Back Matter: Kool Runnings Pt. 3

The time has drawn near, to finish my rambles and retire my obligation of the tall tale that was (and is) my Magic: the Gathering career. I’ve been quite busy of late, but nothing like a school paper about some inane topic to jumpstart my lust for Magical bard time.

We last left off when MTGO had gone black. Version 2 servers got the killswitch and the v3 replacements were still in gestation. Many moons passed (I think about 3 weeks… unsure about the time as it felt like forever) and someone wearing a velvet robe at the Washington WotC offices decreed, “Let them (try to) game!”

The Bumpy Road

Magic: Online Version 3 came up and it was nigh unusable (a premature launch, if you will). I am unsure if you could do anything initially. I think that casual games were available, but I know that trading was spotty (if at all available) and drafting (and other events) were nowhere to be seen.

This turbulent interface made it impossible for bots to function correctly. The auction room was rampant with wheelers and dealers trying to exploit any weakness in the bot army that services MTGO’s economy. Trade windows would show multiple cards selected and received, but it was just a display error (sorry would-be plunderers). Many chumps ended up with more of a card than they wanted (thinking they were getting it for free). This period saw many forsake MTGO (at least for the short term).

Eventually drafting came up and the masses rejoiced. Sure, you had to file for refunds more often than not, but the urge could be satisfied somewhat! My peon brain thinks that the Shadowmoor Release Events didn’t even happen on time, because Premier Events had not yet been implemented. You could draft it, but no Sealed Deck in sight.

I know what you’re thinking (why does Chris remember this nuance when his mind is clearly too foggy to properly recall any other abysmal event or fact). Well, there was a Shadowmoor Sealed Deck Grand Prix in Indianapolis during this time, and I wasn’t about to play paper Magic to prepare for it! Some buddies and I bought Sealed Deck sets and practiced in the casual rooms for the GP. I am unsure if it paid off, as I went 6-3 and the other two dropped before then, but our pools weren’t bomby like the Mono-Red I faced in round 9 (both Red Lieges, 2x Demigod of Revenge, 2x Jaws of Stone.. fun!) or the Safehold Elite, Kitchen Finks, Wilt-Leaf Liege start that crushed me in round 5. I’m not bitter… not bitter at all. (I did manage to beat Steve Sadin in round 4, zing!)

After this, everything starts to blend together as far as the chronological timeline is concerned. So… I am going to tackle events coming in a topical fashion. It makes sense to me, because my MTGO experience has really consisted of focal points.

Mike Gills, MTGO Event Savior

WotC slowly started returning MTGO to its former self. They did some free test events and eventually we had the Shadowmoor Release! Things returned to pre-V3 norm, and I eagerly awaited the return of Singleton (my favorite format from the Ravnica era). Enter Michael Gills. I am unsure how active Mike is in regards to MTGO Event planning and general initiatives, but it is my firm belief that Mike (and the people he works with) have improved Magic: Online leaps and bounds above what it used to be.

Mike initiated weekend events with huge prize pools for fun formats, not to discount Standard, Sealed, etc., but actual fringe formats! Singleton was back, BUT it was only once every 3 months and the 100 Card variety. Still, I could not complain (too much). Pauper also took off during this period, getting the non-Player Run Event that it deserved.

One-Hundred Card Singleton is where Travis Chance (aka so many trolls, aka this site’s editor) and I reconnected. Travis had played Singleton (60 cards) quite successfully during the V2 years, and we had collaborated on decks in the past. By the second or third Weekend 100 Card event, 4-man queues were introduced, and Travis and I were heavily brewing and tuning insane creations. The 4-man queues gave us a chance to test our decks in a much needed competitive environment! Magic was becoming insanely fun again.

Shortly thereafter, Mr. Gills took advice from the MTGO Event Discussion forum and introduced 2-man queues. While the value of packs greatly influences how many fringe format queues fire, the players (and I!) finally had a nearly instant gratifier for tournament play.

Travis and I talked quite a bit about how we needed weekly events for our favorite format (and that Pauper probably needed some loving too… especially since the Pauper community was much larger than the Singleton crowd)! I polled as many players as possible, asked for feedback on the format (100 Card) and wrote Mr. Gills a nice request for increase in event frequency. Low and behold… a month later the Weekend Challenges were announced and 100 Card Singleton (as well as Pauper) had their weekly competitive offerings with very deep prize pools. Again, thank you Mike for listening and allowing these mainstays of the sideshow crowds not only survive but prosper!

Social Networking, Psssh

Beyond gaming satisfaction, MTGO has also led to some intriguing conversations and (gasp) friends! One of the better things that came out of talking to so many players in the auction room or while gathering opinions and names for Singleton was the relationships I formed.

Like I said earlier, this rekindled my lost love with Travy Trav… but he was just the beginning (and in actuality, not even the first) of all of my Magical Online friendships. MTGOAcademy owner Marin (Plejades) and I met via the auction room and 100 Card Singleton. He was playing a lot of 100C games with a fellow named Phague and trading constantly at the time. We would chat and try to collect foils to make our 100 Card games more ostentatious to the average bystander or replay watcher. But things got serious when Masters Edition 2 came out.

