– The New Home of All My Magic Writing

By Dr. Jeebus January 29th, 2013, under Uncategorized

So I realized I never actually mentioned this on my blog, and I know there’s a lot of people who read here. Well, I started my own website: The website is home of the Mu Tau Gamma (MTG) fraternity and home to a host of amazing writers. There is new content published daily, Monday through Friday, as well as a sale list. At the time I’m writing this, there is not a full fledged functioning storefront, but that may be coming in the future. Or I may just keep typing up lists. Hopefully not. Anyway, come check out the site and all the articles, and feel free to follow all the people writing for the site on Twitter.

Syd Lexia @Syd_lexia
Sonya Boschman @rudjedet
JackLaCroix @JackLacroix
Kevy Metal @kevymetall
Jay Boosh @JayBoosh
Zach Hartman @OvaltineJenkins
The Booze Cube @TheBoozeCube

Also, podcast hosts:
Tangent @TangentDYN
Jonathan Richmond @Norbert88

The MTG Finance Drinking Game

By Dr. Jeebus November 7th, 2012, under Magic

Sometimes when browsing prices in major online retailers, the only logical thought is: “Man, the person who set these prices must’ve been completely shitfaced. That, or it was 1,000 monkeys working at 1,000 typewriters.” Well why should Ben Bleiweiss be the only one drunk at the helm? In honour of some of the recent ridiculous bullshit to come from Star City Games, I have devised this drinking game to help everyone in the MTG finance community take the edge off.

Da Rules:

1. Whenever SCG randomly doubles the price of a card just because they can: drink.
2. Whenever a site jacks up the price on a slightly misaligned card calling it a “rarity”: drink.
2a. If the card in question was printed at Carta Mundi: do a shot.
3. Whenever a bulk rare you went deep on in speculation hits $2 or more on buylists: buy everyone a drink.
4. Whenever players bitch about the secondary market price of limited edition products: have a snifter of brandy and a fine cigar while looking down on them.
5. Whenever Mike Flores writes an article about a card: Chug a beer, then sell into the hype.
6. Whenever you find a card that ABU Games buys for more than they sell on ebay: do a shot, then add the card to your buylist cart.
7. Whenever you find a card on Star City Games, ABU Games, Channel Fireball, or Troll and Toad for cheaper then it’s available on ebay: WAKE UP! You clearly passed out from all the drinking and still think you’re playing.
8. Whenever a dealer refuses to honour a sale because of a sudden price spike: take two shots, then go blast them on Twitter.
9. Whenever someone tries to guilt you into giving them value because it’s their Pack to Power binder: drink, then unfriend Medina.
10. Whenever Ben Bleiweiss purchases cards from you on ebay: do a shot, because you know you’re getting negative feedack.
11.Whenever someone who doesn’t play Magic sees your cards and the first thing they say is “What’s the most expensive card you own?”: drink
11a. If instead they say “Have you heard of a Black Lotus?” or “Do you have a Black Lotus?”: Do a shot.
12. Whenever someone accuses your prices of being too high even though you’re the lower than every price on ebay, TCG Player, and every major online retailer: drink, then block them.
13. Whenever someone from craigslist sends you an excel file with every single card they own priced out (Including 20x Scathe Zombies at $0.25 each) and is willing to sell you the lot for only 80% of it’s supposed value, but not a penny less: down a bottle of gin while contemplating if this is really what you want to do with your life.

Have fun, and I’m open to suggestions for addition rules!

Why I Will Never Stop Designing Cards

By Dr. Jeebus November 6th, 2012, under Magic

I haven’t been writing nearly enough lately, and I really need to remedy that. I’ve been thinking a lot about design recently, although that’s not exactly anything new. For the Great Designer Search 2 I wrote about I had to write a little bit about myself and why I would be good for Magic design. I recalled how I have been designing cards for years, which for me started around Ice Age. How did I get there? Well let’s go on a journey.

They Don’t Make Staples Like They Used To

Yeah, I sound like a crotchety old man, get over it. We currently have over 12,000 different cards. That’s a fucking lot, about 12 times what we had back then. With such a comparatively small card pool, choices were obviously much more limited. In modern day Magic, there’s really no such thing as staples anymore, outside of lands. Back then, however, it was a totally different story. We had Wrath of God, Counterspell, Dark Ritual, Lightning Bolt, Birds of Paradise. These are cards that are still anywhere from “incredible” to “unfair” by today’s standards. If you wanted spot removal you just grabbed a Swords to Plowshares or Terror and didn’t give it as second thought. These are the things cards did, and we were perfectly happy with them. We used our tools and we built our decks. As time passed, we got pretty damn good at building our decks. I think this is the time when the design spark awakens in those of us who have it. First you have to get good at the game. Not great, not the best, but good. You need to spend enough time building decks that you ask yourself the question “What can other cards do to help this deck?” that you finally pause and think “What can’t other cards do yet?” Or you could just be a drunk frat boy that wants to turn Magic into a drinking game. I’m looking at you, @BoozeCube! Anyway, this is what leads me to the most important part of the journey.

The Three Stages of Design Spark

I can only speak to this experience as it struck me and others whom I have directly spoken to about the matter. As the process was the same for all of us, however, I think there’s a good chance that many of you followed this same pattern.

stage One: Parody/Humour Cards – Do you like to laugh? Sure, we all do! What better way to get into the spirit of Magic design then doing it to make others laugh. Maybe you stole the idea from The Duelist or Inquest, maybe you saw something funny in a piece of Magic artwork and needed to modify the card to reflect this image, or maybe you just wanted to make a hilarious and unique gift of a custom card for one of your friends. Whatever the reason, this is where we all seem to start. The problem with joke cards is that they are frequently impossible under Magic rules, are top down designs resulting in unplayable garbage, or are extremely overpowered because you think it’s funny for Galactus to be a 100/100 creature for 0 mana. These cards range the gamut from hilarious to cancer-inducingly unfunny. No matter how funny they are, however, they are seldom good designs. Once you’ve “mastered” the art of comedy, however, it’s time to progress further.

Stage Two: Vanity Cards – **NOTE: It has been brought to my attention that perhaps not everyone goes through this stage, but rather that myself and everyone I have previous associated with are all megalomaniacs. I do not rule this possibility out, but I’ll still leave this here /NOTE** You’ve designed yourself as a Magic card. Admit it. Maybe you were a legendary creature, maybe you were a planeswalker, or maybe you were a brushwagg, but you absolutely did it. And there’s no shame in that! I’ve been designing cards for upwards of 17 years now, you think I haven’t made multiple cards for myself and all my friends? Much like joke cards, however, these have their issues. They tend to either just be a subset of joke cards or are extremely broken because you’re an arrogant douche. No, we get it bro, you totally have haste, double strike, protection from suckas, and trample. But not banding, cause you’re a renegade and you work alone. For most people, this is where it ends. They’re perfectly happy trying to be funny and stroking their own egos. As for me? I already knew that I’m hilarious and that I’m incredible before custom card design. But am I designer?

Stage Three: Legitimate Design – For many, the design spark doesn’t bring them this far. Either they just want to make joke cards or the spark doesn’t burn brightly enough inside them. That’s fine with me, because quite frankly there’s already too many of us competing for nonexistent design jobs. Whether the jobs exist or not, however, we will keep designing cards. It may seem absurd, but we can’t help it. Many of us have an innate need to create something. For many it brings them to music, writing, architecture, carpentry, information systems design, pretty much anything. But for a handful of us, Magic cards are that thing we need to create. We asked “Am I designer?” and at some point we receive affirmation. Well, if the answer is potentially yes, anyway. Many of the others I talk to design about have seen at least one of their own creations printed on cards. I think this is really the point of no return. Once you see a card you designed printed almost word for word and in your hand, how could you ever give up? I even had the extremely rare pleasure of seeing one of my first three designs, possibly my very first one but hard to remember, see print. If I could get it so right all those years ago, shouldn’t I be even better at it now?

