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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Jun 05 2015 12:00pm
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State of the Program for June 5th 2015

In the News:

GP Vegas, et. al., Were Immense:   Last weekend, Wizards pulled out all the stops to create a gigantic worldwide event with three simultaneous GPs scattered around the world. Coverage of the three events is here, but you may have to scroll down. The event was huge. Here are a few factoids to help you get some idea of the size.
·       I started playing in GPs around 2001. I remember playing in GPs Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Detroit, Vegas (2003) and New Orleans. In Vegas, the Two-Headed Giant side event on Thursday was bigger than any of those early GPs. The Mini-Masters event on Friday had more players than all five of those GPs combined. 
·       GP Chiba was the largest GP ever held in Japan. GP Utrecht was the largest European GP ever.   GP Vegas was the biggest card tournament, of any kind, ever.
·       Set-up of the hall began Monday, even though play didn’t begin until Thursday noon. On Wednesday, 200-300 people were working in the hall. Since the loading dock doors were open, the air conditioning was not on. It was close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. We drank a lot of water that day.
·       One of the Wednesday jobs was unpacking the basic land. For most events, a tournament organizer brings a case or two of lands. For GP Vegas, we had five pallets of basic land to unpack.
·       The Vegas judge staff, totaling well over 600, was larger than the number of players at any of the dozen Pro Tours or Worlds I have attended.
·       The distance from one corner of the hall to the opposite corner was more than half a kilometer.
·       In Vegas, side drafts were firing, on average, every 3 minutes from Thursday noon through Sunday evening. 
·       The official attendance figures include only those players who played in their initial round. In Vegas, over 500 additional players opened money and decide to drop and keep. The drops alone totaled more players than attended than any event I was at prior to 2005 or so.
Magic has been growing at a very rapid rate since 2008-2009, and this event shows that that growth it is not slowing.   
Modern Masters 2015 Now Available Online: Get it. Draft it. In the paper world, the MSRP for Modern Masters 2015 is $9.99. For the first time, the price for online packs – $6.99 – is lower than the paper MSRP for the same set. This is an interesting development. I ran into Lee Sharpe in passing at GP Vegas, and while we had very little time to talk, he did confirm that Wizards felt the $6.99 was a better price point for online MM15 packs. Hmmm. I wonder if this will serve as a precedent.
Modern Queues Paying Out in MM2015 Packs: Until June 17th, all 8-man single elimination Modern, Legacy and Vintage queues will be paying out in MM2015 packs, at a rate of 3-2-1-1.  
Pairing Algorithm Updated: Wizards has done some repair work on the pairings algorithm, so pairings should come closer to tournament rules. Wizards will be watching the results closely. If you have any issues with pairings, please report them here
Wisconsin in Vegas: Wisconsin, my home state, put on a remarkable show last weekend.  Three of the Top 4 players on one side of GP Vegas were Badgers, and the finals was 100% pure Wisconsin. Wisconsin also supplied over a dozen judges to the event, including two of the eight head judges on Saturday, and Matt Severa, from Madison, won the Sunday Super Series qualifier.   I think it was Paul Reitzl who calculated that if Wisconsin were its own country, it would be second only to the rest of the US in terms of ranked players. Go Badgers!  
Modern Festival: (repeat)Wizards is throwing a Modern Festival, culminating in a tournament with a massive grand prize. Beginning June 24th, Wizards will replace the Modern Dailies with Modern Festival Prelim events. These events will be five rounds each. They will pay out in Modern Masters packs plus qualifications for the finals to players with 5-0 or 4-1 records, and all participants will receive an alternative art Eternal Witness promo card (that’s card, not avatar.) The qualification is for the Modern Festival Finals on Sunday July 5th. The prizes for that event are amazing, with 33-64th place paying out 6 Modern Masters 2015 boosters, while the winner gets a complete set of every modern legal card, plus Premium Modern Masters and Modern Masters 2015 sets. Details here.

