The Money in Magic. Introduction.


When it comes to talking about Magic to people that don’t play magic the first thing I go to is talking about the kind of money you can make. For example, at the DC Open last weekend, first place took home $2,400. Taking a look at the overall profit to be made when playing the game in a competitive setting it’s easy to see why we put ourselves through so much. But there are different degrees of money you’re willing to put into the game when taking into consideration the amount of money you expect to get out.

Looking at the most played deck in Standard, the land base for Naya will run you around $374 depending. That is unarguably a large sum of money to be dropping on cardboard. But the thing that’s not often considered when seeing those kinds of numbers being thrown around is that you’re looking at the immediate price of cards that you, inevitably, intend to make money using. At Friday Night Magic, at my local card shop they give $34 store credit to first place ($30 to 1st and 2nd if they split it). If you win eleven weeks you’ve payed for your land base.

“But Justin, I can’t play that often because of reasons.”

Then you have to take other financial routes into consideration. Thus creating what’s known as a “budget deck”. The land base for Red Deck Wins is actually just mountains. Much cheaper and still completely viable. But this does affect the likelihood of you going first with frequency. It’s not that it’s a bad deck it just doesn’t have the diversity and flexibility as the more high end decks do. That’s what makes them high end decks.

It boils down to what you expect to do with your cards. If you only really play with friends and just do it as a hobby not dropping a whole lot of money on your casual decks or EDH decks is fine. There are even much cheaper versions of more expensive cards tailored for the less interested or more financially restricted. Cards like Magus of the Coffers instead of Cabal Coffers or Temporal Cascade instead of Time Spiral. I’m not going to go into the explicit reasons as to why cards that seem nearly the same are worth much more money in this article, but trust me when I say expensive cards are expensive for a reason.

Wizards even has their own articles for building on a budget, you should go check it out if you feel like stepping your game up without hurting your wallet to bad.

Next week, we’ll go into much more detail about the prices of cards and the overall money that goes in and potentially comes out of magic.

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What It Means to Play Magic to Me.


Tonight during the standard format at my local card shop, I had a moment with my opponent that really showed me why I play this game. To share that story I must first tell another story. About two weeks ago, there was an Invitational Qualifier(IQ) scheduled at the card shop I frequent. I built a new deck and tested it at the Friday Night Magic the day before. I did very poorly, finishing the night of at two wins and three losses. I was disheartened for the IQ the next day and was considering quitting playing competitive magic entirely. A friend of mine encouraged me to play tomorrow regardless. I played on Saturday and took top 8, finishing at 6th place out of roughly fifty players. Going top 8 in the magic community is kind of a big deal. I was so proud. The entire day, I wanted the top 8 pin more than anything. I can even remember getting the text for my first round pairing and seeing that I was to play against a player I knew was better and thinking, this is going to be tough. I never let the thought of, I can’t do this, cross my mind.

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After that, I thought about what about this game is so alluring. I realized that I love this game so much because it challenges me and makes me think in a way that I probably wouldn’t have thought when confronted with an obstacle. I like to win, but more than that I like to prove to myself that all this effort, time, and money is not being wasted.

Cut to today, it’s the third round out of four. I have one win and one loss. I’m a little discouraged but I play anyway. My opponent beats me but I had a fun time playing and he was a nice enough guy. After the match he says to me “By the way, I wanted to tell you. You were the first guy that I played in a tournament setting against and you kicked the crap out of me. But afterward, you said to me that I was good and I should keep trying to get better”

The guy next to us blurts out “Should I play some sentimental music for you two?”

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But without missing a beat my opponent says to him “Well, when you go to an IQ by yourself off the back of what one guy says to you and take top 8, yeah it’s cause for some sentimental music.”

He looks to me and just thanks me for believing in him and giving him the confidence to take that risk.

This was probably the greatest moment in my Magic career.

In closing, that’s what it means to play magic to me. To challenge yourself and aspire for something that may seem way out of your reach. To give others the confidence to try for greatness in the same way others gave you that confidence.

