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By: hamtastic, Erik Friborg
Jan 08 2009 10:06pm
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Editorial Section:

Like any self respecting nerd I have a (not so) secret obsession with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Perhaps one of my favorite episodes is "Dopplegangland" where an alternate universe Willow-Vampire shows up, and hilarity ensues.  What does this have to do with MTGO?  Hang on, Hoss, I'm getting there.

You see, in this episode we see the contrasts of Willow.  The 'normal' universe Willow is dependable, trustworthy, meek... and predictable.  It's this predictability that is called into question once we see the interactions of the Vamp.Willow character when she's placed into her otherwise normal circumstances.  It was her predictability that allowed people to use her as a doormat, to coerce and cajole her into submission.

And it just happened to MTGO.

You may have missed the thread on the WotC boards where a group of enterprising users not only pieced together the exact rare run that MTGO was using, but also knocked out a quick web application based on the data.  Essentially, you could pick out the rares you opened and it would tell you, with startling accuracy, what rares you'd open in the next two packs.  Think of knowing that information in advance.  Knowing that you opened a <bomby but unsplashable> uncommon, but knowing that your next two packs will house bomb rares in that color.  Suddenly the game changes.  A lot.

Isn't this cheating?

Some people wondered if this was cheating.  I mean, afterall, you have access to information that changes the entire flow of the game.  It seems highly likely that someone with this knowledge would have a huge advantage in a draft pod.  And they do indeed have that.  However, this is very far from cheating.  First and foremost,  iIt was publicly discussed information on a free message board.  Access to it was less far less restricted than Cookieville Mininum Security Orphanarium (I'm a closet Futurama freak as well...).  Secondly, the data could have been compiled by anyone playing enough drafts.  No, this was not even close to the same realm as cheating (or exploiting a bug to steal a win).  This was shrewd focus and detail correlation available to anyone.

Does it still work?

Short answer: no.  The week after it was a public thread on the WotC boards it mysterously changed after the weekly downtime.  No public statement has been seen about it, either pre-fix or post-fix.  However, it was quite obviously changed.  The players are still investigating if there's an easy to assimilate patter to the new draft set-up, but nothing seems to have come to light yet.  Also, once we add a pack of Conflux (which is currently being spoiled on MTGSalvation, yay!) the issue takes an even further back seat as we lose an entire pack from the mix of determinable rares.  However, I felt that this topic was worth reviewing for two reasons.  Reason the first: it's just another reason to keep an eye on the WotC message boards.  Even if you just lurk on them, take a peek at them every couple of days.  You never know when you might find something extremely interesting.  Reason the second: keep an eye out for this when the next new set comes out (11th, will be the first test this summer) to see if they changed it for current sets or if they completely revamped the pack cracking/queueing system completely.  

A happy ending?

And of course the parellel between the show and the MTGO experience should become aparant.  Through a rather strange set of circumstances, traits that were previously expected to always exist have been changed and the person (program) grew as a result of the experience.  Maybe.

Discussion Items:

As we usually do around this time of year, new threads have slowed down a bit.  What's so important about early January?  NEW SET SPOILERS, that's what!  All eyes are aimed at the newest, most amazingest set ever to be released.  Or so we've been told from advertising fliers, anyway....

I've been keeping up with the rumors on MTGSalvation, and this looks like a beautiful set for Standard, Extended, Prismatic, Pauper and possibly even some Classic cards in the mix as well.  I won't spoil any here, but I will say that I've very very excited about what this new set has to offer!  Anyway, enough of all that jazz.... let's go over some topics!

2 Man Queues-
That's right!  The long anticipated queue is arriving!  I for one amd excited about the ability to put in two tix and play one round and the winner nabs a pack!  If it sounds familiar, it might be because I previously wrote and article about it (oh, and 321 Swiss... which we already got!). 

Promo's Incoming-
Also in the above announcement is a bit more information about the promo program and how the cards from it will start flowing into the system.  Essentially it's like the old way, where they'll be used as extra prizes in constructed events.  Nothing too amazing about that, I just hope they have more planned to take care of the non-constructed players a little bit too.

MED3 Wishlist -
One of these threads seems to pop up every couple of months about the next MED set on the horizon.  They're generally filled with all sorts of bizarre cards.  And this one is no exception.  Even if you don't know all the old cards, and even if you don't care about MTGO's Classic format, these threads usually get some pretty hilarious card requests!

The future of Magic -
We got a rather somber article from
Aaron Forsythe this week, and while there certainly wasn't any *bad news* in it, it wasn't a happy-go-lucky address either.  I'll admit that I was really hoping to see a bit more thought and communication about our beloved MTGO, but alas, we're relegated to 'blurb' levels again. 

Who's the Beatdown? -
For many players, this is an old well known article by Mike Flores.  However, I've seen a lot of new players join MTGO.  A LOT of new players. The concept covered in this article is perhaps one of the most important concepts to grasp if you want to win at Magic.  Even in the casual room.  There are a lot of 'mirror-ish match' games in there between aggro-ish vs aggro-ish deck.  I looked this article up a couple of times this week while playing against new players and it made me think that it could very likely use to get a bit more spotlight again.  

New Player's FAQ -
This is still a work in progress, but it's going to be an invaluable resource for the many many many new players we seem to be getting lately.  If you're a new player or mentoring a new player reading through that is a good use for a few minutes of your day.  If you feel that something is missing from the FAQ, please let the folks know so that it can be added.


