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By: SteveJeltz, Rev. David Wright
Apr 02 2018 12:00pm
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 Why Buying into Pauper Is An Amazing Investment


Rishadan Cutpurse


A bit about me: 

I'm an average Magic player. Okay... maybe I'm slightly better than average. Checking in with my ELO, I have a combined rating of 1750, which means I win about 55-57% of my games. Part of this is that I stick to the formats that I practice and enjoy, which tend to be about the lowest level of competition that still involves prizes, usually Intermediate Draft Leagues, Friendly Sealed Leagues, and Friendly Constructed Leagues. The other reason that maybe I'm slightly above average is that I play a lot, have played a lot for a long time, and I've seen a thing or two.

But I'm no magic pro. I have no illusions about being a magic pro. I've lost enough games in random leagues to real magic pros to know that they will in general be able to outplay me. And I have no taste for the competitive 8-4 draft queues, the competitive sealed queues, or the competitive constructed leagues because I know it's where better players play, and I also don't enjoy the variance of losing big and winning bigger.

But in spite of my mediocrity, I have made a lot of money on MTGO. Enough money to not only by every card I could ever want for constructed play, but also to store up a little stash of event tickets for a rainy day. I've made a lot of money in spite of my mediocrity. And you can too. Here's how:



The Math Is In Your Favor

When you play Magic Online, the prize payout for different formats varies dramatically by the format you choose. For an MTGO average player (ELO=1679), the vast majority of the time you play magic with prizes on the line, you are going to lose money, especially when you draft.

Here's the average amount you lose, per transaction, of some of the most popular on-demand styles of play:

Sealed Friendly League +2 (adding both boosters): -6.68 tix

Rivals / Rivals / Ixalan Intermediate Draft League: -4.62 tix

Masters 25 Intermediate Draft League: -7.81 tix

Two-Player Constructed Queue: -0.25 tix


Conjured Currency


The sole exception to this Lose Money rule are the Constructed Leagues, whose prizes are so generous that an average player actually is rewarded for playing rather than taking a net loss:

Friendly Constructed League: +0.66 tix

Competitive Constructed League: +0.45 tix

All constructed leagues pay out the same prize scale, regardless of format. The only differences are that if you play Standard or Modern Constructed, you get to pick between the Friendly Leagues (better, flatter payout) or the Competitive Constructed Leagues (Awards MOCS Qualifier Points), but if you play Legacy, Vintage or 1 vs. 1 Commander, then Competitive Leagues are your only choice. But all Pauper play is in the more financially lucrative and less financially risky Friendly side.

So in conclusion, every time that you, the average MTGO player, draft, you're paying Wizards about 4.62 tickets for the privilege and joy of drafting.

But every time you complete a 5-Round Friendly Constructed League, regardless of the format, Wizards is paying you 0.66 tickets for your participation. 

So if Prizes are the same, why not pick the cheapest format?

As I said before, the prize payout is the same for all the Friendly Leagues: Standard, Modern or Pauper, so why not pick the one that takes the least financial investment?

While you can always buy into a budget deck for Standard or Modern, the very best Pauper decks in the format only run around 100 tickets, compared to Tier 1 Standard decks (about 200 tickets), or Tier 1 Modern decks (about 200-1000 tickets!) 

Here is a deck list for the current top dog of Pauper, Izzet Delver, fully upgraded, the same deck that is dominating the Sunday Pauper Challenges:



Friendly League Prizes Will Pay You Back For Your Deck

If you buy this deck out-of-the-box, fully upgraded and ready to go, pricing the cheapest available cards, it's going to cost you 121.10 tickets.

Now, one of the big arguments I hear against buying into Pauper is that the cards are worthless. And while they buy/ask spread on Paper cards for commons is not very good, on MTGO, you're going to get most of your money back in selling the deck, even in Pauper. 

Should you take this same Izzet Delver list, the one you bought for 121.10 tickets and sell the deck, the deck's current buylist price is 96.87 tickets.

That's an incredible ratio! Based on current prices you would get 80% of your buy price back that you invested in the deck whenever you cash out.

The difference between the buy and sell price of the most expensive Pauper deck, Izzet Delver is only 24.23 tickets.

That's less than 10 Treasure Chests, based on current prices! So if you managed to go 3-2; 4-1; 3-2; 4-1 in your first four Friendly Leagues, you will have already made money playing Pauper.

But even if you're not that successful, even if you only win 50% of your matches, you still win earn 0.66 tickets per league. So if you are able to complete 37 Friendly Pauper Leagues without any improvement over the 50% win threshold in spite of playing the best Tier 1 deck in the format, you will still get paid back in Treasure Chests for your participation in the Friendly Pauper League.



Everybody Wins

Magic doesn't need to be a zero sum game! Wizards is subsidizing all of us to play Constructed Magic, especially cheap formats like Pauper. 

And of course, as a Pauper aficionado, I would love to see you playing more Pauper too. 

If you'd like more great Pauper content, follow us weekly at

Keep having fun out there,



re by Hearts at Mon, 04/02/2018 - 14:33
Hearts's picture

How do you know that the average mtgo elo rating is 1679 ?

MTGO Elo ratings by SteveJeltz at Mon, 04/02/2018 - 15:23
SteveJeltz's picture runs an EV calculator that estimates winnings per event participation based on ELO rating or win percentage. A 1679 Elo rating corresponds to a 50% win percentage.