Yawgmoth’s Whimsy #205 – Waiting for League Games

Read Peter Jahn... at StarCityGames.com!
I was curious about how the lag time and various MTGO problems have affected league play. I decided to join some leagues and check out the quality of the competition, how long I have to wait for games, how often new leagues spawn, the number of players, the payout, etc. I might even open some useful cards.

I was curious about how the lag time and various MTGO problems have affected league play. I decided to join some leagues and check out the quality of the competition, how long I have to wait for games, how often new leagues spawn, the number of players, the payout, etc. I might even open some useful cards.

Basically, leagues are unsanctioned sealed matches that allow you a lot of games — I theory — for a low price. You start with a normal tournament build — the equivalent of 5 packs of cards, plus lands — and build a sealed deck. Each week you add one booster pack to your pool. The maximum league size is 256 players, and you play only players in your league. You can keep playing matches until the league ends.

If you are looking for some low-stress competition, leagues are not bad.

Leagues score points for the first five matches you play after each new booster is added to the pool. These matches count two points for a win, one for a loss. Any matches played in addition to those five count only for tiebreakers.

Now for the downside. In my experience, it is quite easy to get matches shortly after you get a new booster. Later in the week, few participants will be around, and the only opponents you may find will be the undefeated players with amazing decks. There will be a fair number of those. The Lorwyn League has 256 players. Each player starts the league with five rares, which means that the league has 1,280 rares, or a bit more counting foils. Since Lorwyn has 80 rares, that means we should see 16 copies of any given rare somewhere in the league.

The Masters Edition (MED) league starts with two boosters of Tenth Edition. Tenth has 121 rares — including Wrath and Loxodon Warhammer. If the league fills, we can expect four copies of each card to be somewhere.

Fortunately — or not — many leagues do not fill. Lorwyn leagues do, maybe because it is the new set, maybe because people are practicing for sealed PTQs. The other leagues do not. I’ll keep track of how many people have joined each league over time.

I decided to join the most recent leagues Friday morning, which seems to be about when new league spawn. The Masters Edition and Time Spiral leagues did not actually get eight players and begin immediately — the Lorwyn league did.

Time Spiral:

The league fired at 11:23pm Friday.
The previous league in that block fired one week earlier, at 12:22am

The league fired at 12:32pm.
The previous version fired Thursday, Nov 15, 11:32pm

The league I joined had fired Thursday at 12:42pm. I thought about waiting, but I am not always patient. The previous league had fired on Wednesday, at 12:35pm. The next league fired on Friday, at 4:58pm. I probably could have waited.

MED Pool: 3 MED boosters plus 2 Tenth Edition boosters:
The rares & valuable cards I opened included Balduvian Horde, Loxodon Warhammer, Hurricane, Mana Flare, Jacques le Vert, Black Knight, Storm Seeker(?) and Lightning Bolt. Ho, hum. Not worth the TIX at this point. I wanted Force of Will, Wrath of God and Armageddon.
Build: RG, around Horde, Mountain Yeti, Stone Giant, Elven Riders, Lightning Bolt. I splashed for two Hypaenous Lemures. I ran Loxodon Warhammer, of course. Colorless bombs are great to open — and every opponent seeing it is going to hate me. One the down side, my pool has zero ways to kill and artifact or enchantment — and that’s a problem in this format.

Time Spiral Pool: Time Spiral Tourney pack, Planar Chaos & Future Sight boosters.
Rares & Valuable: Vesuvan Shapeshifter, Magus of the Moon, Dragon Whelp, Tormod’s Crypt, Conspiracy, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, Candles of Leng. (I needed the Magus, I guess. I had playsets of Shapeshifters & Crypts. I’m not going to pay for the league with these rares.)
Build: UWr, splashing for Dead//Gone & Ghostfire. Important cards: Errant Ephemeron, Infiltrator il-Kor, Sunlance, some flankers, Aven Riftwatcher, Tolarian Sentinel, Reality Strobe, Dream Stalker, Reality Acid. It is not brilliant or broken, but it is solid and has some speed, evasion and tricks.

Lorwyn Pool: Lorwyn Tourney pack, 2 boosters.
Rare & valuable: Oona’s Prowler, Cryptic Command (yay!), Militia’s Pride, Hostility, Thousand Year Elixir. Prowler is okay, Cryptic was needed.

