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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Mar 15 2013 11:13am
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Hammie’s The State of the Program for March 15th

This series is an ongoing tribute to Erik “Hamtastic” Friborg.
 

In the News this Week:

Online PTQ Schedule for Pro Tour “Friends” Released: Wizards has announced the dates of the next round of Online PTQs.   They begin March 24th, and continue through August. The schedule lists 16 PTQs. Twelve are Standard. The remainder are limited: one Gatecrash sealed, one Dragon’s Maze sealed, one Modern Masters sealed and one M14 Sealed. 
 
Massive Updates to both Old and New Client:   Wizards fived a ton of things on both the old and beta clients this week, The list is here. Some notable updates to the new client: Commander was improved, and is closer to fully playable.   Trading got some improvements – but it is still not fully functional. The battlefield got better, with a lot of wasted space being removed. Finally, Wizards added some useful features, like a Storm counter that kicks in after the fourth spell in any turn is cast. 
 
Wizards Luminaires Talk New Client:   Wizards held a live video Q&A with Worth, Chris, Ryan and Sean, to play Magic and talk about the beta client. The article announcing and explain the event is here.   You can replay the video chat here.  The video is more than just a chance to watch the new client in action. It also includes Wizards folks talking about where they want the program to go, and what it should do. One note: the internal code name for the new Client is “Shiny.” So when you hear Ryan talking about Shiny, that’s what he means.
 
Next Month’s Promos: Wizards has announced the promos for next month. The MOCS promo will be an alternative art Savannah. That is sweet – both because the card is a Legacy and Classic staple and because it marks a return to really good MOCS promos. My guess is that we can expect really good cards in months not featuring a prerelease / new set. In those months, when everyone is playing constantly anyway, we can expect cards like Supreme Verdict. With four new sets per year, that means we should get a number of decent cards every year.
 
The participation and store activity cards were also announced. The participation card is kinda meh – an alt art Reliquary Tower. The store activity card, on the other hand, is sweet. It is the judge foil version of Command Tower – in nonfoil if you spend $20 in the store, and foil if you spend $40. Command Tower is not as expensive online as in the paper world, but Commander players love to pimp their decks, and this version has new art. The foil version should be worth a couple TIX.    
 
You Make the Card: Wizards has launched the fourth iteration of “You Make the Card.”   The way this works is that Wizards polls the community, and creates a card based on those votes. The first poll is card type, and readers can choose creatures, sorcery, instant, enchantment, artifact or land.   Once this is chosen, we will get further polls. Details and the first poll here.   My prediction:
 
What the people are trying to make:
 
Library_of_Alexandria.jpg
 
What the people will end up creating:
 
Sorrows_Path.jpg
 
Serious Trading BugMTGOTraders.com noted a serious bug that affects trades and appears to have gotten worse recently. Info is in this forum thread. Here’s a description of the bug:
 
There was a new bug introduced a few weeks back where trades will randomly cancel and the client will say "Some of the items were unavailable" If you are not watching closely enough you will think the trade went through. 
 
So that is bad enough but today it got much worse. I was doing a trade where I had around 300 cards up and in the middle of trading those cards I got that message. After I got the message ALL OF THE CARDS I HAD UP WERE NOW UNTRADABLE. Why is this a big deal? I had no clue which cards he had already gotten and vice versa. Let’s say you are selling a complete set to someone which requires a lot of trades. What if halfway through you got that message and then it unmarked all the cards you had up for trade. Now you have absolutely no clue which cards you still owe that person.
 
MTGOTraders has database backup of their cards, so Heath had a fallback and the customer got all his cards. It just took a little longer. For everyone else, though, be careful. 
 
Sorin v. Tibault: The next Duel Decks product will be out shortly. The set has some sweet stuff: Sorin, Lord of InnistradHellriderSulfuric Vortex in the new frame for the first time. Some nice alternative art on playable cards and Modern staples. The MSRP on the set is less than the current cost of Sorin, alone – so buying a copy gets you Hellrider, Sulfuric Vortex and the store activity card for free. I haven’t bought many duel decks in the past, but I am short a Sorin, so I could see buying one this time around.   (Note: Sorin vs. Tibault releases today, but the MOPR rewards season giving out Command Towers does not happen until April.)
 
