Thursday, July 4, 2013

Event Theorycrafting

So you want to make money, huh?

This is probably the right post for you.

This post will cover all sorts of events on MTGO and tell you why they're all bad ideas! (Well, not really.)

For those of you who would otherwise go straight to the bottom, I'll give you the punchline now. If you want to make a net profit out of MTGO, either only do constructed dailies or consistently have winning records. That's all there is to it.

If you want to the crunch, carry on.

Above is a compilation of many events and their payout rates with respect to their total cost. For instance, for every 100 tix you put into playing 4-3-2-2 M13 Drafts, you can expect 63.74 out. Investmentwise, that's a pretty poor pick.

I think what should stand out is that among all these events, which are fairly representative of the breadth of events offered, only two have payout rates above 100% - Momir Basic and Pauper (lines 5 and 6). These are the ones to do if you're new, want to get into an inexpensive format, and want to come out ahead. Momir Basic decks literally cost $10, and Pauper decks can range from 2 tix to perhaps 20 tix.

Now, what makes these events so different from other events?

There are two things to notice.

First, these are daily events. They happen at specific times each day rather than firing once eight people convene, and also have many more than eight people playing at once. Note that not a single non-daily event has payout above 100%.

"But King!", the astute among you say, "not all dailies have payout over 100%!" That is true. If you look at line 10 for the RTR Block Sealed daily, it has a poor 78.71% payout rate. That leads us to the second observation.

Momir Basic and Pauper, unlike RTR Block Sealed, are constructed events, whereas RTR Block Sealed is a limited event. For the former, you bring your own deck, and for the latter, you open boosters and make something of them.

For those of you who don't know, opening boosters by themselves is a very, very bad idea financially.

Limited events are almost just as bad. Constructed events are winners since once you buy into a deck, you're set! (Kind of. You still probably have to keep up with standard and whatnot, but that's the beauty of Pauper and Momir Basic.)

So those are the two qualifiers. Constructed, and daily. Please don't try the two-player constructed queues. Their payouts are absolutely horrid. So horrid that even with a 100% winrate, you're still only getting an 80ish percent payout. (See the last line in the image above.)

EDIT: A helpful reader has pointed out a miscalculation above. The payouts on two-player queues with a 50% winrate is 83.75%, and takes a 60% winrate to break even.

Now, I'm sure some of you will be asking, "King, how can you extrapolate this to all constructed dailies? I'm sure that these two formats for cheapos like you pay alright, but what about for us people with money for standard?"

Well, since the constructed dailies all have the same entry fee and payout structure, it's probably a fair deduction to extend what we know from Momir and Pauper to all constructed dailies.

This, by the way, is what an event's calculation looks like.

Okay. That was the easy part. Ready for the deeper analysis?

Before we get into that, a quick note. If you've been looking closely, you'll see my chart skips from the "C" column to the "M" column. I've omitted several columns in the interest of space. Those columns detail mundane things used to calculate the total entry fee.

Moving on, please note the green column in the image above, labeled "Win", short for win rate. This means that these calculations take into account a 50% win rate. For formats like Momir, where strategy takes the backseat to chance (though, let it not be said there is no strategy involved. That will be a later post.) a 50% winrate is definitely a safe assumption, but among other events where skill (and sometimes one's wallet) takes a much more prominent role, there will be varying winrates. Let's go ahead and take those into account.

Above are two copies of the original chart, this time with 35% and 65% winrates to indicate some variance. There are some very interesting things to note here. First, dailies are very volatile. At a 35% winrate, it is more profitable (rather, you incur fewer losses) to draft than it is to do dailies. On the other hand, if you win 65% of the time, for every 6 tix payin for a daily, you can expect to walk away with 12. There's no question what events you should be doing at that point. What's more interesting is that at the 65% winrate, even some drafts (8-4 drafts) and limited dailies become profitable. It goes to show that, even if you don't pick winning events on average, you can still come out ahead by winning. Winners win.

Note that the two-player constructed events are still very low, even at a 65% winrate. Eight-player redeems itself at the 65% winrate, but only barely.

The last item of note is that the 4-3-2-2 drafts are rather stable. Even with a 30% swing in winrate, they swing proportionally to that. They're still not a good pick unless you're sure you're going to win very often. But seriously - it takes over an 80% winrate in 4-3-2-2 drafts to break even.

