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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Jul 27 2018 12:00pm
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State of the Program for July 27th 2018
 
In the News
Hasbro Earnings Report Positive: Hasbro released its second quarter earnings report. It is reasonably good overall. Hasbro is still adjusting to the loss of a major customer in ToysRUs and the liquidation of  ToysRUs inventory, but that issue is mainly behind them. Overall, Hasbro exceeded expectations, and the stock price jumped. Of specific interest to us, Magic is doing very well, and is seeing double digit growth in player numbers. The Q2 Financial Report is here. The slideshow for the investor call is here. The company officials remarks transcript is here.   
 
1v1 Commander Shake-Up: Wizards has announced major changes to 1v1 Commander. First, they are “banning” the partner mechanic. For online 1v1 Commander, you may only have one commander. Cards that have the partner mechanic are errataed to not have that mechanic. Next, Wizards is unbanning a bunch of power cards, including fast mana, tutors and really good card drawing. This should shake up the format. Read the announcement, which include the unban list, here
 
Major MTGO Announcement Coming Next Week: Wizards has announced that they will announce stuff next Tuesday. So, until then…
 
MTG Arena Beta Passes 1M Players: But I have still not been invited – not sure why.
 
Pro Tour Coming Soon: It’s a week away.
 
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 running the three days prior to the PTQ.
 

Upcoming Events
Dates
Scheduled Downtimes
July 25th and August 29th (both extended)
Constructed Leagues End
September 25, 2018
Sealed Leagues End
September 28, 2018
Guilds of Ravnica
October 5, 2018
Ravnica Allegiance
January 2019
Next B&R Announcement
August 20, 2018
Dominaria Redemption Ends
October 10, 2018
Core Set 2019 Redemption Ends
December 26, 2018

 
WotC Covered Events
Wizards will be streaming a number of events next year, including all four Pro Tours, the Magic Championship and World Magic Cup, along with 35 Grand Prix. Since Wizards does not schedule premier events on prerelease weekends and certain holidays, that means they will be streaming an event nearly every weekend. Here’s the schedule we have so far.
·       July 28–29: Grand Prix Minneapolis
·       Aug. 3–5: Pro Tour 25th Anniversary in Minneapolis, Minnesota
·       Aug. 11–12: Grand Prix Brussels
·       Aug. 18–19: Grand Prix Los Angeles
·       Aug. 25–26: Grand Prix Prague
·       Aug. 31–Sept. 2: Grand Prix Richmond (double-GP weekend)
·       Sept. 8–9: Grand Prix Detroit
·       Sept. 15–16: Grand Prix Stockholm
·       Weekend of Sept. 23–24: 2018 Magic World Championship and Team Series Championship in Las Vegas, Nevada (exact event dates TBD)
·       Oct. 6–7: Grand Prix Montreal
·       Oct. 13–14: Grand Prix Denver
·       Oct. 27–28: Grand Prix Lille
·       Nov. 3–4: Grand Prix Atlanta
·       Nov. 9–11: Pro Tour "Spaghetti" in Atlanta
·       Nov. 17–18: Grand Prix Milwaukee
·       Dec. 8–9: Grand Prix Liverpool
·       Dec. 14–16: World Magic Cup in Barcelona, Spain
 
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:
·       (no special formats – play Core Set 2019)
·       August 1-August 8: Triple Zendikar
·       August 8-August 15: Pauper Gauntlet
·       August 15-August 22: Cube Spotlight Series (details TBD)
·       August 22-August 29: TBD
·       August 29-September 5: Triple Khans of Tarkir
·       September 5-September 28: Legacy Cube
 
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:  A Digital Chronicles Moment?
I was going to write more about whether MTG Arena can replace MTGO – spoiler, it can, if Wizards wants it to – but Wizards is going to make a big announcement about MTGO next Tuesday. I’ll wait. I’ll have a lot more information by the time I write next week’s article.
 
It would not take all that much effort to bring Modern, Legacy and Vintage to MTG Arena. Wizards would have to program the cards, but the new program is supposed to be able to handle cards and rules well. Wizards will have to rebuild the deck editor, because I don’t think that the Arena editor would work well with the giant collections that Eternal format players accumulate. And Wizards would have to program the new formats into Arena, but that should be trivial.   Arena could replace MTGO as the place to play Eternal formats, if Wizards wanted to make the switch. Or it could keep Arena for Standard and limited, and MTGO for everything else. 
 
