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By: hamtastic, Erik Friborg
Jan 01 2009 10:59pm
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Editorial Section:

It seems that at the end of every year we get a slew of lists.  And just like every good lemming, I want to follow the croud too!  Without further ado, here are some lists:

Five largest lawsuits against V3 (acquired from various legal documents.... or possibly made up by me):

5) Copyright Infringement - Signed, Microsoft Excel

4) Crimes against humanity - Signed, The eyeballs of MTGO Users of V3.0.0.0

3) Extortion - Signed, The wallets of MTGO Players

2) Gibberish Features - Signed, Windows ME.

1) Defamation of Character - Signed, MTGO V2.5

Five things MTGO V3 actually beat to market:

5) Starcraft II

4) Spore

3) Hero's Journey

2) Chinese Democracy

1) Duke Nukem Forever

Silliness aside, a topic came up this week that really got me thinking... the constant evolution of playing Magic.

I started thinking more about this when I was musing for a reply to the 100Card Singleton issues (linked in the Discussion Items below) and trying to figure out what percentage of players that join playing Block/Standard ever move into the 'niche' formats.  I still don't know the answer to that, but just thinking about it has given me a lot to gibber on about.

1) Magic hasn't changed.  I (we/you) have.
There was a time when I was shocked at how much the game had changed.  The mystery was gone, the focus was different, the game play had changed.

Or so I thought.  It wasn't until I took a step back and looked at the situation that I realized that the game was almost identical to the magical time that I first started learning about it.  It was that I had changed.  My goals had changed, my focus had changed, my level of knowledge had increased and the burning mysteries had been extinguished.  It wasn't until this point in my MTGO career that I realized I had become a limited Spike.  I wasn't having fun unless I was winning.  Anything else was a waste of time.  I had thought that MTGO had become more cut-throat, less fun.  When the reality was that I had made it that way through my own actions and perceptions.  From that day forward I started a personal crusade.  A crusade to bring myself back ot the fun, the exhilaration of Johnny/Timmy magic.  Back to the time when I'd run a crazy deck, built from scratch around an idea that came to me.  A crusade to focus on playing the game as a game, instead of means of validation (which is what my limited playing had become; a validation tool).  A crusade to focus on fun over winning.  I'm still fighting this battle.  It's amazingly hard to stop being a Spike player and go back to the 'ignorant bliss' of silly, fun, casual play. 

2) Magic is a daunting game.
No really, it is.  Once you hit a certain level, you know most of the cards.  You know most of the strategies.  New cards are just old versions of card x from set y.  But not to new players.  To new and returning players the amount of knowledge needed is vast and sometimes scary.  Thankfully, they've scaled down the amount of new cards coming into the game by reducing the set size.  I really think that this will help new players join in the game by reducing the first step of the learning curve.  Joining Standard during the Coldsnap, Time Spiral Bonus era was ridiculous.  It involved a HUGE amount of cards in two seperate 'special' ways of getting them into the game.  We're now looking at a much more manageable level of cards now that those two monsters are out of the room.  I'm not sure if it's to be credited with the influx of new players, but I'm sure it's not hurting matters at all.

3) Counterspells are new player cards.
This one came as a surprise to me.  I've been giving out cards a lot lately (either my own, or WotC provided theme decks, or cards from my 10k for 10k project) and the majority of new players I'm interacting with either have the Arcanis' Guile Theme Deck, or want a copy of it.  Althought it might be tied into the previous topic, which is that Magic is a very large, difficult and daunting game.  There's a certain amount of comfort from running cards that can answer pretty much everything you'll run into.  This is also why a lot of high level players will bring either a control or aggro deck to an unknown format.  When you don't know what to expect, it's nice to be ready for anything.  And when you know less than 1% of the cards in the format, there is a beautiful simplicity to this.  For this reason, I'm completely and utterly against 'unspoken rules' in any room of MTGO.  Given the new players propensity to running counterspells, it makes next to no sense to remove anything from the equation without it being expressly stated up front.

