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MTGO Hero – Introduction

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What is up, everyone? I am Tangent from the Mana Screwed and Public Enemies podcasts. I have been playing Magic: The Gathering since the Lorwyn block and have been podcasting on MTGCast.com for more than three years. I can be found grinding the queues on Magic Online (MTGO) as TangentDYN, and I have the same handle on Twitter. Recently, however, I have begun a quest under another username: MTGOHero.

My Quest: Going Infinite

“Going infinite” is a worthy goal for most Magic players. The idea is to be able to build a solid enough deck that your prize winnings are consistently more than your cost to play. For some, it is the holy grail of competitive Magic. For others, it is merely a stepping stone on the road to the Pro Tour. It is also the objective of the recent article series “FNM Hero” by Jonathan Medina, which can be found on LegitMTG.com.

Medina’s article spoke to me because it wasn’t about being wealthy enough to be able to afford the best cards. It is an attempt to see if it is possible for an average Joe to pick up an Event Deck, throw in a few choice cards, and grind his way to infinity. This every-man approach is inspiring to me since I have wanted to embark on a similar voyage many times. The question for me became: How can I be an FNM Hero if my life prevents me from attending FNMs?

The solution seemed simple. I needed to modify Medina’s FNM Hero idea to apply to MTGO. I mention that it seemed simple, but there are several major differences between MTGO and playing with paper cards that I needed to take into account. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, and it is important to recognize the positives in order to overcome the negatives.

MTGO Advantages

  • Most online digital cards are less expensive than the paper counterparts.
  • There are always opponents available to practice against.
  • Multiple tournament options are available.
  • No unwashed-miscreant aroma in the air.

MTGO Disadvantages

  • Staple rare and mythic rare digital cards prices are often higher than the paper counterparts.
  • Tournament prices are generally higher than local stores and often pay out less.
  • The variance in players’ skill levels are higher than in most local stores. As a result, the competition going deep into a tournament tends to be greater than in a typical FNM.
  • MTGO trading isn’t nearly as fruitful as it can be in local stores. Since most common and uncommon cards hold little or no value online, and even rares are usually cheap, it is nearly impossible to break even on trades. A vast majority of my earnings will need to be in the form of packs won. I may be able to make a small profit selling promo cards, but it will be minimal at best.

Weighing the strengths and weaknesses of the plan allowed me to modify the FNM Hero rules so they can apply to MTGO while staying true to the spirit of the challenge that Medina created.

The Modified Challenge

To start with a new MTGO account, no cards, no buddies, and only 100 tickets to achieve my goal of “going infinite.”

The idea is to select a deck list from one of the Event Decks that Wizards designed for FNM play and purchase the cards from the chosen deck list on MTGO. After a few test runs to see how the deck performs, I will begin trading and purchasing new cards in an attempt to make the deck competitive. I will also be gathering feedback and advice from members of the Magic community along the way.

Similar to Medina’s series, the MTGO Hero series cannot go on forever, and therefore, a realistic objective needs to be set. The target I will be aiming for will be to work my way to building a Tier 1 deck in the Standard format and doubling my initial ticket count. When I have obtained a top-tier deck and netted 200 tickets, I will be successful in achieving my goal of going infinite. So, the only thing left to do is to choose an Event Deck and begin my path to victory.

There are multiple Event Decks to choose from, so I want to select the deck that will give me the most opportunity for success. After having discussions with Medina and looking over the deck lists, I decided to go with the Hold the Line Innistrad Event Deck. I checked the bots and found that I could piece the deck together on MTGO for less than the cost of the actual Event Deck.

