It's not often , but occasionally I have to be conscious of what I say in certain outlets lest I be accused of being a shill for this website. I took some time this week to think about what that means, and whether being a shill is all that bad at the end of the day.
What I Do
Obviously I write for this website. You probably know I am a member of the Brainstorm Brewery finance podcast and a writer for Gathering Magic as well. In addition to that, I try to be a presence in the Quiet Speculation forums and the Magic Finance Subreddit when I can.
I think we can all agree that what I write here on Quiet Speculation is a bit hard to define--since abandoning the "Jason's Archives" format I've basically waxed philosophical about Magic and put as much finance content into a free article as I can get away with. Quiet Speculation plucked me out of relative obscurity and gave me a soapbox and a paycheck, so it seems natural that I would try to stump for the site whenever possible.
Since Brainstorm Brewery is also populated by Quiet Speculation alumnus Ryan Bushard and current QS superstar Corbin Hosler, it seems natural that this website would come up in conversation from time to time. In fact, we managed to talk up Quiet Speculation to the extent that a raft of new Insiders cited Brainstorm Brewery as the impetus for their signing up for an Insider account.
It's my contention that features like the 111% guarantee, Insider e-mail blasts and the QS forums--which are, no bullshit, top notch, especially when compared to other internet forums pertaining to this game--sell themselves and we merely told people about them.
Does talking up a website I write for make me a shill? I don't know that it does, and I'm certainly not paid extra to influence people. I believe in the site and what it's trying to accomplish, I see value to justify the subscription fees and I try to make my free article consistently entertaining because I realize that the icing on the cake is some people's favorite part.
What QS Does
Besides providing a service to people, namely actionable finance intel in the form of articles and timely insider emails, QS occasionally courts controversy. That is just the cost of doing business. By definition, labeling your subscription holders "insiders" makes everyone else "outsiders" and sometimes "outsiders" will resent the way you do business.
Whether or not I agree that it's worth it, the fact that QS charges people for a subscription rubs some people the wrong way. Other websites with paywalls for premium content draw similar criticism.
Some people who don't want to pay for a subscription do a good job of sniffing out the various ways some of the same content can be gleaned or approximated for free--Twitter is probably the world's best "free Magic intel" source and not everyone is on it for reasons that baffle--and others sit with their arms folded and complain about the subscription cost.
For better or worse, charging a fee to access some of your content is going to upset some people and as a business, erring on the side of upsetting people who don't want to give you money to make the people who do want to give you money happier with their product seems to be the play. Still, let's not pretend there isn't controversy surrounding the subscription.
Quiet Speculation Insiders accidentally made Didgeridoo go up in price. It started as a joke, snowballed into a small number of people buying several copies of a very small supply of a bad, joke card and eventually turned into those same pranksters being able to sell their copies to a buylist for a profit during a brief window.
Whether or not the Insiders' intentions were malicious or rooted firmly in "for the lulz," it did focus some negative attention on the QS model in general.
For a while, every card's price spike was blamed on "speculators" whether or not the spike was tied to a card being spoiled, a deck doing well or a retail store conspicuously buying all of the copies. When cards go up, and they go up a lot, people who were "totally going to buy that card some day, probably" get upset because now the card is more expensive.
If there is no immediate, obvious reason for a card spiking, people tend to get upset because it's a clear indication of an actor or some actors doing something unscrupulous. When there is an immediate, obvious reason people get more upset because there is more of a chance they'll need that card some day and now they'll have to pay more for it.
The feel-bads are palpable when a card you don't have goes up in price and I get that. However, a lot of this criticism of MTG finance comes from people outside of MTG finance, and QS gets an unfair share of it due to how many speculators congregate in the secret forum on this site.
Finally, a recent controversy in the podcasting community arose when QS bought ad space at the beginning of each podcast on MTGcast.com. This caused a lot of acrimony and several prominent podcasts left the mtgcast network, including Brainstorm Brewery.
I think QS has gotten a bit of the blame for what amounted to a long battle among affiliates of that website, and I'm not sure why. If it hadn't been QS, it would have been another site that bought the ads, and buying that ad space kept the people running MTGcast from paying out of pocket to keep the site going.
Hopefully Brainstorm Brewery can find a way to return to that site in the future, but I don't think QS is to blame for the departure and let's not pretend people wouldn't bristle at having an ad for any site before their podcast. It was an unfortunate turn of events, but QS really isn't to blame for the fallout--and I say that as someone whose cast was directly affected as our exclusivity deal with Gathering Magic precludes ads from a competitor before our podcast and the conflict caused us to leave the site.
What QS Actually Does
Quiet Speculation provides a place for great finance thinkers to congregate, talk about spikes and specs, read good analysis and generally get and stay in a finance mindset. Lots of sites offer finance content, but this site is devoted to it.
It gave me a place to make my voice heard and tolerates my shenanigans. I have made actual money from Insider Alerts and generated a few of my own, too. I owe a lot of my success to this site. If I talk it up on a podcast or article on another site, I want to be clear that it's because it means something to me on a personal level to do so.