I'm sure there's one more burning question on your mind - why do the RTR drafts and the M13 drafts have not only different entry fees, but different payouts? This is where pack prices come into play, and is probably the most tenuous part of my analysis.

These prices haven't been updated in a week or so, but they're still relatively representative. I think RTR has shifted down 10 cents, and the ISD block might have changed. I don't really follow them. That's not the major part of this though, since the difference between their buy/sell prices (what you can reasonably expect to get from bots) will remain about the same. (An important note)

Here's what matters. When prices shift upwards but the gap remains the same, then daily events become more profitable as your entry fee is only in tix and the reward is constant in packs. At the same time, limited events become less profitable as the % of payout relative to entry fee is reduced, assuming a 50-50 winrate. The opposite is true for when prices drop. At some point, you might as well buy packs rather than participate in dailies for all you're getting, (though that is a very low point) but at the same time, the limited scene becomes more appealing. This is also due to the content value relative to the price of the pack.

This is probably the point of contention, the content value of a pack, or what you can reasonably expect to pull if you open a pack straightup. I haven't done the calculations for these, though I will at some point (at which point I will revisit this with fancy graphs and such). This value no doubt varies from pack to pack; DGM might be overvalued relative to GTC and RTR, but I'm fairly certain that the disparity in price of these packs is less due to their inherent value and more due to availability as DGM is by far the easiest pack to get one's hands on following an event.

Some quick analysis on content value. The actual values of these do not affect the earning power of constructed dailies at all since you're not ripping packs for those. Naturally, payouts in the limited scene move upwards if content value is higher than $1, and will drop if content value is lower than $1.

Now, my analysis has two other possible points of contention, and I'll close with those.

First, the disparity in buy-sell prices on booster packs is not accounted for in event payouts. This means that for reinvestors, actual entry fees are somewhere between 0.1 to 1 tix lower than listed, and payouts are subsequently adjusted (the percentage is also dependent on the event's inherent payout) upwards. When I say reinvestors, I mean those who do one event type continuously, like RTR drafts. This can help reduce the cost, but probably not significantly. (You get a free draft every ten to one hundred drafts, so it's really not major.)

Second, not everything is about money! Very true. This post concerned itself with the financial aspect of things, but don't forget, you're (hopefully) in this for fun! If you're not too concerned with the finances, the 66.83% returns on 8-4 M13 drafts should be heartening. Why is that? For the 10.1 tix entry fee, you get 6.683 tix back each time, meaning that after the first draft, you're on average only paying 4.3 tix per draft, a third of the price! That's excellent.

Let's put this into perspective. Going infinite is great. That's the ideal, to never have to pay for Magic again. But even without that, Magic can be very cost efficient. Let's consider the 8-4 M13 draft again, with a 50% winrate. Putting $100 in, we get ~10 drafts initially. But with that, we should get about 66 tix out, which is enough for another six drafts, and so forth. Therefore, we can use an infinite geometric series to calculate that on average, $100 spent will fund (10 / (1 - 0.6683)), or about 30, drafts. That's about $3 a draft, which definitely does not come out to the most expensive hobby out there.

In the end, it still holds. Either to constructed dailies, or win. That's how to make the most out of these events.

Of course, a final caveat. These numbers are all assuming you have the same winrate in each format, which might not be true! People are stronger in different formats, so maybe your 8-4 draft winrate is 75% while your Momir winrate is 40%. Let these dictate what events you play, not necessarily what I say here. Of course, there's also more subtlety in each event you can use to boost your winrates. I'll do my best to shed some light on that in future posts.

But I digress. There will be more talk about how to pay $0 per event. This is just to show you that it's not that bad even if you're not going infinite. It doesn't mean you shouldn't try though!

Have any additional commentary or analysis on something I missed? Please let me know!

Oh yeah, and happy fourth of July everyone!

Monday, July 1, 2013

DGR Draft #2

I'm slowly picking up some additional responsibilities this summer, so I probably will not be able to keep up a once-per-day update schedule. I will aim for every other day. This post is another draft commentary, but I have some financial analysis of events coming up, so be ready for that! Without further ado, let's get started.

  Pack 1 pick 1:

  My Pick:

Blood Baron of Vizkopa seems like a strong pick. I haven't had the privilege to draft him before, but I am excited to this time. I doubt I will ever see his second ability go off, but even without it, he's definitely a game-changer. My only worry is how much black there is in this pack. If I had to pick something else, Turn//Burn would be my first pick, and after that, Beetleform Mage. Each is very strong in their own respect.

