The most important part of implementing a system is to start with a goal. One that is realistic and achievable, yet will push you. However, the most important thing is the prerequisite that you believe you can do it, and that you can do it starting from next to nothing.
For me it all began innocently enough: in a Scars of Mirrodin 8-4 draft. My collection was dismal, and I only played Magic Online to draft occasionally. However, that draft would end up differently, not that I won, but I opened a Tezzeret Agent of Bolas and a Foil Koth of the Hammer. A smooth 50 tickets from a bot later, I was the proud owner of a Vampires deck. I began to grind dailies, putting up positive results against the boogey man at the time: Caw Blade, a vastly more expensive deck. As I reinvested my winnings into my account and grew my collection, I slowly but surely began to break into other formats besides Standard like Block and Pauper. Today, I barely play MODO unless testing extensively for tournaments or when I actively want to play in a MOCS. My collection is worth roughly 2k and I have the cushion to play any deck I want by buying and selling off other cards at a small loss.
What’s the point of my story? It is not to brag, but merely an illustration that anyone can build an “infinite” MODO account and have the capability of playing in the MOCS every month. Being a great player is not a necessity, rather the important part is to follow a system, and be disciplined about your decisions online. Improvement will come naturally through repeated play.
Step One: Pick a Constructed Deck
Unfortunately, current standard is on average more expensive than in the past, so there will be a barrier to entry. Websites like Mtgotraders.com and Mtgo-stats.com are excellent resources for getting a handle on card pricing. There are a few key things to note here, specifically that you should pick a deck that you will enjoy playing, as you’re going to get intimately acquainted with it for quite a while.
Generally speaking, it is also better to jump into a new standard format rather into an established one, cards tend to be cheaper and you will get more value from your investments for a longer period of time. Furthermore, if you wish to start with a Standard or Block constructed deck, try to pick an archetype that has cross playability in its adjacent format, it will be easier to break into the other side once you’ve done a little bit of winning, and you will be able to extract more value from your investment. We’ll elaborate upon this further later.
Step Two: Play in Daily Events
More than anything else it’s important to understand how tournament structures work on Magic Online. Starting off, constructed Daily Events are absolutely the best take for your ticket. They have the least variance: a first round loss can still result in a triple up, and they also provide a lot of play for a low cost of 6 tickets. They will make you money and make you better, but still only tend to be 3 hour time investments.
Two mans yield a ticket or ticket and a half per win while risking two, making them a poor choice. Drafts are the absolute worst value: risking upwards of 13 dollars for a chance to barely double it at best. Never play in them if your goal is to build your account, relying on opening expensive cards is an uncontrollable pipedream.
8 Mans lie in the middle. They are excellent for grinding points and multi-queuing once you’ve made the transition since they are fast and they do allow you to break even with a first round win, but a quick loss and being out 6 tickets is not the best approach for the beginner grinder. Premier Events should be avoided initially as well. They are slightly more expensive at 10 tickets, do not start paying better than Dailies until the top 4, and are also a large investment of time. That being said, their top end payout is very strong and the cost is not prohibitive, making them a fine choice later. Starting off: play in constructed dailies as often as possible and you will be rewarded.
Step Three: Reinvest your winnings
Generally speaking, having tickets or packs on your account beyond a bankroll to keep entering events is worthless. Cards are extremely liquid due to the hundreds of bots that can be interacted with 24/7 to purchase them. As a result, there is no reason not to constantly be buying more cards for your collection. Having no packs available on my account has always reduced the temptation to have “fun” and blow them on a draft as well.
Going back to step one, once you’ve picked a deck and started winning with it, the most important part is to ensure you keep doing so. Data about Magic Online is never in short supply, and it should be utilized. Never get lazy and let your deck lists get stagnant from week to week. In particular, tweaking sideboard cards tends to be extremely cheap since they are often rarely used role players, they won’t cost much money and they will help you win matches more than other type of card.
Afterwards, start actively pursuing additional decks in other formats. Everyone is busy, and with Magic Online’s schedule changing at a far more rapid pace than our lives, having the versatility to join any type of constructed daily that is about to fire when we are free is a valuable part of keeping the grind alive. Furthermore, having more decks means more variety, which helps keep playing online fun and a learning experience.
Outside of building decks, what should you be turning your tickets into? Constructed staples might be the obvious answer, but the Magic Online economy responds dramatically to new information. It just so happens that new information is often flawed. As a result, the “flavor of week” tends to only artificially spike the price of what just did well, regardless of whether it has real staying power in the metagame. A good rule that I’ve learned is to always put my money into lands and undercosted mythics. Lands have some of the highest utility, are always necessary to play constructed, and never lose their value. Respected Mythics that haven’t quite gotten their turn tend to start relatively low, between 7 and 12 tickets, and if they make the cut: explode and never go down again while they are still in Standard. Having an eye for powerful mythics and buying them aggressively is how you will acquire 7 ticket Sphinx’s Revelations, 3 ticket Olivia’s, and 15 ticket Liliana’s. Tickets will always be worth a dollar, but Mythics have so much potential, buy them!
Step Four: Aim Higher
By treating your Magic Online account like a structured business, you now have the ability to start leveraging your account and abilities to break into the paper world. This means the MOCS. Being qualified for the Magic Online World Championship is one of the most prestigious accomplishments in competitive magic today. It is a unique, high payout event, akin to being the Invitational of Magic Online. Reid Duke is the shining example of someone who broke straight through the barrier of Pro Magic by grinding online and winning the Championship in 2011.
Once you have a sizeable collection, decks, and the freedom to play in the best event suited to your leisure time, acquiring the points necessary to qualify every month simply becomes a matter of committing the time and discipline. Premier Events become extremely desirable due to their high QP payout, and 8 mans are now a great way to try to acquire a point in-between rounds of a daily. Phantom Sealed events, which have next to no value for building your account, also become great low risk distractions that can acquire points while multi queuing. At the highest level of playing Magic Online, it is acceptable to start bleeding tickets for QP’s. Your account is self sustainable. That being said, if you begin to make poor choices and transition into playing drafts, poor events for points, or running into MTGO Ptq’s unprepared you will start to see your hard work dwindle away. If you want to keep becoming better by utilizing Magic Online, the key is to stay consistent, disciplined, and above all make and work towards new goals that will push you further.
Thanks for reading,