Archiv für den Monat: Oktober 2015

Hiatus

I explained a couple of times during the last few years that the desire to write stems from internal as well as external motivations, and the latter are right now at an all-time low, with the former no longer making up for it. I don’t get paid to blog, obviously, and I get very little feedback lately. So why should I keep going? Right now, I do not have a good answer for that. It is entirely possible that this will change again, maybe even sooner than later, but at the moment I just do not feel like putting any time into typing stuff which seemingly no one is interested in.

I concede that not everything I write is of general interest, but that is the prerogative of (non-commercial) bloggers. However, I was rather surprised that no one was willing to chime in on the discussion of Magic Online bots. Aren’t you drafting on MTGO, too? Do you not sell many of (if not all) your drafted cards to recoup your losses (or bolster your profits if you’re especially succesful), like I do? Are you not either happy to read other people’s recommendations here, or willing to provide some yourself, or maybe both?

Apparently you are not. I said it before, but I wasn’t aware just how completely I was right: There is no German community for „serious“ players anymore. Ormus has proven that you can get a gazillion of comments if you ask a question which is as impossibly to answer incorrectly as it is futile to discuss (and throw in something for free), but that is as far away from Magic-related topics which are of interest to me as it gets. I am, as before, very interested in drafting, including designing Next Level Cubes, quite a little less in Sealed, moderately interested in constructed formats (albeit only from a spectator’s point of view again), and extremely interested in what might still be called community issues. On the other hand, I really do not care about commander, unwrittten-rules casual, shiny foils and gimmicky accessoires. All in all, what is still left of the German Magic community has drifted far way from me. We just do not care even remotely about the same things anymore.

To those very few who still do, my apologies, but I am not beholden to anyone for anything anymore. After all, blogging is still a hobby, and hobbies are supposed to be fun. During times when they aren’t, an enthusiastic community can keep you going until that fun returns, but I’m on my own here, and I am not having fun right now. Thus, I am putting this blog on indefinite hiatus, neither ruling out that I will return in a few weeks or even earlier, nor that I never will.

I have another blog which needs my attention badly, but 00ZERO has somehow managed to consistently claim priority, probably because Magic is on my mind constantly. I hope this will change when I stop blogging about it, though. That blog is Ein Platz für Andi (it’s in German, obviously), and you should find me there a lot more often in the future. I hope.

To not conclude this entry without any real Magic content, here are two more 3-0 Battle for Zendikar draft decks. Tournament wins are rare for me in this format – I go 2-1  about 80% of the time. This time, the two decks which made it are both devoid-based, but that does not mean anything, since I draft all kinds of different decks and typically my lost matches are due to stark mana issues (to be fair, that is also true for many of my wins). I do not believe that any archetypes in this format are flat-out stronger than others, because their power is largely determined by booster contents and unpredictable draft dynamics. Do your best to position yourself well, hope that the cards which get to you are the ones you need, and have a backup plan to salvage your draft as much as possible in case they don’t.

Until whenever.

Rakdos

Izzet

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My Recommendations for Magic Online Buybots

This is one of the topics I wanted to write about for quite some time, but couldn’t do so on Magic Universe for reasons that should be obvious. Maybe some of you will find my experiences helpful, and maybe you will even have something to add. There are a lot of MTGO trading bots out there, and it is very possible that I have missed a really good chain so far.

I write this mostly from the point of view of someone selling cards for tickets. Great buying bots may be bad selling bots and vice versa, but I wouldn’t know much about it. I will list those bot chains with which I have a trading history, starting with some I no longer use:

1. SupernovaBots

It is very long ago that I did business with that chain (and I am actually not even 100% if I ever really traded with them or only looked up their prices). They have a very unassuming website, which is not user-friendly at all, but is allegedly updated every 15 minutes.

I stopped visiting them because I found the way they displayed their offers too confusing – there always seemed to be an additional calculation involved which wasn’t properly explained, and which made, for example, a ticket cost more than one ticket. Since their offers weren’t good anyway, I did not bother to find out what this was all about.

Judging by a quick check of the more expensive Battle for Zendikar cards, their buying prices are still not competitive today, so I see no reason to give them another chance.

2. The MTGO Bazaar

I used to do business with that chain for a while, but I do not anymore, and I do not recommend them.

