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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
May 15 2015 12:00pm
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State of the Program for May 15th 2015

In the News:

Modern Festival Announced: 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.
MOCS Season Champions on the PT: Once upon a time, some people questioned whether MTGO grinders could compete on the bigger stage. That’s no longer in doubt. Randy Buehler tweeted that MOCS season champions – who win a Pro Tour invite when the win the season champs – have now won five Pro Tours outright, and three of the last five.  And that brings us to:
MOCS 2014 Championship Happening Now: The MOCS 2014 Championships is on now, with the finals on May 17th.   The event is being streamed live on For more information on the event, including the full roster of competitors, look here.   
FNM Promos Announced: When Modern Masters 2105 was fully spoiled, one of the big complaints was that Serum Visions was not included. Serum Visions is an expensive common in both the online and paper worlds, so people were looking for a reprint. Now we know why it wasn’t in MM2015 – it is going to be a FNM foil in the near future.  (June – Frost Walker, July = Path to Exile, August = Serum Visions.) With luck, these may all become player rewards promos a couple months from now.  
Tempest Remastered 64 Player Drafts Cancelled: They did not fire. They were cancelled. Eight player queues continue.
Modern Masters 2015 Release Date Moved forward a day: Modern Masters 2015 will now arrive on May 28th, giving players one day to practice before the triple GP weekend. It’s not a lot of time, but it is at least something. 
Dragons of Tarkir Redemption Available: If you want to turn digital to paper, you can do it.
May MOCS Promo will be Pernicious Deed: Once upon a time this was a super-expensive card. I paid almost $100 for my initial copies, five years ago. That was then. Deed is neither that good nor important now, so its value has tanked. If only it hit Planeswalkers.

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 6:  runs from April 29th through May 27th 
·         MOCS Season 6 Championship: 7am Pacific, June . 
·         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: May, 28, 2015. Mirrodin through Zendikar. Details here.
·         Modern Festival: June 24th – July 5th. Details here.
·         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.

