Jason’s Archives: One Degree of Separation

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Greetings, Speculators!

Today I want to talk about what we should have been doing while we were all patting ourselves on the back for not buying Shallow Grave.

Events to the Best of My Recollection

I think the order of events was as follows:

  1. Someone finally thought to jam another instant-speed reanimation spell in Legacy Reanimator because lol [card Emrakul, the Aeons Torn]Emrakul[/card].
  2. Shallow Grave hits $20, up from $3.
  3. People bought Shallow Grave for $20 apiece on eBay for a day, tops.
  4. The rest of the finance community threw a party congratulating themselves for being too smart to buy Shallow Grave after they spiked.
  5. Two weeks later the cost of Goryo's Vengeance tripled.

I saw that Legacy Reanimator deck watching the coverage, and I thought it was cute. Legacy Reanimator is already a Tier 2 deck, and there's a Tier 1 deck that cheats Emrakul into play. While it didn't occur to me that I should have moved on Shallow Grave when I saw the coverage, and there were no intermediate price steps between $3 and $20, we've seen things like this before. (I suspect one person went nuts in a bidding war and the BIN prices were set after that, but someone jacking the price on a retail site may have been the culprit; hard to say now.) If Grave had hit $5 for a day on its way to $20, more of us would have moved on it, but once it hit $20, it was clear there was nothing actionable there.

You know what a lot of us didn't do? Read the $%*^ing decklist.


Goryo's Vengeance used to be near bulk. There wasn't a home for it in Extended until rotation at which point Kami block rotated out when Extended became Double Standard. In Legacy, no one was particularly jazzed about getting to swing with Sphinx of the Steel Wind once. EDH was a similar story where the card seemed underpowered and its "RFG" clause stymied further reanimation efforts on the same dude. Gerry T changed all that when he brewed a list a bit later in Modern that made the card worth it. I bought in at almost bulk and when the card hit $5ish (to the best of my recollection, you may need to fact check here) I sold out for a decent profit. The card trickled down to $3 or $4 and that's where it sat until last week.

People are playing Shallow Grave for one reason: it's extra copies of Goryo's Vengeance. It goes for more because Betrayers was opened more than Mirage, but its ability to animate non-legendary creatures doesn't make it four times as good as Vengeance. That meant nearly everyone who correctly identified Shallow Grave as overpriced, but still thought it spiked because of player demand, completely failed to identify Goryo's Vengeance as underpriced. Worse still, some people bought into Shallow Grave at $20 because reasons.

Why Does Stuff Happen?

Why did Aluren go up? If you say it's because someone manipulated the market you aren't wrong necessarily, but it's not the entire truth. Sure, some entity bought most of the copies of Aluren on the net, and small-time speculators bought the rest. But why did they buy all of the copies of Aluren?

Hindsight now tells us the timing is oddly coincidental with the announcement that Imperial Recruiter would be a judge foil -- putting more copies in the hands of players, some of whom would now be able to build Aluren if they wanted. The entity or entities responsible for the Aluren buyout were banking on more people building Aluren some day.

I bought a few Alurens for the pre-spike price because I moved quickly, but I sold them for far cheaper than the consensus going rate because I was hoping to nail a few wannabe speculators who thought buying a $20 card for $15 was a good deal. I got burned trying to flip them and I am stuck with a few copies, but Aluren is Aluren. It'll never be cheaper than when I bought it and since I made money on the endeavor I consider it a success.

What I should have done was look at what else could go up, other than Aluren, if Recruiter proliferates. Other deck archetypes is an answer, but other cards in the Aluren deck is an answer, too. Foils of cards like Cavern Harpy, for example, are cheapish. While most people ultimately would have decided (correctly) that nothing in the Aluren list was actionable and the odds of judge foil Recruiters turning a Tier 3 deck into a money machine were low, the analytical exercise is worthwhile.

How We Handle the Next Spike

There are two reasons a card may spike.

  1. It sees more play (Prime Speaker Zegana, Angel of Glory's Rise, Predator Ooze)
  2. Shenanigans (Cosmic Larva)

The next time we see a non-shenanigans related spike, the play is to look at what else is in the deck. If you're too late to buy in at a pre-spike price (or even a cost-effective intermediate step), you should probably not buy in at all. But if you think the spike is real enough to regret not moving on the card, there is probably still more you can do.

Check out decklists. There are other cards in the deck, and if they get played alongside the one that is spiking, it stands to reason that a rising tide lifts all boats. When Misty Rainforest hits $35, most of the QS community didn't durdle around saying "Wow, the blue ones are a lot better than the other ones." Most of the QS community said "Sweet Jesus, Verdant Catacombs is $10 retail right now, and that will likely be the buylist price in a month. Time to buy me some Catacombs!"

