Initial Technology – Going Infinite on MTGO

As many of you know, I really got my start on MTGO. Playing online is what really honed my skills, and certainly helped me form connections to other skilled players. I actually met Cheon through MTGO, as had played a few times prior to actually meeting at Pro Tour Philadelphia. It is no surprise that I would recommend that any serious player be at least somewhat acquainted with online play, since it is by far the most convenient way to practice most formats.

The biggest objection that most people have to MTGO is the price, as drafts cost 14 or 15 dollars and buying into Constructed can be a daunting endeavor, particularly when one already has all the cards in their physical collection. It really isn’t that hard to “go infinite”ย (aka, never have to spend money to draft or play constructed) past the startup costs, and this article should help shed some light on the process. It is all pretty simple, but it is a very common question (I noticed someone asking FFfreak that in the comments of his last article), so I figure it is worth going over . I am going to assume that you have not a single card online, and go from there, although most people have done a few drafts at the very least. It goes without saying that you should take some time to be comfortable with the interface before entering any tournament, but keep in mind that you will lose to misclicks from time to time. I even do, and while it is annoying, it is part of the territory. I personally spam f6 all the time (which passes all your priority for the rest of the turn), but I would advise newer players to never use f6, as it leads to missed land drops on Turn One for those unskilled in its usage.

Play Constructed

Yup, that really is it. The secret to going infinite on MTGO is to play Constructed, more specifically Standard. I would be remiss in my duties if I left it at that, but if you wanted the Cliff’s Notes version, those two words would be it.

Build a good Standard deck

There are a few criteria when deciding what Standard deck to build. Cheap is ideal, since buying a whole deck from scratch is fairly expensive. Even though cards are generally cheaper online (since there are basically no transaction costs), you do have to pay for everything, from Vivid Creek to Cryptic Command. The first hurdle you have to overcome is the initial cost, so don’t be intimidated. Yes, it seems like a pain to buy a set of Cryptics and Reflecting Pools when you already own them IRL, but you aren’t just throwing your money away. These are real objects, and you can easily resell them if you desire. It always bugs me a little when people rail about “wasting”ย money buying stuff online; just because the cards are digital doesn’t make them a black hole.

Anyways, back to deck selection. When I started, we (me and my roommates at the time) build KCI, the Krark-Clan Ironworks deck (Manuel Bevand’s deck, found here), that killed with Myr Incubator or Goblin Charbelcher. It was basically strictly worse than Affinity, since it lost to the same hate cards, was maybe a little faster, and lost terribly TO Affinity itself. Disciple of the Vault made it pretty tough for the deck that needs to sacrifice all its artifacts to win.

Still, KCI had one advantage: It was really cheap to build. We had looked at all the decent Standard decks, and KCI was by far the cheapest, probably clocking in at less than 30 dollars (since we had a bunch of the commons and uncommons already). Once we had that going, we won enough in the 8-man queus to build Affinity proper, and from there we went infinite quite easily.

My point is that there are often decks that are much cheaper than others, and if you are under budget constraints, or as in our case simply don’t want to spend much actual money on MTGO, and the cheaper deck can often be good enough to get you started.

I don’t want to examine all the decks in Standard for price, since I have no idea on current pricing, but I would imagine that something like Red-Black Blightning is much cheaper to build than Five-Color Control, and both are probably good enough right now for you to win with.

You also want to keep the timing of set rotation in mind. Two years ago, Faeries would have been an excellent investment, but now I would probably shy away. Even without considering if Faeries is good right now, since it is surely good enough for winning packs online, buying Bitterblossoms, Cryptic Commands, Mutavaults, and so on right before Lorwyn rotates is probably not the best use of your resources. Lorwyn is so overpowered compared to Shards that buying some stuff that will drop in value is unavoidable, but you will easily make that back once you start playing.

Play the biggest Standard tournaments you can

The awesome thing about playing Standard online is that you don’t have to have a great win percentage to be a winning player. Winning half your matches breaks even, assuming pack prices are 3 tickets each, and they are usually between 3 and 4, if not slightly above 4. That’s why I said that any reasonably deck is good enough, since even if BR Blightning has a worse percentage than 5-CC, it doesn’t have to hit that high a mark to be worth playing. One thing to be aware of is the pack payouts, as the value of packs varies wildly. At the moment, the 2-Man queus pay out a pack of Alara Reborn, which is only worth like 2 tix. With a 2 tix entry fee, playing for 2 tix makes absolutely no sense, so the 2-Mans should be avoided. Luckily, the 8-Mans are paying out M10, which is worth over 4 tix (I haven’t been on for a few days, so if my pack prices are a little off, well, that’s why).

The tournaments you want to be battling in are the bigger ones, as the entry fees stay the same but the prizes you can win increase dramatically. For example, take Daily Events vs 8-Mans. Both cost 6 tix to enter, but the prizes are better for a DE. If you go 3-1, you win 6 packs, and 4-0 gets 11. An 8-man pays out 5-3-2-2 to first, second, and 3-4th respectively. Your time is better spent playing in the bigger event (also, I don’t really need anyone to chime in about how much more money you could make working / playing poker. I’m not suggesting anyone quit their job to play MTGO, but if you want to spend your time on the hobby that is Magic, you might as well do it in the most efficient way).

I tend to play in 8-Mans more than anything, simply due to time constraints, since they are way faster, but if you have the time to play out a Premier Event or Daily Event, they are worth it. Another benefit to bigger events is the caliber of the players. I prefer to play against better players, and anyone whose ultimate goal includes getting better should as well. Some of the bigger PE’s are definitely close to GP-level competition, at the very least approximate to Day 1 of a random GP as you get to the later rounds. MTGO is a great learning tool, and part of the reason is that you have access to better players than those you can just find locally (not saying your local players are necessarily terrible, but having the access to a much larger and quite skilled player pool is awesome).

