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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Oct 19 2018 12:00pm
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State of the Program for October 19th 2018
In the News
Player of the Year Playoffs at PT Guilds of Ravnica: Wizards has announced that Seth Manfield and Luis Salvatto will have a playoff the day before Pro Tour Guilds to Ravnica. They will play a variant on unified Standard. Details are here.   That article also announces a series of pro player streams on Arena.
Wizards Has Another Survey in the Field: Wizards is running another survey. This one is on video coverage and streaming. It took me under 5 minutes to complete. Survey is here.
Magic Story Updates: Wizards released an article and a video discussing the Magic story, featuring some of the authors. The article is here.   The video is here.
Magic Weddings: In other news, a couple Magic celebrities are getting married around now. PVDDR was married last weekend. Alli Medwyn – MTGO Manager at Wizards – will be married shortly. Congrats to both.
Arena and MTGO Are Different: Interesting article by Saffron Olive this week, which talks a lot about MTGO and Arena. He makes a lot of interesting points about the differences in the programs, the differences in what they do, and who they are aimed at. It’s worth the read. 
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 PTQs each weekend, with qualifiers running the three days prior to the PTQ.

Upcoming Events
Scheduled Downtimes
October 24th and December 5th
Constructed Leagues End
January 16th 2019
Sealed Leagues End
January 17th 2019
Ravnica Allegiance
January 2019
Next B&R Announcement
November 26, 2018
Dominaria Redemption Ends
October 10, 2018
Core Set 2019 Redemption Ends
December 26, 2018

WotC Premier Events
Wizards has announced a number of Premier events. Everything on this list in 2018 will be streamed. No word on what sort of coverage we will see for events in 2019.
·       Oct. 27–28: Grand Prix Lille
·       Nov. 3–4: Grand Prix Atlanta
·       Nov. 9–11: Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica in Atlanta
·       Nov. 17–18: Grand Prix Milwaukee
·       Dec. 8–9: Grand Prix Liverpool
·       Dec. 14–16: World Magic Cup in Barcelona, Spain
·       Jan. 4: Oakland – Modern
·       Jan. 11: Prague – Limited
·       Jan. 25: New Jersey – Limited
·       Feb. 1: Sydney – Limited
·       Feb. 8: Toronto – Modern
·       Feb. 15:   Memphis – Standard AND Strasbourg – Limited
·       Feb. 22: Cleveland – Limited
·       March 1: Los Angeles – Modern
·       March 15: Tampa Bay – Modern AND Bilbao - Modern
·       March 22: Kyoto – Standard
·       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:
·       Guilds of Ravnica
·       Triple Innistrad – starting October 31st.
·       Cube Spotlight (details later) – starting November 7th
·       Time Spiral Block – starting November 14th
·       Modern Cube – starting November 21st
·       [REDACTED] – starting December 5th
·       Vintage Cube – starting December 19th through January 17th
·       Ravnica Allegiances – starting January 17th
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: Can MTGO and Arena Coexist?
I have been thinking about the future of Magic Online a lot recently. Wizards has repeatedly said it is not going away, and that it serves a different purpose. I kinda believe them.   Arena is the closest thing we have to casual online Magic. MTGO, on the other hand, is more like a competitive event – a pro tour qualifier, GP and so forth. They serve very different market segments.
Arena is really popular, because it is fun, flashy and quick. You can play a lot of Magic in a short time. Games are fast. Arena is just fun playing Magic. It is the digital equivalent to Thursday night  casual Magic at my local game store. Lots of game, in lots of formats, played mostly for fun. We don’t have tournaments, or rounds, or posted pairings on Thursday. On the flip side, the store also runs FNM, PPTQs and other high-stakes events. These events have a higher rules enforcement level – no take-backs, warnings for infractions, plus structured, timed  rounds, Swiss pairings, etc. These events are very different. The players are generally different. Although we have some overlap, the players that play casual events on Thursday rarely appear at a PPTQ or GP. The one place the groups overlap is at prereleases – but both groups are really important to the store. Both groups are also really important to Wizards.
MTGO and Arena follow the same pattern. Arena is great for fun Magic. MTGO is great for tournaments with significant prizes. Arena has speed and glitz, and is a blast to play. MTGO handles large events well (finally).   Arena works with all the cards in Standard. MTGO works with all the cards in Vintage. Arena’s deck builder is good enough to create Standard decks. MTGO’s deck builder works with – and makes sense out of – my 100,000 card collection. 
You could rework MTGO to be flashier, but not a ton flashier if you still want it to be able to handle Eternal tournaments. Likewise, you could adapt Arena to handle large tournaments, with times rounds (mean Chess clocks and Swiss pairings), and beef up the collection management and the deckbuilder to handle all the cards in 100+ sets. However, doing so would make MTGO crawl, and Arena would no longer be the place for fast, fun matches. 
Here’s and analogy: Arena is a small, fast two seater convertible sports car. It’s a ton of fun to tool around in. MTGO is large crew cab truck that holds the entire family, plus luggage, pulls a boat and plows through the snow. Different vehicles, and you kinda need both. You can find something that is halfway in between – some sort of a sport SUV perhaps. However, sport SUVs have little of the panache of a sports car, and the boat better be small. 
Right now, Wizards has a new sports car and a really functional pickup truck. The different vehicles serve different purposes, and I can see a good reason for Wizards to keep both.  At the moment, both work, and both serve needs the other can’t.     
Note: I wrote this before I read Saffron Olive’s article. Interesting that he hit a lot of the same points in different ways. 
Cutting Edge Tech
Standard: Standard continues to evolve, but one deck – GB midrange – seems to be looking really strong. Six of the Top 8 decks at last weekend’s MTGO PTQ were BG variants.
Modern: I don’t know if I have featured a Hardened Scales Affinity deck recently. Here’s one
Legacy: I have another interesting decklist from a small European tournament. This one is not super rare or unusual – it just has one of my favorite cards: Leovold
Vintage: I have not been featuring Vintage in weeks when all the decks I find are (Paradoxical Storm) decks with Mentor or Storm, or Shops variants. This is neither – and the deck runs Bazaar of Baghdad without being Dredge. Finally, this deck has one of my favorite cards of all time – Survival of the Fittest.
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 mixed again this as the new metagame evolves. Green black decks were really popular, and the prices of Vraska and her support cards are climbing in value.

