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Jason’s Article: Dead Precedents

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Greetings, Salivators!

I wanted to talk about change this week, so why not start with a big one? I don't see the point in calling this "Jason's Archives" anymore, so the first big change I'll make is in the title bar. I hope this sets the tone for what I want to talk about today.

Look to the Past

A lot of us called Voice of Resurgence wrong. I took a tour around the internet today to check out what all of the financial set reviews had to say about Swagstag. I found a lot of people hedging ("Eh, maybe you don't sell these for $20 right away, maybe, probably, if you want to play with them, maybe, I guess, probably"), a lot of people straight up refusing to put a dollar value on the card, and a lot of people who did put a dollar value on the card, and were wrong.

Fortunately for me, I don't write financial articles, so I never went on record on this site saying the price I thought was correct for Voice.

Unfortunately for me, I did go on record on the podcast, and it bugs me that I didn't see the financial potential in this card. What the hell happened and how do we avoid it in the future?

Precedent of What?

I think Abrupt Decay is phenomenal. Its colors and casting cost restriction make it a fair card that requires a commitment and a narrow set of targets, yet its power and uncounterability make it appealing across a wide variety of formats. It's fair, powerful, and it seems like it is going to be in green-black's toolbox for years to come.

It may be my favorite card from a set where a lot of cards (Deathrite Shaman, Trostani, Selesnya's Voice, Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius, Supreme Verdict, Vraska the Unseen) are vying for that title. My first thought when I saw the card spoiled was "this will change Legacy forever." My first thought when I saw the $20 preorder price tag was "you can go $%*& yourself."

Abrupt Decay isn't a $20 card.* The sheer balls it took to put a $20 pricetag on a narrow(ish) utility card from a set people are going to buy the ass out of really galled me. I suppose I have regarded every $20+ preorder card with suspicion since.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Precedent

If Library of Alexandria is the unofficial 10th card in the Power Nine (others argue Bazaar and/or Workshop belong on that list), card 11 has to be Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I recognized I wanted these, but since I wasn't involved in the finance game at that point, I bought a whopping four copies for the $30 they preordered for.

It's almost always incorrect to preorder a planeswalker for that much unless you intend to play with it that week, and by categorically saying "don't preorder the planeswalker for this much" you can bat about .900 in the prediction game. There are so many Ral Zareks for every Liliana of the Veil, it's easy to just stay away from walkers for a few weeks, or try to pack them.

Still, players remember that $30 Jace and they don't want to miss the chance to buy the next "piece of power" for a mere twenty-five or thirty dollars. This precedent has altered the presale of every planeswalker from now on.

Precedent Elect

Chase cards from small sets tend to be a little under-priced in the beginning. With more of those chase cards per case, more of them are going to be opened and as the set gets drafted more and more, increased demand is usually mitigated by increased supply.

If the set is good and people want to play a lot of Limited and buy packs to bust the cards they want, the chase cards have a hard time of going too far above their presale price because of all the factors putting downward pressure on the price. There are obvious, very recent examples of cards that violate this trend, however--Sword of War and Peace is still fresh in everyone's minds. New Phyrexia may be the most puzzling of all third sets in history--it's a case study in and of itself.

So What Happened With Voice?

Voice of Resurgence is clearly the best card in a terrible set. Voice of Resurgence has appeal outside of Standard. Dragon's Maze got drafted one pack at a time, not three packs at a time like the other two sets, and that's only until Modern Masters came out and it stopped getting drafted altogether. Voice saw immediate adoption as a four-of in Bant Hexproof, but a lot of pundits and pro players hadn't predicted Voice being a four-of in anything.

Voice is a card that needed a little testing to find the right decks--its power is obvious, but early testing indicated the card was a little underwhelming compared with everyone's lofty expectations upon printing. Once the right deck was found, helped by the block PT a few weeks after the full spoiler was up, Voice's power level was established and obvious to everyone.

All of these factors are unusual and all contributed to a perfect storm, but here's the thing--every single one of these factors was predictable.

If memory serves, Ryan was the only member of the podcast that correctly said you might want to buy Voice at $25. I was remembering Lotleth Troll and rolling my eyes, he was remembering Jace, Architect of Thought--a $20-$25 preorder card that hit $50 in the short term before going back down--and trying to be prepared. Even though he was right, as far as I know, he didn't invest any money in the card.

Why I Don't Feel Bad

Even though Voice hit pretend theoretical $70 on certain websites, you could always find copies for around $40 on eBay, which was my primary out at the time. This was close to the buylist of the sites selling for $70, but that window was very small (about a week long). Being able to sell Voice for full retail at its peak, after fees, meant you approximately doubled up.

Doubling up is awesome- if you could 100% guarantee you'd double up on any investment, the play is to borrow as many hundreds of thousands of dollars as you could and then retire.

For reference, instead of investing in Voice, I invested in Deadbridge Chant which, even though the window was small, nearly quintupled. I bought in at between $1.50 and $2, whereas Voice would have seen me investing at around $25. a $500 in Voices would net you $400-$500, not bad for a day's work. a $500 investment in Chants, in the same ideal Christmas Land where you can move every copy you have for full retail would have netted roughly three times that.