Don’t Draft

Anyone who claims that they are consistently winning product on MTGO via only drafting is exaggerating. I’m not saying that you can’t go infinite with just drafts, but that it is really tough, and you rarely end up with more than just a few draft sets in the end. You have to aggressively sell all the rares you get, and a few bad drafts can wipe out any stores you have just like that.

Everyone is going to draft; I mean that is the reason we are playing Constructed anyways, to subsidize our drafts! If you look at it that way, you have the right mindset. Just treat drafts as a money sink and you should be fine. Drafting is awesome, and really the reason MTGO works, but don’t look to them to provide product. The only exception is when a set first comes out, as singles sell for absurd amounts. Great Sable Stag is only worth a couple tix now, but I sold the one I rare-drafted in my first M10 draft video for 14 tix.

Sealed PE’s are actually fine, even if just about strictly worse than Constructed ones. You can still do well just playing Sealed, but I would recommend you play Constructed when you have the option.

Build a Network

Much like in real life, playing online is much better when you have a good team / group of friends. Like I said before, I started along with my roommates Matt and Ryan, which made things much easier. We all had our own accounts, but we pooled our resources to buy decks and whatnot. This does take some trust, as I know tons of people who have been ripped of by their friends, but use good judgment and you should be fine. I haven’t ever been scumbagged, and I lend cards to tons of people.

Having people you know online makes it so much easier to make decks, practice, and even just makes it more fun. Clans used to be awesome, although version 3 killing clan chat put a damper on that aspect of the game. Being able to borrow half a deck for a particular event is really awesome, as long as you occasionally lend out cards yourself. Nothing is more annoying than the dude on your buddy list who only messages you to borrow cards. Ultimately you will build up your collection to the point where you don’t need to borrow much, but when starting out it is pretty nice.


That really is it, you should be in good shape to go infinite on MTGO now. Not everyone has a couple hundred dollars to spend on digital cards, but if you expect to be able to put time into online play, selling some of your real cards or saving a couple bucks a week in order to buy in online is worth it. MTGO offers access to good players, competitive tournaments, and drafts at any time, which is pretty unbelievable. The most common thing I tell people when they ask how to get better is “play online”ย. Even if you just play an 8-man a few times a week while watching TV, you will get better.

Hello and Good Luck.


If anyone has additional questions or needs clarification, feel free to ask in the comments section, as there are surely things about MTGO I didn’t get to here!

88 thoughts on “Initial Technology – Going Infinite on MTGO”

  1. Thanks for the write up. I’m considering making a full-on switch to MTGO for a while, as my local metagame has huge issues with tournament attendance, and I have several playskill holes I’d like to work out before I start trying to play more serious events (ie: PTQ, Regionals, Grand Prix: Minneapolis) I see now that it really is worth the investment, despite what several locals are trying to tell me.

  2. So let me get this strait.

    Play Standard




    Gotcha Thanks for the help.

    On a more serious note though, I have been playing modo since judgment. i did sanctioned events starting at about mirrodin, and modo was a cash suckhole just because I did drafts. I built my first std deck during early lorwyn, and it seriously was that simple. You don’t need to be good to cut even in standard.

    Also, LSV spoke of building a network, anybody who wants to test/play standard with me hit me up on modo.

    Screenname Is jasmesxjason (I know I know)

  3. Great article, Luis. Anybody who complains about always having to rebuy into modo should read this article. Constructed really is the secret; you make a one time investment and, as long as you’re a competent player and playing a decent deck, it’s ridiculously easy to end up over a very small subset of events. I’m up over 80 tickets this week in constructed, and that’s only from playing in two DE’s and a handful of queues. If you put the kind of effort a lot of the better modo players put in, you could easily be turning a huge modo “profit” comapred to the initial investment you make.

    Anyway, I wanted to comment and say that this is an article that really needed to be written, and I’m glad you did. Great work!

  4. Im noobin it up on MODO – just wondering – where do you buy cards if not ebay? Do i need to purchase a bunch of tickets from wotc and interact with these “trading bots”? Just wondering if there is a protip on this one before I spend my cash. thanks!

  5. I will bear witess to the preaching of LSV……find something you are comfy with that doesnt cost and arm in a leg, then use your profits to draft the set when it first comes out and aquire all your cards that way soon you will be racking up the QPs and the tix (i have 30QPs and 60 ARC packs from crushing block daily events this month they are so easy)

  6. Great article, i’ve been looking for something like this for a while and very happy you put it so straightforward. A quick question. I know 8-4 queues put you against the best players and therefore you get better, which is the goal in the long run, but how should we know which draft to enter to “cut our losses” the most. I’m sure it depends on your rating and whatnot, but i often find just 2-1ing in swiss every time better than playing in the 8-4s. Every draft becomes like 5 bucks and you can do it quite consistantly.

  7. Great article and I have to agree about MTGO making you better I can see the difference in how I play now to how I did b4

  8. Man, wish you would have wrote this at the beginning of the summer. I’m going back to school and don’t really have the time to really accumulate anything online, or at least won’t once all my classes get in full swing. I tried going infinite on MODO through drafts alone, but I wasn’t good enough consistantly do it. It became quite a money sink so I had to give it up. If I got on a roll I would just draft more frequently and use up what I saved up. Also, I was so busy selling all my rares that I never put a constructed deck together. Seems like a big mistake.

