Yawgmoth’s Whimsy #305 – The Exodus Online Release Non-Events

Read Peter Jahn... at StarCityGames.com!
Thursday, December 17th – Magic Online has just released the Exodus set – over a decade after the set appeared in paper. The online release events included sealed queues, drafts, and premier events. The premier events in particular failed to fire, and Wizards has now canceled them early. The draft and smaller sealed event queues are still around, but they are not firing very fast, if at all. What went wrong?

Magic Online has just released the Exodus set — over a decade after the set appeared in paper. The online release events included sealed queues, drafts, and premier events. The premier events in particular failed to fire, and Wizards has now canceled them early. The draft and smaller sealed event queues are still around, but they are not firing very fast, if at all. What went wrong?

While the larger premier events have been cancelled, the smaller events will continue until this Friday. At noon on Friday, though, the events disappear. This is Wizards method of handling Classic sets now — they are around for a couple weeks, then vanish for a long while.

The Prereleases

Online implements a prerelease the weekend before the product goes on sale in the online store. For Exodus, the prereleases occurred on Friday, December 4th, and Saturday, December 5th. The events were 6 rounds, with a minimum of 33 players and a maximum of 512. Payout was based on match wins, and there was no Top 8. Entry was 30 Tix, and the payout was 15 boosters for 6-0, 6 for 5-1 and 2 boosters for 4-2. This is not a great payout, but since the prereleases are the only method of getting your hands on cards for the Sunday constructed events, they have value. Players in the prerelease event also got a Monstrous Hound prerelease foil. That doesn’t seem to have much value.

Personally, I did not participate. On Friday I was training judges, and Saturday I was judging at the2009s, specifically Wisconsin States. By the time I got home from that, the prereleases were long over. However, my secondhand info is that the prereleases were reasonably well attended.

The release events started about a week later, on Wednesday, December 9th. Wizards offered drafts, in both triple Exodus and Tempest / Stronghold / Exodus, and with all the typical prize structures: 4-3-2-2, 8-4 and Swiss. Four round sealed Swiss flights of 32 players were offered continuously, and paid out 15 Exodus packs to winners, 10 packs for a 3-1 record, and 3 packs for 2-2. The really big events were held in the Premier Events room, and consisted of 64 player draft events (draft once, winners move on to a second draft) and large sealed with, if I recall correctly, a Top 8 final draft. These last two types of events almost never fired, and Wizards finally eliminated them.

I was home Wednesday evening, and did get into one of the sealed Swiss events. It took over an hour to fill — but the bigger events were not even close to firing.

Later in the week, I tried to enter another Swiss sealed event. The player count was at 5 when I joined. After going through my email and everything else that could fill the time, the count was at 7. I dropped and headed for the draft queues.

I have not been able to get into a Swiss Sealed event — and have it fire — since that first day.

I have drafted in the Tempest / Stronghold / Exodus queues a couple times, and in the triple Exodus queues a couple times. Frankly, these are not hard draft formats. I won my second and fourth Exodus drafts. The secret to triple Exodus is Welkin Hawk — a 1/1 flier for 1W that replaces itself when it dies. Card advantage is hard to get in the format, but that does it. Looking at my collection at the point that I had opened 16 packs of Exodus, I owned 18 Welkin Hawks.

Frankly, though, triple Exodus is a pretty narrow format, and it was not a lot of fun to play. It is, in many ways, a lot like M10, but with more bad cards. For example, the Tempest block version of Slaughter CrySeething Anger — is a Sorcery. (Learning / remembering that cost me a game.) Triple Exodus also allows for some highly unfun decks.

In one draft, I won game 1 rather easily, because my guys flew and he had no reach and very little removal. I had some fun, but I doubt my opponent had any.

Game 2 was against an opponent with a RU control deck. He had at least three copies of Flowstone Flood (a Stone Rain with buyback), a lot of Fade Aways and some Anarchists. He also had Monstrous Hounds. Basically, his deck won by destroying all your lands and permanents, slowly. Since my deck was built around Welkin Hawks and Pegasus Stampede, which puts a Suntail Hawk into play, but with buyback of sacrificing a land, facing an LD deck was a pain. I ended up playing 19 lands in games 2 and 3, and still just barely managed to get there.

In round 3 I got to relive a portion on my past: I died to Hatred. True, it was turn 4, not turn 2, and no Dark Rituals were involved, but Hatred was never fun. The only advantage to draft is that I could play around Hatred for the rest of the match. Just keeping his life total lower than mine was enough.

