Modern Has Been Left to Die With MTGO

It’s no surprise that Magic: Arena is the number one priority for WoTC these days.  Though Standard-legal product has continued to be released on Magic the Gathering Online, the focus on any format that pushes the sales of new product has shifted in a big way to WoTC’s new flagship client; Arena.  As a result, older formats that are not supported by Arena are being left to die due to the unruly cost to build new decks or update old ones to remain competitive.

I’ve felt this on a personal level recently as I’ve logged in to MTGO to assess what updates I can make to my Modern decks after just a few months away from the client.  Keep in mind that I’ve got a rather large collection built over years of playing the game.  I’ve assembled Death and Taxes, Death’s Shadow, Scapeshift, Humans, Spirits, Devoted Company, and Control to name a few decks.  Having not made many significant updates to these lists since Throne of Eldraine, I’m finding that doing so with competitive consensus in mind would cost hundreds of dollars on average for nearly any list to be upgraded.

While high prices on newly printed cards are problematic, the value of older format staples has decreased.

The general trend for power creep resulting from WoTC’s F.I.R.E. philosophy has made for a HUGE influx in Standard-legal cards finding homes in Modern decks, yet the number of Standard-legal cards being infused into MTGO has been drastically limited (due to Standard and Limited players migrating to Arena combined with a general disinterest in the Standard format overall) causing availability limitations on what are now Modern staples.  Now, it’s certainly not the responsibility of just one particular subgroup of consumers to be solely responsible for infusing these pieces into the MTGO environment, however, removing the Standard/Limited element from MTGO has done quite a bit of damage to the balance of an economy that was reliant on and designed for consumers of a wider diversity of formats.

Unfortunately for Modern players, this seems to be one of the only ways to interact with their favorite format in an age where in-store play is suspended due to a pandemic.  It’s a damn shame, too, because the Modern format is in a particularly good place right now.  There’s a ton of great diversity between the decks in the meta and a bunch of exciting new cards being played.  Now, can you afford them?

The card Bonecrusher Giant does a fantastic job of illustrating the problem I’m getting at…

This card is played occasionally in Modern Red Blitz and RG Midrange decks.  It’s certainly not a staple of the format by any stretch of the imagination.  Beyond that, it’s only a rare so there should really be no problem with scarcity.  In paper, it’s not a problem.  A copy of Bonecrusher Giant can be acquired for $0.50-$1.00.  If you want to be fancy, you could even find a showcase version for $1.50.  Logically, one would expect a digital copy of the same card to cost less, if not the same amount as there is no physical resource cost to offset.  It’s just ones and zeros.

Unlike paper Magic, WoTC could…if they cared to…control the supply of digital copies available to players by simply increasing the appearance rate of a certain card in treasure chests awarded as a prize for leagues.  In fact, there are tons of creative ways in which this simple two-of in tier two decks could be made more available so that players could interact with the game they love.  Don’t forget that this leads to these players paying for entry fees for queues (roughly $2/per) and leagues (roughly $10/per).  WoTC will still get their money.  Don’t you worry!  

The cost of a Bonecrusher Giant on MTGO is $7

Don’t worry, this is just the tip of the iceberg.  I’ve gone through and compared the paper price of each card which currently appears in a Modern deck (ranging from Standard-legal to Modern Horizons) with the digital price of the same card.  In a few cases, the digital equivalents are cheaper but more often, you’ll see some HUGE markups on digital versions of these cards.  The biggest offenders are the mythics.

Here are the findings…

Zendikar Rising

Scourge of the Skyclaves$13$25
Omnath, Locus of Creation$12$25
Turntimber Symbiosis$9$23
Skyclave Apparition$5$20
Agadeem’s Awakening$17$19
Shatterskull Smashing$7$8
Forsaken Monument$9$4
Archon of Emeria$1$1.00
Maul of the Skyclaves$0.50$0.50

Core Set 2021

Elder Gargaroth is a whopping $31 MORE expensive per copy on MTGO.

Elder Gargaroth$18$49
Stormwing Entity$2.75$2
Mazemind Tome$1.50$1.50

Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths

Lurrus of the Dream-Den is TWICE as expensive per copy on MTGO.

Lurrus of the Dream-Den$5$10
Shark Typhoon$13$7

Theros: Beyond Death

Four copies of Uro online will cost nearly $300.  If you are interested in playing the best deck in the format, a playset of this guy is a must.  I guess you’ll have to make some tough decisions…

Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath$42$68
Klothys, God of Destiny$9.50$8.50
Dryad of the Ilysian Grove$11$2
Thassa’s Oracle$5$1.50
Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger$18$20

Throne of Eldraine

Bonecrusher Giant$1$7
Questing Beast$12$6
Castle Garenbrig$4$1

Modern Horizons

Seasoned Pyromancer checks in at $44 apiece despite seeing far fewer play these days in favor of more aggressive approaches to the BR creature decks.

Force of Negation$50$81
Wrenn and Six$60$65
Seasoned Pyromancer$29$44
Sunbaked Canyon$10$16
Giver of Runes$5$13
Plague Engineer$4$11
Prismatic Vista$29$10
Fiery Islet$10$9
Urza, Lord High Artificer$39$8
Nurturing Peatland$8$5
Archmage’s Charm$4$4
Silent Clearing$5$5
Waterlogged Grove$7$3.50
Unsettled Mariner$1.50$1.50
Kaya’s Guile$1$1

Just for fun, I’ve totaled up the cost of ALL of these cards to compare the overall cost of the paper versions to their digital equivalents:

  • Paper: $478.75
  • Digital: $570.5
  • Difference: Digital versions are $91.75 MORE EXPENSIVE

So what can WoTC do about it?


Just…give…a…shit! They said that MTGO wouldn’t be going anywhere when Arena was released.  Well, that’s certainly true.  It’s definitely not going ANYWHERE.  I’m so thankful that websites like Manatraders exist to allow us to mitigate the outrageous cost of these cards, especially when players who’ve already got so much invested into their collections are faced with such daunting updates to remain competitive at this point in time, BUT the fact that we need to subscribe to a service to continue to play a video game after we’ve already invested so much is a big ask.

Am I off base here or does anyone else take issue with an $80 playset of Skyclave Apparition or an $80 Force of Negation?  I’d love to involve myself with Modern again but I just can’t bring myself to do it at this point.  Until something changes, I think I’ll abstain.