4) When you're bored with Magic, it's time to change it up.
Magic is such a flexible game.  I've seen quite a few people take a break from Magic, citing many different reasons.  Usually though it's due to it becoming stale or formuliac in some way.  If that's how you're starting to feel, or have felt for a while, I'd strongly recommend trying your hand at some of the more restictive formats, like 100 Card Singleton, Pauper or Peasant.  I generally find that breaking into a format that has little to no prior history is a great way to get the creative juices flowing.  For example, I've been huge into Peasant lately (which I discuss a bit
here).  The format is largely uncharted right now, and there's a lot of potential for new and creative decks.  It's just one example of the many, many, many tiers on which you can enjoy this game.  If none of them speak to you, then it may indeed be time for a break for a liitle while.  The cliche saying "Absence makes the heart grow fonder" is cliche for a reason... because it's largely true.  Taking a month or two off from Magic when it's feeling stale can often give you a new perspective once you return.

And here's where the introduction comes in... these niche formats open up a great deal of opportunity for player retention in the long run of MTG and MTGO.  Once Standard gets boring, once you know all the cards and are used to the strategies... what now?  Niche formats.  They aren't the thing that draw in new players.  At least, not most new players.  But they're the thing that give them something to try out, to move into, to struggle with again.  It's that struggle to achieve that drives many of us.  It's that struggle to achieve that keeps us coming back.

Discussion Items:

The launch of myMTGO -
If you've never used a site like Facebook or MySpace or the ilk, then this will seem like a strange set-up.  The technical term is "Social Networking".  The easiest way to describe it is "keeping in touch with friends".  You update your profile and talk and the friends you've connected with get to see and comment on your stuff.  If you've never seen the reason for joining one of the other communities like this, I'd highly recommend taking a look at this one.  It's tied to your MTGO account which makes it a lot more interesting for us.

100 Card Singleton (100CS) Issues -
100CS is already showing signs of struggling and some players are brainstorming ideas about how to help stabilize and grow the format.  There's a lot of interesting ideas for the format.

MTGO Enforcement Discussion -
The difference between reporting MTGO cheating and MTGP(aper) cheating has created a VERY heated debate, as does any moral/ethics based thread on any message board on the internet.  Some good WotC comments are nestled into the thread from WotC_MattT.

Random Prismatic Discussions -
Shopping List
Prismatic PE
If you've built up a decent collection you've probably put your toe into the icy waters of Prismatic in the past.  Over the past few months there have been quite a few large changes to the format.  If you haven't tried the format out lately, I'd recommend taking a look at the differences that the newest changes have brought with them.

Redemption Returns... kind of.  Almost. -
Yeah.  So close.  At least we've had some sort of successful redemption requests before the process imploded.  Maybe next week we can get the whole lot of them out of the system and can actually see what impact their removal will have on the MTGO economy.

Card Prices:

Speaking of the MTGO Economy...  here's my favorite weekly chart: the movers and shakers!

Card name: Last Week This week Percentage Changed
Serum Powder 0.29 0.77 165.52%
Thunderbolt 0.48 1.21 152.08%
Night of Souls' Betrayal 0.58 1.46 151.72%
Obsidian Acolyte 0.02 0.05 150.00%
Sygg, River Cutthroat 0.15 0.35 133.33%
Rogue Elephant 0.48 0.97 102.08%
Crypt Rats 0.24 0.48 100.00%
Harvest Wurm 0.1 0.19 90.00%
River Boa 0.48 0.86 79.17%
Crime/Punishment 0.7 1.25 78.57%
Card name: Last Week This week Amount Changed
Tarmogoyf 12 15 3
Engineered Explosives 19.8 22.77 2.97
Phyrexian Dreadnought 19.8 22.77 2.97
Orim's Chant 37.62 39.6 1.98
Chrome Mox 17.82 19.8 1.98
Bloodstained Mire 10.89 12.87 1.98
Sulfuric Vortex 3.92 5.88 1.96
Mutavault 18 19.5 1.5
Tradewind Rider 1.5 2.5 1
Wooded Foothills 9.9 10.89 0.99
Card name: Last Week This week Percentage Changed
Sacred Mesa 2.43 1.94 -20.16%
Wanderwine Prophets 0.15 0.12 -20.00%
Altar of Dementia 2.5 2 -20.00%
Doomsday Specter 3.43 2.94 -14.29%
Privileged Position 2 1.75 -12.50%
Painter's Servant 2 1.75 -12.50%
Solitary Confinement 1.94 1.7 -12.37%
Bringer of the Black Dawn 1.94 1.7 -12.37%
Mephidross Vampire 1.94 1.7 -12.37%
Brood Sliver 1.94 1.7 -12.37%
Card name: Last Week This week Amount Changed
Undermine 10.89 9.9 -0.99
Wrath of God 14.85 13.86 -0.99
Reflecting Pool 12.75 12 -0.75
Altar of Dementia 2.5 2 -0.5
Cryptic Command 9 8.5 -0.5
Grindstone 11 10.5 -0.5
Arcbound Ravager 11.39 10.89 -0.5
Stifle 12.38 11.88 -0.5
Wrath of God 13.37 12.87 -0.5
Wrath of God 15.35 14.85 -0.5

