Jason’s Archives: If I Did It, Here’s How I Would Have Done It

Greetings, Speculators!

A while back I stated in an article that I would be spending my entire Gatecrash budget on non-Gatecrash cards. This was partially due to the fact that I didn’t like any of the cards spoiled as spec targets (with a few exceptions) and partially as an exercise in my analytic techniques. I wanted to challenge myself to make some money by predicting which in-print cards would go up based on spoiled cards rather than guessing which Gatecrash cards would settle for higher than I paid for them.

Last time around I made a mint on Angel of Serenity. This time around I don’t see any card so obviously undervalued. There may or may not be a few cards around $2-$5 that end up jumpinig to $20 or even $30, but this time around that’s not so obvious. In my estimation, every card that’s currently around $15+ dollars will drop in the long term and likely not spike much in the short term. I’d love if my being wrong here meant some QS insiders made some money speculating, but I don’t trust anything enough to bet my money on it.

Here’s What I Did

I said in a past article that even if cipher ends up being bad (and it looks pretty bad) Invisible Stalker will go up. These were gettable under $0.50 before they spoiled cipher, and now the cheapest NM copy available at retail is $1.37. Expect Stalker to buylist for a buck soon if cipher gets any play, and expect the popularity of the Hexproof deck to help Stalker’s price, too. This one was pretty obvious to a lot of people, but if you get in early enough obvious specs aren’t always bad. Other people seeing potential in something will buy lots of copies, so once you’ve spent all you’re going to spend and if you think you got in early enough, tell everyone. They can make some money, too, and their buying lot of copies will bring the price up. The price goes up, you win. I am selling my Stalkers in the short term.

I thought about going deep on Lingering Souls. Spells with flashback are good with Extort, Orzhov and Esper control are likely a thing and Lingering Souls is such a force in the Modern Jund decks in addition to seeing play in Legacy. I am glad I didn’t invest my money yet as the printing of Illness in the Ranks may cause some pants peeing. If these go down in the short term, buy them up. But the potential of a short term price dip makes me glad I hadn’t bought in yet.

QS insiders got e-mail blasts, first about Duskmantle Guildmage doubling the price of Jace, Memory Adept, then about Vizkopa Guildmage octupling the price of Exquisite Blood. Those were both solid, hype-based specs and I made a lot of money in the short term. I am selling every copy as fast as I can, even though that means selling them cheaper than everyone else on eBay. Once people get all the cards and start building, they’ll see these combos are bad and the price can’t be maintained. Sell, sell, sell. Exquisite Blood may retain its price due to casual appeal and price memory, but don’t count on it. With tons of copies of Blood in the hands of speculators, these will be firesold to buylists soon and supply will once again mitigate demand.

I bought lots of copies of Champion of the Parish. That seemed fairly obvious. $3.50 was an excellent price on these guys during a lull in their popularity and I bought in hard. I expect these to trade well even if the price doesn’t go much above $5.

How Exactly Does This Info Help?

Well, this isn’t a humblebrags article, it’s an article about how I chose to spend the money I would normally spend speculating on new singles. I decided to focus on cards that would benefit from new mechanics instead. If you’re right about the cards a given mechanic makes better, you have dozens of chances to hit the card that will make the spec worth it. If you buy based on one card, you have one chance.

For example, I’m holding onto my Hellriders since those are good with every battalion creature and they could go up from $10 or at least keep trading well in the long term. Conversely, I sold all of my Jace, Memory Adepts as soon as I got them. It’s only good with one card, and not even that good. Even if the one-shot cards do end up breaking the format, their price won’t go much higher than the crazy spike and you don’t lose much potential profit selling early in nearly all cases. There are exceptions, but you’re all smart enough to figure that out. This leads us to lesson #1 you can apply to Dragon’s Maze

  • Cards that interact with one other card should be dumped in the short term. Cards that interact with entire mechanics are better long term specs.

Just because you think a card is an excellent hoser doesn’t mean it’s a good spec. Rest in Peace is an example of a best case scenario for hosers, because it spawned an entire deck archetype in Legacy. Right now, the most you’ll pay on Rest in Peace is $3. That card was roughly a $3 preorder.

