Curiously, in the same week in which Adrian Sullivan explained why he doesn’t like MTGO play and thus isn’t participating in MTGO PTQs, I’ve solidified my plan to play in MTGO PTQs for the current season.
The motivation is twofold.
First, I really want to qualify, and would like more shots at it.
Second, I can make it to literally none of the PTQs within several hundred miles of me this time around. That’s pesky.
I know that online PTQs are necessarily going to be among the hardest in the world, but honestly, that’s not a gigantic shift from many of the PTQs that I’m already prone to attending. We’re in a strong Magic environment here in the Bay Area, after all.
It’s also nice to have the ability to attend PTQs while hanging out with my loved ones, and it’s solid that this time around it’s a Standard environment, making it reasonably affordable to revive my fallow MTGO account and put together the deck I want to play.
How many of you are participating in the current MTGO PTQ season?

This week’s In Development – Rapid prototyping, rapid testing

It’s In Development time again, and this week, that means it’s time to revisit the Red Teaming concept and apply it to post-Rise Standard. I’ve recently revised my Red Teaming approach to remove some roadblocks to innovation that I was experiencing while using the old method. This week, I go over the new method and walk through an example of applying it to a post-Rise Jund build.
Click here to read the article, then hit me up on twitter and let me know what you think.

Mythic price check – Rise of the Eldrazi, part four

So, release weekend has come and is in the process of going (perhaps your store has a nice Sunday evening flight you can attend). As card valuations continue and initial enthusiasm flattens out, let’s check in on mythic prices once more.
Here’s the first installment of this series
Here’s the second installment of this series
Here’s the third installment of this series
As before, these are ChannelFireball prices, listed from most recent to oldest, left to right. Here we go:

  • All is Dust – $13.99 ($12.99) ($13.79) ($14.98)
  • Cast Through Time – $0.99 ($1.99) ($1.32) ($1.98)
  • Emrakul, the Aeons Torn – $9.99 ($9.94) ($11.28) ($14.98)
  • Gideon Jura – $34.99 ($35.99) ($39.98) ($39.98)
  • Hellcarver Demon – $3.59 ($3.98) ($5.29) ($9.99)
  • Kargan Dragonlord – $7.79 ($7.72) ($9.28) ($8.98)
  • Khalni Hydra – $5.49 ($5.99) ($4.99) ($6.98)
  • Kozilek, Butcher of Truth – $18.85 ($19.86) ($23.44) ($28.99)
  • Lighthouse Chronologist – $4.49 ($4.99) ($4.79) ($5.98)
  • Nirkana Revenant – $4.99 ($4.46) ($5.29) ($6.99)
  • Sarkhan the Mad – $13.99 ($14.66) ($16.89) ($18.98)
  • Transcendent Master – $10.99 ($11.99) (sold out) ($5.48)
  • Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre – $7.49 ($7.26) ($8.24) ($9.98)
  • Vengevine – $33.99 ($29.98) ($24.99) ($18.98)

Generally we’re seeing prices hover around fairly stable points. Sarkhan and Kozilek both continue to trend downwards, although I think Sarkhan will steady out soon enough — he’s not a bad card by any means.
The notable upward mover is Vengevine, which is a genuinely good card, albeit one that is probably spending a bit too much time in Magical Christmasland right now. I expect it to become a staple player in a subset of aggro decks, where it will be Giant Solifuge 2.0, forming the top end of the curve and forcing opponents to reconsider how they play removal.
Gideon Jura remains pretty pricey…and I’m not sure he’s worth it. Whereas I looked at Elspeth and thought, “Wow, that’s a good card!” with Gideon I don’t get that kind of response. Obviously, more testing is required, but I think if someone offered me four Gideons or four Vengevines, I’d take the plants.

Mythic price check – Rise of the Eldrazi, part three

Time for another check-in on Rise. I’m going to give up on the clutter and just start listing only the ChannelFireball prices, as I’ve noticed they’re generally being more responsive than SCG appears to be. As before, I’ll list the current price, this time follow by the prior two prices so we can follow the trend.
Here’s the first installment of this series
Here’s the second installment of this series
Now, on to the prices:

  • All is Dust – $12.99 ($13.79) ($14.98)
  • Cast Through Time – $1.99 ($1.32) ($1.98)
  • Emrakul, the Aeons Torn – $9.94 ($11.28) ($14.98)
  • Gideon Jura – $35.99 ($39.98) ($39.98)
  • Hellcarver Demon – $3.98 ($5.29) ($9.99)
  • Kargan Dragonlord – $7.72 ($9.28) ($8.98)
  • Khalni Hydra – $5.99 ($4.99) ($6.98)
  • Kozilek, Butcher of Truth – $19.86 ($23.44) ($28.99)
  • Lighthouse Chronologist – $4.99 ($4.79) ($5.98)
  • Nirkana Revenant – $4.46 ($5.29) ($6.99)
  • Sarkhan the Mad – $14.66 ($16.89) ($18.98)
  • Transcendent Master – $11.99 (sold out) ($5.48)
  • Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre – $7.26 ($8.24) ($9.98)
  • Vengevine – $29.98 ($24.99) ($18.98)

