Tuesday, August 30, 2011

When to Cash Out (Part 3)

Last time I told the story of a friend who while not making any major mistakes in life, was not happy in it. The reason was that he knew what to avoid, but not what to seek. In short, he failed to plan his life and therefore, coasts along through life, essentially failing.

The axiom “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is appropriate.

The same is true for your bot. Why did you get a bot in the first place? What are your goals for it? Is it to supplement your collection? Is it to get rid of excess inventory from your drafts? Is it to make money? Obviously, I can not answer that question for you. But how YOU decide to answer that question will guide you to the answer to the real question: When do I cash out?

Let's start with the simple scenario: A proficient drafter plays several times a week, and as such has accumulated a plethora of commons. Said drafter has a bot to sell off excess inventory. Their plans are to keep things simple: Not a lot of time spent managing the bot. So to this person, the answer to “When to cash out” is simple: When there are a certain amount of tickets, go ahead and sell tickets for cash.

I know, nothing Earth-shattering there, but we start with the obvious cases first. We'll get into more detail next time.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Phantom Events: inflation and deflation

Phantom Events will bring a fresh breeze into Magic Online and probably will impact the secondary market in a large way.

They will be probably very popular (6 tixs instead of 24 is a huge attractive). The effect will be a larger number of tixs available on the market because:
  • people can only play a “fixed amont” of tournament per time, and only 6 tixs will exit the game instead of 24
  • a lower number of cards will enter the market (because there will be no cracked boosters at the end of the drafts.
This will result in a larger number of tixs available on the market and a lower number of cards, ending up in inflation, i.e. price increase of the cards.

We will see the effect in the long term. It could also be that people does not draft a “fixed amount” per time as supposed, but simply will draft more. Doing so, the number of tixs exiting Magic Online will be more or less the same as today (24 tixs, or multiple, per user) but the incoming number of cards will be less. In a nutshell, we will have less tixs and less cards, resulting in inflation or deflation according to the larger of the fluxes.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

MTGO Library Bot 4.48 is out!

Version 4.48 fixes a minor problem with the tradelog, occasionally crediting the trades to an ''unknown'' user.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Zendikarted Off (Part 2)

Quick and dirty tonight, if you truly desire an intro read Part 1.

Emeria, the Sky Ruin
This little gem certainly wont be making much ruckus at the tournament tables, but it's a fun card from a casual perspective. In a normal deck, getting to 8 land is no small task, let alone 7 of them being of a particular basic land type. Where this card longs to shine, is Commander, giving an extra Reya Dawnbringer effect to (presumably mono-white) decks. Free field advantage is nothing to short change, especially when it can be used to abuse comes into play effects like Leonin Relic-Warder and the venerable Auramancer.

Frontier Guide

Once again, not a PT powerhouse, but still a criminally overlooked uncommon, in my opinion. Now, it could be a personal bias of mine, but one of my favorite aspects of playing green is mana ramping and Rampant Growth effects; there's nothing quite like slamming a big, fat baloth down on the table multiple turns before it ever should have. Our guy here is kinda like a Rampant growth with Buyback. I think this card could be an up and coming Commander staple for mana-fixing color-intensive decks, but...something just tells me there's more to it. Call it just a hunch but, I think our buddy here could be capable of some truly incredible things in the right combo deck, something that could take adavantage of tapping and untapping the various resources for huge advantage, it's just going to take the right kind of Johnny to break it in half.

Luminarch Ascension

"But we don't like this card, X! Four turns is a long time to wait!"

Yes it is.

"It's to easily disrupted!"

It all depends on your metagame. 'Round these parts maindeck artifact and enchantment removal is honestly pretty scarce, relegated to the occasional two and three-ofs in sideboards, and even then, its more likely to be something like Crush or Relic-Warder to deal with the abundant millieu of artifacts. The Ascension is in the perfect spot, mana-wise, to come down early and get those four turns over with, coming down on turn two after you prep the field with a brave little blocker. It may honestly be better supplementing an aggressive strategy that actually being the focal point, but when you're playing white, there's no shortage of ways to prevent damage (although red decks will probably still make your life suck) It does a great job adding some oomph to my mono-white Gits and Shiggles "Haha you can't hurt me" Cleric deck. I'm not going to lie though, I would love to try running four of these in a W/U control set-up with four Clockspinnings.

MTGO Library Bot 4.47 is out!

ML Bot version 4.47 is out. It fixes a problem with the update of the messages from the Online Control Panel. Version 4.47 is also more reliable with wikiprice.

