Apparently google doesn't think "spectroscopists" is a word. Let me ask you something, google. What do you call someone who analyzes samples using spectroscopes? Oh, a chemist? Good answer, google. That's why they pay you the big bucks.
Speaking of chemists, I used to be one. I also feel like I used to be a Magic player, and that has probably got to change and I'll tell you why.
I used to grind Magic, trying to win a PTQ or get enough byes to have an easier time of it at GPs. I would spend a lot of my disposable income on cards, travel costs and accessories and went from loving to win to hating to lose. Losing a win-and-in to make Day 2 of a GP or getting 9th at a PTQ feels really bad, and the more that happened, the less I felt like I was ever going to achieve any level of success at the game.
We'd travel to GPs with Ryan Bushard in our car, and invariably I'd envy his lifestyle a bit. We were playtesting and writing out how to sideboard the night before until late and then we were getting up at 8 am sometimes while Ryan would set his alarm until noon and tell us he'd catch up with us later. I'd battle all day only to fall a bit short and Ryan would offer to bring us food between rounds and regale us with tales of business meetings/dinners and the figureheads of the community he was rubbing shoulders with while we were grinding.
I think the moment I realized it was time for a change was GP Montreal in 2011. Ryan asked us as we were in line to cross the border back into America "Do you think they're going to ask how much money we have like they do sometimes? I have about $3,000 and I don't know if I should declare it."
Here I was with $1 left in my wallet out of the $300 I exchanged at the border going in to Canada and Ryan was afraid he had too much money after a weekend of trading and selling to dealers. I spent my weekend playing M12 Sealed, which is only slightly more fun than finding out if you can get poison ivy on your scrotum (you totally can guys, trust me). Ryan spent his weekend sleeping in, taking hour lunch breaks and occasionally making a trade or two. Granted, $3,000 wasn't profit, but it was still a lot of money to gross in a weekend of selling to one of maybe four dealers.
By January 2012 I was a full-time financier and I haven't looked back since. That is, until I started to think the pendulum swung too far in the opposite direction, and maybe a happy financier is a well-rounded financier.
How To Be Well-Rounded
I'm not suggesting you should start playing in GPs instead of going to them to trade and buylist. I think that's not the play. What I am going to suggest is that there are two or three weekends a month where there is no GP to go to, and are you serving yourself or your community by ignoring the game on your "time off"? I've been skipping a lot lately--FNMs, weekly booster drafts, casual nights, PTQs.
You can make the case that binders don't change over that often at your LGS and there aren't too many trades to be had, but who even likes trading anymore? I have become increasingly disillusioned with the concept of trading for value lately, and with eBay then and TCG Player now as outs, every trade I've done lately has been because someone approached me and I traded with them for stuff that sold well.
I notice people's buttholes tended to pucker up when I'd approach them and ask to trade, and the stuff they wanted from me was stuff I found I was selling instead of keeping around to trade. In general, the play is to trade a Geist of Saint Traft into cards that seemed smaller but added up to more value than just selling a Geist. However, if you aren't inclined to do a ton of trading, just selling the Geist and trying to buy another one at buylist felt like what I wanted to be doing.
The real shift for me didn't come in the form of me falling in love with trading again. I think value trading and I are going to see other people and it's probably going to stay that way. I may get drunk and dial the first few numbers of value trading's phone number every now and again, but it's over and I should move on.
What's taken its place is me falling in love with winning, and to win, you have to play.
My first tip to people who grind finance style almost exclusively is to become a casual magic player again. If you don't like to trade as much as you used to, it's because you're trading with the wrong people. If you don't like to play, similarly, you may be playing the wrong formats.
Even though it rotates the most often, Standard almost always feels stale to me. I see everything from Innistrad block as lame ducks--cards not worth picking up because they're about to rotate no matter how long until actual rotation there may be. Standard is unfortunately the format we as players have the most opportunities to play. This may require you to play some non-sanctioned games--something that may seem like a tough sell at first.
Going Casual Casual
When I first started in finance, Ryan told me that he spent one day a week going to a local community college and playing casual games there. When I took his advice and did it myself, I saw the appeal.
First of all, casual players make up a larger percentage of total players than anyone realizes. It's estimated there are two casual players for every player with a DCI Number. You're never going to meet these people if you only play FNM and GPs, but that's a shame, because those people have twice the demand for cards and less than half of the availability.
I never expected to encounter such a large group of people for whom the concept of buying a single card on the internet seemed foreign, but that's what I encountered. And when I did, I managed to trade a lot of the stuff in my lead-off or "junk" binder.
