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Jason’s Archives: How Much Do We Trust Wizards, Anyway?

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Boy, there sure is a lot of info out there.

Asimov Warned Us

It was Asimov (albeit talking about anti-intellectualism, not a children's card game) who talked about "the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'" Since MTG finance is essentially pattern recognition in its purest form (something we as humans do unconsciously, giving us concepts like "luck" and "superstition"), we can look to historical data to tell us what's going to happen.

But what do we do when an upcoming set's release is unprecedented and all we hear are false equivalences? Worse, how do we deal with information proliferation in an age where anyone with a keyboard can express their opinion? Has the internet eliminated the need for expert opinion or has it just made it harder to filter through the noise to get to real, useful information?

How in the world should we, as financiers, approach Modern Masters?

No One Knows

It's safe to say no one knows how Modern Masters will affect things. With Chronicles being too long ago for most of us to recall and MTG finance not really being as much of a thing back then, we don't have much of a comparison. Even if we could safely compare the two, is it fair? Chronicles was a shock to everyone. The game was in its infancy and while the cards weren't as valuable as they are now, they were still discovering the intrinsic value of the secondary market.

Chronicles dealt a severe blow to the confidence of the people with money invested in the cards and nearly ruined the game. Modern Masters solves these problems by making the set a limited release and making good on a promise never to print cards on the reserve list. But what effect will a glut of new cards have on the secondary market? What should we do?

There are a lot of opinions being bandied about on the Magic Finance Subreddit, another discussion forum that uses the Democracy to highlight good ideas and/or promulgate awful ones.

However, if you delve a bit deeper, you can use the upvote system to get a general idea of what the community thinks the effects of Modern Masters will be. Whether or not these proclamations are made based on real analysis, opinion or guessing, if they get more upvotes, it's likely a greater percentage of the community agrees with that idea. While it's true no one knows for sure, everyone seems to think they do, and you can make out quite well if you're prepared for what people think will happen.

Exhibit A

Thoughtseize at Mythic or Uncommon?

Crunching the numbers, there is no black rare slot in the set left for Thoughtseize at rare. With Thoughtseize flirting with an $80 price tag a few months ago, would Modern Masters really be much of a success if it didn't help people get the copies of this card, played as a four-of, that they need? Thoughtseize at mythic will do almost nothing for the price tag, and it seems unlikely to be printed at mythic anyway.

The community seems to have decided that Thoughtseize will be in M14 (doubtful), Theros (maybe) or Modern Masters as an uncommon. Boy, wouldn't that drive down the price. What we have is a situation where either Thoughtseize is reprinted in a set coming up, likely as rare, and its value goes down a bit, so you should sell now, or it's going to be in Modern Masters as an uncommon and you should really sell now. Add to this the fact that the OP in this thread said the discussion caused him to buy another Thoughtseize now to complete his set. Others will likely follow suit.

So who's right? Will it be in M14? In Theros block? Will it be in Modern Masters as an uncommon? Here's the best part! It doesn't matter! We can argue all we want, and there is certainly a bit of that in this thread. But it doesn't matter!

No one has proposed a scenario where the price of Thoughtseize goes up in the short term. If it isn't reprinted at all, its price will continue to tick up in the long term, following its current trajectory, and may even see a small short-term bump when it's not reprinted in the near-term, but when that flattens out you can rebuy at the same price. Meanwhile, you are guaranteed to be selling at the peak now, and in most cases you can rebuy for much less soon. Selling is a no-brainer and all the speculation out there seems to be inclining people to buy, not sell.

Exhibit B

Dealing with Singles

The highest-upvoted comment says the commons and uncommons are going to tank (I agree) and the rares and mythics won't drop that much (I don't know that I agree). Is he right? Again, it doesn't matter. We have a small cross-section of the community here, true, but this is a subreddit that people opt into. The people reading and posting in it are inclined toward finance, so what they think tends to indicate how the "herd" is going to behave with regard to finance decisions when the packs hit the shelves.

If people don't think rares or mythics will drop much, it's a good time to sell them (if you think they're at their peak) and buy in later. Whether or not the people are ultimately proven correct, you need to know what they're thinking in the run-up to this set. If you have any commons or uncommons that are spoiled or likely reprints, you should have sold already. There are more sellers than buyers right now for those, so make sure you don't wait.

This article isn't about telling you basic stuff like that, though. It's about letting you know what everyone else is thinking. The QS forums are a very good tool, but the info is just sitting there for free on reddit, so why not take advantage?