It has been quite some time that I sold cards to one of their bots, but in my memory their offers were usually not competitive at all. Once in a while, though, they unexpectedly would give you the best deal (this is also true for every bot chain I mention hereafter, and shows that it pays to compare prizes). However, this chain committed one of the cardinal sins of buying bots: They were often not stocked with tickets! You could still trade away your cards for other cards, but I usually would not want to do so (and I’m sceptical about their selection and selling prices, but I cannot say anything definite about that). Of course, you could just sell stuff to them for credit, but I really want to warn you against trusting any bot in that way. Losing up to a ticket is acceptable, but anything more it is an unnecessary risk. Some reputable bots will not even allow you to build up more than 1 ticket credit.

It is really annoying having to remember to check if a bot is actually able to buy your cards each time. I finally gave up on this chain when their bots were online for a few weeks without having ANYTHING in stock, but were still offering to „buy“ your cards. They have restocked on cards in the meantime, but I still didn’t see any tickets, so I decided to spend my leftover credit on a few rares I might be able to resell, and deleted them from my buddy list.

Another thing I remember is that their bots would quite frequently accept your trade offer, then do nothing and also not respond to your commands until you realized you had to give up and close the trade.

They have a website, but that contains practically no information and has not been updated for many years. All in all, everything about them looks really unprofessional to me.

3. AboshanBot

As far as I can tell, this chain is now defunct, since I haven’t seen any of its bots online for months. (It still owes me a little over half a ticket…)

AboshanBot used to claim that they paid the highest buying prices, and in my experience that was almost always true (and in the very few cases where I found a better offer that was just a bit higher, and it was only a single one). The flip side, however, was that they only bought a few select cards currently on their buying list. It definitely paid to check them out, though!

I cannot remember if there used to be a webpage for this chain (I think there was, but I’m not sure). If so, it does not seem to exist anymore. That does not bode well for a possible return of this chain, which is a pity.

One more thing: This info might be completely outdated and/or wrong in the first place, but I once stumbled upon a rumor that there were a number of fake accounts pretending to belong to this chain (with corresponding bot names) which would screw over their customers. I have no idea if those ever really existed or still exist, but I wanted to mention it. The real accounts went by the names AboshanBot, AboshanBot2 and AboshanBot3.

Now about the bots I visit regularly at the moment:

4. MTGOTraders

If you do not like to take the time to compare prices, and just want to sell all your cards in one fell swoop as fast as possible, this is the bot chain I would recommend. However, unless your time is really valuable, it is always a better idea to invest a couple of extra minutes and look at the offers of several different chains.

Prices

The offers from MTGOTraders‚ buybots are frequently the best I can find, and with most cards they do at least not underbid the competition too spectacularly, but you can get clearly better deals a lot of the time nonetheless. A big plus is that they usually will buy all cards you can reasonably expect any bot to buy. All bots in that family will offer you the same price for the same card.

Service

I am fine with MTGOTraders clearly differentiating between their sellbots and buybots, but it is quite annoying (and a bit greedy) that those two bot groups do not share credit with each other (but bots in each group do). Other than that, their service is good. They immediately take your cards and list their prices, much faster than with any other bot I know. Also, you can have them put back cards you do not wish to sell for that price, so that you do not need to cancel trade, remove those cards from your trade binder, and reenter trade. This should be a standard feature of every buybot, but some do not offer it. A small minus, however, is that their comparably few bots are often busy, and sometimes you have to try ten minutes or more until you can successfully initiate a trade with one of them. Most of the time it doesn’t take that long, though.

Contact

They do have a very user-friendly and large website allowing you to filter and sort cards according to several criteria, and their prices also seem to be mostly up-to-date, although they do not always make perfect sense (for example, I often wonder how prices for items they do not have in stock can continously go down). There is also a non-bot MTGO Traders account which is online frequently, and where you can talk to real persons. This might be the most professional MTGO bot chain.

5. GoatBots

Prices

On average, they pay less than MTGOTraders, but their offers are still comparable, and frequently they outbid the competition. This is the chain I have been using for the shortest time, so I may be a little off in my evaluation, but it seems to me that they are willing to buy a bit fewer cards than MTGOTraders, although they always make an offer for rares from a newer set. All their bots offer the same prices.