    Still, useful info for the future.

  9. LSV,

    Generally I find your initial technology article to be very informative. I would be lying if I didn’t say that today’s article was disappointing. I would rather have had an anecdote at the beginning of the article answering the individual, who posed the question of how to go infinite on MTGO. However, sage advice is sage advice and I can’t complain too much. I’ll be on the lookout for more M10 drafts!

  10. I’m finally getting pay checks again and I’m getting back into Magic. I’m still deciding whether it’s worth it to have a paper collection or go online, but I think this article is a sign ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. MODO has no Mac-client, so you’ve got to add the cost and hassle of installing Windows XP via Bootcamp to that initial investment.
    About 129รƒฦ’ร‚ยขรƒยขรขโ€šยฌร…ยกรƒโ€šร‚ยฌ.. That’s a lot of Tix.

    Also, you have to pay taxes on product in Europe. I got a MODO starterset at a con with credit for a precon, and you couldn’t buy said precon because taxes making it cost more than the credit you got. (9th edition Wildfire precon, a decent base for playing said Standard at the time).
    It made online product cost more than real product..

    I’m still sticking to brick and mortar for the moment, at least until public transport gets on board free fast WIFI ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Amazing article. The matter is, once I was investing some hundred of dollars just to see my acc banned, without asking, etc. Believe me, I didn’t do anything wrong and they just keep saying they are investigating my case for like 2 years.

    THe subject should have been pointed out in your article, because after that I find it very risky to own virtual cards.

    thank you.

  13. Interesting topic! Quick add-on from statistics:

    Consider you have a win percentage of 50%, and packs have a seller’s price of 3 tix (that’s both already pretty crappy). In that case, in the 2-mans, you are averaging a loss: you have an EV of 1.5 (half of the time you win a pack), but you pay 2 to enter. However, in the 8-mans you already have an EV of 7.25 (0.125*5 + 0.25*3 + 0.5 *2), with an investment of 6 tix, that is you are already positive, even though our assumptions are very pessimistic. Of course at that rate it’s gonna take some time to work in your reflecting pools, but you will hopefully start winning more than 50% at some point ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. @Daiches – To avoid the evil that is VAT, many European players take advantage of eBay. Buy a bundle of tix there and spend those tickets in game for whatever else you need. I think the major bot chains like MTGOTraders will also look the other way on that.

    @LSV – Re: Deck choices, I’m a little surprised to hear you advocate the “cheap deck.” Among equals that’s fine, sure. But I think in paper and online, many players handicap themselves to save a few tickets up front, then miss out by losing the tournament because they were underpowered. Each one of those is $6 that went neither towards cards nor towards infinity.

    You are clearly right to Daily Events and PEs being better than con8s. In fact I wouldn’t advise con8s at all unless you already know you’re skilled. There is absolutely no “gambler’s edge” to those, 8 people pay in 48 tickets and get out 12 packs. It’s basically playing ante matches, which is fine if you are winning better than 50%. Compare that to 16 people in a daily event getting 35 packs for their collective 96 tickets. It’s just smart to lay your bets where you have an edge.

  15. @Kenseiden – I don’t know your circumstances, but nobody I know has been banned for nothing, so I don’t really think its a problem most people face. Not saying it is your fault, but if I don’t know anyone who has been arbitrarily banned, than it isn’t something likely to occur.

    @Amarsir – I don’t mean to say that you should skimp too much, but there are certainly comparable decks with different price tags. If the options are not play modo or buy a cheap deck, I don’t think buying a cheap deck is really that bad an option. I certainly don’t like the idea of people making decisions based on card availability, but the reality is that it would occur.

  16. @lsv would love to see an article on how best to make the move in the other direction… e.g. from an online shark to the PT. I’ve had a limited rating of right around 1900 for two years on MODO and have indeed gone infinite drafting and playing sealed events with a dab of constructed here and there and I can’t get a sniff of the Pro Tour… what r the skills that have to be developed in transferring from one mode of play to the next?

  17. True story: I went infinite off off the free draft set they gave people for beta testing 1.0. Wizards of the Coast has never had my credit card on file ๐Ÿ™‚

    That being said, Luis could not be more right about playing standard – the other formats just dont fire often enough to justify the initial cost). I would add that you be familiar enough with your deck (and the standard environment) so that you know you’re making a good choice when you invest in a deck.

    One thing I would suggest differently is to start on constructed 8 mans. In general, playing online is going to be a step up in quality to what most people are used to. Like Luis said, a Daily Event can often be compared to Day 1 of a GP. 8 mans are generally lower risk/lower reward, and are much more suitable to maintaining a stable source of tickets/packs. 2 mans are actually fine (provided the pack given out sells for 4 or more) as well. I don’t mean to scare people off from Daily Events (especially when the goal is to get better), but 8mans are generally a step up from any local competition, and a good stepping stone.

    One thing I think would be helpful to many people (self included), is a system of using trade bots and getting max value on trades.

  18. Sadly, I am most certainly not qualified to write an article about getting value on trades and whatnot. I’m definitely the guy who just pays the full price for everything as soon as the set comes out and then never sells the cards afterwards. I still have the same Vedalken Shackles (were worth 17 during Mirrodin-Champions t2) and Plow Unders (12 during that time), and the list goes on, since I generally do a pretty bad job of rotating my collection.

    That being said, there is definitely room to save money by being an efficient buyer, but I’m not the person to ask.