  Pack 1 pick 2:

  My Pick:

Going with the Orzhov theme, Fatal Fumes is great removal. This is a good pack for green for sure, with Thrashing Mossdog and Armed//Dangerous. The Rubblebelt Makka is also a good pick. I hope Hired Torturer wheels so I can pick him up.

  Pack 1 pick 3:

  My Pick:

Lots of cluestones here. I'm hoping to pick up more extort along the way, so Tithe Drinker will fit in nicely. Far//Away is excellent removal, and it was a shame to pass that up. If I wanted to go more aggro, Gleam of Battle could have been a nice pick. I imagine I'll see one of the maze beasts or the Hidden Strings wheel, and I'd be more than happy to pick any of those up for pick 11.

  Pack 1 pick 4:

  My Pick:

I'm fairly sure I'm going heavy Orzhov, or will try to force it, so I pick up the guildgate. There's nothing else particularly amazing in this pack, though it does signal red is open.

  Pack 1 pick 5:

  My Pick:

No amazing monoblack or monowhite cards, so it's time to look for a splash. Blue, red, and green all have excellent picks in this pack, but I prefer card draw, so I pick up a Pilfered Plans. Maybe that Dimir Guildgate from last pack will come back around?

  Pack 1 pick 6:

  My Pick:

I wasn't so sure about this pick at the time; either Runner's Bane or Pilfered Plans also could have been a good pull. In hindsight, it was the right choice.

  Pack 1 pick 7:

  My Pick:

Fatal Fumes wins over Runner's Bane for removal, and I never really liked saccing creatures, so Maw of the Obzedat is out. If I had previously picked up Gleam of Battle, I would have taken the Boros Guildgate here.

  Pack 1 pick 8:

  My Pick:

These packs are looking awfully similar. Protect//Serve is a good combat trick, but I don't have many creatures. If I were to pick a non-creature, I would probably opt for Hidden Strings, but I take the Maze Abomination instead.

  Pack 1 pick 9:

  My Pick:

More options - removal, creature, or card draw. I pick the card draw, since I already have a bit of everything else.

  Pack 1 pick 10:

  My Pick:

Nothing I could use here. If Take were less situationally useful, I would have considered it. As is, I don't want to face up against Fluxcharger, so I'll pick that with no intention of using it.

  Pack 1 pick 11:

  My Pick:

I'm already solidly in not-red, so I take the Maze Glider. (What do you know, it did wheel.)

  Pack 1 pick 12:

  My Pick:

A Hired Torturer also wheeled. I'll take that. It's pretty clear few people are in blue.

  Pack 1 pick 13:

  My Pick:

It's been taunting me long enough. No intent to play Gleam of Battle though. Sinister Possession is just another non-creature I wouldn't use, so I won't pick it up.

  Pack 1 pick 14:

  My Pick:

Another Pilfered Plans? I'm perfectly okay with this, especially at pick 14. Nobody in Dimir, it seems.

  Pack 1 pick 15:

  My Pick:

Riot Piker if I decide to splash red instead of blue. Not bad. But with three Pilfered Plans, I don't think I'm giving blue up.

  Pack 2 pick 1:

  My Pick:

Tons of white in this pack; this has me a little worried. Luckily, none of it is amazing, though the Gift of the Orzhova is a welcome pick-up. In hindsight, Mind Grind should have competed a little harder, it's a wincon to itself.

  Pack 2 pick 2:

  My Pick:

I really needed more creatures here, and Daring Skyjek made a little more sense than Court Street Denizen. If I weren't in such need of creatures, the Dimir Guildgate would have been welcome, as well as the Psychic Strike.

  Pack 2 pick 3:

  My Pick:

Hands of Binding really is an excellent card. Given that blue hasn't been heavily drafted, it might even wheel. I pick up Balustrade Spy for a flier and miller.

  Pack 2 pick 4:

  My Pick:

I got greedy and thought I had a chance of splashing red, so I picked up a Wojek Halberdiers. It would have been better to stick with the worse, but in-color, Slate Street Ruffian, or Agroaphobia.

  Pack 2 pick 5:

  My Pick:

Lots of blue still. It's inevitable, I think, that someone else will go into blue. I pick up the guildgate for the sweet, sweet, mana fixing.