Hold the Line

Creatures: 22 Ticket Cost Lands: 24 Ticket Cost
4 Accorder Paladin 0.36 24 Plains 0.48
1 Champion of the Parish 1.59
4 Doomed Traveler 0.20 Sideboard: 15
1 Elite Inquisitor 0.09 4 Celestial Purge 0.28
2 Elite Vanguard 0.10 4 Leonin Relic-Warder 0.40
4 Fiend Hunter 0.36 1 Nevermore 0.05
4 Gideon's Lawkeeper 0.16 3 Nihil Spellbomb 0.24
2 Mirran Crusader 3.42 3 Suture Priest 0.27
Spells: 14
4 Bonds of Faith 0.08
2 Butcher's Cleaver 0.08
2 Honor of the Pure 3.00
4 Oblivion Ring 0.32
2 Silver-Inlaid Dagger 0.08

Total deck cost in tickets: 11.56

I was really impressed with how affordable it was to build the base Event Deck. I saved a significant amount over the actual Event Deck price, which costs roughly $25, and I saved a bundle when compared to individual paper-card prices. So far, I was doing better than I expected with my funding, but I still had a long way to go. Before I purchased additional cards for the deck, I wanted to give the base deck a few test runs in the Tournament Practice room.

Practice?

So, calling it practice might be a stretch of the imagination. Regardless of how tight I played, this deck wouldn’t beat a solid deck without a significant amount of luck. I don’t want to bore readers with a detailed summary of total defeat, but it went something like this:

Match 1: Naya Pod – Went 0–2 and I was locked down most of the match.

Match 2: Naya Pod, take 2 – Different player and nearly the same results. I went 1–2 thanks to my opponent being mana screwed.

Match 3: W/U Delver – Do you even need to ask? That’s right: 0–2 in quick fashion. It turns out hexproof is pretty good against abilities that target. Who knew?

Match 4: Esper Control – I think this was a budget Esper deck, as I took Game 1 easily and actually battled it out in Game 3. Result: 1–2

My overall result was 0–4 in matches and 2–8 in games. Being a very competitive player, this made for a grueling testing session. My conclusion was that this deck needs a lot of work. You’re welcome for that amazing revelation.

Reinforcements

It was time to call in reinforcements in the form of better cards. Medina had mentioned Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Gather the Townsfolk, and Loyal Cathar as possible additions to the deck, and I agreed with those suggestions. Thalia will slow down control and many midrange decks, Gather the Townsfolk will make the deck more aggressive as well as pump my Champion of the Parish, and Loyal Cathar is resilient against Day of Judgment.

Public Enemies podcast cohost Dr. Jeebus suggested adding red to make R/W humans after Avacyn Restored is released on MTGO. Meanwhile, he said I should definitely invest in at least two Hero of Bladehold because despite the cost, it will greatly increase my odds against control players. Because HoB has such a high threat factor, control players must deal with him or die, and they will often spend valuable Day of Judgments to do so. Jeebus said he found the digital cards for 10 tickets and they would be worth the high cost.

I also decided to purchase additional Champion of the Parish and Mirran Crusader cards—they are affordable, and they had been very strong when I actually saw them in my test matches. Once again, I was pleasantly surprised with how affordable cards were on MTGO when I was searching the bots. I managed to find promo Hero of Bladehold for a very reasonable 8.3 tickets a piece, which saved me about 2 tickets per Hero.

After checking out what the bots had to offer, I was able to add these cards to my collection:

Card Name Ticket Cost
2 Mirran Crusader 3.42
3 Hero of Bladehold 24.9
3 Champion of the Parish 4.77
3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben 4.53
4 Gather the Townsfolk 0.24
4 Loyal Cathar 0.16
Total Cost 38.02

Including my initial investment to build the Event Deck, this brought my overall cost to 49.58 tickets. I have spent nearly half of my funds to purchase the cards that I hope will give me the firepower I need to win. I need to stretch my remaining tickets as far as they can go, which means that winning is truly everything at this point.

Now, with my remaining 50 tickets and 0.42 tickets in bot credit, it is time to build my deck and start grinding out wins. I am really hyped for next week when I can give a report on my deck modifications and the results of my first real tournament. Apparently, I am a glutton for punishment.

Until next time,

–Tangent was here . . .