  19. A couple of my friends don’t have the money to sink the upfront cost into a tier one Standard deck, so I’ve referred them to pauper. Pauper’s great because a top deck can be made for as little as 7-10 tickets and pauper 2-mans pay out in M10 packs, which are worth over 4 tickets apiece right now. So you can start grinding up that way via 2-mans (and if a pauper 8-man queue ever fires, that would be even better). Pauper is commons only Magic, so it’s generally pretty cheap. A friend of mine put in $20 and he’s cruising along in pauper. At some point, that can be Standard, and then you’re really cooking.

  20. What I would certainly add to this article:
    If you are drafting; don’t be afraid to pick up that occaisional (foil) rare that you know is worth >5 tix. Even when you’re passing that Doom Blade when you’re MonoB.

    LSV picks those up in his drafts every once in a while (check the Strategy Video section !), so do I and so should you.

    It’s mentioned that picking up rares can be rewarding, but I find it essential that to keep my tournaments going on Modo I need to pick up those free tix every once in a while.

    For the rest: trading and keeping up to date with the prices of specific cards could be beneficial too. I’ve owned literally thousands of fetchlands (Polluted Delta, etc) over the years, buying them off season (Extended) for 5 to 7 tix each and selling them for 15 to 20 tix when people need to test for Worlds or a PT that has a format that allows people to bring those lands to the table. Same for Stifle, Chrome Mox, Engineered Explosives, etc: buy them off season, sell them when people are playing.

    I have to admit: sometimes it’s a hassle to keep yourself informed and your knowledge up to date, but if you’re talking about going infinite on Modo, trading wisely without having to screw people over could be worthwile.


  21. How is the deck quality on modo? I was reading gindy’s article and he faced some homebrew deck of debatable quality – is it common to find those decks or did he get lucky?

  22. One thing I forgot: recently, WotC started to allow players to participate in “Legacy” product events (http://www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.aspx?x=mtg/daily/other/072709a) without having to qualify first.

    I can strongly advice anyone to play in these events, because with a little bit of luck you should be able to make a nice profit on the product you’re opening.

    If you take the recent IPA tournament as an example (check the link I just gave you), obviously the goal is to get to 3-3 and break even on selling the draft set for 20 to 30 tix (bots are selling IPA for 9 to 11 per booster), but sometimes you get lucky with selling the rares as well…

    Who would have known that a foil Allied Strategies would be bought by a bot for 18 tix ?


  23. I went infinite in Morningtide Sealeds. You won about 12 packs for 4-1, so i just built UW or GW all the time and actually went 4-1 a couple of times and one 5-0 to boost. After that I had about 100 Tix and could buy a Budget T2 Merfolk Deck. After some 8 mans i could buy all the missing cards like painlands and I was set.

  24. Also playing pauper is nonsensical. You’ll be spending WAY too much money on the 2 player queues. You’d rather pay for a T2 deck instead of torturing yourself several months.

    Another good idea is to borrow a T2 deck from a friend who is playing modo. You could pay him interest or some compensation if you win something.

  25. I strongly recommend someone just getting into mtgo to start off in the pauper format. It’s an all common format and fires almost as much as std and pays out in m10. It’s a pretty fun format because of how many decks are viable and it’s fairly easy to go infinite off of it if you’re good. I recently started up on mtgo again with only 10 tickets because I sold off a lot of my collection and soon enough using pauper I was up to around 100 tickets. From there I did m10 sealed release events and am now close to 350 tickets. A lot of people will buy these tickets off you for like .88 cents using paypal or whatever so it’s definetly worth it if you want to make some extra money with a hobbey.

  26. @lsv This was a really great article. I’m at college and there’s no one around me that I can play with so MODO has always been the alternative. I completely agree about your idea that you need to play constructed to go infinite. One question I have for you is:

    What do you think about playing pauper to at least *start* to go infinite. Pauper decks, by definition, are dirt cheap to build and the competition isn’t impossible to beat. On top of that, the 2-man queues are always firing and they’re giving out a pack of M10 to the winner. Conceivably, since it only costs 2 tickets to enter and it’s giving out product that’s worth double the entry fee, it may not be a bad place to start playing.

    I’m just curious as to your opinion of playing in the pauper queues.

  27. What’s the best way to sell/buy on MTGO? It seems like the best way to get into it is to buy a bunch of tix to start (what’s the best place to buy those?) and then buy singles from there? What’s the best place to buy singles from? Is it worth your time to place ads in the program’s chat room and wait for them?

  28. lsv…please do more drafts! ๐Ÿ™

    I enjoy watchin draft videos, especially of M10…go go! ๐Ÿ™‚

  29. I would agree that its nearly impossible to go infinite in Draft, but I think its also nearly impossible to do so in constructed.

    The biggest cuplprit is the cost to build and maintain a competetive deck. LSV has even stated above that he buys cards at full price and doesn’t sell them. That is a major hit for most players and severly weakens your EV. Even if you sell off cards you don’t need you have the problem of difference in Buy/Sell prices stealing a lot of value. Not to mention that if you don’t need the cards – its likely that no one else does either (meta changes/rotation/etc)… further effecting the price. Pauper changes this of course, if you want to play it.

    Even then you have problems of what is being payed out. More often than not the packs are worth less than 4 tix (this is about how WotC values packs in a payout), usually about 3.5 or less – making the EV pretty bad for most players (the average player, by defenition, being 50%) and events. Things are a little different with M10 right now, but that is certinly not the norm.

    My guess is that most people who think they are going infinite are either spending a lot of time doing less than enjoyable tasks (squeezing small margins out of trades for example), are putting in money that they aren’t tracking, or are simply lieing to themselves…

  30. Really appreciate hearing that _nobody_ goes infinite off of drafts! That’s pretty much all I do on Magic Online, and I spend a lot. Now I don’t have to feel so bad and inadequate about it.