Trying to get people interested in MTG Finance in general, or maybe a one-month trial on this site more specifically, isn't something I am only doing for the money.
That would be the spoiler updates.
Grand Prix Madness!
All anyone wanted to talk about on Twitter this weekend was GP Oakland. And why not, it featured a much bigger percentage of Pro Players, there was a sick after party:
and Huey Jensen won it all, letting us all know he belongs on the Hall of Fame.
A Limited Grand Prix is always a bummer because it's less data to analyze. Fear not, there was an obscure GP in Japan this weekend as well.
GP Kitakyushu, War's Wageushu
There was a Standard GP in Kitakyushu which is so much lamer than a GP in California with an after party with life music and Karaoke, I could write another 2,000 words about the difference.
Still, it tells us about the format, and the Japanese are always people to watch for tech because they are some of the best innovators in the game.
Raymond Tan took it down with Bant Hexproof, which we all certainly acknowledged as a possibility before this point but I don't imagine any of us really thought it was possible. However, the deck grew the beard a bit with some additions from M14, and Geist of Saint Traft is still unfair.
The Top 8 actually had someone I recognize--Tzu-Ching Kuo from the Taipei team that won last year's World Cup at Gen Con. He also chose to run Bant Auras, so maybe there is a bit of a consensus here.
Don't count on it--the rest of the Top 8 contained five different decks, including a crazy Junk Tokens list and U/W Delver of all things.
Besides that humorous anecdote, his and Hiroaki Taniguchi's Kibler Gruul decks are pretty stock. Domri Rade is going to be a player moving forward, but with R/G losing some of its speed, will it still be the primary aggro deck? If your testing indicates it is, I would look to pick up Domri Rade. He is gas in Modern as well it would seem, and poised to go up. At least save yourself having to pay more later.
Kentarō Yamamoto's deck seems fun. I warned of a possible spike on Desecration Demon a while back and it looks like it's finally coming true. Demon is losing a lot of its primary antagonists like Lingering Souls to rotation and it could be a real wrecking ball in the new Standard. Four-mana 6/6 creatures are historically a beating, and with token producers on the way out, he is free to fly the unfriendly skies and eat faces.
It's sad that cards like Mutilate and Disciple of Bolas took so long to get played and are facing rotation all too soon, but better late than never. I have no way to substantiate this with fact, but I have a funny feeling in my gut that Underworld Connections is a good card to spec on. Let's revisit this card in three months and we'll see if I was onto something. Take my gut's spec ideas with a grain of salt, though--my gut has shit for brains.
Takashi Naitou's Junk Tokens list could be a real thing moving forward. Ratchet Bomb may be enough to keep it from being Tier 1, but Ratchet Bomb is legal now and Tokens is doing fine. Losing Lingering Souls is obviously a huge blow, but it's also a lot of the impetus behind playing black, and G/W tokens seems very powerful. Rootborn Defenses is going to continue to be legal, and stuffing that Ratchet Bomb on top of making another token is solid.
I see this list is running Scion of Vitu-Ghazi. Somewhere Ryan Archer is rolling around in a pile of Scions, laughing his head off. I should have bought in deeper while there was still time. Oh, wait. There totally still is. Come on, guys. Pretend it's Didgeridoo and buy a few copies. Expect more populating and less generating of tokens moving forward. If Advent of the Wurm isn't a serious player in the post-rotation landscape I am going to be shocked.
U/W Delver? It may be worth mentioning that the deck ran two maindeck Quicken. I don't know whether this was mostly just to flip Delver of Secrets // Delver of Secrets, cantrip and sit in the yard fueling Pike, but it's possible it was meant to aid the boarded-in copies of Supreme Verdict.
Casting Verdict on their turn has got to feel like cheating, and you get 10 planeswalker points every time a bewildered opponent asks to read Quicken.
Could Tidebinder Mage start to see play for reasons other than his tribal affiliation? One can only speculate. I'm balls deep on Tindebinder regardless and I hope you'll join me. He's a playable merfolk, and he can replace the durdly copies of Vapor Snag that Modern Merfolk decks--not that they are really a thing--needed to grow the beard.
That's all I care to talk about for this event.
Baltimore is pretty far from Japan, both geographically and in terms of the metagame.
Look at all the Jund. Five copies in the Top 16, which is actually less than normal. Luckily for the good guys, Jund lost in the quarterfinals to a Big Red build piloted by Joesph Herrara. Anthony Lowry, newly of Star City Games, has been a big proponent of the deck, and he remarked over the weekend that a deck with the new Chandra took it down. No one is saying it's because of Chandra that the deck did well, but it certainly doesn't hurt when its +1 helps your Phoenix.
I love Monored with Burning Earth right now. We are losing a ton of non-basics to rotation, but I imagine Theros will pick up the slack and give us some new mana fixing. I love a Standard format where a monored deck can thrive, and if Theros gives red direct damage to replace... every burn spell the deck runs now, it could be a factor moving forward. Losing Hellrider and Thundermaw Hellkite hurts too, but something will come along. It always does.
