Recent Magic Online AnnouncementsOver the past 48 hours we have received a lot of questions regarding our opinion on the latest Magic announcements.
Wizards made so many important announcements on such a short notice that we, and a lot of the community with us, are having serious concerns.
Since we feel that Magic Online is heading in the wrong direction, we decided to make this public post. Please note that this writing is solely our own opinion. While one of us has a university degree in economics, we do not own a crystal ball and so our findings may turn out to be untrue in the many days to come.
Treasure ChestsTreasure Chests are basically copied from the online card game Hearthstone, where you are rewarded a key to open a chest that contains random cards after playing a draft. It should be noted that the audience of Hearthstone is a lot more casual and younger than in MTGO, cards are non-tradable and the buy-in of a draft is basically free.
We think that handing out random prizes in a game where real money is required to play is a bad idea. Especially when those random cards are tradable and will directly influence the MTGO economy. On top of that we feel that the whole Treasure Chest approach is not suited for the Magic player base in general. It may be a nice addition for a casual, non-trading game like Hearthstone, but for the average grownup Magic player it seems kind of childish to open little Treasure Chests after playing an event.
RandomnessOur general impression is that Magic players do not like randomness. Randomness makes planning for an expected outcome very hard and often rewards luck instead of skill. Winning multiple events and afterwards opening chests with only commons, uncommons and cheap rares will feel very unrewarding and unfair: The player that got third place in the event may open a Black Lotus while the number one opens only bulk. The winners should be rewarded with a fixed prize that they can look forward to.
Unknown EVMost competitive players want to know the exact expected value of an event. This is the reason why the EV calculator on our website is so popular. This allows them to decide which event gives them the best payout and plan accordingly.
The main problem with Treasure Chests is that it is not clear what the average value of the contents will be, mainly because not every card has the same chance to appear in a chest: “The frequency at which a curated card appears relative to others is also curated by Magic R&D”. This means that a Black Lotus may have a much lower chance to appear in a chest than for example an Abrupt Decay. Note that Wizards can decide at any time to change the frequency of a certain card appearing in a chest, making the EV not only unreliable, but simply impossible to calculate as long as those numbers remain secret and may be adjusted at any time.
UntradeableThe first reaction of a lot of players was: “So Treasure Chests are basically boosters with a lower value? That is outrageous!”. Sadly it’s worse: Treasure Chests will not be tradeable, so you are forced to open them.
Pauper players will get ‘rewarded’ with standard, modern and vintage cards, which they are not interested in (why not give them Pauper legal cards like Daze and Pyroblast instead?). Standard players may open chests with modern cards, and modern players may open chests that contain standard cards. The result will be that a lot of players receive cards that they are not interested in because they do not play a certain format, and will dump them on the market for any price they can get for them.
EconomyOpening a treasure chest will produce random cards out of thin air, instantly lowering the value of those cards in everyone’s collection. Basically the collections of players are devaluating every time a Treasure Chest is opened.
“But isn’t opening a Treasure Chest exactly the same as opening boosters during a draft?” you may ask. It is true that when Standard boosters are opened, cards are also produced out of thin air, but that is where the redemption system kicks in: When the value of a Standard set in MTGO gets below a certain threshold (=the value of the set in Paper Magic including some shipping and redemption fees), sets will get pulled out of MTGO through redemption, increasing the price of those cards in MTGO as a result.
Thanks to the redemption system, standard sets in MTGO are bound to a certain minimum price threshold. Since Modern and Vintage sets are not redeemable, the prices of those cards will go down continuously, on and on, with every copy that gets pulled out of a Treasure Chest. This is what happens after a flashback draft on MTGO: the price of the set devaluates permanently.
Contents“Most Treasure Chests will contain two Standard-set commons or uncommons.”
There is already a large supply of Standard commons and uncommons in MTGO, most of them are worth less than a penny. MTGO doesn't need more of them.