The Significance of the Sideboard.


During the week, a co-worker and I got into an argument about why the Standard format is bothersome to me, because the diversity of decks, the “optimal” sideboard is unattainable. We went rounds for about two hours discussing everything from, decks in the past, what it means to have a “bad match-up”, defined formats, what that means exactly, what makes a deck good and how the sideboard helps that. It boiled down to my understanding of a sideboard, which is, it’s 15 cards that help you or give you an advantage against decks, you can’t beat normally. That is undeniably false. What a good sideboard consists of is, 15 cards that improves your decks performance against what you expect to play against most often. Those two things sound the same but in detail are wildly different and I’ll explain why.

So, when you build your main deck, you have a lot of things to consider.

- How often am I going to see the cards I need?

- Which cards in particular are the most crucial to get?

- In what way, if any, can I manipulate the odds of getting cards I need?

- What exactly, is my win condition?

- How will this deck perform against the decks that are going top 8 reliably?

And a thousand other things to take into consideration. Now, obviously, a deck can’t have everything covered. You can have as many cards in a deck as you want but it’s a matter of numbers. The more cards you have in your deck the less likely you are to see certain cards reliably. For example, with the maximum amount of one card allowed in your deck, which is four, out of 60 cards, you will see that card roughly 6% of the time. So adding more cards is just a consciously inhibiting you. In comes the sideboard. With a sideboard, the size of your deck, effectively, jumps to 75 without changing the odds of drawing into the cards you need to see. But what your sideboard consists of is where things get tricky.

Like I said before, what I thought a sideboard was supposed to do was to impede my opponent, especially against decks I have an unfavorable match up against. Why that is wrong is because, you want the cards in your sideboard to put you ahead of your opponent in someway, not be reactionary. So for example, if I’m running a blue/black deck and my opponent has a lot of artifacts, a card type both blue and black are notorious for being unable to destroy, then I want to sideboard in cards that make it more difficult for them to use their artifacts. As a rough, and I stress the word rough, scenario, if my sideboard options are a counterspell or a spell that makes them discard, I would pick the discard spell because, I am just as likely to see the counterspell as I am to see the discard spell however, when I do finally get the counterspell it may not be as relevant whereas the discard spell can still be used to get something else out of their hand and still gives me the additional information of what’s in their hand.

In closing, there’s no such thing as the perfect deck and by extension, the perfect sideboard. However recognizing what makes a sideboard good is a good step in getting better at the game.

Also, pictures.

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From the Vaults: 20


So, quick recap of what “From the Vaults” is for those that don’t know: From the Vaults is a limited run collection of 15 select cards based on a particular category that have a had a significant influence on the game. What makes these sets so great, aside from the fact that there are so few of them, is that the cards in them are all foil with a foiling process unique to From the Vaults and all of the cards are in new card face, some of which, for the first time. The ones released so far in no particular order are, Legends which is a collection of legendary creatures that either make great commanders or are just good, Exiled which is a collection of cards that are banned in the formats they’re legal in, Dragons which is pretty straight forward, Relics which is artifacts and most recently Realms which is lands. Okay, recap over, moving on.

This year to celebrate Magic’s twentieth anniversary they’re releasing a From the Vaults that consists of  20 of the most significant cards to affect tournament play. It’s scheduled to come out on August 23, 2013, Magic’s birthday!

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So aside from the price, when it’s coming out, how much it is, and how many cards in are in it, we don’t know anything about the cards that are going to be in it. We did have one piece of art spoiled for us that’s spurring a lot of speculation around it.

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I’m really hoping it’s Mother of Runes.

But there’s no way to be sure obviously.

If I had to make an educated guess on what cards might be in it, I would guess cards like:

Brainstorm

Manadrain

Birds of Paradise

And with any luck, Force of Will

At least, there’d better be a damn Force of Will

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In closing, this could be a really sweet set. The potential for great cards is immense and to see some old staple cards get a face lift would be the best. The biggest issue is, and always will be, the secondary market making this astronomically expensive. It’s going to sell for $39.99 MSRP but with the potential it has I’m willing to bet it’s going to sell everywhere else for a balmy $200, easy. C’est de la magie.