    Until I read that, I assumed there were a ton of people just that much better than me that were pulling off the dream.

  31. Thanks for article LSV! It was really helpfull to me as I’m considering starting MTGO for a while now.

  32. Good article (I’m somewhat in the demographic of ‘don’t wanna be wasting my money on digital cards’, so this was an interesting read) – I’d like to second the request for a system of using trade bots and getting max value on trades.

  33. Weekend Challenges (other than pauper) are also a great way to make profit on modo (when they actually fire.) They usually have 24-32 people and the payout is really good (25 packs for splitting in finals.) Pauper, not so much because that always has a lot more people in it but 100 card singleton and Standard with vanguard have kept me infinite through a prolonged bad run in other formats.

  34. Adam P bragging in here! Gratz man ๐Ÿ˜‰ Having had the pleasure of playing against u and getting whoopped by you @ VS, I am not surprised you went infinite off 1 random set haha.

  35. Just wanted to agree with what Ace of Drafts said about the weekend challenges. They pay out down to 16th which normally means that 2/3rds of the entrants get at least a draft set + whatever the promo is so its pretty easy to at least break even.

  36. Unlike the guy above posted, it’s not impossible to go infinite online. As LSV said, the key to this is playing constructed queues. I strongly suggest, that if someone is considering going infinite, to wait til Zendikar block is available. One set block formats, are very cheap and easy to make a profit from. This is how I initially went infinite. Now all I play is STD, Block and Sealed Events, and never once ever dreamed about paying for this game. It takes work, but it’s possible.

  37. @Average Drafter

    If you think it is impossible to go infinite in constructed, well, you might need to practice more. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t done well by playing Standard, as long as they take the time to make sure they know how to play their deck at a reasonable level of competency.

    Formats don’t rotate so rapidly that deck upkeep costs are prohibitive, as you usually don’t need to spend more than a few tix every couple months, maybe a bit more if you keep changing slots. Plus, after a while you have a good base of cards and you will often have the cards you need to change your deck without purchasing anything.

    @people talking about pauper –

    I have never played pauper, but if the 2-man queus are paying out a pack worth 4 tix or more, than it seems like a reasonable place to start. I would still recommend just taking the plunge to begin with, since 8-Man queus and Daily Events are going to help you more, but it is understandable if you don’t want to drop a few hundred dollars to begin with. I do think Standard is better for practice, since practicing Pauper won’t help you win a PTQ, but hey, not everyone wants to win a PTQ~

  38. @lsv well maybe there’s something wrong I did. I used my mom’s CC to activate my account and some friends. Later on I figured thats not cool. For the record: I didnt do it for profit, its just few ppl in brazil have CC.

    Perhaps I give wotc a call and ask them for forgiveness. I dont care about my online collection, but I feel really bad about having my name in a black list. How about it?

  39. Great article, thanks!

    It looks like currently, only M10 packs are worth around 4 tix, everything else pretty much sucks.

    Which of the 2 or 8 man constructed events pay out M10 packs?
    Are there any other events in particular that i should watch for? Thanks!

  40. If you think it is impossible to go infinite in constructed, well, you might need to practice more. – lsv

    Nearly impossible. You also have to consider that you are one of the best constructed players in the world and are highly motivated to know constructed metas since you can stay on the train and make real money. It is practically impossible for 95% (roughly, probably higher) to achieve this goal. Even more so with the card purchasing habits you describe in the post above.

    Do this – if you really think you can go infinite (this goes for anyone making this claim) keep a record of every draft/queue/trade/etc that do as well as any real money you spend on the game – including card purchases and sales. Be honest. Everyone I seen who has done this has ended up in the negative across the board over a reasonable amount of time.

  41. How can you possibly lose money playing Standard 8-Mans?

    Even if the packs are selling for 3.5 (right now its more like 4+), it isn’t that hard to get your win % to over 50%, which is all you really need to be profitable. It is really as simple as netdecking a good deck from a recent event and knowing how to play it reasonably well. To say that I only go infinite because I am one of the best, and that this is unattainable for 95% (or more) of people is a gross exaggeration. I know enough people just myself (most of whom aren’t pros by any stretch of the imagination) to disprove that easily, so I’m not sure how to answer you.

    What exactly are you doing that you are finding it so difficult to show a gain?

    If you have a good standard deck built and are losing more than 50% of your matches, I really can’t do anything but recommend you take some time to practice your deck before playing it in tournaments. I don’t mean to keep coming back to this, but I am honestly confused as to why you think it is so difficult to go infinite off constructed.

  42. @ AverageDrafter

    I am, by no means, a professional player. But I do not have to use my credit card to play online. I borrowed a standard deck and a block deck, and went to the 8-man queues to grind it out. I now have over 100 packs in my account, infi tickets and I don’t think I’ll ever be low again. It is not impossible to do this, I have plenty of friends (note: they are slightly above average in play skill) and they never ever pay either. Now, if all you do is draft, even if you are a consistent winner over time, you will lose packs, and not be able to go infinite, due to the cost of the event to enter, and the variance that takes place in a limited environment. You must play constructed to make a steady gain.

  43. I’m pretty awful at magic and I was basically going infinite playing nothing but Alara Block for a couple of months. :/ It really wasn’t that difficult, just be mildly competent at how cards interact with other cards and netdeck. Or take the AJ Sacher route and modify a popular deck to win the mirror and profit like that.

  44. If you have the time and play skill you can go infinite in any format. (limited draft/sealed constructed standard/block)

    It’s 100x easier in constructed as your paying minimal tickets for booster pack payouts.
    But it’s 100x more enjoyable and thrilling to play limited compared to constructed.