Since this format actually matters to many readers, I’ll provide the pool and my build:

And my deck:

People can argue that build in the forums. I was “practicing” for the PTQs, so I gave myself a maximum of 15 minutes for deck construction. (A PTQ would allow more time, but some of that time would be eaten up by pool and deck registration.) This is what I ended up playing.

I was also considering joining a Coldsnap league, but I will never find enough time to play all my matches in the other leagues. I finally realized that I could track many of these stats just by observing, even if I am not entered, so no Coldsnap. Besides, there are almost no Coldsnap cards I need anymore.

The Statistics to Track:

I will be tracking the leagues. For each league, I will note the number of players in the league — meaning the total number who have signed up to play. The maximum is 256 players per league.

At various times of the day, I will also count players in the room. In MTGO, your name shows up in some room. This does not necessarily mean that you are doing something in that room — you could be working with the deck editor or trading, but you haven’t left, your name still appears. You also don’t have to be in the room to request a league game.

I will track the ratings of the players hanging out in the league rooms. I cannot track the ratings of players not in the room, since their information is not visible in that case. Still, tracking the ratings of players in the room should give some idea of the average skill level of the players in the leagues.

I will track the number of games in progress, and those recently completed. In the avatar view mode, the games in progress show up as players at a table. When completed, the empty table remains for a while — I don’t know exactly how long.

I will track the scores of the top eight or so players in the league. Scoring in leagues is different from sanctioned tournaments. In a league, the first five matches you play each week count for league points. You get two points for a win, and one for a loss. After five matches per week, any additional match wins give you tiebreaker points.

Finally, I will note how long I have to wait to get a match in each league. This should rarely be a problem in the full Lorwyn league, but it might be worse in the other leagues. When I do get matches, I’ll add notes on what I play, just for fun.

6am CST Saturday:

I ended up doing other things Friday afternoon and night, so I did not get to play anything. I fired up MTGO early, to see how busy the leagues were early in the morning.


The Lorwyn league is full already: 256 players. The other leagues may never fill.
Eight players are in the room when I check it out. Their ratings range from a low of 1410 to a high of 1627. The average rating is 1548.
Three matches are in progress at 6am.

In the Lorwyn league, games appear almost instantly. Game 1 I’m mana screwed for the first few turns, and he gets Changeling Titan and Cairn Wanderer via fetch dudes. Eventually I draw lands, including two Swamps, and Fodder Launcher kills the Cairn Wandered while Weed Strangle and Lignify do in the Titan and other threats. It’s long and tricky, but I end up pulling it out. Game 2 I side in the extra Loggers, and a pair of early Loggers take him to five, where Fodder Launcher seals the deal.

Time Spiral:

27 players have joined the league at this point.
Four players are in room, with ratings ranging from 1567 to 1689 — with an average of 1625.
There are no games in progress — one game had recently finished.
Score: I note that one player has 6 points already. Three players have 5 points.

I ask for a game about 7am. I finally get one at 7:20. My opponent has a rating of 1567, but he played well. It was a long, tough match. I got Reality Acid & bounce going, but he had a lot of madness cards and madness outlets. Game 2 went long, but he won when he dropped a Griffin Guide on a Venser’s Sliver, one turn before I had him. Game 3 I suspended the Ephemeron on turn two, and beat him down. He did manage to kill the Ephemeron with Necrotic Sliver, but I eventually won by dropping Reality Acid on his last blocker, then dropped Cloudchaser Kestrel. Yes, Reality Acid usually stinks, but you use whatever removal you have, when it is in short supply.


29 players have joined the league.
5 players are present in room. Thier ratings run from 1611 to 1749, with an average rating of 1694. Seems high.
No games are ongoing, 1 match has recently concluded.
Player ratings are: 1 player @ 7 points, 1 @ 4, 2 @ 3, 8 @ 2, and 3 players at 1 point.

I get an immediate game. My opponent’s rating is 1515.

Game 1: He Incinerates my Dragon Engine at the end of my turn, then animates his Treetop Village on turn 3 and swings. I play Mountain Yeti — he has Mountains, Forest and a Swamp. He plays Icy, I drop Balduvin Horde. Turn 6 I swing, play a land and do nothing. He swings with Treetop, I flash out my Tangle Spider. He does not Icy in response, and has no pump, so the Spider eats the Village, and the game is over shortly thereafter. Game 2 he Icys my Giant during upkeep, allowing me to drop and equip Warhammer on another dude. It was an easy win over a less-skilled opponent.

