Jason’s Archives: When Speculation Shouldn’t Be Quiet

Greetings, Speculators!

As I like to say, I write articles on a finance website, but I don’t write finance articles.

It’s not my purview to make financial calls or predictions. I’m more in the “post-game” analysis racket, which is much easier than trying to predict the future. Since I’m not an Insider writer, I also can’t give out relevant information about cards impacted by the weekend’s events until Monday night, after the Insider-only e-mail blasts have alerted our insiders.

Such blasts did a good job of warning everyone before [card Trostani, Selesnyas voice]Trostani[/card], [card Jace, Architect of Thought]Jace[/card], Armada Wurm and [card Olivia Voldaren]Olivia[/card] spiked. If you’re into buying a Jace at $38 before it hits $50, I think Insider is a worthwhile investment. I don’t get paid extra to say that, so at the risk of sounding like a shill without getting paid to be a shill, we can move on.

Who Doesn’t Want to Buy Jace at $38 Before It Hits $50?

Well, me, for one. I see the spike to $50 (on one website; try and guess which one!) as short-term. Some stores got heavy allocations of sealed RtR product, and once everyone gets their playset and the “impatience factor” wears off, I see Jace settling below $50. (The “impatience factor,” you may be wondering, is my term for the high prices people pay to preorder cards they want to play in the first weekend event.)

Despite Jon Medina’s advice not to bother, my cohort Ryan Bushard and I like “penny stocks”. Magic cards aren’t true penny stocks, however, as a bulk rare has a minimum intrinsic value so buying at bulk is practically no risk. If the card hits, you rake in a ton of profit. If it misses, you get almost all of your investment back selling the cards in bulk.

One night a few years ago, Ryan logged on to all the major retail websites and bought every copy of Death’s Shadow he could find. When the card hit in the short term, he sold all of his copies at 2000% of what he paid. That gave him enough one dollar coins to fill a swimming pool and dive into like Scrooge McDuck. (He hurt his back quite badly doing this; it is not recommended.)

When Ryan told me he was going deep on Seance, I decided I could follow suit and quietly speculate (hur hur) along with him, or I could do something that really hasn’t been done before. I could shout it from the rooftops.

Isn’t He Angry That You Gave Away His Secret?

No, he isn’t, and he was in on the whole thing. The magic card market is vast and there are opportunities for many more people than you might imagine. The player base of this game is in the millions and we finance nuts are in the minority. I actually don’t make more money when I withhold information from other speculators because I don’t have the resources to buy every copy of a card or move every copy quickly following a price spike.

I actually think speculators can actively benefit from sharing their picks with others. If Seance suddenly becomes a $3 card (which seems reasonable), stores will already have a million copies in stock from their bulk purchases. They’ll increase their buy price from “bulk” to something like 50 cents. Even though they can get $3 on the outs, they still have thousands of copies to clear out before they need to worry about restocking.

That’s why the more people who go deep on a called shot, the better. When the card hits, with more copies in the hands of the finance community and fewer in the hands of stores, they will raise their buy price more quickly and the dumping can commence. With the player base taking notice, this actually shouldn’t create a glut of everyone dumping at once. If you bought 20 copies at a quarter each, you may be inclined to eBay or MOTL or straight up trade them closer to the $3 retail (for the purposes of this theoretical exercise) and thus not put too many copies in the hands of buylist buyers.

This was my rationale for telling anyone who would listen that I went deep on Seance and that there were still lots of cheap copies available. I want us all to win big; I have no selfish motives and if the card hits, all of the credit goes to Ryan Bushard anyway. He believed in this card back when I was still teasing him about it, he pioneered the decklist being tested by some of the grinders from Lansing and Grand Rapids, Michigan and he let me in on it.

Remember, if the card whiffs and you have to out it for bulk in a year, I told you it would be a card. If the card hits and you make a bunch of money, Ryan Bushard said it and I deserve none of the credit. My only rationale for being vocal about this card is that I think it’s fun to speculate on “penny stocks” and I think anyone who participates in a success will agree. Since it’s low risk, anyone who buys at close to bulk stands to lose next to nothing. If they go deeper, Caveat Emptor– I’m not omniscient and this card could go nowhere. But if that gives you pause, remember, I invested my own money in this gamble.

Why Is Seance a Winner?