  Pack 2 pick 6:

  My Pick:

Cartel Aristocrat may have been a better pick than Boros Elite, but I've never liked sac effects without some combo in mind.

  Pack 2 pick 7:

  My Pick:

Nav Squad Commandos is a good pickup. Knight Watch might have been a better pick though. Not too much stress over this one, however, since they're both siutationally useful.

  Pack 2 pick 8:

  My Pick:

I got greedy here and picked up another Wojek Halberdiers. Armored Transport would have been a more ubiquitously playable creature.

  Pack 2 pick 9:

  My Pick:

I don't plan on having huge creatures, so Spell Rupture is out. If I had a counterspell already, I would have picked Devour Flesh, but I didn't. Martial Glory makes that red splash look more appealing though...

  Pack 2 pick 10:

  My Pick:

Purge the Profane is the only thing remotely in my colors. Towering Thunderfist would also have been excellent. In hindsight, dropping blue for red may not have been a bad idea.

  Pack 2 pick 11:

  My Pick:

Still a lot of blue here. Not many blue creatures, so Sage's Row Denizen is out. Hands of Binding is just great, so I pick that up over the Psychic Strike.

  Pack 2 pick 12:

  My Pick:

Way of the Thief has great synergy with Stealer of Secrets, and not just because they both reference theft.

  Pack 2 pick 13:

  My Pick:

Paranoid Delusions isn't terrible for pick thirteen.

  Pack 2 pick 14:

  My Pick:

Mortus Strider is possible to play. Don't know if I ever will though.

  Pack 2 pick 15:

  My Pick:

Game-changer right here. Nastiest zero-drop in the world.

  Pack 3 pick 1:

  My Pick:

The greedy player in my wanted Archon of the Triumvirate, but Stab Wound is too amazing not to pick up here.

  Pack 3 pick 2:

  My Pick:

Another Stab Wound, but picking up a low drop creature wins out. Especially since it's Stealer of Secrets. Knightly Valor is also not a bad card.

  Pack 3 pick 3:

  My Pick:

I didn't want the double white symbols, so Azorius Justicar was not a choice. Lyev Skyknight did bring that same detain to the table, and was pretty much better than anything else in the pack. Maybe I should have opted for the Knightly Valor though.

  Pack 3 pick 4:

  My Pick:

Stealer of Secrets is too fun not to get. Had I gone red though, this pack would also be a good pick with Splatter Thug though.

  Pack 3 pick 5:

  My Pick:

Runewing won over Sunspire Griffin since Sunspire needed double white.

  Pack 3 pick 6:

  My Pick:

Sewer Shambler isn't the worst three drop out there.

  Pack 3 pick 7:

  My Pick:

Soul Tithe makes for good removal.

  Pack 3 pick 8:

  My Pick:

A toss-up between Hussar Patrol and Isperia's Skywatch. I figured that the Patrol synergized better with my maze beasts, though the single color could have worked out better.

  Pack 3 pick 9:

  My Pick:

While I chose the creature here, Paralyzing Grasp could have been the better pick for removal.

  Pack 3 pick 10:

  My Pick:

I wouldn't play Tablet of the Guilds in this deck, so I remove Towering Indrik from the field instead.

  Pack 3 pick 11:

  My Pick:

Destroy the Evidence meshes well with the mill I've been drafting.

  Pack 3 pick 12:

  My Pick:

Mizzium Skin is playable I suppose.

  Pack 3 pick 13:

  My Pick:

Trained Caracal also possibly playable.

  Pack 3 pick 14:

  My Pick:

A trivial pick.

  Pack 3 pick 15:

  My Pick:

In spite of last pick, I can't avoid the forest.

In the end, I went 1-2 again; I definitely struggled with deck construction. I think my problem was that I didn't go for a particular color or set of colors hard enough, but instead ended up with equal portions of white and blue, where I couldn't cut either color, and was dependent upon drawing blue, black and white sources. That was not a good position to be in. It seemed like most of my opponents also drafted black as a main color, which would explain my difficulty in getting more black cards. The Baron was especially useful here but there were also equal amounts of removal I missed out on. In the end, I didn't have enough creatures or focus on a color to make my deck effective. Since blue was so prevalent in the packs, I think I should have cut white other than 2-3 cards, and focused on a Dimir mill strategy.

That's all for this time! I'll be back soon!