Service

It takes a few seconds for their bots to grab your cards, but not excessively long, and you can have them put cards back. While their bots are rather busy, they have such a large number of them that you should always be able to enter trade successfully with one in a few seconds. All their bots share credit.

Contact

Their website looks very nice and user-friendly and seems to get updated frequently. However, their filtering/sorting options are a bit poor, and you can not look at the cards like you can at MTGOTraders. Still, everything looks quite professional, and I consider them the number two among buy bot chains.

6. ClanTeamBooster

Prices

This chain is a valuable asset if you are careful. For cards in great demand, their offers are usually at least okay, and sometimes they pay best by a considerable margin. I also found that they tend to pay premium on foil uncommons for some reason. On the other hand, for cards in less demand their offers are often so bad that it feels like a scam, and you should never unload cards blindly here. Sometimes they will make you a stepped offer – a better price for the first 2 copies of a card, for example, and a slightly worse for the rest. All bots offer the same prices. They claim they buy absolutely everything, which I find more of a minus than a plus, since it means they will spam your chat window with tons of ridiculously low offers.

Service

These are bots you have to explicitly tell that you intend to sell cards, and it takes a moment until they are ready for that command, and then again some time while they pick your cards. Especially if you offer them a lot of cards, this can take so long that you will be tempted to do stuff in other windows on your computer while you wait – and then, you suddenly get the message that the trade was cancelled because the bot had finally been done and not detected activity by you for a minute! That is mildly annoying. Also, these bots do not enable you to make them put cards back, which is even more annoying. Lastly, they sometimes make you wait and nothing happens, forcing you to cancel trade, or cancelling it themselves after several minutes. This happens rarely, though.

Contact

Their website gives a semi-professional impression, with limited sorting options and no card pictures. I am not sure how often it gets updated; they say nothing about it, but since they trace stock per bot it SHOULD be rather frequently.

7. TheCardNexus

This is a rather large family, and I do business with them for just a few weeks so far. I only use those whose name start with TheCardNexusBooster. In theory, everything I say should apply to all their buying bots, but I have no experience with the other members.

Prices

The offers from this chain are distinctly lower than that of the competition all over the spectrum, but most noticeably with older cards. When I sold my collection a couple days ago, I found that MTGOTraders offered the best price for ca. 40% on the cards, and GoatBots and ClanTeamBooster for ca. 30% each, while TheCardNexus did it for every 40th card or so. Furthermore, their offers were most of the time the lowest among all bots I checked for newer cards (for older cards in less demand, ClanTeamBooster would often take last place instead) and would even regularly cross over into „feels like a scam“ territory. Finally, those bots often were not interested at all in cards every other bot would buy (for example, Shambling Vent a week ago). But at least all their bots make the same offers.

Service

These bots take extraordinarily long before they take your cards, citing Magic Online lag as the source of the issue (which somehow seems to only affect them). Also, I already had a few cases where I waited several minutes and nothing happened. You do have the option to have them put cards back, though. While there are quite many bots in this family, they seem to go offline rather frequently and erratically, which means it may take a little longer to enter a trade with them than you would suspect with so many bots. They all share credit.

Contact

The bot owner has a twitter account where he is online and active quite often, which is how I found this chain. He also has a website, which (by his own admission) is quite the mess, with Khans of Tarkir the newest set which can be filtered and sorted, a woefully incomplete list of their bots, links which do not work, and generally an unintuitive and impracticable outline. I have a bit of a hard time to believe that the info shown there is actually correct and up-to-date, but this is just due to the generally bad impression it makes.

The only reason why I still use this bot chain is that I haven’t found anything better so far, and that I want to have at least four chains to compare offers. Overall, however, the (very) occasional better deal does not seem worth the hassle, and I will gladly replace this chain with anything reasonable. Does anyone have a good suggestion?

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I’m outta Standard again

Roughly one year ago, when Khans of Tarkir came to Magic Online, I decided that I would get into Standard again. The main reason for this was that, thanks to a very generous longtime reader who gifted me his well-stocked account, I suddenly had the necessary resources at my disposal. The deciding motivational factor, however, was that I wanted to be able to produce more varied content for the now defunct German site Magic Universe by chronicling my Standard endeavors.