Wizards has said that they will continue to program new cards for MTGO so long as players keep playing. That could be true, but if Wizards wanted to kill MTGO slowly, it could. Wizards could leave servers on, but reduce support and prizes. That would push players to shift to Arena. As more and more players migrate to Arena, it would be harder and harder for MTGO players to find matches. As matchmaking gets harder, fewer and fewer players would log in. With nowhere to play them, the value of cards on MTGO would tank. Eventually, MTGO would have nothing but a few lonely players, wandering in an empty shell, searching in vain for anyone to play. At that point, Wizards could buy everyone out cheaply, since the cards would have basically no value, and shut down the MTGO servers.  
 
I also know that Wizards has always said that players don’t own their digital cards. Wizards can, legally, shut down MTGO whenever they like.   They have always said that these cards are just virtual, and have no intrinsic worth. So if they want to kill MTGO, they can. Legally.  (Caveat – I’m not an attorney, and that is not legal advice. It’s just what I conclude after talking to some attorneys.)
 
However, killing MTGO would have some serious ramifications. The biggest is that a lot of people – myself included – have invested serious money into the program. So have a lot of online dealers, including the website that brings you State of the Program. Wizards might decide that MTGO is too outdated, while Arena is the coming thing, and it is just time to switch.   They could decide that most enfranchised MTGO players will move to Arena, that the losses won’t be too bad, and they will make more money with Arena. They legally and rationally make the decision to phase out MTGO. But it would have a cost.
 
Twenty years ago, Wizards decided that they could make money by reprinting some cards that players wanted, but were having problems getting. They reprinted cards like City of Brass and the original Elder Dragons with white borders. They called the set “Chronicles.” And Chronicles nearly killed Magic. Both players and dealers screamed as the price of their collections crashed.   Chronicles was a problem, and Wizards had to back peddle hard to keep the game going. The eventual outcome of Chronicles was the Reserve List, with all the baggage that has created.
 
In many respects, moving from MTGO to Arena makes sense. Arena is prettier, and it makes those beepidy-boopidy noises the kids like these days. It also , hopefully, doesn’t have the design flaws and limitations that MTGO has. I can make some arguments for why Wizards would want to have Arena replace MTGO, but if it does, Wizards has to take care of the people, like me and like online dealers, who have invested a ton of money in MTGO. If Wizards just shuts down MTGO without compensating its players, in some meaningful way, then why would anyone invest in Arena? Fool me once…
 
If Wizards expects people to invest time – and especially money – into MTG Arena, they would be very foolish to begin by showing that they are willing to wipe out that investment just because they have a new product they want to push. At least, I hope not.
 
Wizards has changed MTGO several times over the years. The change from version 2.0 to version 3.0 was gradual. The change from 3.5. to 4.0 was, eventually, a flash cut with the servers going dark for almost a month, then functionality slowly resumed. And online Magic survived. Arguably, MTGO is better now than it ever was (unless you played Legacy Tribal Wars or Emperor, I guess.)   However, one thing past changes to online Magic never did- they never did away with the value of your online collection. 
 
The economy of MTG Arena is a lot different than that of MTGO. You cannot trade or sell cards on Arena. This means that Wizards cannot simply set up new Arena accounts for the dealers. However, Wizards could find some other way of compensating the dealers, at least partially. As for enfranchised players like me, Wizards could ease my transition to Arena in any number of ways. If they want to.
 
Or they could keep MTGO going as a place to play Eternal formats, etc., indefinitely. They have claimed that’s what they are doing. We will see – and that why I look forward to next Tuesday’s announcement.
    
Cutting Edge Tech
Standard: Standard is rapidly evolving. This deck was all the rage a week or so ago, but is still the deck I want to sleeve up for my next night of Standard play.
 
 
Pauper: Lots of blue in the Pauper Challenge again last weekend.   So here you go – sometime we have to admit to what is right in front of us.
 
 
Modern:  The SCG Modern Classic was won by a deck with a playset of a card from Core Set 2019. That’s unusual, but this deck was actually built around this card. Sweet!     
 
 
Legacy: SCG ran a Legacy Classic last weekend. Deathrite Shaman is gone, so Sultai control decks are unplayable, right. Well, maybe: Leovold is certainly getting really cheap. But Sultai works in other configurations.
 
 
 
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 mixed again this week. The format is somewhat constricted, but people are brewing, and a rotation is imminent.       
 

Standard Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
Arisen Gorgon
$9.50
$9.50
$0.00
0%
Carnage Tyrant
$12.04
$14.08
($2.04)
-14%
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
$6.09
$8.18
($2.09)
-26%
Heart of Kiran
$7.54
$9.00
($1.46)
-16%
History of Benalia
$6.26
$6.77
($0.51)
-8%
Karn, Scion of Urza
$26.76
$24.83
$1.93
8%
Liliana, Untouched by Death
$3.34
$5.47
($2.13)
-39%
Lyra Dawnbringer
$6.99
$7.06
($0.07)
-1%
Nexus of Fate
$28.48
$27.23
$1.25
5%
Nicol Bolas, the Ravager
$22.45
$18.01
$4.44
25%
Rekindling Phoenix
$20.72
$20.40
$0.32
2%
Sarkhan, Dragonsoul
$7.79
$5.00
$2.79
56%
Search for Azcanta
$5.13
$5.47
($0.34)
-6%
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
$23.82
$23.69
$0.13
1%
Vraska's Contempt
$7.81
$10.31
($2.50)
-24%
Walking Ballista
$10.85
$11.71
($0.86)
-7%

Modern staples: Modern prices were mixed again this week, but generally dropping. 
 

