Written by Death by Variance. Find out many more knowledgeable and interesting articles at his personal blog here.
For many of us who consider ourselves as competitive MTG players, this is the dream. Turning a hobby into a profitable sideline that at the very least pays for itself. However, it is a dream that cannot be accomplished on paper, except perhaps by the most tenacious players. The fact of the matter is that paper magic is a money sink. This is largely because the resale value of packs drops significantly once they are given out as prizes. The 8 packs you just won from getting first place at an FNM will likely have resale value between P800 to P900, about 50% lower than SRP. Did 3-2 in the tournament? You’re likely out of contention for any prizes.
So, is it possible? Can a regular FNM grinder get to a point where playing MTG becomes essentially free and instead of costing money, generates a steady stream of additional income? The answer is yes, but only on Magic Online. The reason behind this is simple, tournaments on MTGO just pay out better than any tournament on paper. In this entry, we explore the two available types of constructed leagues on MTGO which are currently offered across all formats (Standard, Modern, Brawl, Pauper, etc.), their costs, their payouts, and how these compare to our typical local FNMs. If you who are entirely new to MTGO, you may want to read up on my short primer about it here.
The first league type is the friendly league. In this league, you play 5 rounds of magic at your convenience using the same deck. “At your convenience” here means that you only need to finish one round in one sitting. You can play one round now, the next round a few hours later, or even the next day or week. It is entirely up to you. It costs 8 tickets or 80 playpoints which translates to $8 or P400. The payout is as follows:
5 Wins = 8 Treasure Chests + 80 playpoints
4 Wins = 4 Treasure Chests + 80 playpoints
3 Wins = 3 Treasure Chests + 80 playpoints
2 Wins = 40 playpoints
1 Win = 20 playpoints
0 Wins = 10 playpoints
This means that as long as you do 3-2 or better, you win back 80 playpoints which allow you to join the next tournament for free. In addition to this, you win treasure chests. Details of what these are can be found in this link, but the important thing is that treasure chests can be sold directly to bots typically between 2 to 2.6 tix. Let’s stick to the low end of 2 tix which means that each treasure chest is worth P100. Thus, the total prize structure in peso is as follows:
5 Wins = P1200
4 Wins = P800
3 Wins = P650
2 Wins = P200
1 Win = P100
0 Wins = P50
Now, in order to compare this with a local FNM, we set FNM cost to P400, with all entrance fees going towards pack prizes computed at P150 per pack (which is already quite competitive). This means for a 17-man FNM (the smallest number that can reach 5 rounds), the prize support is 45.33 packs. Let’s round this up to 46 packs. However, a pack’s resale value is only around 100 to 130, let’s say you are actually able to sell them at P130. This means the actual net prize support is P5680. On the other hand, with 17 players, there will be about 1 5-0, 3 4-1’s, 5 3-2’s, 6 2-3’s, and 2 1-4’s. Based on the prize listing above, this means that if the store applied the same prize support as MTGO’s friendly league, they will need P8250. That’s a difference of at least P2570, which translates to over half a booster box worth of prizes. This difference of over 30% will be maintained as more players are added and will even widen further.
Another important fact is that for a 17-man or higher FNM, 3-2 typically nets you nothing unless you have high tie-breaks, and even then, you will probably only get a few packs which will not even cover the entrance fee. On the other hand, in a friendly league, it 3-2 gets you your entrance fee back and P100 profit regardless of your tie-brakes.
The second type of league offers even better prize support. This is the competitive league. It costs 12 tix (P600) and pays out only to players with 3-2 rankings or better as follows:
5 Wins = 16 Treasure Chests + 180 playpoints
4 Wins = 8 Treasure Chests + 180 playpoints
3 Wins = 1 Treasure Chest + 120 playpoints
In peso this translates to:
5 Wins = P2500
4 Wins = P1700
3 Wins = P700
Which means for a 17-man pod, the total prize support needed would be P10850 compared to P8926 if following the store FNM prize structure. Notice that the friendly league has much better value than the competitive league, since the latter is closer to the store FNM structure. This is true, but at the same time, doing well in competitive leagues (4-1 or better), will also allow you to win qualifier points (QPs). QPs can be used to join high level monthly events for free, on a ladder that leads directly to the pro tour!
Thus, the main takeaway from this article is that if a local FNM grinder did his grinding on MTGO, he has a much higher chance of doing well enough so that he gets to play every game of magic he wants for free. How good do you need to be to do this? The bar is set pretty low. Probabilistically, if you are capable of winning 3 out of 5 rounds on average (a 60%-win rate), then going infinite on MTGO is certainly within your reach.
May the shuffler be with you.