Standard Cards
Last Week
% Change
Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants
Assassin's Trophy
Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice
Carnage Tyrant
Doom Whisperer
History of Benalia
Jadelight Ranger
Karn, Scion of Urza
Lyra Dawnbringer
Nexus of Fate
Nicol Bolas, the Ravager
Rekindling Phoenix
Resplendent Angel
Search for Azcanta
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Vivien Reid
Vraska, Golgari Queen
Vraska's Contempt

Modern staples: Modern prices fell again this week, but we are seeing bottoming out. Modern is still a really popular format, and you cannot play it on Arena. 

Modern Cards
Last Week
% Change

Legacy and Vintage: Legacy and vintage are joining the slide. Folks, it’s either too early or too late to be selling out. MTGO has several years left. Prices will recover.

Legacy / Vintage 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
Rivals of Ixalan
Treasure Chest
Guilds of Ravnica 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 pretty stable again this week. And a Black Lotus is way over $100, with Mox Sapphire a step behind. The table has stabilized – the same number of cards as last week.

Black Lotus
 $  138.85
Mox Sapphire
 $ 85.15
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Mythic Rare
 $ 64.71
Horizon Canopy
 $ 61.80
Horizon Canopy
Mythic Rare
 $ 59.62
True-Name Nemesis
Mythic Rare
 $ 59.43
Force of Will
 $ 57.30
Mox Ruby
 $ 56.29
Ancestral Recall
 $ 56.29
Mox Emerald
 $ 55.88
True-Name Nemesis
 $ 54.50
Mox Jet
 $ 51.59
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Mythic Rare
 $ 49.24
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Mythic Rare
 $ 45.69
Liliana of the Veil
Mythic Rare
 $ 44.99
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Mythic Rare
 $ 44.75
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Mythic Rare
 $ 41.63
Time Walk
 $ 40.17
Liliana of the Veil
Mythic Rare
 $ 38.45
Mythic Rare
 $ 37.92
Mox Pearl
 $ 37.59
Mox Opal
Mythic Rare
 $ 37.44
City of Traitors
 $ 37.25
Mox Opal
Mythic Rare
 $ 36.75
Horizon Canopy
 $ 35.97
Dark Depths
Mythic Rare
 $ 35.03
Mox Opal
 $ 33.73
Back to Basics
 $ 32.08
Liliana, the Last Hope
Mythic Rare
 $ 29.97
Ensnaring Bridge
 $ 29.29
Surgical Extraction
 $ 28.97
Surgical Extraction
 $ 28.62
Rekindling Phoenix
Mythic Rare
 $ 28.03
Ensnaring Bridge
 $ 27.83
 $ 27.63
Ensnaring Bridge
Mythic Rare
 $ 27.33
 $ 27.15
Mythic Rare
 $ 26.16
Scalding Tarn
Mythic Rare
 $ 25.96
Engineered Explosives
 $ 25.45
Mythic Rare
 $ 25.11