HammyBot: Still going strong! HammyBot was created to sell the late Erik Friborg’s MTGO collection to raise money for his widow and son. HammyBot is a great way to get cards while supporting the family of someone who supported the community. Here’s an update on the Bot, plus a buy recommendation for a card on HammyBot.
 
            Cards left on HammyBot: 27,231
TIX raised so far:  5,643
            Cool HammyBot card of the week:  white bordered lands
 
Why are these cool? Because they make searching for basic lands a whole lot easier. If you are playing a complex combo deck, and crack a fetch to get an Island, as opposed to Steam Vents, etc., having white bordered basics can clip a second or three off that search. That is not much, but those time savings can add up, especially for decks like High Tide that often risk going to time. So, if you want to pimp out your decks just a bit, hit up Hammybot and buy a bunch of matching, white-bordered lands.    
 

Opinion Section I: Online Grand Prix Trial Prize Support

Wizards has announced a Grand Prix trial for MTGO. The first event will be April 6th, and first place will win three byes for Grand Prix Portland. The format will be Modern. The event is capped at 128 players. The winner gets 3 byes for Grand Prix Portland. Prizes are
 

Place
Prizes
QPs
1st
Three Byes at Grand Prix Portland and twenty Gatecrash booster packs
3
2nd
Fifteen Gatecrash booster packs
1
3rd–4th
Ten Gatecrash booster packs
0
5th–8th
Five Gatecrash booster packs
0

 
A number of players have commented that this is a pretty low prize payout. Others have questioned why the GPT is not generic. Etc. I have a few thoughts on that.
 
First, this is Wizards first attempt an online GPT. No one has any idea how it will do. This is an experiment. As such, it is better to underpower it than overpower it. If turnout does not meet expectation, it is easy enough to bump up prizes for the next one. It is harder (as in we members of the public scream louder) if they have to cut prizes to lower attendance at the next one. Wizards will fine tune this, over time, as they get more data.
 
Second, the purpose of a GPT is to award byes. Byes are a big thing. Having three byes means that you can take advantage of the “sleep in special,” and don’t have to even arrive at the GP until round four begins. More importantly, byes count as wins with perfect tiebreakers. This is huge during the cut to Top 8. A few X-0-2s and X-1-2s may have a lock on the Top 8, but if the last few slots are decided on tiebreakers, the people with the most byes will almost invariably edge out anyone without byes. That just how it works. 
 
Wizards wants the byes to be used. One of the worst feelings for PTQ or GPT players is watching someone who will not attend the event steal the byes or the invite. That will be equally true for any online GPTs. Wizards is deliberately providing a low prize payout – in packs – since the draw for this event should be the byes. Wizards is making these events deliberately unattractive to the grinders, unless those grinders plan to attend the GP.
 
A few players have mentioned generic GPTs.   Wizard had a number of GPTs that awarded three byes for any GP that season. These first appeared at Pro Tours. At PTs, players who scrubbed out of the main event, and members of the public just coming to the event for the side events, liked GPTs. However, European players were less interested in byes for GP San Diego, while Japanese players were not big on byes for GP Kansas City. Wizards solved this problem by offering generic byes – ones that applied at the next GP the player attended. However, things have changed since then. First, the Pro Tours are no longer public, so they no longer have side events. Planeswalker Points provide a means of getting byes at any GP. All this makes generic GPTs less important, and I do not remember seeing any for quite a while.
 

Opinion Section II: More on Promos

I have been reading a whole lot more speculation about promos, and what they might include. The most extreme proposal is that every paper pack would have a code for a matching online pack.  Other options have ranged all over the place. Let me try to clarify things a bit.
 
Note: this is in the opinion section. That means that this is my opinion. I don’t have any special inside information, but I have been studying business and economics in general for 30 years, and the economics of Magic for 15 or so.  
 
