Magic Online Musings: This Week on MTGO #18

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Blisterguy returns to the trading rooms of Magic Online, documenting the facts and collating the figures. He also waxes lyrical on everyone’s favorite online casual format: Momir Vig Basic.

Last week, in passing, I mentioned the new Magic Online Avatar based on Momir Vig, Simic Visionary. Now Momir Vig the actual Magic card, he’s not so good. In fact, I would go as far as to say I would not play it in a deck unless you paid me at least five dollars and it was an unsanctioned event. I mean, paying me to play it in a sanctioned event would be a bit like paying me to throw the match and or tournament, and that’s like collusion, bribery and rating suicide all rolled into one. And I don’t roll that way, yo.

To be quite honest, the namesake Avatar is quite unplayable in the Vanguard format too. It’s built-in randomness just won’t stand up to competitive Vanguard decks, some of which can be considered more powerful than the decks in the sister non-Vanguard versions of that format. For instance, have you considered just how insane the Tooth and Nail decks would be with Elvish Champion (start the game with a Llanowar Elf token in play) Avatar? Many people have already been there and done that, and the original starting hand size of eight cards was very quickly whacked with the nerf-bat back to six cards.

So if the Avatar is basically just as unplayable as the actual card, why is it the talk of the online town and currently seeing more play than a basic Swamp back in the Necro-Summer of way back whenever it was that Necropotence was like, totally overpowered? Wait, Necro has always been overpowered, it’s just that there was a time where we didn’t realize it, and then a time where we were allowed to play it until it was beyond a joke, or summink.

Anyway, as I mentioned last week, the Momir Vig Avatar has quickly become the hottest new casual format craze seen on Magic Online for quite some time. Both players play with a deck containing the Avatar, and at least 60 Basic lands. That’s it, Avatar on Avatar. Just for those of you who perhaps didn’t join us last week, and who also don’t know what the Momir Vig Avatar does, this next paragraph is for you.

It gives you the ability to once a turn, pay X and discard a card. Magic Online then randomly chooses a creature, any possible creature available on Magic Online, with the converted mana cost of X, and puts it in to play for you.

Oh yeah, last week I also mentioned that I wanted to know who the genius behind the Avatar was. Good ol’ Randy Buehler promptly rocked on up to the forums and filled in one of the many blanks in my head by letting us all know it was Paul Sottosanti who thunked it up, and Rachel Reynolds who made it all work with magical digital fancy stuff.

Yeah, it doesn’t concern me at all that the bigwigs at Wizards of the Coast R&D read this stuff, not at all. Cough. Oh, not that I’m saying that Randy Buehler wears a wig, gosh no. Err, or that he’s big. Every time I’ve had the pleasure of his company, he hasn’t quite come up to my shoulder. Oh dear, that came out wrong too. This is not good.

Moving swiftly along, to save Mr. Buehler the cost of a hit man or a roll of duct-tape just to shut me up some time in the near future, and back to the subject at hand. Just how popular is this new casual format? I would have hazarded a guess between “somewhat popular” and “possibly a hit with the casual crowd.” But apparently those people behind the scenes, with the ability to see just how many of the impromptu pick-up games were being played, knew otherwise, and they scheduled a ‘Momir Basic” tournament for Sunday morning, that paid out four times the normal prizes.

Unfortunately this meant it started at something like 5am on Monday for me, so my entering wasn’t going to happen. But this didn’t stop the event from being full at 512 players before it started, and many people getting turned away at the door, so to speak.

Thankfully, the Top 8 playoffs from this event are pretty easy to extract information from, because the only real information you can extract is when to start dropping creatures. Obviously a random one-drop is probably going to get crushed under everything that follows it on to the board, so most people skip that one. Apparently, the key strategies are to start with a three-drop on the play, or a two-drop on the draw. From there you curve up, playing a land each turn until you’re left ditching a land off the top to finish with eight-drops.

Playing: 345678888…
Drawing: 2345678888…

Some people have espoused the possible benefits to waiting until your fourth turn until you make a guy, and also either skipping certain drops, or choosing to pay one less on certain turns to avoid, for instance, the Phage or the Leveler drop. Not that the odds are very high on those ones, but apparently the twelve-drop spot only has three creatures, one of which is the massive Double-Striker, Dragon Tyrant, and another happens to be Broodstar. Some drops are a little… riskier than others.