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 and the weekly blog, while the best source for known bugs is the Known Issues List. For quick reference, here are some major upcoming events.   
Item: date and notes
·       MOCS Season 7:  runs from May 27th through June 24th. 
·       MOCS Season 7 Championship: 7am Pacific, July 4th. Format is Modern.
·       MOCS Season 8:  runs from June 24th through July 29th
·       MOCS Season 8 Championship: 7am Pacific, August 8th. Format is Magic Origins Sealed.
·       Dragons of Tarkir Limited Championship: Saturday, June 20th, 8am PDT
·       Dragons of Tarkir Standard Championship: Sunday, June 28th, 8am PDT 
·       Leagues (Q2 2015?) Wizards said leagues will return in 2015.
·       Modern Masters 2015: Continues through June 17th.  Details here.
·       Modern Festival Prelims: June 24th – July 5th. Details here.
·       Modern Festival Finals: Sunday, July 5th
·       Magic Origins: released on MTGO July 27th, prerelease should begin July 23rdor July 24th Code: ORI
·       From the Vault: Angels: October 12, 2015. Details here.

GP Vegas: How Big Can Magic Get?

The short answer is pretty big. I was at GP Las Vegas last week. The event was, in effect, GenCon for Magic. If you have ever been to GenCon, that might give you some understanding of what GP Vegas was like. 
Magic events have gotten bigger. A decade ago, we had maybe 18 GPs, worldwide, per year. Now, we have GPs pretty much every weekend, and often multiple GPs. In addition to the GPs, a number of companies are organizing their own large events – SCG, TCGPlayer, etc. Based on what I saw last weekend, Channel-Fireball has also developed the logistical chops to put on such events. 
What is amazing is not just the ever-increasing number of these events, but the growth in the number of players. A decade ago, a big GP might run 500 players. Now, even SCG Opens are 700 players, and GPs or 1,500 are not unusual. More and more events are being capped – and those caps are often imposed by the size of the largest venue available. I don’t have exact numbers, but I would estimate that the room in which GP Vegas was held was about 800,000 square feet. According to this Wikipedia page, there are only about a dozen conference centers that large in the entire US. In Wisconsin, the largest convention center has less than 200,000 sq. ft. of space. 
What does all this mean? I think it means that we will see more and more events with caps on the number of players. Tournament Organizers (TOs) will rent the biggest places they can find, but will have to limit the number of players to the number that can be squeezed into the venue. In the future, I would not be surprised to see events routinely sell out, like rock concerts. Tim Shields, head of Cascade Games, said roughly the same thing on a recent podcast.   This will happen not because the TO is too cheap to rent a bigger hall, but because larger halls simply do not exist in many places. 
Larger events also require much more complex logistics. The planning for this event started many, many months ago, and covered innumerable details. For example, the event used a couple thousand 8’ tables. Those tables were all covered with colored tablecloths, which were rented. When Chanel Fireball first inquired about renting the tablecloths, they were told that no caterer in the world could provide that many. Instead, they ended up cleaning out most of the caterers in Las Vegas. CF shipped in a pallet load of printers, a dozen large flat-screen TVs to serve as clocks, reams of paper and an endless supply of tape, pens, power cords, walkie-talkies, etc., etc. Now I can carry everything I need to run a 100 player event in my little Honda. Larger events require more of everything. 
Aside: I have heard some people comparing the prize payout with the entry fees collected and complaining. Just remember that the prize payout is controlled by Wizards. The entry fees cover the rental of the hall, tables, chairs, table cloths, etc., plus the cost of the product and supplies, the printers, TVs, computers and so forth. In addition to all that, CF also hired 600+ judges (and paid us), plus scorekeepers, customer service folks and so on, and provided hotel rooms for all of those people. The cost of product and prizes are a tiny part of a huge outlay.
Such huge events also require some special arrangements, simply because of their size. Take side drafts, for example. The way drafts are typically held at large events is to have sign-up sheets. When eight people sign up, a judge grabs a box with 24 packs and calls for “players in draft x.” In theory, he then leads them to a table and starts the draft. In practice, and I have personally started over 2,000 of these at large events, six players show up and the judge then has to bellow for the last two, who will wander up 5-10 minutes later. 