First off, no, Wizards will never give you an online pack for every paper pack you buy. MTGO makes a lot of money as it is.   Wizards does not need to flood the online market with packs.   That sort of deluge would destroy the profitability of MTGO.   It would at least double the number of packs available online, and destroy the resale value of prize packs. Neither limited nor constructed events would be profitable to enter.   Free online packs for every paper pack is a non-starter. Paper is still big enough that it would drown online play – not to mention how it would affect everyone that has invested in online MTGO. The economic model Wizards now uses for MTGO – the pay for packs, TIX for events – is working, and Wizards has no reason to kill it. 
 
If a free online pack per paper pack doesn’t work, what about a different ratio?   Right now, Wizards includes an extra card in each paper booster. The card may have a token on one side and some advertising on the other, or advertising on both. There are somewhere between a 8 and 20 different advertisements in a given print run. Suppose that one of these ads included a promo code. 
 
First off, the promo codes would be generic, not unique. The machines that print Magic cards, including advertisement cards, print many, many sheets off huge masters. You cannot change the text of individual cards in that manner. The cost to stuff packs with unique codes would be infeasible. So, the same code on every insert – like the code MTGOCodeLaunch (the one that gets you an Avacyn Pilgrim.) That means that the in-pack code would have to be limited to one redemption per account. (That also means that the code would have to be for a pack or the like – if the code redeemed for a draft set, or anything more expensive than the cost of a new account, players would make infinite accounts to redeem infinite codes. Bad idea on many levels.)
 
Personally, I like the idea of redeeming one per account for anything in packs. At large events, some players running around trying to collect tokens and stuff. The idea of players trying to find all the unique online codes from packs would be scary. Unique codes would also create a secondary market in codes – but there is no way to know if a unique code had already been redeemed. Limited GPs are already complex enough without adding that to the mix. 
 
However, I do see a role for promo codes at GPs. Right now, players in GPs get a foil promo card. This season it is Lotus Cobra, IIRC. (Note: I judge at GPs. The participation foils are only for players – judges don’t get them, so I don’t know for sure. I could be a season off.) Anyway, I could see Wizards giving players an online promo code just for participating.  These could be unique. SCG gives players a free, one-month subscription to premium content for playing in an Open, using gift cards with unique codes. Wizards could do the same sort of thing. 
 
The trick would be to give out something that would appeal to GP players, but not break the MTGO economy. Odds are, a large percentage of GP players already play online.  Giving them a draft set will probably just cost Wizards the price of a draft. What Wizards would want the GP code to do would be to get those players to play additional formats. A promo code for a Modern staple might work well. Again, the code would have to be unique, otherwise people would just post it, and everyone would try to redeem it. It would also have to be one per account, to limit resale. However, it would be cool if the promo code from GP Portland, for example, gave each player one Zendikar fetchland, at random. 
 
Just speculating.
 
If Wizards did want to include coupons in packs, I could see two options. The first would be a coupon for an online, phantom sealed event, either new player or the Swiss phantoms events in the limited queues. The coupons would be worth 4 TIX, so they would not result in players making a ton of accounts.  The players could play all three rounds, and they might win some packs. That seems like a good general introduction.
 
A second option might be to include coupons for CUBE TIX, together with info on when the Cube drafts are being offered. Cube drafts are not introductory, but if each coupon was worth 1 CUBE TIX, and you could redeem, say, 20 per account, players might be interested. Maybe.
 
The third option for an in-pack promo would be a promo code for an extra Planeswalker pack with each new online account. That makes the most sense.   New players get one Planeswalker pack when they sign up, and the cards in that are only playable in non-tournament games. Planeswalker packs include a bunch of good cards, including serious rares, but they are not tradable. Adding an extra pack – a $4.99 value – give new players twice the cards, without hurting the value of the tournament playable cards. If I were running the promo code program, this is what I would put in the packs first. It would attract a lot of new players to online play, while not affecting the rest of the online economy. 
 