Statistic in the tradelog

We have a new statistical tool available in the Online Control Panel (Tradelog menu)! Enjoy :-)

Friday, August 26, 2011

When to Cash Out (Part 2)

I was invited to a wedding anniversary dinner some time ago and as the evening was winding down, I found myself speaking to an acquaintance: He was telling me that attending this event was depressing for him.

“Why”? I inquired.

“Even though these events are supposed to be a celebration, all they do is remind me that I'll never be a part of them.” he said.

“Go on.” I urged.

“I just do not understand it. I am not in debt. I am not a criminal. I don't do drugs. I have been employed with the same company for over fifteen (15) years. And yet John and Jane have been married for a dozen years and have two (2) kids. They're the same age as me. I've not made any major mistakes in life. So what am I doing wrong?” he confided.

“OK, let's take a look at your life.” I replied. “You live in a trailer. You drive a jalopy. The only time you leave your domicile is to go to work and play softball.”

“Nothing wrong with any of those things.” he countered defensively.

“That's true.” I said. “Yet the facts remain. The reason you do not have a house is because you never made a decision to buy one. The reason you drive a jalopy is because you have not looked for another car.” The reason you are not married is because you've not decided that you really want to be married.

I continued. “You live in a trailer because you were forced to move and have remained there ever since. You do not have a `better car` because you do not really desire one. You are single because you have not chosen to actively date. In short my friend, you are coasting through life.

This is my point: my friend has proved the old axiom: If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. This is used mostly for businesses, although it has implications for life as well.

We'll continue this discussion next time.

PS: I do read the comments. Just that for some odd reason, I am unable to respond.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Prices do not matter. Inventory does.

I take the chance of this post on the Magic Online forum to discuss an important point every bot owner should know.

“Once you are big, prices are not important, collection is”.

In a nutshell, what happened is that CardBot applied different prices to different users, overpricing some items (you can look here to learn more). CardBot profiles the customers, and, according to some algorithms, it makes cards more expensive if you can afford it. Apart from ethical and business considerations (that are beyond the purpose of the article), it’s important to note that - even if the cards are more expensive - customers still buy there.

There are several reasons for that:
- Loyalty: once you shop in a bot, it’s likely that you will do the same, because “you trust it”
- Credit left: if you left some credit on a bot, probably you will want it back.
- Inventory: if you know you can find everything you need in a single shop, you are willing to pay 5-10% more and save 20-30 minutes of your life.

Inventory is the most important. Thus remember: grow big with aggressive prices. Once big, prices are not important.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New screenshot server!

Hello to everybody,

we are happy to announce that mtgolibrary has now a new server to store the trade screenshots! The old server, dismessed today, was not sufficient to store all the screenshots - in fact many of you probably noticed that sometimes screenshots were missing :-) .

The new server will be much more reliable, and, most important, able to store screenshots for a time span of 3 years! To use it, just upgrade to ML Bot version 4.46.

MTGO Library Bot 4.46 is out!

MTGO Library 4.46 adds a new "shortcut" in the Collection Tab, the "Basic Land" checkbox.

This allows to quickly mass-select/unselect the basic lands from the Collection tab. Previous versions, in fact, just treated basic lands as "common" cards - ML Bot 4.46 adds a level of refinement.

Version 4.46 also slighly changes the trading messages.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

When to cash out.

My wife interrupts a game of Magic that I am playing.

“When are we going to see some of that money already” she asks.

It's not an unreasonable question. She was laid off of her job for awhile now and has been unable to secure employment and naturally, this has been a drain on our reserves. So she is looking into any and all means of securing cash to pay necessary things, like our mortgage. My bots are fair game.

Soon.” I tell her, as my opponent smashes my head with an unblockable poison attack for 23; winning the game.

I closed out Magic with some frustration, losing every casual game that evening. While I was grunting under my breath by the frustration of losing to poison decks, permission blue, and Titan-fury deck, I also remembered the last time she asked me that question. Several months before actually.

I told her then that I did not know. Stalling because I really did not know an answer. I knew instinctively that I could sell off the collection and get out of the bot business entirely. But I also realized why I got into this in the first place and didn't want to leave.

Yet she was asking a perfectly valid question. She understands why I got into this in the first place. She even gave me permission to use some reserve money to kick-start stocking of inventory. She is making a reasonable request. Never taking money out of a business is a good idea from a business standpoint. It does not however, pay any bills.