Exhibit C

General MM Ideas

The general perception of Modern Masters is that not enough will be printed to meet demand. The high prices for boxes on the secondary market, the proliferation of the notion that there is one print run, distributed in two waves, and the general balking at sites charging $300 a box, all indicate that the burgeoning community of next generation financiers seems to feel that even with super-high EV these packs are probably not worth buying and won't affect the prices much.

But how can those both be true? If they won't bring prices down, they are worth buying. Both of these attitudes, which seem to contradict each other, show that the community is divided on the issue and no compelling argument sways the masses.

Which is correct? Will the packs be a bad buy at $12-$15 each or will there not be enough printed to bring prices down? It doesn't matter! If the community has no idea, it's almost assuredly a good idea to sell what you have now and wait for sealed product in a second wave where the presale prices have calmed down a bit. There is almost no chance of having to rebuy for more money later with more copies of the cards out there, so I'm selling what I have.

You guys know how I feel about free information, I'm very vocal about it. My entire Gathering Magic column was born from my advocation of Twitter as a medium for free Magic knowledge, financial and otherwise, as well as a good networking tool. The Finance subreddit is a little green but even if you think people know less than you, there is a lot of data to be mined, and it's never a bad idea to know what people are thinking.

I'm not suggesting the subreddit will ever replace the QS forums (I still swear it's fora); it's a supplement. The information on both places is different, but valuable. You can bounce your ideas off of a newer audience, see how people react to things and generally just crowdsource. In a lot of cases, crowdsourced answers are more accurate than those derived from asking a small number of experts.

This doesn't have to be depressing. If ten million people are all wrong about Modern Masters, but they act on bad information, what good did being right do you? You missed out on financial opportunity, and being able to predict behavior is an opportunity for serious financial gain. I'd recommend checking the MTG finance subreddit at this address.

Standings From What's Still a Stale, Stalled Standard

GP Guadalajara

Standard is slow to adopt new archetypes, and it may take rotation for players to switch from "look how much better this one new card made my old deck" mode to "here's a new archetype, so you can take that gun out of your mouth, Jason" mode.

Maybe the Central American metagame is a little different and we'll see something interesting in this Top 8.

Blitz. Reanimator. Naya.

Fascinating. At least there's no Jund, I guess.

Alfonso Ramirez Padilla managed to pilot the new "Bhorzhov" deck I've seen bandied about and I like it. It's a good, slower shell that fits Sire of Insanity a bit better than stupid old Jund. While Jund tends to topdeck well, this deck topdecks better, running nothing but solid removal, utility creatures and, most importantly, spells like Unburial Rites and Lingering Souls that it's totally OK to pitch to Sire.

Players will have to get more creative with Sire after rotation (or they'll just turn their hand into Ooze food in the same old stupid Jund colors, more likely) but for now, WHEEEEEE. This deck is basically a modified Aristocrats deck, keeping the powerful "Act 2" engine that made the former better than the non-act versions of the deck (against which I advocated) and eschewing weak creatures in favor of more removal and bigger creatures.

It manages as good or better against aggro (too many creatures and 1-for-1 removal spells from Act 2 were not enough to slow down Naya and Gruul blitz) and doesn't lose to the same decks that beat aggro the way the Aristocrats tended to. When Blasphemous Act is gone, the reasons to run Obzedat, Ghost Council over Blood Baron of Vizkopa are fewer and farther between. Blood Baron is getting more work done than Joan Rivers. Thank you for not boring me, Alfonso Ramirez Padilla.

Domri Rade is getting even more respect. I think he could go up after rotation. Everyone is ready for Jace, Architect of Thought to jump, but Domri could see a similar spike. People will still want to play red and green together, and this guy is card draw, removal and a clock all in one. When there are fewer small creatures to attack him and more fatties to find with him he gets a lot better. Your fights become more one-sided, he's easier to protect, and drawing an extra fatty is much more oppressive than using his +1 to draw a turn seven Experiment One like you might now. I'm snagging these in trade.

Does anyone else hope they don't print Acidic Slime in M14? For the time being, everyone is excited about Acidic Slime and Progenitor Mimic. Mimic is poised to go up. The new legend rule lets you copy saucier targets like Prime Speaker Zegana, a slower format means he'll do more work and the loss of cards like Conjurer's Closet (which didn't see a ton of play) and Restoration Angel (which did) could make this pseudo-flash much better in a new, slower Standard. Mimic won't be cheaper than it is now for a while. Inside sources claim this card was hot at the GP and the SCG Open both.

Insert Shoehorned "Double Standard" Joke Here

Some Lists

Hopefully Different Lists

This was Memorial Day weekend. It's my birthday soon, my beloved Blackhawks just embarrassed the Red Wings at home to force Game 7, it was barbeque weather... I just couldn't care about the coverage for a double Standard weekend in Dallas.