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 $ 15,345. That’s down about $565 from last week.     
In Closing
Not a ton of Magic for me again this week.   With one exception: I gave a seminar on judging at new venues / bringing Magic to conventions last weekend. Most of it is of interest only to Magic judges, but I did create a small video as a teaser.  The video is about what I bring to larger (7 rounds or more) events at which I am judging.   Sort of.  The Video is here.  Question:  should I kickstarter this?
“One Million Words” on MTGO
This series is an ongoing tribute to Erik “Hamtastic” Friborg.



I really doubt WOTC would by Wikki at Fri, 10/19/2018 - 13:27
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I really doubt WOTC would abandon all the MTGO players and not have some form of way to play the eternal formats online. People selling out their card is good for me. Gotta get me some EE and Collective Brutalities while they're still down.

I never felt the problem was by Alphi at Fri, 10/19/2018 - 13:46
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I never felt the problem was cohabitation. The problem is the spread of resources, or lack thereof. One might argue that minimal resources were being invested in MTGO anyhow, but the amount of time and money going into MTGA precludes any hope that we will see meaningful improvements on MTGO.

And no, new counters don't count.

The tweaks to QOL things like by Paul Leicht at Fri, 10/19/2018 - 16:11
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The tweaks to QOL things like counters and targetting on mtgo indicate at least an awareness of MTGO's needs. And a willingness to take some of what they have learned from MTGA and apply it. Those are relatively easy fixes compared to some (the editor or chat for example) but they are not nothing.

I agree it is not nothing, by Alphi at Sat, 10/20/2018 - 07:23
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I agree it is not nothing, but was it anywhere on our - us, the MTGO players - top ten list? It felt a lot more like a semi-personal project that happens to have an overall positive impact.

But as to an overall development plan for the client, I don't see that happening. I applaud better stability and less downtime, but MTGO remains a client without a future. I know it did not have one before MTGA, but to see the newer client and all the possibilities that are now mentioned, including other platforms, Mac, mobile, stuff we had been clamoring for MTGO, just grates.

I don't need animated dragons or a trash-talking Liliana. I could still do with a better looking and more efficient client, and I feel MTGA's very existence precludes that from ever happening.

Yeah I hear that. The company by Paul Leicht at Sat, 10/20/2018 - 22:21
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Yeah I hear that. The company sometimes seems like it has a hard time deciding HOW to deal with MTGO. Even back in the beginning it was like pulling teeth to get good updates on information. It has gotten better in that regard but not much. And Arena is the baby of the new CEO so of course it is being lavished with attention. Like an older functional child MTGO gets short shrift because it already pulls its weight. I would not expect it to go away soon but certainly I agree there is reason to be concerned.

My big concern with Arena is by Generalissimo at Fri, 10/19/2018 - 18:12
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My big concern with Arena is if there's no system for encouraging players that grow beyond it into MTGO and it takes all the fresh players that want digital Magic, then it could well cannibalise MTGO's source of new users, which is slow but certain death sentence for a service.

It will be a question of $, by MichelleWong at Sat, 10/20/2018 - 01:38
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Magic Online will survive for a long time if WotC can keep making good money off Modern, Legacy and Vintage players and flashback drafters. WotC has the market of players who are interested, and therefore so long as WotC don't make some monumental errors (AND fail to listen to feedback of the paying customers and fail to rectify the problems), it will survive.