Wizards could also put special coupons in limited edition products, like From the Vaults or Duel Decks. From the Vaults doesn’t really need any extra to sell well in paper (most first go on sale at several times MSRP), but Duel Decks could include a coupon for, say $5 off the online version. 
 
The one product that paper players buy that might be really worthwhile adding a promo code would be fat packs. Fat packs are generally bought by more casual players. It could make sense to include a promo code for an online copy of the Deckbuilders Toolkit. This is another $4.99 product online, and it gives the players a bunch of useful commons and uncommons – enough to begin building decks. 
 
I could keep speculating, but I am, again, past deadline.   (Sorry, Josh.)
 

Battling with the New Interface:

I downloaded the big beta update, and got to play with Shiny for a while. I cut one small video. The client shows some improvement, but I still have not managed to actually play in a sanctioned event with it. Maybe someday.
 

 
Actually, the client is better than it has been. It did crash, but it worked far better than it has (for me at least) since December. The problem with the decklist was that I had traded away the random basic lands and the promo Vampire Nighthawks that I had built the deck with. I needed to change them to copies I have, and trying to move cards while the client was resolving a search was, apparently, too much. 
 
I paused the video a couple times, and edited out some pauses and so forth, but the beta did manage to load, go to the store, let me get the promo, then load my collection, choose a deck and let me start working on it, all in less than 10 minutes. That really is an improvement. That said, I might consider trying to draft with it this weekend. Draft is supposed to be what the new client does best, and I have some packs I can afford to waste. 
 

Cutting Edge Tech:

Standard: Another week, another standard format Grand Prix. Actually, two GPs – one in Rio and one in Verona. Coverage (including decklists) for GP Verona is here.   Coverage of GP Rio is here.  GP Rio had an interesting finish: the finals ended in a concession. The two finalists were close friends, both were now qualified, one could make Pro Tour Gold status with a win and the venue was really hot. The players chose to go someplace cool and celebrate over playing it out. Perfectly legal, and arguably reasonable. The only people unhappy were those of us watching the coverage. 
 
As for what was happening over the weekend, the super-fast Naya decks of a week ago were not as successful, while graveyard decks were everywhere. Time to wedge a couple more Rest in Peace into your sideboards, folks.
 
 
Modern: Modern PTQs are winding down, but the format still seems open and varied. Last weekend saw a mix of archetypes. Here’s a nice, albeit not inexpensive, Junk deck. I wonder how many of the pricey rares and Mythics in this deck will be in Modern Masters this summer.
 
 
Legacy: Once again, SCG has given us a Legacy Open. This week’s event was in Indianapolis. The Top 16 decklists are here. The format was more control and combo oriented than in previous weeks, with fewer aggro decks making the Top 16.   The winning deck was a Counterbalance/Top deck with the Helm of Obedience / Rest in Peace Combo thrown in for extra goodness. 
 
 
Classic: No Classic events fired this week. However, Round Three of the Classic Quarter Invitational has begun. Coverage is here and here
 

Card Prices:  

Notes: All my prices come from MTGOTraders.com. For cards that are available in multiple sets, I am quoting the most recent set’s price. Thus, the price I’m quoting for Garruk Relentless is from M13. These cards are also available from the MTGOTraders Bots,  so check out mtgotradersbot, mtgotradersbot2,mtgotradersbot3, mtgotradersbot4, mtgotradersbot5, CardCaddy and CardWareHouse. These Bots often have the cards in stock even when the online store shows as out. Now, on to prices.
 
Standard prices are still adjusting, and down after last week’s spike. Boros Reckoner is still falling.   Restoration Angel is this week’s insanity spike.  Over $100 per playset!  Time to play some Avacyn Restored.  
 