Is it way easier to move a smaller number of copies of a card everyone seems to want? Hell yes it is. Having a binder full of Voices to trade off to people at $70 is a great way to make a ton of money in this business. But if you are looking purely to buy low and sell high, cards like Chant have an easier time going from $1.50 to $2 up to $6-$8 than Voice has of going from $25 to $100 or $150.

One major caveat is if you also play Magic and wanted a set of Voices, following this advice would have led to shelling out more money later than the initial $25.

I feel like I did fine investing elsewhere so I don't regret calling Voice wrong. That doesn't mean I don't wish I'd gotten it right and it doesn't mean there is nothing to learn from the situation.

How Can We Apply What We Learned?

M14 is not a small set. It is a fun limited format. It will likely get drafted a lot, especially at Gen Con where nearly all of the limited events, hundreds in total, will be with M14 cards. There are five planeswalkers, three or four chase mythics instead of one--this set isn't Dragon's Maze.

The odds of something from the set turning into Voice of Resurgence seem low. But considering how I failed to predict Voice's price (let's be honest, the entire finance community did with few exceptions), I want to take a second to look at a few cards after the prerelease weekend, before prices start to move next week when people get ahold of their cases.

Kalonian Hydra: This card is one of the most exciting cards from the set. Hydras always do well with casual players. People are targeting these heavily and the power level seems absurd if they can't deal with it immediately.

I plan to try and pack these but I plan to watch for chatter on Twitter. This is the most hyped card in the set, and I predicted that even though I love the card, you should dump them as soon as you get them.

The direction the card heads first is likely where it will head long-term. Maybe you sit on any you open and see where they go. I don't advocate buying these at $25, though.

Garruk, Caller of Beasts: I don't like this guy, but so many people whose opinion I respect seem to. Either I'm really missing something or everyone just wants him to be good because of how bad Chandra turned out.

If you're ramping to Garruk, why not just ramp to the creature you want to play instead? The only creature you're really "cheating" into play with his ability is Worldspine Wurm, and I don't ever want to play a deck that contains Worldspine Wurm.

I busted a Garruk in Sealed, and paying six mana to draw two or three gas cards is nuts. The first time I played him and used his +1 I saw four lands and a Lava Axe. My first thought was "that sucks" but then I realized "No, it doesn't. I just did the least green thing ever" and filling my mitt with gas the next turn was all I needed to take the game down.

The first and last abilities seem like the best, but are they good enough to bother playing him in Standard? I am outing mine. I feel like this is preselling for as much as it is because of the Jace precedent.

Archangel of Thune: So this card went from $25 to $30 over the weekend, prompting this entire article. It may have seemed like it was about Voice, but it's more about what lessons we can learn from Voice.

Archangel has me puzzled. I don't like it that much, and I sure as hell don't like it at $30. Everyone seems to trying to dump them as quickly as possible.

Looking at another archangel, Sublime Archangel, we see that it seemed overpriced, no one wanted it, and then it just stayed at the exact same price almost forever.

I don't think $30 is correct here, but I am planning to test this card extensively.

Still, the odds of this hitting that ridiculous $70 Voice reached seem so remotely low, I don't anticipate being glad to snag these at $30. I'm not snap-trading them out, but I'm not going to hold on too long, either. If they haven't done anything in a week or two I'd imagine the price will go down, but Sublime Archangel's history seems to indicate they'll fall slowly enough that you can take your time and decide what to do with this card.

Mutavault: How can this possibly not go down? If Theros indicates some tribal goodies, buy in, sure. But copies of this will likely get snapped up by people who can't believe their luck at getting a "ZOMG $30 cradz!" for $15, and once all those copies are gone, I expect it to hit $10. That's where I'm buying in. Regardless of Theros, this is still nuts in Legacy.

What other cards should we take a second look at in light of the puzzling case of Voice of Resurgence?

Tournament Reports!

There were no Grands Prix or SCG events this weekend in light of the Prerelease, making this my favorite time of year because I get to cut out early. I'll make up for the other 2,000 words you were expecting to read by answering what precdents have shown is going to be roughly 25 comments on the article. Have a great week, and open your prize packs. You can't trade out what you have sealed up.

*The foil sat at $20 for a few weeks, too. $20 has never been the correct price for any kind of Abrupt Decay.

18 thoughts on “Jason’s Article: Dead Precedents

  1. Great article..it’s amusing that we did similar themes (I too looked at previous calls)..I definitely agree that voice had the perfect storm going for it…I do think it will drop dramatically if theros doesn’t provide the necessary mana fixing to sustain all these 3/4 color decks.

  2. Jason, what do you think of buying Foil Voices here in the $70’s. If it becomes a Modern mainstay, that foil multiplier may gradually increase. I don’t think this is on track to become a $400 foil like Tarmogoyf, but it is a good card from a small, junky set that sees some “Eternal” play. Are $100+ foil copies out of the question?

    Great read as always 🙂

    1. It remains to be seen the extent to which cards that are played mostly in Modern benefit from a foil multiplier. I don\’t really like buying into any card at $70 to hopefully sell or $100 unless I want to play with the card in the mean time.