Modern Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$15.71
$18.23
($2.52)
-14%
$24.97
$21.00
$3.97
19%
$23.90
$20.40
$3.50
17%
$19.99
$20.54
($0.55)
-3%
$19.41
$19.42
($0.01)
0%
$49.58
$54.50
($4.92)
-9%
$25.04
$25.97
($0.93)
-4%
$37.34
$37.39
($0.05)
0%
$31.00
$29.72
$1.28
4%
$33.28
$36.70
($3.42)
-9%
$19.37
$17.94
$1.43
8%
$32.59
$34.20
($1.61)
-5%
$23.40
$25.68
($2.28)
-9%
$52.31
$55.20
($2.89)
-5%
$23.09
$22.84
$0.25
1%
$23.18
$23.73
($0.55)
-2%
$34.59
$36.15
($1.56)
-4%
$18.71
$19.16
($0.45)
-2%

Legacy and Vintage: I have added a couple cards to the list. Containment Priest had dropped off, and had dropped below $10 for a while. (I generally use $15 as the drop point, but keep one dual on the list as a general reference. Also Daze, as the most expensive common.)   The other two cards are from Battlebond, and only come out of Treasure Chests.   Their prices will fall further once more are opened. 
 

Legacy / Vintage Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
Arcane Artisan
$21.78
$27.43
($5.65)
-21%
$28.22
$28.93
($0.71)
-2%
Brightling
$53.24
$70.23
($16.99)
-24%
$35.71
$32.70
$3.01
9%
$19.86
$18.79
$1.07
6%
$14.34
$13.87
$0.47
3%
$26.20
$26.20
$0.00
0%
$32.10
$34.90
($2.80)
-8%
$31.60
$31.60
$0.00
0%
$20.76
$19.83
$0.93
5%
$59.70
$57.99
$1.71
3%
$10.31
$9.97
$0.34
3%
$24.86
$27.05
($2.19)
-8%
$25.82
$26.48
($0.66)
-2%

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
Aether Revolt
$53.38
$56.60
($3.22)
-6%
Amonkhet
$43.63
$46.02
($2.39)
-5%
Core Set 2019
$130.71
$125.24
$5.47
4%
Dominaria
$99.89
$96.78
$3.11
3%
Ixalan
$74.26
$82.98
($8.72)
-11%
Hour of Devastation
$20.86
$24.51
($3.65)
-15%
Kaladesh
$32.71
$37.87
($5.16)
-14%
Rivals of Ixalan
$72.03
$74.86
($2.83)
-4%
Treasure Chest
$2.29
$2.31
($0.02)
-1%
Core Set 2019 Booster
$3.33
$3.37
($0.04)
-1%

 
 
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 reverting to normal, as the Battlebond cards tick down as people open Treasure Chests. 
 