Standard & Block Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$42.64
$46.55
($3.91)
-8%
$29.69
$32.07
($2.38)
-7%
$17.89
$16.04
$1.85
12%
$30.00
$30.00
$0.00
0%
$15.49
$15.85
($0.36)
-2%
$27.98
$27.11
$0.87
3%
$16.11
$16.87
($0.76)
-5%
$17.06
$20.48
($3.42)
-17%
$19.41
$18.55
$0.86
5%
$18.51
$15.00
$3.51
23%
$24.53
$24.40
$0.13
1%
$23.97
$25.20
($1.23)
-5%
$26.12
$21.00
$5.12
24%
$35.28
$40.22
($4.94)
-12%
$7.13
$7.66
($0.53)
-7%
$6.60
$8.00
($1.40)
-18%
$15.38
$13.35
$2.03
15%
$7.68
$8.51
($0.83)
-10%
$12.84
$12.10
$0.74
6%
$19.21
$12.06
$7.15
59%
$7.98
$9.00
($1.02)
-11%
$13.53
$14.45
($0.92)
-6%
$10.73
$6.12
$4.61
75%
$15.41
$14.66
$0.75
5%
$4.58
$4.52
$0.06
1%
$5.10
$4.54
$0.56
12%
$15.72
$12.43
$3.29
26%
$7.06
(new to table)
n/a
n/a

Modern prices are pretty stable this week. It will be interesting to see what happens when the PTQ season ends. 
 

Modern Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$70.53
$66.63
$3.90
6%
$45.29
$42.32
$2.97
7%
$12.41
$12.41
$0.00
0%
$16.76
$14.94
$1.82
12%
$12.00
$12.94
($0.94)
-7%
$19.43
$19.70
($0.27)
-1%
$26.00
$25.54
$0.46
2%
$23.16
$25.38
($2.22)
-9%
$13.83
$13.83
$0.00
0%
$20.76
$20.15
$0.61
3%
$19.69
$17.78
$1.91
11%
$13.36
$12.00
$1.36
11%
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
$15.28
$13.64
$1.64
12%
$14.15
$14.79
($0.64)
-4%
$5.14
$3.43
$1.71
50%
$4.25
$4.25
$0.00
0%
$9.39
$9.39
$0.00
0%
$18.31
$17.69
$0.62
4%
$17.55
$16.48
$1.07
6%
$23.52
$19.86
$3.66
18%
$13.21
$10.88
$2.33
21%
$13.13
$12.44
$0.69
6%
$21.37
$21.37
$0.00
0%
$6.80
$6.62
$0.18
3%
$8.87
$8.24
$0.63
8%
$10.18
$10.18
$0.00
0%
$6.32
$5.14
$1.18
23%

Prices are still adjusting after the legacy-format MOCS, and to the more combo-heavy Legacy metagame.   Lion’s Eye Diamond jumped, and Scavenging Ooze dropped. More combo, less aggro & Scavenging Ooze – time to play Dredge.    Overall, though, the prices for cards in this format are pretty stagnant.
 

Legacy / Classic Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$104.61
$97.64
$6.97
7%
$77.53
$77.53
$0.00
0%
Vampiric Tutor
$28.55
$28.55
$0.00
0%
$32.16
$32.16
$0.00
0%
$51.10
$46.66
$4.44
10%
$46.21
$43.55
$2.66
6%
$23.60
$23.60
$0.00
0%
$29.70
$27.71
$1.99
7%
$21.05
$21.05
$0.00
0%
$19.58
$21.96
($2.38)
-11%
$50.22
$51.00
($0.78)
-2%
$10.32
$10.80
($0.48)
-4%
$15.76
$15.76
$0.00
0%
$19.48
$19.48
$0.00
0%
$13.81
$14.49
($0.68)
-5%
$40.48
$40.48
$0.00
0%
$16.76
$17.41
($0.65)
-4%
$21.70
$21.70
$0.00
0%
$13.10
$13.10
$0.00
0%
$35.35
$35.35
$0.00
0%
$28.30
$28.30
$0.00
0%
$62.08
$62.80
($0.72)
-1%
$39.15
$39.15
$0.00
0%
$9.61
$9.61
$0.00
0%
$9.37
$9.37
$0.00
0%
$16.00
$16.32
($0.32)
-2%
$8.54
$8.54
$0.00
0%

Pauper took a hit last week, so they are bouncing back strong this week.  
 

