
 $   0.38
Null Rod
R
 $ 14.57
 $   0.84
Bazaar of Baghdad
M
 $ 14.14
 $   6.20
Edric, Spymaster of Trest
R
 $ 13.52
 $   0.11
Badlands
R
 $ 12.86
 $   4.54
Strip Mine
R
 $ 12.54
 $   0.60
Library of Alexandria
M
 $ 12.29
 $   2.21
Savannah
R
 $ 11.44
 $   4.51
Ichorid
R
 $ 10.26
 $   1.47
Taiga
R
 $   9.84
 $   3.89
Ancient Tomb
R
 $   9.13
 $   2.01
Burning Wish
R
 $   9.11
 $   1.26
Tolarian Academy
M
 $   8.77
 $   2.32
Necropotence
R
 $   8.71
 $   0.19
Scrubland
R
 $   8.36
 $   4.16

Right now, of the hundred odd rares and Mythics in VMA, well over half costs a nickel or less. Prices were crashing. The Power Nine cards were also falling. Before VMA hit MTGO, I wrote about the future of Vintage. I estimated that Vintage would be okay if VMA was being opened at a rate of about 20 drafts, or equivalents, per hour between then and Khans. Early on, drafts were firing at over 60 per hour, plus DEs, PEs and more. It is still firing at over 20 per hour, last time I looked. 
 
The make it fun goal was clearly met, as was the goal of kickstarting Vintage. The “special” goal, however, was in jeopardy. Right now, of the entire Power Nine, only Black Lotus carries a high price, and that price is falling. At the rate drafts and sealed events were firing, it would have been not unreasonable to expect Black Lotus to be worth less than a Mercadian Masques rare and a Tempest uncommon in a few more weeks. It may still happen, event without 4-3-2-2s and Swiss Sealed.
 
In my opinion, that was what Wizards was trying to avert when they tried to end drafts. However, in looking to hard at prices, they forgot that the root cause of the problem was that customers were having a blast drafting the format. Once Wizards thought it through, they reinstated drafts. 
 
Works for me. I still have a bunch of VMA packs to burn through.  
 
On more thought: the price and “special” feeling of Power was probably not the only factor Wizards may have been balancing in their calculations. Players are drafting VMA, and that is probably cutting into the rate at which they are drafting Theros block, and might have a real impact on M15. Theros could be significant. If VMA meant later Theros block drafts fired much more slowly, there may not be all that many Journey rares out there. If any of them become tournament staples, especially in older formats, the price could explode.  Specifically, Mana Confluence could become the new Tarmogoyf. Just a thought.
 

Cutting Edge Tech:

Not this week. I was too busy writing and rewriting the sections on VMA drafts.  Besides, M15 is almost here, so metagames will be changing. Maybe next week, and in two weeks for sure.
 

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).
 
Standard staples: Standard prices have recovered a tick, after the great “I need TIX for VMA” selloff. This week, while individual cards moved around a bit, the table as a whole was up by thirteen cents. In other words, in aggregate, it did nothing.       
 

Standard & Block Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$10.78
$12.27
($1.49)
-12%
$11.62
$11.62
$0.00
0%
$13.74
$12.96
$0.78
6%
$8.06
$8.00
$0.06
1%
$6.63
$7.07
($0.44)
-6%
$10.10
$11.25
($1.15)
-10%
$15.54
$14.98
$0.56
4%
$6.42
$6.05
$0.37
6%
$8.44
$7.76
$0.68
9%
$8.37
$9.13
($0.76)
-8%
$7.70
$8.12
($0.42)
-5%
$15.41
$15.74
($0.33)
-2%
$7.11
$8.04
($0.93)
-12%
$6.06
$6.46
($0.40)
-6%
$18.78
$15.22
$3.56
23%
$10.13
$10.54
($0.41)
-4%
$5.04
$5.76
($0.72)
-13%
$22.46
$21.29
$1.17
5%
$5.96
$5.96
$0.00
0%

Modern staples: Modern cards are pretty stable this week.
 

