Weekend Update for 6/14/14

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Weekend Recap

By: Jim Marsh

Every week, some cards from Magic the Gathering increase and decease in value based upon a number of factors.

Let’s take a look at some of the cards whose values have changed the most and the factors behind why those changes have occurred.

10 Big Winners of the Week

10. Hero of Bladehold (Mirrodin Beseiged)
From $7.97 to $8.57 (7.53%)

The Modern Event Deck is letting players craft a Black White token deck.

This deck is decent but there is definitely room for improvement.

People who bought the deck will absolutely be looking for threats like Hero of Bladehold and Brimaz, King of Oreskos for their decks. This is a golden opportunity for anyone who has been sitting on Hero since Scars of Mirrodin block rotated.

I expect more growth as these are heavily traded in the short term.

9. Slaughter Pact (Future Sight)
From $4.49 to $4.90 (9.13%)

Slaughter Pact is all over Modern. Melira Pod, Jund, Amulet of Vigor, BG Rock and other decks love their free removal spell.

Modern season for PTQs has officially begun and this is one of the cards I would most love to have ready in my trade binder as people brew decks.

8. Vampire Nocturnus (M13)
$4.55 to $4.98 (9.45%)

It is a mythic rare vampire lord. This guy has crazy casual appeal and only two printings in Core sets.

He is going to be in every casual vampire tribal deck ever. This gives the card lasting sustainable value even if he never sees a competitive deck.

I like him as a long term hold.

7. Thraximundar (Alara Reborn)
From $4.78 to $5.27 (10.25%)

Thraximundar has the misfortune to be printed in the Mind Seize Commander 2013 deck. His stock has been plummeting as people rip open the boxes for True-Name Nemesis and Baleful Strix.

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He does not fit anywhere in the Nekusar, the Mindrazer Commander decks that most people fashion so he tends to get tossed into trade binders and sit.

Why the sudden resurgence in appeal?

I give the credit to Marchesa, the Black Rose from Conspiracy. He slots in perfectly at the top of the curve for her deck. He gets rid of opposing creatures and gets all important +1/+1 counters that make him a big threat that Marchesa can help recur.

He is also a great arbitrage opportunity at the moment. The lowest vendor has him listed at $3.33. The highest buylist is $4.01.

Anytime there is a negative spread you should be paying attention. It is the most important flag that card stores can give that they think the price is going to be higher soon.

More importantly it is a chance to make some free money. Keep reading. There are several more opportunities coming up throughout in the article.

6. Enduring Ideal (Saviors of Kamigawa)
From $4.29 to $4.74 (10.49%)

This build around me rare from Saviors of Kamigawa gets people excited every time powerful new enchantments are printed.

I cannot envision someone running this in a Modern or Commander brew and not at least testing out Theros gods.

It is often used in Prison style decks so I am not surprised to see it get a little bump as Modern season is underway.

I just do not have faith in it to do much. I would trade mine away.

Hopefully for Ghostly Prison.

5. Voidslime (Dissension)
From $7.81 to $8.68 (11.14%)

This card has always puzzled me. It is Stifle stapled onto Cancel with green splashed in for reasons I cannot fathom.

It has an unforgiving mana cost that makes it impossible to splash unless your deck is already running both blue and green mana.

It is a unique combination of effects but there are certainly more efficient ways to deal with spells.

I like Trickbind better if you are trying to trip up a Birthing Pod activation or prevent a fetchland from finding anything.

Squelch will do the same thing and does not even cost you a card.

Voidslime is powerful but it has yet to find a home which makes me hesitant to do anything but trade away the card into whatever hype it is experiencing.

4. Furyborn Hellkite (M12)
From $2.53 to $2.99 (18.18%)

This is a mythic rare dragon with a keyword that has already been used in a Core Set. It is every casual gamer’s dream as their eyes light up envisioning casting a 12/12 for a mere seven mana.

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It can even be used in a Marchesa Commander deck or in casual dragon decks.

It is pretty cheap and I think it will hold its value nicely.

3. Commandeer (Coldsnap)
From $2.89 to $3.48 (20.42%)

Usually people assume when you are tapped out that you cannot play any spells.

They may play a critical burn spell and still ask you if it resolves fearing a Pact of Negation. You nod that it does and they visibly relax.

That’s when you cast Commandeer. It could be a Cruel Ultimatum in a multiplayer game of Commander or a lethal Lightning Storm from an Ad Nauseam deck in Modern.