Standard players don't take a second look at Archangel's Light and neither do hardcore EDH players. But there is a category of player that devours cards like that and it's foolish to ignore them. I can't keep cards like that in stock, and I have a similarly-difficult time holding onto prerelease and Game Day promo cards because there is a significant portion of the Magic-playing population that loves promos like that but simply doesn't play in events, even events as casual as a pre-release.
Keep a casual deck to play a few games with those players and potentially demonstrate some cards they've never seen before. The best part about interacting with casual players is encouraging them to venture to the LGS for a pre-release. Those events are who those players are for, after all, and you may be able to grow your LGS' player base with an infusion of new players who may want to get a bit more competitive.
The casual players will value cards competitive players consider bad, undervalue cards competitive players consider good and are unpretentious and easy to hang out with. Casual players aren't going to get out their phone and look up the price of every card to make the trade take forever, either.
You could probably screw them if you wanted to. I'd advise against it. You can shear a sheep for life but you can only skin it once. Be honest about the money value of the trades, hook them up with casual cards that won't sell online or trade out well anywhere else and play a few damn games with them while you're at it. There are worse ways to spend an afternoon.
Going Hardcore Casual
I used to think playing EDH was just dicking around for durdles. I've grown a bit as a player and community member and I've come to realize that actually playing EDH is dicking around for durdles, but it's a pretty worthwhile endeavor.
I used to borrow the occasional EDH deck and play it but I never wanted to have money invested in it. Why have money tied up in cards when you could sell those cards? If I want to dick around, I'll play Type 4. Well, nobody plays Type 4 anymore. I don't think anyone even knows how. What's replaced it is either Cube Drafting or EDH.
I got into EDH recently because I don't have decks built because I don't play much. During the lull between taking everything off of eBay and getting a high enough TCG Player level to list everything, I decided to see if I could get my wife to play Magic somehow.
Quick sidebar--if you want to teach someone how to play Magic, give them confidence, and retain a basic understanding of the rules and turn structure, show them Duels of the Planeswalkers. The tutorial on there is superb for teaching a non-player and I think I finally figured out why.
If you are teaching someone and they do something they can't, it's up to you to catch it, back them up and explain why they can't do that. That's a frustrating way to learn. DoTP doesn't let you do anything you can't do, and if you try and it doesn't let you it makes you go through the thought process of "Hey why can't I play this land... oh, okay, I remember, I've played one already this turn" and it's more conducive to the learning process.
Anyway, my wife got sick of me talking about nothing but this silly children's card game both at home and when we were out with our friends. She decided to at least humor me a bit and get more into it, and I thought giving her her own deck was a good way to do that. Since I had a ton of EDH goodies stocked up ready to sell, I figured I'd break a rule and get high from my own supply. It's a few weeks later and I've got four decks built and my wife wins roughly half of the games we play.
Trading with EDH players can be less annoying than trading with value traders or people trying to pick up cards for a tournament. EDH players have everything and they want everything.
Getting deeper into EDH has taught me that a few fundamental truths about EDH held by the finance community are not necessarily correct. Sure, EDH is a one-of format; the finance community loves to point this out. It's harder for a card that gets played in a one-of format versus a four-of format to drive prices up in the short term, but most players have more than one deck.
Cards that can go in nearly any deck take longer to go up than they should, which gives ample opportunity to pick them up. A card like Chromatic Lantern or Illusionist's Bracers gets spoiled. Everyone looks at it and goes "Oh, EDH card. Cool, whatever," and goes about their day. The card drops to a buck or two because people are more interested in picking up the stuff they want for Standard. The foils sit at roughly twice the non-foil price for a while until they suddenly shoot up to ten or fifteen times as much and everyone acts surprised.
"Why did that go up all of a sudden?" Probably because it was always going to. Don't be kicking yourself in six months or a year because you could have gotten foil Illusionist's Bracers for $5 and didn't. Sure, it's a one-of format, but let's not forget you sell someone X copies, where X is the number of decks the card can go in.
Maybe you already play and understand EDH, but then again, maybe you don't. It will cost you less to put a deck together than you think, especially if you don't jam real duals and stuff like that in there.
Once you've wrathed someone's entire board with a Gruul Ragebeast you can't get more than a dime for on a buylist, you'll see the appeal of building a deck for cheap and opening yourself up to a huge group of players you might have been avoiding. EDH is even more unfair than Vintage and let's not pretend that doesn't appeal to some of us.
I took 2,200 words to make roughly half the points I felt like I wanted to make. I might revisit this topic at a later date, but honestly, if I can get some of the finance community to embrace playing casually, I've done my job.
You'll have to go looking to find them, but if you can be their hookup you won't regret it. If nothing else, you'll play more Magic and that never hurt anyone.
