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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Mar 15 2019 1:00pm
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State of the Program for March 15th  2019
In the News
No Changes to the B&R List: No changes, in any format. The ancients will continue to be stirred, and stuff looted faithlessly. That’s not too surprising – Wizards is testing a new Mulligan rule at the next Mythic Championship. That should shake up the Modern format sufficiently. Moreover, having banned cards and a new mulligan rule would make it difficult to determine what caused any changes. The next B&R announcement will be in May. We may see changes then. 
Autumn Burchett in Forbes Article: It’s always good to see Magic covered in the mainstream press. Forbes did an interview with Autumn Burchett after she won the Mythic Championship. Read it here. Recommended.
New and Improved WPN: Wizards announced a retooling of their outreach program to bricks and mortar stores.   The announcement makes it clear that Wizards is continuing to support tabletop Magic at local game stores – something Wizards single-minded focus on Arena brought into question. The announcement included the news that tabletop Magic has quadrupled in attendance over the last decade. The announcement is here.
Mythic Invitational Roster Complete(ish): Wizards has announced who the top 8 finishers in ranked Arena play for February were. They will play in the first Mythic Invitational. Read about them here. In other news, at least one player (Amaz) has had to withdraw because he will be unable to get a visa in time. We may see a couple other changes – hopefully not, but time will tell.
NumottheNummy Signs with TSM: Kenji ‘NumotTheNummy’ Egashira has signed a contact with Team Solo Mid – the eSports team – as their very first Magic player. Congrats Kenji! Also congrats on getting married.
Article on Women in Magic: Kotaku periodically publishes articles about the status of women in various games and eSports. This week they wrote one about women in Magic. Read it here. The status is not as bad as other games, but we still have a long way to go.
Mythic Invitational Coming: March 28-31. Two weeks.
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 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 MCQ.

Upcoming Events
Scheduled Downtimes
March 27th
Constructed Leagues End
April 23, 2019
Sealed Leagues End
April 26, 2019
War of the Spark
April 25, 2019 
Modern Horizons
June 6th prerelease
Next B&R Announcement
May  20, 2019
Guilds of Ravnica Redemption
Ends March 27, 2019
Ravnica Allegiances Redemption
Ends July 10, 2019
September 2019
January, 2020
Spring, 2020

WotC Premier Events
Wizards has announced a number of Premier events. Here’s what we know about. Text coverage by CFBevents.
·       March 15: Tampa Bay AND Bilbao – both Modern
·       March 22: Kyoto – Standard
·       March 23: Arena Invitational – will be streamed
·       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:
·       Ravnica Remix phantom drafts – March 13th to ???
·       Modern Horizons drafts – prerelease June 6th  
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
Sunday, 8:00 am PT
Sunday, 10:00 am PT

Opinion Section: MTGO vs Arena Play
I started playing MTGO about two years after it came out of beta. I started playing Arena about two months after it went into open beta. I now play both, so it’s time for a comparison. I decided to try doing roughly the same thing in each client. This included a draft, some Standard, some Pauper and some Modern. Let’s take these in reverse order.
I decide to do Ravnica Allegiances drafts on both platforms. As a rigorous, scientific test. Not at all as just an excuse to play a lot of Magic. 
Scientific tests require large sample sizes, right? I want to be very scientific.
I entered the MTGO queue at 10:30 on a Wednesday morning, since I was home with a cold and bad cough. It was the cough that kept me home: I was spewing germs like crazy and I didn’t want to infect my coworkers. I wasn’t too sick to draft. It was perfect. (Well, not exactly perfect, just not all that bad. But I digress.)
I entered the new, unified queue on MTGO.   I was the sixth player in the queue, and the draft did not fire until 10:35. Five minutes seems long, but isn’t really. I selected my last card at 10:50. In the draft I got dragged, kicking and screaming, out of Gates and into Gruul.  The draft felt different from Arena algorithms, but that could be just my expectations. On the downside, I found waiting for the next card boring at times. Still, an enter-queue-to-deckbuilding elapsed time of 20 minutes was not bad at all.
I played my three rounds. I entered the queue for my first match at 10:55 and was playing in about 20 seconds. I won in two. I had to wait for considerably longer for my second match: almost two minutes!  (That’s not that long, but I was sick and whiny.)   The match was a quick 0-2 against a High Alert deck that – surprise – drew High Alert both games. Round three had under a minute wait in the queue, followed by a fairly fast three game match.  Total time from start of draft to collecting prizes: one hour and fifty minutes. I finished 2-1, and with nearly infinite TIX, I grabbed my third pack from and was ready to do it again. I think I passed all my rares, so I didn’t quite break even, but close enough. After all, I look at Magic as paying for entertainment. If I were paying for a movie in a theatre – another thing that involves about one hour and fifty minute of entertainment, I would have paid a whole lot more.       
In Arena, I entered a “Greedy Draft,” which was drafted like a normal RNA draft, but you started each game with nine cards in hand and could play two lands per turn.  Since I had no gems and this was what I could enter with the gold I had, it was what I entered. 
I started drafting at 4:30.  This was after Wizards had tweaked the algorithms to make Gates merely good, not just busted. Even so, given the format, I forced gates. And got a decent gates deck. I am a fairly fast drafter, and I finished drafting my cards in just under ten minutes. I never had to wait for a pack, but I could tell I was not drafting against real people – or at least not really good players. 
Matches were all single games; no sideboarding involved. I was paying 18 lands, and since this was a single-game-match event, Arena used the special algorithm that “draws” two hands and tends to give you whichever is closer to a typical mana ratio. I was also starting with a nine card hand – so of course I had to mulligan two one landers into a two land hand, and never drew a third land. I won the next four rounds, then lost to two Gates decks that were better than mine. And this was after Wizards fixed the algorithms so they no longer passed all the gates goodies.   