Either way, you are about to ruin someone’s day.

Free spell effects are few and far between.

This is no Force of Will but it still should be more than a meager $3. I could see this getting to $5 or $6 pretty easily as Modern season heats up.

2. Mark of Asylum (Conflux)
From $0.93 to $1.32 (41.94%)

I have always had a soft spot for the little bulk rare that could. It is not about to take any format by storm but it does show up in numerous Modern sideboards.

GW Hatebears and Soul Sisters both run one or two copies in their seventy five.

Right now there is a negative spread on it. The lowest vendor price is $0.40 but the highest buylist is $0.65.

Sometimes people overlook the value of bulk and pass up opportunities for free money.

1. Pyretic Ritual (M11)
From $0.69 to $1.21 (75.36%)

This is one of the cards I keep an eye for when I purchase “bulk” from people.

The mythic rares and format staples have been picked out but many people ignore commons. There are usually stacks of commons and uncommons that will add up to a respectable pay day from a friendly buylist.

Pyretic Ritual has only been printed in M11. It is used in Modern UR Storm and in Legacy Belcher decks. It is pretty much Desperate Ritual numbers five through eight in those decks. That makes it key to the deck.

Right now an opportunity is available for someone to make some money off of this one. The lower vendor price is $0.25 but the highest buylist price is $0.46.

A few dimes may not seem like much but you are nearly doubling your money.

This is the bread and butter of Magic finance to me.

5 Big Losers of the Week

5. Sphinx’s Revelation (Return to Ravnica)
From $14.76 to $12.47 (-15.51%)

We all know that Revelation is on its way out of standard. That will not happen for several months and even then it will not be a lost cause.

It has seen adoption in several Modern decks including UWR Control, UW Tron and UW Control decks.

Vendor confidence in the card is strong. The lowest vendor price is $9.49. The highest buylist is $9.00.

This may not be an arbitrage opportunity but with such a thin spread I expect many of you will have friends trying to unload these for a drop that is not coming. I would be very comfortable trading for these around $10.

4. Obzedat, Ghost Council (Gatecrash)
From $8.67 to $7.24 (-16.49%)

Unlike Revelation above Obzedat is used purely in Standard. The card is very strong but the it does not have a deck it can easily slip into.

I would trade these away while you can still get a shockland for them.

3. Cyclonic Rift (Return to Ravnica)
From $4.56 to $3.78 (-17.11%)

Rotation will not be a large issue for Cyclonic Rift. It did not see a lot of adoption in Standard. Even the monoblue devotion decks only run one copy.

It is showing up in Modern Mono U Tron  and Mono U Control decks and sideboards.

It is also very powerful in Commander games.

I think it will settle around $3. I would trade them away if you want to get your money’s worth but I would not feel bad if you cannot move them. They are not going to slip that far.

2. Nightveil Specter (Gatecrash)
From $5.89 to $4.61 (-21.73%)

This will be another victim of pure Standard usage. Unfortunately the time to get out of these was the beginning of the year when they were still $10.

Get out now if you have any left.

You will be finding these in bulk rare bins before the end of the year.

1. Herald of Torment (Born of the Gods)
From $3.12 to $2.11 (-32.37%)

One last but important opportunity for arbitrage.

The lowest vendor price is only $0.74 and the highest buylist is $1.15.

Even the prospect of free money is not quite tempting enough. You can make a little money now or make a lot of money a little later.

It is used in Monoblack and even Junk decks in recent block GPs.

The best black cards are Thoughtseize and Hero’s Downfall alongside Bile Blight. Those are not going anywhere. Black decks will still be a force after rotation.

Monoblack control will lose Desecration Demon and Pack Rat but Herald of Torment and Master of the Feast could take some of those spots.

Herald is very well positioned for the fall. I would grab as many as I could.

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Hitting the Floor

By: Cliff Daigle

Magic has hit the sweet spot in terms of how often its flagship, expert-level, story-filled expansions come out. We get three sets a year of varying size and draft format.

We know that the rotation out of Standard in September will offer us some tempting targets in trade, but here at the end of June, we face a different schedule: the end of a block being opened in Sealed and Draft. Theros block is pretty much gone, with Magic 2015 a month away and Conspiracy being an absolute blast to draft. 