The People Who Took My Advice
Lots of people played Magic this weekend already. Between the GP in Warsaw, the SCG Open and Game Day, there was a lot of Magic to be played. Somewhat hypocritically, I skipped Game Day, but that has more to do with me wanting to wait until after rotation to get back into Standard than it does with me playing less Magic. I played FNM; get off my back, jack.
I would have played Hive Mind and called the deck "Warsaw Pacts" and been hailed as the comic genius you all knew I was all along.
How many Jund decks were there in the Top 8? Well, that depends--are you like most of the pundits lately who refer to the new Golgari midrange deck as "Redless Jund" which I think is stupid as hell? Do you call Gruul decks "blackless Jund?" "Hey, how'd you do this week with mono red?" "Oh, were you referring to my 'green- and blackless Jund deck?" Can we agree it's Golgari and move on? I don't care how the deck started out, I only care about how it ended up.
While I'm harping on about the deck, though, let's talk about it. I think it's a great deck. Once you come to grips with the fact that you can win games of Magic without Olivia you can take some of the pressure off of your mana base, run a few cards like Lifebane Zombie and Mutilate and generally get there.
I don't know if this list is better than Jund, but it wins games and lets you sell those Huntmasters while you can still get something for them. I wish people had played Mutilate more than 30 seconds before they rotated, but c'est la vie. For the record, Marcel White was the genius behind the Mutilate call and I hope he made some money on it. I know I did.
I think Lifebane Zombie is a card to watch, and its price and inclusion will be largely dependent on the white and green creatures in Theros. Getting a Thragtusk, Huntmaster or Restoration Angel is important. What he can get after rotation is going to matter a great deal.
I don't know how much credit Jeff Hoogland deserves for this list, but he was the first person I saw running it and context has taught me that if I see him running a deck I've never seen before, there's a good chance he was at least partly responsible. It's good to see Europe taking a chance on a deck I like and playing it to a good finish.
Non-redless Jund was better-represented in the Top 8, including an odd version run by Felipe Becerra whose name should sound familiar because he was 2013's rookie of the year. It was a much zombier build than the rest of the Top 8, but I like it.
It's all going to rotate, but it looks fun, and playing a Jund deck in a Standard format whose rotation is imminent can get stale otherwise. This is a throwback to the Jund-colored Zombie decks we saw a year ago and I'm a fan. I guess I'm not the only one who sold his Huntmasters.
The other Jund decks are stock and hardly worth mentioning. You know what's in them--cards you want to be selling.
That's not entirely true, it also contains a card you want to be picking up. Shops are out of the DoTP Scavenging Oozes, and Ooze is still heating up. It was $25 when it was a one-of in Maverick. How many copies need to flood the market to keep it below $20 when Standard and Modern decks run between two and four copies?
We'll find out, but I imagine that number is greater than the number that are actually out there. Ooze can be had for a criminally-cheap $13 some places. This is a $20 card, folks. Hoard accordingly.
I like the Naya list in the Top 8, but it's losing the potent Thundermaw-Resto combo. What it's keeping is turn two Loxodon Smiter, and that may be more of a thing post-rotation if the Block PT results are to be believed. Smiter may have room to grow.
Speaking of "room to grow" how many copies of Domri Rade do you have? Paying $15 to sell them for $20 seems miserable, but if you want them to play with maybe you want to pay it. SCG has them at $20 now. I imagine that isn't the ceiling.
I can't imagine Domri will be worse in a smaller format, and if the format slows down at all, hitting a planeswalker on turn two may be all you need to do because slower, large creatures won't be able to race the emblem. If you can still snag Domri cheap and you want them to play with, you may have to do it very very soon. Expect these to be hot commodities.
Bant Hexproof won't be a deck soon. I imagine Fiendslayer Paladin, accordingly, won't be a card. With no Rancor and no Spectral Flight, will people bother with decks like this going forward? We keep Unflinching Courage and Ethereal Armor, but without hexproof dudes to Voltron up are we just asking to get our pants pulled down X-for-one style?
I think what Theros gives us to mitigate removal blowing out Voltron decks will be a large factor in the price of cards like Fiendslayer. I am inclined to sell sell sell right now. I think Green/White wants to be populating and sandbagging in the future, not vomiting its hand out.
Will Ratchet Bomb be too much for the deck to handle? I can't say, but I think how weak Fiendslayer is without something to buff him makes him a sell, pseudo-hexproof aside.
The deck may limp on, and without Geist it will be even more affordable. Dropping blue makes it stronger against Burning Earth and it keeps Voice. I'm talking in circles at this point. Regardless, even if a deck using Fiendslayer and auras emerges post-rotation, he probably doesn't have as much room to go up as he has room to go down. I'm saying "sell" and sticking to it.
