Insider: Where and Why to Begin [MTGO]

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A lot of people have told me recently that they wished to start playing online, but simply did not know where to begin.  

The prospect of having to buy an entire new collection of virtual cards for real money—a collection they most likely will never be able to translate into real cards—is very daunting.  Another hurdle to get over is the common misconception that playing online is a huge grind and everyone is an arsehole.  However, once you get into it you will discover two things that are far more important than these preconceived notions.

Playing Online is the Best Way to Both Get Better at Magic and Make a Profit

Playing online increases your play skills immensely.  It is much more worthwhile to test any deck online than in real life, for in real life there are a lot of time sinks such as shuffling, mulliganing, and side boarding.  MODO does it all for you.

In addition to saving time, the results are generally far more telling than testing with your friends with paper.  How many times have you gotten together with a group of friends for “testing” and ended up testing a bunch of pre-boarded games where people wanted to throw their pet decks against the tier 1 of the format?

A lot of people—no matter how Spikey they think they are—want their chosen strategy to work and will often bend the results of the games to make themselves feel better about their deck.  The best cure for this is jamming your deck in a daily or even the two-mans.  Reality hits pretty hard when you start losing actual money and you're much more likely to open your eyes and not take your brew to the next GP or StarCity—an event you are driving hundreds of miles to even get to.

Ok, so far in both of our test games the win percentage against caw blade is 100%. Want to play COD?

Drafting online can teach you a lot more than when you are team drafting with a group of friends.  Besides reading articles about pro’s pick orders, it is often difficult to find help drafting in real life.  Your friends cannot help you pick cards or evaluate signals on a pack to pack basis.  On MODO, however, you can all crowd around the same screen and help each other get better and discuss everything, hopefully turning each draft into an depthy learning experience.

One common complaint I have heard about MODO is that it takes the fun of interacting with friends out of the game.  This is true sometimes, but I would contend that team drafting with your friends is much more fun than doing a normal draft with them.  You get all of the competitiveness of a normal draft, but instead of directly competing with your friends you are part of a team. (See Forrest Ryan and Kyle Stoll's team drafts for a good example of this.)

MTGO is also more profitable than real life when playing the value events.   When you do well in a tournament in real life, you typically get cards or packs which hold a certain trading value.  Translating this to cash, however, is usually very hard to do, so the prizes are worth much less than they initially appear. 

Online is different.

Everything pays out in packs, which are worth an average of $3.66. 

Would you play in a real life tournament with an entry fee of $6 and a payout of $21 for 3-1 and $40 for 4-0?  That payout is unheard of in paper magic.

So what should you do to start playing online?

Tip 1: Draft for Fun

If you just want to draft your little heart out, buy some tickets from Wizards and go to one of these three bots:

  • .7bp
  • Hogwarts
  • Corascant

I have found these bots to be the most user friendly and feature the best prices.   You almost never want to buy packs directly from Wizards because they will always sell for the full retail of $4.00 a pack, where the bots are (sometimes much) cheaper.

I do not recommend drafting unless you have a lot of money to throw away because the EV is so low.  A full length article about the subject is here.  Unless you have a match win percentage of above 70%, you can’t really break even.  If you do want to draft, however, you should either play the Swiss drafts or the 8-4.

If you are not great, or not very familiar with the set, play Swiss.  You get to play all three rounds and can do a lot more experimenting.  If you are good at drafting and want to test for a PTQ or GP, play the 8-4.

A lot of articles have been written recently about why not to play 4-3-2-2, but the general breakdown is that you are playing for less prize pool for no reason and are still playing a single elimination tournament, so you don’t even get to play as much Magic.

Tip 2: Start Making Tickets

If you want to start making tickets as cheaply as possible, buy a Standard or Block deck with as few mythics as possible and start playing Daily Events. 

If possible, buy a good deck that overlaps both of the formats. If you don't want to do that, I would focus on Standard as there are more Daily Events for it than any other format.  The bots with the best prices are Cardbot and SuperNovabot, so go to one of those two chains and buy up the entire deck.

I would recommend only playing in Daily Events as they have insane cost/value.  If you have a 50% match win record YOU ARE MAKING MONEY.  Add in the fact that you get to play a bunch of competitive Magic and this is the best deal in town. By far.

Tip 3+: Make your money go a little further

  1. File for compensation for every single event that MTGO screws up.  I’ll make you a deal Wizards of the Coast:  When you make a half decent program that can consistently get through a tournament without bugging, I will stop asking for my money back.  Miss a draft pick?  File for comp.  Won’t let you sideboard?  File for comp.  Incorrectly shows your clock going down?  Show me the COMPENSATION.  You should file for compensation for literally anything that is the program's fault.  The worst thing that can happen is they deny you.  I have literally never been denied compensation for any claim I have made. And I have made a lot of them.