I refer you to the 6:2:1 model I posted about a few weeks ago. Even that small amount is about to be done, and that means supply is at its highest. Granted, there will be some players who crack boxes looking for singles, or retail stores that do the same, and there’s still redemptions online (until MTGO shuts down, I suppose) so the supply may creep upward a little, but not significantly.

The more money cards there are in a set, the more likely it is to be opened for the value of the singles, though this late in a set’s life, that’s a terrible and unprofitable plan under almost any circumstance. Better to spend a known amount of money and get exactly what you want, rather than open 36 packs and not even get a set of a certain uncommon.

So with this knowledge in mind, let’s look at what we should be trading for over the next few weeks. Theros block cards that have nowhere to go but up.

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The Temples – Any temple under $5 is worth trading for. I will not be surprised if the UW Temple ends up in some Modern control lists, because free card selection is that good. Whatever the next block brings, there will be multicolor decks and the free scry has been shown to be worth it in Standard. I have trouble thinking that any temple will be under $10 around thanksgiving. Maybe the least popular of them all? Five dollars in trade right now will even be worth it in a year, because these are very good in the casual format of your choice

Thassa, God of the Sea – All of the Gods have reached a floor as the supply gets to its greatest point. Now, as cards are put into casual decks (and not traded away) that supply will get small and the price will start to go up. Thassa is the most likely to hit, because it’s the easiest to cast, has a free effect that’s very useful, and has already seen Standard and Modern play. I really like picking up any of the multicolor Gods that are under $5, as small set mythics they are going to go up in a spike or in gradual terms.

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver – If Jace, Architect of Thought taught us anything, it is to pick up planeswalkers when they are cheap. Ashiok gives an inevitable way to end a game in any format, and remember, it wasn’t that long ago that Nephalia Drownyard was used as a finisher for control decks. I like picking this up around $8.

Elspeth, Sun’s Champion – If you even think you might be playing with her in the next year, pick these up now. At $20-$25 there is no lower price for her. She’s just too good, offering protection from creatures big and small. It’s not hard to imagine her hitting $30 or more in nine months, like Domri Rade did.

Xenagos, the Reveler – Notice a trend here? This is a card I’d trade for based on the casual appeal too, because that +1 ability is a multicolor Gaea’s Cradle. A free stream of hasty attackers is usually a good thing, and it won’t take much to make it break $15 before too long.

Anger of the Gods – $2 for a cheap and thoroughly effective sweeper? Yes please. I will not be surprised if this starts seeing more Modern play, due to the need to exile things like Kitchen Finks.

Hero’s Downfall – $7 for what is basically Murder, with some added and very useful flexibility. It seems high, I know, but unless they print this effect even cheaper, this is as good as it gets. Dreadbore doesn’t see as much play, and I expect Downfall to break $10 during Tarkir block.

Mistcutter Hydra – Regular or foil!! Doesn’t matter at all. This is the sideboard tech of choice in many Standard and Legacy lists. Can’t be countered, hasty, protection from blue. Checks every box for being a control player’s nightmare, as they always have to have a plan in place if/when this gets played. I would trade for these now, and trade away the nonfoils in a year, and keep the foils for longer. Nowhere to go but up!

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx – I’ve preached this before and now this is at $5. It’s a shame that I don’t like to buy cards, because this is a steal now. Pick up as many of these as you can and just be patient. Even if they don’t go up during Tarkir block, the casual power of this card                                                              will allow it to increase over time.

Thoughtseize – Best disruption spell ever, now at its lowest price. If you can find them for trade, snap them up. Rarity is irrelevant here, we’ve seen how big the Modern demand is and this card was the most-needed reprint. Remember, it was $80 for a moment before being spoiled.

Courser of Kruphix – Yes, it’s $15 now for a rare. It has a backbreaking effect against aggressive or midrange or control decks. It gives card advantage, lifegain, and a cheap-yet-hard-to-kill body. This is going to be a big deal for the remainder of its life in Standard. $20 or $25 is not out of the question.

Mana Confluence – It’s down to nearly $10 and that is too low. The supply is too low, just for the casual demand. I would pick up as many of these as I could, $15-$20 sounds right to me, though that could go higher if the Modern combo decks start using this.

Master of the Feast – Three extra draws to get the right spell. They are dead otherwise, and this is a low-risk pickup right now. I wouldn’t mind having a couple of extra playsets, in case something combos well with it in Tarkir.