Marin and I had been playing, trading and talking for a while (mostly about how Marin had only paid $9.99 and had a very nice collection from just trading) when the MED2 Championship occurred. In case you weren’t aware, the MED2 Championship awarded a foil play set of Masters 2. The winner of said championship was a Russian player, and Marin knew the language. I scrounged up some tickets and Marin negotiated with the Russian; shortly thereafter, we were the proud owners of a foil set of Masters Edition 2. Through all of his trading, Marin knew quite a few foil collectors, and within a few weeks, he had more than doubled our investment. I was ticket rich, and Marin and I became married to each other on MTGO. When he approached me to help with the Academy, I happily said, “Yes!”

But enough of Marin (sorry boss), MTGO is also a nice hobby that I can enjoy with my friends that are incredibly busy or far away. We will play random games of EDH (Commander) or Momir Basic (or MOJO). It’s a nice way to interact beyond the messaging on facebook or sporadic phone calls. Add in a gchat or Skype (or vent, if you’re into that stuff) session and you can even shoot the poop while playing (which I will do every now and then)!

Recently, I even reconnected with an old clan mate from #e-league days (say “hi” in the comments, Mr. raining) because of these random back story meanderings! Then… I convinced him to board me for a few days and trekked up to Chicago for some good times. Thanks man (and thank you too MTGO)!

The Economic Implications

If you talk to any of my close compadres, you’ll quickly find out that I have miserly instincts. Not that I am good at missing cards off the top of my decks, but that I am super, duper stingy. Not to the point of respectable though (I still waste too many tix on promo lands).

And it’s not that I am extremely smart with my dealings. As I have mentioned before, the dark age of MTGO crashed card values. Luckily, I was looking to buy. I got 4x Shadowmoor and then 4x Eventide when it hit. I also learned a valuable lesson on when to buy.

Whenever a new set hits, there is always a low point where cards flood the market to such a degree that the highly desirable cards are barely being purchased by anyone (or any bots). The low value cards will continue to decrease in value, but those Standard and beyond staple cards definitely increase slowly but surely. Around week two of Release Events, I buy anything I see as useful. My motto is better safe than sorry; I paid one tic for my Glen Elendra Archmages and 14 tix for my Figure of Destiny… much better than the 32 tickets that they became!

Magic Online’s economy always has great opportunities for making Event Tickets en masse. During Prerelease Events, there are great arbitrage opportunities between bots and players. During Release Events for Classic sets, you can collect foils and sell them for profit to the right buyers. Even building Standard foil sets and selling them to redeemers can be a fairly quick source of profit if you have a few hundred tickets and some patience! Buying cards that are big in paper events as soon as they are announced, speculating based on spoilers, and even hording can all be great sources of profit to fund your playing. It’s worked for me.


I used to scoff at people when they told me that they spent money on MTGO, but now I much prefer the sparse but controlled social interaction of the MTGO world to the denizens of my local card shop (if there is even one near where I live anymore). Plus, I can’t smell body odor or nasty breath through my computer! I can’t believe that it took me so long to acclimate to the Online Magic world… but now that I am, I am here to stay! Also, you have to admit that playing a PTQ in bed is pretty sweet (except for all of the errors I make). Now all I need to do is play some more!


  1. I guess I was lucky enough to miss V2. I played way back when you had to find a table and move your avatar there to sit down. Then me and some friends cashed in our paper collections to start playing again with Zendikar and I must say it was a wise choice.

    This was interesting reading about the past events though.

  2. @Thrawnseg: Oh wow you jogged my memory! I remember when you had to find a table and sit down to play, that was ridiculous.
    Thanks for reminding me, I had forgotten all about that :D

  3. Ah, the good old times. I guess I can count myself lucky that I joined MTGO only after the major quirks got ironed out. I do remember the issues with the early V3 though.
    Nice report about the not so distant past :-)

  4. Nice read, Chris.

    My favorite thing about modo was the fact that it made me a better paper player. Now we both have a PTQ win! The only difference is that I’m actually GOING to mine ;D

  5. Headline: little man becomes real man; the story of blonde ambition!

  6. Great report, I really enjoyed reading your past experiences.
    And I remember the avatars sitting at tables as well, god that was awful and clunky lol.
    Glad I left the game for awhile and am just getting back into it now that the kinks are gone and the whole thing seems a lot smoother!

  7. I miss seeing my guy at a table, idling away his mystical time before battle!

  8. My favorite avatar was Birds of Paradise- standing on the table!

    Glad you guys enjoyed it! And Jeph, you better surpass my epic 0-0-0 at Amsterdam.

  9. do the promo cards from prerelease events ever become worth something? is it better to hold on to them or sell them for the low prices that i see them go for?

  10. hihi,

    good times in chicago!!! =)
    you gotta keep brewin std sing – something sick to bring me back =]