Pauper Cards
Price
Last Week
Change
% Change
$2.70
$2.58
$0.12
5%
$3.62
$2.96
$0.66
22%
$0.91
$0.60
$0.31
52%
$4.86
$4.29
$0.57
13%
$2.85
$2.85
$0.00
0%
$5.78
$5.13
$0.65
13%
$1.00
$1.12
($0.12)
-11%
$4.18
$4.29
($0.11)
-3%
$7.61
$7.84
($0.23)
-3%
(Nettle Sentiel)
$2.97
$2.78
$0.19
7%
$1.54
$1.54
$0.00
0%
$7.32
$6.47
$0.85
13%
$2.63
$2.28
$0.35
15%
$4.18
$3.56
$0.62
17%
$2.83
$2.48
$0.35
14%
$1.78
$1.78
$0.00
0%
$2.00
$1.76
$0.24
14%
$2.12
$2.12
$0.00
0%
$3.03
$3.03
$0.00
0%
$0.67
$0.67
$0.00
0%
Rancor [M13]
$1.55
$1.29
$0.26
20%
$4.54
$4.44
$0.10
2%
$1.99
$1.91
$0.08
4%
$1.22
$1.08
$0.14
13%
$2.21
$2.12
$0.09
4%
$0.86
$1.06
($0.20)
-19%

 The Good Stuff:

Here’s this week’s list of the non-foil, non-premium cards on MTGO that cost more than $25 each. Note the Force of Will has fallen again, but Goyf fell faster. The list itself has shrunk – a half dozen cards dropped below $25.  Here’s this week’s list of MTGO gold:
 

Card
Rarity
Set
Price
Lion's Eye Diamond
R
MI
 $ 104.61
Force of Will
R
MED
 $    77.53
Tarmogoyf
R
FUT
 $    70.53
Rishadan Port
R
MM
 $    62.08
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
M
WWK
 $    51.10
Show and Tell
R
UZ
 $    50.22
Wasteland
U
TE
 $    46.21
Vendilion Clique
R
MOR
 $    45.29
Liliana of the Veil
M
ISD
 $    42.64
Gaea's Cradle
R
UZ
 $    40.48
Misdirection
R
MM
 $    39.15
Tangle Wire
R
NE
 $    35.35
Sphinx's Revelation
M
RTR
 $    35.28
Underground Sea
R
ME4
 $    32.16
Underground Sea
R
ME2
 $    30.37
Bonfire of the Damned
M
AVR
 $    30.00
Vindicate
R
AP
 $    29.70
Geist of Saint Traft
M
ISD
 $    29.69
Vampiric Tutor
R
VI
 $    28.55
Flusterstorm
R
CMD
 $    28.30
Falkenrath Aristocrat
M
DKA
 $    27.98
Engineered Explosives
R
5DN
 $    26.76
Restoration Angel
R
AVR
 $    26.12

 The big number is the retail price of a playset (4 copies) of every non-foil 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 $23,086.  That is up a couple hundred from last week. 
 

Weekly Highlights:

None - too busy.
 
PRJ
 
“one million words” on MTGO.
 

 

3 Comments

Great article as always. Good by TugaChampion at Fri, 03/15/2013 - 14:46
TugaChampion's picture
5

Great article as always. Good news on the Savannah and I'm happy for another you make the card as I remember those from when I was a casual player. The trading bug is just horrible.
On another matter: I don't know where to say this so I'll say it here, my article wasn't published yesterday so I expected it to be today and since only 2 were published today I don't see any reason why it shouldn't. I didn't get it back either so it was probably just a mistake.

hard to say by one million words at Fri, 03/15/2013 - 15:51
one million words's picture

I know Joshua is busy, and I dumped my article on him at the very last minute (okay, several hours after the last minute.) Hopefully he'll get to it.

An ORC posted a link to a by KaraZorEl at Fri, 03/15/2013 - 18:07
KaraZorEl's picture

An ORC posted a link to a beta client survey. I lost the link, but they can probably find it if you want to fill it out. So far, the biggest issue with the beta client is crashing.