How to be a Jackass

By: Travis Allen

You know the guy. There’s always one or two that float around a local community. Even if they’re likely to have the card you need it’s easier to just not trade for it. So unpleasant is the trading experience that when faced with trading with this person or not having the 75th card you need, you go ask your friends what you should run in that slot instead. From start to finish the process is agonizing, uncomfortable, frustrating, and almost always expensive. There’s no doubt the guy has one of the best binders in the room. The problem is that his method of getting there makes him the scummiest guy you know.

Don’t be a shark.

Trading as a spike is 100% totally acceptable. Go for it. Be competitive. Want to have the best binder and collection of anyone you know. Ask every person in the room if they want to trade. All of that is totally fine. Just be ethical about it. Grind towards the best binder within the rules of the social construct. Once you step outside acceptable civilized behavior at the trade table you become that which gives us all a bad name: a shark.

A shark is one who engages in trade practices that are considered unethical. I’m not going to debate the philosophy of ethics and morality because several thousand years after first discussing it we still don’t have a universal answer. We’ll simply use the gold standard: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you wouldn’t want someone to do that while you’re trading, then don’t do it to them.

Any self-aware trader will have times they’ve wondered if they were crossing a line and sharking someone. My plan today is to create a (non-exhaustive) list of activities that will flag you as a shark. Some of these you may have done before, some you may in fact still do. So long as you’re willing to reform we can forgive past transgressions.

Don’t Lie

This one seems like it should be pretty straightforward. Don’t lie to people. Here’s the most common way this comes up:

Them: “Sure, my Courser is for trade. What’s it worth now?”
*Liar knows that the card is on SCG for $15*
Liar: “I think it’s about six dollars.”
Them. “Ok that sounds good.”

The temptation to do this is greatest right after a card sees a huge spike. Ensnaring Bridge is $5 and then someone wins a Legacy event with the card and it sells out overnight. You’re flipping through someone’s binder hoping to pick them up cheap because you doubt anyone in your local shop has figured it out yet. There’s a Stronghold copy tucked in with some Scars of Mirrodin artifacts in a random trade binder and you pull it out of the sleeve, knowing full well this guy has no clue how much they are. He’s glad to trade it because nobody has touched it since he put it in there months ago. “Ensnaring Bridge is definitely for trade!” You’re cheering inside your head because you know you’re going to grab it real cheap then take it home and buylist it for $10. You each turn a few more pages when he asks. “Any idea what the Bridge is at?”

Here’s the opportunity. Right here is where it strikes. There’s nobody standing over your shoulder to call you out on lying. He certainly isn’t going to know. It just went up last night so there’s complete plausible deniability. Even if someone said something you could claim you had no idea. It’s easy money. Only you and God will know, and he isn’t going to interrupt the trade.

“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

There are right ways and wrong ways to handle those types of situations, and flat out lying to the other guy is most definitely the wrong way.

“What’s this worth?”

This is a game nobody enjoys. If you’ve ever traded at a GP you’ve definitely had to go through this before. You sit down, swap binders, and suddenly you’re in the middle of a pop quiz. He points to a Vraska. “What’s this worth?” It turns out that from where you’re sitting there is actually no right answer.

Let’s say Vraska is worth $5. (Whatever that means.) If you say three or four bucks he’s going to pull it out. If you say $5 or more, he leaves it in the binder and keeps going. The only time the shark takes a card out of your binder is if you think it’s worth less than it actually is. He isn’t looking for any particular card he needs for an EDH or Legacy deck. His goal is only to pit his encyclopedic knowledge of card prices against yours and take any card that you improperly value as too cheap. Each time he slides a card out of your binder after you give him a number you know you messed up. By the time he’s done, each card removed says “you done goofed.”

The common reason for this game is that the victim wants some cards from the shark, but the shark wants nothing in particular from the victim. He then switches into value mode, looking to take near anything that will increase the value of his binder a few bucks. The resulting behavior will alienate your trade partner with astounding swiftness. They’ll feel terrible, they won’t want to trade with you again, and anyone watching will similarly be turned off to trading with you. Plus it makes you a jerk.

When you find yourself in the situation of needing to find cards to trade for and they have nothing you personally want, set your sights on items of high liquidity. Even though they’re nothing you need in particular you can still flip these types of cards easily and there’s always room to haggle some value out of the deal once each party has their options laid out on the table.