It’s Not An Ego Thing

Yes, for once in my life, something has nothing to do with my ego. You see, I’m sure some people ask why it matters if we’re the ones actually working for R&D if we see some of our designs printed, but it’s really not the same. This is probably the hardest part to explain, because it’s one of those things that just seems so intuitive I don’t have words for it. When you want to create something, the two most rewarding parts are seeing the finished product, and seeing others enjoy what you have made. It’s not about receiving individual credit, but rather knowing that your work has directly resulted in something that made others happy. Except now it sounds not just like egotism but like smug egotism. I dunno. Like I said, this is the hardest part to explain because it’s really conceptual and science has yet to create a machine that will let me momentarily transfer my consciousness into your brain so you can fully understand what the fuck it is I’m trying to explain. Way to drop the ball, science. AGAIN. If anyone really doesn’t understand this part, feel free to ask me questions on here or on Twitter and I’ll try to explain better.

But, albeit not explained as well as I’d like, that is why I and others like me will continue designing cards: it’s what I want to do, it’s what I need to do, and like that 60 year old guy who’s still playing original songs in local bars despite never selling a single album, I just wouldn’t know how to stop if I tried.

The Casual Player’s Guide to Going Infinite in MTGO Limited

By Dr. Jeebus July 28th, 2012, under Magic

People have asked me how you can possibly go infinite on MTGO only playing limited. I’ve talked about it in the limited and scheduled rooms online before and discussed it with a few people, but since I’ve been asked so many times I figured I should finally just write up something that I (and others) can point to whenever the question comes up.

The title of this article may be a little confusing. Would a casual player care or be capable of going infinite? Well of course they’d care because it means they don’t have to pay any more money; that’s always appealing. As for being capable? Depends on the player. You see, in this context casual is referring to a mindset, not a skill level. I play a lot of Magic Online for sure, but I am never grinding qualifier points. If your goal is to triple or quadruple queue to grind out QPs as fast as you possibly can, or to only play against the best of the best because anything else is meaningless, than this is probably not the article for you. Oh sure, it’ll all still work, you just won’t be happy because you aren’t getting what you want out of the game.

Am I Capable of Going Infinite?

I have no idea. I can tell you how, but I can’t play your games for you. Qualifier points are the easiest way I have of measuring your skill, however. Since I have gone infinite, I will use myself as a baseline here. I play one or two events most nights. Sometimes none, sometimes more, but 1-2 a night is pretty standard. If you play that many events, you should have earned enough or just shy of enough to qualify for every MOCS season championship with two byes, which is 35 QPs. Figure out how much you play relative to how much I do, then just multiply that percentage times 35 QPs. If that number is close to or less than the QPs you earned in a season, then you should be fine. If that number is higher than you earned, particularly if it’s like double or something, then you’re probably not there yet.

If your numbers are way off, that does NOT mean you should stop reading. Maybe you could be there but are playing the wrong events. Otherwise, this will help you at least minimize your losses until your game improves to the point where you can go infinite. Just want to make sure your expectations of whether or not this is likely to work right away.

The Key to Drafting – I Don’t Care What You Win

There are three different types of draft: Swiss, 4-3-2-2, and 8-4. I’ll assume you understand the prize payout for each of these. Magic players love talking about EV, or expected value. This is why most players don’t play in the correct event. In Swiss, there is a total of 12 prize packs. In 4-3-2-2, there is a total of 11 prize packs. In 8-4, there is a total of 12 prize packs. In terms of strict math, the EV of Swiss and 8-4 is 1.5 packs while the EV of 4-3-2-2 is slightly less. In terms of the real world, this is total bullshit and not even a correct application of EV.

The EV of a booster pack is the average value a booster pack will contain. Sometimes you will open a bulk rare, and sometimes you will open a $50 mythic. However, draft queues don’t work that way. Yeah, sometimes you will win 0 packs, but you will never win all 12 packs. Also, something like a booster pack is “completely random” over a large sample size. Drafting, however, is not because there is a skill factor involved as well. Yes, the average player in Swiss events will likely average 1.5 packs over a significant sample size. In an 8-4 queue, however? Not a chance. The average player in a single 8-4 queue can expect 0 packs. Extend that to a significant sample size and add variance (You’re going to get lucky eventually), and for an average player the number will be higher than 0, but not sure it will be higher than 1. Granted you should be an above average player if you’re interested in this, but that’s still a pretty big gamble.

Now let’s look at 4-3-2-2. These are the drafts that I play. There’s 1 less prize pack, but who cares? I can’t win all 11 or 12 packs, so all I care about is what I win, not what anyone else gets. An average player should expect roughly 2 packs per event over a significant sample size and with variance included. That is to say, given an infinite number of drafts it’s reasonable that an average player will average a 1-1 record. Sometime’s they’ll lose round 1, sometimes they’ll win. Two packs isn’t enough to break even unless you open money, however we should all be above average players attempting to do this so hopefully that number will be a little higher.

Since I mentioned opening money cards, this is another reason you draft 4-3-2-2. These events are only slightly more difficulty than Swiss, but they’re much softer than 8-4 events (At least in theory. I’ve been in some 8-4’s that were so soft I had to ask my opponent if I had signed up for Swiss by accident). However, in Swiss you will never be passed a card worth anything because everyone rare drafts, and you can also get screwed by inexperienced players who don’t know how to signal properly. In an 8-4 you can get passed a couple 2-3 dollar cards, but even if you take 2 or 3 of those you will lose money when you win 0 packs. The 4-3-2-2 queues are the best of both worlds. You can get passed some mid value cards, but you can also afford to throw away a pick taking one of these. When Avacyn Restored was relatively new, I entered a 4-3-2-2 draft. I opened a Sigarda, Host of Herons pack 2, and after quickly checking the price on MTGO Traders decided to take it even though I would not be running it. yes, I threw away my first pick for a card I’d be able to sell for 4.5 tix. However, when you consider that you can expect to win 2 packs in these events and that a pack sells for about 3.5 tix, now all of the sudden we’re only 1 dollar away from breaking even. if you can sell the rest of your draft pool for a dollar or if you go better than 1-1 then you’re already even or better. And if you’re lucky enough to open an actual money rare you can sell for 20 tix, now you’re even on your next five consecutive 1-1 records, so anything you open or any record better than 1-1 is pure profit to negate those awful 0-1 events you have.

Sometimes Round 1 Gets the Best of You

Have you ever been drafting a really strong deck but knew that the guy who was alone in black at the table was going to crush your face in? Sometimes you make it to the finals, but sometimes you see that person round 1. That’s the worst, isn’t it? Or maybe you get paired against the jankiest pile of garbage you’ve ever seen, keep very strong hands, and then draw either all land or no land. This is why I actually do a relatively minimal amount of drafting compared to what I used to. The safest and, in my mind, most fun way to go infinite in sealed daily events.

The beauty of sealed events is that they are always four rounds of swiss no matter how big they are, and the payout is really good. You can get mana screwed or paired against the God pool round one, but if you win your other three rounds to end at 3-1 you still get 6 packs and a QP. Since you also have the contents of six booster packs, it is very unlikely (though possible) that you will not make up the 2 ticket entrance fee once you sell all the cards you opened. Even if you only go 2-2, which hopefully won’t happen to often, you still win 3 booster packs and have six packs worth of cards to sell to hopefully make up the other ~14 dollars. If you’re a good player, going 3-1 or better in sealed consistently should not be difficult. Sometimes the events are soft and sometimes they aren’t, it all depends who you get paired against really, but if you keep your play tight you should be able to win matches against better decks than yours. Also, because it’s always only four rounds, someone else can have a completely unbeatable sealed pool and you can still go 4-0 and win those 11 packs without even having to face that player and taking an auto-loss.