So this will be the topic for the next few entries: When do you cash out. Why do you cash out? These topics and more, next time.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Scale your chain

Let’s pretend you have a bot, running fine, and let’s pretend you want to add 2-3 bots and create a chain.
How do you accommodate the bots on new machines? For newby, this is a core question (more advanced users, please move on :-) ) .

My first experience, back in 2006, was to purchase a second-hand personal computer for each bot and control them via a single monitor and a single keyboard via a KVM switch. In 2006, that was almost the only solution available, since no personal computer was powerful enough to run 2 instances of Magic Online and 2 copies of ML Bot. Also, I was able to purchase a second hand computer on eBay for 200-300 usd, reasonably a good price. If you have old computers, rather than throw them away, use them coupled with a KVM switch.

Nowadays, instead, you can buy a powerful server-class pc, with 8-16 gb of memory, for less than 1000 usd. With it, you could run 4-10 bots, enough to expand your chain. The secret is create virtual machines “in” the computer. Each virtual machine will have its own virtual hardware (a portion of the real processor, a portion of the ram, a portion of the hard-drive and so on). There are several virtualization softwares available, most notably VmWare, VirtualBox and VirtualPC. These are free software, you can easily obtain them online.
With one of them strapped on your belt, you have to create a virtual machine for each of your bots. When choosing the virtual hardware, I suggest at least 1 gb of ram for each machine (2 will be perfect). Install a  copy of Windows XP on each virtual machine, and then a copy of Magic Online and a copy of ML Bot (in fact you could create a single virtual machine and “copy-paste” it).

A second solution is to rent a (Windows) virtual machine from dedicated companies. There are several ones, for instance goDaddy. A virtual machines costs 25-35 usd per month, and is sufficient to run an instance of ML Bot. Doing so, you won’t pay the electricity bill, and won’t have to deal with broken hardware, failures, VmWare or other virtualization softwares.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Customized Classified and Trading messages

Classified and Trading room messages allow commands for automatic card replacement. In a nutshell, you can use special commands such as cardnames and prices to enrich the board messages and tell the customers what specific cards are you selling or buyuing. The syntax for a general command is #command#, where the two '#'s embrace the command and 'command' is a specific string containing the command. Commands are case-insensitive.

#sell# #buy# #R#
The basic commands are #sell# and #buy# that display a randomly chosen card and its price - respectively the selling value and the buying value. You can also use #ZEN_buy# or #ALA_sell# to force a set (in these cases Zendikar and Shards of Alara). To force a rarity, issue a command like #ZEN_R_buy# or #ALA_U_sell# (the keywords for rarity are M/R/U/C). You can force a rarity even not forcing a set, like: #R_buy# or #U_sell#

#2digits# #1digit#
To choose the number of the decimal digits to be shown in price, use the keyword '2digits' or '1digit'. If not specifies, the bot will automatically use '3digits'. The price will be shown respectively as [12.12], [12.1] and [12.123].

#>0.7# #<2.5# #foil#
To impose bounds on the prices, use the command '>0.7' or '<1.25' right after 'buy' and 'sell', for instance #ZEN_R_buy_>2.5#. To specify a foil price, use the tag 'foil', such as #ZEN_U_foil#. If not specified, the replacement occurs only with regular non-foil cards.

Every combination of commands is possible. For instance, you can issue commands like #R_buy#, #M_sell# or #FUT_C_buy_2digits#. You can also quote specific cards, such as #ALA_Manaplasm_sell#. In this case, the syntax obliges you to specify the set (in this case ALA)

There are many other commands, to learn more please take a look at the manual (here).
Here you are a short summary:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Now that have (finally) gotten the background information down, let's analyze Jace and see why WotC should have been more careful with this card:

Card drawing: Check (+2: Draw 3 and place 2 on top of your library)

Free spells: Check (0: Look at the top card of target player's library. You may place it on the bottom of the library)

Vanishing: Check (-1: Return Target Creature to its owner's hand)

Charms: Check. Instead of three (3) abilities other Planewalkers have, Jace has four (4).abilities, giving Jace ever more versatility.

Just from this alone, we know Jace is going to be a strong card. And in WotC's defense, they did know this. The major loyalty-cost ability is 12, starting out at 3, and the soonest it could be activated would be the sixth (6th) turn after Jace was summoned, which is a cost of 2UU, so that gives us turn 10. Many games of Magic are over by turn 10. We know this by playing Magic and WotC has those statistics on MTGO. (Side note, wouldn't it be interesting to see some of those statistics?)

WotC has stated in its defense that there are over 10,000 cards which have been printed and they can not check for all interactions.