I forgot to get stats for Coldsnap.

10am CST, Saturday:

I check stats quickly at 10am as well, because I will be out for much of the afternoon splitting wood and visiting folks.

Time Spiral:

One game in progress
Two people are in the room. Thier ratings are 1900 & 1752.

Busy. 14 players are in the room, and 9 games are in progress. I don’t count ratings.


No matches are in progress, but a table remains from 1 recent match.
Two people are in the room, with ratings of 1614 and 1592

One game is in progress. Two players, rated 1552 and 1631, are in the room.

10pm, Saturday:

I get back late, and check out the leagues. Not much time to play, but I can compile stats.

Time Spiral:

39 people have now joined the league.
One person in the room, with a rating of 1727.
One game is in progress.
(A note: remember, players show up in the room they were last in when a match started. This two players can be in a match, but only one may show up as in the room. Just the way MTGO works. I should also mention that I am not counting myself, or including my rating in the average.)
Score: 1 player @ 9, 2 @ 8, 1 @ 7
My 2 points / 1 match played puts me in 25th place.


256 players in the league.
10 in room
5 games in progress
ratings: max: 1410, min 1647, average: 1579 (with four 1600 rated players)
Score: 9 @ 10+, 28 @ 9, [email protected]
2 points / 1 match played puts me in 215th place.

49 in league
7 in room
Ratings: max: 1637, min: 1592, average: 1618
2 games in progress
Score: [email protected], 4 @ 7, 2 @ 6
my 2 points / 1 match played puts me in 28th place.

30 in league
2 in room, ratings 1678 and 1620
1 game in progress
Score: 1 @ 9, 1 @ 8, 2 @ 6 — only top three players have played all 5 matches for the week.

6am, Sunday:

Time Spiral:
42 in league
Two players are in the room, with ratings of 1725 and 1572
No games are in progress, but two recent matches are still showing.
Score: 1 @ 9, 2 @ 8, 2 @ 7, 3 @ 6 — with a 7, an 8 and two 6es all with a match to play.

I am still at 26th with 2 points / 1 match played.

I post a play request at 6am. I take it back down at 6:11. After playing in Lorwyn, then waiting some more, I get a game at about 7:25am. My opponent is ranked 1600. He has played his five matches for points, plus some extra matches. He is at 6,1, which means he has a decent-to-bad deck (results of 1-4) and is playing for tiebreakers.

I win game 1 quickly, on the strength of a suspended Infiltrator and a Shapeshifter copy. Game 2 he opens with a suspended Baloth, turn 2 Gemhide, turn 4 Sporoloth Ancient. I have a Zealot il-Vec that kills the Gemhide. He drops a Verdant Embrace on the Sporoloth. I have the Kestrel. I play the Shapeshifter face down the next turn, and wait in ambush. The Baloth un-suspends, he serves with both, I chump the Baloth with Kestrel and block the Ancient with the Shapeshifter, then copy the Baloth. He has no pump, and we end up with two Baloths staring at each other. I drop a chump blocker and Reality Acid on the Baloth. He never attacks with it, and eventually the Acid eats his Baloth. His play is never strong, and I win easily.

256 players in the league.
One player in room, with a rating of 1825.
No matches in progress, one recent game.
Score: pretty much unchanged since last night.
I was still at 215th with 2 points / 1 match played. I post a play request at 6:12am. I get a hit almost instantly.

My opponent is at 1600. His pre-match score is 6, 14 (another 1-4! Good to be me — on the other hand, he has gotten his tiebreakers to 14. I have time to check this because he does not start playing for a couple minutes. I am writing this while waiting for him to begin). He finally appears with 15 seconds before a Game Loss, and apologizes.

I mulligan a four marginal Black cards, three Forests hand. Then we wait some more.

I drop a Woodland Changeling, then a Boggart Loggers. He drops Moonglove Extract, then fails to kill the Loggers before or while dropping a Treefolk. I untap and Loggers kills it. I manage to recur Mulldrifter and win easily. Game 2 he has morphed into Merfolk, and I mulligan into nine lands and four spells. He has a Merfolk Harbringer that fetches Changeling Hero, plus a Shapesharer. I drown in lands game 2, but game 3 I have little trouble outplaying him. After the win, I am ranked 185th, with 4 points and two matches played.