Quit Being So Proud

At this point I should interject that you may be thinking I’m informing you that the key to going infinite is to play against lesser opponents. This is not the case. These are the events with the payouts that will allow you to most consistently break even. The fact that they don’t always attract the highest level of player is merely coincidental. Also, if this is a concern of yours then I’ll emphasize that I mentioned this is for those with at least a somewhat casual mentality. I don’t play these events because I want to beat up little kids. I play these events because I love playing Magic. I want to play Magic often, but my bank account is finite so I need to maximize the funds that I have. My goal is not to prove that I am the best in the world. I mean yeah, I do honestly believe that I can play at the top levels successfully, but I also don’t care if you think so. My goal is simply to be able to play anytime I want without going broke. It’s just a game. The fun comes from playing. The fun does not come from winning at all costs, beating up little kids, or spending unnecessary amounts of money to try to prove to the world what I already know anyway. If that doesn’t resonate with you and you can’t get past the fact that I described these events as being softer than other another available option (It’s not like it’s dramatically so, either) then you should stop reading now and go polish your trophy collection ranging back to kindergarten.

Bots Are Your Friends

If your goal is to be infinite only playing limited, a big part of that is selling everything you open. You probably already know this, but don’t bother with the classified ads. Just find bots that you like and sell everything to them. It’s faster, you’ll get the same if not better prices (A human will only pay in round numbers, so you don’t get to carry your credit on a 9.3 ticket card over), and they’ll sometimes just grab 200 commons from you. I personally use the MTGOtradersbuybot. Unlike greedier bots, MTGO Traders pays at least a penny for every card. This may seem like a small thing, but when a bot wants a couple hundred bulk commons/uncommons from you, suddenly you have your two ticket entrance fee to go with the packs you were holding. Other bots will often offer you 4/10’s of a penny or less for commons; it adds up really fast.

The one caveat to this is foil mythics. Foil mythics are expensive, and bots underpay for them. Always check the classified ads for humans buying them, and if you see none post an ad. People like me need these stupid cards to finish our foil sets for redemption, so we’ll pay you 9 bucks for a foil Malignus even though it’s worth nothing on paper because all the other foil prices online are so much cheaper than on paper.

Utilize All Your Win Conditions

I wouldn’t be Dr. Jeebus if I didn’t say at least one thing in this article to make myself sound like a total dick, so here it is: utilize all your win conditions. MTGo has an extra win condition that paper Magic does not, and taking advantage of it can be hugely beneficial to winning matches that you otherwise couldn’t. That win condition is your opponent’s round clock. I’m not saying you should do scumbag things like pass priority and then try to open trade with your opponent, but the clock is a resource.

Many players will double or triple queue. Many of these players aren’t capable of doing so properly and run their clocks down way too far. Some people also play slowly in general. If you lose game 1 of your match but you have 20 minutes left on your clock and your opponent only has 9 minutes left, there’s nothing wrong with trying to win because of it. Playing to stall the board until they lose, while kind of a dick move, is a legitimate strategy online. Beware, however! If your opponent makes all of his moves slowly, this has a high probability of working. If your opponent will go long periods of time doing nothing and then take a turn or two very quickly, they are double queued and you are unlikely to win in this fashion. If you see that behaviour from your opponent, you can rest assured that as soon as their clock hits 3 minutes you will have their full attention, and win or lose, 3 minutes is more than enough time for them to complete the game.

Play What You Love

There is always a variety of formats available to you. Don’t worry about which booster packs have the highest EV, just play what you love. Our main goal here is to have fun; being infinite just enables you to have more fun without worrying about money. Not only will you have more fun playing formats that you love, but chances are if you love a format that much you’re probably good at it.

During the winter celebration last year, there was a week of Tempest 8 man sealed events and a week of Urza’s 8 man sealed events. Those are the only events I played for those two weeks. At the end of the two weeks, I was up $250 from where I had started which is when I bought and redeemed my first foil set online. I love all the pre-2000 sets and I will play them all the time. They are what I grew up with, and that gives me a lot more experience than most players on MTGO have with them which is a huge boon. If you hate Avacyn and M13 but loved Innistrad, keep playing Innistrad. Events still fire, and you’ll be happier than playing a format you hate just to play something.

Prerelease Bad, Release Good

This should be obvious, but I’ll say it anyway. Don’t play prereleases. Yes, I am currently ignoring this advice because I’m arrogant. However, prereleases cost more than a normal sealed event and the prizes are much smaller. The only saving grace is that single prices are much higher during this window than they will be when the release hits. Also, do play release events. These cost less than a normal sealed and have a higher payout. Again, should be a no brainer if you wanted to player the format.

Full Disclosure

I buy ticket sometimes. I know, I just spent this whole article claiming I don’t have to and trying to teach you my methods, but sometimes I do it. However, I don’t HAVE to buy tickets. I do it because I am impatient. I had enough inventory built up to sell all my AVR packs as soon as M13 release events started and buy the last four foils I needed to complete the set for redemption. Then I lost some money in M13 prerelease events. Then I made some money in M13 prerelease events and decided to buy 3 of the 4 I needed. I still had enough inventory for a few sealed events (Which is enough to go ad infinitum), but I saw a foil Bonfire of the Damned, the last card I needed, in the classifieds for a good price. Because I’m impatient and didn’t know if it would be there, I bought some tickets to buy that card. Occasionally I will do something like this, so in the interest of full disclosure if I ever mention spending money on MTGO I want people to understand that is solely a matter of my impatience in finishing foil sets, and not something that I need to do to keep playing. I may be profiting continuously over time, but I guess it’s just not as fast as I’d like.

Questions, Concerns, Fears, Uncertainties, Doubts?

At the time of writing this, my mind is kind of all over the place so I probably forgot something as I always do. If you have any questions, leave them in the comment section or hit me up on Twitter (@Dr_Jeebus). Also, if you start trying this out and find that it works for you either in eliminating all cost of MTGO or in greatly reducing your losses, you can thank me by nominating me for the Community Cup. Yes, the timing of the article is not a coincidence, but this is a topic I’ve discussed with people at great lengths before so it’s not like I’m just making stuff up.

Finally, if this works and you are able to go infinite playing only limited whereas you were not able to before, please let me know. I’d just like to know exactly how many people I’m able to help with this.

Defense Against the Dark Arts OR How to Protect Yourself From Trade Sharks and Value Traders

By Dr. Jeebus July 13th, 2012, under Magic

That’s right, I channeled old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons while naming this article. Deal with it. I’ve also managed to go off on a tangent before even starting the article. This may be a first even for me.

Back on topic: There is an ever increasing emphasis on finance in Magic. It is no secret that I consider this to be the worst thing to happen since The Dojo published their first Sligh decklist. I can and have explained at great length why this is such a bad thing, but if you want to know more research what happened with comics and baseball cards in the ’80s and ’90s, because it’s pretty much the same thing. I somehow got dragged into a ridiculous Twitter fight (Editor’s note: Redundant?) earlier this evening. The fight entailed one financial writer calling out an entire financial website on…I have no idea why, actually. No one gave me a straight answer, but I don’t actually care. These people are poisonous and they have a dangerous effect on the game. Of course, the people interested in the teachings of these so called “financial gurus” don’t care what I have to say. I should have known better than to try to reach those people, so instead I’m going to try the other angle.

Instead of reading their advice on how to rip people off blatantly or to at least nickle and dime them to death, you should know how to defend yourself against these people. If there’s no food for these sharks, no binders left for them to Prey Upon, then maybe they’ll finally stop. This article is for the people who never cared about reading about MTG finance before, but frequently wonder where cards in their binder went or why they always feel like they got a bad deal.

As a side note, there’s little to learn from these people anyway. If you would even consider robbing some little kid who was handed a nice collection, you should be more concerned with what a terrible human being you are and less considered with whether you’re making a 5048% or a 5049% return. That type of behaviour is really the only thing being taught. Afterall, you can’t teach speculation. You can try, but it’s not like most people are any good. Even Medina can speculate better than a six-sided die. Besides, by the time someone who speculates well tells you what to buy, because no one in this community can think for themselves it seems (Go go gadget netdeck!), it’s already too late. So yeah, reading these financial articles is a waste of time because they’re just teaching you to be an asshole. And know what? I can teach you to be an asshole much more effectively than they can, and at least I have the decency to be honest about it.

