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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Jun 15 2018 11:00am
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State of the Program for June 15th 2018
 
In the News
Chainwhirler Wins the Pro Tour Grand Prix: Pro Tour Dominaria was a very red affair, with 7 of the Top 8 decks running Goblin Chainwhirlers.  The GP was a bit more balanced – two whole non-red decks made the Top 8. More significantly, GP Copenhagen had barely 750 players.   That is tiny for a European GP. Last year, GP Copenhagen had 1836 Modern players. What happened? 
 
Battlebond Cards Coming – Eventually: Wizards will be bringing Battlebond cards to MTGO. The first batch will arrive July 5th, and appear in Treasure chests. Lack of resources is slowing the roll-out, so only some of the cards will be available. An explanation of the delay, and a list of cards, is here.
 
M19 Previews Starting: Tis the season. The card image gallery is here.  M19 will be online the second week in July.
 
RIX and XLN Redemptions Returning: Wizards has reordered redemption packs for both sets. Redemption will reappear “soon.”
 
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 5th (THURSDAY) and July 25th (extended)
Constructed Leagues End
July 3, 2018
Sealed Leagues End
July 6, 2018
Core Set Magic 2019
July 13, 2018
Guilds of Ravnica
October 5, 2018
Ravnica Allegiance
January 2019
Next B&R Announcement
July 2, 2018
Ixalan Block Redemption
Out of stock – will return “soon”
Dominaria Redemption Ends
October 10, 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.
·       June 15–17: Grand Prix Las Vegas (double-GP weekend)
·       June 23–24: Grand Prix Pittsburgh
·       July 7–8: Grand Prix São Paulo
·       July 21–22: Grand Prix Sacramento
·       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:
·       June 13-July 5: Vintage 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:  Another Rant on Bad Cards
 
I am one of those stupid people that opens booster packs to get cards. I know that buying singles is almost always the better way to build a particular deck, but that’s not why I do so. I end up with a lot of booster packs – I get paid in packs for the prereleases and for some of the other events I run. I end up with way more packs than we can draft our way through. I also bust packs because I like to assemble a binder with one copy of every card per set. That means I want commons, bulk rares, etc. Since I have the packs, and want the cards, I bust them.
 
It would be smarter to just buy a complete set – but I have spare packs, not spare cash.
 
The problem with opening packs to build a collection is that you notice just how much dreck there is in a Magic set.  You don’t just notice – it hits you in the face, over and over again. Magic sets contain a lot of garbage cards. A lot.
 
This is at the heart of the complaints about the Magic Arena economy. In MTGO, or paper, you can sell you bulk. On MTG Arena, the cards just sit there. When you open a Boneyard Parley in MTG Arena, you know that your Mythic card will be completely worthless.   Not that it is worth much on MTGO or in paper – but it worth at least something.
 
Opening a bad / worthless rare is a real feels-bad. I have always known this, but a few cards really rubbed it in. For example, in my first prerelease with Saviors of Kamigawa, I opened this card:
 
One with Nothing
 
Sometimes, you open a constructed-only card in limited, and know that it won’t make your deck.   Damping Sphere is great example. It is extremely useful in Modern, but useless in draft. Other times, you may bust a pack looking for constructed cards and find something that would be great in limited, and nowhere else.   But cards like One with Nothing are useless in all formats, at all times. (Yes, I know that people tried to sideboard it against Owling Mine decks, for about a month. It didn’t work.) 
 
I know that not all cards can be great. Not all rares and Mythics can be exciting to open. Only in Lake Wobegone can all cards be above average. However, after opening a lot of packs, I am disappointed at how many cards are below average. I also understand Wizards’ argument that each set needs to have “skill testers” – cards that teach newer players that some cards are unplayable. Sure – but why not make more of the skill testers commons? You don’t need many.   Four or five bad commons would be enough to test skills. That number of bad commons would not affect draft.  There is always dreck that goes 14th in any draft. Why waste a Mythic slot on a skill tester?
 