Accordingly, I was totally baffled by the listings here. Coverage says Aaron Barich got first one of the days and merely Top 8'd the other day --"merely". Heh. When my buddy Josh Glantzman did the same thing I made a huge deal out of it-- but the coverage has him listed in first both days. I wish I knew better who really got Top 8 and who won, but it doesn't matter that much. Let's just look at the decks, I guess.

I don't want to spend a ton of time on this since there isn't much new here.

I'm assuming this guy won Saturday with a deck that I like rather a lot. Aetherling is not a card I expect to be worth a ton of money, no matter how good it is, but they're good to target now because they're probably too cheap.

This deck is a nightmare to pilot, but the options give you a chance to win every game if you play tight enough. It's a real skill tester but I like the answers it has, the clock is has, the resilience it has. I found myself wishing they'd reprinted Lightning Helix instead of Warleader's Helix. They obviously could never have done that in a format with Snapcaster Mage, but it was nice to dream. Warleader's Helix is less than half as good as Lightning Helix, but even that is stupid good right now. This deck is losing a lot of tools in the rotation, but I feel like it can find replacements without having to add a color.

Peddle sure has changed a lot in the past few months. With all of the good Simic and Izzet cards coming out, it made little sense to keep black in the deck at all. Ral Zarek seems like he's found a home, but I still stand by the "more cute than good" pronouncement I made of his +1 ability when the card was spoiled.

I like this deck a ton, though. It can stem the tide of aggro, and if control doesn't answer some of its nuttier interactions such as Progenitor Mimic + Thragtusk it has a ton of inevitability. I like how this deck looks, now. As much as I like Jeff Hoogland's contribution to the game, I'm going to have to give the new Peddle builds the nod over RUG Flash.

Bant Hexproof got a lot of resilience in the form of Voice of Resurgence, but the deck still scoops to its own draws. Mulliganing is too punishing, and even adding more creatures may not be enough. Sweepers pants the deck, and mulliganing post-board into hands with permission is risky. The deck has a large number of "forced" mulligans inherent in its mana base, low creature count and trying to mull to sideboard cards is bad news bears. A few removal spells and the deck folds like a cheap suit. It punishes its opponents' bad draws and steamrolls people when it's good, but when it's bad, it's the worst deck in Standard.

Desecration Demon is poised to do some serious work soon. It's already a monster, and Lingering Souls, Doomed Traveler and Huntmaster of the Fells leaving will help it do even more. This is a bulk pickup right now in trade and it's $2 TCG mid. Several sites are paying over a dollar for this guy. Get them now.

Unfortunately for this deck, Disciple of Bolas is leaving us. I really wanted that card to catch on, but it never did and I'm not really sure why. It is so much advantage rolled into one card. Oh well, you can tell the metagame it's a good idea to run Mutilate, but they don't have to listen. This guy did, though, and he was probably a few OMW% points out of Top 8. If he had made Top 8, a lot more people would be taking his deck seriously. Funny how that works. I like this build and it encourages you to buy a lot of Liliana of the Veil, which you should be doing anyway right now.

The rest of both Top 8s looked familiar. Lots of Jund, R/G Aggro and Reanimator. I'd look into promising control decks that don't lean too heavily on Innsitrad block cards if I were you. Aggro is attractive right now, but it's losing a lot of its speed, mostly in the form of its good one-drops. Playing doofier ones like Rakdos Cackler is an option, but all control has to do to delay the clock is break up battalion. Control will have fewer hardships going forward than midrange decks which lose Huntmaster and Thragtusk. They can't take as much early damage as they used to.

That's all the Magic news that's fit to print and I bid you adieu. Check with me next week.

5 thoughts on “Jason’s Archives: How Much Do We Trust Wizards, Anyway?

  1. I enjoyed the article (as usual) and tend to agree with a lot of your points (especially the Buy Liliana’s of the Veil one). I’ve become bored with standard as well…I played in one gameday because it was free (with the only prizes being the cards and the playmat) instead of playing in a $5 with much better prize support only because I can’t bring myself to pay to play standard right now.

    1. I find it too hard to keep decks together as a financier. Keeping stuff to play with means holding it past where you should be selling it. I play a lot of limited, but constructed, especially Standard, seems like bad value to me as someone who considers himself primarily a financier.

    1. Now or then, I don\’t think it matters. I don\’t see it going down much. I\’ll pay cash at rotation, but they are a fine trade target and people are eager to take a hit dumping them.

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