That's a fair statement however Jace was not banned in Classic, it was banned in Standard. The format that has at most eight (8) expansions in it? Let's also not forget that many cards that are printed are not played in serious formats. How many commons have been banned in Magic? With the exception of the Artifact-lands of Mirrodin, I can't think of any. Simply put, there are not that many available situations to look through and there are quite a few members of WotC who have Pro Tour histories and can spot such things well in advance. I would like to know how this was missed.

WotC has stated that it is their intention to print strong cards. I have no problem with that. Between any two (2) cards, one will be stronger. However, one must take care that this card does not dominate the game or Magic turns into Solitaire. WotC says they play-tested Jace a lot. Apparently not well enough. Did they try setting its initial loyalty to 2, so that it could be lightning bolted? Did they try raising the casting cost to 3UU or 2UUU to see how that affects the game? Did WotC consider a Terror-like card that affects only Planewalkers?

These are questions that we'll probably never know the answer to, and hopefully, WotC has learned from this experience.

This concludes this series on the bannings of Magic. Next time I'll talk about something a little more practical, when to cash out.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


The number of customers your bot attracts is highly affected by the value of your collection. The major chain does not have the “best” prices, but simply the best inventory (and “good” prices). There are some simple quantitative “thresolds” to define the “value” of a collection, and the impact it has on the market. These thresholds are an easy way to roughly understand the position of your bot in the large secondary market.

-         with less than 1’000 between rares and mythics, you still need to buy and enlarge the collection.
-         with 1’000-2’000 rares / mythics your bot has a good collection, but it is still not self-sufficient (it won’t grow too much)
-         my personal bots are located  between 2’000-5’000. They are doing fine and they are mostly self-sufficient, but I will push more tixs into them.
-         your bot is in the 5% percentile with  5’000-10’000 rares/mythics.
-         >10’000: this is the goal everyone should target. Once there, your bot will be a reference for the secondary market. If you start from zero, you will need 6-8 months to reach that state.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Banned: Jace, the Mind Sculptor (Part 5)

We've been discussing various abilities and why they are either good or too good. Let's step back a moment and see how they apply to Planeswalkers:

Card Drawing: A mostly blue ability which has gotten WotC to take the step of banning cards because some of these cards have been be easily abused. While there is nothing inherently wrong with card drawing or even having a color which specializes in card drawing, it is an ability that needs to be carefully scrutinized.

Free Spells: This is an ability that looks to be abused. Having effects which do not cost mana nor a card, even a minor spell, can be the advantage one needs between evenly matched decks. If you have ever played in a game where there were two (2) or more Planeswalkers on one side of the Battlefield, you know how strong this can be, even minor effects. These spells cost no mana nor cost a card and will occur, even against permission Blue.

I have a Honden shrine deck which definitely tries to abuse this ability. Even if the shrines did not have a multiplier effect, having a few out can change the tide of battle. Imagine having to deal with discarding a card, opponent gaining two (2) life, getting a 1/1 creature, opponent drawing a card, or having one (1) damage being dealt? Even two (2) of these abilities would be annoying in of themselves. Now add that your opponent is free to do whatever on their turn. That's quite a lot to overcome and why, even with a shrine deck's flaws, I've been able to do fairly well.

Even tier-one decks have problems against discarding multiple cards a turn, an opponent gaining 4 or 6+ life a turn, seeing 2 or 3 creatures appear, your opponent drawing a couple of cards AND knowing a lightning bolt is coming, each and every turn, is a lot to overcome. Not to mention whatever tricks I have remaining in my deck. (Which is also why the shrine deck never made it to that level. I never found a good trick or set of cards to finish off the deck.)

Vanishing or Fading: An overlooked ability that allows for stronger spells to be cast, again for free, but instead of unlimited, Vanishing after a certain number. All Planeswalkers have this built into the card, if one just concentrates on using the minor loyalty-cost ability.

Charms: The versatility that having multiple effects (or abilities) on the same card allows the deck to be more adaptive on the fly. This is good from a game standpoint as well, allowing for decisions to be made in-game instead of turning Magic into simultaneous Solitaire where each deck tries to go off first and little interaction is experienced by the players.

Most, if not all, of these effects are found on Planewalkers cards. This makes them strong in of themselves. Has WotC made a Planeswalker that really did not affect a game it came in on? Again, nothing wrong with strong cards. There always will be strong cards. Just that when you are designing cards that you know the class of which will be strong, you need to really scrutinize them.

We'll continue this next time.