And you know what? Buying Catacombs at $10 was the play. They trade out at $25+ now, as do Marsh Flats and Arid Mesas. We all managed to make that small leap of logic in the face of price spikes of two of the fetch lands due to manipulation by an entity. Once we saw people were willing to shell out $35 for a Misty, we got on the Catacombs train to profit town. So if we're so smart, how many Goryo's Vengeances do we all have?

Probably should have read the decklist.

Did Somebody Say "Decklists?"

No, I said "decklist". Singular.

I Was...Trying to Segue into the Next Segment

Oh, sorry. My bad.

A Big Weekend Indeed

We had approximately all of the Grands Prix this weekend.

GP Rio Coverage

709 people came out to jam some Standard in Blanka's backyard.

A weird, junk-colored Unburial Rites deck put two copies in the top eight. This is basically Ryan Bushard's Séance list from like four months ago that loses the consistency of Seance recursion so it can run two more Unburial Rites and a do-nothing Acidic Slime. I like the deck, but I liked it more four months ago when Ryan built it.

Another archetype put two decks in the top eight, and that was Jund, which looks like a stock list from last week. Nothing new or exciting here.

I like the two Aristocrats decks in the top eight but I don't like their card choices. I don't know what's taking everyone so long to put Assemble the Legion in this deck, but I'm pretty sure Assemble plus Blood Artist is GG with sac outlets. The meta will catch up, and considering how hot Assemble was this weekend compared to how easily I scooped copies at bulk two weeks ago in Cinci, the meta is finally getting wise.

Humaninator continues to do well. Someone predicted a spike from Angel of Glory's Rise, but I wouldn't bet on it. The card's already around $2.50-$3 and I don't see it even hitting $5, let alone clearing it. I am selling now regardless since I bought in at a quarter each, so maybe I'll be pulling a Corbin Hosler and leaving 10% for the next guy before getting fired from the podcast.

I am not sure how the finals would have played out between Jund and Aristocrats; Artur Villela scooped to Jose Francisco da Silva. I think Aristocrats beats a deck that largely relies on haste creatures and odd junk like Mogg Flunkies, but it's hard to say.

What I will say is that Naya was largely absent from the top eight (one copy) and not a single blue card appeared. This is likely largely metagame-dependant and maybe some of the blue players went to a different event.

GP Verona

A European GP seemed like a better draw than one in South America, and the meta looked a lot different. The Junk Rites deck was here, but so were some pretty unusual decks.

A Rakdos deck piloted by Andreas Nilsson made it to the finals but couldn't beat the AngelTusk out of Mike Krasnitski's Junk Rites deck. The Rakdos list is very aggressive but doesn't run any green which gives it more removal and speed but seems like it robs it of power in the form of [card Huntmaster of the Fells]Huntmaster[/card] and [card Thragtusk]Tusk[/card]. Still, homeboy made the finals so it's hard to argue with results.

Max Schultze ran my favorite deck of the weekend, a UWR Reckoner build with Assemble the Legion. This card is going places as it has applications in a lot of decks and I think the meta is finally catching up to where it was always headed before it started dragging its heels. Legion is miserable to play against because it quickly becomes a clock. Scoop these cheap while you still can. If you still can.

Only one Naya list in the top eight here as well. I wonder if that says anything about where the metagame is headed. I wonder if Naya is still capable of winning SCG Opens...

SCG Indianapolis Standard Lists

I don't know that Naya winning is the story of the weekend.

Maybe it's the Zegana Bant deck that was all over this event. It is a much grinder Bant midrange deck than we're used to, but Zegana has always been an exciting card that just took a bit of time to get the mix right. The format may be ready for this deck as it has serious game against aggro and can usually out-advantage control. Chris Andersen turned me on to this deck, and I am sure he appreciates SCG publishing his 707th place finish. To be fair, I caught up to Chris after round one.

Me: "How'd you do?"
Him: "I'm dead."
Me: "Bummer. You lost, then?"
Him: "No, we went to time and the guy wouldn't concede so I conceded and dropped. I'm not going to try and win out the next 10 rounds."

Oh yea, did I not mention this event was 11 rounds? Because it totally was. You know who didn't play 11 rounds? That's right, players in day one of either GP. SCG Indy broke SCG's record for attendance, and it was clear because extra tables were hastily jimmy jammed in the room set aside for coverage, artists and side events. The overflow room wasn't super suitable for this purpose given one enormous design flaw.

The ceiling had %&$*ing mirrors on it. Yes, for actually. I watched a guy get some Dairy Queen for "cheating" because it was alleged he looked at the mirror during sideboarding to try and get an advantage. Outside, ranting to his friends, it was pretty clear he was innocent and just got caught looking up involuntarily the way we sometimes do when we're using our brains harder than normal. Regardless of his guilt or innocence, it sucks that there were mirrors there at all because most players don't have the danger of potentially getting bounced for cheating because you aren't supposed to have Magic Tournaments where there are mirrors on the goddamn ceiling. Not anyone's fault, except maybe us as players for having over 750 people attend this event. Last time there was an Open in the same ballroom there were maybe 400 attendees.

