Tag Archives: MTGO

MTGO Speculation for 2022

Speculating on Magic the Gathering Online (MTGO) is very different from its paper counterpart, as explained in my overview of the MTGO economics system here. The boom and bust cycle of MTGO is rapid, sometimes occurring within a matter of hours. Additionally, users can short MTGO positions, an opportunity that is fairly unique outside of the stock market. The method for having new cards enter the market is also different, which only occurs mainly through drafting and treasure chests. This article discusses a few key MTGO developments from 2021 and the lessons learned that can be applied in the new year.

2021 was a very busy year on Magic Online! Too much occurred to discuss everything that took place, but below are a few notable events and my view of their implications for the future.

Modern Horizons 2
Each year the MTGO economy changes and evolves, creating unique opportunities for profit for those who are paying close attention. The defining moment of 2021 was clearly the release of Modern Horizons 2 (MH2), which reinvigorated the MTGO economy, reshaped the modern and legacy formats, and instantly became the most expensive draftable set on the platform. Right out of the gate key staples like Ragavan started expensive and later went to astronomical levels!

Endurance also quickly became expensive due to its obvious applications and quick adoption in both Modern and Legacy. Other key mythics initially slumped in price to a more reasonable level, only to rebound again over a few months.

MH2 was only supposed to be draftable for a few short weeks, but based on the high prices and demand, this timeline was quickly extended for another several months. MH2 then left the platform from Mid-September through October, only to return again thanks to public pressure. In total MH2’s drafting period was six months, which is about twice as long as Modern Horizons 1. Now that MH2 is officially “out-of-print”, it is likely that prices will rise over the coming months. Pressure on a few key staples may be tempered due to their heavy drop rate in Treasure Chests, like Ragavan, Solitude, Endurance, and Urza’s Saga, but overall, I expect the value of MH2 overall to rise during the first half of 2022.

Key Takeaways:

– New Modern and Legacy staples have a higher price ceiling than ever before. This shift is likely caused by less drafting, rental services buying large quantities of cards, and the shift to 20 mythics per set instead of 15.
– High priced supplemental sets like MH1, CMR, and 2XM have all shown strong returns over the long run – MH2 will likely continue that trend.
Several key rares from MH2 will likely see exceptional returns over the long term – see Force of Vigor as an example of what is possible (I’m looking at you Esper Sentinel).

Broken Cards Drive Crazy Prices
What do Valki, God of Lies and Prismari Command have in common? Both were very broken cards on MTGO for a small period of time.
Valki was broken in terms of power level – casting a 7 mana planeswalker for three mana was good enough to get it banned via rules errata. Prismari Command on the other hand had a serious bug on MTGO, allowing the caster to draw two cards while their opponent was forced to discard two cards. Crazy right? What’s even more crazy is that it took WOTC more than a day or two to fix the issue. Within a week Prismari Command hit more than 50 tickets as a rare, and Valki reached more than 100 tickets for a brief period of time. A very familiar phenomenon occurred with Omnath, Locus of Creation in 2020 before it’s ban in standard.

Key Takeaways:
– If a card is overpowered on MTGO, it will likely trigger a price spike that can create solid profits prior to any action taken by WOTC to correct the problem.
– Be quick – the opportunity to buy into these price spikes arise in the first few days after the release of a new set. If you wait for the tournament results to be posted, it’s likely too late.

Standard Sets Are Getting a Lot More Expensive
Historically the normal expected value (EV) of a newly released standard set on MTGO was 90 to 140 tickets. EV often peaked at 140 to 180 tickets near the end of redemption when users rushed to cash out digital cards for paper versions. Very few sets fell outside of this price range, with Core Set 2020 being a notable exemption, reaching 220 ticket EV at its peak.

Fast-forward to today, the three most recent sets AFR, MID, and VOW have been shattering historical expectations. AFR set a record for a standard legal set by climbing to 300 ticket EV at the end of its redemption window, doubling a normal standard set EV as the close of its redemption period draws near. VOW’s EV hit 170 tickets after its release based on early modern play, but has recently slumped to 145 tickets once the novelty of new cards wore off combined with competition with Innistrad Double Feature.

The reasons for this trend of higher set EV is likely multifaceted but all of them lead me to the conclusion that less supply exists for newer cards, especially mythics, creating an opening for substantially inflated prices for cards that become constructed staples.

The first potential reason for higher prices is that fewer people are drafting on MTGO. This is especially true for standard legal sets because most people draft these sets on Magic Arena. While this has been true for years now, I think this trend accelerated in the last year. Second, each of these sets have competed with MH2 for players, further reducing the number of daily drafters and reducing supply. This is a fairly unique circumstance due to MH2’s unprecedented popularity and impact, but it’s worth noting for future Modern Horizon sets and others like D&D Commander Legends and Double Masters 2022. Third, there are now 20 mythics in standard legal sets, up from the historical 15, making it harder to obtain any specific mythic, further pressuring supply. And finally, AFR and VOW were not great draft environments, likely reducing interest and thus supply.

The results of this trend are that rares and mythics from these sets produced strong speculation opportunities. The examples are too numerous to list, but here are a few that are representative of the larger trend: Chandra, Dressed to Kill, The Meathook Massacre, Lier, Disciple of the Drowned, Intrepid Adversary, Sorin the Mirthless, and Den of the Bugbear.