Hosers are narrow, relegated to sideboards and constantly reprinted as upgraded versions or functional duplicates. If they are truly effective, sometimes they make the deck archetype they hose go away and put themselves out of a job. Thinking about Glaring Spotlight or Illness in the Ranks? If you had preordered Grafdigger’s Cage for the $5-$7 sites were charging back then, you would have discovered a surefire way to lose $4.

  • Stay away from hoser cards as spec targets.

Even if I were preordering cards, I would never pay $20+ for Aurelia’s Fury. If this card sees as much play as Sphinx’s Revelation, it will end up under $20. Do you think it’s that much better than Sphinx’s Revelation? In the short term you could make a little money trading these out at over $20, but this card will likely never even flirt with $30 and even if it does, you’re spending $20 to make $10. Seems like a risky and capital-intensive way to make 50% when other specs make 800% in the short term. Sure, it’s gratifying to trade chase cards out at inflated prices, but don’t preorder. Bust boosters like the rest of us to get those $20+ cards.

  • The “best” card in the set is usually the worst spec.

What Could Have Been Different?

If I hadn’t decided not to preorder any cards from the set, I think [card Obdezat, Ghost Council]Obdezat[/card] was a good buy around $10. Unfortunately, that price only lasted a few hours. Ryan Bushard nearly has me talked into the potential of Domri Rade. However, I’m banking on it taking people a while to crack this card’s code so it may actually tank in the short term as packs get opened. I also think, irrespective of its playability, people will want playsets of Army Loyalist around release weekend. Retail sites had this at $1 and that have been a good buy.

Other than that, nothing made me regret my decision not to preorder cards from Gatecrash. When Dragon’s Maze rolls around, remember how I made money on this set and you should be in good shape.

Decks Tiems Nao

We like our Insiders here at QS. They make it possible for me to get paid to run my mouth off. You may not, but I consider that a good thing. So whenever an Insider does something noteworthy, we make a big sarcastic deal out of it. At the SCG event in Dallas this weekend, Insider Gus Landt made top eight of the Legacy portion. Don’t act like you’re not impressed. Nice work, Gus. Reanimator is cool and all, but you should work on a variation to Landstill, dub it “Landtstsill” and be forever immortalized in the annals of Magic history. You like that? Landtstill? Get it? Because of your last name? You can totally use that one, buddy.

You’re welcome.

Now that the fun part’s out of the way, unfortunately I need to talk about the other Top Eight Finishers who aren’t Insiders and therefore superior in every way.

SCG Dallas Standard Top Decks

It looks like seven decks in the top eight. This brings a single tear of joy to my eye. Standard is finally a healthy format. Gone are the days of rock paper scissors. Gone are the days of mono-Faeries, Jund mirrors, Caw Blade on Caw Blade on Caw Blade. What we have is a great Standard format with a lot of variation.

Since we’re so close to Gatecrash, I didn’t expect to see anything new. The Grixis control deck is cool, and will only get help from Dimir going forward (if only for Watery Grave). I like Niv Mizzet, Dracogenius and he is so damn cheap right now it’s ridiculous. Have people actually read him? That card is just silly. Olivia Voldaren is the preferred mana sink machine gun right now, but that can all change soon. You’d hate to steal a dude and get blown out by Gruul Charm!

That’s right. I am the first and last person to ever type the phrase “blown out by Gruul Charm” (possible exceptions being the guys who open three Gruul Charms in their sealed pool and complain on the internet about it). I am bullish on Nivizzizzle right now, and I think $3-$4 is the absolute price floor. He’s a mythic dragon with good abilities and casual appeal.

[card Tamiyo, the Moon Sage]Tamiyo[/card] is a two-of at most in decks right now and its price is tanking. If this card starts to flirt with $15 I think it’s a snap buy. Potential future Esper and Grixis control decks will incorporate this card, and with manabases supporting four and five colors, mana screw could be a thing again.

Even though they are cheap, stock up on Rootbound Crags and Sunpetal Groves if you like trading. Naya is about to get even better. It won this event without any help from Boros or Gruul, or really even any help from Selesnya. Imagine the potential for Sean Thrasher’s list with stuff like Boros Charm. Clifftop Retreat is probably a bad buy at around $10, but I could be wrong about that, considering how Woodland Cemetery hit $137.25 apiece when G/B Zombies thought it was for real. Most people are willing to sell Crags and Groves for a dollar each and a playset will trade for around $10 if people need them. If you don’t trade much, I might not bother unless you can get them under $1.