Name
Set
Rarity
 Price
Black Lotus
 1E
Rare
 $ 89.90
True-Name Nemesis
 C13
Rare
 $ 60.15
True-Name Nemesis
 PZ1
Mythic Rare
 $ 59.70
Engineered Explosives
 MMA
Rare
 $ 57.03
Engineered Explosives
 5DN
Rare
 $ 56.86
Mox Opal
 SOM
Mythic Rare
 $ 55.34
Mox Opal
 MM2
Mythic Rare
 $ 55.16
Brightling
 BBD
Mythic Rare
 $ 53.24
Mox Sapphire
 1E
Rare
 $ 52.54
Mox Opal
 MS2
Bonus
 $ 52.31
Engineered Explosives
 MS2
Bonus
 $ 49.58
Ancestral Recall
 1E
Rare
 $ 43.75
Mox Ruby
 1E
Rare
 $ 41.75
Mox Jet
 1E
Rare
 $ 41.33
Force of Will
 MED
Rare
 $ 41.19
Mox Emerald
 1E
Rare
 $ 38.72
Karn Liberated
 NPH
Mythic Rare
 $ 38.62
Horizon Canopy
 IMA
Rare
 $ 37.95
Unmask
 V16
Mythic Rare
 $ 37.90
Horizon Canopy
 EXP
Mythic Rare
 $ 37.84
Horizon Canopy
 FUT
Rare
 $ 37.34
Dark Depths
 V16
Mythic Rare
 $ 37.19
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
 WWK
Mythic Rare
 $ 36.91
City of Traitors
 EX
Rare
 $ 36.57
Liliana of the Veil
 MM3
Mythic Rare
 $ 36.50
Surgical Extraction
 NPH
Rare
 $ 36.47
Force of Will
 MS3
Special
 $ 36.02
City of Traitors
 TPR
Rare
 $ 35.71
Force of Will
 EMA
Mythic Rare
 $ 34.83
Surgical Extraction
 MM2
Rare
 $ 34.59
Karn Liberated
 MM2
Mythic Rare
 $ 33.28
Liliana of the Veil
 ISD
Mythic Rare
 $ 32.59
Wasteland
 TE
Uncommon
 $ 32.30
Force of Will
 VMA
Rare
 $ 32.10
Misdirection
 MM
Rare
 $ 31.60
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
 VMA
Mythic Rare
 $ 31.21
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
 A25
Mythic Rare
 $ 31.05
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
 EMA
Mythic Rare
 $ 31.00
Mox Pearl
 1E
Rare
 $ 30.10
Ensnaring Bridge
 7E
Rare
 $ 30.10
Time Walk
 1E
Rare
 $ 29.90
Wasteland
 TPR
Rare
 $ 28.71
Nexus of Fate
 M19
Mythic Rare
 $ 28.48
Black Lotus
 VMA
Bonus
 $ 28.22
Scalding Tarn
 EXP
Mythic Rare
 $ 27.78
Ensnaring Bridge
 A25
Mythic Rare
 $ 27.62
Wasteland
 EXP
Mythic Rare
 $ 27.56
Karn, Scion of Urza
 DAR
Mythic Rare
 $ 26.76
Exploration
 UZ
Rare
 $ 26.20
Cavern of Souls
 MM3
Mythic Rare
 $ 25.92
Wasteland
 EMA
Rare
 $ 25.82
Mox Diamond
 ST
Rare
 $ 25.72
Gorilla Shaman
 ALL
Common
 $ 25.52
Ensnaring Bridge
 MS2
Bonus
 $ 25.47
Ensnaring Bridge
 8ED
Rare
 $ 25.25
Ensnaring Bridge
 ST
Rare
 $ 25.04

 
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 $ 17,270. That’s down about $145 from last week. 
 
In Closing
 
I live in the country, and my Internet is crap. I lose connection several times a week. Sometimes it is just for a few seconds. Sometimes I have to reboot the antennae and router, and that restores the connection.   Sometimes it is down for hours. 
 
I have not been playing much MTGO from home. Which sucks.
 
On the plus side, I am doing more paper Magic, and running more events. FNM draft tonight – should be fun.
 
 
PRJ
 
“One Million Words” on MTGO
 
 
This series is an ongoing tribute to Erik “Hamtastic” Friborg.
 

4 Comments

Arisen gorgon by Sensei at Fri, 07/27/2018 - 12:10
Sensei's picture

Take that fake price off the table. Its not played in Standard much less a staple and other vendors sell at -60% of the joke of a price listed

Arena Code by Nagarjuna at Fri, 07/27/2018 - 12:39
Nagarjuna's picture
5

Hello Peter,

if you still need a code for the Arena Beta hit me up on MTGO: Nagarjuna

Arena by Alphi at Mon, 07/30/2018 - 10:08
Alphi's picture

As someone who has been playing a lot of Arena lately, I still can't see that client taking over MTGO. I know it is not complete, there is still work to be done, but there is an underlying philosophy that just makes meaningful information difficult to retrieve across different zones. It works alright for a bunch of Standard decks, but even in Standard, you can feel some decks straining against the limits of the UI. The eternal format would just be unplayable.

Perhaps more to the point, Arena is not a platform meant to let players play whatever format they want. A free to play economy imposes its own constraints, and it shows in limited for example: prizes are given in packs, which can't be reused to reenter drafts but are only useful to be cracked, get wildcards, expand ones collection and pay constructed. And one has to play constructed to get the gold to enter drafts. Fitting in any eternal format in this equation, while not impossible, would require some heavy lifting. Even the announced "Arena Modern", a format merely meant to be able to reuse rotated Standard cards, is still not defined.

I too eagerly await Tuesday's announcement. My biggest worry is that Wizards gets over optimistic thanks to Arena's few successes and starts betting the bank on it. My biggest hope is that see what can be achieved by a team of professionals, realise that a subpar MTGO client is not a fatality, and decide to do something about it.

Arena by Alphi at Mon, 07/30/2018 - 10:08
Alphi's picture

Double post. Well, I'll take the opportunity to thank you for your post!