As it turned out, I had some fun building and tuning a few decks and learning to play them, and I even reached the point where I was confident that I had found my own tier-1 deck whose strength was only diluted by its pilot’s lack of skills. That was before Magic Origins, however, and then I suddenly found myself unable to use Magic Online for a few months, and when I finally returned I had essentially missed drafting that set and would have been required to buy everything I needed for Standard (which mostly meant four each of Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, Hangarback Walker and Abbot of Keral Keep; plus a couple of Nissa, Vastwood Seer, Liliana, Heretical Healer, Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh and Languish).

Initially, I had planned to get most of the cards I needed for Standard via drafting, and that had worked out reasonably well in Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged, but I was already quite a bit behind in Dragons of Tarkir. Now, outright buying cards from Magic Origins just didn’t feel right and made me ponder how much I really wanted to keep playing Standard, now that my stint as editor of Magic Universe was over. As it turned out: Not very much. Yes, building and tuning decks would still be fun for me, but I realized that I would not play that format nearly enough to justify spending this much money on it. Even so far I had only entered 2-men-queues when I had run out of boosters, and then just played until I won enough so that I could draft again. Now, with the introduction of play points that wasn’t even possible anymore.

I delayed that decision (or, more precisely, consciously thinking about it) for a while, drafting Battle for Zendikar and selling all valuable cards immediately with the reasoning that, on average, I would be able to rebuy them later for less. Finally, though, it dawned on me that, by this exact logic, I was burning money maintaining a card pool for Standard (or even just one or two decks) while almost never actually playing it. While it is true that in the long run it is a lot more cost-efficient to play Standard instead of Draft, and while I was overall probably barely good enough to even make a small profit from it on average (owing to my deckbuilding skills, certainly not to my play skills), I would have needed to play it roughly a hundred times as often as I was willing to, just to break even with regards to my financial loss from buying cards when everyone needed them, and later selling them when noone did.

So I decided to sell my collection while most of it was still valuable – and boy, had there been money tied up in it! I am probably a bit in the red compared to where I was before I entered Standard (and even a bit more compared to what would have been if I had immediately sold all valuable cards), but I mostly recouped my losses and am now ticket-rich again, so that I can probably keep drafting until the end of my days unless my win ratio drops sharply – which it might, though, since I play a little worse every year, but what can you do about aging?

I also gave up the idea of trying out Pauper. It might be the most cost-efficient format, but I am just not really interested in it, and since the Magic Online bottleneck for me is time, not tickets (that time as much restricted by the server allowing me to play without lag or disconnects as by my own schedule), there is simply no reason left to do anything else with that program than what I like most to do with it: Draft!

 

Oh, and totally unrelated another mini-update to my Limited Card Pool: I realized Common Bond was too close to Abzan Charm for my taste, so I replaced it with Reap What Is Sown, and subsequently Sigil Blessing with Gerrard’s Command to keep my Selesnya instants more different from each other.

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A few Snippets about This and That

I will continue my series about CML’s eye-opening blog post when I have a little more time, and just keep this blog going with a few things on my mind right now.

But let me at least address a few remarks from the comment section of my latest entry: I have no idea why someone who writes about Magic needs to be compared with Hunter S. Thompson (and it’s actually already saying something good if he is), and I also never claimed CML was a „great writer“ – although, to be fair, if you hold him to reasonable standards pertaining Magic articles, that is a very defensible position. Interestingly, I consciously declined to praise his writing style too much to avoid that very comparison to „serious“ writers, understating his abilities by only saying that he writes „quite well“. That is most certainly true even for „serious“ writing (albeit not necessarily for the highest publishing standards), but there should be nothing left to discuss considering we are talking about Magic articles here!