Glad you asked me that, rhetorical device. The deck has been solid in testing, and several groups have added it to their testing gauntlet or took it to events last weekend. When more people play with Seance and observe how much better it performs than Unburial Rites in conjunction with [card Trostani, Selesnyas Voice]Trostani[/card], Thragtusk, Armada Wurm and Craterhoof Behemoth, the tech will catch on.

Seance is a repeatable Rites which leaves your mana available to populate with Trostani, cast more creatures, or use Mulch and Grisly Salvage to find Seance food for turns and turns. Unburial Rites is one activation per turn cycle for a maximum of two activations. Seance is two activations per turn cycle until they deal with it.

I am not down on Unburial Rites as I think Frites variants are strong and one just got Top 8 in Cincinnati (more on that later). But Seance is better in certain situations and has a higher upside. For example an Armada Wurm put into play by Seance not only lets you keep the token it makes, it itself is a token so you can copy the original with Trostani and keep 15 power in creatures when the turn ends. Good luck dealing with “The Ghost of Thragtusk Past” during your own upkeep, Zombies. Maybe you should carry four spears.

Test it. You may find you want to play it. There’s always the “Seance, Mirror-Mad Phantasm, Laboratory Maniac” combo deck which is better-positioned given fewer counterspells and instant-speed removal from control decks. You could also go heavy into the populate theme and maybe even jam Parallel Lives to optimize those triggers from Armada Wurm and Thragtusk. There is also brewing your own deck. The card is far from the do-nothing that many have dubbed it and with another year of legality, I expect to see Seance-containing decks post results, soon. It’s only been one weekend, after all.

And What a Weekend It Was!

Hey, Wait a minute! This is Jason’s Archives, Not Jason’s Editorial Page! You Can’t Skip Straight to Decklists!

OK, take it easy. I’ll give you your fix. I had no idea you cared that much.

The 5th copy of Emrakul?

Redditor Idiosync shares with us his custom Flying Spaghetti Monster playmat. Not originally a devotee of FSM, I converted from Church of the Subgenius when I married a Pastafarian. His noodly appendages have been known to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Nice mat, idiosync!

Wonder if you can guess which pile runs out first.

Artist Noah Bradley stops by reddit on occasion, and he took the time to let us know his Return to Ravnica artist proofs had arrived in the mail. Looking good! That has to be the best Giant Growth ever printed. Subtle yet evocative. No, that wasn’t me trying to mock art critics, that was actually my reaction to seeing it for the first time. Someone needs to call me out on my malarkey, and it looks like it falls to me.

There’s nothing else good on reddit this week. Literally.

Now for Deck Lists!

The SCG Open in Cincinnati this weekend was the first glimpse into post RtR Standard.

Ever braggadocios, I wagered an amount of fine Fat Tire Amber Ale (we can’t agree on how much) to serial griefer @deathandstuff based on my prediction that zero Zombies decks would Top 8 and his prediction to the contrary.

His decision to bet me was based on his total lack of an imagination. I wagered that the Magic community would know Zombies was the obvious deck and wouldn’t show up in Cincinnati with a deck that couldn’t beat it. I also remembered when people went ape over B/W Tokens when Dark Ascension came out, and that deck never materialized.

How much would it matter that Zombies was a deck already, unlike B/W Tokens? Was Joe right that the Magic Community lacked imagination and couldn’t brew anything new, preferring to run familiar archetypes from pre-rotation? Or was I right that brewing would prevail and prove the faith I have in the imagination and ingenuity of the community is not unfounded?

SCG Open Cincinnati Top 32 Deck Lists

Motherf%@*$#

An astonishing three unique lists in the Top 8 makes me think a lot of brewing went into finding a Zombie deck that beats the mirror as opposed to finding a deck that beats Zombies and everything else.

Jund seems to be popular, putting three variants in the Top 8. R/B or G/B was five of the Top 8, unless you count the four-color Frites build (I didn’t, so that would make it 6).

Todd Anderson solved the problem of how to build a control deck much earlier than we’d anticipated. Usually the first week or two is dominated by aggro as control decks take longer to dial in. But a format where counterspells are meaningless and terrible may be easier to build in if you just jam tapout control spells.

