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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Oct 31 2014 11:00am
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State of the Program for October 31st 2014

In the News:

MTGO Reimbursement Policy Updated: Wizards has changed its rules for reimbursement when your event is affected by a bug.   In the past, you were reimbursed for your entry fee (TIX and/or packs) less whatever you had won in the event. Now, if you fill out the reimbursement form and Wizards approves reimbursement, you will get back your entire entry fee, regardless of any packs you may have won. Details here.
Commander 2014 Spoilers Up: Spoilers for the new Commander series are being spoiled. The set will appear on MTGO on November 7ththe same day it is going on sale in the paper world. That’s nice to see – usually sets come to MTGO weeks or months after they are available in paper.
Vintage Changes: Wizards has noted that Vintage events are not firing, and that players are unhappy to be waiting for events only to have them fail. The immediate response is that Wizards will limit Vintage to six events, at 11:30am and 6:30pm, Pacific time, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. However, Wizards has also promised “an exciting Vintage announcement coming soon.” No further details, but I talk about Vintage and saving formats in the opinion section, below.
Spooky Online Sealed: To celebrate Halloween, Wizards will be running a special Phantom event featuring the six “spooky” boosters: 1 Odyssey, 1 Torment, 1 Judgment, 2 Innistrad and 1 Dark Ascension booster. All players in the event get a promo copy of (Tawnos’s Coffin).   Spooky Sealed runs from October 29th through the downtime on November 5th.  Details here.
Summary of Responses to the MTGO Customer Survey: Wizards has reported some of the results from their recent customer survey.    Details are here.
Innistrad, Dark Ascension and Avacyn Restored Going Off Sale: These three sets will no longer be sold in the store as of next Wednesday’s downtime.
Bannings Coming?:   A ChannelFireball video listing the Top 8 Modern Cards video named Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time as the number one and two cards in Modern.  Those cards were also everywhere at the Eternal Weekend. Wizards has stated that they will not do emergency bannings so don’t expect any changes until the next set arrives, but any B&R changes will be in effect before Pro Tour Fate Reforged.

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. Here’s what we know, want or are tracking. This list is getting short, mainly because Wizards is so bad at passing on any information about future products or events. They generally have announced these events a day or two before they happens, which means most players never hear about them, and news compilations (like State of the Program) only hear about them too late to be included.  (But big props and a thank you to Wizards for announcing “Spooky Sealed” early enough to include it.)
Item (date it will return) and notes
·         Spooky Sealed: Oct. 29th to Nov. 5th.   Special Phantom sealed event.
·         MOCS Season 11 Prelims: Nov 5th – Nov 7th
·         Leagues (2014) Wizards has promised that leagues will return this year. Details here.
·         Commander 2014: (11/7/2014) Details here.
·         Modern Masters II: (May of 2015?) 
·         Fix the Changeling bug in Tribal Wars: No date yet. Been bugged for 3 months.