    I’ve been logging every single purchase/sale win/loss since April of this year and I’ve gone far further than infinite. I’ve made 800 tickets in profit, and my collection has grown from 80packs(april) to 280packs(now).
    I have played a grand total of 4 constructed events so I’m an example of a limited junkie who has succeeded in going infi in a shaky format. Its very easy to go infinite off limited but easier to do so playing constructed. I just refuse to play constructed as I have had enough success with limited and playing block/standard does absolutely nothing for me. I play for fun and to make money and as long as limited stays as profitable for me as it has I won’t even try to play any constructed.

  45. Btw, draft is horrible for profit (except 64-man RE PE’s)
    Sealed is the only way to keep making money in limited, and I have the numbers to back it up.

  46. @average Drafter,

    I don’t know where your plucking your numbers from, This week alone I have made over 200 tix playing standard 8 mans.

    It would be closed to 50-50 making a profit and going infinite than 95%
    every loser has a winner and 4 of the 8 man queues make a profit when packs are worth more than 3 tix.

    Go do some number crunching

  47. @lsv – Stupid question, but, lets take Gindy’s article from Sunday. I have built his deck from it (minus 1xbaneslayer – anybody looking to make a new friend :-). That is great, now I can tournament practice room it for a while, but how do I *really* learn how to play the deck? Maybe some strategy articles with video might be a good inclusion for us newer players?

  48. Well, I’ll concede the argument. I’ve run the numbers before, and did so yesterday before making my bold assertions – but more than likely I’m missing something here. I don’t play constructed enough to back it up, so I’ll abdicate to the empirical.

  49. >>Btw, draft is horrible for profit (except 64-man RE PE's)
    Sealed is the only way to keep making money in limited, and I have the numbers to back it up.

    How often do sealed’s fire?

    What’s PE stand for P-Event?

    I played MTGO beta but stopped upon release.

  50. For all of those interested in doing this it might be fun to note that starting in the 2010 Pro Tour Year you can officially qualify for the PT in your underwear! The reason most people can’t go infinite with drafting is the “Can’t stop” tendacy you get from winning. I have won an 8-4 and immediatly jumped back into one to lose and jumped into a 3rd one to lose yet again because your playing off a winning high or a losing tilt. I agree Standard is much easier to turn a profit than draft but both formats take some restraint. Just because you can play 24 hours a day doesnt mean you should.

  51. /It would be closed to 50-50 making a profit and going infinite than 95%
    every loser has a winner and 4 of the 8 man queues make a profit when packs are worth more than 3 tix.
    Go do some number crunching/

    Look, there are a lot of variables in play here – here is my analysis if you want it. My statistics are a bit rusty so I went with a 10,000 draft sample.

    8-Man Constructed – Prize Payout: 5-3-2-2-0-0-0-0

    Assumed Pack Value – 3.5 Tix

    Win% Expected Prize in Tix (rounded)
    40% -2 tix
    50% -1 tix
    55% 0 tix
    60% 1 tix
    65% 2 tix
    70% 3 tix
    75% 4 tix

    Figure out where you fall on that curve and figure in time/pack cost/deck cost/card value loss/etc and you can make up your own mind.

  52. So I am thinking about running an experiment. I am an average player and am looking to go infinite. I am thinking about taking $60 and building a budget deck with $30 dollars and the other $30 use to compete in 5 constructed events. Do you think that with this initial investment I could go infinite? For deck choice I am thinking about grabbing one of Jacob Van Lunen’s budget decks from the mothership site because he seems to build affordable and competitive decks. Anyway any thoughts on if you think this could work or not would be appreciated and if I actually run this experiment I will keep track of results and let you know.

  53. Sorry – expected value not prize.

    Oh, also keep in mind that if you took everyone’s win % it would be on a bell curve bunched up towards the middle. My initial estimation is that 90-95% of people are in between 40-60%.

  54. I can’t believe I didn’t think to write this article first.. Having this as the ground work definitely gives me things to expand upon in the future though. Thanks, Luis and nice job..

  55. @average drafter

    The bell curve would be normal and symmetrical because we assume that for every winner theres a loser.

    Mean, median and mode would be 50% as each winner has a loser.
    standard deviation would really rely on how good/bad and the variance of the players. my approx would be 8-10% so at 1 standard deviation on both sides of the mean 40-60% theres 68% of ppl that lie there. under your prediction 95% thats 2 standard deviations and more like 30-70% of w/l ratio. I can tell you now, if I win 70% of my games which i do, I’m well infinite, im more like 300 tix up. To maintain an infinite mtgo account, one only needs to make 1 ticket per tournament, every tournament, to achieve that yo only need >50% w/l ratio which is within 1 standard deviation and thus 50% of ppl

  56. I agree, constructed is a build way to gain wealth on MTGO especially standard.
    I ran a jundish cascade deck to the end and made tons of tix.
    o btw lsv, are you gonna be at the PTQ at super stars on saturday august 22? i am

  57. another thing, can you start doing constructed commented videos rather than just drafting? that’d be awsome!

  58. /The bell curve would be normal and symmetrical because we assume that for every winner theres a loser.
    Mean, median and mode would be 50% as each winner has a loser./

    /To maintain an infinite mtgo account, one only needs to make 1 ticket per tournament, every tournament, to achieve that yo only need >50% w/l ratio which is within 1 standard deviation and thus 50% of ppl/

    This is incorrect because everyone does not play the same number of matches. The extreme example would be 1 player playing a single match against four other players and beating them all. One player would have a 100% win percentage and the remaining four would have 0%. Mean = 20%.