I can see them making monumental errors in how they handle MTGO in the future, but I can't see them failing to listen to or adjust to feedback from the player base, because they are showing good signs of doing that nowadays.

Switched to Arena by pcjr at Sun, 10/21/2018 - 03:08
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I started playing/collecting MtGO since the beta. All I did was draft (except for Prismatic, which is gone). I collected playsets of every card. Then Arena came out. I started playing and enjoying constructed. A lot. I've barely played MtGO this year, spending all my gaming time on Arena. Arena has its faults, but they are minor compared to the enjoyment I get out of it.

I just cashed out of MtGO. I don't see how they can co-exist long term and figured I'd leave now before there's a rush out the door.

You might be right, PCJR by MichelleWong at Mon, 10/22/2018 - 05:34
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You might be right, PCJR (also nice to see you back!).

Does anyone know (roughly) how many regular Vintage, Legacy, Modern and Flashback drafters are active on Magic Online? Is it enough to sustain the program long-term?

It's always difficult to by Alphi at Tue, 10/23/2018 - 11:10
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It's always difficult to tell, but one can look at the leagues for Vintage, Legacy and Modern: having a quick look at the client, I see respectively (rounded) 90, 400, and 1,600 (putting Modern friendly and competitive together).

The question then is: how many regular participants could that represent? Rule of thumb is at least between 5 and 10 times as much, depending on whether most players play their leagues in one go or wait a day or more between matches. That's put modern as relatively active, Legacy at barely sustainable, and Vintage as a mini project for a few people. Numbers might spike during the weekend, although 400 to 500 for Legacy is what I usually see during the weekends.

It's hard to justify maintaining the client for these numbers, especially considering the work it takes to import new sets (and that would still need to be done). In comparison, GRN draft leagues is at 6,000 participants right now. Without THAT, new sets just wouldn't get released at nearly the same pace.

I think we'll have to wait and see how things go (I read an article today saying participation in Modern is lower at the moment the way it always is when a new Standard gets released), but it's hard to be optimistic.

Wow thanks Alphi for your by MichelleWong at Wed, 10/24/2018 - 05:06
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Wow thanks Alphi for your helpful reply.

In that case, I am very concerned for the future for Modo long-term, unless Wizards drastically change their employee/contractor hiring policy and go on a fire-and-hire spree (for example to run the bulk of MODO support offshore where labour is cheap, but that might pose its own challenges).

I do certainly fear for the Commander players - they will be the first casualty for sure because they don't directly contribute much profit (and as a group they probably pesker WOTC the most with their bug notifications for random interractions that can arise in Commander games).

We saw in the past how quickly WotC was willing to abandon the Tribal Wars and s100 communities, and that was merely because they wanted to save money by reducing the amount of filters!

You are absolutly right As a by mtgobeast at Thu, 10/25/2018 - 22:02
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You are absolutly right

As a sign that you are not the only one doing this, look at the value of full playsets of collections from Pete's articles. It went from around 22k 6 months before arena was announce to 15k 1 year after Arena is out.

Thats a drop of 7k (30%) and thats with 5-6 new sets into the system. (more cards , less money)

Its a sign that people are leaving.. people are cashing out.

Wizard will support MTGO as long as people supports and plays, but the clock is will eventually go away when enough people leave.. they are even supporting streamers like they never did for MTGO. which is forcing them to start and move into Arena instead of MTGO..

They currently serve 2 different purpose, but Arena will eventually add those fonctionality and they Arena will be better.

My 2 cents

Yes the writing is on the by MichelleWong at Fri, 10/26/2018 - 03:57
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Yes the writing is on the wall. It is sad but true.

It doesn't necessarily mean by Alphi at Fri, 10/26/2018 - 07:49
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It doesn't necessarily mean the people leaving were actually active, though. It's entirely anecdotic, but I have met a few people online who have cashed out and moved to MTGA but had stopped playing MTGO a while before. They just kept their collection around "in case of".

This is crunch time. Whoever is left and is still playing Standard and Limited on MTGO in few months time will be MTGO's players base for the foreseeable future. If it's insufficient, we might have an early lights out. If it's big enough, we'll a few years at least.