[card Jace, Architect of Thought]Jace[/card] and [card Tamiyo, the Moon Sage]Tamiyo[/card] make strange bedfellows on paper but in reality they are quite a pair and compliment each other’s abilities (and the mana curve) nicely. Expect Entreat the Angels to lag behind Jace’s price spike but spike itself nonetheless. Detention Sphere is better than $5-$7 right now and even Azorius Charm made a surprising impact despite it initially looking like the weakest of the cycle. On a hot streak of late, Anderson continues to be a guy to watch. Just like that, we have a control deck to test.

Dan Kauffman was ready for Zombies with Elite Inquisitor in the board. Another card I went deep on when it was a dime, this beater is ready for a field full of zombies. The rest of Kauffman’s Selesnya deck is all power all the time. Four Sublime Archangels seems like the right number in a deck that outpaces zombies but lacks their reach.

Not ready to give up, Caleb Durward jammed Delver to an impressive 19th place. Not bad for missing Ponder, Mana Leak and Vapor Snag.

Geist of Saint Traft is another card that heated up. Populating the angel token can be fun, and just drilling the face for 6 is edifying in its own right. If it were me, I’d try to jam Parallel Lives in a deck with Geist, but I am no Todd Anderson. I’m closer to Louie, probably. A few Azorius and Bant beatdown decks also featured the new Ghost Dad. He seems a solid card to hold onto for a bit to see where his price stabilizes.

Congrats to all the Standard players.

Legacy Deck Lists from Cincinnati

No bets associated with this Top 8, but if I had to, I would have bet that people would jam Abrupt Decay and see how it played.

Tezzastrix by Caleb Durward seems like a good deck choice. Managing to restrain himself and avoid Delver, he ran a hostile gauntlet of Abrupt Decays to finish supreme Legacy champ on the weekend.

Those Planechase decks continue to be treasure troves of expensive cards, and continue to be available for $20 at big box retail stores. If I had to guess how many times I’ve walked into a Meijer in the past month and walked out with a Chaos Reigns or three under my arm, it would be “all of them”. The only way to get Maelstrom Wanderer, Shardless Agent and Baleful Strix is from these sets, so snap them at $20.

I’m sitting on a few in anticipation of future increase, but the rest get busted and cannibalized to feed my eBay store its eBay store food. Properly fed, my store excretes a steady stream of cash for me to squander on Seances.

So Caleb didn’t top eight with Delver. You know who did? Three other people. Ugh.

It’s good to see Death and Taxes top eight. I was a fan of Junk and Taxes as Junk easily supports the [card Mangara of Korondor]Mangara[/card]/Karakas combo and also lets you ruin their lives more with discard. This is the pure white version though, which jammed maindeck Phyrexian Revoker as a 4-of. Seems better than the Jotun Grunt that used to occupy that spot. Thomas Enevoldsen managed Top 8 despite playing nonlands that survive an Abrupt Decay.

My prediction that Decay would be laughed off by Mother of Runes seems similarly wrong as zero Maverick decks managed Top 25 for the first time since I can remember.

Lands did make a top 25, piloted by Bobby Kovacs.

I can use my bully pulpit to point out another Top 8 by Kalamazoo local hero Deshaun Baylock. I would have preferred he top eight standard with my Seance build, but he dropped Maverick for the first time in months and it looks like it paid off. Congrats, D!

A nice-looking Top 25 for Legacy brings this week’s article to a close at just under 3,000 words. Thanks for sticking with it the whole time.

That’s All, Folks

So no Seance in the Top 8. I’m not worried as only a few players had our list and as the metagame continues to develop, I think a Seance build has a place. If control is shifting to tapout with sorcery-speed removal, Seance can help you get some real value out of the creatures they don’t manage to Terminus. With another year of legality, I feel like this is a solid call and I’m more than happy to share any and all of my picks with my readers. But take whatever I say with a grain of salt. Remember, I don’t write finance articles.

Jason Alt

Jason Alt

Jason Alt is a value trader and writer. He is Quiet Speculation's self-appointed web content archivist and co-captain of the interdepartmental dodgeball team. He enjoys craft microbrews and doing things ironically. You may have seen him at magic events; he wears black t-shirts and has a beard and a backpack so he's pretty easy to spot. You can hear him as co-host on the Brainstorm Brewery podcast or catch his articles on Gatheringmagic.com. He is also the Community Manager at BrainstormBrewery.com and writes the odd article there, too. Follow him on Twitter @JasonEAlt unless you don't like having your mind blown.

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