Magic Online (MTGO) is Wizards of the Coast’s digital version of Magic: the Gathering, for anyone who is unfamiliar. It is host to every format and card you can think of. On top of that, it allows you to play high-level magic at almost any time of day! Imagine my excitement when I first stumbled on this amazing software. However, there was one elephant (token) in the room that I just couldn’t remove and that was the cost to play.
Like most people, I don’t have massive amounts of expendable income. I already play the paper version and almost never miss a Friday Night Magic (FNM) or Prerelease at my local game store (LGS.) This puts me in a position where, given my income, playing both online and offline regularly just isn’t going to happen. BUT WAIT! We have to at least try to get the most out of a limited budget. In this article, I am going to tell you how I broke into MTGO and grew my investment in order to limit the amount I would need to spend in the future.
So when I first looked at MTGO, I tried to figure out which events would give the most payout for the lowest investment. After evaluating my options, I figured out Standard queues would yield a reasonable amount of prizes with a relatively low risk. With this option, there was a small start-up cost, however, unlike draft, there was less capital needed to enter each tournament.
Obviously, if constructed is my game, I was in need of a deck. Since the name of the game was economics, the deck had to be cheap. I began looking at deck lists online and browsing Gatherer (Magic’s card database) in order to construct a list. Finally, I found a relatively cheap list that won a few standard tournaments in different forms and I figured I could make it work. What deck was it you ask? Well, it was none other than our good friend, Red Deck Wins (RDW)! After price checking the cards needed to construct this list, I had a thought. I am sure I can cut some corners and make it even cheaper! Eidolon of the Great Revel is a strong in RDW, however, the cost of a play set was high so I decided to take it out. I also replaced some slightly more efficient removal and changed the number of certain creatures in my list to reduce cost.
Now as you can probably see by this deck list, there is not too much power in this deck. The deck is mostly chalked full of cheap creatures with efficient removal/burn and ways to “punch through” to your opponents life total. On the other side, you also probably don’t see too much cost in this deck either. This is especially true for MTGO as prices are scaled down slightly due to a smaller demand. The only card that is worth a decent amount of money are the Stoke the Flames. I found that card too important to cut as it has the potential to kill so many creatures in the format as well as burn enormous amounts of damage.
This sideboard may appear to be filled with crap, and to a degree, you would be correct. Some of the cards here are really cheap and poor answers to certain threats that the deck would otherwise lose too. For example, Torch Fiend for Whip of Erebos, Harness By force for midrange matchup, and Bring Low for Abzan (I guess). However, some of these cards are really big all-stars in the right matchup and no one ever sees some of them coming. Scouring Sands pings (deals one damage to) each creature your opponents control and gives you scry one for a nice cherry on top. This is very good against Jeskai Tokens, Aggro Mirrors, and also gave me some scraping wins by breaking me through a swarm of hornets. Searing Blood is also very efficient creature removal in the current standard format. This is another card that comes in against other creature decks.
Overall, at the time of purchasing this deck, the overall cost was approximately 20 dollars. For anyone who plays Magic, they can’t help but smile at that price for a competitive deck. And let me assure you, this deck has beaten every deck in the format at least once. It has even taken down some unlucky souls who decided they wanted to try their hand at rouge brewing. There are two main reasons this deck is successful: Mana and Speed.
This deck has a much easier time with its’ mana compared to many of the decks in the format. Its’ mana is one of its strongest characteristics especially in a sea of three to five color decks. In fact, I won a chunk of games just because my opponent’s mana wasn’t well supported. Due to this deck being monocolored, you will never be unable to utilize your hand to its full potential. An even bigger upside is the cost of the creatures. Since the top of your curve is basically a two mana spell, land drops are not much of a problem even if you get land screwed. I often keep one land hands as long as I have a creature and a Titan’s Strength. The scry is usually enough to dig me to a second land before I need it.
The second great attribute this deck has is its’ amazing speed. It can close out games often before many decks can establish a strong board presence. By the time your opponent has one or two creatures, your Hammerhand and Frenzied Goblin will push your creatures through for the win. You will also have them at a low enough life total from suicide runs that a top deck Stoke the Flames is often enough.