Monday, August 15, 2011

MTGO Library Bot 4.45 is out!

ML Bot 4.45 automatically disables the Magic Online ''card-tooltip'' if you forget to remove it. Version 4.45 slightly changes the trading messages, using clear and more "direct" phrases.

How much tixs do I need? (to run a successful bot)

When I started my personal bot back in 2007, I had a very small collection (2000-3000 cards), and a question running in my mind: “how much tixs do I have to spend to purchase new cards and enlarge the collection” ? In fact I was aware that a bot with 2000-3000 cards would never have been a cash-machine, given the presence of much stronger actors on the market. In a nutshell, I was aware that I would have spent a lot of tixs to purchase cards. 

I found a number of “rulesto optimize the way you spend your tixs.

1)    Do not put all the tixs in the bot at once. For instance, if you have have 1000 tixs, do not put them all at once, but put 100 or 150 every week. 
2)      When the collection is small (<10.000 cards), use very low buying prices, since you will need “volume” rather than “quality”.
3)      Put tixs on your bot at the rate of 100-150 every week for at least 6 months. 6 months is the average time a bot needs to grow a decent collection and be well-known on the market.
4)      If able, purchase collections via eBay, since the overall price is cheaper.
5)      Do not purchase foils, or set the foil correction (Corrections tab) to be very low

During the first 2-3 months don’t lose heart, since you will probably see a low volume of sales – this is ok and this is good:  this prevents too many actors to enter the market.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Advanced buying settings

If your bot is doing fine with the basic and mid-class settings suggested here and here, it's time to use it at full speed and enter the world of professional bots (that have almost always every card).

As usual, launch the bot and click on the “Collection Tab”. Locate the numbers 1,2,3, and 4 in the bottom part and set them as follows:

1: choose “Any set”
2: check “All Mythics”, “All Rares”, “All Uncommons” and “All Commons” (uncheck “Boosters”).
3: check “Regular” and check “Foil”
4: choose “4x”
Click on “Submit to collection”. That's a very simple setting, you are just telling ML Bot to buy every cards. You should end up with the following :

Modern Warfare

The problem with trying to guess what the hot cards are for the newly officialized and already supported (in PT Philidelphia) format is the same problem one faces when holding a newborn and trying to figure out what they're going to be when they grow up; it's far too open-ended to say with any absolute certainty. We have exactly one event to base our metagame on, an event held using unified constructed rules; (meaning that each team was limited to four copies of a card between them, rather than the normal 4 per deck) god knows what the decklists would look like without the restriction. And to dig the hole deeper, the banned list has changed since said event, a banned list that basically took the best cards from each players deck and said, "No Jace, No Stoneforge. P.S. STILL no affinity)
Now don't get me wrong, I like this banned list; if I died to a friggin' Scapeshift, I think I might have to headbutt somebody in the face, but it makes my job one hell of a lot harder.
The only thing we can really be certain of is lands. Top-tier decks need consistent mana or else they aren't top tier decks. I've said it before, but it bears repeating, the Ravnica shock lands and the Zendikar fetch lands are going to comprise the backbone of Modern manabases. The only thing separating Stomping Ground from a Taiga is a measley two life, and the fact that they still have the land types makes them dangerous, particularly with tutors like Fetchlands and Wood Elves or activated abilities that say "Whenever an Island etc." People seem to think its a weakness that Modern only has access to enemy-colored fetchlands; it's not. An Arid Mesa or a Misty Rainforest can find a Temple Garden in a G/W deck as easily as a Windswept Heath. These lands will allow Modern decks to function just as easily as any of their Legacy or Vintage counterparts and should be expected to skyrocket in price very soon.
So what can we expect from Modern so far? The Metagame is still incredibly nebulous, and there's always room for innovation, but I don't think it's too early to start drawing projections. I may be biased here, Elves are my favorite tribe and for the third time since I've benn writing these articles, I LOVE TRIBAL. Granted, it lost its greatest drawing engine in Glimpse of Nature, but an Aggro deck that still has that much card advantage and has the ability to generate exactly one crapton of mana per turn is not to be overlooked. In addition, its an amazing option for budget players, firstly as its mono-colored, which allows you to circumvent the land issue we previously discussed while still having a reliable manabase, and secondly because the backbone of the deck is almost entirely common and uncommon. Dredge still appears to be a viable option. Yeah, you lost Dread Return, guess you'll just have to cry into that horde of zombie tokens you paid nothing for while you Zombify and Makeshift Mannequin like everybody else. Jund seems to have made it through the updated bannings relatively unscathed, and even without Bitterblossom, Faeries seems poised to make you wonder why you left your fly swatter at home all over again. And never underestimate the possibility of Legacy favorites like Zoo to be ported over to Modern with minor, if any tweaks. Keep an eye out for cards that fit into these archetypes as suport for the format grows.
I'm too lazy to think of a closing this week. Go away. -X

Friday, August 12, 2011

Banned: Jace, the Mind Sculptor (Part 4)

In the past few entries, we've discussed card drawing, free spells and the vanishing mechanic. Today, I am going to discuss a series of cards which were under-appreciated: Charms.