That simply doesn’t work at an event like GP Vegas. If we had been waiting an additional 5-10 minutes per draft, we would still be seating players five days after the event ended. Instead, the CF folks tried some new innovations, some of which worked, some of which required some on the fly changes. The first couple hours were rough, as the initial plan was modified to meet reality, including the fact that tournaments are run on software these days. And that software…      
The original tournament software was DCI Reporter, or DCI-R. It had some interesting quirks, including – originally – a button to delete the entire tournament right on the main screen. That button did not have a Y/N confirmation – if you pushed it, your tournament was gone. More importantly, when that software was written, late last century, events were small.   Pro Tours, GPs and so forth were a couple hundred players, and PTQ ran 70-150 players. DCI-R has a hard-coded 1,000 player maximum. If you ever wondered why large events were split, that’s why – the software cannot pair and assign a table number to player number 1001 or higher. 
Wizards has written replacement software, called Wizards Event Reporter (WER). Stores have been using WER for several years now, and it does a decent job for small tournaments. However, WER is missing a number of special features needed for large events. Features like fixed seating, which allows the scorekeeper to assign a player in a wheelchair to a particular table, and have the player seated at that table number all event, regardless of his record. Wizards is working on a WER for large events, but it is not ready, yet. On the plus side, both WER and DCI-R can calculate tiebreakers and pair players correctly – something that MTGO has had problems with, although this week’s patch has supposedly fixed it. 
Good scorekeepers are adept at getting DCI-R and WER to perform, and fixing events when they break. Some of those scorekeepers have also created enhancements.   Madison native Jordan Baker created a program to do scrolling years ago, and wrote the software that sent seatings to smart phones at the GP. Overall, though, WER is like MTGO – it is not pretty, but it is generally functional.   
Opinion Section: The Foil Goyf
GP Vegas ignited a Twitter storm last week. Pascal Maynard was in the Top 8 draft. He was solidly in RW when he opened a foil Tarmogoyf. The pack also included a Burst Lightning, which was a much better card for the deck he had drafted. He took the Goyf.
A couple things to note. First, this sort of thing is very rare. For drafts at Pro Tours and day two of GPs, Wizards supplies stamped product rather than booster packs. This means that al the booster packs have been opened, stamped with identifying marks, then bundled back together. With normal sets, the basic lands are removed and any foils are replaced with random commons. (In normal boosters, foils replace a common. They are removed to make sure everyone has an equal pack – not one with a rare and a foil rare.) With Modern Masters, however, every pack was supposed to have a foil, so the foils were left in and stamped.
Foil Tarmogoyfs with a PT stamp are pretty rare. They have value, and that value is enhanced by the stamp.   A normal foil Goyf is a $500 card. One with a pro tour stamp is worth more – possibly thousands of dollars. For comparison, difference in prize payout between first place and 5-8th place at a GP that size is $3,000.  
However, money was not all that was at stake in this event. Mr. Maynard is not sponsored by a big name store, and is a college student. He struggles to afford to travel to events. A foil Goyf, even at a sale price of $500, would pay for more events. On the flip side, he is still in the running for Worlds and for Platinum status. Platinum status, if he can get there, has been estimated to be worth $20,000 in travel allowances and appearance fees. The Burst Lightning was far more likely to get him there than the foil Goyf.
I do know one more thing.   The Magic Tournament Rules allow a player 40 seconds to make a choice for pick one in a pack. Five to ten seconds of that are used up flipping through the pack, which means that Mr. Maynard had maybe 30 seconds to think through this pick. That is not much time. In the end, he picked the Goyf, but he has stated that it was the wrong pick.
When Pascal picked the Goyf, the Twitterverse exploded. A lot of pros were vehement in denouncing that pick. It was bad enough that some (like Owen and Huey Jensen) have since issued public apologies for their comments. Other players have defended the pick.   Personally, I know I rare-draft, but I also know that I am not close to being good enough to ever make a Top 8 draft.
Pascal Maynard put his on eBay, and promised to donate half the proceeds to Gamers Helping Kids. The bidding on that card hit $16,000 on Tuesday. That is insane, and may not even be real. We will see.
In conclusion, I want quote a tweet from Brian David-Marshall, Pro Tour Historian.   It’s my favorite from this whole mess.
FYI For whoever wins auction for @PascalMaynard's Foil Tarmogoyf.  You have to pick it up; he never ships that card.

