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CardShark Content - Matthew Smith (4/18/2003)

I experienced my first injection of MTGO just about two weeks ago from this day. It all began with AOL, as nothing should claim origins in—but three free months is Satan on a CD. With my 56k modem whizzing like a moped on crack, I began the arduous task of downloading the monster.

Two days later I loaded it on my computer and we are in business.

For those of you familiar with the “MTGO Life” my 2-week tale may bring you back to electronic infancy. For others let this diatribe serve as a warning: This techno world of fast cards and quick tix isn’t for everyone. Beginner Beware! It looks glamorous through the eyes of an achieved player, but take heed padawan players—it’s not the coach who will pull you from this game, it’s your wallet.

I started my financial adventure with the $9.99 installation fee and then decided to put a draft set and five tickets on my Discover card. This came to roughly $25. With nothing to stop me but my connection, I clicked on ‘sanctioned events’ and sidled up to the draft table. Getting accustomed to the MTGO GUI environment wasn’t especially difficult, if you’ve been on the computer for a time it’s quite easy to adapt quickly.

I enter a draft, which collects two of my tickets and the OOL boosters that I bought. The drafts are filling up quickly on my virgin run so I’m sitting at a table in no time. I’m on a slow connection, coupled with the fact that there are extremely good drafters at the table, so this means I have to choose crap and I have to do it fast.

Legions generally has a few good elves for support and it’s not a bad idea to take pick them gingerly pick them up if you get caught between people taking all the blue goodness or red and green beast bologna. Knowing this I began picking up more elves as I was passed Wellwisher
Wellwisher
WellwisherSet: Onslaught
Cost:
2
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Elf
Rarity:
C
Number:
300
Artist:
Christopher Rush
Power:
1
Toughness:
1
Text:
T: You gain 1 life for each Elf in play.
, Wellwisher
Wellwisher
WellwisherSet: Onslaught
Cost:
2
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Elf
Rarity:
C
Number:
300
Artist:
Christopher Rush
Power:
1
Toughness:
1
Text:
T: You gain 1 life for each Elf in play.
, Tribal Forcemage
Tribal Forcemage
Tribal ForcemageSet: Legions
Cost:
2
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Elf Wizard
Rarity:
R
Number:
142
Power:
1
Toughness:
1
Text:
Morph 1G (You may play this face down as a 2/2 creature for 3. Turn it face
up any time for its morph cost.)
When Tribal Forcemage is turned face up, creatures of the type of your
choice get +2/+2 and gain trample until end of turn.
. I’m not seeing any good red, so I’m hoping the guy across from me isn’t drafting Sparksmith
Sparksmith
SparksmithSet: Onslaught
Cost:
2
Color:
Red
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Goblin
Rarity:
C
Number:
235
Artist:
Jim Nelson
Power:
1
Toughness:
1
Text:
T: Sparksmith deals X damage to target creature and X damage to you, where X. is the number of Goblins in play.
/Lavamancer’s Skill deck with me drafting the elven weenie horde. I pick up some decent blue, but get cut off on the wrap around from the second pack. I finally settle into a decent splash of black.

As I’d hoped, Legions picks up the open ends and I begin drafting the Wirewood gang to top out the deck. At the end the deck has a few tricks—multiple Wirewood Pride
Wirewood Pride
Wirewood PrideSet: Onslaught
Cost:
1
Color:
Green
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
303
Artist:
Dave Dorman
Text:
Target creature gets +X/+X until end of turn, where X is the number of Elves in play.
, and some Hivemasters to stave off large attacks.

Somehow, amidst a few good players and a crawling connection, I find myself against my final opponent. This game was ugly. I found out where all the Lavamancer’s Skill went, and Provoke
Provoke
ProvokeSet: Stronghold
Cost:
2
Color:
Green
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
63
Artist:
Terese Nielsen
Text:
Untap target creature you do not control. That creature blocks this turn if able.Draw a card.
is not an ability the elves like. So I lose.

That was so much fun I play another with the packs I won. And lose. The packs go quick and it’s only 2 in morning…so why not once more? My credit card is getting warmed up as I run it through the Wizards store for another round of tickets and two boosters. Then back to the draft table. And I lose again. Maybe I’m not good at drafting. Or Maybe…

I need to try again.

Back to the Wizards store I go. I figure they should know me by name in a few weeks at this rate. I put another draft set and ten tickets in the card. Then….no, better make it two draft sets—just to be safe. I go through the ritual, hit’em wit da digits and…”We’re sorry, we no longer are accepting that credit card please try a different one.

WTF!?!! As they saying goes in MTGO. WTF!?! Is this? Okay, calm down. I carefully punch the number in again and…same message.