Key Takeaways:
– The increased value of standard legal sets can result in abnormally large gains for cards seeing strong competitive play.
– Modern is the top format for driving prices, but Standard has been impactful as well. Pioneer and can impact card prices too, for example see Cemetery Gatekeeper.

Follow the Streamers
Magic players used to watch GPs and Pro Tours and then buy cards that did well in the weekly tournaments. In the world of COVID-19, steamers are now king in moving card prices on MTGO.

Sometimes streamers have a limited amount of success, like 5-0’ing a league, that creates a modest bump that is fleeting because the deck isn’t real. For example in September Aspiringspike got a 5-0 on stream with a new Arclight Phoenix/Demilich brew, and then took 6th place in the Modern challenge with it, the price of both these cards tripped overnight. The deck was all hype and never accomplished much after that, but those who watched the 5-0 and bought in were paid off handsomely.

Steamers often showcase innovative new tech that reveal strong new cards before tournament results prove their merit. While I don’t recommend you spend all day watching streams, following each of them on social media to monitor their results is highly recommended.

Key Takeaways:
– Follow competitive magic streamers on Twitter and Twitch, such as @Aspiringspike, @kanister_mtg, @d00mwake, and @anzidmtg
– When you see a new innovative deck, evaluate it critically. Steamers try new things to develop interesting content – not necessarily to play the best deck. If they do well, evaluate the decklist critically and decide whether it’s worth an investment, and remember that hype alone can often affect MTGO prices.

Wrap Up
The MTGO economy is highly dynamic, evolving as the popularity of each format, the metagame, and card supply changes over time. Many changes happened to MTGO in 2021 alone, and 2022 may feature an even bigger shake up as Daybreak Games takes over the day-to-day maintenance of the program. To maximize your success in speculating, try to recognize the shifts in patterns and be adaptable, adjusting your tactics accordingly.

Profiting From New Set Releases on MTGO

By Oko Assassin (@OkoAssassin)

Speculating on Magic the Gathering Online (MTGO) is very different than its paper counterpart, as explained in my overview of the MTGO economics system here. The boom and bust cycle of MTGO is rapid, sometimes occurring within a matter of hours. Additionally, users can short MTGO positions, an opportunity that is fairly unique outside of the stock market. This article discusses the release of new expansion sets on MTGO and how users can profit from repeatable trends that occur during a new set’s lifecycle.


There are several ways MTGO users can profit from new sets being released, which are predictable and repeatable. Some provide a quick gain, while others take a longer buy-and-hold approach. This article will dive into each of these methods, which include:

·       Pre-Release: Short any reprints

·       Day 1-4: Purchase hyped, constructed playable cards

·       Day 2: Short garbage cards

·       Day 4-7: Short hyped cards

·       Day 7-30: Buy cards with proven tournament results

·       Day 30-120: Purchase cheap constructed playable cards

Pre-Release: Short Reprints

When a magic card is reprinted, the supply increases and the price falls, sometimes dramatically. This is a fairly simple economic concept that most magic players have experienced in paper over the years and the same phenomenon applies to MTGO. This is especially impactful on commons and uncommons, for example, see the dramatic drop that occurred when Mishra’s Bauble was reprinted in Double Masters.

An easy profit can be made by shorting cards that are reprinted. The first way is by shorting reprinted cards within the first 10-30 minutes after a reprint is announced. This will generate a quick gain, but you have to be very fast to take advantage of this approach. The easier way to profit is by shorting any valuable reprinted cards a day or two before the set release and then covering the short-sale 3-7 days after the new set release.

Day 1-4: Purchase Hyped, Constructed Playable Cards

Each time a new set releases, there are a small number of cards that are highly playable in constructed formats and naturally these cards tend to be the driving economic force on MTGO. As these new format staples are discovered, demand is always greater than the initial supply, creating a price spike for these new hyped cards. Tournaments occur on MTGO each weekend, so any card that is being played competitively is needed immediately, within a few short days after set release. MTGO tournaments attract only the most competitive players, many of whom have the motivation and means to procure these cards at any cost.

This trend has become even more prevalent as draft grinders have increasingly migrated to MTG Arena starting in April, 2020, when drafting against real opponents became possible for the first time. This is important because drafting is the primary way new supply enters the MTGO economy, with Treasure Chests to an important secondary source.

Cross-format play is the gold standard for any speculation that can drive amazing returns. While this seems obvious, identifying these cards early this can be more difficult than it seems. A recent example of this is Skyclave Apparition, which was initially available on MTGO for 1 tix, but quickly jumped to 10 tix, and then 20 tix, once it became clear this card was seeing 3-4x play in nearly all constructive formats. Most cards will not be quite so regal, so often a card will only see play in a specific format or two.

Modern is the most popular constructed format on MTGO, and thus it will often drive the most exceptional returns using this approach. In particular look for mythics that will be played as 4x in an existing archetype or are essential to a new combo, such as Heliod, Sun-Crowned/Walking Ballista. Players love new tech and will pay a premium to try it out. Scourge of the Skyclaves is a great example of a card seeing 4x play that slotted into an existing archetype.

Standard is also relevant for the few weeks of set release too, despite it being fairly irrelevant normally on MTGO. Wizard of the Coast’s new F.I.R.E. design philosophy has led to many new cards being absurdly broken, leading to new cards dominating the standard format, followed quickly by subsequent bans. This dominance leads to significant price increases on MTGO. A great example of this phenomenon was Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast, which increased dramatically in price as it caught on in Standard before Agent of Treachery was banned. Eventually Lukka began seeing play in Pioneer as well, but that did not fuel this initial demand.