Keep Things Reasonably Fair

For most of us the goal when trading is to make value every time. We’re all on the same page on that. And that’s fine. Making a few bucks or a reasonable percentage gain on each trade is the payoff you get for having a large, well-stocked binder and better market knowledge than the next dude. The other guy gives up a little value in exchange for a wide selection.

The issue comes up when that value you’re grinding is less of a grind and more of a smash-and-grab. What do I mean?

Trade A
Your: $1 card
His: $3 card
Ok

Trade B
Your: $100 worth of cards
His: $130 worth of cards
Ok

Trade C
Your: $8 worth of cards
His: $56 worth of cards
Not Ok!

In Trade A you’re getting 300% but it’s only an absolute net gain of $2. While the percentage is high, the actual dollar value is low. I’ve been on both sides of this trade many times. Often the guy with the $3 card is well aware of what’s going on but he really needs that $1 card so he’s fine with it.

In Trade B you’ve made $30, but you’re seeing only a 30% increase. That’s a healthy profit margin for sure but it’s not something you need to feel bad about. If that $100 is a dual land and the $130 is all Master of Waves and Brimazs, the other guy is probably fine with what’s going on. Regardless of whether or not your trade partner is aware of the difference in the value nobody is going to think poorly of you here. Even if it’s not a dual land and it’s just two piles of Standard cards there is no abuse occurring.

Trade C is where there is an issue. You’re making $48, which is a good chunk of change but not unreasonable when the trade piles are several hundred on each side. The real problem is that his pile of cards is worth 700% of yours. This is a situation where clearly the other guy in the trade doesn’t know something you do, and you’re taking him to the cleaners for it. Making profit on someone else’s lack of information or knowledge is fine, but something this severe is very much pushing the boundary of what is acceptable behavior. You could easily cut his pile down to $30 or bring yours up to $25 and still make a healthy profit without being the sleaziest guy in the room.

There’s no algorithm or clear line that establishes exactly when a difference in piles is too great. You have to do it by how it feels. A good rule of thumb is to consider how willing you would be to tell others about the trade afterwards. When considering how much profit is too much, ask yourself if you would feel comfortable telling your friends and peers about the trade. Would they pat you on the back for a good trade, or would they tell you it was a crummy thing to do to someone?

I’m aware that there are economic lessons that would tell you that any trade you can arrange is an acceptable trade, and that if the other guy is unwittingly taking that much of a loss it isn’t your problem. I’m not going to discuss economic theory here. Instead I’ll point out that when you’re trading locally it isn’t some theoretical market with no faces and no repercussions. These are local players that are needed to support a community. If you and a few other people start dragging huge gains out of the binders of the naive, pretty soon there won’t be enough people left to support your FNMs. Think “sustainable farming,” not “scorched earth.”

Leave Minors Alone

Do you remember being thirteen, fifteen, or seventeen? Do you remember having no money? I can recall not wanting to spend a dollar on a McDonald’s burger when I was in my teens. Kids in general are poor. While it’s easy for many of us to look at a card and go “it’s a few bucks,” to some  fourteen-year-old kids there’s a big difference between $.80, $1.70 and $2.65.

Young kids don’t necessarily have regular access to smartphones or internet access so the knowledge playing field isn’t fair at all. It is super scummy to punish a kid in trade because his parents don’t have the resources to provide him with regular access that you have.

I don’t really feel like I need to discuss why raking kids over the coals is a crummy thing to do. There’s a reason minors are protected under so many state laws.

When a kid’s collection is meager at best and format rotations can knock 85% of the value out of his entire collection, there’s no need to scrape a few extra bucks off him in trade. In fact, you should be trying to help establish their collection, not gut it. Instead of grinding value on minors look to give them just a bit more than you’re getting back. You don’t have to feel bad about trading for a pair of Thassas, just leave him with a Courser of Kruphix or another solid $15-17 in product.

Once you accept that trying to value trade kids is a bad idea, there’s two more groups you should include in your ‘protected’ status: the mentally challenged and those that are in noticeably worse socio-economic standings than you are. There are plenty of enfranchised individuals at the trade tables to make money on. Don’t do it to those that don’t have the wherewithal to handle themselves appropriately or those that look like they have pretty poor financial outlooks. Remember, you’re part of a community. Treat it as such.

“Oh I’ve got a set of those too.”