My final point before I begin: a lot of the things I will discuss in this article are the same things that appear in the articles I am vilifying. Yes, I’m aware of the irony, so don’t bother pointing it out. Again, though, the people I’m trying to reach would not have read those articles, and people respond very differently to the same points depending on context and what not (See also: propaganda). So now, 500 words, later, let’s get on to the actual things the novice trader needs to remember.

What makes you the expert, Jeebus?

When I was 13 or 14, about a year after I had been playing, a friend of mine ripped me off pretty hard. He immediately told me, smiling triumphantly, and I was PISSED. He then showed me a book he had read on trading which very wholeheartedly and honestly endorsed being a trade shark. I was furious about being taken advantage of, so I quickly committed the book to memory to claim vengeance on the world for having wronged me. Now that I’m 29 I’m in no way proud of the things I did. Some of them were beyond scummy (My Relentless Assault, his Beta Mox Sapphire. Granted the Assault was $20 at the time and the Sapphire was only about $90, but still). While I may not be happy about how I acted as a stupid teenager and no longer take part in such antics, I still remember how to do all of it.

You never NEED a card

Maybe you’re just overly excited about finding a card you’ve been looking for for weeks, but when you say the words “I need this card!” to a trader, all they hear is “MERRY FUCKING CHRISTMAS!” You never, ever, EVER say you need a card. Other financial writers have talked about the “need tax,” and it’s a very real thing. In fact, you don’t even want cards. On the inside you may be doing cartwheels at finally finding someone who has the last card for your foil Urza’s Legacy set or your deck for the standard PTQ tomorrow, but on the outside you remain calm and say “I’m interested in this.” I cannot ever stress this enough. You do not need cards, you do not want cards, but cards interest you. When it comes time to work out a deal, you may differentiate cards by saying “I’m more interested in this/these,” or, if there’s a card that’s a total deal breaker for you, “this is the main thing I’m interested in.” This terminology will help guide the trade so you can get the cards you actually do need instead of trading away all your hot cards for a bunch of cards you pulled out thinking “Hmm..I MIGHT use this in EDH.”

Also, never give unnecessary information about the availability of a card. At states a few years ago my friends and I sat down to fill out our deck registration sheets. One of my friends asked if I still had my Kargan Dragonlords, because someone had asked him about him when he walked in the door and he mentioned to the guy I might have some. Oh yeah, don’t camp by the door asking everyone who walks in if they have something; no need to chum the waters for the sharks. Anyway, a few seconds later the guy spotted my friend and frantically ran over to our table. This is the exact conversation that took place:
“Hey,” panting from running over and looking panicked, “do you have any Kargan Dragonlords?”
“Yeah, I have three of them.”
“Oh my God, I need exactly three for my deck today. You’re the only person in the room that has any. Not even the dealers have them.
“Sure, I can trade them,” smiling like a douchebag. “They’re $30.”
“Total, right?”
“Very funny,” laughing and handing me his binder.
Deadpan serious, “I wasn’t joking.”
I mean, what can he do here? I know he needs these cards for the tournament starting in 20 minutes, I know he has absolutely zero other options to acquire them, and I’m holding his binder. I didn’t actually trade them at $30, but I could have and I wanted to make sure he knew I could. In a perfect world, he would have learned a valuable lesson that day.

Know what your cards are worth

See, you would probably think this would be listed first, because you probably think it’s the most important thing. However, if you’re running around telling people how much you need cards then it won’t matter what your cards were worth; they’re all gone now. Assuming you can keep from spazzing out long enough to complete a trade, you’ll need to know what the cards in your binder are worth. Equally important is to know what the cards you want are worth, but including that would’ve made the header too long. There’s no need to go into any great detail here. If you don’t know what cards are worth, you have no way of knowing whether of not you’re getting screwed.

Everything in your binder is for trade

I wrote an article about this before on Quiet Speculation. The short version? No one cares how awesome your collection is. If it’s in your trade binder, it should be for trade. The only exception to this rule is cards that you just acquired that day and have nowhere else to put. Keep a blank page in the back of your binder for those cards so that, if this happens, you can tell people everything is for trade except the last page. Filling your binder with cards you just want to show off not only slows things down and will make the next topic nearly impossible. Now this being said, you don’t have to be willing to trade your cards for anything. My trade binder has three Temporal Mastery in it, however two of them are there to trade for a foil Temporal Mastery (Unless someone makes a ridiculous offer that I can’t refuse). Even though I’m looking for something specific for them, they are still for trade so they go in the trade binder. Limit how many cards are qualified in such a way though. You want to give as few restrictions to your binder as possible so that you can hand it to your trade partner and they can just go. This brings us to my next point…

Make them pull cards out

Ask your trade partner if it’s okay to pull cards out of their binder (They’ll almost always say yes, but it’s polite to ask instead of assume), and then inform them that everything in your binder is for trade so to just pull out whatever the want. A trick that people will use is to have you pull cards out while flipping through your binder. Once you pull cards out, they’ll go over prices (disingenuously, of course), and then use that total to go shopping through your binder, asking you the value of every card and waiting for you to slip up and say the wrong number. Their tricks related to this can be much more complex, but that’s not important. Tell them to pull out whatever they want, and start doing the same.

Now there’s a few things that can happen here: they might start pulling cards. This is ideal. They might start asking you prices. This is not. If this happens, just say something like “Just pull out whatever you want and we’ll figure that out after.” If they protest this, end the trade. No, serious. Just hand them back their binder and any cards you pulled out and tell them you’re all set. This may seem rude, but who cares? They were trying to fuck you anyway, so whatever. The other option here is you start pulling stuff and they flip through your binder not pulling anything or asking prices. Maybe they’re chatting you up, trying to glean information from you or put you at ease for the rectal probing about to take place, but they aren’t showing any real interest in your binder. Let it go on for a little bit, but once they get through a bit of it, ask if they haven’t seen anything they wanted. It’s possible they haven’t, so no need to be suspicious yet. If they say they have not, that’s fine, though probably disappointing. If they say they saw a couple things but wanted to wait, remind them to just pull them out. If they refuse to until you’re done, end the trade.

Don’t talk about card prices

You know what your cards are worth, right? Good, because you’ll need it here. You’ve now each pulled out the cards you want. Now is when you simply tell them “Make me an offer.” If push comes to shove you can make an offer first, but you really want to force them to make the first move. The reason you don’t want to talk about card prices is because this is how value trades screw you. If you know my card and your card are both worth $3-4, you’re comfortable trading them. However, if you say “$3-4” on each of them, suddenly yours is worth $3 and mine is worth $4. If it’s a decent size trade, suddenly that can be an extra $5 they say you owe them on a trade you genuinely considered to be fair.

If they’re reasonable, they’ll offer you a fair trade. You may want another card more or not be thrilled about parting with a specific card, so you may offer substitutions. This is best case scenario, and these are people you want to trade with. This process in which card values were never mentioned once is how everyone used to trade in the before time, in the long, long ago. How i miss those days.

Worst case scenario is they offer you an extremely lopsided trade. If this happens, end the trade immediately. Offer no explanation, because they know why. Only an amateur shark will just throw a lopsided trade on the table. The more skilled sharks will feed you a continuously line of bullshit while lining up the trade, explaining how their cards are all gold and yours are shit. If someone is verbalizing their every alleged thought while lining up a trade, pay close attention. Don’t listen to what they’re saying, because that doesn’t matter; you know what the cards are worth and they can’t change that. Listen to how they speak and watch their body language. There’s a clear difference between someone who is trying to persuade you and someone who is genuinely doing math or thinking aloud, and you should be able to identify this. Ideally, you’ll be able to identify this long before they get to this point.