STFU! No way. What’s going on here? I immediately start checking around. I go to the mods in MTGO, Wizard help staff, the whole friggin WOTC web page before I receive an email to my questions fifteen minutes later. Basically what happened is they said that they were having difficulties with Discover cards and they weren’t allowing them until they had it sorted out in two weeks.

This wasn’t helping my latent drafting skills. Two weeks worth of multi-player is fine by me, but only if I can build my deck with the cards I want. As it stands now I only have a few good draft commons and a few random rares—nothing to impose fear into the hearts of my opponents. Casual constructed is out of the picture, as I have absolutely nothing close to a competitive deck in this pile of randomness.

You must understand that while I generally push my efforts towards Type I, I also dabble in other formats—and I’m an old school multi-mage from way back. Mirari
Mirari
MirariSet: Odyssey
Cost:
5
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Artifact
Rarity:
R
Number:
303
Artist:
Donato Giancola
Text:
Whenever you play an instant or sorcery spell, you may pay 3. If you do, put a copy of that spell onto the stack. You may choose new targets for the copy.
should be pretty good in the format, so after making a brief wish list, it’s off to the trade room looking to build my deck of doom.

After a couple weeks of trading (not continuously) I find out a few things about the underside of MTGO—one of them is that Mirari
Mirari
MirariSet: Odyssey
Cost:
5
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Artifact
Rarity:
R
Number:
303
Artist:
Donato Giancola
Text:
Whenever you play an instant or sorcery spell, you may pay 3. If you do, put a copy of that spell onto the stack. You may choose new targets for the copy.
is more than I’ll ever be able to afford without buying tickets.

1. Everything runs on a monetary system based on event tickets. Card values are determined by these tickets and actual play value determines the prices. Assuming that you want to buy a Psychatog
Psychatog
PsychatogSet: Odyssey
Cost:
3
Color:
Multicolor
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Atog
Rarity:
U
Number:
292
Artist:
Edward P. Beard, Jr.
Power:
1
Toughness:
2
Text:
Discard a card from your hand: Psychatog gets +1/+1 until end of turn. Remove two cards in your graveyard from the game: Psychatog gets +1/+1 until end of turn.
for your deck, which I did, you’ll spend about two tickets for one. Then you’ll need Circular Logic
Circular Logic
Circular LogicSet: Torment
Cost:
3
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
33
Artist:
Anthony S. Waters
Text:
Counter target spell unless its controller pays 1 for each card in your graveyard. Madness U
…this costs about four tickets. The difference? Logic is used more frequently in more decks. The real kicker is that some rares don’t even go this high.

2. If you want playable rares be prepared to pay for them. Upheaval
Upheaval
UpheavalSet: Odyssey
Cost:
6
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Number:
113
Artist:
Kev Walker
Text:
Return all permanents to their owners' hands.
runs about 16 tickets—this equates to roughly sixteen dollars if you’re buying tickets from the Wizards store. Some people have made it a job to buy tickets online and then sell them for less on E-bay or through Paypal. This means that the ticket isn’t actually worth one solid dollar…it can range anywhere from 85 cents on up. Because there are a lot of people starting from scratch, and because not as many people have opened packs, rares like Upheaval
Upheaval
UpheavalSet: Odyssey
Cost:
6
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Number:
113
Artist:
Kev Walker
Text:
Return all permanents to their owners' hands.
, Wrath of God
Wrath of God
Wrath of GodSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
4
Color:
White
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Quinton Hoover
Text:
All creatures in play are buried.
, Birds of Paradise
Birds of Paradise
Birds of ParadiseSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Mana Birds
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Mark Poole
Power:
0
Toughness:
1
Text:
Flying T: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool. This ability is played as an interrupt.
and others are very expensive when compared to their real life counterparts. The prices of these chase rares skyrocket with supply and demand. This hurts when you’re like me trying to trade for a deck. This means that commons like Deep Analysis
Deep Analysis
Deep AnalysisSet: Torment
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
C
Number:
36
Text:
Target player draws two cards. Flashback - 1U, Pay 3 life.
, Wild Mongrel
Wild Mongrel
Wild MongrelSet: Odyssey
Cost:
2
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Hound
Rarity:
C
Number:
283
Artist:
Anthony S. Waters
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
Discard a card from your hand: Wild Mongrel gets +1/+1 and becomes the color of your choice until end of turn.
, and Innocent Blood
Innocent Blood
Innocent BloodSet: Odyssey
Cost:
1
Color:
Black
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
C
Number:
145
Artist:
Carl Critchlow
Text:
Each player sacrifices a creature.
are very hard to get. Think of it in terms of trying to make a Tog deck. To make the deck you need 2 Upheaval
Upheaval
UpheavalSet: Odyssey
Cost:
6
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Number:
113
Artist:
Kev Walker
Text:
Return all permanents to their owners' hands.
—32 tickets, 4 Polluted Delta
Polluted Delta
Polluted DeltaSet: Onslaught
Color:
Land
Type:
Land
Rarity:
R
Number:
321
Artist:
Land
Text:
T, Pay 1 life, Sacrifice Polluted Delta: Search your library for an island or swamp card and put it into play. Then shuffle your library. Rob Alexander
—16 tickets, 4 Circular Logic
Circular Logic
Circular LogicSet: Torment
Cost:
3
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
33
Artist:
Anthony S. Waters
Text:
Counter target spell unless its controller pays 1 for each card in your graveyard. Madness U
—16 tickets, 3 Underground River
Underground River
Underground RiverSet: Fifth Edition
Color:
Land
Type:
Land
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Jeff Miracola
Text:
T: Add one colorless mana to your mana pool.T: Add U or B to your mana pool. Underground River deals 1 damage to you.
—15 tickets, 4 Psychatog
Psychatog
PsychatogSet: Odyssey
Cost:
3
Color:
Multicolor
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Atog
Rarity:
U
Number:
292
Artist:
Edward P. Beard, Jr.
Power:
1
Toughness:
2
Text:
Discard a card from your hand: Psychatog gets +1/+1 until end of turn. Remove two cards in your graveyard from the game: Psychatog gets +1/+1 until end of turn.
—8 tickets, 4 Compulsion
Compulsion
CompulsionSet: Torment
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
U
Number:
34
Text:
1U, Discard a card from your hand: Draw a card. 1U, Sacrifice Compulsion: Draw a card.
—3 tickets, and so on—meaning you have to have at least 90—120 tickets just to build this deck. This means that you need to drop $120 on your first purchase of the game just to have a deck to play.