A week ago Wednesday, we were hit by a blizzard, and everything — work, govt., the university, the roads — all shut down. I got to spend half a day playing Magic online. I played a couple Exodus drafts. However, I also played a couple Zendikar drafts. I even played in an M10 draft, simply because the M10 draft was close to firing, and Exodus was not. I really don’t need much from M10, and M10 is not that amazing a draft format, but it is still better than triple Exodus (or — more accurately — better than waiting for Exodus). It appears others agree. I looked at the draft queues a little while ago, and a lot of Zendikar drafts have fired. Just a handful of Exodus drafts have fired in the last 12 hours.

What is going wrong? The set is available for just a couple weeks, and very few people seem to care. The dealers are not buying — the largest online dealer has almost no Exodus singles in stock. More importantly, prices for the cards he does not have in stock seem off — and indication that he is not restocking and updating inventory. I’m not online at the moment, so I don’t know how the bots are doing, but the cards seem light. Cardshark, the half auction half marketplace thing, does not even have a tab for Exodus, and the couple cards I tried to buy were not available at any price.

It seems, with five days left to get Exodus cards in drafts or sealed, the singles market is critically short of cards.

It is not like Exodus is a dreadful set. It isn’t — Exodus, and Tempest block as a whole, have a lot of really good cards. Let’s look at a few.

I scanned the most recent Vintage and Legacy Top 8 lists. For Vintage, that Top 8 is a bit old — it’s the Top 8 from the Vintage World Championship this summer. For Legacy, it is a bit fresher — it’s the Top 8 from last weekend’s SCG $10k Open St. Louis. I also looked at the most recent Classic online event — one which took place after the Exodus release events had been going for a while.

Vintage uses the following cards from Exodus and Tempest block:

* Sphere of Resistance (EX)
* Ancient Tomb (TE)
* Wasteland (TE)
* Grindstone (TE)
* Choke (TE and 8E)
* Mox Diamond (ST)
* Intuition (TE)
* City of Traitors (EX)
* Diabolic Edict (TE)
* Dark Ritual (TE and everywhere)

Legacy uses the following cards from Exodus and Tempest block:

* Sphere of Resistance (EX)
* Ancient Tomb (TE)
* Wasteland (TE)
* Manabond (EX)
* Mox Diamond (ST)
* Choke (TE and 8E)
* Perish (TE)
* Diabolic Edict (TE)
* Propaganda (TE)
* Price of Progress (EX)
* City of Traitors (EX)
* Volrath’s Stronghold (ST)

Classic uses the following cards from Exodus and Tempest block:

* Sphere of Resistance (EX)
* Ancient Tomb (TE)
* Oath of Druids (EX)
* Mox Diamond (ST)
* Diabolic Edict (TE)
* Grindstone (TE)
* Choke (TE and 8E)
* Mox Diamond (ST)
* Intuition (TE)
* City of Traitors (EX)

In short, these sets are not bad at all. All provide several cards playable in competitive formats — probably more than I listed above, because I’m sure to have missed some.

The problem isn’t that the rest of the set sucks. Exodus has a lot of great cards. I did a quick rundown of the cards in Exodus that I really loved.


Mana Bond and Sphere of Resistance are seeing play in Legacy and Vintage at the moment. They are likely to see play in Classic for a while, and in Legacy once Wizards splits the formats. Oath of Druids is seeing Classic play right now, and shooting up in price. Survival of the Fittest, Recurring Nightmare and City of Traitors are all past powerhouses, and may well see play again. They have value.

A few others, like Mind over Matter, Hatred and Oath of Ghouls, have nostalgia value, although they may no longer be playable in any serious format. The game has moved on, and tournament decks today are too fast and consistent to need those cards. Still, some players will collect them simply to play their old favorites again, while others may keep them on hand in case some other cards move them back to the fore. Personally, I will get a couple copies of Spike Weaver and a Plaguebearer, simply because I remember playing them back in the day. I may even recreate GB Survival and play it in the casual rooms, even though it cannot compete with modern decks.

Other cards have value mainly because of casual and multiplayer uses. These include cards like Limited Resources, Cataclysm and some of the other Oaths. Other cards find homes in special formats — Skyshroud War Beast was a five-color beatdown staple, and Extinction, when not banned, is nuts in Tribal Wars.

The same can be said of the commons and uncommon. Exodus uncommon include Price of Progress, Forbid, Fugue, Peace of Mind and Skyshroud Elite — the potent, the once greats, the specialty role-player and the cards that may make a 9 Land Green deck, but won’t make that deck a contender in the modern world.

Exodus, and Tempest block as a whole, has a lot of very powerful cards. However, it also has a ton of cards that just cannot cut it in the Classic / Vintage / Legacy metagame. This is always a problem with formats containing immense card pools: the format has access to a bazillion cards, so only the best of the best will see play.