In second place was a deck I still have a great fondness for, Junk Aristocrats. I didn't recognize the full potential of Voice of Resurgence, but as a man with a big stack of sexy Voice of Resurgence "angry stag" tokens to pass out to people, I hope it gets jammed in every deck. Unfortunately, this deck loses too much to rotation, but I expect Varolz and Voice to go on. Scavenging Ooze, ironically, seems like it would keep a Tier 1 scavenge deck in check, but Varolz does too many things well to be held down forever.
I like the U/W Control deck, but what will it do without Restoration Angel and Snapcaster Mage? Blue mages have had it too good for too long, and they are going to have to go back to how it used to be--lots of countermagic, lots of draw-go and two big swings with a creature with "ling" on the end of it. I think they'll manage.
Luckily U/W keeps two powerhouse spells--Supreme Verdict and Detention Sphere--intact. You think there will be some decent ways to benefit from playing Detention Sphere in Theros? Sure, there will likely be more enchantment removal floating around, but that tends to only matter in Limited. What's more likely is that playing Detention Sphere in Theros will be even better and more beneficial, and Sphere is El Cheapo right now. How many do you have? Stock up.
BBD's B/W Midrange deck looks awesome. It's mostly going away, but a sweet card like Blind Obedience coupled with removal and black-white fatties will still be around. A lot of people are looking at Esper Control post rotation, but I think BBD is really on to something here.
You'll have Obzedat and Blood Baron for beatsticks, you'll have a whole raft of one-for-one removal spells which will be even better in a world without Snapcaster, Restoration Angel, Thragtusk and Huntmaster of the Fells // Ravager of the Fells, and you can still play Blind Obedience and potentially other extort permanents as well. Honestly, I'm trying to guess which cards will pair with Desecration Demon going forward and buying accordingly. The card is an obvious "build-around-me" card, so let's not ignore it because it has a drawback. Necropotence has a drawback, too.
G/W Elves isn't quite the deck it used to be. The surprise factor got a lot of people, but they've learned that four untapped elves is lethal if they play a Craterhoof Behemoth to go with them, and we're not catching as many people as we used to. That and the deck isn't super popular. With rotation poised to take its entire advantage engine with it, don't invest heavily unless you really like griefing people for a few more weeks. This may be the only utility for the new Garruk, so maybe dump those while you can.
Standard continues to be a lame duck, but people are trying out a few things to see how they'll work post rotation, and we'd be fools not to pay attention. I like where BBD's head is at in particular.
The Pet Deck of the Week takes it down! Determined to make it the most expensive deck ever, Johnathon Suarez jammed four copies of Imperial Recruiter into his Painted Stone list. Still, winning the whole event makes it tough to question his deckbuilding choices. Strong work, sir.
I'd like to see more Punishing Jund decks do well. I outed all of my Groves already, but Liliana is a card that should go up, so I'm ready to pick them up when they dip at rotation.
Liliana hasn't been showing up as much in the Top 16 in Legacy, so the notion that it's not as good coupled with its impending rotation might depress prices nicely. Pick them up accordingly. Make no mistake- this is the second-best planeswalker ever printed.
I think Legacy needs a Punishing Grove deck at all times, and if people aren't inclined to jam Maverick, it may as well be this one. Magic players love to play Jund all day.
Death and Taxes, buoyed by its popularity and subsequent high finishes in Europe has made its way West and is fighting for Tier 1 status. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is the card to watch. I feel like they are criminally cheap right now and I'm snapping every loose copy I can find. Buying them lower and lower feels better and better.
Thalia is the perfect Legacy card. The foils are down to only about $15 right now, but don't expect that to stay the case. Still, the best profit potential is in non-foils IMO and I am very deep on Thalia. The majority of the deck's cost is in the landbase, so the deck is cheap, powerful and fun. Expect to see more. Wasteland could be poised for another jump, as could Rishadan Port. Karakas is hot off a judge foil printing, but it could also creep back up, especially English Legends copies. This is a deck to watch.
Planet Earth seems to be low on copies of Baleful Strix. Shardless Agent gets jammed in a lot of the same decks, but Strix seems to be tougher to find. I'm buying both at their current retail. A reprint seems unlikely for both, but especially unlikely for Shardless Agent given its block-specific keyword ability and the unlikeliness of another Planechase or Commander deck featuring cascade.
I feel like their current retail is too low. They hit $25 easily a while ago and I expect them to do so again. BUG Cascade is a good deck, and they are good cards in it. Strix has utility in Tezz decks as well, so trade for these aggressively. I can't get enough of them, currently.
I'm surprised to see Esper Deathblade not scratch the Top 8. This was the consensus best Legacy deck for quite a while, but Legacy really is an "Any Given Sunday" sort of a format, isn't it?
No deck had more than two copies in the Top 16, which seems like a healthy and dynamic format. Legacy will continue to evolve, be shaped by new cards, develop new archetypes, and incorporate the metagames from other countries--and I think it will continue to be an SCG supported format. It's not dying, it's not shrinking, and it's not as expensive as you might think.
That's all for this week. Join me next week where I may try to sneak in some MTG finance content when no one is looking.