You’re trading with a guy who has a foil Temple of Malady you really would like. He asks if you have any Kioras. You inform him that you don’t, and he starts to look back through the binder. A bystander overhears and chimes in. “I’ve got some Kioras and I’d like your foil Temple too.” The guy with the Temple pushes your binder back at you and starts trading with the third dude.

That third dude is clueless at best and a total jerk at worst.

If two people are trading leave them alone. Here’s some things you should not do as a bystander:

  • Offer unsolicited information about card pricing
  • Make suggestions on what is/is not good to trade for
  • Say things like “Man did you see how expensive that got recently?”
  • Wonder aloud why someone is trading for such a bad/useless card
  • Tell someone that you too have a card that the other guy may or may not have and that you’ll gladly trade it
  • Comment on whether a trade is good/bad

I know a guy that does literally all of these, and if you’ve traded at more than one or two major events in the North East in the last two years chances are you do too. He’s typically a nice guy but I want him nowhere near me when I’m trading because any of those comments, offered unsolicited, is infuriating. 

There is a right time to chime in and it’s typically after the trade is over. If someone is looking for Kioras, feel free to tell him you have some – after he’s finished with his current trade. If your buddy is picking up an odd card, question him about it once he’s away from the trade table. You don’t want to tip off his trade partner that the card he’s grabbing is actually buylisting for 95% of it’s trade floor value or that the card is the hottest paper around ahead of the Legacy event tomorrow.

The rule of thumb is that if two people are trading, keep all commentary and questions to yourself. Treat it as a Competitive REL match of Magic. Feel free to discuss all you want afterwards, but be aware that even asking seemingly harmless questions can change the dynamic.

Sharks give anyone into Magic finance a bad name. Irreuptable behavior and predatory tactics perpetrated by some do not reflect the nature of all. At this point I actually have to avoid talking too much about my interest in the field during a trade because I’m concerned about how my partners will perceive me.

As long as you keep what in mind what I’ve outlined above you should be able to avoid most of the major unintentional sharky behaviors. There are of course many more, but those tend to be actively and maliciously decided upon rather than accidentally performed. If there are other trading behaviors you can’t stand to see feel free to share with all of us.

Magic Online Sucks Part Two

By; Camden Clark

Today, I could have talked about the Modern PTQ season and cards to pick to capitalize on it.

However, there is an issue far more pressing than the Modern PTQ season.

It is the lack of one on Magic Online.

Not only were this but the issues I outlined in the article I wrote last week barely scratched the surface of the issues. I feel obligated to go deeper on the many issues with the Magic Online BETA and, more importantly, how this affects everyone who is investing in Magic at all.

Without further ado:

The Beta Part Two

I touched on the trading issues but the magnitude here is huge.

The beta makes trading between players more complicated and impossible. With the introduction of the “trade binder” system, the Magic Online developers had an opportunity to code an “auction house” or a way to seek out other players who have matching haves and wants in order to be able to support the economy. The old client’s infrastructure of merely marking cards as “tradable” made this infrastructure impossible. 

This opportunity was missed and thus the economy defaults to the limiting economy of the bots. However, few bots can work on the beta. The bots drive the economy of Magic Online. They make everything tick. If the infrastructure cannot support bots, the economy suffers.

The beta makes trying to find a game ridiculously complex with a system that is both inefficient and worse than the old one. I appreciated the old categorization system that allowed easy access to the room with Scheduled Events, one for Limited Events, etc. There was a simplicity that made it easy to find a game.

The new system is contrived and confusing. It is the kind of system that makes you wonder, “How could this be designed so poorly?”

As an aside, it is extremely embarrassing that Magic Online still does not have a Mac version. Although this does not affect me personally there are many players who would appreciate a Mac version. The beta ignores this and furthers the issues by being based on Visual Basic (a Microsoft program) which will cause inevitable issues in a transition to Mac.

The failure of the beta to address any of the underlying issues is not only the current developer’s faults. I honestly think it is the underlying infrastructure that causes this. It begs the question:

Why was Magic Online created in the first place?

Magic Online failed from its inception to recreate the fun of interacting with other players to play the same game. The token trading and classifieds system incentivized the creation of bots to drive the economy. There was no underlying infrastructure to allow easy trade between humans. None of the…magic of paper Magic exists on Magic online, except the game itself.

The logical conclusion is that Magic Online exists merely for players that are serious about the game and just want to grind against other competitive players.