I don't have the numbers loaded from last week, but I'll breifly mention what I saw then: 17 of the top 20 percentage increasing cards were Commons.  Mostly burn and counters, to be precise, all thanks to the huge surge in Pauper decks.

This week, we have a few more commons in the mix, but not nearly as many.  Instead, we see a few surprising (to me, anyway) cards.

Surprise #1: Night of Souls' Betrayal.  This sleeper from Kami block has recently exploded.  I would have to imagine that it's due to Faeries being so strong in Extended, and this is a great way to hose 'em up.

Surprise #2: Serum Powder.  People mocked this card when it was first spoiled.  Remove your whole hand?  PFFT!  You know the drill.  Its effect is hard to ignore in combo decks that need a fairly specific set of cards to work though.  Evidently being used in an Extended combo deck or somesuch.

Surprise #3: Crime/Punishment.  Evidently there's a Rock build in the works that can use this card.  Have I completely exhausted my ignorance of Extended yet?

Continuing on with the great idea of listing out what has happened with specific cards:





Sure, it's only up to about 30 cents, but considering it had stabilized below 5 cents, that's a sizeable jump.

River Boa

And another recent jump, but this time for the aforementioned Night of Souls' Betrayal. 

River Boa


The much beloved River Boa is flirting with the amazing 1 dollar price range.  Again, probably due to its game against the manabase of many often played decks in the Pauper format.

Last up is the overall health of the MTGO economy. 

And in complete reverse of the Global Economy, it's holding steady and yes, even getting better.  For me, I attribute it to the hefty return of old players, the joining of new players and the impending return of redemption.



In what I can only call "pretty awesome", we've seen a steady climb in the health of MTGO economy in the couple of weeks.  Enough so that I'm constantly getting more and more optimistic about the fate of our game.  Player numbers are steadily rising.  Card prices are climbing, and WotC is actually listening to feedback from its players.  Now all we need is leagues and 2HG Tournaments and we're golden!


Night's moves by Rerepete at Sat, 01/03/2009 - 12:24
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Night of soul's betrayal also affects white weenie / exalted decks.

by Anonymous(Unregistered) (not verified) at Sat, 01/03/2009 - 13:35
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V3 is better stability-wise, but v2 was soooo much better in aesthetics and interface.  Take a look at this random video I found of a v2 replay: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xkgl6v6Tqcc 

Notice the nice, wide play area.  Notice how when there's a couple cards out they don't get *huge* like in v3 which is just unnappealing.  Notice the text box at the *bottom* which is normal and good and makes me happy to see again.  Also notice the general soft, appealing feel to the interface.  No ugly black/gold stuff, no white text on an ugly black background.  And imagine how much more quickly and satisfying you could navigate and play the game.  V3 is never going to be as good as V2, and I seriously doubt they're ever gonna mke a V4.

by blandestk at Sat, 01/03/2009 - 21:42
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Couldn't agree more.

why I don't play 100 any more...... by Ex 100 player(Unregistered) (not verified) at Mon, 01/05/2009 - 07:10
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Sorry to jack this thread but for some reason I can't post on the main one you link to in your article.

Obviously I can only speak for myself but I couldn't find anyone considering the following reasoning in the lack of 100 players.