So the general downward trend continues. The Eldrazi are all toning down, with a particular lack of love for Ulamog, the uncomfortable middle child between game-ender Emrakul and potentially castable pal Kozilek. I still don’t see Kozy as a $20 card, but the general valuation of the three Eldrazi relative to each other makes sense.
Big gains go to Transcendent Master and Vengevine. I do think people are overrating the breadth of Vengevine’s applicability. It’s powerful in the kind of aggro deck that runs one drops and Rangers. If, on the other hand, you’re building toward dream cascades off of Bloodbraid Elf, you’re almost certainly making a mistake. I tend to think of it as a slightly less effectiveSolifuge that sometimes (sometimes) comes back. I expect the price will even out for Vengevine in short order, especially given that people will be drafting a lot of Rise-Rise-Rise in the coming months.
There’s nothing I really think should go up in price among the mythics. TM is certainly a powerful card, but it’s not the immediate game shifter that Baneslayer is, and it probably fits in fewer decks in smaller numbers. It’s important to think, when gauging likely card prices, how many of a given card people will run, in addition to how often they will run it.
With that, I’ll go back to writing about non-finance topics, and spectating at mythic prices as they drop.

This week’s In Development – Gifts and Realms!

This week’s In Development sees me waxing poetic about, well, the card you’d peg me to wax poetic about out of Rise of the Eldrazi.
Yup, it’s Realms Uncharted time.
In this week’s piece I explore the major uses of Realms Uncharted in our upcoming Standard environment. Did you know your Knight of the Reliquary was a Psychatog? I bet you didn’t.
Click here to read this week’s article, then hit me up on twitter to let me know what you think.

Help me help you! (Take a survey, get bonus material)

As part of my ongoing commitment to providing better resources for Gifts Ungiven and In Development readers, I’d like to ask you all to take a quick survey to let me know more about your favorite formats, and how you approach deck design.
The survey should take just a minute or so, and as reward for completing it, you’ll get a bonus “eighth moment” that didn’t make it into my popular Seven Magic Moments article over at ChannelFireball.
So go on, click the link below, and help me learn more about my readers in exchange for another awesome slice of Magic history:
Click here to take this brief survey.

Mythic price check – Rise of the Eldrazi, part two

When we last checked in on the Rise mythics, we knew fourteen of the fifteen in the set, and prices were pretty robust. Now that the full spoiler is out and we’re in the midst of the prerelease weekend, let’s check back in on those prices, adding in Linvala, keeper of silence. This time around, I’ll list the current price and then the price from last time in parentheses after it.
As before, I’ll look at the CFB and SCG prices. See the last entry on this topic for a discussion of store versus auction prices.

  • All is Dust – $13.79 ($14.98) at CFB, $14.99 ($14.99) at SCG
  • Cast Through Time – $1.32 ($1.98) at CFB, $1.99 ($1.99) at SCG
  • Emrakul, the Aeons Torn – $11.28 ($14.98) at CFB, $14.99 ($14.99) at SCG
  • Gideon Jura – $39.98 ($39.98) at CFB, $39.99 ($39.99 )at SCG
  • Hellcarver Demon – $5.29 ($9.99) at CFB, $5.99 ($14.99) at SCG
  • Kargan Dragonlord – $9.28 ($8.98) at CFB, $12.99 ($12.99) at SCG
  • Khalni Hydra – $4.99 ($6.98) at CFB, $5.99 ($4.99) at SCG
  • Kozilek, Butcher of Truth – $23.44 ($28.99) at CFB, $29.99 ($29.99) at SCG
  • Lighthouse Chronologist – $4.79 ($5.98) at CFB, $5.99 ($5.99) at SCG
  • Nirkana Revenant – $5.29 ($6.99) at CFB, $7.99 ($7.99) at SCG
  • Sarkhan the Mad – $16.89 ($18.98) at CFB, $19.99 ($19.99) at SCG
  • Transcendent Master – Sold out! ($5.48) at CFB, $14.99 ($5.99) at SCG
  • Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre – $8.24 ($9.98) at CFB, $9.99 ($9.99) at SCG
  • Vengevine – $24.99 ($18.98) at CFB, $29.99 ($19.99) at SCG