In comparison: The draft algorithms on Arena are not as good as the players in my local bricks and mortar shop (which is in Madison, so they may not be typical.) I felt that my opponents on Arena were not quite as good as those on MTGO, but this is a super small sample size, so take that with a large boulder of salt. On the plus side, I enjoyed drafting on Arena a whole lot more than on MTGO, because I hate waiting for the queue to fill and I hate waiting for packs. On the flip side, I can afford to draft whenever I want on MTGO, but it takes a while to get enough gold to draft on Arena. MTGO also has more draft queues than Arena, which has a much more limited offering. 
Surprisingly,  the time it took, from entry into the draft queue to collecting prizes was almost exactly one hour and fifty minutes on both platforms. That included the draft, deck construction and play: three BO3 matches on MTGO and seven BO1 matches on Arena.  In exactly the same time.
Conclusion: if I can afford the gold or gems, I will draft on Arena. It’s more fun. However, I can can’t afford to draft on Arena very often, but can on MTGO, so I will draft there, too. And if I ever want to practice for a GP or the like, I’ll draft paper or on MTGO. 

A couple months back, I found a Rock decklist that Sol Malka played in a recent GP. Sol Malka created the original Rock and his Millions deck, in Standard, twenty years ago. Back then, the deck featured Phyrexian Plaguelord – the Rock – and Deranged Hermit – the millions. I have played variants on Sol’s decks on and off for the last twenty years, so I had to try this one. I built the deck on MTGO. Since I have been heavily invested in MTGO for a decade and a half, completing the deck just meant buying a couple Assassin’s Trophy and Liliana, the Last Hope. I had everything else. 
I imported the decklist easily. It was featured on the official coverage, so it had a download button. Clicking that opened the decklist in Note, and I saved it in my Decklists 2018 folder. The deck loaded immediately into MTGO. I had to make a couple changes (the program chose the newer Duresses, but I wanted to play the Urza’s Saga versions, and .I had to swap basics.)  I also had to buy the cards from the site, since I had unused store credit. The MTGOTraders automatic delivery bot is fast, so loading their webpage to having the cards delivered took maybe three minutes, most of which was me clicking cards. Deliver was fast! All told, I had the deck downloaded, bought and tweaked in under 15 minutes. I was ready to play. 
Entering the league was fast. I used TIX, because I have a ton of them. (Two years ago I sold one of my two playsets of Rishadan Ports for close to 400 TIX. I also sold my playset of Doomsdays and two Misdirections a few years ago, when they were all super expensive. I have been slowly burning through those TIX ever since. I know, first world problems. I also have a bunch of store credit at saved up, which is nice. Really nice.
I took notes on all these events. I entered the league at 1:50 central time on a Wednesday afternoon. I was paired for my first match in less than a minute (I wasn’t running a stopwatch – I would later.) Twelve minutes later I had lost to Spirits, which had god draws against my mulligans. Round Two I was paired in about 20 seconds, and lost a tough three game match against Elves.  Whoever went first won, and they won the initial die roll.  The whole match took about 24 minutes. Round three was longer – but I’m not sure how long: I didn’t stop the timer when I went to take the dog out and grab coffee. Round three had the longest queue time, but it was barely a minute. At 0-2, I was probably the hardest to pair. Round four paired in 45 seconds and was over in just under 40 minutes. The final round was against burn, and took 18 minutes, plus 30 seconds of queue time at the start.  And I finished 3-2, so I almost broke even.
I finished the entire league in about 2.5 hours, including the time I spent making coffee and taking the dog out.   If anyone is wondering if MTGO is dying – a Wednesday afternoon, and the queue was firing fast.
Arena does not have Modern.
Conclusion: I’ll play Rock on MTGO, which is just fine. Wizards may bring Modern to Arena, but I hope not. Modern has a ton of cards that would need to be programmed in, and tweaked. Crafting decks for Modern would also be way, way beyond what the free-to-play players like me would ever be able to craft while still playing Standard. I like Arena, but I don’t want to see Modern on that platform. At least not soon.   
Standard and Pauper:
I am still trying to finish the Standard and Pauper parts of this test – and, truth be told, I want an excuse to play more – so I will cover those next week.
Cutting Edge Tech
Standard: I decided to put together a real deck on Arena and try playing ranked single game matches. I had some of these cards, but crafting the rest took all of my rare and mythic wildcards, and that did not include the sideboard. On the flip side, this deck would cost me about 45 TIX on MTGO, but I know I have many of the cards there already, so it would cost me less.  
Modern: My “theme” this week is decks similar to what I am currently playing. This is close – but with a few adjustments to the GPLA metagame – things like maindeck Nihil Spellbomb. I will probably adjust my build to follow.   
Pauper: In keeping with my theme of green decks I want to play, here’s a 5-0 build from the MTGO Pauper league.
Legacy: SCG held a Legacy Open in Syracuse two weekends ago. Big paper Legacy events are increasingly rare, but they do draw players. This one pulled in 656 competitors.  The Top 8 was a bunch of what you would expect – although it was nice to see Dragon Stompy make it in. 
Vintage: I have not been featuring Vintage decks all that often, mainly because I get kinda bored with the format. There are the UR control decks that start 3 Dack Fayden, 3 Snapcaster Mage, 3 Young Pyromancer. There are the ones that add white for Monastery Mentor and Lavinia. There’s shops, and Paradoxical Outcome storm decks. And that’s pretty much it. For a while I was rotating through these builds, but now I just highlight anything unusual. Like this classic.
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 are rocketed last week, and are making a few adjustments this week. Hydroid Krasis is moving back down to just really expensive, but Arclight Phoenix continues to soar (sorry).   Arclight is big in Standard and Modern, and multi-format staples are always expensive.   