But to follow that line of thought any further will no doubt lead to mindless statistics, and you can often find plenty of those in these bedtime stories as it is. So it’s on to the point I wanted to discuss in regards to this Avatar instead. To me, I think it’s reasonably obvious that using the Avatar with a deck only containing Basic lands was not what was had in mind when it was designed. This doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be pleased about the way it has been embraced by the Magic Online public, but there are some potential implications that are probably being overlooked.

Not that it would ever happen – not to me at least – but some players could conceivably take to the Momir Basic format in such a way that they forsake playing “normal” games. I say “normal” because what casual game is ever normal? What defines normal in Casual Magic? Anyway, to play this format, all you need is the Avatar and some Basic Land. What’s stopping casual players from just not buying new cards and just playing Momir Basic instead? It’s not like they won’t get to play with the new cards, though; the Avatar might random one those up just like any other creature.

To me, the only thing in the way of such a bleak future is that we’re mostly members of the attention deficit generation, and we may grow weary of the subject at hand, and switch to something else. Something that hopefully requires actually buying stuff.

[More thoughts on Momir Vig Basic can be found in Jeff Till article, published today and accessible here. — Craig.]

Anyway, enough depressing thoughts, let’s have a look at the singles prices. The last week’s price is actually two weeks ago again, silly me. Also, some of the older, less interesting (in the way of moving about in price) cards have been taken out for now. The newer Dissension cards will be at the start of the list, but I’ll integrate them next week to avoid, or possibly even create confusion.

The numbers shown, for instance, as 2-4 are the price people are buying the card for, followed by the price people are selling the card for. The prices shown in parenthesis, like this (2-4), are the prices from last week. If a card and its prices have been bolded, it’s because there has been a change in price from the week before to help you differentiate those cards from the others that are a little more… static in their movements. Card prices are in Tickets, because that’s what most people buy and sell with on Magic Online. Also note that prices can fluctuate based on the time of day, depending on just how many people are online selling at the time. Due to my uniquely antipodean location, and my tendency to hold down a regular nine-to-five job, the prices below end up being more of a general indication of what’s going on than an exact science.

Dissension cards:
Simic Sky Swallower 6-7 (—)
Voidslime 5-7 (—)
Grand Arbiter Augustin IV 3-5 (—)
Dovescape 2-4 (—)

Cytoplast Root-Kin 3-4 (—)

Demonfire 3-4 (—)

Blood Crypt 8-10 (—)
Breeding Pool 12-15 (—)
Hallowed Fountain 10-12 (—)

Old-school cards:
Pithing Needle 16-19 (18-20)
Umezawa’s Jitte 7-9 (8-9)

Vampiric Tutor 18-27 (23-28)
Cranial Extraction 6-7 (6-7)
Dark Confidant 2-4 (3-4)

Meloku the Clouded Mirror 4-5 (4-6)
Keiga, the Tide Star 4-5 (4-5)

Ghost Council of Orzhova 4-6 (4-6)
Loxodon Hierarch 4-5 (4-5)
Giant Solifuge 3-5 (4-6)
Burning-Tree Shaman 3-5 (4-5)

Heartbeat of Spring 3-5 (4-5)
Early Harvest 3-5 (4-5)
Birds of Paradise 3-5 (4-5)

Wildfire 3-4 (3-4)
Magnivore 2-4 (2-4)

Wrath of God 8-10 (9-10)
Paladin en-Vec 5-7 (6-8)
Yosei, the Morning Star 4-5 (4-5)

Shivan Reef 8-10 (8-10)
Caves of Koilos 8-10 (7-9)
Yavimaya Coast 7-8 (7-9)
Adarkar Wastes 5-7 (6-8)
Sulfurous Springs 4-6 (5-7)
Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] 4-6 (5-7)
Llanowar Wastes 4-6 (4-6)
Karplusan Forest 4-6 (4-6)
Underground River 4-6 (4-6)
Brushland 4-5 (4-6)

Steam Vents 9-11 (10-11)
Godless Shrine 8-10 (10-11)
Stomping Ground 8-9 (9-10)
Temple Garden 5-7 (6-7)
Overgrown Tomb 5-6 (6-7)
Sacred Foundry 4-6 (6-7)
Watery Grave 5-6 (6-7)

A fair portion of the prices appear to be going down, that’s most likely because people are trying to liquidate their old cards in favor of new ones.

I’ll see you next week, bright eyed and smiling. Take care of everyone, and look both ways before you cross the street.