Opinion Section: Saving Formats

A couple of things have happened this week that have got me thinking about the viability of fringe formats. In no particular order, these include
1)      Wizards has announced that brick and mortar stores can run Friday Night Magic in pretty much any format they can devise, including Vintage, Commander and Creature Feature.
2)      Enderfall wrote an open letter to Wizards about fixing Vintage.
3)      Uvtha created a doodle poll to find the best times to fire Vintage events here.
4)      Ingrid and I had a long drive back from her folk’s place, and we spent a good chunk of that drive talking about formats and what gets players to play.
5)      Wizards cut Vintage back to weekend events only.
This is not a new discussion. I have seen a ton of formats arise, crumble and disappear. A decade and a half ago, I wrote a casual column for The Dojo, and described various multiplayer options I played. I have played sanctioned matches in every format Wizards has featured, including sanctioned Rochester booster drafts. I played Mini-Masters before it was a GP thing. I was on the 5color ruling council. When Sheldon first brought Elder Dragon Highlander to the Pro Tour, I won the first game played – and got some of the cards I played banned. I have written about EDH, Pauper, Rainbow Stairwell Highlander, 100CS, K-scope, Creature Feature, Freeform,  Emperor, and a St. Patrick’s Day free-for-all multi-player event requiring green decks that had 54 elves in play at once. 
More importantly, I have seen formats die. As part of the 5color ruling council, I was involved in endless battles over what made the format, and what needed to be banned. I watched that format slowly die. 
At its start, 5color was a fun format created by Kurt Hahn and friends as a way to play random old cards. The rules were simple: 250 card decks, minimum 40 cards of each color, played without sleeves and for ante. Back when the format was created, color screw was a huge issue. Cards like Derelor and Nettletooth Djinn – 4/4s with just one colored mana in the casting cost – were powerful. Back then, land searching meant basics, Mirage fetchlands plus Wood Elves and (Nature’s Lore) finding duals that were part forest. The printing of the Onslaught fetchlands changed all that. With the fetches, decks could consistently hit all five colors by turn four, and the format was no longer about 4/4s with drawbacks. Now the format changed to very fast beats or combo – and the format was still played for ante, meaning you could play four of the most broken draw spell ever prints: Contract from Below.   5color decks were also being played with full Power. My most vivid memory of 5color back in those days was playing against 5color World Champion Jim Hustad in the Top 8 of a 5color Worlds qualifier. When I conceded on the tenth turn of the game, it was because Jim had taken seven of them. Time Walk, Regrowth targeting Time Walk, Time Walk, Eternal Witness getting back Time Walk, Time Walk, Contract, etc. 5color was way more broken, at times, then Vintage ever was.
The problem with 5color was that the format was amazingly fun for those who had the decks and knew the format. 5color decks did things Vintage could only dream about. However, 5color was insanely expensive (every deck required the Power Nine, all 20 Onslaught fetchlands, all 40 original dual lands, plus whatever the deck actually did.) The format was also really complex: decks were 250 cards, with a number of distinct archetypes and turn three kill combo decks were viable. 
5color had the highest barriers to entry of any format I have ever seen.  And that’s what killed it. The existing player base withered, as players left the game, had kids, etc. New players were not picking up 5color – at least not high-level competitive play – so the format just faded away. 
Vintage is in danger of doing the same thing.   Wizards cut back on the number of events, but it is unclear whether that is enough to keep the remaining events firing. (Wizards has also promised an exciting announcement re Vintage – more on that later.)  Vintage is also a very expensive format with a high learning curve. 

With 5color, we had a lot of players playing it casually, and our goal on the ruling council was to recruit those players into competitive play. On MTGO, that is not really an option. You see, Magic players tend to fall somewhere on the spectrum running from gamers to gamblers. Gamers are more interested in the game – what it can do, how it plays, and the social aspects of gaming. Gamblers are more motivated by the expected return.   Now this is a spectrum, and players are generally not at the ends: they are some mix of gamer and gambler. However, MTGO, and especially v4, have squashed the social aspects of the online game.  This means that the online players are skewed more towards gamblers.
I was going to make that assertion and move on, but I want to explain more. I prefer gamers vs gamblers to casual vs. competitive. I know some gamers who are very competitive and very much want to win, but who value things like creativity and exploration far more than prizes. They want to explore all aspects of the game, including the social and political aspects of the game. MTGO does a great job of setting up drafts and matches, but fails in most other areas. Chat and direct social interactions are almost non-existent. The matchmaking parts of the program don’t support the ability to create your own format, and requests like “no netdecks” or “casual gamers, please)” are impossible to enforce and generally invisible or ignored. The mantra that you can “play anything and concede when you want” in the casual room may be the only realistic / enforceable position, but it leaves the gamers who want to play less competitive decks no place to go. And then there is multiplayer – which is clearly not a priority for the MTGO design team. All this means that the gamer types tend to find MTGO unsatisfying, and stick to paper of leave for other games. 
The loss of these players has another impact: it wrecks the secondary market. In the paper world, causal/gamer players outnumber tournament players by an order of magnitude, and they buy cards that are fun and interesting, but not quite tournament quality, especially in eternal formats. Cards like Sliver Queen are expensive ($40-$50) in the paper world, despite not seeing Top 8 play in any sanctioned format in years. Online, you can get a foil copy for $0.60, because the causal player base just does not exist. 
Anyway, the point I am making is that MTGO & v4 have really cut back on the number of gamers online. The players who are left are generally gamblers, and are more motivated by EV and prizes.  At least partly by EV – players are not generally willing to play unfun formats, event when the EV is high. Masques block is an example: even though it had a very high potential for profit, players avoided it.  (Joshua being a notable exception.)
Wait, I’m talking like gamer/gambler is an either/or thing.  It’s not – it’s a spectrum. Players will fall somewhere on the spectrum. MTGO players just tend to skew slightly towards gamblers, but they are motivated to play both by the EV and how much fun they will have playing in the event. 
So, to attract players to an event, you need to either increase the fun component, or increase the prizes. Let’s look at fun, first. 
MTGO is what it is. The social aspects are lacking, and that won’t change soon. A large chunk of the player base don’t use chat at all, and what interaction there is tends to be between a streaming player and the people watching his/her stream. There is not much chance to change that anytime soon.
Vintage also has another problem: two of its main archetypes are not particularly fun to play against. Shops is basically mana denial, and Wizards learned a decade ago that land destruction was not fun. Wizards hasn’t printed Stone Rain or serious mana denial in a long time, but it lives on in Vintage. Likewise, control blue, with a ton of counterspells and the occasional board sweeper, is also an archetype Wizards won’t let return, but it is rampant in Vintage. That’s a defining part of Vintage, and I don’t really want to try and ban those archetypes, but it does create a bit of an impediment. New players who lose the die roll against Shops, and can never play a single spell all game, are less likely to want to pay to play again. Vintage is what it is.
That doesn’t mean that the social side has no place in growing the format. It can help – but the players themselves have to make it happen. For example, if an unfamiliar player gets creamed at FNM in my local store, the opponents and a few others often talk to the player after the match, offering advice, consolation, and a chance for the losing player to share some bad beats stories. That’s important, and the Vintage regulars may need to make it a point to tell each other when a new player gets blown out, then have other players initiate chats with the new player to make them welcome and dull the sting. Wizards promise to return event-specific chat may help here.
The biggest question, though, is how to raise the EV for Vintage. I have a lot of ideas – but I’ll have to save them for next week. Joshua is waiting for this article – I’m way past deadline.
Until next time.