Standard Cards
Last Week
% Change
Arclight Phoenix
Assassin's Trophy
Dovin, Grand Arbiter
Hydroid Krasis
Nexus of Fate
Prime Speaker Vannifer
Ral, Izzet Viceroy
Seraph of the Scales
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Eternal staples:  Prices for cards in the eternal formats are continuing to climb, probably powered by the expectation of Modern Horizons. This will be a Modern set with zero Modern-legal cards as reprints. That makes everything currently in Modern more valuable.  Also, Surgical Extraction really needs a reprint.

Eternal Format Cards
Last Week
% Change

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
Last Week
% Change
Core Set 2019
Guilds of Ravnica
Ravnica Allegiances
Rivals of Ixalan
Treasure Chest
Ravnica Allegiance Booster

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 still led by the classic frame Power Nine, but none of the new frame P9 are on the list. Scarcity – and better frames – matter.  But right in there – before Time Walk, even – is Surgical Extraction

Black Lotus
 $ 218.11
Mox Sapphire
 $ 126.44
Mox Ruby
 $ 85.11
Mox Emerald
 $ 85.10
Mox Jet
 $ 70.71
Ancestral Recall
 $ 70.40
Mox Pearl
 $ 64.62
Surgical Extraction
 $ 62.51
Surgical Extraction
 $ 62.24
Time Walk
 $ 57.52
Arclight Phoenix
Mythic Rare
 $ 55.95
Mox Opal
Mythic Rare
 $ 49.78
Mox Opal
 $ 45.66
Mox Opal
Mythic Rare
 $ 44.34
True-Name Nemesis
Mythic Rare
 $ 44.10
True-Name Nemesis
 $ 43.56
Dark Depths
Mythic Rare
 $ 35.42
Force of Will
 $ 33.19
Liliana of the Veil
Mythic Rare
 $ 32.92
Mythic Rare
 $ 32.53
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Mythic Rare
 $ 32.03
Chalice of the Void
 $ 31.35
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Mythic Rare
 $ 31.03
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Mythic Rare
 $ 31.02
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Mythic Rare
 $ 30.70
Chalice of the Void
 $ 30.21
Chalice of the Void
Mythic Rare
 $ 30.15
Liliana of the Veil
Mythic Rare
 $ 30.00
Chalice of the Void
 $ 29.50
 $ 29.16
Liliana, the Last Hope
Mythic Rare
 $ 29.16
Liliana of the Veil
Mythic Rare
 $ 28.66
Liliana of the Veil
Mythic Rare
 $ 28.35
Mishra's Bauble
 $ 25.17
Dark Depths
Mythic Rare
 $ 25.14

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 $13,320. That’s up about $400 from last week.   
In Closing
I’m playing mono-green aggro on Arena, and liking it. I had played a bunch of unranked games with the intro deck, plus a few cards I got here and there. Finally I pulled the trigger and burned all my rares and Mythics to buy mono-green aggro. Now I’m playing ranked. After maybe an hour of play, I’m almost through silver. We’ll see how far I can get this weekend.
“One Million Words” on MTGO. “4MWords” on Arena.
This series is an ongoing tribute to Erik “Hamtastic” Friborg.