Opinion Section: The Prize Wall

The folks at Wizards tweeted a couple pleas for help this week. Worth Wollpert asked for suggestions on how to make the program better, and Lee Sharpe asked for suggestions about prizes for constructed events. I’ll talk about Worth’s tweet first, because it got the loudest and most negative reaction.  
The most common responses to Worth’s tweets were acerbic – people complaining bitterly that they had made suggestions again and again over the years, but nothing had happened. In many cases, people said, Wizards did not even acknowledge the suggestion. Worth tweeted back a couple points. First, he argued that it wasn’t true that “nothing had been done.” I’ll give him this one – the client is a bit better, and a lot of player suggestions have been implemented over the years.   This included one on one constructed queues, win a pack (f/k/a/ 321 Swiss) and many other improvements were championed by players long before they were adopted by Wizards.   The client is nowhere near adequate and a ton of things are still missing, but the statement “nothing has been done” is not true.
Second, Worth explained that annual (or thereabouts) tweets were a way of reaching new people.  I can sort of understand this. Yes, many of us have got these tweets in years past, but his tweets will reach many people who haven’t. This sort of thing is like fishing: you have to make a lot of casts before you hook a keeper.   For those of us who have been hooked before, just ignore the lure this time if it bothers you. 
Third, Worth confirmed that there were some topics or areas that Wizards employees simply cannot discuss. He did not elaborate (or at least I could not find any elaboration.)    I know (from prior discussion) that one of the things Wizards tracks is player stats (who plays, how often, how long people are online, etc., etc., etc.), but those are all trade secrets.   I suspect the fractional tickets, V5, the Reprint Policy, volume discounts in the store and so forth are also on the don’t-discuss list, but we don’t know. That’s frustrating. 
Lee Sharp said that he was looking at prizes for constructed events, and asked for ideas for alternate constructed prizes. Wizards knows boosters are not always ideal. Boosters are basically single items with a retail price of $4. It’s hard to divide that value finely enough. For example, assume that Wizards market research determines that a prize payout of $26 for 4-0, $18.5 for 3-1, $1 for 2-2 would maximize player turnout for a Legacy Daily. That’s great, but you cannot get there with $4 boosters. It gets worse when some boosters are more valuable than others. In fact, boosters as prize payout, in the way they are done now, are a mess.
That’s not too surprising. In the paper world, especially at events like GenCon, organizers have been running events with all sorts of prizes in addition to, or in place of, boosters/ Prizes have included iPods (back when they were a thing), xBoxes, laptops, foil sheets, a car, actual literal gold, PS-4s, etc. Given that MTGO is digital, and players come from around the world, shipping physical items is probably prohibitive. 
In the real world, cash is popular.   I’m really sure Wizards can’t do that. The same goes for Tix or partial Tix. Whether you agree that gambling laws are a big part of the reason or not, what is certain is that Wizards have refused to even discuss cash or Tix payouts for the decade plus that MTGO has been in existence. Until Wizards says differently, I consider that argument over.   Cash ain’t gonna happen.
Digital things, other than cards or boosters, might have some traction. Some players might want a custom avatar. The downside, however, is that it is difficult to find one thing that enough people want at the same time. However, TOs in the real world have found a way around that issue. TOs have been implementing “prize walls” at big events.  The concept is pretty simple – you win points for competing in / winning events. Once you have collected enough points, you can wander over to the prize wall and cash in your points for what you want. The wall could have anything players might want. CF posted an article on the GP Vegas prize wall. That wall will include “packs, boxes, box sets, deck boxes, playmats, figurines, oversized cards, singles, and more.”   The picture isn’t too easy to read, but everything on the wall has a “price” in Prize Tix. For example, the FtV sets range in price from 720 to 1000 Prize Tix. A regular booster is 10 Prize Tix, a MM2015 booster is 30 PT. Events pay out in Prize Tix, with five round scheduled events paying out 720 Prize Tix for a 5-0 record.   (720 Prize Tix buys an MM2015 box.) 
Wizards should consider doing a prize wall for MTGO.   All events would pay out in Prize Tix (or Prize Coupons, if Tix is too confusing.)  If the price of a booster pack was 10 or 20  Prize Coupons, that gives the Prize Coupons a nominal value of $0.40 or $0.20, allowing Wizards a lot of room to tweak payouts.  This would require Wizards to create a sort of “store” where players could purchase things with Prize Coupons. This would have several advantages.
First off, Wizards could offer all of the in print boosters. This would probably allow older formats to fire more often. More importantly for players, it would eliminate the price disparity that we have now, given the uneven payouts of differing boosters under the current system. (e.g. sells JOU boosters for close to $4, but THS and BNG boosters for less than half that.) As a player, being able to trade in my Prize Coupons for whatever (in print) booster I wanted would be huge.
This has a potential downside for Wizards, if they actually make significant revenue because people have to come to the store for the chase boosters in each draft format. Or maybe not; if all boosters were equally available, maybe people would draft more and the extra entry Tix would make up for the loss. Wizards knows the numbers on this stuff – and they probably understand the negative impact of skewed pack prices at least as well as we do. 
Wizards will do far better, however, if it can also offer non-booster items for sale.  If players spend their Prize Coupons on other things, then they are not spending those coupons on packs, so pack prices will rise. Let’s look at some things that might be saleable, based on what CF offers on the Vegas prize wall: packs, boxes, box sets, deck boxes, playmats, figurines, oversized cards, singles, and more.
Packs we have covered
Boxes / deck boxes are a thing in the paper world. Wizards does use boxes for our decks in the collection screen, but I don’t know if programming in special, limit-edition boxes would be worth the programming effort, or if anyone would buy them. It would be some bling that most people would never see, although they might appeal to streamers. Big maybe here.
Playmats were a thing back in v3. We could choose the playmat / background for ourselves and our opponents. It would require programming, and given the different aspect ratios on different displays the art might be stretched at times, but I would love to have this back.   If special edition playmats were available for Prize Coupons I could see players buying these, especially if the opponent also saw the playmat on their screen.
Figurines are statues and pops in the real world. Online, we are talking avatars.  Way back in the day, I remember playing vanguard, where the avatars had special abilities and powers. That’s gone now, except for Momir Vig, but you can still choose avatars to represent you on screen. That’s mildly interesting. However, after each prerelease and release season, I end up with a bunch of identical avatars. They have very little value, especially in bulk. However, if Wizards had a prize wall, they could sell avatars there and only there, and make them expensive. If Wizards wanted to make the Prereleases special, they could give out coupons for a big discount on the set’s avatars.  More importantly, selling them through the prize wall would mean I won’t end up with 12 copies. 
The prize wall could offer special limited edition avatars, or rerelease older avatar for a limited time. The trick, of course, is not to undercut existing dealers. Dealers are what makes constructed possible, and dealers are already faced with very small margins. Any shots at releasing old avatars would have to be very carefully done.  However, special avatars that are not available elsewhere could sell well. For example, imagine a trophy that said “Qualified for the PTQ.” People would buy that. People buy PT Top 8 playmats in the paper world. 
Another cool possibility would customizing you r avatar. Imagine being able to put a bow tie on you avatar, or a Santa hat and muffler at Christmas time. I could see spending a few prize coupons for a pair of sun glasses for my Hermit Druid avatar.  Sure, most people wouldn’t, but even if a small portion did, and the programming costs were low enough, then those prize coupons are not used on packs and Wizards profits.
Singles – singles are a special case.   Wizards needs to avoid selling cards at prices that distort the market. However, done carefully, offering special art or new frames could get people to spend some prize coupons on something other than packs. (This is a huge topic, which I may cover in another article.)
And more. Lots of possibilities here. Duel decks, everything sold in the store, old packs when they come back around for flashback drafts, etc. Maybe Tix, or maybe not. Probably not, both because of the whole gambling thing, and because Tix are now only available (at least originally) for real money from the store. Wizards probably won’t change that.
Wizards could offer redemption coupons. Some drafters do work on redeeming cards, so they might be willing to “buy” redemption coupons with prize coupons.   Wizards would have a lot more data on that.
Banners are another idea I have mentioned frequently. All Wizards would have to do is add a line for text under each player’s name on the duel display. Wizards could then award some banners, and/or sell them in the store. I know some players would pay a handful of prize coupons for the equivalent of a snarky bumper sticker, or some minor brags. Imagine seeing “MOCS Top 8” or “I Play with Power” or “COMMANDER!” or “My Craw Wurm is an Honor Student.”   That’s the concept, but imagine actually funny banners.  People would buy them. People bought Pet Rocks(tm).
If Wizards ever gets to the point of offering a choice of color scheme, that is also something that could be sold: e.g. you can choose these for free, or pay for these other ones. Or anything else that could be done. Want to change you MTGO name – for 100 Prize Coupons you can do that, to anything that has not already been used. 
One cool idea: a storage box. For some number of prize coupons, you get a thing that, in effect, archives 4,000 of your old and unwanted singles. This would speed up loading the program and collection screen, since it would have far fewer cards. Some dealers might want many of them, but that’s all good.
The list of ideas is almost endless – it is just a question of whether the cost of programming would be less than the value of taking those prize coupons out of the system. But first, Wizards has to actually create a prize wall. I hope they do.