An unusually high number of cards from Zendikar Rising fit this template – with Scourge of the Skyclaves, Omnath, Locus of Creation, modal double-faced mythic lands, all increasing greatly in price during the first week of the set release. More recently during the (non-standard legal) set release of Commander Legends Hullbreacher spiked up to 120 tix due to seeing play in both Legacy and Vintage.   

In summary, a large profit can be made during the first 1-4 days of a set release by identifying what will be the new hot thing by following hype and results on Twitter, CFB/SCG articles, podcasts, and hype. This approach comes with a significant risk too because most MTGO cards fall in price following set release, so recognizing the difference is key to success.

Day 2: Short Garbage Cards

Many cards are expensive upon set release simply because they are in short supply. Strong profits can be made by shorting garbage mythics and rares as soon as they become available – in hopes that their price will plummet after a few days of drafting leads to a glut of supply. I define a garbage card to be a card with limited constructed value.

This approach requires magic experience and strong analysis. Some cards can be easily written off, but then take off like a rocketship after getting discovered. For example, Omnath, Locus of Creation started at 10 tix, but it quickly became the new hot tech in standard, causing this card to jump to 70 tickets in a few short days. In contrast, Sea Gate Stormcaller had a lot of hype, but fell from 25 tix to 5 tix in just a few days. Speculators should short cards that lack potential or are overhyped, while avoiding cards with significant potential.

Day 4-7: Short Hyped Cards

The same cards that can be profitable to buy in the first few days after a set release can similarly be profitable to short once more supply enters the market and/or demand decreases after the first weekend tournaments. Going back to the Omnath, Locus of Creation example, this card peaked at 70 tix three days after set release. Over the next 6 days Omnath fell to 22 tickets. Similarly, Teferi Master of Time fell from 50 tix three days after set release to 28 tix only three days later. This trend is fairly cyclical and reliable. Profit from it by shorting at the peak hype pricing and covering a few days later for a gain.  

Day 7-30: Buy cards with proven tournament results

After the first week, price movements pivots to being defined by cards that have proven themselves during weekend tournaments, and to a lesser extend, the daily 5-0 lists, and preliminaries.

There are many recent examples of this including Mazemind Tome (.04 to 4 tix), Skyclave Apparition (9 to 20 tix), Fiend Artisan (13 to 25 tix), Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast (3 to 25 tix), among many others. Each of these increases occurred not because of speculation, rather because these cards were proving themselves in tournaments. Most cards fall in price during the first 30 days because of the massive amount of new supply coming into the market from drafting, so these cards are an exception to the general trend. During this time period aim to only invest in cards like those listed above that were under-estimated at first but have been proving themselves in weekend tournaments.

Day 30-120: Purchase cheap cards with potential

Cards can get really affordable on MTGO, even very good cards. This is especially true for rares, but can also be true of mythics. An example I often think of is the Throne of Eldraine (ELD) land cycle, which hit a low of .10 tix per land about one month after the set’s release. The ELD lands were clearly good – with a lot of long term potential. Yet they could be bought 10 for 1 tix. That’s crazy! At this moment, the cheapest castle is .3 tix, while the most expensive is 3 tix. This means if you would have bought 100 copies of every castle, it would have cost 50 tix and the net return would be 300 tix for Castle Locthwain alone.

While many desirable cards won’t be this cheap, over the last year you could have gotten great deals on staples that were destined to succeed. For example, at some point between 30-120 days after a new set release you could have gotten Shark Typhoon, Bonecrusher Giant, or Murderous Rider for 1 tix. Or for 2.5 tix you could have gotten Klothys, God of Destiny or Lurrus of the Dream-Den.

Identifying these opportunities requires skill and experience, but hundreds of tickets can be made if you’re able to identify undervalued cards that are likely to increase in price once supply is cut off.

Closing Thoughts

MTGO speculation is defined by identifying and exploiting patterns and data. This framework aims to provide several patterns that apply generally to each new set release. Think of them as guidelines rather than hard and fast rules and for the greatest results, research, research, research.

Understanding the Changes to MTGO Payouts

Once again, major changes are afoot in the Wonderful World of Magic Online™, this time targeting Constructed events and their prize structures. This announcement is bigger than just some minor restructuring, though: the quick summary is that Wizards is introducing a new currency, doubling entry fees for Daily Events (without a corresponding prize increase), and stifling player-to-player trading, including player-to-bot trading. This is a big deal, and whether or not it goes well, the MTGO economy will be seeing the fallout from this for the foreseeable future. If you play Magic Online or are concerned about its economy, you should definitely check out the official post with full details.

However, because that article is written with a whole lot of coded language and corporate doublespeak, I’ll be FJM‘ing it below. Without further ado, here’s Magic Online Digital Product Manager Lee Sharpe:

Magic Online is an awesome place to play Magic. We think it could be better with some changes, particularly focused on Constructed events. Recent player feedback supports this as an area where we can improve, especially when alternative Limited events such as the Tempest Remastered or Cube Drafting are available. In this spirit, today we are announcing some changes to Magic Online events.

This is a promising start. Wizards is listening to player feedback and instituting the Constructed-equivalent of Tempest Remastered and MTGO Cube. Could this be the long-promised return of leagues?!


We focused on what Constructed players want to do with their prizes and made sure our prize offerings reflected those goals:

  1. Provide a prize that allows a Constructed player to immediately jump in another event.
  2. At least some events provide players with prizes that allow for better deck customization as preferences and sets change.