Regarding „real“ professional sports and the opporunity to make big money there: I admit I was thinking of conventional, physical sports here, like football, basketball or tennis. I have next to none knowledge about the e-sports scene. However, I would still be surprised if the higher payouts and the more professional sponsoring there wouldn’t enable at least a few of the top players to actually make enough money during their active time to set it aside (I’m not talking about „retiring“ afterwards, though, just coming out ahead). Anyway, the comparison between e-sports and Magic is better suited to highlight the value WotC places on their professional tournaments, which will probably be the topic of my next entry in that series. By the way, there seems to be at least some interest for this, judging by the fact that I actually got a few comments. Sadly, this is already remarkable! Just compare with the number of comments which the latest few articles on PlanetMTG – the only left publishing platform for editorial German Magic content – got:

PlanetMTG

In the meanwhile, I have done a couple of Battle for Zendikar drafts – seven, to be precise. I won two of them, went 2-1 in four more and would very probably have gone 2-1 in the seventh as well, if MTGO hadn’t decided to stop me from playing in the last round while I was 1-0 in the lead and in a very strong position in the second game. When I write this, I have been filing for reimbursement over 16 hours ago and not got an answer yet (other than the automatically generated email) – this used to go a lot faster a year or so ago! But alas, even one of the few things MTGO was to be commended for (fast reimbursement) has gone bad now.

These were my two winning decks:

Dimir

Azorius

Most of my other drafts I was more focussed on aggression, with Red and/or White as a foundation, and while I admittedly didn’t face the toughest opposition (and made several really stupid playing mistakes), my match losses were usually to back to back egregious instances of mana issues. Thus, I feel that overall I cannot really judge the format fairly yet, but my impression so far is that drafting it is fun, but playing the games rather annoying. It may be tainted by my frustration with the MTGO shuffler, though, which is having fun colorscrewing my two-color decks every second game (not even including the ones where I’m generally manascrewed), while my opponents lay down a third turn 3/4 Tajuru Stalwart off a splashed rare land every second game (alright, that is probably not the frequency that this really happens, but it feels that way). I just absoulutely hate it when I build my deck for consistency and am still struggling to cast my spells, while my opponents seemingly run haphazard mana bases without issues…

Objectively, though, I shouldn’t complain. I have a very decent win ratio so far, and in my very first draft I managed to grab a couple of (then-) money rares and sold them immediately afterwards, when they were still absurdly expensive. I never opened anything really valuable again, though, but I was one of the lucky recipients of the mistakenly awarded Gideon, Ally of Zendikar – those were supposed to be use- and worthless avatars, but some moron at WotC mixed those up, to the delight of some players and the dismay of most traders. I even managed to sell it before its price plummeted!

As for the dynamics of Battle for Zendikar draft: The format seems medium fast. You probably do not want to put some of its really expensive spells in your deck if you do not have a good plan how to support them, but you are also not required to run mediocre 2-drops if you do not intend to be aggressive, and most 2-drops are actually actively bad if you do not specifically focus on ending the game fast and being able to break through a solid defense. The colors seem reasonably balanced to me so far, but unfortunately the booster packs aren’t – some drafters are going to end up with five or more bomb-level picks, while others stare at empty packs each firstpick which do not even contain a good common. On the bright side, though, reading signals seems to work well, and thus you should usually get access to enough picks in your colors that you can finetune your deck for focus, curve and synergies, while still being able to snatch up a few useful sideboard cards and extra full-art lands.

Finally, an addendum to my Battle for Zendikar Limited Pool update: I decided to give Swarm Surge a chance as a black card synergizing with artifacts. Without eldrazi scion tokens, it will not be too exciting, but Black really needs it.

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An Inconvenient Truth, Part 2

This is a series about a topic – or several related topics – brought to my attention via a blog entry by Christopher Morris-Lent, alias CML. It started here, and you can find that blog entry here.

Responding to feedback: You might not be interested in what CML writes about, you might not share his opinions, and/or you might not like his writing style, but this is certainly not an article by a „small-minded“ person – a strange person maybe, and one could even make a case that he (still) has mental issues, but his observations prove he possesses both an eye for details and the ability to view the bigger picture. Also, he writes quite well – I have learned by now that the typical MTGBlogs reader is unable to recognize this, but you can just trust me on this.

As for the content of his writing: You should be interested in it, if you

a) belong to the group of players he describes – the PT wannabes who might or might not manage to qualify from time to time, but never reach the „gravy train“;

b) are interested in the demographics and dynamics of the Magic community; or

C) care for the discrepancy between how Magic is generally presented and how the state of that game really is.