“Some of the Chests will have one or both of the Standard-legal common or uncommon slots replaced with either a curated card or a Modern-set rare or mythic rare.”
We don’t understand this move: most of the Modern rares do not see play and are already worth little to nothing in MTGO. Releasing even more of those cards makes no sense at all. Opening those cards after winning a tournament will not feel rewarding either.
BenefitsSurely there are some benefits to Treasure Chests in general. They will allow Wizards to get more copies of extremely rare cards like Rishadan Port and Daze into the game, making them available to more players. Some Conspiracy cards can now easily be released into MTGO.
We think that Wizards should solely focus on those benefits. Adding cards like Black Lotus to the Treasure Chest makes no sense; the demand for them is extremely low and everybody that needs one already has a copy in their collection. The question arises whether or not it is an intelligent move to include restricted cards in Treasure Chests at all.
SolutionWe would strongly advise to postpone the release of Treasure Chests and re-evaluate the contents they should have and the volume at which they are handed out. For example, handing out a maximum of one chest per event, with a 95% chance to contain just Player Points (which will stabilize the EV), and a 5% chance of opening a card seems more logical. Opening such a card should feel rewarding, and Treasure Chests should therefore not contain any bulk like Standard commons, uncommons or random Modern rares, but staple cards that are currently too scarce in MTGO.
On top of that we feel that the those cards should be regulated very specifically instead of randomly: i.e. ‘reward a maximum of 10 copies Force of Will this week’ to make sure the market doesn’t get flooded by certain cards that are randomly rewarded ‘too often’ within a short time frame. This way Treasure Chests will become a smart tool to slowly regulate the availability of certain cards in MTGO instead of an underhand tool to replace the booster pay-outs.
RedemptionThe redemption period will be shortened from 24-36 months to 3-6 months. This is no subtle change. Out of the 5 to 6 sets that will be in Standard, only the last 1 or 2 sets will be redeemable. This is very, very bad news for all Standard players.
As many of you know, the value of cards in MTGO drops greatly as soon as a set is no longer redeemable. At that moment the supply simply overshadows the demand and this gets worse and worse as long as more boosters are getting opened. In the past, all sets had a guaranteed redemption date that was far beyond the date the set rotated out of Standard, meaning all Standard cards maintained some value because of the minimum redemption threshold we talked about earlier.
With the new system in place, sets that are no longer redeemable will be in Standard for another year. This will have a catastrophic influence on the price of cards in the oldest 4 sets that are still legal in Standard, but are no longer redeemable. Standard cards will only keep an acceptable, stable value for approximately 3 or 6 months after release, and drop afterwards.
Let’s give you a simple example: You purchased a playset of ‘Liliana, the Last Hope’ (Eldritch Moon) for 27 tickets each to put in your deck. Now Kaladesh is being released, making Eldritch Moon no longer redeemable. You no longer want to play black cards in your deck so you’re about to sell the Liliana’s and buy some awesome new Kaladesh cards. Only to find out that Liliana is now worth 5 tickets each (since they are no longer redeemable and there is a large supply). Now you have to buy Event Tickets in the store to keep playing constructed or you won’t be able to purchase any new cards. Constructed players will lose a lot of money every time a set is no longer redeemable (which happens every time a new block is released). They will have to buy new Event Tickets in the MTGO Store to keep playing Standard. A smart cash grab by Wizards of the Coast.
It is also possible that as a result Event Tickets will devalue, since it's more difficult to convert them into cash via redemption. The MTGO economy will weaken and collections will be worth less as a result.
We strongly advise Wizards to keep all Standard sets redeemable until they rotate out of Standard. This will stabilize the value of Standard cards and protect against huge price drops.
TL;DRWe feel that most of the announcements are not really thought through:
- Introducing Treasure Chests will not only influence the EV of events in a negative way, it will make winning often feel unrewarded and may influence the MTGO economy in unforeseen ways.
- Cutting off redemption when a new block is released will cause extreme price devaluations, which will heavily hurt constructed players.
The herd has spoken.