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Why You Should be Drafting M11

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So, it’s January of a New Year, but the sentiment about draft is still the same as it was a year ago. The format was triple-Zendikar: the tweets were buzzing about how everyone was sick of the format, everyone was drooling over the new spoilers, and the rumors over the anticipated Jace 2.0. Why were people still drafting ZZZ? The same reason people are still drafting ZZW. The rares are valuable. The format was linear bashing of two drops that either had landfall, evasion or both. For a card that cost more than that to be played, it had better win the game, or be a 2-for-1 at minimum. A player I know, was keeping track of how many matches in a row he would go without blocking. The fact that it hit double digits was astonishing. This was the social environment that surrounded the drafts. Because there is a cycle of 5 fetchlands at Rare, people would be foolish to stop drafting it. In fact, if 8-4 queues of ZZW were still offered, this article would likely be about ZZW.

This year, top level pros all the way down to players who began during M11, are ready for a change. So why is anyone still drafting Scars? Sometimes people are afraid to do something different, other times they are simply playing through the product they have, and yet other think drafting is an effective way to bolster their collection. (Which may be true with paper cards, but on MTGO it is not cost-efficient) This is the timing of the year where the draft format goes unchanged for the longest period of time: October to Februrary (1/3 of the year). All in all, there are 4 draft format changes each year. The Magic 2011 core-set was drafted from mid-July, until the Scars release, only two and a half months. This phenomenon will continue to repeat as long as the schedule of sets follows this pattern. It’s not a problem, but something to be aware of. It also means a ton of product gets opened up during the first set of a block, not to mention it will continue to be opened for months to come as part of future formats. Had it not been for fetchlands, I’d have switched back to M10 last year, after I got sick of ZZZ. This year, I can right that wrong. Sometimes you have to put your preferences on a sliding scale, based on financial impact, and that’s what happened last year. But, new year, new deal.

I don’t wanna be draftin’ Scars no more….

Most QS readers are looking to gain value or money from trading, but this is not the only way finance applies to Magic: the Gathering. I’m not a trader; I just draft a lot. And, since I spend most of the time I commit to MTGO firing queue after queue of 8-man drafts, maximizing the amount of free play I get is extremely important. M11 still has what you’re lookin’ for. As I write this I’m waiting for an 8-4 M11 draft to fire (and listening to Big Punisher), and it’s quite likely I’ll finish this article before that happens. I’m frequently boggled as to why these drafts fire so infrequently. I’m not a trader I just draft a lot. The reasons you should be drafting M11 instead of SOM are two-fold. First, packs of M11 are more expensive than SOM. Second, the average value of a mythic in M11 is much higher than in Scars of Mirrodin. Hopefully, after reading this, you all can help me fire off this M11 queue.

With the new addition of Gold queues to MTGO, there was a precipitous drop in pricing of Scars of Mirrodin packs. The Gold queues would take 10 tickets from both players and give 5 boosters to the winner. While constructed players rejoiced in the new higher stakes, heads-up action, tickets were being converted into packs much quicker than what we’d seen in the past. For every 2-man that fired, 20 tickets turned into 5 packs within the economy of MTGO. As a result, the market was rich with Scars of Mirrodin packs, and comparatively poor in tickets. Which brings us to the current state of affairs. The Sealed PTQ season has ended, so there is not as much need to practice the format. Anyone who drafts more than a small amount on MTGO should reconsider why they draft the format they do.

For pricing of packs, a rough average of the bots price listing in the MTGO classifieds will give a close enough estimate. Right now, Scars packs are running about 3.5 tickets, while M11 packs are about 3.9 (Just over 10% more) To some, their intuition would say, “It’s cheaper to draft Scars, so I should do that...Right?” No. You’re simply playing for more valuable prizes by drafting M11! If you’re trying to draft for a profit, playing at a higher stakes is an obvious way to maximize your time. If you convert to a ticket metric, winning 8 packs of scars is approximately 28 tickets, while 8 packs of M11 is 31.2 tickets. Another key element to this, is you pay the same “rake” or entry fee to WotC of 2 tickets, regardless of which product is opened. In essence you’re paying a higher percentage “fee” to Wizards to draft Scars rather than M11. If your goal is to keep drafting for free, this is the biggest issue. To keep the free-rolls rolling, you’ll have to sell packs (or rares) to re-up tickets, and selling an M11 pack will net you more tickets. To get down to brass tacks(Yes, awkwardly rhymes with packs): If you sell 3 Scars packs in this way, you would have had over 1 additional ticket, if you had been selling M11 packs. Depending on how much you play, this can stack up to a significant difference. There’s still over a month left until Mirrodin Besieged comes out on MTGO, so plenty of time to take advantage of this.

While the pricing of the packs was severely affected by Gold Queues, the additional reason M11 packs are more expensive is because the cards contained are likely to be more valuable. This is both because of the cycle of Titans, and also because the M11 format was so short with a portion of formats life not running during Sealed season. Using buy prices from MTGOtraders.com, the average value of an M11 mythic is 2 tickets more than an SOM mythic. (5.89 vs 3.84, approximately 50% more) The rares are worth approximately the same on average. (0.20) Since all of you are savvy traders/card-slingers, you likely will be able to leverage that value into more than what bots will pay, rather than selling your cards for bot buy prices, but these are worst case scenario numbers. Given that mythics appear in about 1 out of every 8 packs, you can expect about 0.25 tickets more in value out of each pack of M11, than you would in Scars. This is omitting that there are a few staple Core Set commons and uncommons that have value, like Lightning Bolt, Flashfreeze, Acidic Slime and Condemn. Also, the slim chance of a rare or mythic foil card means that it's possible to end up with more rares, which would slightly separate the value between the two packs even further. Some people draft to bolster their collection, for constructed purposes. If you’re one of those types, then you should be drafting which ever set gets you the cards you need, but most of the time you’re better off just buying singles. Selling cards for tickets, to keep drafting with packs, or trading them directly for more packs after a string of run-bads is also an option and these more valuable mythics come into play. Fun Fact: After 3 drafts (9 packs opened) you’re passed the statistical average of hitting a mythic. Every 3 drafts, the cards you pick alone should be on average worth two tickets more.

I base most of my presumptions and information on my experience with 8-4 queues, but the same theory would apply to both 4-3-2-2 and Swiss. I’m not the crazy hound that will say, you should only be playing 8-4. Especially with M11, the queues you want are not always firing, so I’ve been keeping a few Scars packs on hand too, in case I get bored. But also keep in mind that if you have been struggling staying even with the 8-4 SOM queues, going to a Swiss queue for a short while will both boost your confidence, give you more practice and hopefully get you back on track to free-rolling. However, if you are going to draft 4-3-2-2 (which I don’t recommend), you should be drafting ZZW, to have a chance to hit fetchlands, or the lottery ticket of Jace in pack 3. This is a pure lottery ticket gamble on the cards inside, while trying to snag a few packs in the process. Basically, a 4-3-2-2 can be looked at like this: gaming for 2 packs round 1, and then 1 pack each for round 2 and 3, with the chance of being eliminated in any round. In a Swiss queue, you game for a pack every round, for 3 rounds, win or lose.

Ultimately, if your end goal is to be able to draft whenever you want, you need to be conscious of what you’re spending. If you want to be able to draft more, or the same amount while spending less, I highly suggest switching back to M11 for the next month. You also may be surprised at how great that format was to draft. I’ve been having a blast, and if it weren’t for the recent PTQ season, I don’t know that I would have lasted as long as I did drafting Scars. See you in the queues!

Chad Havas
@torerotutor on twitter

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