Modern Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$11.51
$12.33
($0.82)
-7%
$37.92
$39.44
($1.52)
-4%
$7.00
$9.70
($2.70)
-28%
$18.08
$18.76
($0.68)
-3%
$16.86
$17.19
($0.33)
-2%
$15.33
$14.52
$0.81
6%
$25.21
$25.63
($0.42)
-2%
$8.19
$8.26
($0.07)
-1%
$32.07
$28.49
$3.58
13%
$10.65
$11.13
($0.48)
-4%
$20.00
$20.00
$0.00
0%
$13.27
$13.37
($0.10)
-1%
$45.89
$41.46
$4.43
11%
$32.49
$34.38
($1.89)
-5%
$80.57
$76.15
$4.42
6%
$25.94
$25.94
$0.00
0%
$70.44
$75.29
($4.85)
-6%
$24.99
$26.32
($1.33)
-5%
$14.74
$13.91
$0.83
6%
$15.70
$15.78
($0.08)
-1%
$41.43
$37.91
$3.52
9%
$14.31
$13.27
$1.04
8%
$16.51
$18.64
($2.13)
-11%
$12.38
$11.57
$0.81
7%
$85.75
$87.86
($2.11)
-2%
$54.16
$53.90
$0.26
0%

Pauper: Pauper prices are pretty stable again this week. I’m wondering if it is worth tracking these prices anymore. Daze and Lotus Petal are the only really expensive cards, and they are mainly played in Vintage and Legacy, not Pauper.
 

Pauper Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$2.44
$2.26
$0.18
8%
$2.60
$2.88
($0.28)
-10%
$2.16
$2.19
($0.03)
-1%
$15.91
$15.54
$0.37
2%
$1.28
$1.28
$0.00
0%
$1.75
$1.75
$0.00
0%
$4.19
$4.73
($0.54)
-11%
$4.20
$4.20
$0.00
0%
$1.59
$1.76
($0.17)
-10%
$5.71
$6.08
($0.37)
-6%
$3.97
$3.74
$0.23
6%
$2.81
$2.80
$0.01
0%
$3.48
$3.26
$0.22
7%
$2.72
$2.21
$0.51
23%

Legacy / Vintage: The market for Vintage cards seems to be settling down. The initial swings after the prerelease frenzy and second week crash are in the past. The prices for power are dropping as people continue to open a ton of Vintage Masters. Prices for some other Vintage staples which are not appearing online are climbing. Wasteland is super-hot, and is now worth more than every power card except Black Lotus. (Note – these prices are from before the VMA no drafts / some drafts announcements.)
 

Legacy / Classic Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$73.90
$92.57
($18.67)
-20%
$185.91
$215.34
($29.43)
-14%
$47.16
$47.16
$0.00
0%
$24.00
$24.00
$0.00
0%
$25.63
$27.40
($1.77)
-6%
$51.73
$54.76
($3.03)
-6%
$58.91
$53.81
$5.10
9%
$24.66
$24.66
$0.00
0%
$17.41
$19.91
($2.50)
-13%
$14.12
$15.37
($1.25)
-8%
$9.94
$9.86
$0.08
1%
$84.80
$84.80
$0.00
0%
$9.19
$8.35
$0.84
10%
$63.29
$76.29
($13.00)
-17%
$48.89
$70.19
($21.30)
-30%
$81.88
$94.42
($12.54)
-13%
$14.96
$14.96
$0.00
0%
$17.00
$17.00
$0.00
0%
$69.15
$65.23
$3.92
6%
$136.40
$136.40
$0.00
0%
$98.16
$89.69
$8.47
9%
$33.87
$33.87
$0.00
0%
$59.64
$70.93
($11.29)
-16%
$38.12
$38.12
$0.00
0%
Underground Sea 
$17.11
$17.57
($0.46)
-3%
$22.24
$23.21
($0.97)
-4%
$121.44
$116.20
$5.24
5%

Set Redemption:  You can redeem complete sets on MTGO. You need to purchase a redemption voucher from the store for $25. During the next downtime, Wizards removes a complete set from your account, and sends you the same set in paper.   For those of you who redeem, here are the retail prices of one of everything set currently available in the store.   Journey dropped, but the rest is pretty stable to up a bit. 
 

Complete Set
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
Born of the Gods
$52.30
$52.32
($0.02)
0%
Dragon's Maze
$38.86
$37.30
$1.56
4%
Gatecrash
$61.33
$61.35
($0.02)
0%
Journey into Nix
$74.05
$81.95
($7.90)
-10%
M14
$81.44
$83.38
($1.94)
-2%
Return to Ravnica
$93.50
$88.74
$4.76
5%
Theros
$95.31
$91.69
$3.62
4%

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. Vintage Masters limited continues to be really popular, so much so that the prices of nearly everything in the set have fallen again this week. The big ticket items, other than Black Lotus, are all cards that were not in VM. And Wasteland is up, again. That’s quite a price for an uncommon. (Actually, that’s what I said last week. It’s true again this week.)
 