Lots of people were on the Prime Speaker deck and I think Prime Speaker could spike again. It already looks poised to return to its presale level of around $15 and anyone selling under $7 is already sold out. Scoop these el Cheapo if you can. This deck is the real deal, and even if it doesn't take off, it will take this turtley-ass metagame at least a month to realize it, giving you plenty of time to sell for a profit.

Seven archetypes in the top eight? Spoiler alert; that's the same spread as the Legacy event (two copies of RUG Delver). Seems pretty decent. Wizards worked hard to make Standard not terrible, and it paid off. There is no obvious "best deck" right now and people are playing decks they are comfortable with, which is how Magic should be. I love to see healthy metagames both days at SCG Opens.

Not as obvious as Prime Speaker and Assemble the Legions (BUY ZEM!) is a card I targeted heavily in trading in Cincinnatti: Supreme Verdict. This bad boy very quietly tripled over this weekend. No one likely knows yet, so try and scoop them for $3 in trades if you can.

Not much new here besides the Prime Speaker deck. The lists are all subtly different so check each one out. It seems like a good metagame choice.

SCG Indianapolis Legacy Decks

I expected to see more Punishing Jund. Maybe if more people had played that then Countertop, a deck all but KOd by Abrupt Decay, would not have won the event. In fact, I don't see any Punishing Fire decks at all scrolling down the list HOLY $&^% Punishing Maverick! WOOO! That's my JAM! (Actually, I'm pretty white. I have no idea whether a deck can be my jam. Please let me know in the comments if Punishing Maverick is, in fact, my jam). I like Punishing Fire decks right now, and I don't think Knight of the Reliquary decks are the worst either. Maybe they can run that new judge foil Crucible of Worlds everyone but me likes.

The number of High Tide decks is eleven fewer than the number of people who approached me trying to get a Candelabra of Tawnos. I figured the entire meta was High Tide, or one dude was asking a lot of people to ask a lot of other people. Either way, the pet deck of the week award goes to Riley Curran's Elf Combo.

The new Reanimator deck didn't finish in the top eight, but Todd Anderson got 15th, which is nothing to sneeze at. Some tighter play, better tie breakers, and probably losing one fewer match than he did could have easily seen him in the top eight, and that man knows how to close a top eight down. I think Countertop pulls down Reanimator's pants, though. It's generally considered poor if you cannot resolve any reanimation spells. Maindeck Blood Moon and the ability to board in an Energy Field to compliment the Rest in Peace/Helm of Obedience combo make Alex Binek's deck full of nasty surprises. I wonder if he beat any decks running Abrupt Decay.

I Wrote Too Much Again

I calculated what I get paid per word and it made me really depressed. I don't think I'll be able to write a shorter one next week since I essentially write two articles in one, but it does mean I don't like a protracted wrapup since I'm tired of writing. Go buy the cards I told you to buy, and be sure to thank me publicly when you pay off your student loans a year early.


8 thoughts on “Jason’s Archives: One Degree of Separation

  1. I like those article! not tool long! ask for a raise!

    supreme verdict… you still find them at 3$? the cheaper i got was 4$ since a month. (targeting it hard enough to know).
    Zegena is too short term for me (i wont move them with casual trading like i do, i wont get into that train.)
    Assemble is a target for me since the start of the set. .50/dollar junk rare trade FTW. about 9-10. I tried it in multiplayer EDH for fun yesterday. Even there, it was good. Enchantment tends to be hard to remove except if you run Austere Command. bitterblossom+skullclamp? what? nah. assemble the legion+skullclamp! In T2, it’s also quite good. I’m seeing it more and more(FNM level) vs Jund Midrange / Esper. try to wrath or bonfire!

  2. Loved the article, thanks! Assemble the Legion takes too long to set up. Its basically a turn 7 or 8 play (since if you play it turn 5 you likely just lose) so I guess if you have a deck that is built to survive that long you’ll be okay. It looks good on paper but is just a dead card in hand. Thanks for the insight on spiking cards in realtion to decklists. The extra words were appreciated and relevant! New fan!

    1. The rest of your deck gives you time to set up if you built it properly. Assemble is a clock against control if you resolve it and it laughs at every wrath besides Planar Cleansing. UWR decks are starting to run it, Aristocrats decks are starting to run it, the card is going to happen whether people agree or not.

  3. Great point about looking at the rest of the decklist when identifying possible spec targets. That is why I I bought a few extra Summoner’s Pacts recently, because of their appearance in the Amulet Modern deck. I still bought some Amulets, because they were dirt cheap, but Summoner’s Pact would likely make more money and be the safer choice, since it wasn’t the easiest card to acquire in the first place and has plenty of other usages.

    As far as the pet deck from the Legacy Open, I’d have to give that to Jeff Hoogland and his 4-color Loam deck. It looked pretty sweet to me and got him to Top 4.

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