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.
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.