Cutting Edge Tech:

Standard: Another week, another Standard GP. This week, Jeskai Aggro took it down.   So far, it looks like Jeskai, Mardu and Azban are battling it out for top of the heap, with Jeskai Ascendancy combo and various control decks looking, apparently in vain, for viable builds. Speed Red decks are also around, but it’s not clear if they are here to stay, or here until the other archetypes find answers.  
Jeskai Aggor
Matej Zatlkaj, Winner, GP Stockhom
3 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
4 Goblin Rabblemaster
7 cards

Other Spells
4 Seeker of the Way
4 Mantis Rider
2 Ashcloud Phoenix
3 Magma Jet
4 Lightning Strike
4 Jeskai Charm
3 Stoke the Flames
1 Gods Willing
2 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
1 Dig Through Time
1 Banishing Light
4 Mystic Monastery
12 cards
2 Island
2 Mountain
2 Plains
3 Shivan Reef
1 Temple of Epiphany
3 Flooded Strand
4 Temple of Triumph
3 Battlefield Forge
20 cards

Stoke the Flames
Modern: Not a lot of excitement in Modern at the moment. In the last two weeks I’ve showcased a burn deck with Bump in the Night, then a burn deck with Treasure Cruise. This week, something a bit different.    
Khans Block:   Wizards has started running KTK block events. I’m seeing Temur and Jeskai decks doing well, but the format is still in its early days.
Youbun, 4-0, KTK Block Constructed Daily #7589653 on 10/29/2014
2 Forest
4 Frontier Bivouac
6 Island
4 Mountain
2 Rugged Highlands
2 Swiftwater Cliffs
2 Thornwood Falls
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Ashcloud Phoenix
1 Hooded Hydra
4 Rattleclaw Mystic
2 Sagu Mauler
4 Savage Knuckleblade
2 Surrak Dragonclaw
4 Crater's Claws
3 Dig Through Time
3 Disdainful Stroke
3 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
3 Stubborn Denial
1 Tormenting Voice
2 Hooded Hydra
1 Dig Through Time
1 Disdainful Stroke
1 Stubborn Denial
4 Arc Lightning
2 Barrage of Boulders
1 Bear's Companion
1 Feed the Clan
1 Naturalize
1 Windstorm
Legacy: The Legacy Championship was last weekend. 481 players showed up. After ten rounds of Swiss, the Top 8 was six Delver decks, plus one Punishing Maverick and one “Helminator” – a Tezzeret combo deck.   The Top 8 had 24 Delvers and 21 Treasure Cruises. No surprise there. Eternal weekend coverage is here – with tabs for Legacy and Vintage.
Vintage:  The Vintage Super League is continuing, and the Round Robin event had the potential to end with an eight-way tie. It didn’t – Top 4 playoffs will involve LSV, Steve Menendian, Eric Froehlich and David Williams. Interesting – but this week the main Vintage news is that the Vintage Championship was won by a Griselbrand Oath deck. The Top 8 is here. The breakdown was two Oath decks, two Shops decks (1 Forgemaster combo), and four Delver/Young Pyromaster decks. Coverage is here.

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 have pretty much shaken out.   This week’s movement is all pretty minor. Until a new archetype shakes up the format, these prices should stay about where they are.