Random MTGO Suggestion of the Week: 

MTGO should have a way to archive bulk commons. I would like to do the digital equivalent of putting 5,000 valueless commons in a five-clot ox and storing it in the closet. Sure, someday I might look through the box for something, but most of the time it will be out of sight, out of mind, and not slowing down program when it is loading your collection.
I submitted this suggestion to If you have recommendations or advice, send them to that email address. Wizards does read them.     

Cutting Edge Tech:

Standard: Last weekend’s Standard GP was in Paris. The GP had just 1,426 players – small for a European GP, but part of that was probably due to a competing US GP on the east coast. The Paris Top 8 was heavy green, plus a couple red decks.  Coverage is here.
Modern: SCG had a weekend off, so I’m scanning recent Modern Dailies. Here’s an interesting 4-0 deck. It has been a while since I have seen anyone using Swans as a card drawing mechanic.
Pauper: I have not featured any Pauper decks for a couple weeks; mainly because I have not seen anything interesting or innovative. This week, though, I saw something that I have not featured countless times before.
Mono-White Tokens , splash blue
JonatanFrankel, 4-0, Pauper Daily #8245735 on 05/12/2015
4 Soul Warden
2 Soul's Attendant
4 Squadron Hawk
3 Veteran Armorer
13 cards

Other Spells
4 Tranquil Cove
4 Battle Screech
3 Gather the Townsfolk
4 Guardians' Pledge
4 Keep Watch
2 Mana Tithe
4 Raise the Alarm
2 Ramosian Rally
2 Triplicate Spirits
29 cards
3 Island
15 Plains
18 cards

Ramosian Rally
Legacy: With no SCG or other large Legacy event this weekend, I am looking to the Dailies. I skipped the Miracles deck that also finished 4-0; we had plenty of Miracles at the recent GP. Here’s something a bit different.
Vintage: Vintage events are firing. Some are even large enough to have multiple 4-0s. Here’s a new archetype from a recent 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 almost a decade now, and have never been overcharged or disappointed.
Standard staples: Standard prices were mixed this week. I cut a couple more cards that were holding below $5.  The Standard list is surprisingly short, given how many Mythics are in print at the moment.

Standard & Block Cards
Last Week
% Change

Modern staples:  Modern prices were down again this week.  A few cards fell too hard last week – cards like Scapeshift – but rebounded this week. Splinter Twin, on the other hand, fell off the list.

Modern Cards
Last Week
% Change

Legacy / Vintage staples: Vintage took a hit again this week. Doomsday was again the exception.  Hurkyl’s Recall also took a big hit, but that was obvious as soon as we saw it was being reprinted in MM2015.     

Legacy / Vintage Cards
Last Week
% 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.   Dragons of Tarkir will be redeemable in May. 

Complete Set
Last Week
% 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, with more TMR cards falling off.  The power nine – those portions that are still on the list – also dropped a bit.