Often times, this deck has a very explosive start. I think my favorite opening in the entire deck is as follows:
Turn One: Land, Swiftspear, and smash for one.
Turn Three: Mogis’s Warhound bestowed, hit for five more plus an additional one to two for your other creature.
Seems pretty scary huh? The great part is, I got this draw fairly often. In the worst cases, Valley Dasher or War-Name Aspirant would eat up my turn two. The worst creature you want to see hit the battlefield is a Sylvan Caryatid. Even when this happens, you can often grow your creatures big enough to punch through or just swarm past them. As far as I am concerned, it just slows me down.
Well, as I said, this deck gave me great success on MTGO. At the point of writing this article, my cumulative record with it in tournament queues (I practiced with it for a while before putting money on it) is a whopping thirteen to two. Not bad for such a cheap way to play. Now, on MTGO, constructed queues require two tickets for entry and pay out one pack of Khan’s to the winner. A pack of Khan’s is currently worth approximately three tickets. Using my record as an example along with my initial 10 tickets left over from my thirty dollar investment, I am currently up nine tickets. With some serious grinding, assuming my record continued, you could make a massive profit. I know most people just want to use MTGO to draft. At least that is how it is for me. Anyway, you will earn a draft after about 30 – 40 games with some tickets to spare. I know that doesn’t sound like the most attractive option, but efficiency and lower variance almost never is. If you tried to do the same infinite drafting with limited, you would have to get first or second in every single draft. This is also factoring in the fact that all tournaments are single elimination. I guess an alternative solution would be to just pull a foil fetch every draft, however, we are sticking to a realistic approach.
So I bet you are wondering, are there any other ways to play on MTGO without throwing money at it? Why yes, there actually is a way to draft for cheap that is much easier to play infinitely. This is in the form of Wizard’s various cubes that they host throughout the year.
In order to maximize fun and value, I always play in the swiss as opposed to the single elimination events. The reasons being: One, you will always get to play in all of your rounds giving you more time to enjoy some of the blasts from Magic’s past, and two, they are much easier to rinse and repeat. It is true that the single elimination cube drafts have actual older set pack payouts, however, they require at least a two to zero record. In addition, you will need tickets in order to draft that set with a two to zero record so, unless you get first, you still have to shell out two dollars. In the swiss events, you can just win two of any of your matches and it will allow you to gain free re-entry. These queues use a special currency called phantom points and you earn enough to hop right into another event after a two to one record.
Well, I hope this article helped you out and possibly pushed you to give MTGO a try. It will take a little time to learn how to effectively use the program, but once you get over that initial hump, your magic skills can take over. If anyone is interested in seeing MTGO play of either the legacy cube or the RDW I described earlier, please leave a comment below. I look forward to writing more for you guys next week as I have a column in the works but I am going to be on my way to GP San Jose next week so expect to hear about the main even in next week’s article!
Until next time, Happy Planeswalking!By Roy Anderson @Sockymans on Twitter
Welcome back to another Crack a pack with Bruce. I would like to first off apologize for being a little behind this week. It being the summer and all I was away with my family, but I am back now and excited to Crack open a pack for all of you and to see what we find. We’ve had some interesting packs in the last couple of weeks and if you want to catch up with things you can find those articles right here on Three Kings Loot. This week we’ll be opening a pack of M15 because it will now be the default draft environment if you are out in the shops.
M15 is an interesting set to draft because the overall power level of the cards is much more flat. There are much fewer absolute bomb cards in this set, but there are also a much higher level of generally viable cards that can make spots in your deck and offer you some interesting twists mid-game. Let’s take a look at what we’ve got in this pack.
Once again, this pack is a very mediocre pack. There just are not any huge, obvious bombs in this pack that make it clear what direction you should be taking it. The rare is Aggressive Mining which is a fine card, but is not something I would be looking for to start my draft off. For starters, it’s an enchantment that has very little impact on the board when I cast it. As I have said before, I want my first pick to be something that when I cast it I can tangibly see an impact on the board. Aggressive Mining does very little initially. Also, while the situation can arise in draft that you have too many land cards, I very rarely ever want to physically prevent myself from playing further land by casting Aggressive Mining. Sure I can net some extra cards, but at what stage of the game am I comfortable doing that? My initial sense is late in the game at which point Aggressive Mining is likely too late…or helping me to pour on the pressure because I’m out in front anyway. It also isn’t even worth that much, so drafting it for value also falls short. While Aggressive Mining is a neat card, and might have a place in a Constructed deck somewhere, for a draft I’ll pass and find something else.