Standard & Block Cards
Last Week
% Change

Modern staples:  Modern prices dropped a bit again this week. Part of that is probably from the client issues, some from the lack of interest in the format at the moment, and some is from the preponderance of red decks alternating with Jeskai Ascendancy decks online. It makes Modern a bit boring.

Modern Cards
Last Week
% Change

Legacy / Vintage: Legacy and Vintage prices are down this week. The big impact seems to be Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time. These cards make cards like Wasteland and Tarmogoyf far worse, and Dig has largely replaced Dark Confidant. Treasure Cruise has also meant that Delver decks are not far better than Sneak and Show and the like.    

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 draftable.    

Complete Set
Last Week
% Change
Born of the Gods
Journey into Nix
Khans of Tarkir

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. Black Lotus continues to lead the pack, while Rishadan Port drops back a bit. What is more interesting is what Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time are doing to the format. Tarmogoyf and Wasteland are worse in a format relying on dredge cards, so they are down. Overall, thought, the list itself is shorter.   

Black Lotus
$   181.36
Rishadan Port
$   145.77
$   101.52
$ 89.12
$ 85.17
Mox Sapphire
$ 84.95
$ 80.64
Liliana of the Veil
$ 77.48
Ancestral Recall
$ 71.70
Force of Will
$ 58.05
Mox Jet
$ 56.78
Mox Opal
$ 53.87
Time Walk
$ 52.93
Vendilion Clique
$ 51.33
Vendilion Clique
$ 50.54
$ 49.46
Mox Ruby
$ 47.86
Show and Tell
$ 47.38
Mox Emerald
$ 41.05
Sneak Attack
$ 40.51
Tangle Wire
$ 39.87
Scalding Tarn
$ 39.58
Mox Pearl
$ 38.46
True-Name Nemesis
$ 38.32
Toxic Deluge
$ 35.63
$ 35.38
Hurkyl's Recall
$ 35.36
Undiscovered Paradise
$ 34.88
Force of Will
$ 34.80
Noble Hierarch
$ 34.53
Gaea's Cradle
$ 33.47
Lion's Eye Diamond
$ 32.03
Tezzeret the Seeker
$ 30.72
Infernal Tutor
$ 30.34
Karn Liberated
$ 29.82
Craterhoof Behemoth
$ 29.19
$ 28.96
Dark Depths
$ 28.74
$ 27.63
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
$ 27.14
Entreat the Angels
$ 27.11
Dark Confidant
$ 26.13


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 $ 25,250. That’s down about $150 from where we were last week. That’s insignificant.

Weekly Highlights:

I probably had some, but it is way past deadline. 
“one million words” 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 over 24,000 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 sets, but it includes a ton of Masters Edition and Vintage cards, and some nice Modern bargains. 


opinion section really by Bartimäus at Fri, 10/31/2014 - 11:39
Bartimäus's picture

opinion section really hitting the nail today - tx, for your ongoing efforts!

Chat by enderfall at Fri, 10/31/2014 - 12:03
enderfall's picture

I have to admit, adding "chat" to events is not fixing the inherent broken nature of communication on the client as a whole. If there is something as unfunctional and useless as chat is on the client, I have yet to find it, which is saying something.

Currently, there is no benefit to being in a clan. What does it even offer?

Also, communicating with friends on MTGO is more difficult than dialing into AOL and using IM back in 1999. Seriously, chat is completely useless on MTGO. Why can't we do basic things like ship someone a decklist that we are working on (decks are saved server side afterall...)? Why can't we have the option to voice chat? There are some many things that WotC could be doing to fix how we communicate with each other on MTGO, but it's being ignored, completely.

People complain that MTGO looks dated or lacks UI functionality that has been around for 10 years or so, yet from a communication standpoint, MTGO is worse than rotary telephones.

CF: my last article's main by Paul Leicht at Fri, 10/31/2014 - 13:13
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CF: my last article's main point. Chat sucks and needs to be improved. Will it happen? No idea but based on past performance, not soon. Because the v4 shell was stripped down, we lost much of the limited functionality we had in v3 and then because someone nitwit decided that the only possible future has every household with multiple screens, chat was degraded to pretty much nil. This needs fixing or as I said WOTC may face a crisis of confidence that goes beyond whether the client is comfortable to use, playable, good at some things, etc. There will always be detractors anyway but the lack of chat = no community.

I was playing against a guy by Wikki at Fri, 10/31/2014 - 18:13
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I was playing against a guy last night, won the game and he messaged me afterwards basically saying 'gg' and 'i was going to say neat deck and good match but you left without saying anything'

I replied back basically saying sorry and that people just don't talk in the game anymore since v4 so i don't pay attention to it anymore.