Okay, okay. You might think this is getting good. I assumed that what Sharpe was saying with point number one above is that events will now pay out once you finish your final round, as they currently make you wait for every match to finish before handing out prizes. (Spoiler: this is not what Sharpe is saying.)

What Sharpe is really saying with point number two is, “At least some events provide players with prizes that have actual value.” This, in fact, is not good.


Play Points will now be used as prizes for Constructed queues and Daily Events. Eight-Player Queues and Daily Events will award prizes that are a combination of Play Points and boosters, while two player queues will award prizes that are entirely in Play Points. Additionally, all three of these plus many other Magic Online events will have an additional entry option that consists entirely of Play Points.

I wonder why they don’t just pay out in event tickets, the already-established currency on Magic Online?

We believe Play Points will do a great job of achieving the first goal, which is to allow players to play events more easily. To make sure the second goal is also met, we are still awarding some prizes as booster packs. Players can trade or open these boosters to help them get new cards for their decks.

Again, why not just award event tickets rather than introduce a new currency? There has to be a catch.

In the future, we plan to look at other ways to use prizes to promote deck customization besides booster packs (mainly because they are mostly used currently to join Limited events). However, for now we want to focus on the changes that we’re announcing today.

This is a completely unnecessary paragraph. I imagine that Sharpe is hinting at prizes of singles for Constructed events in the future, but Wizards doesn’t have much of a track record of delivering on promises related to Magic Online, so don’t count on this paragraph ever meaning anything. It exists solely to say, “This isn’t the only thing we’re doing, guys! We know this isn’t good enough or even good at all but we’re super seriously working on something better! Pinkie promise!” If it’s not actively being instituted, assume it will never happen.


Before we talk about additional ways to use Play Points, here are the details of the events where you can win them!

Constructed Two-Player Queue

Start Times: Fire on demand
Location: Constructed Queues
Entry Options:

  • Option 1: 2 Event Tickets
  • Option 2: 20 Play Points

Size: 2 players
Play Style: Single Elimination
Duration: One round, lasting up to 50 minutes.

Sharpe is starting with one of MTGO’s biggest weaknesses: two-player queues. For the uninitiated, two-player queues cost two event tickets to enter for each player. The MSRP for a booster pack is four tickets, so ostensibly, the winner gets the full value for the four total tickets of entry fee.

However, ever since the 2013 increase of redemption fees from $5 to $25—the impact of which would take an entire article to fully describe—pack prices have plummeted. Generally, a player should be able to get between two and three tickets each for booster packs, with occasional jumps above three or dips below two. With pack prices consistently lower than MSRP, there have been times during the last two years where you could have a 90-percent win percentage in two-player queues and still be losing money. The problem is that many competitive players see these queues as the most time-efficient way to play meaningful games to test their decks.

So how do the Play Points prizes look?

Prizes 30 Play Points
QPs 0
Prizes 5 Play Points
QPs 0

Before, Wizards could pretend like it was not taking a cut off of two-player queues when essentially selling a booster pack for four tickets. Now, the players know upfront that 12.5 percent of their combined entry fee is going to the house. I bet Sharpe tries to spin this positively:

The Two-Player Queue is available for Standard, Modern, Legacy, Vintage, Pauper, and Momir Basic. If you win, you get enough Play Points to play in another one, plus you’re halfway to the one after that. If you lose, you’re a quarter of the way to a free one. Keep earning more points!

Told you.

Ultimately, not much changes economically for players of these queues. This essentially stabilizes the winner’s prize at the equivalent of three tickets, with a pity half-ticket going to the loser. I’m not a math scientist, but that still seems to be unfavorable to the average player, who wins about 50 percent of his or her matches. If Wizards actually gave the full amount of Play Points back to the players, it might be a different story.

Constructed Eight-Player Queue

Start Times: Fire on demand
Location: Constructed Queues
Entry Options:

  • Option 1: 6 Event Tickets
  • Option 2: 60 Play Points

Size: 8 players
Play Style: Single Elimination
Duration: Three rounds, each round up to 50 minutes.

Prizes 2 Magic Origins booster packs and
140 Play Points
QPs 2
Prizes 1 Magic Origins booster pack and
60 Play Points
QPs 1
Prizes 60 Play Points
QPs 0

The Eight-Player Queue is available for Standard and Modern. Winning the first match gets you enough Play Points to play in another eight-player queue. Winning the second match gets you enough Play Points to play in another eight-player queue, plus a booster. Finally, if you can win all three matches, you’ll receive more than enough Play Points to enter two more eight-player queues, on top of two boosters!

I’m sure there will be players unhappy about these only being available for Standard and Modern, but the eight-man queues don’t seem so egregious to me. The old prize payout was five packs for first place, three packs for second place, and two packs for third and fourth places. If we’re assuming that ten Play Points are worth roughly about the price of a ticket and that packs are worth about three tickets each, this seems like about the same payout for everybody except slightly better for first place. Whether you like a top-heavy payout is purely a matter of personal preference.

Constructed Daily Event

Start Times: See Schedule
Location: Constructed Scheduled
Entry Options:

  • Option 1: 12 Event Tickets
  • Option 2: 120 Play Points

Size: 8 players
Play Style: Swiss
Duration: Four rounds, each round up to 50 minutes.