51 players have registered for the league.
No one is in the room, no games in progress, but four tables show recent match results.
Score: 2 @ 10, 1 @ 9, 1 @ 8, 3 @ 7.
I was at 30th with 2 points / 1 match played.

I post a play request at 5:53 – I knock it down at 6am and try TSP. I play in the other leagues, then post another at 8am. I spend some time writing. I get a game. Once again, it is a 1600 rated player with 6 points, playing tiebreakers. Once again, we wait a bit. He has a suicide deck, and I take a while to stabilize. Eventually, I stabilize at 2 life — and he drops Copper Tablet! Game 2 I draw 2 Swamps, 5 Red cards, and mulligan into Granite Gargoyle, Goblin Piker, Fissure, lands. He drops a pro-Red guy and sticks Treetop Bracers on it. Seven attacks later, I am dead, having never drawn anything significant. After the loss, I am at 23rd in the league. Thank gawd leagues play does not affect my online rating.

31players in the league at this point.
No one in the room. No matches are in progress, but the tables from two recent matches are still shown.
Score: 2 @ 9 points, 1 @ 8, 1 @ 7 with a match still to play.

I have to head out now — the dogs need chow, and I want to head for a local winery for some early Christmas shopping.

Noon, Sunday:

Time Spiral:

45 players in the league.
Two players in the room, ratings of 1600 and 1561.
No matches ongoing, one recent match has concluded.
Score: 1 @ 9, 3 @ 8, 2 @ 7, 3 @ 6. Two sixes and an eight have a points match left to play, meaning they could become two eights and a ten.
With a league score of 2-0, I’m in 14th place.

256 players in the league. I’m going to stop mentioning that — it will never change.
13 players in the room. Ratings from 1743 to 1524. Several 1600s.
Five matches ongoing, plus one just finished.
Nine player are at 10 points, 6 with tiebreaker points. Players with 9 points go down to 38th place. I’m tied for 186 points, having played 2 matches and sitting at 4 points.

53 players in the league.
One player in the room, the guy that beat me this morning.
No matches ongoing — one recent match onscreen.
Score: 2 @ 10, 1 @ 9, 1 @ 8, 3 @ 7, 3 @ 6. One 7 pointer has a match left to play.
With a score of 1-1, I’m sitting in 23rd place.

34 players in the league.
3 players in room, ratings; 1765, 1597, 1576
2 matches in progress.
Scores: 2 @ 9, 2 @ 8, 1 @ 7, 1 @ 6, 1 @ 5, etc.

MTGO is lagging badly. I don’t try to get a game. I go chase Pumpkin Pie and Hard Apple Cider in another game, instead.

6pm, Sunday:

14 players are in the room — ratings ranging from 1525 to 1801, average of 1624.
7 matches in progress.
Scores: 9 @ 10, 20 @ 9. My 2-0 rating is tied for 188th.

Time Spiral:
47 players in the league.
Eight players in the room: max: 1801, min: 1525, average: 1624.
Three matches in progress.
Scores: 1 @ 9, 3 @ 8, 3 @ 7, 2 @ 6, 2 @ 5, etc. My 2-0 record puts me in 17th place.

I ask for a game — I get one after about 7 minutes. My opponent has a 1600 rating. He has Damnation and Draining Whelk, plus a fair amount of bounce. I basically outplay him and win in two. With a record of 3-0, I am tied for 11th place.

57 player in the league.
Four players in the room. Ratings of 1614, 1600, 1600 and 1567.
No games in progress, 2 recent matches showing.
Scores: 2 @ 10, 1 @ 9, 2 @ 8, 3 @ 7, 4 @ 6. My 1-1 record puts me in 26th place

After I finish playing Time Spiral, I ask for a MED game. It’s 7:13. I write for a while. I get a game at 7:32. My opponent is ranked 1592.

MTGO is laggy.

I win the die roll and begin with a Granite Gargoyle. He does nothing for a few turns, keeping UU up. I bait a counter, but he doesn’t bite. He then taps out for Venerable Monk, and I drop the Horde. I get lucky and discard a spare land. I play the other land and my hand is Elven Riders and Hurricane. I’m pretty happy. He drops a Benalish Hero. All I’m worried about now is Exile — then he taps out for Dragon Engine. Turn 6 he taps out for Aven Windreader. I pump the Gargoyle, Hurricane for 3, and win.