The infrastructure is well set up for this: bots allow players to purchase cards at insulting upmarks and Wizards sanctioned tournaments allow the best players to shine.

However, there are so many inefficiencies in the programming that these growth problems were inevitable. When you have thousands in a tournament and your code is poor there will be problems.

It has hit this ceiling. The beta client attempts to paint over these problems with flashier graphics but misses the point that there are issues in the underlying infrastructure. Since the beta must connect with the old client it means the underlying infrastructure is still there. That does not just go away.

The beta should have scrapped that baseline and figured out a way to transfer the cards over to the new system. It would suck and be annoying at first but at least they would be doing something. The developers have dug themselves into such a deep hole with this it seems there is no way out.

That does not excuse the…

Insults

The handling of Magic Online’s issues has been insulting at best.

I think the easiest description of WOTC’s indifference to the issues is the simultaneous release of a new product, Vintage Masters, while cancelling the entire PTQ season.

Really? I mean…REALLY?! 

Vintage Masters looks like a good product. R&D is WOTC’s strong suit and I have no doubt it will be a very fun set to draft. Nevertheless, it is insulting to cancel ALL Pro Tour Qualifiers for the upcoming season at the same time as releasing a new product.

That shows WOTC does not care about returning service that the competitive players want and use Magic Online for. They only care about getting the product that people will pay seven dollars (7!!!) a booster for.

That, is insulting.

If Magic Online was created to serve a more competitive crowd, it fails tremendously. Once you cancel PTQs on Magic Online, what is the point? It exposes Magic Online as being a cash grab for WOTC.

People spend so much money getting Modern decks online. They spend more money on Daily Events to prepare for the PTQs that should be online. Even the cheapest of the Modern decks are still hundreds of dollars. If you want to play Jund you will be paying about a thousand dollars.

Prices will catastrophically drop with this news. It will be immensely hard to sell cards back to the bots at even a small fraction of the price.

The players are getting alienated. PTQs used to run, at least. Now there is nothing but the Daily Events and the draft room.

Not only were the PTQs cancelled but the MOCS finals were cancelled as well. Many players grind Magic Online just to get QPs (qualifier points) just to get into the MOCS tournament which has a very good payout. With these cancelled, there is no reason for these people to play Magic Online more.

The vision of Magic Online was to allow for people who did not live near a local PTQ to be able to go into a major event and have that opportunity. You could also participate in a few of the Magic Online PTQs to be able to play at that competitive level outside of local events. That is all gone now.

Magic Online has failed in every respect to accomplish anything and is an insult to anyone who supports WOTC.

The Economic Effects

This obviously has many implications for the wider world of MTG finance.

Modern PTQs will not run which means that there will be no event reports that show the best decks on Magic Online. That removes a HUGE gap in the potential information we had to invest on. We are entirely dependent on local PTQ results which may or may not reflect the wider metagame.

Many of the potential opportunities are gone. Whether you like it or not, Magic Online is where all of the professional players come to test their decks and play in PTQs. As more and more players lose their faith in Magic Online it will lose its importance. There will not be as much data for us to scour.

We are already seeing the effects on Magic Online itself. Past in Flames has dropped by 5 dollars. The economy cannot support being tested like this.

It shows in real life too. WOTC looks inept. The situation is embarrassing. There is a general low morale for anyone who has ever booted up Magic Online.

Conclusion

It is really a shame what has developed on Magic Online. There is no end in sight to the problems.

There is no timeline for a full switch to the beta. There is no timeline for the resumption of MOCS and PTQs. There is no timeline for a Mac client.

The only timeline we have is the release of the cash cow Vintage Masters.

That should be eye-opening to how WOTC really feels about Magic Online.

There is no outreach. The “community outreach” people for Magic Online fail to acknowledge the glaring issues with the infrastructure or provide a solution to them.

The players on Magic Online are not valued by WOTC. They can release anything and people would buy it. Drafts will continue to fire. People will continue to invest thousands into Modern, Standard, and Legacy decks. Why do they do that? Because they love the game. Not because Magic Online is worth anything.

I am going to stop with the Magic Online articles for now. I hope to revisit at a time when there is good news to talk about. I am not optimistic. I don’t see an out for the developers to create a better client. We were screwed from the start.

MAGIC: THE GATHERING BLOG, ARTICLES, AND COMMUNITY

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