I used to talk all the time in v3... but I don't do it anymore in v4. The removal of the right-click quick text really destroyed it. V4 looks horrible with the chat window up, and I've gone to the end of matches and only notice then that someone said hello at the start.

I also used to just hang out in the just-for-fun area and chat with other players until the orcs would squash our fun. I don't even think I know where to look for common chat room if it still exists.

I guess I'm getting what I want out of the game, and that's quick games of magic in my undies, but I watch videos of paper players talking to one another during games, and in between and wonder why there is no option for voice chat if both parties want to?

V4 has definitely taken away the social part of the game for me, and now that I'm talking about it, I kinda miss it.

Regarding reimbursement. by Hearts at Fri, 10/31/2014 - 12:16
Hearts's picture

Some time ago Pete Jahn wrote that WotC had said the following (not exact quote);
It is unacceptable (and reportable) that a player pointlessly activates a 0:ability
multiple times in order to try lessen opponents' clock (possibly timing out
and loosing the match).

This jerk-move is especially effectful against newer players that not yet have
learnt to use F2/4/6/etc.

So the question is; will these players that face such jerks get reimbursed ?
And should the mtgo team dig up old reports of such behaviour and reimburse them
even if the reimbursement requests are several years old ?

My personal experience (once as a new player) is that these reimbursement requests
did not get approved by wotc (simply received a blanco reply that suggested I look
at my internet connections/isp).

Edit; oh yes, there were some matches/drafts that I would have won with just 10-30 seconds extra time on the clock facing such jerks. I remember one of them doing it for many turns towards the end of match.

They don't refund those. Once by TugaChampion at Fri, 10/31/2014 - 19:50
TugaChampion's picture

They don't refund those. Once I lost a match that I was winning the following turn to something like that and I reported it. They said the usual thing about reports that they will look into it but they can't tell you if they're gonna act or not (and if they do what was the punishment). I replied that that was fine but I wanted to be refunded because I lost prizes thanks to those actions and they said they couldn't refund for things caused by other players.

Yep consider that nail by Paul Leicht at Fri, 10/31/2014 - 13:30
Paul Leicht's picture

Yep consider that nail hammered. Pete, I played with Kurt and some Colorado players (Mary Frane and her friends) in this crazy pre Planechase style chaos pick up game at PTNY 2001. He seemed pretty nice. And it was a fun time which tragically was overshadowed a few days later by 911.

I remember looking up 5 color rules after and thinking...what a mess! I'd perused Brian Kibler's 5c deck and then a few other people's decks at the PT but I couldn't really grasp it. I don't think 5c had any sort of focus at that point. I do remember some decks were fully sleeved. So was that a rule or merely a custom?

Of course this is ancient history now and I guess Prismatic on MTGO is the surviving heir to that variant. Niche formats come and go all the time though. Vintage should NOT be a niche format by anyone's definition. I mean why bother bringing it to Online at all if you are going to pull the plug a mere half a year later? That isn't sensible, imho. Which leads to the point you made that I most want to address and did so a little in response to Enderfall's commentary.

Chat is vital to the health of the Online game. I don't agree with you that MTGO is comprised mostly of Gamblers. I think many players are waiting in the wings for things like Leagues (an inherently social idea imho) and for stuff like TWL to be fixed (yet again...) and for chat to become useful again and clans to become a not joke (I think Beta was the last time being in a clan meant anything to me and I am currently clanless for about a year or 2 now.)

Thanks for once again putting your opinion out there for us to read, dissect and learn from.

Oh and for the record I am probably 99% Gamer/1% Gambler from your definition of player types so I may be the odd man out here. I stopped drafting after ALA block and never really felt the urge since then. I hate burning tix. :)

I remember 5-color by Jyalt at Fri, 10/31/2014 - 14:13
Jyalt's picture

I won my Chaos Orb through playing in one of their championships qualifiers. Part of the big reason behind five color's decline was Hahn's disorganization and lackluster follow-up. A buddy of mine, Mike Esau, also won a qualifier and was supposed to get a Chaos Orb for it, and to this day doesn't have it. Never got my Mox Crystal (remember those? still not sure they didn't violate copyright somehow).