I understand that Wizards makes cards that are good in limited, and others that are intended for constructed only.   What bothers me is the vast number of cards that are bad in both formats. I’m not talking about cards like Dubious Challenge – something that might have been a combo card that was killed in development, or something. I am talking about the cards that are just bad in both formats. I remember struggling to write a preview article for Spirit of the Hearth. The card was not an exciting pick in draft, since it was a bit too expensive for that limited format.   It was way too expensive for constructed. I fluffed it up a bit, but it was pretty clear that it was a bulk rare. 
 
I am not upset by the fact that there are bulk rares. What bothers me is the high percentage of rares and Mythics that are not exciting in either limited or constructed. Look through set reviews and note the number of rares and Mythics that get a sub-par grade in both constructed and limited. I know that only a tiny percent of the cards in any constructed format are playable, but Mythics should not be clearly unplayable in limited and constructed. Wizards shouldn’t print cards like Glorious End, not at Mythic.
 
I think part of the problem is that Wizards employees don’t pay for their packs. Obviously, R&D can’t use real packs when they design cards, but even on MTGO, many Wizards employees have – or had – “god” accounts with full playsets of everything. Since they don’t pay for their cards, they don’t have to grind for their decks, and that shows. I think the best example was this card:
 
steamflogger boss
 
Steamflogger Boss was printed in Future Sight – a set that was supposed to “reflect the future.” Many cards in the set had alternative (“future”) frames, and had mechanics that were supposed to be previews of mechanics from future sets. That was cool. Steamflogger Boss, however, was a joke. It “featured” a mechanic (contraptions) and creature subtype (riggers) that Wizards has no intention of making. In that respect, it was a pretty good joke – except that it was printed at rare. Had it been printed at uncommon, players might be able to draft a couple copies and those copies could give each other haste. As an uncommon, the card would be more than just a Hill Giant with an inside joke paste on. But it was a rare.  
 
I play and judge at a LGS that caters to more casual players. They tend to buy packs to crack. At prereleases, they tend to open their prize packs. They get excited by good cards – even marginal cards. They are bummed when they find they spent $4 on a pack containing a card like Steamflogger Boss.
 
Magic cards get their value when they are played. In limited, those cards have value because of the event in which you open them. That accounts for much of the value of the cards on MTGO. Players also value cards they can use in their constructed decks. Cards used in Tier one decks have obvious value. Other cards can also have value, especially in more causal formats. Ingrid and I used to play in a group that built new theme or gimmick decks for every play session.   Cards that were marginal in competitive formats were fine in casual play. Even Pillarfield Ox can be playable if your deck is built around Old MacDonald and his farm, and Ramirez DePietro made a decent Dread Pirate Roberts in my Princess Bride deck (circa 2002.) 
 
However, cards and decks like that are playable in casual groups. MTGO and MTG Arena don’t really cater to casual players, so marginal cards have less value there. Wizards is struggling with this problem, but there may not be any easy answers. And without a strong contingent of casual players, those lesser valued cards just sit in collections like stones.   MTG Arena awards packs that can only be opened, not drafted, as prizes. Unplayable cards – especially unplayable rares and Mythics – are really feel-bads when they cannot be traded, or dusted, or even bulked.  Wizards needs to think about this a lot more than they now do.
 
I looked at the cards in all Standard legal sets, in both paper and on MTGO. In both the paper and MTGO world, packs cost $4. They contain cards, and those cards have value. Some value. Is it ever close to that $4? The Professor, over at Tolarian Academy, plays the “booster box game” where he opens a booster box and adds up the valuable cards. He plays that just after the set comes out, when prices are at their highest. The booster box game overestimates the value of packs. 
 