ChannelFireball has pushed its prices down just a bit in general going into this weekend, but I think that’s more of a sales strategy issue rather than a mass revaluing of mythics. The notable price shifts that may have something to do with general changes in card valuation include:
Emrakul – The CFB price has dropped, which may accord with people pulling back a bit on their own excitement over the biggest of the Eldrazi, or perhaps their realization that it’s the prerelease card. I’m personally not super excited about Emrakul in Standard, even cheating it into play via Polymorph. It’s game ending if it swings, but the opportunity to do that in time is not as readily available as one might hope.
Hellcarver Demon – Yeah, this one seemed high. Although I’ve read the assertion that this is a “Mind’s Desire,” it’s not nearly as resilient as Mind’s Desire was in Extended. The initial price represented a big-time Timmy/Vorthos markup (it’s a 6/6 for six mana, and it’s a demon, which almost has dragon and angel cachet).
Kargan Dragonlord – This one saw a minor adjustment upward at CFB. It’s a hard one to gauge, as the Dragonlord feels like a Figure of Destiny, except that it’s not searchable via Ranger of Eos and has to live in the same environment as Student of Warfare.
Transcendent Master – Cranked to three times its starting price at SCG, the Master was sold out when I checked on it at CFB. Ben Bleiweiss ranked this card pretty high in his “Financial Value of” article this week, and after some testing, it does seem like a potentially powerful finisher in a number of decks. It’s hard to say if it’s intrinsically better than Baneslayer, although it does have the advantage of being more “modular” in the sense that you can always just cast it as a 3/3 for 3 when you need that on your curve.
Vengevine – This one has been rising as more writers declare it the “real deal.” I think it’s a lovely nextgen Solifuge, trading shroud for the conditional ability to recur from time to time. Really, its strength lies in being a 4/3 with haste more than the occasional ability to reload. It’s a solid card, but I suspect it’s “Lotus Cobra solid” rather than “Baneslayer solid,” and should adjust back down accordingly over time.
My expectation is that most of these prices will continue to drop. Possible exceptions include Sarkhan, who ought to stabilize about where he is, and Transcendent Master, which could easily keep its current price for a while.

Dragon tamers, not slayers

Are you looking for a Jund killer?
I’m not, and I don’t think we ought to be, either.
There’s an inclination when a deck is dominant in a format to want something to come out in a new set that will crush it utterly. We want something that wrecks Faeries, kills Jund, eliminates Affinity, and so forth.
If you’re looking for that kind of card or set of cards, you’re asking for hosers.
My preference instead is to ask for what we might call “reasonable-izers” – that is, cards that even out the format, rather than crushing the top deck in the format. From a game design perspective, I think this is the far better option. There are two major flaws with building hosers into a format.
First, they tend to be binary. Either they work, or they don’t. Sometimes this means they’re binary on a card-by-card sense. “Oh, you’re playing Affinity? Neat. Here’s Kataki. Enjoy.” It can also be a binary impact of piecemeal additions, such as when the amount of hate added in for a deck moves over some threshold such that the deck can no longer work.
This is frustrating for a couple reasons.
It constrains deck design, since you either need to put in the crushing mechanism or leave it out and hope others have it covered — I tend to call this the Vienna Dredge problem, after the positioning of Dredge circa GP Vienna 2008, which saw four Dredge decks in the top eight. If you weren’t playing Extended at the time, consider that a Dredge deck of that era was very similar to what we’d now consider a full-on Legacy Dredge deck. You either dedicated a big chunk of your sideboard to it, or gave up on it and hoped to dodge the issue.
It also narrows the number of interesting decision points in your games. Instead of a complex interplay, you may end up simply being forced to mulligan to your hate. If you make it, awesome – you win. If your cripple yourself as you mulligan to nothing, too bad.
Second, hosers don’t generate an interesting, even environment. Instead, they decapitate it. Once you clear out the top deck, you’re not automatically balancing everything else. You may be, but you might also be opening a position for another crushing deck. Even more obnoxiously, you generate the Vienna Dredge problem, since the metagame will shift back and forth in waves as people hate out the “best” deck, then shift to hate out the “next-best” deck, then have to shift back…
This won’t automatically be more fun than the original environment.
Instead, my preference is for efforts to bolster archetypes that may be faltering a little, as well as generating interesting new ones.
If we apply this to the current Standard, I think we’re actually in a very good place. Jund may be the dominant deck, for various definitions of dominant. It’s also not really just one deck, so much as one color combination. Regardless, there are a number of strong builds without having one of those annoying rock-scissors-paper metagames. No deck is a horrid loser or a crushing winner against any other deck.
I also like where Rise is going. We have the introduction of potential new archetypes, as well as tools to update extant archetypes. I explored both options in my CFB column this week. I think the most exciting new addition in terms of “doing interesting things to the environment without wrecking anything” is Wall of Omens:
This is obviously a good card for control, and will shift how those decks work, and how other decks have to work around them. One of the things I love about this and the “Defender” theme in general is how well it interacts with tools we received in Worldwake:
Yes, Basilisk Collar is the wall breaker. I love it. It’s not a hoser — it requires interactive play, it can be destroyed and countered, and you have to keep creatures on the board for it to be useful. Instead, it’s an option that means that while the Defender theme and good walls can be powerful and interesting, it isn’t going to completely disable aggro.
This kind of interaction keeps a format healthy. It expands our play options rather than trying to just stamp out the “best deck,” and it makes it much less likely that there will be a strict “best deck” that genuinely dominates the format.
(Thanks to Joey Pasco for catching my accidental absence-of-ending there)

This week’s In Development – Cthulhu puns and deck lists

I spent the last week testing out new decks for post-Rise Standard, and now it’s time for you to reap the rewards from my efforts. Check out this week’s In Development for five new deck lists, some field-tested card evaluations, and a smattering of H.P. Lovecraft references.
Check it out here, then find me on twitter and let me know what you think.