  3. >> If Library of Alexandria is the unofficial 10th card in the Power Nine (others argue Bazaar and/or Workshop belong on that list), card 11 has to be Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

    Ooh, I’m sorry, the correct answer was “time vault”. But we have a lovely consolation prize: a CE Island!

    1. Agreed on time vault. I however think timetwister should be replaced with it. I also think FoW is more powerful to vintage players than JtM.

  4. Nice article, as usual!

    I think mutavault will stay at 15$ for a couple of weeks (if not more) because people will want their “playset”. Even in a multicolor set as we are right now, i think the decks might become less colored in a no-checklands environnement. Theros will have duals, but in what form? For all we know, it might as well be another set of dual in guidgate form. (tap lands) Without Farseek, the decks will change a lot and we might lose the 3 colored deck we had for a year.

    the Hydra and the Archangel are overhyped as usual. there is no Thundermaw dragon here. Wolfir Silverheart was also almost the same thing as the Hydra (dont bring the trample argument or i bring the die to removal argument…) and Sublime was as almost good as Archangle of Thune. Imo, it doesn’t make them 25 and 35 $ cards.

    Garruk is quite expensive to cast, i doubt it will stay that high in price. However, the foil version might be a good pick, this card screem EDH.

    My attitude toward Voices and things i miss like that, is to “ignore the boat if you miss it”. Let’s not try to get that 10% but think about the next 50%-100% you can make. I missed the boat for Geist of St-Traft 35, Thundermaw Hellkite 35-40, Boros Reckoner 30, Voice 50-60… i try to win else were : Snapcaster at 15 before it reached 30, Mayor of Avaruck at 1.5 before it reached 5, Huntmaster at 10 before it reached 25, Bonfire at 15 before it reached 45-50, Thragtusk at 13 before it reached 25, Deathrite Shaman at 8 before it reached 18, Abrupt Decay at 4 before it started to rise again…

    You missed the boat for Voices, but you don’t care, you made some on Deadbridge Chant…yes its slower to unload a bunch of them but how much you want to commit yourself? A playset of Voice was 100$ of cards in a binder that might have rise(no body was sure of it). a playset of Deathbridge was a good 8$ that have rise to 30$ the playset.

    so yeah, you missed a boat… but so what! 😛

    1. I feel accountable to people who take my advice, and with Voice being obviously the best card in the set but no one predicting the crazy price spike, I want to figure out what happened so I can be ready when Theros comes out. I don\’t care for me because I made money, but I did also tell people to sell them at $25 and that was clearly wrong.

  5. What makes Garruk good is that, most of the time, it’s really like ramping into the creature you’re already ramping into and getting a free planeswalker (rather than the other way around). Then you untap with the creature you were ramping into anyway, but you can now also +1 Garruk and draw an assload of free cards.

    In other words, think of him as a mana source the turn you play him. He’s a Burning-Tree Emissary for fatties, except that he draws cards, makes more virtual mana, and soaks up damage on subsequent turns instead of just attacking for 2.

  6. Jason.

    First, you do have some good points. No denying that.

    Second, Please stop with the whole “mistake made – feel accountable – don’t feel bad in the end” type thing. All you’re doing is trying to wash your hands of a bad call! Just say you fucked up, and leave it at that.

  7. Most of the potential that people see in the Archangel is casual, but the price increase (I believe) came from its apparent playability in Melira Pod. It acts as another Melira at the top of the curve with Finks + sac outlet + Angel, then swing for infinity with said sac outlet. I honestly don’t believe that Melira needs another 5 drop besides Reveillark, but would this change your mind about the angel in any way (since you didn’t mention any modern potential from the card)?

      1. And now it\’s at $35. Even if it hits $40, I think buying in at $25 is garbage. Is anyone actually putting this in a deck? Why is this worth money?

        1. But it could become the next Baneslayer Angel!!!!111!!1! OMG buy it now before it hits $60!

          Seriously, just like any Planeswalker that looks like it may be decent gets the “Jace effect” price bump, solid Mythic Angels get a comparable “Baneslayer effect” price bump. But Thune is no Baneslayer just like no Planeswalker is ever like Jace.

  8. I got a question for you, and maybe you could write a future article on this.

    Instead of looking at what’s in M14, I think it would help to see what is missing. Sort of like predicting what will happen when a set rotates, we might be able to pick some cards that will see more play, due to the fact we have no other options or because it no longer sucks as bad (see example 2).

    For example: Something that is missing in M14 is a decent wrath effect. Sure, there is Planar Cleansing, but we have no reason to believe that card is playable in Standard (see M10, M13). We still have Supreme Verdict from RtR (yay), but does Merciless Eviction have a shot (perhaps due to flexibility and the ability to only hit enchantments)? It’s practically bulk now, but might it turn into a 3-4$ card in the future?

    Another example: M14 is missing a 3 damage burn spell. How does this change our views on underplayed Planeswalkers? Are their any 3 toughness bulk rares that might see card shop lights after being tucked away in a bulk bin?

    I would like to hear your thoughts on this subject, if you can find the time that is.
    Always enjoy the articles, keep up the good work!

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