Grinding on Magic Online: Part 1

Dmitriy Butakov

Dmitriy Butakov

Hello everyone!

This is the first article in the “Grinding on Magic Online” cycle.

MTGO

Image Copyright: Wizards of the Coast

Before we begin, it’s not a user’s guide for the client and not a beginner’s guide. I expect you to be familiar with MOv4, the tournament schedule, prize structure and the product (Tickets, Treasure Chests, Play Points, etc.). The article is 100% constructed, so you should have some card pool or a way to acquire it. Although the article is not format based, there will be few practical examples with the cards from the current metagame, if you come across it long after its release, we just got Guilds of Ravnica.

Success rarely comes without good preparation, so now we are going to talk about the base things you have to do and understand before the game begins. I will share my thoughts on bankroll management, best event and deck types for constructed grinding and some general tips.

What is “Grinding” ?

First of all, just so we are clear: Grinding is not about sharpening your skill with a specific deck(but it’s possible), it is not about having fun and it is not about making the best play all the time. It is all about making the biggest profit in as little time as possible.

Your goal may be building your collection, grinding enough Qualifier Points(QP) to participate in every MOCS event to climb the leaderboard or whatever. It’s better to play 12 matches using a fast deck (It’s not about the turn you win, but the time it takes to click the win through, so aggro decks are not always “fast” ones, but we’ll talk about it later) quicker than 5 matches with a slow one, i.e. some control build. Yes, the control deck provides you a better chance of 5-0 sometimes, but your every round is about to be 30-40 min (unless you lose quickly), there is a plenty of decks you can play an entire league during that time. If we had to write a motto on our banner, it would’ve been:

Maximize Velocity

Bankroll and Collection Management

MO-collection

The most important thing here is your collection is now your instrument; it is a professional set of tools. You keep your tools nice, clean and always-in order.

80% of players’ mistakes about bringing the bad build of a deck to the event somehow concerns financial aspect. It’s ok to play 3 《Rekindling Phoenix》 if the 4th ruins your curve or you expect a lot of 《Vraska's Contempt》, but it’s terrible to play 3 if you don’t have the last one, just imagine you get a game loss every 4th game to make a single 25$ cut. I’ve already lost count of people asking for an advice how to make the deck cheaper without losing its strength-there is no such way.

Back in the day there was no MO card renting services and the only option was to buy many cards. I continue to stock my collection to be able to shift decks quickly, but it is more because I do not like to owe stuff. All my friends who tried it tell if you are not a grumpy Russian, the renting services should be just fine. It’s also quite a stimulus to play actively-to make your money work.

Play Points System

Play Point

Image Copyright: Wizards of the Coast

Speaking of common mistakes, Play Points (PP) are ok; when Wizards just introduced them along the new League system, there were two groups of upset people

There was also a secret group of people who were upset by a) and b) both, it was like “I’m so good, I’m gonna win so much, these PPs would just keep coming! But 12 tix/120 PPs is so expensive, I don’t want to spend that much!”

Yes, sometimes you can’t use PP immediately, but I can hardly imagine a situation where you have 2000+ extras for a long time. Sometimes you have to prepare for some limited events, sometimes you just want to grab a drink and play some drafts. The point is if your PP count has less than five digits in it, you’re good.

How to Collect Cards

If you’ve decided to build your collection, I have a few advices:

What, When and How to Play

The simplest answer is just play Competitive Leagues, there are 4 kinds:

Standard

Vraska, Golgari Queen

Good old STANDARD has one serious problem – it is very deckchoice-poor. You are playing rock-paper-scissors all the time and there is little room for “smart-assing” you way through. It also has one downside, can’t really call it a problem, but often the format is pretty slow. However, there is a bunch of advantages

Modern

Mox Opal

MODERN is my favorite by far, it allows you a great flexibility with deck choice, but more important, it is very fast format and you can just blast through your matches, my personal record was like 20 minutes for an entire league. Now to the tricky part, if you are not preparing for some big event, the optimal grinding plan for Modern is just to play unfair decks. Free and fast wins, could you dream of anything better?

The problem is constant changing metagame; it is always hostile to a deck made for beating the unprepared. There is a simple solution-just have more of the unfair decks! I think 3 is the number, one noninteractive fast clock (Affinity, Bogles, Burn), one Graveyard abuser (Dredge, Bridgevine) and one Turn 3 killing-combo (Storm, KCI). Also I suggest having one Midrange or Control(Jund, Mardu Pyromancer, UWx control) deck with good hate options for the rare occasion of all metagame consisting of decks vulnerable to disruption. One more time, this plan will not give you the highest win percentage in the city, it is about MAXIMIZING THE EXPECTED VALUE of your playtime. The advantages are obvious:

Some disadvantages, however, are not that obvious:

Summarizing this I’d like to say the weight of advantages are way bigger and I recommend Modern as your main grinding format.

Legacy

Force of Will

Can’t say much about LEGACY, there are not many people in the leagues, all matches are pretty long, it’s not as expensive as people think it is, but having multiple decks will hit your wallet hard. If you are a Legacy fan with a huge experience, probably it is worth a try, in any other situation I’d pick another format.

Vintage

Black Lotus

VINTAGE has its own Competitive League, but there are 100- people there, waiting that long for a pairing is unacceptable.

What’s the Best?

Other grinders will put a price on my head for sharing this, but the best tournaments are Vintage and Commander Challenges on Saturday.

Vintage Challenge
Commander Challenge

Image Copyright: Wizards of the Coast

There are usually about 45 people, the payout is just insane, top32 gets their entry back! Even if you never played the formats, but you can acquire the cards (Vintage Dredge is 150 tix and it constantly appears in top8), start playing, it’s a very low risk/high reward scheme. Keep in mind it works only for Vintage and Commander and ONLY because there are not much people in there, other challenges’ payout is mediocre.

Qualifier Point

Image Copyright: Wizards of the Coast

I’m not mentioning Limited, because I didn’t play it much before, now I have to test for the PTs, but from the grinding perspective I still think constructed is better for more people. I know there are a several good limited grinders, but I’m not among them.

The only very solid upside of Competitive Draft Leagues is 2 QPs for the 1st place, if you need to hit 35 quickly, drafts are the fastest way.

Conclusion

The playing process is a thing you better have good organized and we’ll have an in-depth look on it in the next article.

So far I hope you have enjoyed the reading and, despite lots of things here are obvious for many of you, will find something useful.

Thank you and see you online,

Dmitriy Butakov

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