While you’re here, let me give you a link to another, newer article by the same author. There he obviously revels in his ability to polarize his readership, but he also portrays a side of Magic tournaments which is usually swept under the rug. By the way, the very fact that a player on illegal drugs is able to win a prestigious tournament is telling and supports CML’s views about the competitive Magic scene!

The first thing I want to write about in a bit more detail is the obvious: Magic „Professional Torunaments“ pay a lot less than the comparison CML uses, e-sports tournaments. This isn’t just about a difference in payout, though: It means that Magic has a substantially different and vastly inferior quality than those sports. To put it frankly: There are no professional Magic players! Even platinum level means that you are barely able to support a living, and staying platinum isn’t guaranteed, no matter how talented you are and how much work you put into it.

There are two kinds of „professional“ Magic players: Those who do not actually make a living from playing, but from related activities like working for a large store or developing their own games; and those who are effectively taking a sabbatical, travelling all over the world while doing well enough (hopefully) to cover their expenses, but nothing more.

In contrast to players in really professional sports, you will never be able to set aside enough money during your active years to supoort your living thereafter – and it doesn’t matter at all that you can keep on playing Magic on the highest level for much longer, because you are not making any substantial profit. Also, it is highly unlikely that you will ever be able to convert your Magic playing skills into a later career, especially if you’re not living in North America – there are only so many jobs available in Wizards R&D and at Star City Games, and furthermore, I would be surprised if those payed really well.

Do not fall for those stories of former players who made all their business connections and got their dream job via the Pro Tour! For one thing, this is like the veteran paradox: Of course, everyone who tells you about the war survived it! The millions who didn’t just do not have a voice. Also, the situation of pro players around the turn of the millenium was likely a lot different from what is going on today.

The basic truth is: The „professional“ in „Professional Tournament“ is a lie. That there are no real professional Magic players is all you need to know to prove this, but actually every aspect of „professional“ Magic is a hilarious, pathetic joke, just as CML writes, and that means that this series will probably have many parts more.

Completely unrelated:

After being unable to draft for several months due to a blend of computer and health issues, I have finally returned to drafting on MTGO. I am hopelessly behind with my efforts to build up my collection via drafting, and therefore I might sit out Magic Origins completely. I seem to be unable to get rid of my Fate Reforged / Dragons of Tarkir boosters because I still do pretty well in that format (which is, of course, a good thing), so this is what I have been busy with while waiting for Battle for Zendikar. You may not care about them anymore, but for the sake of continuity, here are my 3-0 deck lists from the last weeks:

 

BorosGruu1lGruul2

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An Inconvenient Truth

There is something I wanted to write about for months now, and I decided to finally take it on, but I will try my best to make this a series of short entries instead of one endlessly long entry (or, worse, a series of endlessly long entries).

There is a blog entry on the internet which most of you probably do not know about, and I believe it is one of the most important pieces ever written about Magic. I give you the link further down, but I ask you to click it only after you read a few sentences I want to say about it first.

The writer of this article – going by CML – is full up to the brim with negativity, and it is easy to see that this is rooted deeply in his own private issues. There are a lot of obvious points to bring up against his rant: He is projecting his own negativity onto his hobby; he didn’t prepare for his PT experience, so he deservedly did badly and then felt bad about it; he is antagonistic towards other people and the PT community in general, so it is no wonder that he isn’t feeling comfortable in that community or making friends there. All in all, his article is overripe for rebuttals along the lines of „you see what you want to see“, or „you get out of it what you put into it.“

And yet, viewing his text only through this lens would be a big mistake. For one thing, he states some painfully obvious facts which other authors do not seem to bother with, or do not dare to write about. Also, just like negativity may blind you for good things you encounter, so can positivity blind you to bad stuff – but this writer kept his eyes wide open for the bad stuff and saw many things a lot more clearly than most. Lastly, that such a miserable and self-loathing individual felt a pull to compete in the Magic Pro Tour doesn’t seem to be a coincidence: My impression is that he is prototypical for a great many players with similar feelings and disposition, but he is the rare exception to write honestly about those. It is very interesting food for thought that the Magic Pro Tour seems to be tailor-made for such people…

I will go over that author’s claims in detail in future entries – there is a LOT to say! – but for the time being, I’ll leave you with the link to the original text:

 

The Magic: the Gathering Pro Tour Sucks

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