You didn't need all the fetches and duals to be 5-competitive. You didn't even need power. What you absolutely needed were 4 Contract from Below and cheap tutors to get and rebuy your contracts like Demonic Tutor, Mystical Tutor, Deja Vu, Regrowth, Personal Tutor, and towards the end of the format the transmute cards in the first Ravnica block. My five color deck had no big money in it (remember.. an ante format!) and still got there on the back of maximizing Contract From Below with beatdown. Did have 4 Sensei's Tops (back then they were a $2 uncommon) and a full set of Mirage fetch lands though. Forget Derelor and Nettletooth... Blastoderm was my big guy, and he was backed by Hull Breaches and Thran Foundries to stop combo. It worked surprisingly well. 1st turn sol ring, 2nd turn fires of yavimaya, 3rd turn Blastoderm once won me a money card (wasn't power, but was worth like ~$55) and I still remember that triumphant feeling (but not the name of the card, because it was traded back to its owner. Keeping ante with no recourse was looked at as a jerk move).

While Pete doesn't mention it, the OTHER big barrier to five-color was people were scared to risk their power in ante, and the general (incorrect) impression was you had to play power to win. I stopped playing the format due to organizational issues, though power-based deck domination may have become the case as more and more tutors and fetch lands were printed, reducing variance and raising combo percentages. I met some of the guys on the five-color banning council, and they had pet cards which they protected from bans or adamantly kept banned (yeah, those cards were in their decks or beat those decks). Like you could use Gifts Ungiven x4 for a ridiculously long time and I'd be willing to bet Holistic Wisdom is still on the banned list today.

I think you mean to say that by enderfall at Fri, 10/31/2014 - 16:15
enderfall's picture

I think you mean to say that redemption of ISD, DKA, and AVR are being taken down next week. You haven't been able to buy packs of ISD block for about a year.

I would disagree that it is by Cownose at Fri, 10/31/2014 - 16:35
Cownose's picture

I would disagree that it is the Blue Mana Drain decks that keep people away from Vintage. True control (boring draw-go with a ton of counters) does not really exist as a thing in Vintage because Combo-Control is so much more broken. Most of the control lists only run 6 nonconditional hard counters (4x FoW and 2x Drain) and a smattering of other permission (5 or 6 copies of Misstep/Flusterstorm/ReB). In my opinion those are the decks that draw people to Vintage rather than scare them off (because those big blue lists are really the only decks that take full advantage of 8 pieces of power and a good chunk of the restricted list now that Storm is no longer a major player).

I would much rather point toward Dredge as the unfun culprit there, as even Vintage enthusiasts loathe playing the matchup (it is basically a glorified coin flip regardless of skill level) and having to spend 1/2 your SB to have any chance against a deck that makes up less than 10% of the field has ripple consequences for the rest of the meta as well. If you removed dredge (would anybody miss it?) it would weaken shops and combo by opening up SB slots with which to fight those decks.

I agree with you on the blue by TugaChampion at Fri, 10/31/2014 - 19:46
TugaChampion's picture

I agree with you on the blue mana drain decks.

However I somewhat disagree with the dredge part. Do I want to play against dredge every other round? Certainly not. But once in a while it's fine. I do have 6 slots against it and I have won more than I have lost. Dredge is also a way cheaper Vintage deck for people who wanna try it out while not spending too much money.

I know Dredge is very powerful but it's easily hateble and once you start banning/restricting stuff, that opens up a lot more bans/restrictions.

I think Shops is similar to dredge but instead of killing you in a way no other deck does, it makes you not play any spells and kills with some creatures. They are pretty different but both try to make you not play magic. And shops should be part of the meta as well. Those decks keep the format from being a bunch of blue decks (which I also like but not if every single deck is a blue deck).

From what I've played on mtgo, neither shops or dredge have showed up too much.

You're right, the game is by ArchGenius at Fri, 10/31/2014 - 22:17
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You're right, the game is heavily skewed towards gamblers over gamers.

The reason why WotC caters to gamblers in this way is simple. The underlying architecture of magic online can't support that many players without crashing.

Drafts and large tournaments bring in real revenue. Players that draft 5-10 times a week bring in real revenue. Casual players are just taking up limited server capacity without producing much profit. Sure, those casual players may occasionally enter a draft or spend a little money on the game, but WotC doesn't have the resources to do much to support casual gamers. If they did more to support casual players, they would attract more casual players, which would crash the game, which would drive away the profitable players.

Hearthstone on the other hand has the server capacity to support casual gamers that aren't spending much money. That would probably explain why Hearthstone can attract many more players with a game that is about the complexity equivalent of one Magic set.

This,This,This by Revolver Ocelot at Fri, 10/31/2014 - 23:36
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I can not agree with you more.