Card
Rarity
Set
Price
Black Lotus
B
VMA
$ 185.91
Rishadan Port
R
MM
$ 136.40
Wasteland
U
TE
$ 121.44
Show and Tell
R
UZ
$    98.16
Tarmogoyf
R
FUT
$    92.05
Tarmogoyf
M
MMA
$    85.75
Misdirection
R
MM
$    84.80
Mox Sapphire
B
VMA
$    81.88
Liliana of the Veil
M
ISD
$    80.57
Ancestral Recall
B
VMA
$    73.90
Mox Opal
M
SOM
$    70.44
Polluted Delta
R
ONS
$    69.15
Mox Jet
B
VMA
$    63.29
Mox Emerald
B
VMA
$    61.48
Mox Ruby
B
VMA
$    60.20
Time Walk
B
VMA
$    59.64
Flooded Strand
R
ONS
$    59.53
Hurkyl's Recall
R
10E
$    58.91
Vendilion Clique
M
MMA
$    57.41
Vendilion Clique
R
MOR
$    54.16
Gaea's Cradle
R
UZ
$    51.73
Mox Pearl
B
VMA
$    48.89
City of Traitors
R
EX
$    47.16
Griselbrand
M
AVR
$    45.89
Force of Will
R
MED
$    45.76
Scalding Tarn
R
ZEN
$    41.43
Tangle Wire
R
NE
$    39.74
Misty Rainforest
R
ZEN
$    38.58
True-Name Nemesis
R
C13
$    38.12
Batterskull
M
NPH
$    37.92
Toxic Deluge
R
C13
$    36.21
Undiscovered Paradise
R
VI
$    35.07
Sneak Attack
R
UZ
$    33.87
Lion's Eye Diamond
R
MI
$    33.73
Dark Confidant
M
MMA
$    33.64
Karn Liberated
M
NPH
$    32.49
Tundra
R
ME2
$    32.35
Dark Confidant
R
RAV
$    32.07
Tundra
R
ME4
$    32.04
Infernal Tutor
R
DIS
$    29.71
Linvala, Keeper of Silence
M
ROE
$    25.94
Cryptic Command
R
MMA
$    25.87
Force of Will
R
VMA
$    25.63
Cryptic Command
R
LRW
$    25.21

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 $ 23,820. That’s up about $200 from where we were last week.
 

Weekly Highlights:

I tried to draft a Storm deck in VMA, after opening a weak pack with High Tide. I got a number of Rituals, Frantic Searches, card drawing, etc. – even a Yawgmoth’s Will.   What I never saw was a single Tendrils or Brain Freeze. In the end, I had a deck with some decent removal, a few counters and some removal – and exactly five creatures capable of killing an opponent, including a fifth pick pack three Magister of Worth, a Mistmoon Griffin, an Ophidian, a Krovikan Sorcerer and a Nightscape Familiar.   I also had a Famine that helped clear the board, but it took all the skill I had to manage to win two rounds with that pile. It was so bad I almost dropped before round one.  
 
PRJ
 
“one million words” on MTGO
 
This series is an ongoing tribute to Erik “Hamtastic” Friborg.

7 Comments

Why do you think Pod dropped by ScionOfJustice at Fri, 07/11/2014 - 16:37
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Why do you think Pod dropped so much?

VMA drafts may continue, but by romellos at Fri, 07/11/2014 - 16:53
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5

VMA drafts may continue, but M15 is coming within two weeks and it will impact to the draft pace of VMA. Maybe it won't be that drastically, we will see...

Let me put it this way: I was by AJ_Impy at Fri, 07/11/2014 - 17:21
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5

Let me put it this way: I was doing a ton of VMA events. Prior to that, I hadn't played limited in years this side of beta testing. Amazingly fun format. So many cards which I wanted but which were out of my price range are now much more available. Being too successful is a much better problem than its opposite, certainly from a customer perspective. Port is so high mainly because the one format it was in wasn't fun. Likewise Misdirection. Had they been in Modern Masters

New Client login problem by Wickedrh at Sat, 07/12/2014 - 11:38
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There seems to be a problem with installing or opening the new client. It gives an error and there is currently no fix to it. I don't know what will happen to people when the client closes. It will be nice if it gets more attenion.

Rewards cards by drinkard at Sat, 07/12/2014 - 15:32
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Hi, thanks for all you do for this program and community. Normally you post what cards will be store activity rewards, event participation rewards, and qp rewards. Do you know what those are currently, and when it will change?

sure by one million words at Mon, 07/14/2014 - 15:31
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Event Participation: Squelching Leeches.
Store Activity: Dictate of Kruphix
Through July 30th.

MOCS: Geist of Saint Traft

Wizards already gave us by romellos at Mon, 07/14/2014 - 17:46
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Wizards already gave us Dictate of Kruphix & Squelching Leeches as June Promos.

According to mothership; Dissolve is the July Event Promo, there is no info regarding to the PRM of Store activity.