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Insider: Modern Looks and Drafting M12

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Since we last met, the inevitable update to the Modern banned list has arrived, and we of course have to modify our expectations of certain card movements. My updates are on the tracker, but there are three I want to focus on specifically.

Gifts Ungiven:
Buy: <$3 Sell: $6.
Any format that harkens back a multitude of blocks will have control and combo decks lurking. While the ban-hammer looks to bash most of them into submission, the long grinding control decks, and the inevitable combo decks are looking for cards that not only create card advantage but also add late-game value. One such card is Gifts Ungiven. Nothing spells trouble like a Gifts pile of 3-tron pieces and a Life from the Loam, just as an example. There are rumblings around the net of Mono-U 12-post being a real thing, and if you give away Green, you’ll want some tutors in this deck. Even tutors to find narrow tutors to find game winners. The deck generates enough mana to utilize this strategy.

Thoughtseize:
Buy: $15-17 Sell $25.
Magic R&D fought hard to protect aggressive decks by banning cards like Mental Misstep and Jace,the Mind Sculptor. Thoughtseize will be the best bet to stop a Knight of the Reliquary, Dark Confidant, or even Meddling Mage. Utility spell that already has Legacy demand on lockdown.

Maelstrom Pulse:
Buy $7.50 Sell $12.50
There are a ton of cheap efficient removal spells available. Path to Exile, Dismember, Lightning Bolt all come to mind. However in the more ubiquitous removal, we have Maelstrom Pulse and Oblivion Ring. Both are the “destroy target Planeswalker/Enchantment/Artifact/Creature” cards. Luckily Maelstrom Pulse also blows up O-Rings, en masse. Further, the surge of Zoo decks, will likely make a card like this very playable. Doran decks, or any Junk/Jund deck for that matter will rely on this staple to clear the board of annoying permanents, including opposing Oblivion Rings.

In full disclosure, these are the three I personally am actively buying, not just targeting in trades. Most calls I make, I am trading for them, so as not to expose myself too much if there is no-movement or negative movement. Cards above, I’m committing cash to. And will continue to until the prices adjust.

I mentioned I’d give an MTGO update this week, and here it is. My very first Article here on QS was about why you shouldn’t be drafting Scars block, and should focus on M11 drafting if you’re trying to maximize your draft dollars. Well, now I’m here to update that plan. And to also discuss pack-economics a bit farther.

First, let’s look at some facts about drafting Scars block in comparison to M12. The cards you crack are a huge portion (about half) of the average benefit of drafting. The other half comes from prize support, but both are linked, in a very obvious way. Cracking a single M12 booster, if sold directly to Bot’s should make you approximately 0.971 tickets, which over a complete draft set, comes to a total of 2.913 tickets. With Scars block, in the order in which they are opened is 1.852 for NPH, 1.303 for MBS and 0.838 for SOM. The total for the set, is therefore 3.993. As a result, the cost of these packs is different as well. You can draft Coreset for about 10.59 tickets (including entry fee) while Scars block will cost you 12.17. Supposing you pull exactly your fair share of prizes in either format, the 10.59 of M12 entry fee will average you 8.12 tickets in return (when combining prize support with cards opened). While the 12.17 Scars block entry fee will average you 8.91 in return. You are paying an extra ~1.6 to draft Scars block, while only reaping an additional 0.8 ticket reward. In more direct terms. M12 returns 8.12/10.59=76.7% of your entry fee on average, while Scars block is 8.91/12.17=73.2% entry retention.

The big issue here, is the NPH packs are the most expensive to buy from bots. If you win an 8-4, you will receive 3 SOM Boosters, 3 MBS Boosters, and 2 NPH Boosters. If you lose in the finals you receive 2 of SOM and 1 each of MBS and NPH. SOM are the cheapest of the block as is, so selling your excess SOM packs off for NPH packs to continue drafting is a huge blow to your bankroll. M12 doesn’t have this problem, and at the lower entry fee, can support almost the same expected gain from each draft. 4-3-2-2's are rarely correct options for anyone, but certainly not for Scars Block, the prize pack disbursement further exacerbates the problem of the lopsided pack values, giving out more SOM and MBS packs than 8-4's do.