Why Modern is the Worst Format


At the shop I work at one of the most common questions asked of the employees is, “Why is modern so bad?” and the easiest answer to give is just, the ban list. There is  a list of other reasons as long as the ban list but just mentioning the ban list is the fastest and easiest answer. So, starting off with the ban list and what that actually means. So when Modern was first established as a format Wizards in association with the DCI presented particular decks that were meant to define the format. The players got really excited for the format and used those decks. That’s when things got bad, Wizards swiftly banned particular cards from some of those decks effectively neutering them. So players moved on, found new interactions, and built new archetypes. Wizards saw trends and yet again, swiftly banned key cards from those archetypes again, neutering them. So after having cards banned to decks players were really excited for decks, that Wizards themselves suggested, the players were pretty cheesed, off to say the least. For whatever reason, Wizards didn’t stop there and the ban list got bigger, more daunting, and more stifling, deterring players to a remarkable level. Next comes the problem with a sufficient lack of creativity and variation in top decks. So this part comes in two parts, the first being that, as I said before, the top decks are more often than not made by a small group of professional players and most people just net deck. Now the pro players are just like everyone else and like everyone else they were just as less enthusiastic by the bannings to play the format.

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The difference is that for them, they must play modern to qualify for Pro Tours and Invitationals. So, they still have to make decks, but since they don’t want to play as much as the average player they just build combo decks because they’re easy to play and require little interaction. The second part happens because of the pros playing combo. Like I said before, most decks people play are just net decked and since the best decks are combo more and more players started playing combo. That gesture makes playing aggro decks and control decks harder to become apart of the top decks because to refine those types of decks the have to be play test and you can not play test against combo decks because combo is belt to either win or not, there’s no middle ground. What with the format being dominated by combo decks it tends to attract that sort of person, the kind of person that’s self absorbed and uninterested in actually interacting with their opponent furthering the attitude towards the format.

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Truthfully, if I were to really list every reason why Modern is such a dog shit format, we would be here for hours. Between there being no reliable cantrips, the inability to answer effectively, no solid meta in place, everyone only playing two decks, the ban list practically a mile long and many more, it’s just easier to say “The ban list did it!”. In closing I guess, do yourself a favor and play legacy and/or standard and save yourself a serious headache.

Please Wait, Format Buffering.


So, Gatecrash has hit and that means the standard format has new toys to play with. New theoretical decks and strategies to be explored. Let’s go to the charts; shall we?

At the first major tournament of Gatecrash being standard legal, the top 8 was relatively diverse and “new”. It was the same archetypes but nothing staggeringly spectacular. But the rest of the tournament was, for the bulk of it, almost exactly the same as the decks prior to Gatecrash. What the dicks?! I recognize that the majority of top tier decks are formulated by a small, tight-nit group of professional players. But come on! I figured with the new shock lands and crazy ridiculous “x” spells that five colored and four colored decks would run rampant. Or at least get people excited to experiment with new things or new archetypes. But nothing. For the longest time standard has been very primarily dominated by a single deck. Between Blue/White Delver; Cawblade; and Affinity being 70-90% of their respective formats, and the potential for ingenuity and diversity people would jump at the chance to make their ideal concept. I’m not angry necessarily I’m just shocked.

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The really shocking thing is that the decks that stuck around, weren’t even the very good ones. Dog shit like Red/White/Blue Flash and Human Circle Jerking Reanimator. Obviously this will change in time, especially with Grand Prix Charlotte coming up and admittedly maybe having a tournament essentially the day after the set came out might not have been StarCity’s most brilliant of ideas but holy shit. Almost everyone I know was theory crafting and proxy testing the second we had all the spoilers available.

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In closing; as I said, I know that this will not be the norm for long, it’s just retarded how almost the entire tournament of thirty something people and thirty something decks had no ingenuity or diversity of any kind.