OK, I like playing competative Magic however I can't afford to play 'real' magic in any of the formats.  Because of this the 100 queue became appealing.  Roughly 1/4 of the cost of real magic.  It was still expensive but I could afford to scrape together a single deck.  Then along comes Pauper.  My single deck for 100 is sold and replaced by all the cards necessary for me to build six (counte em.... six!) Tier 1 pauper decks and have quite a few tix left over to enter the queues.  I can now play competative magic where I can take the deck I feel will work best against the current meta into the queue.  With 100 I took my only deck, simple as that.  I now have a format where I can work on my decklists, making changes and altering the sideboard for a few cents a try.  In 100 I had no sideboard and most rares were too expensive for me to gamble on them being a good alteration.  Heck I could go 10 games and never see the new card I was trying to test.  I appreciate that my view of the MTGO world is just that.  A personal perspective.  However that is why I gave up 100. 

Now don't blame Pauper because without it I would have probably given up MTGO at the same time.  In a world where money is getting tight and bills need to be paid I personally can't justify the $30 or whatever for a single chase rare.  MTG is a great game and I can only play online because of lack of real life people who play it. (I don't live in the US)  I can also only play Pauper because of personal financial constraints.  I guess 100 was never a format of choice but it was previously the only game in town if you needed to try and keep costs down.  I might be unique in my perspective but I just wanted to get it out there as a possible cause.

Thanks for listening and have a great 2009 all.

by blandestk at Fri, 01/02/2009 - 10:17
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I do still prefer v2, though I recognize the improvements of v3.  There is one reason I will perfer v2 over v3 until it is fixed: the interface.  It's terrible, that's all there is to say.

The state of your program ;) by Scartore at Fri, 01/02/2009 - 11:57
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Nice article as usual Hammy

BTW, are the forums down?


Thunderblot by Twoduckcubed at Fri, 01/02/2009 - 11:59
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Thunderbolt is good against MUC in pauper as it kills spire golem (or errant ephemeron if they run it), and can still burn for 3 to the face.

by hamtastic at Fri, 01/02/2009 - 07:09
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I'm guessing that you were around for V2, which for some reason is being viewed through rose colored glasses now.

If you were, you know that people keep saying how much better it was, now that we have V3.  They evidently don't remember the need to lock the installer down to a single core.  Or the random crashes when viewing someone's information.  Or  the insanity of trying a Vista installation.

There are warts left on V3, but if/when we get the big pieces fixed we won't be any worse off than we were in V2.  In fact, we'll probably be in a better position thanks to the improvements they've put into V3 (Like Pauper, etc).

I understand that you still (obviously) hate V3.  Good on ya.  In point of fact, there's a LOT that still irks me about the game as well.  Here's the difference though.  I don't dwell on the bad.  I acknowldge it, of course, but I don't let the negatives completely shape my perception.  There's good things in there as well.

You mention clan chat.  Sadly, as long as there are clan limits, clan chat is easy to out-grow.  I've been in a couple multi-chapter clans which had to rely on external chat rooms to communicate.  Clan chat wouldn't be used, even if it did work.  Yeah, it's irritating and I don't know how on earth they can't make it work right.  But as far as 'warts' go, it's minor one.

Golden ? by Blade at Fri, 01/02/2009 - 00:52
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Not before clan chat and all those other tiny bugs a competent developing team could fix in a month are taken care of...

Night of Souls' Betrayal by Pyrosin at Fri, 01/02/2009 - 03:38
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Hey Hammy,

Great article as always.  Not only is Night of Souls' Betrayal really good againt the Faerie tokens, but the real reason its popular in Extended right now is that it bascially shuts off LSV's Elves deck from PT Berlin, and so it was around a lot at Worlds.  Now that the Holidays are over, I'm gonna get my Worlds wrap up article done, and talk about it in there.

by blandestk at Fri, 01/02/2009 - 00:43
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Good edition, as always.  Liked the first Top 5, especially.

Playing 100 and Pauper has definitely reinvigorated my enjoyment of the game.  I'm concerned about the 100 queues, as well, especially since I consider it to be the best measure of a deckbuilder's prowess.

 Thunderbolt seems like a really intriguing jump to me.