Match Wins
4 Wins
Prizes 6 Magic Origins booster packs and
360 Play Points
QPs 3
3 Wins
Prizes 3 Magic Origins booster packs and
180 Play Points
QPs 1


Sharpe really buried the lede here, as now we’ve gotten to the part where Wizards is doubling of the price to enter Daily Events, one of the defining tournament series on Magic Online.

Most recently, Daily Events cost six event tickets to enter and consisted of four rounds of Swiss play. If you went 4-0, you got 11 packs, whereas 3-1 got you six packs. Even when packs are as low as two tickets, this is more than a triple-up for going undefeated and a nice double-up for going 3-1.

I should really note how important Daily Events are to Magic Online players who want to “go infinite.” These aren’t the best value in history (Daily Events used to give 13 packs for 4-0, for example), but they’re good enough value that players can dream about stringing together enough 3-1 and 4-0 finishes that they don’t have to put money into Magic Online anymore, with the best players even turning a profit.

From WOTC’s perspective, players turning a profit or playing for free appears bad, but there’s a bigger picture here. How many players have dumped a ton of money into Magic Online hoping to go infinite but never really get there? My guess would be many, many more than those that do actually reach the goal of playing for free. However, with this move, Wizards has shattered the dream of going infinite for a whole lot of players, as the prizes have not increased as sharply as entry fees.

For illustration’s sake, let’s assume a three-ticket booster pack price, even though that’s not very realistic recently. Old Daily Event 4-0s would pay out 33 tickets after an entry fee of six, an increase of 550 percent. Now a 4-0 record pays about 54 tickets of value compared to a 12-ticket entry fee, an increase of only 450 percent.

Does a 3-1 payout improve? With a three-ticket booster, the old system’s 3-1 record would result in a triple-up from six tickets to 18. Now players get roughly 27 tickets for their 12-ticket entry fees, nine tickets short of that triple up we used to see.

There’s no doubt about it: Wizards is significantly lowering the payout for Daily Events.

Constructed Daily Events are available for Standard, Modern, Legacy, Vintage, and Pauper. They reflect the highest level of regularly available competition on Magic Online. As such, we are increasing the number of event tickets used to join to reflect this and help distance it from the eight-player queues. Since the quality of play in Constructed Daily Events can be quite intense, we expect some players will stick to the queues. Choose the level of event that is right for you.

“We determined that Daily Events were decidedly better value than everything else we offer, and rather than consider the fact that these being scheduled events is a reasonable enough downside to justify that better value, we decided to double the entry fee instead.”

You’ll also see the prize structure provides some very good rewards for those who do well under this system: Three wins gets you three boosters as well as enough Play Points for another Constructed Daily Event entry and halfway to one after that. Four wins is six boosters, plus enough Play Points for three more Constructed Daily Event entries. We hope these events are exciting—and the prize structures different enough from each other—that no matter what kind of player you are, you will be able to find the event offerings that are right for you.

No mention of the fact that the Daily Event payout has been neutered. Sharpe has failed to convince me that these are “very good rewards.”


We want players to have the options to select a variety of ways to use their Play Points. You can see above how you can use them in Constructed Queues and Daily Events. Play Points, like Phantom Points before them, are untradeable…

Let me cut you off right there, Lee. He’s trying to skip over the most important part, but the fact that these are untradeable is a crucial point.

As someone who plays on MTGO primarily for Cube, I can appreciate Phantom Points, but they are terrible value for anything other than that one format. I’ve avoided phantom Draft and Sealed events like the plague, but now Magic Online is instituting a terrible system for all of its Constructed queues. Got that? Let’s move on.

…and we’re excited to be able to use them creatively in new and exciting ways because of that. Also like Phantom Points, Play Points will be available as an entry option for Phantom Queues, and we are expanding their use as entry options in the following other events:

Event Type
Booster Drafts
Current Entry Options Option 1: 14 Event Tickets
Option 2: 3 Boosters and 2 Event Tickets
New Additional Entry Option Option 3: 140 Play Points
Four-Booster Sealed Events
Current Entry Options Option 1: 18 Event Tickets
Option 2: 4 Boosters and 2 Event Tickets
New Additional Entry Option Option 3: 180 Play Points
Sealed Daily Events
Current Entry Options Option 1: 26 Event Tickets
Option 2: 6 Boosters and 2 Event Tickets
New Additional Entry Option Option 3: 260 Play Points
PTQ Preliminaries
(Constructed and Sealed)
Current Entry Options Option 1: 30 Event Tickets
New Additional Entry Option Option 2: 300 Play Points

The prize structures of these event types are unchanged. They will not award any additional Play Points. But we believe this new structure will provide players Constructed players with the opportunity to use Play Points beyond events that award them as prizes.

Admittedly, it would be pretty annoying to not get to enter Limited events with these, and at least they’re not trying to pay out in only Play Points, so this part is basically fine.


The new structures will begin after the August 12 downtime, when release events for Magic Origins end.

Just enough time to sell your account! (And MTGO Traders owner Heath Newton confirmed that many players are.)


Yes! As I stated in the June Events article, Play Points will be introduced and Phantom Points will be retired during this Wednesday’s downtime. However, each account will receive 6 Play Points for every Phantom Point they have in their account at that time.

Thanks, I guess?


No. The only way to get Play Points is through events (although sometimes they also may be available through special promotions). Most events that support a Play Point entry option will also support an event ticket entry option, and those tickets are available in the Magic Online Store.

Yep, these are totally the replacement for phantom points.