This could get costly.

I began my trading, picking up the commons that I need and trying to adjust to this new pricing system. It’s a bit different to get used to the fact that some commons are worth an uncommon and some uncommons are worth more than a rare. I begin trading for Tog, but realize that the best thing to do is probably trade cards for U/G Madness, since it will be cheaper. The problem is that I need Circular Logic
Circular Logic
Circular LogicSet: Torment
Cost:
3
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
33
Artist:
Anthony S. Waters
Text:
Counter target spell unless its controller pays 1 for each card in your graveyard. Madness U
and I’m NEVER going to get them unless I have tickets.

I eventually trade my way up to a draft set of OOL and 3 tickets, and the lure of drafting is too great to resist. I lose again…but let me tell you, I was sooo close I wanted to pee my pants. Nevertheless, there goes a week or so worth of trading my proverbial tail off to draft just once, and with it all my desire and dreams of playing Magic on the Internet for a few days.

With this loss I learn a bitter lesson: You can work very hard and trade a lot to get what you need—but you can’t get everything you need. Based on the rate I was going, it would have taken me another three weeks just to get the U/G Madness deck I wanted, with sideboard. Granted, I did have fun in the process, but you run into a lot of people trying to rip you on MTGO, much like real life if you go to a big event. I like the fact that you can trade with a bunch of people at all times, but in doing so I also learned a few tendencies in certain players.

If you want to trade post Casual Trade on your message, most people who have this posted are only interested in trading cards for cards. Wizards did make like six rooms for people who want to buy and sell and do packs…but for some reason people don’t understand this and they all try to shark in the casual trading room. You’ll run into people who have Casual trade and then an explanation of what they are also selling. You can oftentimes figure out whether you want to trade with this person by the cards that he is selling or the prices that he expects to get out of them. I always found that people who are honest and try to be fair in their trading don’t have a grocery list of cards they are buying and or selling in their tag line.

Most of these “dealers” are people who are buying cards from the auction room (/join auction) at low prices and then selling them back to the populace at double the price. This is all right if you are really looking for a card right now and don’t want to wait, but generally it’s a better idea to wait it out and find the best price for the card you want.

After all that trading and casual playing it’s been two weeks later and I’ve almost got the cards I need to make Rob Dougherty’s Elven Call deck. It’s not a bad deck, and I can also use it for Tribal Wars in the casual room, so that’s a plus. Now I only need to find Coat of Arms
Coat of Arms
Coat of ArmsSet: Exodus
Cost:
5
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Artifact
Rarity:
R
Number:
131
Artist:
Scott M. Fischer
Text:
Each creature gets +1/+1 for each other creature in play of the same creature type. (For example, if there are three Goblins in play, each of them gets +2/+2.)
and Caller of the Claw
Caller of the Claw
Caller of the ClawSet: Legions
Cost:
3
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Elf
Rarity:
R
Number:
121
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
You may play Caller of the Claw any time you could play an instant. When Caller of the Claw comes into play, put a 2/2 green Bear creature token into play for each nontoken creature put into your graveyard from play this turn.
. Let’s see, this should only take about two months or so…



Viva,


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