Does this mono-red deck that keeps top-eighting want Army Loyalist? I don’t know. It seems like a bad Pyreheart Wolf, but maybe if you play both it could get there. I personally hate Loyalist in the deck, but casting him the turn you plan to trigger battalion could be good. In any case, Mono-Red is about to get Skullcrack for its board so control will have to deal with it another way besides gaining a ton of life. Skullcrack for a virtual eight damage in response to Thragtusk is probably good enough to secure the win.

SCG Dallas Legacy Top Decks

Sneak and Show hadn’t won anything in a while, but it looks like Will Craddock proved it’s never smart to count the deck out.

Merfolk top-eighted but I won’t talk much about it because I expect Corbin to write an entire article and devote 15 minutes on the podcast to how awesome it is and then the two of us can bitch about the whopping three $&*^ing merfolk in Gatecrash. For reference, that is one more than the number of minotaurs in a set advertised to have lots of merfolk.

I like the Junk Midrange deck. People are brewing with Bayou and brewing with it hard. [card Deathrite Shaman]Deathrite[/card] is here to stay as a Legacy staple, which I like just fine, even speaking as a Maverick player. I like this deck a lot and even though it’s one of my favorite cards, it’s good to see Junk players build around something other than Knight of the Reliquary for a change. I don’t think KoTR is gone for good, though, so buy them at $4 if people will sell them and wait for their second coming.

Not much else is new. Painted Stone is the “pet deck of the week,” which seems fun. No RUG Delver, but there is a U/R variant, which looks more like a [card Delver of Secrets]Delver[/card] deck and less like a Canadian Threshold deck splashing Delver and awkwardly mashing it into its name. Legacy gets very little from Gatecrash, but it will continue to develop nicely as players incorporate two powerful Golgari cards.

Grand Prix Bilbao Baggins

Seems like there are quite a few GPs in Spain. I find that odd considering how far to the west Spain is relative to the rest of Europe. I’m sure Europeans don’t wonder about why we have GPs in Phialdelphia and San Diego, though, so maybe I’m making too much out of it. Most people who go to every GP just fly anyway.

Anyway, Modern was the format so you’re getting a real whirlwind tour of the metagame this week. The deck I wanted to win won, so all is right with the world.

GP Bilbao Top 8

The red, white and blue goodstuff list that was smish-smashing dailies on MODO finally had a chance to tear it up paper style. If you ask me, this is a better [card Geist of Saint Traft]Geist[/card] deck than that Slippery Bogle silliness. I love Eiganjo Castle as a way to save both Geist and [card Vendilion Clique]Clique[/card]. This deck is essentially a pile of good cards. The synergy resides in the fact that the whole deck is gas so you never run out. I have an unnatural affinity for decks with Lightning Helix, so when a deck similar to this, but with fewer creatures and Isochron Scepter, emerged at the beginning of the Modern format, I was a fan. The deck was bad. But if imprinting [card Research]Research//Development[/card] on a Scepter is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

With a top eight consisting of two Jund decks, two Scapeshift decks, two Pod decks and a Reanimator deck (finally someone remembered that Gifts Ungiven was legal in this format), in addition to the winner, Modern doesn’t look too terrible. There were a lot more Jund and Pod decks in the top sixteen than anything else, but that will happen. I hope we see more of Manders’ RWU deck in the future because just looking at the list makes me smile. I love Clique, I love Geist, I love Helix and I love decks that aren’t Jund.

No Tron in the top sixteen, no combo, no Affinity, no beatdown decks. Modern could be healthier if they unbanned the right cards. (Seriously, unban Bitterblossom; it’s time.) But for right now, it’s leaning a bit more toward “rock paper scissors” rather than the “eight decks in top eight” we like to see. I like that the new RUW deck is a contender and as the format matures, we’ll see new tech all the time.

I Really Just Write More Than I Should

So I’ll stop abruptly. Have a good week, and follow me on twitter, you buncha cartoons. I’m working on a series on Gathering Magic where I make what I think is a compelling case for following people on every digital medium possible, so stop not doing that.

Until we meet again, and good luck at the prerelease.

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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