Cutting Edge Tech:

Standard: This week, I watched the Standard Super League events. RG Devotion has done extremely well in the League. I also really like the archetype, so I’ll feature it.
Modern: Wizards is pushing Modern hard right now. They posted a bazillion Modern decklists here. They convinced Randy Buehler to run a week of Modern matches in the Standard Super League. They have also upped he payout on Modern events. 
Pauper: I have not had a chance to play Pauper for a while, so I am just grabbing 4-0 decks I have not featured before. I’m pretty sure it has been a while since I featured UB, although not so long since I had a Delver list. I do like Ghastly Demise in this build, and Accumulated Knowledge.   I remember playing with these cards, back in Standard. Seems like old times.
UB Delver
DarkHellkite, 4-0, Pauper Daily #8324134 on 06/02/2015
4 Delver of Secrets
2 Sultai Scavenger
6 cards

Other Spells
4 Dismal Backwater
4 Gurmag Angler
4 Accumulated Knowledge
3 Agony Warp
4 Brainstorm
4 Counterspell
3 Deprive
4 Ghastly Demise
2 Gitaxian Probe
4 Mental Note
2 Miscalculation
4 Thought Scour
42 cards
1 Dimir Guildgate
8 Island
3 Swamp
12 cards

Gurmag Angler
Legacy: With #MakingMagicHistory running last weekend, there were no other GPs, no TCGPlayer or SCG events. The only Legacy being played was online, and here’s what’s being played online. A lot.
Vintage: A real world Vintage event ran in the side events at GP Vegas, but the GP venue was so large I never got near it. Instead, I’ll feature the winner of the most recent online event.

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 were hit hard this week.   Some of that is the move to Modern, and part of that is the fact that Standard is really diverse. No cards or archetypes are clearly better than the rest, so nothing is hideously expensive. Which is fine. Next week, this table will be much smaller, as I cut all the cards which are worth less than $5. 

Standard & Block Cards
2 Weeks Ago
% Change

Modern staples:  Modern prices were all over the place this week.  People realized they needed Modern cards to play in the Modern Festival events, and the upcoming PTQ rounds. That meant they had to buy back those cards that they dumped a few weeks ago. As a result, Modern is up in general, with the exception of the staples in Modern Master’s 2015. Those cards are down. 

Modern Cards
2 Weeks Ago
% Change
(Celestail Colonade)

Legacy / Vintage staples: This week, the Power Nine fell again, a bit, but Vintage was slightly up overall. Legacy was generally unchanged to up, pulled by Masques block cards. Wasteland was up again, showing that making it a rare in Tempest Remastered means TMR will have pretty much zero long term effect on the price of that staple. Before Vegas, I predicted that we will see Wasteland pushing $75 by the end of the year unless Wizards find yet another way to reprint the card.  It may hit $75 before the end of the summer.  In other developments, take a last look at Hurkyl’s Recall. Modern Masters 2015 has knocked it off the list.       

Legacy / Vintage Cards
2 Weeks Ago
% Change

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, excluding sets that are not currently draftable or not redeemable.  With the world shifting to Modern for the PTQs, the values of Standard sets has fallen. 

Complete Set
2 Weeks Ago
% Change
Born of the Gods
Dragons of Tarkir
Fate Reforged
Journey into Nix
Khans of Trakir

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 shrank a bit more this week, as Modern Masters 2015 had an impact. One sad note – Wasteland is back up to around $65; more expensive that 8 of the Power Nine cards. Tempest Remastered was a bust in that respect.  Wasteland should have been an uncommon in that set. 