When it comes to adding further sets to MTGA and getting full Modern, Legacy, Vintage and retro-drafts, it might happen at some point, but it will take a lot of time. I know they changed the way individual cards are implemented in the new client, but it is still an enormous task, and it would require a complete overall of MTGA's current economical model (even more probably a parallel gem-only system).

And no, the client is not particularly adapted to such complex play: it is clearly meant to be played on a tablet, and it follows a "show one thing real big on the screen" model. You want to see your graveyard? Click it and it takes all the real estate. Same thing for any zone, same thing when a card gives you a choice. Try to play a Legacy game where both graveyards, exile zones, and a complex battlefield all matter at the same time. And learning thousands of new cards when each and everyone can only be checked one by one once on the battlefield is ludicrous. All of that is "solvable", but the simple reality is that MTGA is not aiming at representing that level of complexity.

SaffronOlive made a point by JXClaytor at Mon, 10/29/2018 - 01:08
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SaffronOlive made a point that I think holds true today, a few weeks ago.

the point at which MTGO players need to start worrying is when Standard prices start to tank. So far, those prices have not. There are still drafters and standard players on the client. For how much longer, I am not sure, but I need to see a road map for Arena before I decide if the sky is falling or not.

Yes Arena does a lot of cool things, but it does not let me do a lot of other cool things. Will it ever support multiplayer commander? Will it go in modern, legacy or actual pauper?

We will see I reckon.

SaffronOlive's most important by Kumagoro42 at Mon, 10/29/2018 - 12:13
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SaffronOlive's most important point is made almost incidentally, but it's something I've been saying since a few months already, and everybody who's not starting any analysis there is missing the point entirely: MTGA is *not* MTG. It's not a digital experience of MTG, not even an approximation of it. It's just a videogame where you happen to be playing the same game.
But MTG is a Trading Card Game. That's the core of its business. If Magic weren't a TCG, do you think it would last 25 years? Of course not. It would have gone the way of The Great Dalmuti many years ago.
The secondary market is mightily important for the MTG business model. It's what keeps it alive. And we can be sure they care about it, because they're still absurdly enforcing a promise made 20 years ago to people who are likely not even active in the community anymore.

In short, if you can't trade, buy and sell cards, it's not Magic. And MTGA is expressly built in a way that will make this impossible. It's the heir of Duel of the Planeswalkers, not the replacement of MTGO. It doesn't even try to be that, its goal is explicitly *not* that.

And beside the fact that MTGA by Kumagoro42 at Mon, 10/29/2018 - 12:43
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And beside the fact that MTGA is a videogame, with the (dubious) economy of an Electronic Arts mobile game, therefore you can't trade, therefore it's not Magic, why are we even so sure the Spikes and pros are going to use it as an actual tool, rather than a way to kill some time? I was in the closed beta, I'm playing MTGA every day for about an hour since six months, and I'm not sure it will ever be anything different than, say, Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, or Minecraft.

First of all, let's say a competitive player wants to test the Standard deck they'll take to real tournaments. What's the appeal of doing it on MTGA? The better interface? Sure. Then what? You can't really go into MTGA and buy a Teferi Control deck. I mean, sure, you can in a roundabout way, you pour a few hundred of dollars into it, buy a ton of boosters, earn enough wild cards to acquire the cards you need (note that the draft packs don't contribute to this, so you can't draft to buy a specific deck). And those are entirely wasted money, because you can't trade the deck back if you change your mind or after some key card is banned or rotates.
But okay, someone doesn't care about money, does all of the above (which includes a lot of clicking to open boosters), builds its Teferi deck, then what? Play it against random kids? The upcoming option of challenging a friend helps, but is it really worth the bother when you can just put together the deck on MTGO in two minutes and then enter a competitive league?

Isn't this idea that MTGA will become the prime choice for competitive Standard players just a fantasy born out of the hopes of supporters and the fears of pessimists? And let's not even talk about drafters: is drafting without any chance to dump your surplus cards to fuel more drafts really appealing to frequent drafters?

And another thing: Pete compares MTGA to casual experiences like Thursday nights on the local store. But it really isn't. Your pairings in the casual queue get you opponents who aren't really good players (so that's not ideal for who's trying to seriously test a deck), but at the same time they all play the current best archetype lists you find online, down to a tee. It's partially due to the economy rewarding you from winning as fast as possible, and as consistently as possible, every single day.