    This is not too far from what happens in MTGO. Better players will tend to play more tournaments because they have higher EVs, can sustain their playing longer, and will typically devote more time to the game. They will also play more matches per tournaments because they are eliminated (or drop) less often.

    To put in other words a small but stable number of strong players feed on a much larger but rotating group of weak players. This is true for most games with a entry fee/prize structure.

    Secondly, card cost, card devaluation, and pack sell price (packs selling less than 4 tix) play a major role in determining the break even point and have been ignored in most of these assesments.

    Simply making 1 tix per tournament is not enough unless you play enough of them to counteract either the initial card cost (in the buy em and never sell LSV method) or the difference in buy and sell prices including devaluation over time. If you are playing a regularly rotating format then you have to play enough to make up this difference everytime there is a card rotation.

    If someone else is providing you cards, you aren’t going infinite – you are just shifting costs to someone else. To be truly infinite you have to either have a closed system or you have to take into account what input you are receiving from the outside.

  59. Just looking at 8 man single elims the mean win % is 33.33%:

    (1 + .666 + .5 + .5 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0) / 8 = .3333

  60. Excellent, excellent article. I will be sticking to draft queues until Zendikar rolls out, but I guarantee that I will be buying and building something for Standard/Block Constructed once October rolls around.

  61. Well I made the mistake believing I can go infinite with drafting and have lost 300$ thinking that i really suck at magic.Seems there arent many people around going infinite with drafting.Since you suggest playing constructed and actually without a tier 1 deck which would cost too much,could you recommend a budget deck that has some potential?For example i am trying a naya build but without figure of destiny which is rotating and costs a lot and i cant say the results are good enough,so any budget deck that can actually compete?

  62. @bigben

    I am currently running a RB Blighting Burn deck designed to punish Fae and 5c which are everywhere on MODO. It cost me about 15 tix. The list is actually a direct copy from the WOTC article “Building on a budget: Beating up 5 Color”

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  64. It can’t be that hard to be “infinite” from just drafting, although I should say that that depends on your definition of infinite. For me, I just want to play drafts for free, and I could care less about playing constructed or turning a profit or whatever. I’m a pretty lousy player (my rating right now is like 1760), so I just play 4322’s and I’d say about half of them I get 1st or 2nd. Usually with a rare draft or two thrown in that’s enough to play again. And when you open good money it’s like getting a free draft right there. I’m always walking the edge of having to buy more product, but that’s because I keep wasting my packs and tix on things like sealed events* that have terrible payouts or 84 drafts that have good players in them.

    (* For example, I just got 10th in a ALA sealed PE which got me 3 packs. I went 4-2, losing to a fellow who’s username was that of a GP winner and someone tied for 12th in the online POTY race. That record in 4322’s would likely have got me six packs or more, plus whatever I managed to rare draft. That is, I’d be even or better instead of down 3 packs.)

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  67. What do you think about Block Constructed instead of T2 as a means of going infinite? Reason I’m asking is that I have a lot of Shards cards from drafting and was wondering if it would be worthwhile.

  68. @xLeitix: Your math is off. The EV for the 8-man queues and the 2-man queues is the same. As you said, the EV for a 2-man queue is 1.5 (assuming the prize packs are worth 3 tix–half the time you win a pack). For an 8-man, this is the correct math, provided you win half your matches:

    0.5=0 (Half the time you lose the first round)
    0.25=2 (25% of the time you lose the second round)
    0.125=3 (12.5% of the time you lose the finals)
    0.125=5 (12.5% of the time you win the tournament)

    So, it’s 0.125*5 + 0.125*3 + 0.25*2

    or 0.625+0.375+0.5=1.5 (you win 1.5 packs per tournament)

    3*1.5=4.5. So your EV is 4.5 tix, Exactly 3 times the EV for a 2-man queue, which costs 1/3 the tix to enter (2 instead of 6).

    Right now, both ZEN and WWK are around 3.3, so it’s 1.65 and 4.95 (still the same exact ratio).

    This has me intrigued, though. So I’m going to start taking note of when the prize packs are going for more than 4 bucks. Also, I’m going to do the math for daily events, though my hunch is its the same or similar. (I think that premier events would vary based on the number of players.) I’m also going to figure out what percentage you have to win to make +EV based on the price of the prize packs and if it varies by different format.

  69. I did the math and for daily events, the EV is indeed higher:

    You will be 4-0 6.75% of the time.
    You will be 3-1 18.75% of the time.

    Showing my work, after 3 rounds your odds of being:
    3-0 is 12.5% (6.25% will be 3-1 from this group)
    2-1 is 25% (12.5% will be 3-1, 6.25+12.5=18.75%)

    So EV=0.0625*11 (12 points gets 11 packs) + 0.1875*6 (9 points gets 6), or
    0.6875+1.125=1.8125 (Your EV in packs per tournament is 1.8125.)

    @3 tix per pack, EV=5.4375 @3.3, EV=5.98125. So a Daily Standard Event right now is almost exactly even EV, and if the prize packs went to 3.4, it would be +EV.

    Without crunching the numbers, I have the overall probability in the Daily Events at:

    0-2 25%
    1-2 18.75%
    2-2 31.25%
    3-1 18.75%
    4-0 6.25%

    But someone might want to check my math. I only crunched the numbers on 3-1 and 4-0, since anything below that wins 0 packs and doesn’t affect the EV.