I looked at the prices of all the cards in Standard. I got my prices from MTGOTrades.com and TCGPlayer.com.   Here’s what I found:
 
Paper market prices:
 

Rarity
 Median
Mean
Maximum
 Minimum
 Common
 $      0.03
 $      0.04
 $      0.80
 $      0.01
 Land
 $      0.07
 $      0.11
 $      0.41
 $      0.03
 Mythic 
 $      2.73
 $      4.86
 $   40.88
 $      0.28
 Rare
 $      0.34
 $      1.11
 $   15.98
 $      0.08
 Token
 $      0.09
 $      0.17
 $      2.24
 $      0.02
 Uncommon
 $      0.06
 $      0.15
 $      4.92
 $      0.02

 
I included a column for lands, since many of the full art lands have actual value.   I also included tokens, since some of the tokens are also worth real money.   I also included the average (mean) value for each card type, but remember that the mean average is the sum of all divided by the number. That means that if Bill Gates (annual earnings $11.5 billion) walks into a daycare center with 100 (unemployed) 3 year olds, the average salary of the people in that room is about $115 million each. The mean can be misleading. The mode, on the other hand, is the number exactly in the middle of a ranked list of values. For my example with Bill Gates and unemployed four year olds, that mode is an income of $0. 
 
I looked at the total number of cards in the format, and compared that with the number of cards of each type that are worth more than a booster pack.   There are, of course, no commons or basic lands worth that much, and only one uncommon (Fatal Push.) Most tellingly, however, is that only 6.5% of the rares, and about one third of the Mythics are worth more than a pack. 
 

Rarity
Total
Over $4
% Over $4
 Common
649
0
0.0%
 Land
95
0
0.0%
 Mythic 
111
38
34.2%
 Rare
368
24
6.5%
 Token
135
0
0.0%
 Uncommon
514
1
0.2%

 
That’s pretty sad. It’s even worse when you look at premier sets, where boosters are a lot more expensive. For example, Modern Masters 2015 has an MRSP of $9.99 per pack. That is a lot of money – and why people (including me) were so upset when we learned that Tree of Redemption was a Mythic in MM25. It is not great in limited, has no real place in constructed, and I can buy one in any store for $0.53. Just the thought of opening a Tree of Redemption or the like kept me from paying for packs from that set. I have bought boxes of most of the previous Modern Masters sets, but not MM25. And I’m not the only one – my LGS is stuck with a pile of booster boxes no one is buying.
 
For comparison, here’s the same data for Standard cards on MTGO.
 

Mode
Mean
Maximum
Minimum
 Basic Land
$ 0.01
$ 0.01
$ 0.05
$ 0.01
 Common
$ 0.01
$ 0.04
$ 3.85
$ 0.01
 Mythic 
$ 0.85
$ 2.69
$ 37.47
$ 0.01
 Rare
$ 0.02
$ 0.42
$ 21.22
$ 0.01
 Uncommon
$ 0.01
$ 0.03
$ 1.73
$ 0.01

  

Rarity
Total
Over $4
% Over $4
 Common
649
0
0.00 %
 Land
95
0
0.00 %
 Mythic 
111
22
19.82 %
 Rare
368
7
0.19 %
 Uncommon
514
0
0.00 %

 
Once again, not good. Fortunately, most of these cards are from boosters that are either opened very early in the format, when prices are high, or were opened in limited. 
 
Cutting Edge Tech
Standard: Last weekend was the first GP after Pro Tour Goblin Chainwhirler . The GP would show us how the community would deal with the menace of the chain spinner. The community – stayed home. Just 753 players showed up for GP Copenhagen. Chainwhirler again dominated  the event. Not a good sign.  GP coverage is here.
 

 

Brawl: The bannings have finally gone into effect, and a number of new archetypes are appearing. This week’s set of decklists are here.
 
 
Pauper: SCG ran a Pauper Classic at SCG Con last weekend. Most of the Top 8 decklists were blue, mainly Delver, but the winner wasn’t. 
 
 
Modern: SCG ran a no ban list Modern event last weekend at SCG Con. The Top 32 decks are here
 
 
Legacy: At SCG Con, one of the events was Duel for Duals Legacy event. The Top 32 decklists are here
 
 
 
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. Without anything at the GP countering the dominance of Goblin Chainwhirler, people are down on the format.      
 