I am not disagreeing with by Paul Leicht at Sat, 11/01/2014 - 00:17
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I am not disagreeing with your premise, though the facts don't entirely support it.

A friend who has spent thousands of dollars on MTGO has recently sold off her immense and pretty much complete foil collection in order to safely hedge her bets. She is a Gamer not a Gambler in that she does not playing in Tourney. Her big joy in the game is/was playing with powerful cards in a casual environment.

I myself have spent a bit of money on the game though not THIS year or last. In fact soon after the wide beta spotlights began I put more money into the game than I have ever done in the past. (I had an already decent collection from writing and careful trading + a few gifts here and there. But I felt like I was missing important elements so I put real money in when I had the opportunity. Heck I want WOTC to do well as much anyone.)

I know this is anecdotal but many many casual players I know walk the line between budget and expense sometimes putting in more money than the average drafter. Now a lot of those Gamers have pulled out and sold their collections. Leaving gamblers with less of an outlet for their draft leavings.

And I know that many casual gamers cross over into gambling eventually if they are encouraged to by a friendly collectable environment. Now would be a poor example of that.

Also welcome back Marcus, I hope this means you will be writing again soon. :D

As for Hearthstone, Blizzard will never get another dime from me after their D3/ login fiasco. Paying good money for a game should mean you get to actually play it. Not be shut out by a lousy DRM.

I'm talking about the bigger by ArchGenius at Sat, 11/01/2014 - 13:10
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I'm talking about the bigger picture.

If magic crashes whenever it reaches (I'm not sure of the numbers) 7000-9000 players online at once, then there really isn't room for players to be playing matches in the casual room. To me, that is a monumentally huge issue that needs to be addressed. If that is not addressed, then any community call to increase casual support is going to fall on deaf ears.

Most of the suggestions that I and many others have made for Magic Online to increase casual support has already been done by Hearthstone.

casual game quitters - In Hearthstone token gold prizes are awarded for winning a casual game, I've faced very few quitters in Hearthstone.

extra cards and items are useless and cluttering up collections - In Hearthstone extra cards can be converted into dust which can be used to forge desired cards

Tournaments take too long - In Hearthstone, arena is similar to a draft but the matches can be played whenever you want to play them. No waiting.

Special format support - Is not really there in Hearthstone, but there are player vs. computer matches set up with specialized opponents and player decks that offer some variety.

Magic Online can't work on any of these things until they have enough virtual real estate to house casual players and competitive players.

Catering only to the serious players is a short term strategy. It isn't doing much to support the game and future serious players of the game in the long term. But, if the server space isn't there, what else can you do?

I haven't played much magic in the last three months. I'm tired of spending $12-14 in drafts and feeling like I'm playing a loser's game over and over again. The high cost of playing also makes people into jerks. It's painful to watch a losing opponent whine and complain about luck and bad draws and how terrible it is to lose money on the game when they're playing a swiss draft. If they weren't putting so much money into the game, I'm betting they would feel better about it.

I'm a nickel and dime gambler and Magic Online is just too high stakes for me. In Hearthstone, anyone can go infinite without much skill involved. It's all about how fast you want to develop your decks.

I am curious where you get by Paul Leicht at Sat, 11/01/2014 - 13:33
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I am curious where you get this idea that it is the casual players that crash the servers. It isn't. It is the way tourneys are configured that crash the servers. It is the stress of having x number of people in an event that crash the servers. The casual players aren't causing any of that stress.

I do feel you on the spending part. I think for most players drafts are a sucker's bet and sealed is even worse. The house always wins. That said, there has to be some pay off so some get lucky and continue. I was fairly near infinite with shards but that ended quickly enough when shards was replaced with the 3 set packs.

As for the whining well that is pretty natural amongst gamblers eh? As I said, if Blizzard had not burned the bridge I might be more interested in hearthstone but really MTG is where it is at for me anyway. The rest of the card games are just bad substitutes. At least so far.

I'm actually not saying that by ArchGenius at Sun, 11/02/2014 - 09:49
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I'm actually not saying that casual players are the cause of the crashes. I'm saying that having a bunch of casual players not spending money on the servers that already seem fragile enough is probably not going to help the situation.

I believe that the current round of crashes seems to be related to what you are describing, but I don't think there are a bunch of WotC people saying that what we need right now is more casual players. They are focused on protecting their revenue sources, and any ideas that are brought up to support casual players are going to meet scrutiny with the server stability issue.