    I think I first read this article a while back, but just re-read it since I just started playing online. Using LSV’s assumptions of a .500 record and 3 tix per pack won, he’s wrong that playing standard has +EV on MODO. It’s clearly negative, even in the daily events. However, if packs are at 3.4 or above, there is a +EV for .500 play in the daily events. And, if you are possibly the best constructed player in the world, I’m sure playing Standard on MODO has a pretty high value, indeed. I think it’s easy to read this and overestimate the ease at which it is accomplished, though.

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  71. Uhm hello LSV
    i got a question about MTGO.
    I dont know if anyone can tell me, but is it worth switching to mtgo in europe? i mean theres a huge timeshift to the us and the connection is pretty bad i supose?! i mean if i made an account for mtgo would i end up with 4 peeps online at daytime/evening when you guys are still sleeping over there?
    hope this threat is still being overlooked from time to time.

    best regards

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  73. @ mma

    No, there are people on at pretty much any time, especially if you want to play popular sets/formats. I’m in New Zealand and I never have any trouble finding games.

  74. @AverageDrafter
    I get what your saying and in a way I agree with you. Say a deck costs 300 tix and your making a 2 tix profit over all from every event you play in. Now you have to take your profit you slowly gained and put it towards new cards every 3-4 months due to new sets coming out and you wanting to be on top of the curve. Its going to take forever to pay off your deck alone and thats if your playing pretty aggressively. Its do able but, one hell of a fight getting there.

  75. Alright guys, I’ve built a template in excel that tracks your win %, then you enter in the cost of packs, and it will give you your EV for the 8-man Queue’s. Currently with a win % of 53.33% (my current win %) and a pack price of 3.45 (for M12) You have a negative EV of -.29. So you’re losing 25 cents for every 8-man that you enter. However, if the price of the packs rise to 3.7 or higher, you have a positive EV of .12. or 12 cents for every 8-man that you enter.

    So basically if you can either increase your win % or if the price of packs is closer to 4, then EV goes way up. So make sure that you play to the best of your ability, track your win % with the deck that you’re playing. Get to above 50% win percentage, and start making profit.

    Just to let everyone know, if your win % is exactly 50% and the price of packs is @4, then your EV in 8-man’s is exactly 0%.

    (All of this math was done for the 8-man queue’s) If you want a template to use to track your own win % and EV for 8-man queue’s just respond to this, I’ll check back periodically, or msg me on MTGO, same name as The comment that I’ve left.

  76. Alright, I’ve also added the EV for daily’s to the equation, and the EV for daily’s is MUCH higher. The reason why this is the case is because it is swiss. You can take 1 loss anywhere along the way and still get value. Whereas if it were single elimination, the FIRST lose you take is what knocks you out. When the EV of the 8-man’s hover around 0, the EV of the daily’s is around 4.89. This is for a win% of 56.66 (my current win percentage after winning round 1 of today’s daily, hence the difference in my last win %). and a pack price of 3.45 (current m12 prices).

    Even with a win percentage of exactly 50% and a pack price of 3.45. Daily’s are still positive EV.

    Unfortunately this math isn’t perfect … well the math is perfect, but let’s think about this for a second. This win % that I’ve calculated is a combined total win %. It isn’t divided into daily win % and 8-man win %. If you follow LSV’s advice that 8-man’s are easier than daily’s in terms of competition, this will skew the numbers somewhat. However, despite the skew (that would be possible to calculate, I just don’t feel like it) I think that daily’s are more profitable than 8-man’s.

    Now keep in mind that a positive EV of about 4 means that you’re making 4 tickets over the course of a 4-hour tournament, for a net profit of $1/hour. Not so good from $/hour perspective =p but like LSV said, you’re having fun playing magic, so long as you have positive EV, it doesn’t matter how much you’re making /hour, you’re still playing free magic!

    (Assuming you have a big enough bankroll and good enough bankroll management to ride out the variance you’re set! But that’s something else entirely =p)

  77. Lets get real, most player will be loosing while playing magic. What you need to do to go infinite is to not be one of these guys (and girls). From having played regularly since Onslaught I can say that it is possible to go infinite with whatever you play, drafts are the toughest followed by sealed and then constructed. Problem is that to get a decent constructed deck from scratch you need to invest +100 tix to get started (you could perhaps get down to just under 40 tix for a decent pauper deck) . You will find yourself deep down the hole if you start playing constructed from scratch. This is more then 50 tournaments (standard) you play before you even show a profit, and I won’t get into the jace/stoneforge bans which cost some serious money for a few players who had built a certain deck.

    The only viable way I can imagine a new player to get started at playing online without sinking huge sums into the games is to play sealed events and get lucky; I know luck don’t make a player, but it is so much easier building a deck from a pool that has 2 or 3 bombs then when you don’t have these. Take these winnings and trade the cards for tix (you also need to get the bombs that sell for a decent amount of tix) and get going from there. If one can get lucky and score a few packs + some cards you can trade/sell off you can slowly build your card pool. Don’t rush it, it will take some time to do this and you will then find that you only need to buy/trade for a few cards to build the constructed decks.

    I will also add that I’m not a break even player, I don’t play as serious as I think others do but I’m honest about being a loser at the tables. I do have fun and don’t pay that much but still cannot support my game from wining drafts/sealed and selling cards alone. It is tedious to do this and I cannot imagine anyone doing this without wasting a lot of time finding buyers, unless you find a malfunctioning/broken bot you will not get a fair price for your cards.

    Also, if you plan on going infinite, you need to get QP’s to play the MOCS. Preferably +45 points to decrease the variance in the monthly Championship. Have a look at the table wizards have and ask yourself how much you need to play to get 45 QP’s. We are not talking about a few tournaments here and there.

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