Average case scenario is that you’ll be dealing with a value trader, not a shark. This is a pain in the ass to deal with. In reality, value traders are more sophisticated versions of sharks in that they employ the same tactics, just on a smaller scale. Getting someone to give up a dollar or two at a time over and over again is a lot easier than getting someone to give up $15-20 when you’re each trading a single card. It’s also a lot harder to spot as their trades are normally much larger so a passerby can’t just quickly do all the math in their head. Once again, what they’re saying isn’t really important. Let them work out a trade on the table, and do your best to do it without discussing prices. If the trade doesn’t seem to add up to you, offer substitutions on either or both sides. If they counter, continue to counteroffer with trades that are fair until they finally accept one or you get sick of it and cancel the trade. If you’re trading for something you genuinely need, it’s obviously okay to give up a dollar or two for your own convenience, but don’t let them get your whole binder at 50% off. Oh yeah, and no thrown ins. EVER. I mean, if it’s literally an unplayable garbage common that they happen to collect like Dementia Bats or something then okay, they can have it. But if they tell you some story about how their brother wanted them to pick up a specific card for them and can they throw in this random $1-2 card then not a fucking chance. If everyone does that, this guy’s brother, who doesn’t even exist, by the way, is going to be up $200 by the end of the night.

Most importantly, do not accept ANY trade unless you are happy with it. Genuinely happy, not “some scumbag convinced me to be happy.” Value traders will frequently try to reach your breaking point, the point at which you are giving up the absolute most value and are unhappy but will still do the deal. You know when you’re there. You know when you’re well before that point. If there is any doubt in your mind about the deal, any uneasiness, or if your reaction to the trade is “yeah, I guess I can do that” then you shouldn’t be doing it. I’m not saying you should be busting out into song and waving middle fingers at your trade partner at the end of every deal, but there should be absolutely no hesitation. You should be trading cards that you don’t mind parting with for an equal value of cards that you want. The other person will be doing the same, and you’ll both be happy. Drinks all around!

If you have to talk about card prices…

Ugh, did we really get to this point? I suppose it’s hard to avoid in this day and age. Alright, well you know your prices, right? You better. Seriously, if you don’t know what your cards (and the ones you want) are worth, you’re going to get fucked. Even if you just pick a website to use for pricing and get all the prices from there, you can very easily game the system because of wacky things that websites do with their prices. So remember: you know what the cards are worth. Don’t let him tell you otherwise. People have a lot of ridiculous excuses they will use to make you price their cards higher. Here are a few of them:

  • “This was worth $X when I got it, so I can’t let it go at $Y.” In this scenario, Y is the current price of the card and X is the price at its peak in standard. Guess what, buddy? I don’t care what you paid for the card. Sorry if you overpaid or if you think card prices should never go down when they leave standard, but I’m not going to overvalue your cards for you.
  • “I know this is only gong for $X right now, but I think it’s going to go up so I need to get $Y for it.” What on Earth gives you the right to decide a card is worth more than it is? Do you have an honest to God crystal fucking ball? Are you famous for routinely breaking formats and this is the card you’ve been brewing with? No? Okay, then your opinion doesn’t matter to me. If you’re so sure this card your speculating on is going to go up in price, then take it out of your binder until it does. Otherwise, you’re going to have to value this card at the same price as everyone else, future man.
  • “The box of [set name] I got was really bad, so I have to ask more for this to make my money back.” Someone really said this to me. I want a foil bulk rare from Planar Chaos to finish my foil set, and he wanted about $8 for it, which was at least eight times what the card was worth. You are not entitled to make money on a box you open. I don’t know what the fuck would ever give you that idea or what makes you think I’m the one that has to pay the cost for your bad luck, but find some other idiot to swindle.

Remember: you know what the cards are worth. Seriously, you did your research. You’ve got this. Don’t let your trade partner try to wiggle his prices up and take some of yours down while begrudgingly accept others. If anyone ever tries to make you feel like they’re doing you a favour for accepting the price you say on a card, they are trying to screw you. If you don’t know what I mean by them making you feel that way, you will when it happens. And when it happens, you had better walk away immediately. But pick your cards up.

You don’t have to trade with anyone

I may be forgetting something, and if that’s the case I will edit this later to include it. Hopefully this has been helpful for all of you, and you will be better equipped to trade with people without giving cards away for free. Just remember that you can always walk away. I gave many examples of reasons to walk away, but there are plenty more. You don’t even have to attempt to trade with someone. If you don’t like someone’s reputation, their attitude, something you saw them do once that was probably totally out of character, or any other reason, logical or otherwise, then don’t trade with them. No one is entitled to trade with you, and you are not obligated to trade with anyone. Magic is a hobby. For the vast majority of you, buying and selling cards is not how you pay your rent. Quit trying to screw each other over, quit letting yourself get screwed over, and go have some fun already!

Oh yeah, and stop netdecking. But that’s a discussion for another day.

From R&D’s Secret Lair: An Epic Cycle of FTV Spoilers!

By Dr. Jeebus July 8th, 2012, under Magic

As I assume you all know, every year Wizards of the Coast puts out a From the Vault product. It contains 15 foil cards and is extremely limited. It has been known for some time that this year’s FTV release is From the Vault: Lands, but little about the contents of the magical boxes is known. All that is about to change, however! Well, alright, it’s not going to change until GenCon. Sorry. But what about next year’s From the Vault release? Or the year after? Or the year after? These products normally aren’t designed years in advance like a normal set would be, however the next three From the Vault products were designed as a cycle so my super secret and absolutely not imaginary contact on the inside was able to hook me up with the “deets,” as you crazy kids say.

So how exactly does a cycle of products like this work? It can’t be a colour cycle if there’s only three, and with mythic rares now existing it can’t be a vertical cycle either. A vertical cycle would also be fairly terrible because, aside from Maze of Ith, there aren’t a ton of commons anyone would be to happy about seeing in a From the Vault. Although it’d at least keep people from bitching about how expensive they are for a year, which would be something. Back on point: the next three From the Vaults (Released 2013-2015) were designed as a cycle based on their target audience: the three main player psychographical profiles. I know, it’s a pretty bitchin’ idea. So cool, in fact, that I wish I had completely fabricated it for entertainment purposes only.

Now bear in mind that the card images that follow were created for internal use within Wizards of the Coast R&D and are not 100% complete. Most noticeably, while there will be cards with new artwork, most of the art has yet to be commissioned and none of it is completed yet. You should all thank your lucky stars that I never had to sign a nondisclosure agreement, because I now present to you the complete contents of the next three From the Vaults!

From the Vault: Timmy (2013)

From the Vault – Timmy will feature 15 creature cards from Magic’s history with power, 8 or greater. But none of the “good” ones. If you’re looking for Blightsteels, then you’re just not Timmy enough to handle these monstrous beasts (Note: FTV – Timmy only contains two Beast creature cards). These are the type of giant, drawback riddled creatures that both strike fear into your opponent and make you feel like a bad ass for actually killing someone with them. I hope you’ve been ramping your mana, because here come the hordes!


































































Yeah, you know you want these, Timmy. Look how fucking big they are!

From the Vault: Johnny (2014)

Do you theoretically know how to kill a man five times before he hits the ground but find that in reality it works less than 5% of the time? Then this is the product for you! Others may have to read most of these cards because they can’t remember what they do, but Johnny recites their Oracle text in his sleep while dreaming up new “degenerate” seven card combos. This From the Vault product is dedicated to some of Johnny’s favourite cards that, while some may have come close, never really made the big time. And while Johnny’s decks may not win major tournaments, with Wizards’ special FTV foiling process you can be sure he’ll look damn good losing. Now start brewing!


































































With combos so convoluted even most judges don’t know what you’re trying to do, you can rest assured your opponent hasn’t tested a single game against your deck. Now ride that confusion to glorious victory!