Rishadan Port
 $      151.42
Black Lotus
 $      114.42
 $      110.63
Liliana of the Veil
Mythic Rare
 $        77.76
Mythic Rare
 $        63.72
 $        59.88
Mox Sapphire
 $        59.45
 $        52.16
Show and Tell
 $        50.00
Force of Will
 $        44.31
Tangle Wire
 $        43.64
 $        43.09
Ancestral Recall
 $        42.79
Containment Priest
 $        37.91
Mythic Rare
 $        37.67
Mythic Rare
 $        37.62
Mox Opal
Mythic Rare
 $        34.40
Time Walk
 $        33.62
Mox Ruby
 $        33.43
 $        32.98
Force of Will
 $        32.43
Scalding Tarn
 $        30.87
Mox Jet
 $        30.03
Infernal Tutor
 $        29.61
True-Name Nemesis
 $        27.79
Deathmist Raptor
Mythic Rare
 $        26.26
 $        25.59
Gaea's Cradle
 $        25.22
Twilight Mire
 $        25.18

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 $ 23,010. That is up about $150 from where we were last week. 

Weekly Highlights:

Nothing super noteworthy this week. I managed to get into a couple drafts. I beat Dragonlord Ojutai, and took one game against the opponent who cast Citadel Siege turn four every game, and coupled it with Dragonlord Dromoka a few turns later. Beyond that, I watched some videos. It was good to see LSV Top 8, but that’s about it.
When this goes up, though, I will be watching the MOCS Championships. 
“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 three 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. 


packing away un-used cards by mindlesslemming at Fri, 05/15/2015 - 12:47
mindlesslemming's picture

how about an "archive" or "hide" all cards not currently in legally built decks?

I think the Modern Festival by TugaChampion at Fri, 05/15/2015 - 12:57
TugaChampion's picture

I think the Modern Festival was very poorly thought. In my opinion it has two problems: the finals, will have much more than 64 players and the prizes should reflect that. It should have added prizes after a certain ammount of players is reached. That's one thing they have always done with top8 events that needs to be fixed.

But the biggest problem is replacing the Modern DEs with these. That doesn't make any sense! Anyone who is not able to play the Finals, has no reason to play the prelims but would probably be interested in playing Modern DEs during the week. In a similar way, anyone who qualifies, has no interest in playing more of those but would probably be interested in playing some DEs. These prelims don't even pay something to the 3-2s (in similar events 3-2s didn't qualify but paid some boosters that allowed you to get the entry fee back). The events themselves are EV- (not considering the finals) so after qualifying or if you are not able to play the finals, it's just not worth playing.

I sent in a bug LAST JUNE by Wikki at Fri, 05/15/2015 - 13:09
Wikki's picture

I sent in a bug LAST JUNE about Curse of Misfortunes not working. It still doesn't work. I get that it's not a well played card, but it has been almost 1 calendar year where I can't play a deck i made an investment in.

I completely believe that Wizards (with regards to Magic Online) does not listen and they should be chastised by the people when they ask for suggestions. Prize payouts are garbage. MTGO players get nothing compared to paper players.

I would have played TPR, but they didn't offer a prize structure for the casual player. No Packs per win means I'm betting on just throwing away 15 bucks for the chance at landing a wasteland.

I work for a cable provider, and we super analyze our Customer Satisfaction results each month and use them to direct the future of our company. Our customers are paying our bills, so we try to give them what they want. I feel wizards gets thousands of suggestions that go straight into the garbage unless they ask for it. Not a way to run a business.

Last June? by Fred1160 at Fri, 05/15/2015 - 15:35
Fred1160's picture

If you complained about a bug last June and it still hasn't been fixed then I would think it is safe to say that "nothing has been done."
I agree with that other Fred. If you have complained for years about the same things and they never get fixed then, yeah, nothing has been done.

I pretty much agree with Pete by a small child at Fri, 05/15/2015 - 17:47
a small child's picture

I pretty much agree with Pete that there have been a lot of improvements but it really isn't enough. MTGO is behind the times and falling further behind.

I think the idea of a prize wall is ridiculously good as long as it isn't used as an excuse to cut prize payouts (which it almost certainly would be).

Players have been asking for some sort of generic booster pack for a LONG time now, and your suggestion would be a great way to implement that. I also like most of the other prize suggestions although I probably wouldn't buy them myself.

Prizes by monkrealist at Wed, 05/20/2015 - 03:31
monkrealist's picture

There is a really simple fix to prize support. As soon as you win packs in an event a drop down box should appear. You could then select which boosters you want. If your finish awards you 12 packs, you could select 6 DTK,4 JOU, and 2 KTK. You could pick whatever it is you need to fill holes to be able to draft. This should stabilize all prices for all packs because they will all be equally available. Also it would be great if they paid immediately when your fate is decided......Ive gone 3-0 in tempest drafts smashing my final round opponent in 3 minutes, then i need to wait an hour for the other matches to finish. Theres no reason I shouldnt get those 6 packs immediately so I can join the next draft.