Standard Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$4.26
$5.89
($1.63)
-28%
$10.61
$9.56
$1.05
11%
$14.34
$18.65
($4.31)
-23%
$3.74
$5.13
($1.39)
-27%
$8.83
$13.40
($4.57)
-34%
$10.69
$15.90
($5.21)
-33%
$8.58
$8.14
$0.44
5%
$24.47
$24.82
($0.35)
-1%
$7.15
$7.30
($0.15)
-2%
$37.47
$42.01
($4.54)
-11%
$6.58
$6.15
$0.43
7%
$5.27
$5.43
($0.16)
-3%
$24.27
$23.03
$1.24
5%
$11.17
$15.34
($4.17)
-27%
$7.66
$9.67
($2.01)
-21%
$7.28
$9.56
($2.28)
-24%
$11.66
$11.66
$0.00
0%
$21.22
$16.87
$4.35
26%

Modern staples: Modern prices were mixed again this week. Overall, they appear to be climbing.  
 

Modern Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$16.83
$16.02
$0.81
5%
$24.63
$23.14
$1.49
6%
$26.23
$25.50
$0.73
3%
$21.29
$21.09
$0.20
1%
$20.38
$23.42
($3.04)
-13%
$40.32
$38.57
$1.75
5%
$30.38
$29.81
$0.57
2%
$15.07
$15.55
($0.48)
-3%
$47.92
$43.66
$4.26
10%
$26.51
$27.26
($0.75)
-3%
$36.54
$34.83
$1.71
5%
$17.99
$19.68
($1.69)
-9%
$43.52
$43.12
$0.40
1%
$35.09
$34.23
$0.86
3%
$54.62
$56.00
($1.38)
-2%
$21.36
$23.21
($1.85)
-8%
$26.56
$27.21
($0.65)
-2%
$28.55
$27.51
$1.04
4%
$18.38
$19.91
($1.53)
-8%

Legacy and Vintage: Legacy and Vintage prices continue to follow a very slow downward slide, like everything else. 
 

Legacy / Vintage Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$29.30
$30.90
($1.60)
-5%
$27.58
$27.62
($0.04)
0%
$15.51
$14.18
$1.33
9%
$11.69
$11.06
$0.63
6%
$31.32
$31.60
($0.28)
-1%
$28.86
$29.59
($0.73)
-2%
$15.43
$13.69
$1.74
13%
$33.75
$33.75
$0.00
0%
$17.53
$22.00
($4.47)
-20%
$50.17
$52.89
($2.72)
-5%
$28.11
$27.11
$1.00
4%
$11.17
$10.65
$0.52
5%
$20.73
$20.24
$0.49
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
$82.73
$90.99
($8.26)
-9%
Amonkhet
$54.71
$70.39
($15.68)
-22%
Dominaria
$99.61
$96.91
$2.70
3%
Ixalan
$84.72
$87.73
($3.01)
-3%
Hour of Devastation
$33.24
$44.10
($10.86)
-25%
Kaladesh
$53.77
$63.39
($9.62)
-15%
Rivals of Ixalan
$89.58
$93.22
($3.64)
-4%
Treasure Chest
$2.10
$2.14
($0.04)
-2%
Dominaria Booster
$3.27
$3.32
($0.05)
-2%

 
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 has shrunk a bit this week, but not much else has changed.
 