From the Vault: Fuck You (2015, Tentative name)

While the logical name for this product would be From the Vault: Spike, it just didn’t feel natural. The final installation of this From the Vault cycle is designed to make the most powerful and expensive competitive cards that aren’t on the reserved list more readily available for all those people to whom winning is the only thing. So why the name? Well did you hope to make it through your next local event without running into the top deck in the format? Fuck you. Have you been hoarding Vintage and Legacy cards because nothing will ever hurt their value? Fuck you. Do you feel Wizards of the Coast should never reprint cards that they openly admit were a mistake to print the first time? Fuck you. MSRP: $35. Actual retail value: Your first born child. Because fuck you. Are you unable to find someone willing to breed with you? Fuck you, you can’t have one. Spike is the player who will do ANYTHING to win. If that means poking a hole in the condom before calling up an “escort” for the evening, who are we to judge? It’ll all be worth it when you walk out of that Grand Prix $2000 richer. You’ll also notice that everyone’s favourite splashable creature appears in the frame in which it was originally printed. We know you’ve all been hoping for a reprint in the modern card frame. Wizards thought long and hard about this decision, they really did. But after much debate, it was decided that fuck you.


































































Now that you’ve seen the list, care to reconsider about that firstborn child? You can always make another one, and Gleemax gets very cranky when we don’t give him breakfast. Oh, did we not mention Gleemax eats babies?

There you have it: three equally exciting products to look forward to in the coming years. Be sure to share your excitement!

Doing the Right Thing Does Not Make You an Amazing Person

By Dr. Jeebus July 5th, 2012, under Rants

When did society’s standards for behaviour become so low that simply doing the right thing became worthy of accolades? Maybe this is all part of the “everyone gets a trophy” mentality that has become so pervasive in recent years, but the last time I checked praised was something given for extraordinary acts. Maybe it is because everyone is so consumed with their desperate attention whoring that it leaves them no time to accomplish anything of note that would be worth the attention they crave. Maybe it’s because they feel that if they give someone else attention for the most meager of “achievements” that others will in turn do the same when they do something for which a bit of self congratulation just won’t suffice. Whatever the reason, I find it very difficult to view this as anything other than repulsive.

Earlier in the week a Magic personality who I guess used to be relevant for reasons that elude me declared on Twitter that he was going straight edge. That’s all well and good and I’m sure your friends will be interested in this and supportive of it, but asking people to retweet it? Harassing a professional wrestler to read your blog presumably in the hopes that he’ll retweet it too? The fuck is wrong with you? This is the sort of thing you do for yourself. You don’t go straight edge because you want everyone to see how strong and amazing you are, you do it because you want to be a better person. And if you succeed? Good for you, but shut the fuck up about it. While it may not be the way our society works anymore, the world should give zero fucks about you for doing this.

But why, Jeebus? Isn’t he brave and strong and noble for giving up drugs after 16 years of use? He was using drugs since he was 14, cut the guy some slack!

Wow, what a deep and meaningful point you raise. You know, if we ignore the fact he shouldn’t have been doing it in the first place. If I brutally murder a dozen people today and then tomorrow swear off killing forever, would you declare that I am an incredible person? Would you sing my praises from the mountaintops? Of course you wouldn’t, because giving up behaviour which one should never have partaken of in the first place, while the right thing to do, is not worthy of commendation.

As an aside, while making a public declaration of your decision to go straight edge is ridiculous, going straight edge should never actually be necessary. It is a label, a character archetype, that one forces oneself into because they are weak spirited. While I do not condone smoking crack or anything like that, giving up things that are legal and that you enjoy because you don’t have the fortitude and self control to moderate your own behaviour effectively is cowardly. That’s not disciprine.

Let’s fast forward to today, where another puzzling article went up. To the writer’s credit, this one was much less self congratulatory in tone, but the message was similar. It was a rather disjointed article telling two different stories at the same time. One story, taking place ten years ago, was about the writer deliberately cheating to win a match. The next story was about a recent tournament in which he won via clerical error, and then alerted the judges of the mistake when it was pointed out to him. The article lacked any sort of explicit thesis, but the community responded with immeasurable praise about how it was one of the most well written pieces in ages and how important it was for everyone to read and blah blah circle jerk. I can’t for the life of me figure out why, however. Some kid cheats in a tournament, and then a decade later does not. Are we to congratulate you on not scumbagging some 12 year old in the losers bracket of a tournament? What does it say about Magic players if this is considered a “must read” article? Is everyone such a fucking piece of shit that we expect everyone to cheat at all times, even by accident, and that anything less is somehow deserving of a ticker tape parade?

The Lost Art of Common Decency

Life is full of binary choices (If you’re an idiot, that means choices with two options). Almost invariably, there is a clear cut right thing to do and a clear cut wrong thing to do. I do not mean right and wrong strictly in the moral sense, but also in that one option is correct and the other is incorrect. Given the opportunity, shooting heroin is incorrect. Cheating in a game is incorrect. Punching a dog in the face is…well I don’t like dogs so we’ll skip that one for now. These things should all sound obvious to you. I shouldn’t have to tell you what the right thing to do is. Unless you’re a sociopath, this shit is ingrained in your blood. Doing the right thing should be expected of you. You should not receive special praise or attention for doing what is expected, but rather you should be punished for doing the wrong thing. You may think you deserve some recognition because it was just so damn hard to fix your behaviour and it shows a real strength of character, but you know what? If you weren’t such a fuck up in the first place then all this “extraordinary” effort wouldn’t be necessary. If you find it that difficult to change, then maybe rather than considering it a feat of strength to overcome whatever line of crap you’re trying to feed me, maybe you should acknowledge that it’s nature’s way of punishing you since society is so unwilling to.

Oh, and if you’re able to kick all your bad habits and do the right thing on a consistent basis then know what that makes you? Normal. You are not special, you are not unique, you are not a daring and brave individual facing unfair adversity, you are just a normal person doing what you should have been all along. Congratulations on being just like everyone else.

Letters to Rory

By Dr. Jeebus May 8th, 2012, under General

While Syd and I appreciate the traffic, please stop scouring for new content. You’re supposed to be studying! If you have time to not only read my last post but to take exception to it and write me an e-mail, then you have time for Draftapalooza 3 this weekend. A single day of fun should not stand in the way of you and finally passing that test. Besides, thanks to MTGO destroying my ability to draft on paper where you can’t cheat, I’ll need some company in the 0-2 brackets.

If you’re still not persuaded, the store picked up a HUGE collection of gold and silver age comics a few months ago, and you can damn well be sure there are Uncle Scrooge comics in there. And the fact that you’ve already read this post should only further the point that you clearly have some extra time on your hands, so come fucking draft already!

Love always,
Dr. Jeebus

Lessons Learned from SCG Providence

By Dr. Jeebus May 7th, 2012, under Magic

I went to the Star City Games Open this weekend and played in both events. My overall record on the weekend was 7-7, which is pretty fucking disgraceful. In the standard portion I was playing white/red humans. Based on the number of these decks I saw, the total attendance, and the fact that one of them cracked the top 8, I’d say that the deck choice was sound. Unfortunately, my deck refused to cooperate and left me in ridiculous situations. The game 3 that eliminated me from competition went like this:

I’m on the draw. My hand is Mountain, Clifftop Retreat, Doomed Traveler, Elite Inquisitor, Fiend Hunter, Hero of Bladehold, and Bonfire of the Damned. It’s a little greedy with all the double white, but I’m running 18 white sources and on the draw, so I should be okay. He plays a turn 1 Birds of Paradise. I drop the Clifftop Retreat tapped and pray for white. He plays another land and two more Birds of Paradise. I drop my mountain and Doomed Traveler, and wonder why I’m only drawing three drops. He plays a land and passes turn. At this point I’m golden, I think. I’ve already missed one land drop, but if I hit a land I can Bonfire for one and 3 for 1 him. But I don’t. Despite him not casting anything the following turn either, I fail to draw a land AGAIN. Then he drops Sword of War and Peace and hits me for 9 in the air since I’m now discarding down to 7 every turn. That’s pretty much how my day went.