Rishadan Port
 $  154.52
Black Lotus
 $  112.39
 $  110.64
Liliana of the Veil
Mythic Rare
 $ 97.06
 $ 68.54
 $ 66.75
 $ 64.71
Mythic Rare
 $ 63.87
Mythic Rare
 $ 60.41
Mox Sapphire
 $ 59.38
Show and Tell
 $ 51.97
Tangle Wire
 $ 51.33
Ancestral Recall
 $ 44.61
Force of Will
 $ 42.64
Mythic Rare
 $ 41.61
Scalding Tarn
 $ 37.35
Mythic Rare
 $ 36.32
 $ 35.82
True-Name Nemesis
 $ 32.38
Mox Ruby
 $ 32.16
Time Walk
 $ 32.01
Blood Moon
 $ 31.06
Force of Will
 $ 30.75
 $ 29.66
Grove of the Burnwillows
 $ 29.64
Mox Jet
 $ 29.20
Voice of Resurgence
Mythic Rare
 $ 28.71
Containment Priest
 $ 27.78
Blood Moon
 $ 26.93
Mox Opal
Mythic Rare
 $ 26.59
Twilight Mire
 $ 26.37
Blood Moon
 $ 26.20
Infernal Tutor
 $ 26.16
Vendilion Clique
Mythic Rare
 $ 25.89
Vendilion Clique
 $ 25.68
Auriok Champion
 $ 25.03

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 $ 23,640. That is up almost $1,600 from where we were the week before Vegas. 

Weekly Highlights:

GP Vegas.  What more could I want? Las Vegas is a little piece of unreality in the middle of a desert, but the GP was amazing.
“One Million Words” and “3MWords” on MTGO
This series is an ongoing tribute to Erik “Hamtastic” Friborg.
HammyBot Still Running: 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 a lot of cards left in the collection. Those cards are being sold at 10% below retail price. Erik died five years ago, so HammyBot does not include any standard legal cards, but it includes a ton of Masters Edition and Vintage cards, and some nice Modern bargains. 


It is amazing how bad quality by Hearts at Fri, 06/05/2015 - 12:27
Hearts's picture

It is amazing how bad quality wotc has had with DCI-R, WER and MtgO throughout the years.

Im pretty certain this is one of the factors that have held mtg back.
To say that wotc has aimed/steered steady and well throughout the years towards a giant GP weekend like this is wrong imo. The game would have been there a decade ago if just wotc had put the right things in place earlier.

And please bring back ELO ratings wotc !

MTGO by Lagrange at Fri, 06/05/2015 - 13:04
Lagrange's picture

At least ELO ratings are back online.

Tempest Remastered was only by GainsBanding at Fri, 06/05/2015 - 17:07
GainsBanding's picture

Tempest Remastered was only online for two weeks. They should know by now that isn't enough to affect the price of a card. Side note: I'm the doof who thought it would be up all summer like VMA last year and lost $5-10 selling and rebuying my Wastelands. So mad that I didn't pay attention to that.

Tempest Remastered was online by romellos at Fri, 06/05/2015 - 17:34
romellos's picture

Tempest Remastered was online for three weeks, as same as Modern Masters 2015 will be. This is how VMA should be managed, intead making it draftable for nearly 5 months.

It will probably be back this year by sinfoid at Sun, 06/07/2015 - 08:47
sinfoid's picture

In the intro to Tempest Remastered Wizards stated that this will certainly not be the last time it is online. My guess is that they wanted to keep it on longer but it conflicted with Modern Masters, so they had it up 3 weeks, then will probably have it up again for at least a week or 2 either between MM and Magic Origins or between Origins and the Zendikar set.

Two weeks, three weeks. by GainsBanding at Fri, 06/05/2015 - 18:09
GainsBanding's picture

Two weeks, three weeks. Still doesn't change the price of Wasteland for those who see it as a barrier to entry for Legacy.
We should also remember VMA was intended to be online for only a few weeks but they never announced that until they unexpectedly tried to pull the plug and then the community convinced them to keep it online all summer.
I don't know which is better. Thanks to that we've got duals that have been at the same price for an entire year and affordable Power 9.
But I'll pay more attention to timelines next time I try to speculate.