    If you are completely sure you will get compensated for something and don’t have the chance to win something big, I would drop immediately after the bug occurs. When you win prizes, it is taken away from your compensation. The value gained here is that instead of winning a pack worth 3.xx tickets, Wizards is giving you $4.00 to spend in their store. It is a small amount, but an amount none the less.

  2. Draft formats aside from the most popular one.  It cost a little more to enter, but all of the cards you open are slowly going up in value due to few being opened.  Right now many of the uncommons and some commons are worth between 1 and 5 tickets, and the rares and mythics from these sets go nowhere but up.   Also, from personal experience, I have found the draft ques much softer when it is an older format.
  3. If you want to play sealed, only play during release events.  The prize payout is much higher than it is normally and people are, on average, much worse.
  4. To increase your chances of winning events, take a little time at the beginning and watch your opponent’s replays.  This will greatly influence your keeps and what you play around when playing Standard. For Limited, you can see what bombs you need to save your removal for and what tricks will blow you out in combat.

Some Standard Observations

Walk the New Walk?

I can't believe he called you the new Time Walk. YOU'RE NOT EVEN BLUE.

What is the best red card in standard right now?
I suspect that, in a vacuum, most people would look at the available card pool and say Brimstone Volley or Shrine of Burning Rage.  Though both of those cards are very powerful, I believe it to be the colorless Time Walk known as Gut Shot.

This claim may seem ridiculous, but the format has sorted itself out and the verdict is in: if you want to have a gut shot at winning, you have to have a turn 1 play.  All the aggro decks have 8+ one-drops.  The token and ramp decks have between 6 and 8 mana guys and almost no two-drops.  Gut Shotting these decks as your first play while still playing a spell on your own turn is a Time Walk in most instances.

How many decks on the draw can beat a turn 2 Elder/Crusader into a turn 3 Garruk/Hero?  But if you slow that down a turn, it becomes much more manageable.  You have time to get Mana Leak mana up or slam down a couple threats of your own.  This lovely little spell also stops the best [card delver of secrets]1-drop aggro creature in the format[/card] from ever getting to rear his ugly little insect head.

Pew Pew.... Oh I'm sorry were you talking? I was too busy murdering the first turn.

I am currently rocking a list very similar to Todd Anderson’s Illusion list.  The main difference is that I have 4 [card gutshot]Gut Shot[/card]s main.

What does this mean from a financial perspective?

Unfortunately, the Gut Shot boat has already sailed, as this uncommon from an in print set is almost $1.50 right now.  I would keep an eye on the StarCity events and Dailys and sell these at first wind of tempo decks becoming not good.  If control makes a comeback, the last thing you are going to want to be holding are 3 half-Aether Shockwaves in hand.

The Day of the Titan

I would say that the day of the Titan is done, at least for now.  The other strategies come online far too quickly for a 6-drop to matter, and when you play it into a Leak you feel like killing yourself.  

I would pick up Bloodline Keeper // Lord of Lineage though, as the card has really impressed me in the sideboard of my U/B deck, and Gerry's recent article had it as his mini-Titan of choice.

I would also say that Red is a good choice once again, either in Burning Vengeance form or Mono Red Aggro.  Both of these decks just destroy the Illusion deck and are very good versus tokens.

If you are still on the Wolfrun plan, I would switch back to something along the lines of the original build featuring multiple Slagstorms maindeck.

Until Next Time..?

That reaches the end of this article. It also marks the end of my weekly Insider-periodicals, as I need to bring focus back on a few other things in life and don't have quite enough time to fully devote to a weekly article. Rest assured, however, that you haven't heard the last from me, as I'll still be popping in on occasion to offer timely and topical notes on the world of MODO.

Pat McGregor

8 thoughts on “Insider: Where and Why to Begin [MTGO]

  1. Great article Pat. Look forward to seeing you at another event, maybe this time I’ll knock you out of contention for day 2 of the scg invitational and go on to cash.

    Seriously though, I really enjoyed the topic. It’s sad that you won’t be writing every week. I look forward to the material you find time to write.

  2. Thanks, even as a current MODO user this was really interesting stuff 🙂

    This is kind of unrelated, but are the Modern staples on MODO a good pickup right now? Thinking in terms of the dual lands (e.g. Overgrown Tomb) and such. I see they're at like 5 tickets right now, but won't they shoot up way beyond that when Modern season hits? Or am I way off here?

  3. Thanks for the great content here. Just one thing I want to mention, it's lately started to become worthwhile checking out 2 other bot networks other than the Hogwarts, 7BP and Coruscant you mentioned.

    Freeboosterbot and Sharpbotbooster have had better buy/sell prices for the last few months compared to the first three, although occasionally you'll find that some of them are showing incorrect prices compared to what they actually buy/sell at.
    That only happens once every couple of weeks though, and a lot of the time I've found that the prices can be up to .1 tix per pack better, which when you're selling large amounts of packs adds up very quickly

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