Legacy went a little better, although it started off poorly. I was playing RUG Delver which, considering how many of them I saw, the attendance, and the fact that only one made it into the top 8, was the incorrect choice. My first round was against Stoneblade. He wins the die roll and opens with a fetch land, then passes turn. I’m confused, but say nothing. I drop my land and pass turn. He cracks his fetch and I Stifle. That sets the pace for the game and I take game 1 pretty easily. Game 2 we grind it out a little bit until he’s at like 6 life, I’m at 20ish, and neither of us have any board or cards in hand. Topdeck war time! My draw: land. His draw: Jace. Okay, game 3 time. We both mull to 6. My six: Scalding Tarn, Wasteland, Stifle, Nimble Mongoose, Thought Scout, Tarmogoyf. Snap keep. Being able to keep him off two of his lands is huge, especially when we’re starting at 6. I fetch up a Tropical Island and pass turn. He drops Karakas, so I Thought Scour myself, untap, and waste his Karakas. He misses his next two land drops. This would be awesome for me and an easy win, except that Goyf is still in my hand and I miss my next 10 land drops. This is not hyperbole. This also pretty accurately describes how that day went.

So what did I learn over the course of about 15 hours of Magic? A great number of things. Some of them even relate to my matches!

Judges Are All Assholes Who Are Out To Get You

I’m sure you all already knew this, right? I mean, everytime you get a penalty, especially a game or match loss, it’s because the judge is an asshole and is out to get you. There’s no way you did anything wrong, but you’d rather blame all your future misfortune on this one judge’s call rather than appealing to the head judge. I mean, he’s probably out to get you too, right? The most epic example of this I saw was one someone received a game loss for tapping his City of Brass and not changing his life total. Now, it’s not unreasonable to think this is a huge overreaction and that he was just going to finish casting his spell and then write down the life total, however the judge had warned him about City of Brass specifically two or three times already, and this was about the fourteen trigger the guy missed in two turns. And he was at the 4-0 tables. I ran into the guy outside having a cigarette later on, and he was now 4-3. And it’s all the judge’s fault for that shitty call (And the head judge for upholding it). It has nothing to do with Dredge being inconsistent and him not being used to piloting it, it’s because now that he was 4-1 from that call he was playing against bad players. I have no idea why that means he would lose, but he did seriously say he was losing because he was competing against bad players. I dunno.

Wearing a Sports Jacket to a Tournament Makes You Look Like a Douchebag

I’m pretty sure this has always been true, but it never really struck me until this weekend. I saw a bunch of guys wearing sport coats, it and seems to be pretty impossible not to look like a total fucking douchebag when doing so. If you come dressed up to FNM that’s fine. It’s not unlikely that you’re coming from work, and it’s only a few hours. But when you’re going to a tournament that’s going to last for over 12 hours? You dressed like that specifically for the tournament, which leads to the question: who are you trying to impress? Do you think your opponent will be in such awe of your superior style that he’ll just concede and start worshiping you? Do you want to look your nicest so you can have your choice of all the fat, sweaty guys with holes in their shirts? Oh yeah, and if you’re going to wear the sports jacket then you need to go all out; don’t just wear it over your sweaty t-shirt with holes in it. I still own my tuxedo from when I was a music major in college, so maybe I should just wear that to SCG Worcester next month (You’re surprised I own a tux? Fuck you, I’m classy as shit).

Losers Have More Fun

I’ve always known this, but I had a particularly fun match when I was sitting at 3-2. My opponent was playing Painter’s Stone, and was possibly tripping balls. At one point he started singing a song about being a durdle; it was really nice to witness the creative process unfold like that instead of just watching him silently cast Enlightened Tutor. There was much friendly banter, and a good time was had by all even though at no point was he actually even a part of either game we played. There was even a two minute break during game one for him to finish laughing when I asked, “So foil Onslaught fetches, Mox Opals, Enlightened Tutors, these things are no problem. But getting a foil Seat of the Synod was just too much for you?” This is one of the things that led me to believe he might be tripping balls; it was funny, but it wasn’t that funny. My previous opponent was also a lot of fun, until I called a judge. She was frustrated about losing her previous match because she had allowed her opponent to blatantly cheat and didn’t call a judge (still don’t understand why). I asked her if that meant if I was losing I could just start lying to her and she’d go with it, and we began playing. She was running burn and since the games are always a boring race, we were talking throughout. Game 1 even wound up ending in draw, which caused some interesting reactions from people, mainly “how the fuck does a game end in a draw?” At this point we were 15 minutes into the round and 0-0-1 so there was less banter and more Magic so that we wouldn’t run out of time if it went to game 4. I took game 2, and presented my deck. She presented hers and I proceeded to count it, because it looked like she had sided out a lot of cards. Indeed there were 58 cards in the deck so I called the judge. I’m sure it was an accident since siding out spells actually makes the deck worse which probably only tilted her further. Excepting that moment, the losers bracket matches were much more fun and entertaining though. Oh, and I saw her later in the day and she was happy again, so I’m sure future opponents had fun as well.

Magic Players Don’t Just Look Like Creepy Pedophiles

It’s no secret that many Magic players look like pedophiles, what with their unkempt beards and pockets full of candy. Star City decided that they would cater to this market segment, and so they booked the same venue that was hosting the junior high national cheerleading competition or something. I walked into the venue expecting neckbeards everywhere, but instead I found myself walking into a swarm of preteen girls. “Awkward” doesn’t even begin to describe it as there were no events running alongside GP Portland to my recollection, so I had no reason to think something like this would happen. After confirming that this was the right place and we were just on the floor above them, I entered the venue. Over the course of the day I heard a lot of people talking about how there were little cheerleaders everywhere. I fortunately didn’t hear anything blatantly sexual, but there were still lots of errant comments about this phenomenon. But know what I didn’t hear when I showed up for Legacy on Sunday? I didn’t hear a single comment about the smokin’ hot black chick convention going on downstairs. You’re all either gay, pedophiles, or racist, and you should be ashamed of yourselves. Moreso the pedos and racists.

A 250 Person Event Is the Perfect Time to Test Your New Tech

After my brutal 0-2 start in Legacy, I get paired against a guy who slept through round one. That’s how much he cared about this tournament he just paid $40 to play in. He’s been testing different builds a little bit, but decided on this new build that he didn’t get to test at all for the open. Okay, awesome I guess. The deck was doing a lot of cool things, however it was trying to do so many cool things that he forgot to make room for a win condition. This is the sort of thing that could’ve been discovered in about 20 minutes of playtesting, or probably 30 seconds of looking over the decklist. I got a free match win and a fun opponent out of it, but the dude drove for fucking hours to get to the venue. As a bitter pro tour player once said after losing an 8 man draft I was running despite his opponent making several misplays and puzzling decisions, “I just can’t understand the thought process of bad players.” Truer words, my friend.

I’m sure there were lots more lessons I could have learned, like “don’t drive the wrong way on a one way street” or “use Tormod’s Crypt wisely,” but they’ll just have to wait until SCG Worcester. So until next time, insert clever sign off here.

The Helvault – My Letter to Wizards of the Coast

By Dr. Jeebus April 30th, 2012, under Magic

A bunch of people had asked me to post this before and I was considering it. Then the original version got destroyed for all time by the beauty of Yahoo mail’s shitty programming. I had to rewrite it, and the rewrite is simple not as good. I had no intentions of ever posting this, but I was discussing the Helvault with Jay Boosh earlier and decided that I’d rather put up the sloppier, less complete version of this than have to type everything for a third time in 140 character increments. Most of the key points are all still there, so..yeah. I dunno what else needs to be said, so here you go:

“As I said on Twitter, 140 characters is far too few to discuss what happened with the Helvault. As you’re seeing now from the feedback rolling in, to say the Helvault was met with mixed reactions might be being generous. I’d like to discuss what happened from the original idea through the conclusion of the prereleases. Unfortunately as my original draft was lost, I’m sure I’m going to miss some of the points I originally made. I was very happy with the original letter, but can only hope this one is coherent and inclusive.

While I can’t know for sure what happened inside the walls at the Wizards of the Coast offices, from outside it appears that you started with the idea of creating a different and exciting promotion for the Avacyn Restored prerelease. Ideas like this are always welcome, especially because the player base feels that they are owed something since the termination of the Magic Player Rewards program. That concept may sound ridiculous, but it is the sentiment of the (I would wager overwhelming) majority of players.