You can send detailed feedback to magiconlinefeedback@wizards.com. This email goes directly to Worth Wollpert, Mike Turian, Chris Kiritz, and me—the team making the day-to-day business decisions about Magic Online. I generally read everything the same day it comes in.

We also read Magic articles published online and the Magicsubreddit. You can also reach us via Twitter through the official @MagicOnline Twitter account or directly at my account, @mtg_lee.

Lee Sharpe
Digital Product Manager—Magic Online Events

Such a large section devoted to soliciting feedback indicates that Wizards knows this is a player-unfriendly move. The Magic community has been able to get Wizards to backtrack on bad decisions before. If you feel this impacts you negatively, let Wizards know.

The Future of the MTGO Economy

Nobody really knows what will happen to Magic Online’s economy as a result of these changes, but we can make some educated guesses.

First, let’s discuss booster pack prices. It stands to reason that if fewer boosters are being put into the hands of players, the price of individual boosters will increase. As prizes for events, this is good, but keep in mind that most events now pay out in Play Points, so this ultimately ends up being a minimal payoff for Constructed players. Limited players, however, will be paying higher pack prices, meaning that drafting on Magic Online will be more expensive. This doesn’t appear to benefit Constructed or Limited players. I wonder who does benefit, then? (Wizards).

Second, players will have less need to sell boosters or singles for tickets, so player-to-player trades will decrease. This includes player-to-bot trades, as bots are owned by individual Magic Online players. This move should decrease secondary market commerce significantly.

Third, players will have less ability to liquidate their collections. Since Play Points can’t be traded, they can’t be sold on the secondary market, either. A player looking for some quick cash used to be able to sell prize packs and singles for tickets and sell tickets for cash. While that is still technically true, Constructed players will have fewer packs to work with and will be accumulating Play Points that can’t be liquidated quickly or efficiently.

The community at large seems to be quite upset with these changes. The fallout may not be as bad as many are predicting, but I would hardly call these changes a good thing for the player base. Still, this Reddit post outlines much of the expected value of events moving forward, and yeah, the world will probably go on. I’d still love to see WOTC’s internal numbers after this change.

Magic Online has long justified its high prices despite its low costs by stating that the paper and digital games should have as much in common as possible. Now it appears that Wizards is taking steps toward making Magic Online a self-contained economy where one is not able to liquidate cards or currency, like what we see in Hearthstone and SolForge. The problem is that the prices remain comparatively high to those games.

There’s so much more to be said about Magic Online, but this should be a good overview of why there is controversy regarding Monday’s announcement. If you’re unhappy with these changes, let Wizards know. And hey, post your thoughts in the comment section below. Remember, Wizards has backed off due to community backlash before. Do you think these changes benefit anyone but the company’s shareholders?

The Ethics of MTGFinance

By James Chillcott (@MTGCritic)

Recently I’ve found myself being pulled into cyclical debates on the ethics of MTGFinance. With the increasing participation and interest in this side of the Magic: The Gathering community, it seems like a good time to get to the bottom of things.

The Price Is Always Right

So the other day I’m at a new nerd conference in Toronto and I notice halfway through day 2 as we’re promoting ShelfLife.net (plug: our next gen social commerce platform for collectors) that attendance is pretty dismal. Figuring the vendors may be in the mood for deals I locate an LGS dealer with a ton of binders in tow and no central pricing system. This is exactly the scenario where you are likely to find the best, and the largest deals, largely because only the biggest most dedicated vendors can possibly keep up with the increasingly rapid prices shifts in our community. Sure enough I locate over $2500usd in singles within 30min of binder browsing. I stack the cards in piles at various price points, the dealer signs off on a $1100cdn sale price after some haggling down from $1400cdn and we conclude our business with a handshake and a smile.

Now pause and ask yourself: did I rip him off? Or more to the point, was the transaction ethical?

MTGFinance In A Nutshell
MTGFinance In A Nutshell

I assert that it most certainly was, and here’s why:

1) No one was lying, causing distractions, fast talking or otherwise obscuring the action

2) We’re responsible adults responsible for our own decisions, and his decision was to publicly offer the products in question at the prices we both agreed to

3) Interest is the first sign of market shifts, and he waved it off, likely because;

4) He clearly saw value in the cash flow

Now let’s examine what could have happened had I chosen the opposite path, a path some people might demand I take to achieve perfect transparency.  I could have, for instance, tallied the cards, and engaged in this conversation:

  •  Me: I think these cards are worth essentially double what you have them priced at, about $2500.
  • Vendor: Thanks! My new price is $2500. So would you like to buy them at that price?
  • Me: No thanks.
  • Vendor: Oh, why not? Don’t you recognize them as being worth this price on average in the market?
  • Me: Yes.
  • Vendor: So then you’re backing out because you can get them somewhere else cheaper?
  • Me: No, I’m backing out because I believe these magic cards are investments, and as such, must operate under the principle of opportunity costs.
  • Vendor: How’s that?
  • Me: Because you’ve reset the price to market average, there are now other options I believe will yield better returns within the same time frame, and my role as a market maker dictates that to achieve an efficient market I must act logically and efficiently and pursue my goals while you pursue yours. When the value of my potential returns matches your value in cash flow, a market action will occur and we will both be equally happy. In this particular case I have clearly spent a lot more time than you tracking and memorizing current price averages. This knowledge has value, and I just conferred that value to you as a gift, creating an imbalance in our market making potential and ensuring we cannot achieve market action. You see, I came to your booth loaded with efficiency, free cash flow and risk taking potential. You were carrying inefficiency, low cash flow and lower risk potential, as expressed by your willingness at any time to convert cards that could potentially accelerate in value for cash that averages a much lower interest rate unless reinvested in greater prospects. This insinuated that any (or all) of the following was true:

a) your time was too valuable to make re-pricing your inventory to match current demand worthwhile

b) your potential reinvestment opportunities exceeded my perceived net present value of the cards in question