Here are some examples of what I’m talking about: in Zendikar limited, you play Kracken Hatchling. In Standard or higher formats — not a chance. In Standard, Sprouting Thrinax and Broodmate Dragon are great. IN Extended, they are not played. Baneslayer Angel won an Extended Pro Tour, but it is barely played in Legacy and not played in Vintage. Etc.

The simple fact is that a huge number of the cards in Exodus and Tempest block as a whole are just not Tier 1 anymore. These cards are all worth a nickel or less. They just are not good enough.

For example, let’s look at the prerelease cards that players can get (in regular forms) for buying the product to enter a sealed pool, or get (in foil) for winning a release event.

Dirtcowl Wurm: Creature – Wurm, 3/4, 4G, Whenever an opponent plays a land, put a +1/+1 counter on Dirtcowl Wurm.

Revenant: Creature – Spirit, */*, 4B, Flying, Revenant’s power and toughness are each equal to the number of creature cards in your graveyard

Monstrous Hound: Creature — Hound, 4/4, 3R, Monstrous Hound cannot attack unless you control more lands than defending player. Monstrous Hound cannot block unless you control more lands than attacking player.

These were never insane cards, but they were not just plain bad back in the day. Now — well, they are hardly in the same league as good cards today.

On the other hand — Dirtcowl Wurm would be an interesting reprint in the current block. It would be sort of anti-landfall. Very slow anti-landfall.

The real problem with sets like Exodus and Tempest block is that the cards cannot find the same sort of home as paper versions. Online is great for highly competitive formats. It is less amazing for casual and multiplayer formats. The problem is finding a balanced casual game.

Let me explain.

I play / run tournaments at a local store with a wide mix of competitive and casual players. I play everyone. However, I can judge, based on who is asking to play, what deck will give me a good game. When it is a young kid playing unsleeved (because he cannot afford sleeves), I know to pull out one of the half tuned Pauper decks I build to sell when we have pauper tournaments. When someone in their thirties or forties shows up with a box full of old decks, I pull out something akin to a Standard deck from years ago, or a solid theme deck. When I see a friend that plays competitive Standard, Legacy or EDH, I know what deck to pull out. The point is that I can guesstimate, with a reasonable degree of accuracy and before choosing my deck, how good my opponent will be, and how strong his deck will be.

This limits the number of times when one deck completely crushes the other. That sort of situation sucks the fun out of the game. Losing that way repeatedly is dismal, and forces players to either get new decks or stop playing.

When looking at Tempest block cards, getting a better deck probably means abandoning the vast majority of Tempest Block cards. Ephemeron may be a really cool card, but it is never going to appear in a competitive deck in any format using Tempest.

Right now, Wizards is facing a serious problem with Tempest block cards. Exodus, the best set in the block, is out, and almost no one is buying. The cards, aside from the dozen or so mentioned above, have no value. The result, once the full Legacy cardpool is available online, will be to make Legacy far too expensive to sustain a critical mass of players. Wizards needs to do something now.

The first option would be to take some action in the casual room. If players could find a place to play underpowered, theme, and other fun decks against other such decks – or at least know, going in to the game, whether the opponent had a Tier 1 wrecking ball or a comparable deck — then such decks could be enjoyably played and the other Tempest cards would have some value.

I’m not holding my breath on that one.

The second option would be to create a decent multiplayer space on MTGO. Multiplayer games allow for more casual decks — or at least different decks. Multiplayer formats do allow for a far wider spectrum of decks, which can add some value to other cards. However, multiplayer on MTGO is not very good, and fixing that does not seem to be high on the priority list.

The final option for Wizards is to play with the prizes and / or cost of the packs. Speaking as an economist, that could help, but it also has some problems.

First of all, Wizards has always taken the position that a pack is worth a pack, and changing that could cause all kinds of problems. For example, if the value of a pack was based on relative demand, players could manipulate prices by buying large numbers of packs whenever the price falls. That extra demand would then push the price of those packs back up, at which point the buyers could turn around and sell the packs they just bought at a profit. This is classic market manipulation. It is not illegal, if done above board, but it is certainly not good for the seller. The resellers are collecting a good portion of the profits that would otherwise go to Wizards.

There are other problems with the concept of fluctuating pack values, but I don’t want to turn this into an econ course.

Second, Wizards is already offering a really heavy prize structure in the release events, and it is not attracting players. I’m not sure how much further Wizards can realistically go in this direction. The sealed Swiss queues already look to have the highest EV of any events (although I may be wrong; I have not done the math).

In short, I’m not sure that Wizards has an easy answer to this problem — but I sure hope they can answer it. I would like to be able to play Classic and, eventually, Legacy online, but if the cards are simply not available in sufficient quantities, that will not happen.


“one million words” online, and probably in the last Exodus Swiss queues.