No UWR in the Top 8? Curious. I expected to see a bit more than a smattering of copies in the Top 16 after the deck's strong showing at World Champs.
Steve Hatto's monored deck in the Top 16 is hilarious. I imagine anyone who got bolted for lethal by a bloodrushed Rubblebelt Maaka likely flipped the table.
Lifebane Zombie forced people to drop Restoration Angel and play more Aetherlings than they wanted to and it didn't actually go that badly for them. Expect rotation to force just as many players to play Aetherling. Pick them up now while they're criminally cheap.
That's all from Warsaw.
Play More Legacy
Or some at all. If Huey Jensen didn't have such a good Sunday, I wouldn't have tuned in to coverage at all. "Double Standard" is not a term used positively and SCG Opens are no exception.
Salt Lake City was host to a Double Standard weekend of Margical crads, which, without even clicking on the links, you already know was a double dose of Jund and Gruul. Let's confirm our preconception together.
Four G/R aggro decks in the Top 8 on Saturday. Huey Jensen made Top 8 but was ultimately vanquished and the say was won by Jacob Tobey and his G/R aggro build.
This deck is reminiscent of the G/R deck Brian Kibler piloted to a perfect 3-0 last weekend, and Burning Earth is red hot right now. This week's Brainstorm Brewery featured a lengthy discussion of the card I won't rehash here, but the tl;dr is that you might want to sell these for the $4 they are right now.
The card is hot, but buying in at $4 requires the card to go up significantly to be worth it and as much of a proponent of this card as I was at $1, I don't think it's a buy now. They could hit $5 or $6, but it's not seeing much maindeck play and it requires a less greedy manabase than most people are willing to play.
That B/G deck is back with another Top 8. I feel like it retains enough goodies in its creature base that a variation of it can endure the rotation. Expect a new iteration to feature more cards with scavenge, and expect Deadbridge Chant to be a great combo with Scavenging Ooze and spells like Doom Blade and Abrupt Decay.
There was so little diversity in the Top 16 here it's a little boring to even talk about. There was a Bant Hexproof deck, an Aristocrats deck, a Zombie deck, one B/G deck, a Naya deck and a U/W Flash deck in the Top 16, and that short list is all the non-Jund and GR decks in the entire Top 16. All the lists looked pretty much the same and they are largely populated by creatures that are about to rotate.
I'm hoping Sunday showed us something a little different.
Not really. Today Jund decks prevailed. Huey Jensen doubled down on the deck from the day before, changing exactly one card in the sideboard. This time it got there for him and he took home the trophy. It also got there for a staggering 50% of the Top 16. How fun. You're right, guys. This is much better than having a Legacy tournament.
The half of the Top 16 that wasn't Jund Midrange featured seven other decks, which was surprising. Two Flash decks made it, but that was the extent of control's Top 16 finishes.
Midrange is winning the day now, but with Midrange poised to lose all of the silly mid-sized utility creatures that prevail now, expect a new archetype on the horizon. It's likely aggro, but control may know what it needs to do moving forward. One-for-one removal is bad against Huntmasters and Thragtusks. Will it be bad against Loxodon Smiters and Voices of Resurgence?
Well, yes, in that last case. Still, Magic is about to look radically different, so expect cards that are bad now because they can't hang with Olivia and Thundermaw to suddenly get better.
Lingering Souls isn't played to great effect anymore, and that card was really holding Desecration Demon down. Demon spiked to $3ish, and why not? It's always been secretly the best black beatstick in the block, but it got stuffed by cards like Lingering Souls.
Will Young Pyromancer do as good a job holding him down? Who knows? I do know that I saw the buylist price creep up on this guy starting a few months ago and I socked a bunch away. It feels good to sell these for way above bulk.
Which other bulk rares are going to have their time to shine? I have a lot of faith in Scion of Vitu-Ghazi right now, and I think its use in conjunction with Voice of Resurgence, Advent of the Wurm, etc. may be too much for even the Ratchetiest of Bombs to contend with.
I'm sure there are RTR cards you're keeping an eye on that aren't being played right now because of cards that are about to rotate. There is probably at least one bulk rare that is the next $4 card that no one has spotted yet. Be the one to spot it, or just notice what dealers are buying. You don't need to be too far ahead of a card to make money, you just need to be ready.
Do some testing and see if it talks you out of a card or makes you want to go even deeper. It only takes one wacky Travis Woo brew to make all of your Intruder Alarms $4 overnight and you're in the money. Besides, there are worse ways to spend an afternoon than playing Magic.