The charms, as I am calling them, are cards which allow for one of series of abilities to be played from them. Funeral Charm can either force an opponent to discard a card, boost a creature, shrink a creature or give swampwalk. I originally threw this card in a mono-black discard deck I was making for its cheap instant discard ability. I quickly realized that its other abilities could and would serve me quite well. Getting rid of that Llanowar Elf on a land-weak green deck or forcing a creature exchange helped me win more games than I otherwise would have. And so my appreciation of charms grew.

When you analyze the charms by themselves, you see nothing really extraordinary about them: the abilities are minor at best. But what makes the charms interesting is their versatility. The ability to have a choice of effects to choose from during the game allows for a quasi-sideboard. Funeral Charm allows me to remove a troublesome creature before an equipment can be placed on it, allowing me to adapt during game one (1) instead of having to wait after sideboarding.

Being versatile means that I do not have to waste valuable slots just for situational situations. I do not have to waste a few slots for a disenchantment effect if I have a charm with that ability already written on the card. It is also not a wasted card against decks without enchantments in them, thereby being much more versatile and allowing me to win more consistently by devoting more slots to other troublesome effects.

Part of the reason Planewalker cards are so strong is that each one has a multitude of effects written on it, allowing for said versatility. This is not to be lost: even if one uses a Planewalker card not as the creator intended, but rather as an afterthought, it allows for more consistent play.

We'll continue this discussion next time.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mid-class buying settings

If your bot is doing fine with the basic settings suggested here, it's time to move to something more robust and to grow the collection. This time we will instruct the bot to buy all the cards from the "Extended" sets, and foil cards from the regular ones.

Launch the bot and click on the “Collection Tab”. Locate the numbers 1,2,3, and 4 in the bottom part and set them as follows:

1: choose “Standard sets”
2: check “All Mythics”, “All Rares”, “All Uncommons” and “All Commons” (uncheck “Boosters”).
3: check “Regular” and check “Foil”
4: choose “4x”
Click on “Submit to collection”.
Then repeat the steps as follows:
1: choose “Extended sets”
2: check “All Mythics”, “All Rares”, “All Uncommons” and “All Commons” (uncheck “Boosters”).
3: check “Regular” and uncheck “Foil”
4: choose “4x”

You should end up with the following :
ML Bot will now purchase items from the Standard and Extended sets, as well foil cards from the Standard sets.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Basic buying settings

New to ML Bot, and, in general, to the world of botting? I will discuss here a basic configuration to run your bot efficiently and without wasting too much time or money.
Launch the bot and click on the “Collection Tab”. Locate the numbers 1,2,3, and 4 in the bottom part and set them as follows:
1: choose “Standard sets”
2: check “All Mythics”, “All Rares”, “All Uncommons” and “All Commons” (uncheck “Boosters”).
3: check “Regular” and uncheck “Foil”
4: choose “4x”
Finally click on “Submit to collection”.

What you basically did is to instruct ML Bot to purchase only items from the Standard sets (the most liquid ones). We are also avoiding foil cards because they are more expensive than regular ones and could potentially finish your tixs in short time. Purchasing only regular cards from the Standard sets, and for a maximum of 4, ensures that you won’t spend too much, a key factor at the beginning.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

goDaddy's Virtual Server

Among the many virtual server providers, I found that "goDaddy" is cheap and fully supports Magic Online and MTGO Library Bot.

You can take a look here:
for a 1-gb Windows 2008 server.

Feel free to suggest me other virtual server providers supporting ML Bot - I will greatly appreciate!

MTGO Library Bot 4.44 is out!

MTGO Library bot 4.44 contains a number of small fixes. Over all, the clicks are now stronger and more reliable, and should be able to close any window "at the first time" - an issue occuring especially on slow computers. More reliable clicks mean a general better handling of the interface, especially when posting the BUSY|OPEN messages in the Classified.