Further, our lack of prior exchange of social value through camaraderie, emotional support or familial ties makes my donation of value result in an unequal match. I’ve sacrificed over $1000 in value for no discernable benefit as other market actors were already willing to sell me these cards at the newly requested price, which I’ve only just now made you aware of. As such instead of heading home with $1100 cash, you’re heading home with $600 in booth fees, time wasted and no opportunity to reinvest.  I’m heading home with $1400 less profit potential at a risk level previously determined to be acceptable, and a non-friend I’ve donated goodwill to without any return on my investment.

Final score: No one is winning. The market is broken.

StarCityGames Is Not The Market Price

So having taken a closer look at the dynamics and difficulties of trying to manually price thousands of magic cards, let’s examine where these kind of scenarios have led the LGS/Vendor segment of our hobby ecosystem.

Price Progress?
Price Progress?

Back in the pre-internet days, Inquest and Scrye magazine published monthly with card pricing lists taken from surveys of selected vendors around North America. This system led to many golden opportunities for savvy players who could spot a rising tide for certain cards at the tournament level and translate that into smart actions at their local gaming stores before the new issues came out the following month. It also tended to result in highly specialized local economies, with card pricing varying oddly from community to community based on local play styles, format focuses and house rules.

The advent of the Internet, and in particular the ability to view past transactions on Ebay yanked us all into an entirely new era, with easy access to global price data, a trend that has only accelerated in the last 5 years with big data sites like MTGPrice.com, MTGOGoldfish.com, mtgowikiprice.com and TCGPlayer.com. Better information, made widely available should be good for everyone but coupled with the rise of the smartphone has empowered players to take advantage of low margin (aka inefficient) vendors, as well as lazy players, who can’t keep up with pricing shifts. (Now to be fair, vendors have done this to players since the beginning, using buy list tactics that most would consider normal business.)

At the same time, the tendency for commerce to centralize within niches online, leads to the appearance of major market actors with high efficiency such as StarCityGames.com. SCG brand equity then leads to their price lists being used as a mutually agreeable reference point for market actors seeking to equalize value and achieve market action. Other vendors then go a step further, seeking to achieve efficiency and close more market actions through the simplest course of action: copying SCG pricing.

This has lead us to entirely new era of Magic pricing: The Age of Oligopolistic Tendencies.

As opposed to a monopoly which is typically defined as a single market actor holding unfair stores of value due to legal, procedural, resource access or other major advantages, an oligopoly is typically characterized by a relatively few market actors disguising their inefficiency by agreeing to fixed pricing that ensures certain margins and leads to permanently unequal value exchanges while maintaining a relatively stable model of market sharing for the vendors. These situations are especially exacerbated in the case of goods essential to living such as food, warmth, clothing and shelter. Though no true oligopolistic cabal exists in the MTG world, the tendency of inefficient vendors to leverage platforms like Crystal Commerce to track and average the prices of the largest vendors to set their own pricing, is leading us towards a magic ecology with oligopolistic tendencies. (It’s worth noting here that between TCGPlayer, Ebay and PucaTrade “true” market pricing is still widely available and in play.)

Put simply: If everyone uses the same pricing, originally set by the most efficient vendor, no actor will ever be able to achieve further efficiency or recognize the true value of their potential market actions. This is true because in theory and practice, the scenario for every market actor is unique, and their price should be uniquely customized to that scenario.

Eg) Store X has $2500 (SCG pricing) in singles for sale. They set their price on this pile of cards to $2500. A player enters the premises and offers $2300, and the LGS declines because Crystal Commerce says their price is on target. The problem here is that price comparisons only establish the cash value of a transaction, and utterly fail to establish the other forms of value and opportunity cost. For instance if Store X can achieve higher inventory turnover rates, lower overhead, lower product costs, enjoys different tax scenarios, or any number of other value stores, they may be economically incorrect to turn down the deal.

This is a key concept, so let’s dig deeper. Check out this table of value store calculations on a theoretical booster box of Conspiracy being sold by an LGS with greater efficiencies than SCG, but priced to match on the premise that SCG is using the “correct” price:

LGS X StarCityGames
Product Cost to Vendor $74 $72
Posted Sale Price $99.50 $99.50
Turnover Rate (Days to Retrieve Capital) 180 216
Investment Periods/Annum 2.027 1.689
Corporate Tax Rate 15% 35%
Overhead/Box/Days to Turnover $3.50 $7
Gross Yield%Gross Yield

Yield Net Overhead

%Yield Net Overhead

Yield After Tax

Effective Annual Yield After Tax**r = (1+i)^









So what exactly does that math demonstrate?

Price Efficiency Achieved?
Price Efficiency Achieved?

Well, in essence it demonstrates that an LGS with access to non-revenue value stores can achieve greater return on investment than a major market actor. In reality, some of these stores are quite possible (better tax scenarios) while others (think overhead/box sold) are highly unlikely due to economies of scale and scope. Even still, assuming we accept that an LGS could achieve more efficient capital returns, why does that matter?