So, what else grabs my attention. Believe it or not, the card that gets my attention first is Frost Lynx. This simple little 2/2 for 3 mana is exactly the sort of card I like to play in a draft. It has a serviceable body at a decent cost and even comes with a very useful ability to “freeze” another creature. While this guy isn’t flashy, he’s very useful and something that I can get behind.
Another card that I could see myself get on board with is Coral Barrier. It seems weird to be ready to get behind a Defender, but 2/4 worth of power and toughness for 3 mana is good value, and if I can find a way to recur it I would be pretty happy. Also, the squid token has Islandwalk which is surprisingly relevant.
The third card that grabs my eye is Encrust as a piece of reasonable removal for Blue. There isn’t much to say about this card, but it is reliable and reasonably costed and always seems to do good work. Also, you might notice that this point, we’re three cards deep and they are all Blue meaning something from this pack might wheel because the other players at the table might not want to be grabbing Blue at this point.
Oreskos Swiftclaw is another decent body as a 3/1 for 2 mana. He’s vanilla and hardly exciting, but if you want the aggressive body, he’s the guy for you.
Wall of Frost is the 4th Blue card that gets my eye and is another defender. This one is another one that doesn’t need much in the way of discussion because he’s just solid, but not flashy at all.
Dissipate is a solid counterspell and something that I would be looking at to wheel. I don’t prioritize counter magic too highly in a draft if I’m Blue, but it is nice to have a little in your deck to keep your opponent honest.
Verdant Haven can play a useful role to let you splash for another colour, but let’s be honest, this will likely be there late if you really want it. I’ll take my chances on finding one later in the draft if I really want one.
Sacred Armory is about the poorest card in the pack, which isn’t too bad. It is still a playable card, but I’m not really excited about pumping my creatures for power only with this, but it could be a useful mana sink if you lack other options.
My first pick, as discussed, would NOT be the Aggressive Mining, mainly because I don’t think it does enough for me. I’d pass on it and see if it comes back to me. No, my first pick in this pack would be Frost Lynx. A serviceable body, a relevant ability and it doesn’t overly commit me to playing any one colour too heavily at this point. It fits in almost any deck, even if I just need to splash it, and can impact the board quite significantly by freezing something else. As much as this isn’t an exciting first pick it is a reasonable choice. Also, seeing the amount of Blue in this pack I might hope to see something else that is useable come around when the pack wheels. Perhaps the Dissipate or Coral Barrier could still be there to give me another solid Blue card to add to my pile.
Well, there we have it…another week…another pack. What would you have picked out of this pack? Would you take your chances on the Rare? Would you have gone with another of the Blue cards in this pack? Something else? Let me know…I’d love to hear what you guys think and what you feel should have been the first pick, so tweet at me and let me know.
Next time we’ll bust open another pack of M15 or a pack of Journey into Nyx…I haven’t decided, but once I do I’ll let you all know. Thanks for reading and until time may you crack nothing but mythic bombs!
by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twtitter
|Set Name||Magic 2015—Core Set|
|Number of Cards||269|
|Prerelease Events||July 12-13, 2014|
|Release Date||July 18, 2014|
|Launch Weekend||July 18-20, 2014|
|Game Day||August 9-10, 2014|
|Magic Online Prerelease Events||July 25-27, 2014|
|Magic Online Release Date||July 28, 2014|
|Pro Tour Magic 2015||August 1-3, 2014|
|Pro Tour Magic 2015Location||Portland, Oregon, USA|
|Pro Tour Magic 2015Formats||Swiss:
|Official Three-Letter Code||M15|
|Initial Concept and Game Design||Aaron Forsythe (lead)
|Final Game Design and Development||Billy Moreno (lead)
|Languages||English, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish|
|Available in||Booster Packs, Intro Packs*, Clash Pack*, Fat Pack*
(* – Not available in all languages)