ML Bot 4.44 supports also the M12 set in the "wishlist Buying Mode".

The "ALT+X" command now logs once (only once) in the Renting Log - sometimes it logged "multiples" entries at once.

Banned: Jace, the Mind Sculptor (Part 3)

That which has been is that which shall be; and that which has been done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9 (World English Bible, emphasis mine)

No, this is not a mid-week Bible lesson. That's three doors down the hall on your left. We've discussed card drawing and how it fortifies decks and how free spells can be abused to turn the game of Magic from an interactive battle between Planeswalkers into a game of Solitaire. Today, we discuss a mechanic that we see today in Planeswalker cards that never quite made a splash during its appearance: Fading/Vanish.

Fading and Vanishing is a mechanic that allowed cards to be placed on the battlefield, last a little while, and then vanish. With the sole exception of Blastoderm, this mechanic would be known only to real Magic geeks as it was a very unimpressive ability.

Why is that? The thought was that you could drag a stronger creature from the future, and have it for a couple of turns before it had to go back whence it came. It was an interesting idea. But the creatures it pulled were unimpressive. Even Blastoderm was unimpressive. An Untargetable 5/5 for 4 mana should be normal for green. Having it last for three (3) turns just makes it that much less effective. Now remember, Blastoderm was the best card to come out of this.

I mention this because Planewalker cards have an element of Vanishing on them: If you utilize the minor loyalty ability, it acts exactly as Vanishing. Although not a creature, but a permanent which last for a fixed amount of turns.

This vanishing ability, while not exploited when it was the main mechanic, does play a role in how one approaches using Planeswalkers and how they are utilized. Next time we'll go over another cycle of cards that never really quite made it, and why it contributes to the Planeswalkers success.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Reasons for botting

There are several reasons to run a bot, and different “targets” for bot owner. I will summarize here the most common ones:

- Botting for drafting: that’s the most common reason. A bot can easily provide free tixs to draft and / or buy packs. This is especially true when running a LITE Bot, that requires almost no maintenance and no attention. In a nutshell, botting for drafting is an easy way to sell the cards you bought or won during competitions and get tixs.

- Botting for redeem: that’s the second most common reason, since a redeemed collection is more valuable than a paper one. Botting for redeem is usually based on a number of solo buyer bots.

- Botting for business: that’s the reason behind large bot chains – you basically use the bot to enlarge the collection, purchase and sell expensive cards (and get lots of tixs). Botting for business is usually performed via a “chain” of bot.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Innistrada Da Vida Honey!

What a difference a week makes, I thought I had come up with a neat little way to deduce the other planeswalker and GenCon comes along and kicks me right in the he-grapes. But, it's kinda hard to stay mad when they give us art like this:

Yes, the second walker is apparently a new Garruk. But to be fair, 90% of us with an I/Q above our pants size saw this coming. Anyone who's been following the Planeswalker webcomics:(http://http//www.wizards.com/Magic/Multiverse/planeswalkers.aspx?x=mtg/multiverse/webcomics/main) knows that they've been dangling Lili Vs Garruk in front of us like a porkchop in front of a fat guy, so as soon as the original promo art was released with Liliana on her throne, we knew Garruk was going to be all over this. And if that weren't enough, check out the packaging for September's (coinciding with ISD) Booster Battle packs:

Please excuse me while I choke on the subtlety. Now mind you this is just some revealed art, this isn't an official confirmation. Then again neither is a positive pee stick in your girlfriend's trash can, but assumptions will be made. So what does this mean for you, financially? It means buy more damn Innistrad! There's your financial advice.

Tribal Rosters Revealed:
Thought we still don't know to what extent, it has been confirmed which five trives will get love and support this September. B/R Vampires, R/G Werewolves, U/B Zombies, U/W Spirits, and G/W humans. Its tough to make any concrete predictions at this point in time considering the limited information, but here's a few words of advice the next time you're at the trade tables or looking to make a deal on the business side of things. First and foremost: Demand for Adaptable Automaton is going to go way up and more as more people start playing tribal decks again in standard. It's also safe to assume that prices for the M12 duals will too as those color combinations become more widely played. I would expect it to be somewhat like the Lorwyn tribes where you CAN play a B/G elf deck, or you could play mono-green elves viably as well, so take that with a grain of salt. But the real news here is that Humans and Spirits are now going to be fully supported tribes. Wizards has been sticking that creature type onto stuff willy-nilly for years now, and now that they have a banner to unite beneath, digging up some of the old forgotten ones can lead to some pretty crazy interactions. Keep an eye out for Human or Spirits that could have the potential to make a splash in older formats.