We are lagging badly. It takes two minutes for the “One Million Words Wins” box to pop up, and three more to get the SB screen. Not so hot. We finally begin. He has a different deck. Game 1 he was UW, game 2 he is RG. He has a fast start. I don’t. He has Keldon Warlord and a lot of guys. I have Elven Riders and an Onulet. Not good. He also has Blaze to seal the deal.

Game 3 we both do nothing until turn 4. Then I drop Mountain Yeti and he drops Elvish Piper. I have a couple Lemures and a Swamp. I also have Elven Riders — and four evasive guys are enough.

MTGO is just too laggy to try another match right now. On the plus side, my win moves me into 17th place.

34 players in the league
One player in the room, rating 1560.
One recent game showing.
Scores: 2 @ 9, 2 @ 8, 1 @ 7, 5 @ 6 — all having played all five for-points games..

11pm, Sunday:

Only two players are in the room this late. Their ratings are 1600 and 1649.
Those two players are playing a match.
Not much has changed: Scores: 9 @ 10, 20 @ 9. My 2-0 rating is tied for 189th, down one point since 6pm.

Time Spiral:
We have 48 players in the league now.
Two matches are in progress.
Four players are in the room, with ratings of 1486, 1600, 1600 and 1649.
Score: 3 @ 9, 3 @ 8 and 4 @ 7 points. I’m sitting at 16th.

We appear to have 59 players in the league.
One match in progress, one that ended recently.
One player present in the room, his rating is 1600.
Score: 2 @ 10 points, 2 @ 9, 2 @ 8, 5 @ 7. My 2-1 record puts me in 19th place.

38 players are in that league at this point.
I see 5 players in the room, with ratings from 11615 to 1843. The average is 1692.
Two games were in progress this late.
Score: 2 @ 9, 2 @ 8, 1 @ 7, 5 @ 6 points.

5am CST Monday:

Two players are in the room, with ratings or 1600 and 1750. Of more interest, the first player has a league score of 7,3. The other has a league score of 8,21. In short, the only players hanging out in the room are both hunting tiebreakers, and have decks capable of winning in the league.
No games are in progress. One game finished recently.
Not much has changed since last night. The numbers of 5-0 and 4-1 players are the same as last night. My 2-0 rating has dropped to 192nd, because more players have played all five games. Because of the way a league is scored (two points for a win, one point for a loss), even players that have gone 0-5 are now ahead of my 2-0 score.

Time Spiral:
51 players have entered the league.
No one is in the room.
No games are ongoing, and only one table shows recent match results.
One player has 10 points, three have 9 points, two have 8 points, while four have 7 points. My 2-0 rating is still tied for 17th.

I put up a match request at 5:24am. I don’t get a game by 6am and take it down. (A note: you can put up multiple match requests — one per league. I don’t do this any more. Because of the server strain, MTGO seems to come around and pair matches every few minutes, all at once. This makes it all too easy to sit for ten minutes with nothing, then get into two games at once. I don’t want to do that — not when I can write while waiting.)

The league now has 60 enrolled players.
Two players are in room, with ratings of 1552 and 1650.
No games are in process, and only one table shows recent results.
The league has two players at 10 points, two players at 9 points, two at 8 points and 5 at seven points. My 2-1 rating puts me firmly in 22nd place.

I put up a game request at 6am. By 6:25 I don’t have a response, so I knock it down. I have to head for work. Between the two leagues, I had match requests up for a full hour, and never got a game.

40 players are now enrolled in the league.
One player is in the room. His rating is 1544. No games.
Scores: 2 @ 9, 2 @ 8. 2 @ 7, 5 @ 6 points.
I’m kinda glad I am not in this league.

I wish I had started this a while ago. I’m also questioning my wisdom in playing in three different leagues — I need to play a minimum of 60 matches during the next month, and a lot of that month will be eaten up by Worlds. Still, I should be able to continue to review whether leagues are busy or not, and when. I should also be able to get some data on who plays in these leagues, and how stiff the competition generally is.

I have to wrap this up here, for now. My deadline is fast approaching. I will probably write another article around the end of the leagues, summarizing the league experience in later weeks.


“One Million Words” on MTGO, and in leagues.