Name
Set
Rarity
 Price
Black Lotus
 1E
Rare
 $ 78.39
Mox Opal
 SOM
Mythic Rare
 $ 58.12
Mox Opal
 MM2
Mythic Rare
 $ 57.41
Mox Opal
 MS2
Bonus
 $ 54.62
True-Name Nemesis
 C13
Rare
 $ 52.49
True-Name Nemesis
 PZ1
Mythic Rare
 $ 50.17
Horizon Canopy
 EXP
Mythic Rare
 $ 49.49
Horizon Canopy
 IMA
Rare
 $ 48.09
Horizon Canopy
 FUT
Rare
 $ 47.92
Mox Sapphire
 1E
Rare
 $ 43.65
Liliana of the Veil
 MM3
Mythic Rare
 $ 43.62
Liliana of the Veil
 ISD
Mythic Rare
 $ 43.52
Engineered Explosives
 MMA
Rare
 $ 40.85
Engineered Explosives
 5DN
Rare
 $ 40.81
Engineered Explosives
 MS2
Bonus
 $ 40.32
Force of Will
 MED
Rare
 $ 37.65
Rekindling Phoenix
 RIX
Mythic Rare
 $ 37.47
Dark Depths
 V16
Mythic Rare
 $ 37.19
Karn Liberated
 NPH
Mythic Rare
 $ 36.86
Karn Liberated
 MM2
Mythic Rare
 $ 36.54
Unmask
 V16
Mythic Rare
 $ 36.54
Ancestral Recall
 1E
Rare
 $ 35.83
Mox Emerald
 1E
Rare
 $ 35.51
Mox Ruby
 1E
Rare
 $ 35.15
Liliana& the Last Hope
 EMN
Mythic Rare
 $ 35.09
Misdirection
 MM
Rare
 $ 33.75
Mox Diamond
 TPR
Mythic Rare
 $ 33.70
Mox Jet
 1E
Rare
 $ 32.93
Ensnaring Bridge
 A25
Mythic Rare
 $ 32.43
Wasteland
 TE
Uncommon
 $ 32.06
Ensnaring Bridge
 ST
Rare
 $ 31.52
Exploration
 UZ
Rare
 $ 31.32
Force of Will
 EMA
Mythic Rare
 $ 30.70
Ensnaring Bridge
 7E
Rare
 $ 30.55
Scalding Tarn
 EXP
Mythic Rare
 $ 30.47
Ensnaring Bridge
 8ED
Rare
 $ 30.44
City of Traitors
 EX
Rare
 $ 30.40
Ensnaring Bridge
 MS2
Bonus
 $ 30.38
Underground Sea
 ME4
Rare
 $ 30.07
Force of Will
 VMA
Rare
 $ 29.52
Black Lotus
 VMA
Bonus
 $ 29.30
Underground Sea
 ME2
Rare
 $ 29.24
Force of Will
 MS3
Special
 $ 28.86
Surgical Extraction
 MM2
Rare
 $ 28.72
Surgical Extraction
 NPH
Rare
 $ 28.55
Unmask
 MM
Rare
 $ 28.11
Scalding Tarn
 MM3
Rare
 $ 28.04
City of Traitors
 TPR
Rare
 $ 27.58
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
 WWK
Mythic Rare
 $ 27.40
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
 A25
Mythic Rare
 $ 27.37
Mox Diamond
 ST
Rare
 $ 26.74
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
 VMA
Mythic Rare
 $ 26.63
Scalding Tarn
 ZEN
Rare
 $ 26.56
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
 EMA
Mythic Rare
 $ 26.51
Celestial Colonnade
 WWK
Rare
 $ 26.23
Cavern of Souls
 MM3
Mythic Rare
 $ 25.82
Gorilla Shaman
 ALL
Common
 $ 25.62

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 $ 17,175. That’s down another $345 from last week. 
 
In Closing
I’m wondering about buying boxes of M19 purely to get the buy-a-box promo. It is Nexus of Fate (5UU – Instant - Take an extra turn after this one. If Nexus of Fate would be put into a graveyard from anywhere, reveal Nexus of Fate and shuffle it into its owner's library instead.)   That is a powerful effect. (Beacon of the Second Sun) is similar, but more expensive and sorcery speed, and I have played Beacon. I even played it in Standard decks, back in the day.
 
I will be running Magic at Geek.con in August. I’ll be running sealed events, a couple drafts and a Standard event. With prize packs, that will mean I run through a fair amount of product – probably 4-5 boxes, maybe more. I think I will buy those from my LGS, in advance, so I get the promos.   No idea if they will be worth it.   I think they will, but I am not great at this sort of prediction.
 
 
PRJ
 
“One Million Words” on MTGO
 
 
This series is an ongoing tribute to Erik “Hamtastic” Friborg.