That's all I have time for this week. Next week I'd like to talk a bit more about the Modern format. I kinda glossed over it in my previous article, but a new format opens up a whole new precident for business and high demand cards. Until next time, remember, (insert catchphrase here) -X

Friday, August 5, 2011

Banned: Jace, the Mind Sculptor (Part 2)

Last time we discussed how drawing cards leads to a more consistent deck and how the card drawing mechanic has lead to troublesome cards for Magic. Today, we are going to go through another mechanic which was badly abused: Free Spells.
Free spells was a mechanic which was popularized in the Urza's Block, which allowed one to untap a certain number of lands after the spell was successfully cast. Remember that Magic is a game of resource management. Spells which allow one to cast spells without utilizing mana will make a deck much more consistent by allowing one to cast more spells than they normally would be able to do.
This was especially beneficial for blue, where these free spells would allow blue to cast spells during its turn AND free up the mana to counter spells the opponent may cast. Yes, one had to actually have the mana available to cast the spell in the first place, but getting to untap the lands back allowed for Counterspell to still be cast, and if one played it correctly, could set up an infinite mana loop, to do all sorts of things, like casting Stroke of Genius for 200, or Fireball for 75. It turned Magic into Solitaire.
Fortunately, this mechanic did not last very long. It also said that spells which allow for untapped lands not only is a strong mechanic, but can very easily be abused.

But it is more than simply getting a chance to cast two (2) four mana spells on turn four (4). It is that these spells do not require decisions to be made. Does blue drop a Phantom Warrior to slow down an opponent's rush but leave himself tapped out or does he hold back, wondering if the opponent is holding an Overrun? With free spells, blue can have both. Which is why blue dominated that period of Magic's history.

Next time, we will continue our lesson with a mechanic that never quite took off.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Screen resolution requirements for ML Bot

ML Bot is based on OCR, and thus it reads all the information directly "from the screen". To use it properly, your screen has to be at least 1280x800, even better 1280x900 or higher.

In fact, 1280x800 resolution is fine, BUT you need to hide the Windows menu bar to make the bot work properly. In a nutshell, Magic Online has to use the full screen resolution, thus you have to minimize the menu bar (otherwise the bar will take some pixels, and Magic Online won't resize correctly).

Color depth has to be 32 bit. Colors with 16 bit won't be recognized properly.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Banned: Jace, the Mind Sculptor (Part 1)

Today, we are going to discuss Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and why WotC should have known it was going to be troublesome. This will be yet another series, albeit not as large as the others.. But let me begin with a short story:
I was speaking with a Pro-Tour player who asked me a question: “What are the best words on a Magic card?
I responded “Counter Target Spell”.
No.” He said. “Draw a Card.”
Immediately I realized that not only is he correct, but why he is correct. Magic at its core, is a game of resource management, and the balance one has between the three; Life, Cards, Mana. Every game starts out with each player having 20 life, 7 cards and 0 mana. How quickly one can get the opponent to 0 life (usually) determines the game's winner and one can use any resources to achieve that ends.
Blue attempts to gain an advantage by being able to draw additional cards. Black is willing to sacrifice life in order to gain cards or mana to achieve its ends. Green's mana acceleration is legendary. Red is willing to roll the dice to try and gain an advantage as it has no inherent resource acceleration. White, being a defensive color, doesn't have that ability in its color wheel but has other cards available to it that can negate some of this advantage should an opponent utilize it.

Having those three (3) little words on a card mean so much. It is why marginal cards like Wall of Blossoms and Wall of Omens go from mid-pick in a draft to tournament staples. It is because that WotC has realized that maybe cantrips should not be printed so much.
But this goes beyond a marginal effect plus drawing a card. While drawing a card is nice bonus, if the effect is also nice, then one has a stronger card. A 0/4 defender does not help one win a game. In losing scenarios, it just buys a turn. But a 0/4 defender that also draws a card not only buys a turn, but replaces itself, giving a slight card advantage in the process, but gets the player that much closer to drawing what is needed to win. In short, it makes the deck more consistent.
Consistency is what makes tournament decks the way they are. It is why very strong but very inconsistent decks do not advance to day 2. They can not make it through the Grinders.
Basically, card drawing is a good ability to have. But as the banned list shows, it needs to be scrutinized so that this ability can not be abused.
We will continue this next time.

Resource Abused

Artifacts & Lands







Mana +/-


Life Loss


Card Draw