From this idea, the Helvault was born. The concept and physical design of the Helvault were brilliant. “A box of unknown goodies that everyone needs to work together to open” is the best promotion since the priceless treasures in Zendikar. This was much more in-depths, however, and also created excitement about the storyline of the set since they were heavily linked.

Up to this point, everything was going well. I’d like to look at the promotion and execution of the Helvault now though, as that’s where things went wrong.

The promotion of the Helvault was extremely effective. A lot of hype was generated, especially with the extreme emphasis being placed on preregistering for events. The perceived message was that you did not want to miss this once in a lifetime opportunity, and that events would all reach capacity. However, the writer (or writers) of the original Arcana fell into the same trap that a lot of overzealous Magic writers fall into when trying to sell people on their new tech: deckbuilders will use the “God Hand,” or best case scenario, as their baseline for describing how a deck is supposed to work when they should really be looking at the average case scenario. That is precisely what happened here. You had the benefit of knowing about the premium Helvaults, and knew that for some people the message being perceived by the public would be true, however the average case scenario was that players would receive a Helvault without a single tournament legal Magic card in it.

As a side note, while some people had unrealistic expectations, the Helvault didn’t need to have 54 foil Avacyns, Griselbrands, and Command Towers. If there were alternate art (preferably foil) Pillar of Flames inside, people would have thought the Helvault had been over sold, but at least they’d have a special promo card that they would likely have a use for.

A little over a week before the prerelease, stores started receiving their Helvaults. This is where things started going downhill. As I’m sure you knew would happen, two or three stores opened their Helvaults and posted the contents online. As far as everyone knew, the secret was out. And most everyone was disappointed. Players tend to like tokens and dice because they’re useful, but even most hardcore Commander players don’t use oversize cards as the mechanics of the game require you to still have a normal version anyway. People were disappointed that there wasn’t a single tournament legal Magic card inside. Players started canceling preregistrations, and stores that had been foolish enough to charge more for the Helvault events were being vilified and labeled as “scumbag stores” that players should never visit again.

Prerelease weekend hit, and people had stopped caring about the Helvault. Early prerelease attendance was as expected, but then someone reported the first premium Helvault. It was met with natural skepticism, but then more and more reports and cell phone pictures kept rolling in. The premium Helvaults were confirmed. I missed when it happened, but Helene even said she mentioned that they existed that day on Twitter. Now people only cared about the Helvaults and the potential of receiving incredible prizes. Our 10 am Saturday prerelease attendance was unaffected by our Helvault because no one cared, and our 6 pm prerelease was less than half of what it should have been because everyone wanted to go to Helvault events. Our Sunday Helvault event was better than normal, but it was too little too late. While other stores benefited, our overall attendance was only 80% of what it would have been had the Helvault not even existed. I’m sure that worldwide the attendance numbers were the same or higher than normal, but many stores were hurt by this. By contrast, the priceless treasures had the same chance of being opened anywhere by anyone, and it was an ongoing promotion. Because it was ongoing, everyone benefited from it. The Helvault was a one shot deal, so it was do or die from the vendor perspective.

Having to write a large check for product that we now can’t do anything with for a week stings a little, but this is a minor concern thanks to Avacyn Restored being such a good set for both competitive and casual constructed so I’m sure we won’t be sitting on it long (If the set were to initially sell like, say, Morningtide, then we might be a bit more upset about this). The real concern, however, is the reaction from the players. Players went from being apathetic about the Helvaults to being disappointed, angry, and feeling ripped off. As organizers and judges, we were the ones in the trenches receiving the majority of their complaints. A player who was at an event with a premium Helvault received prizes that were worth as much as 15000% more than players with nonpremium Helvaults. While the secondary market isn’t and shouldn’t be your main concern, it is important to be aware of it. In the last two or three years, Magic finance has really started to take a front seat and is heavily discussed and written about. While I disapprove of this for tangentially reasons, it is important to be aware of the phenomenon and these people’s line of thinking.

So what could be done to fix this? There are a few key points that you need to keep in mind:

1. You are working from the viewpoint of trying to create an exciting experience for players. No one is made you do this; you did it to reward players and make their experience special. Players are working from a viewpoint of entitlement and expect you to do things like this every so often to make up for prying MPR from their hands. (Yeah, I know. I’m not any happier about this than you are.)

2. The hype should not exceed the average player’s experience. If someone gets even more than they expected, awesome for them! If someone gets far less than they expected, they will be extremely upset.

2a. The hype may exceed the average player’s experience if, and only if, there is a known variable. GPs are hyped, but the average player wins $0. While initially secret, the priceless treasure became hyped, but the average player opened none. These are still considered hugely successful because the players knew what they were getting into.

3. The disparity in outcomes must be either known, preferably with published odds, or minimal. Examples:
A. Priceless treasures had a huge disparity in outcomes. Once the secret was revealed, the odds of opening one were published. Because this was ongoing, players remained excited.
B. The textless nonfoil MPR cards were normally not known until players started receiving them, but because the disparity between them was so small it wasn’t a big deal if someone else got a different promo card.
C. The Helvault contents were thought to be identical, but then suddenly premium Helvaults were discovered and the found out the incredible things other tournaments had received. Players started to angrily ask “Why them? Why not us? How is this fair?”
D. Had the premium Helvaults been known about beforehand, the comments when people reported these things would have been “Aw, you’re so lucky! I can’t believe your tournament was the one to get those!” (And probably “How is this fair?” because you will never be able to make everyone happy).

4. Don’t be over ambitious unless you have complete control. This is the reason the promotion was flawed from the beginning. You want the contents to be secret. However, it is absolutely guaranteed that a couple people will open theirs ahead of time to spoil the contents. But if the existence of the premium Helvaults is discovered, every greedy and dishonest organizer in the world will open their Helvault beforehand and remove the judge foils, say “Darn, looks like we didn’t get any of them!” and list them on eBay. So the odds of getting a premium Helvault have to be small enough that the spoiled ones will most likely be nonpremium. But you don’t want premium Helvaults sent to near empty prereleases where the dozen players each get one and 40 go on eBay. So you need to hype the event to get players in. And now we’ve gone in a (hopefully not too confusing) circle, because too many of these decisions were being dictated by circumstances beyond your control.

So back to the actual question of how could this have been done differently? Well with those points in mind, there are a number of possible options:

5. The contents of the Helvault are known, but not the existence of the premium Helvaults. With the contents known, there would be no reason for anyone to open them prematurely so the premium ones would not be discovered. This would ruin a lot of the mystery, but it would prevent dealers from trying to cannibalize their Helvaults for expensive foils. Because the premium Helvaults would be a secret, the disparity would have to be smaller. Instead of $100+ cards, there should be $10-20 cards. As I stated before, I wasn’t in any of the meetings about this so I don’t know how the cards wound up inside it. It is possible that the discussion was about how to disperse all the excess judge and MPR promos that were laying in around, rather than the discussion was what to fill the Helvault with. If the main goal was to find a way to get these foils into the hands of players, this option wouldn’t work.
6. Have the existence of the premium Helvaults known, but not the exact contents of either. For this to work, it would have to be known that there were three things, and all were foil in the premium Helvault. Most likely you would remove the dice and have foil tokens, oversize cards, and promo foils. This way, if a store opened a Helvault with the foil tokens and oversize cards but nothing else, the players would know that their organizer was trying to screw them over. This is probably the worst option and the announcement of such a thing would have to be written extremely delicately.
7. Make all Helvaults the same. The previous solution is worse, but this is my least favorite. It is very rare that you are able to surprise the community as happened this weekend, and it is always extremely exciting when it happens.
8. Keep the contents of the Helvault secret and the existence of premium Helvaults secret, and just drastically reduce the disparity in value.

I know there are a number of key points I’m forgetting, but I’ve taken enough of your time already. I know many of these points have been mentioned already, but I hope I was able to help shed some light on the negative feedback from this weekend. If you have any other questions, I’d be happy to discuss them via email or phone at anytime. Thank you very much for taking the time to read all this.”

That’s right, folks, I actually am capable of writing a 2000 word letter without swearing. It’s just a lot harder.