So once again, 8 months later, I’m still saying, Coreset draft is better than the active block from a financial standpoint. However, you should use this information wisely and apply it to your business plan in a way that makes sense. I’ve done the hard work for you crunching all the numbers, but what can you do with it? Do you have an MTGO budget? If so, what can you afford to draft? Do you support your drafting by grinding constructed queues? If so, likely drafting M12 makes the most sense, as constructed queues pay out their packs that way, and selling them to bots is not wise unless necessary. Don’t be sheep, sheep are what feed the system for the financial minded. Take the available information and apply it to your scenario.

I’ve been starting to learn ‘the MTGO grind’ so that I can supplement my drafting with constructed queues, and any patterns or habits I discover will be updated as I come across them. The coming weeks will cover Modern fluctuations, the progress in my Legacy trading (getting closer to building a LandStill deck), and continuous updates on the MTGO scene.

Happy Trading!
Chad Havas
@torerotutor on Twitter

5 thoughts on “Insider: Modern Looks and Drafting M12

  1. I am genuinely interested in where you got those numbers for pack prices. In the little bit of exploring I have just done New Phyrexia was the cheapest pack, selling at 2.91 at one bot. Also I could not find (i only searched a little) a pack of M12 selling for under 3.5.

    1. I did the math for this a couple days before the article went up, and it just so happens that M12 packs are coming back up to around 3.8 or so now. However the point is still the same. The dispursion of the 3 packs over the prize support is imbalanced, and not in your favor, as SOM packs are given out the most, and are worth the least.

      1. Buying cards from a bot CBOOM1 the prices were as follows: M12 = 3.81, MBS= 4.1 NPH = 2.91, SOM = 3.75, which is quite consistent with the rest of the bots. This is enough to throw your numbers off to conclude differently than M12 is the best to draft. The price of a draft for M12 is 13.43, and for SOMblock = 12.76 , keeping your numbers the same of the worth of singles (this could have changed) we see that the payout for M12 is 8.628. This is found by adding three times the amount of tix per pack which is .91 to the average number of packs won in an 8-4 draft which is 12/8 (or 1.5). So the math is 0.971*3+((12)/(8))*3.81 = 8.628 and thus the percentage of winnings is .642 . for SOM block we have the average value of singles per block draft = 3.993 (your number) and the average for prize payout in an 8-4, which has 5SOM 4MBS and 3NPH, makes the average tix in pack winnings 5.485, ((12)/(8))*((3.75*5+4.1*4+2.91*3)/(12)), and thus the total average winnings are 3.993+5.485= 9.478 with a percentage of .743. So looking at the prize pool in this way the clear winner is SOM block. Now if we look at the prize pool by only taking the price of singles winnings (ie applying the value per pack to the prize packs) then we have the prize for M12= 3*.91+1.5*.91= 4.095 and for SOM block = 3.993+1.852 (found by finding the average in single payout over the 8-4 distribution of 12 packs = ((12)/(8))*((0.81*5+1.303*4+1.852*3)/(12))) which then equals 5.854. So, by the numbers I have found and with using your methods, I do not see any way that it is financially more profitable to draft M12. I would love to see your math with pack prices as they are to prove that M12 is better, or show me where I have gone wrong in my calculations.

  2. I assume this should be taken on a strictly financial basis? I draft because I enjoy drafting and if I do ok I reduce the price of my drafts. From an enjoyment standpoint I HATE drafting M12 because it is soooooo boring. But as long as we are discussing the financial do you have an opinion on completing a set to trade in for paper?

    1. This particular article should certainly be taken on a financial basis. Most of my articles will discuss ways to keep costs of drafting down. Of course we draft because it's fun. And of course prize support is a great way to supplement those costs, but being smart about where your entry fees go, and how to fit those draft dollars into your financial plan is an important step to having a healthy Magic budget.

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