Card Prices:

Perhaps the coolest thing I've ever seen has happened this week...


A common has appeared in both of the gaining charts.  Thunderbolt both was one of the top 10 percentage based increases as well as one of the top 10 value based increases.  As far as I can recall, this is a first, and a huge sign of the impact of the Pauper queues.

Card name: Last Week This week Percentage Changed
Obsidian Acolyte 0.05 0.48 860.00%
Pyrostatic Pillar 0.08 0.35 337.50%
Crypt Rats 0.24 0.9 275.00%
Augury Adept 0.25 0.75 200.00%
Phyrexian Walker 0.34 0.9 164.71%
Standard Bearer 0.02 0.05 150.00%
Prismatic Strands 0.02 0.05 150.00%
Pyroblast 0.19 0.45 136.84%
Swans of Bryn Argoll 0.7 1.5 114.29%
Thunderbolt 1.21 2.5 106.61%
Card name: Last Week This week Amount Changed
Engineered Explosives 22.77 27 4.23
Arcbound Ravager 10.89 15 4.11
Blinkmoth Nexus 5.64 9 3.36
Chrome Mox 19.8 22 2.2
Glimpse of Nature 4.41 6 1.59
Vexing Shusher 3 4.5 1.5
Ensnaring Bridge 1.7 3 1.3
Thunderbolt 1.21 2.5 1.29
Rugged Prairie 7.5 8.75 1.25
Blood Crypt 8.5 9.75 1.25
Card name: Last Week This week Percentage Changed
Cold Storage 0.5 0.4 -20.00%
Scalding Tongs 0.5 0.4 -20.00%
Jet Medallion 1.5 1.25 -16.67%
Pearl Medallion 1.5 1.25 -16.67%
Ruby Medallion 1.5 1.25 -16.67%
Dark Ritual 3.5 3 -14.29%
Oracle en-Vec 0.35 0.3 -14.29%
Orim, Samite Healer 0.35 0.3 -14.29%
Pegasus Refuge 0.35 0.3 -14.29%
Sacred Guide 0.35 0.3 -14.29%
Card name: Last Week This week Amount Changed
Dark Ritual 3.5 3 -0.5
Cursed Scroll 8 7.5 -0.5
Grindstone 10.5 10 -0.5
Jet Medallion 1.5 1.25 -0.25
Pearl Medallion 1.5 1.25 -0.25
Ruby Medallion 1.5 1.25 -0.25
Sarcomancy 2 1.75 -0.25
Altar of Dementia 2 1.75 -0.25
Eladamri, Lord of Leaves 2.75 2.5 -0.25
Coffin Queen 1.75 1.65 -0.1

As for what happened in the MTGO stock market this week, decent gains across the board.  I had to admit, I was worried about card prices with the the very long and very highly played nix-tix events these past couple of weeks and the impact that those events might have had on card prices.  However, the increase in Constructed queues, the return of Redemption and the influx of new players seems to not only have balanced that out but also allowed us to gain value, overall.  And that is simply awesome.









Two quick notes about Obisidian Acolyte... Note 1.  It's much higher now than it was before the rotation.  In fact, it's higher now that it ever has been according to my data (which touches back to December 2005).  Note 2. This card is awesome.

River Boa

I don't know where this card is being played, but it's evidently seeing play somewhere.  It started out strong in its MTGO life but thanks to V3's downward pressure on card prices, it fell to jank rare status for a good long time.  It's nice to see this card get some love finally.

River Boa

Oh snap, this is a meteoric rise in price.  GG to anyone who bougth them at 4 tix.


This is a very interesting time for MTGO.  Things are returning to the program (Redemption).  New, improved things are being added (Swiss Queues, 4 Man Queues, Pauper...).  And I'm pretty sure we're even making overall headway on the card bug issues as well.


by blandestk at Fri, 01/09/2009 - 13:45
blandestk's picture

The rare run that iceage mentioned in his article and you do as well continues to astound me.   Not that people figured it out, but that Wizards would actually have allowed an algorithm that would be that simple to figure out.  Simply astounding.

I'm also surprised at Thunderbolt, just like last week.  Are people putting this card in the sideboard just for MUC?  I've played a billion burn decks and haven't seen it once.  That's a pretty high price for a common card like that.  Love it. 

Thunderbolt by petkos at Fri, 01/09/2009 - 17:50
petkos's picture

I agree that this card is seldom seen, but really don't know why.

I main-deck it in both pauper and classic burn decks, both of which can make use of more 2-mana 3-damage spells than 4x Incinerate can provide.  The sorcery-speed Volcanic Hammer can also act as removal, but the value of instants against a counter-heavy deck is often more important.  If I`m using spells to kill opponent`s guys as a one-for-one trade, then I`ve lost the initiative, and am likely well on my way to losing the game anyways.


by iceage4life at Fri, 01/09/2009 - 10:24
iceage4life's picture

Bought 10x Explosives way back for a few tix each.  Wish I hadn't sold the other six for 10ish tix...  Might have to sell my Explosives and Moxes as 200 tix seems tempting.

pauper by De Volcane(Unregistered) (not verified) at Fri, 01/09/2009 - 12:24
De Volcane(Unregistered)'s picture

With the pauper format popularity on the rise, it would be nice if you could perhaps point out some of the most important cards in the most popular decks, and perhaps give some feedback on how easy it is to get them (along with prices)? Cards like muscle sliver and crypt rats spring to mind. Even if we could only see price charts depicting the most important commons and how their prices vary over time perhaps?