It matters because higher yield would allow them to lower box prices on the premise that lowering prices below SCG pricing would increase overall sales, and because we already know the LGS has superior returns on those sales, they can make more money overall by undercutting their larger competitor. Here’s the kind of graph we’re talking about.

Note that the demand curve shifts out when the price drops, resulting in higher overall sales, because, duh, more players will buy more boxes if they’re cheaper.

Here’s some more math on the two possible scenarios (for illustration only, since just how much demand may increase based on lowered pricing depends on many factors beyond the ken of this discussion).  We’ll even assume lowered box costs as volume increases, though the plateaus would be fairly broad in our ecosystem:

Cost/Box Revenue/Box Boxes Sold Total Profit
Scenario A: SCG Price Match $74 $99.50 186 $4743
Scenario B: Set Lower Price $73 $97.50 223 $5463.50

The LGS has dropped their price slightly, increased sales by about 20% and achieved a slight inventory cost reduction as reward for their higher volume (because they contributed to their wholesalers own inventory turnover rate), leading to an overall increase of 15%.

Surprised?  You shouldn’t be, because this is EXACTLY what a properly functioning free market economy is supposed to look like. A healthy economy needs the friction of market actors jostling for position to trend towards the most efficient combination of price and alternate value that maximizes both shareholder return for the companies and utility for the consumers.

Note that this is functionally identical to my trip to the LGS with noticeably lower prices because in encountering that actor I had no way to know whether they were:

a) seeking value through inaction (due to the value of their time)


b) deliberately lowering prices to increase inventory sell through and capture more market share.

The real point however, is that it just doesn’t matter why they were priced lower because whether their price positioning was intentional, representative of alternate value stores or representative of their inefficiency, the market needs the match tested to find equilibrium. If the match is efficient, I will return, repeat similar transactions and the vendor will thrive if their choices are in fact efficient, applying competitive pressures to SCG and other larger market actors to lower prices for more and more players. If it is inefficient, I may one day return to find the vendor closed, and I will move on to market matches with the most efficient vendor I can find, and the cycle continues. I mean I miss those Friday night hunts for value at Blockbuster, but I can’t argue that the shift from $30 in late fees/month to $10 unlimited access to content from my couch via Netflix isn’t the purest representation of market evolution in motion.

The Boundaries of Ethical Trading

Resist the Dark Side
Resist the Dark Side

First off, I’m a long standing liberal. In fact, up here in Canada, we have parties further left than the Democrats and I vote them with pride. Ultimately I consider myself a social pragmatist, but I reserve the right to skew the energy I spend on socially conscious commerce in favor of essential rather than non-essential goods. That means I tend to transfer value to causes that are improving the overall standard of living more efficiently than I ever could directly. As MTG is an upper middle class game with no essential utility, I am definitely on the side of economics vs. social good, but only so far as I believe they are in fact one in the same in terms of achieving market efficiency in the Magic commons. By this I mean that good economics will lead to the healthiest overall community, a fact I’m sure Hasbro drills into the WOTC exec at every opportunity.

Remember a few years back when they yanked global tournament support, ditched the old rating system and abandoned nationals? We all yelled a lot, but the game has only gotten better since, presumably because the internal reallocation of resources has made the entire operation more efficient at attracting users and increased the overall utility to our community broadly despite the painful transition.

Further, there is a huge difference between accepting a listed price, and engaging in more nefarious acts. Here’s some scenarios I DON’T support:

  • Duping kids is off limits, simply because they aren’t legal market actors at all and cannot be expected to act rationally.
  • Noobs are off limits, largely because being kind to new players yields social scenarios that largely outweigh any meager profits that could be made off their single copy of Jace. I’m not above dumping 1000 commons on someone in a swap for a $50 rare, but I always make sure they know the score, and they’re rarely concerned since variety > power in the early days of trading.
  • Switching price tags, confusing vendors when busy, lying about condition, delaying payments and failing to honor posted prices (a personal pet peeve) are all forms of theft because they represent non-voluntary transfers of value.

In the end, I’ve written this article to make one simple point: you are no more responsible to “correct” the pricing of a vendor than they are to “correct” their pricing when you need a Snapcaster Mage ten minutes before the start of the GP.

I’m also asserting that such acts of price adjustment, are in facts acts of economic and/or social charity, resulting in the transference of hard earned value from one market actor to another without justification.  And while you may feel good about doing it, you may in fact be injuring the health of the MTG economy as a whole by failing to exert the pressures that lead to maximum market efficiency and the lowest possible price for playing this beautiful game.

Now you may say “hey, wait a minute, I hang out at my LGS every day, I’ve known the owner for years and I need to look him in the eye when we trade. This guy gives me deals, runs a good scene and he’s always got snacks on hand for Commander night.”

My response is that you and the owner are not simple market actors, but something closer to friends (or at least peers), in your scenario, and are by definition engaged in a barter economy where you trade value in terms other than just cash, and in doing so you keep things just as equal as if you had bought him out of a common box worth of Simian Spirit Guides. When you notify him every time his pricing seems low, you are in essence investing the value of your knowledge into your favorite hangout and inevitably expecting that value to yield dividends. You may consider yourself the altruistic sort, but when push comes to shove, if you save him from buyout after buyout and he won’t even put aside a Conspiracy box for you, you are unlikely to continue the exchange.

To wit, nor should you.

 James Chillcott is the CEO of ShelfLife.net, The Future of Collecting, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.