Insider: New Year’s Resolutions

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It's that time of year where people take stock of their lives and make resolutions about how to improve over the coming year. Your fearless Modo speculator is here with a few resolutions of his own.

Be Prepared to Hold onto Tix

When I have tix in my account, I feel compelled to invest them quickly. Having them just sit there feels like an opportunity wasted. But sometimes you have to save your bullets, as often there are only marginal opportunities available, while better opportunities are just around the corner.

Case in point, after capitalizing on a few nice Modern season specs last year, I was looking for the next trade and I had a bunch of tix burning a hole in my pocket. I dumped some into junkish Innistrad mythic rares, with the idea that the powerful Delver decks running around in Standard were suppressing the potential of these cards.

I confidently picked up Angelic Overseer, Skaab Ruinator, and Grimgrin, Corpse Born, all in the 1.5 to 2.5 tix range. I've done very well buying junkish mythics due to the nature of redemption and I felt that these cards would at least be profitable because of that. If they took off in a Constructed format, all the better.

In the end, none of these cards have taken off in Standard. That isn't a problem in and of itself, as not every spec works out. But the mistake I made here was rushing to re-invest my available tix, which resulted in buying too soon.

In January of last year, with the release of Dark Ascension just around the corner, supply of these cards was about to take a big jump and continued drafting of DII meant that I had ignored the fundamental direction of the market. Supply was large and increasing. In order for my spec to work I was relying on the possibility of a Constructed breakout and fighting the market forces of increasing supply.

Fighting the direction of the market while making a low-percentage bet was a poor decision. I would have been much better off sitting on my tix instead. When making a bet on a junkish mythic rare breaking out in Standard, I don't have any extra information or expert knowledge than anyone else. There is no advantage there. I also can't rely on being quicker than everyone else if a card does break out and sees prices increases.

Therefore, the only consistent advantage I have is to work with the underlying market forces. If I had waited on these risky specs, predictably I would have seen much lower prices in the months after DKA's release, an essentially no-risk position due to redemption. Instead, I was stuck with these cards in my portfolio for almost a year as only recently have I been able to sell them at a break-even rate.

Resolve to be more patient and don't go a speculative binge just because there are tix piling up in my account.

Don't Overthink Things

Sometimes I feel like speculators are trying to be too clever by half. There are tried-and-true principles for speculating on MTGO that are consistently profitable year to year. Easily the best time to buy cards for speculation is in the Fall, from the block that just rotated out of Standard.

Although I had loaded up on mythics from Scars block this past year, I didn't push hard on cards like Spellskite and Birthing Pod. Both are from New Phyrexia, a 3rd set. Both were available in the 1 to 2 tix range in October. Spellskite is playable in many different decks and Birthing Pod powers up its own archetype in Modern. Both have seen prices as high as 10 tix while in Standard, giving a good upper target on a price ceiling. Both were slam-dunk investments that checked off all the best criteria for speculating.

In the end, I only bought a handful of each. I spent much more more time and energy on picking up the fast lands than I did on these cards. In the long run, I know every investment in Scars block I made in the Fall will work out, but somehow I ended up overlooking those two. If I had bought one Birthing Pod instead of four Darkslick Shores, it would have yielded a much higher short-term profit and taken far less work.

Resolve to not overthink speculating and to stick to the best investing principles rather than seek out marginal strategies or positions.

No More "Sick Brags"

When starting out in speculating, it can be very gratifying to make your first couple of profitable trades. It's only natural to want to share with people your good fortune and speculating acumen. And I do encourage people to seek validation in this way, at least early on. However, at a certain point, a continued need for external validation can be detrimental to a speculator because it keeps the focus on what has gone right instead of what has gone wrong.

Trades where things work out to the upside are difficult to learn from. It's the trades that didn't pan out that have a lesson behind them. Talking about one's best trades and making "sick brags" allows one to feel good about what happened and to avoid taking a hard look at mistakes made.

Resolve to put this habit on the back burner. It's tacky thing to do, it only serves to make me feel better, and it gets in the way of improving my game.

Merry Christmas, and I hope you enjoy a prosperous New Year.

6 thoughts on “Insider: New Year’s Resolutions

  1. I make plenty of mistakes in speculating, almost as many as things I get right. There is a great benefit to the QS community from sharing one’s specs that didn’t pan out. I am also learning that the number of years in the speculating game is very important. I have viewed Magic with a speculative eye for a little over a year now and have already made some mistakes that are quite obvious and easy to avoid to those who have been at it for several years. Thanks for the insights.

  2. Looking forward to reading more of you in the new year; glad you confirm on the ISD-mythics-fiasco… i bought 18 Skaab ruinators back then for 2.85 a piece and must say I was pretty surprised to read they (FINALLY) started to rise over 2 tix again… those cards are my beacon for what can go wrong in speculating lol, if i could break even on them that would allready be considered a succes !

    This was my first year of speculating and I feel I learned a lot, and mostly of the mistakes (because I’m not that wealthy ?); I will never buy in on ‘promising rares’ again(to name 1 : Kessig Cagebreakers), or at mythics during the prime months of a set (Bought 12 Vraska at 8,5 –> sad face… guess I’ll have to keep those in the Skaab Ruinator Binder :p).

    After all I feel I did not earn enough to pay for my subscription this year (allthough it might be close thx to the ISD-lands and godless shrine), but I made a good foundation for my speculating chances.

    I considered cancelling the subscription but I feel I find too much value still here in these articles and on the mtgo-forum (and it’s fun to be part of it).

  3. Very Nice article again Matt. I have been here a whole year now and bragging is sometimes tempting, to reassure myself that some of my calls were right. For the next year my resolution is to post more of my calls and see how they turn out. No bragging if i let ppl know in advance my moves and see how wrong it can go!

    1. Thanks for reading, posting calls in advance definitely is not a sick brag. And an honest assessment of a portfolio (with all the winners and losers included) doesn’t count as a sick brag either I feel. I liked reading about how your speculating had worked out for you in the forums and good luck to us all in 2013.

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