SO your premise is that the by Paul Leicht at Sun, 11/02/2014 - 10:04
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SO your premise is that the WOTC people in charge of deciding what gets fixed (first or at all) aka the triage unit, are cynically deciding to forget about keeping their casual player base in the hopes that that won't matter because they will make up for the losses (and they will suffer losses through the collapse of the secondary market if the casual base completely disappears) by increasing the amount of drafters even though most people who draft will only draft if they think they can get some positive value (ie offsetting the costs) from doing so, even if they don't make the finals of the 4332s and 84s?

Because that seems unlikely to me. As I see it, there is a critical mass that the MTGO player base needs in order to support the draft leavings sales (aka the Secondary Market). And if that collapses, drafters will suddenly have no reason to sell their cards (pennies on the dollar would be foolish indeed) and thus have less incentive to draft repeatedly since they won't be making some of their losses back.

Keeping in mind that MOST drafters don't go infinite on winnings.

The secondary market has by ArchGenius at Sun, 11/02/2014 - 15:25
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The secondary market has largely collapsed already. Most of the development updates I've read have stated that stability is the primary and practically only concern.

"The secondary market has by Paul Leicht at Mon, 11/03/2014 - 00:30
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"The secondary market has largely collapsed already" I haven't seen evidence of that. Collapsing in some areas yes (Dragon's Maze = 23-25 a set but since it costs so much to redeem and it isn't relevant in most formats that isn't too hard to understand.).

Collapsed? Not yet. Cards still have value to intermediary bots. Where the market has been failed for a while is in player to player trading but that happened pre V4 afaik. The bots seem to be going strong.

VMA has strongly declined to a certain level but it has not collapsed. It may yet, but I suspect the decline had a more concrete cause than player disaffection. Probably the wearing off of excitement of the set + hoarders selling off their stock piles in a panic over v4 led to a depresssed market. At least that is what I suspect, having no proof one way or the other.

The main thing is people who are selling out now, are probably still hoping to buy back in at a later date. That hope may dwindle to nothing if WOTC doesn't do something to repair the damage done to date.

I think you over-estimate the by Rerepete at Tue, 11/04/2014 - 10:48
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I think you over-estimate the complexity of Hearthstone. It caught my interest for about a week before it got boring.

V4 and hearthstone by Strahd at Sat, 11/01/2014 - 07:14
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Paul, good thing, then, that you can keep playing Hearthstone without paying a dime! Lol. Kidding aside, I still check here, hoping that MtGO will be fixed, but I haven't spent a dime on it since the change. The software is just horrible and the issues are just too numerous to continue to pay to play. I was their favorite kind of player, I stink at it but enjoy playing, so I spent a ton of money on the game. Unfortunately for them, I have been playing Hearthstone now (it's ok) and have been spending my hobby money now on bow hunting and outdoor activities (even bought a new rifle and bow with my MtGO money). Not sure I'm coming back at this point, the online interest is low.

I docked my chat during the by JXClaytor at Sat, 11/01/2014 - 22:23
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I docked my chat during the ptq today. I also docked it while recording some two mans last week. It was never used in the ptq, and rarely used in the two mans, but I docked it just to see if people would talk or would respond to being talked to.

Docking Chat by The Milk Man at Sun, 11/02/2014 - 10:02
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It is frustrating that the chat doesn't permanently stay docked and that you have to re-dock it each game. Sometimes it doesn't give me the option to dock it at all either. If it was just permanently docked it would be close to being as good as the V3 chat.

I wanted to dock it to the by JXClaytor at Sun, 11/02/2014 - 16:22
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I wanted to dock it to the bottom, and could not do that, I just want to try it as many different places as I can until it feels right.

Odd, it stays docked for me by longtimegone at Mon, 11/03/2014 - 04:23
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Odd, it stays docked for me about 90% of the time, I only rarely have to re-dock the chat.

I have to redock every time I by JXClaytor at Mon, 11/03/2014 - 06:34
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I have to redock every time I log in

That and randomly after some by Paul Leicht at Mon, 11/03/2014 - 08:14
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That and randomly after some concessions (who conceded doesn't matter as long as someone in the match conceded.)

That could be it. I do tend by longtimegone at Fri, 11/07/2014 - 08:04
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That could be it. I do tend to just leave my MTGO client logged in for days at at time.

Good news for Vintage: this by TugaChampion at Mon, 11/03/2014 - 04:08
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Good news for Vintage: this weekend I played 3 Vintage DEs instead of the usual 1. I couldn't play on Friday so maybe more fired but on Saturday I played 2 so at least 2 fired as well as 1 on Sunday. This means that reducing the number of events has probably helped a bit.

MY DUAL LAND ART IS FIXED! by mindlesslemming at Thu, 11/06/2014 - 17:39
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