Insider: Past Articles and Responding to Criticism

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Lately, a few QS writers decided to review their previous calls, to see to what extent they were right on their analyses. We took a month off and we basically had to do the same exercise, to find out where we were at with our accounts, our bots and our positions.

Last week, the idea of writing a review of our past calls became even more pertinent, as we were accused of making bad calls that ended up costing other people money. The language was strong enough to lead us to wonder if we had done something terribly wrong; maybe we did make people buy into awful targets and they were now losing money.

Jeff wasn't there to witness last week's debates. So I'm writing this in my personal name, knowing he will endorse my point of view. Let me just say I was greatly affected by some comments attacking my previous work, my intelligence and my integrity. So much so that I ended up doubting our credentials to write financial advice for QS.

That is to say one's ego can be quite fragile, especially when other people's money can be influenced by our analyses. So I did my homework, and went through our past calls in a very thorough manner, with the intention of recognizing my flawed decisions and apologizing to our readers.

Then something funny occurred. On Mtgolibrary there is a feather computing how much your collection is worth, according to their current price list. I was struck to see how much value our collection had now. Could our calls have resulted in losses for other people when we act upon these same calls to build up our positions?

Without further ado, let's look at the past articles.

April 24

In our first articles, we wanted to introduce ourselves, and also propose a series of theoretical articles. But we couldn't resist and went on right away with a few calls. We shared a spreadsheet containing about 120 targets.

When looking into it, we suggested that Blinkmoth Nexus, which could be bought for 2.00 or 2.50 back then, was a good target. About a week ago, it was worth about 4.30 tickets. Now, with the recent PTQ schedule announcement for 2014, Modern targets' value has decreased overall. We sold our copies at 3.5, and Inkmoth Nexus sells tonight for 3.65 (all prices are from Mtggoldfish).

We talked a bit about Mox Opal which was already at an all-time high of 24 tickets. We also said that redemption was putting heavy pressure on this staple. Of course, the legendary rule change that came up later helped push this card's price even higher. Verdict: Mox Opal is worth a little more than $40 right now.

We also told you to stay away from other cards, which according to our monitoring were at all-time highs. We refrained from buying Polluted Delta until recently. Back then, it was worth 21 tix, and we can buy now for 12.

Wasteland and Underground Sea were also very high, 57 and 34 respectively. They kept growing, reaching 68 and 42 as of now. So we were wrong, you could have bought into these. We did as we advocated and stayed away.

May 1st

Here is an interesting pick: Wilt-Leaf Liege. We mentioned this spec with great enthusiasm. We managed to buy 25 copies for an average price of 2.25 tix. Came mid-July, it was worth 7.50, and it dropped back to 6.90. We sold out of these at 6.75 each. Not bad at all.

We also said that Leyline of Sanctity was such a safe pick we could almost guarantee a 100% return. Back then, the card could be found at 1.25 and it is now worth 4.25 tix. Well... I guess we were conservative, to say the least.

Now, Glen-Elendra Archmage was showing up in a Cube event, so we thought it'd be a great opportunity to acquire the card on the cheap. But that was just prior to MMA spoilers revealing that the lady was getting reprinted there too.

We bought 8 copies at its first new floor of 9 tickets, only to find out its value had plummeted in a matter of hours thanks to MMA. On the other hand, we bought another 10 MMA copies at sub-1 tix each, and we'll hold onto these for the long run, because this card will recover. As of now, the MMA version is worth 1.84, after spending a few weeks above 2.00. Too bad we couldn't foresee this reprint.

We were also seeing some heat on the market for Prime Speaker Zegana. We put the card on our watchlist, and as it turned out, the card's popularity quickly vanished. We still hold our 8 copies in the hope of future activity. We lost a total of 10 tickets on this investment so far.

May 22

We had a more theoretical writing this week, explaining why our decision for Baneslayer Angel was a good one even though the spec didn't work out. We ended up saying that at 4.25, it was even more of a good target for the longer term. As of today, no movement at all on this card, which is kind of normal out of season and everything. You can still find it on the market for 4.23.

Then we turned to Misty Rainforest and Scalding Tarn. We argued that they were getting increasingly expensive, and yet still represented a good buying opportunity. We even thought that their current off-season prices were really more of a floor price we'd have to get used to, rather than a ceiling price. Here is the exact quote:

"Their current price shows how resilient they are, even out-of-season. So resilient in fact, we must now debate whether we are witnessing a new price floor, instead of a price ceiling. My prediction is that if you can acquire Misty Rainforest and Scalding Tarn for 7 to 8 tix each, you will be spot on with the new price floor, which is much higher than what we were used to."

About a month later, we mentioned these fetch lands again. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. For now, let's just mention they spiked about a month ago. Scalding Tarn reached 25 tix upon MOCS's announcement of a Modern season, while Misty Rainforest reached 20, although very briefly. Verdant Catacombs saw some significant price variations too. We flipped our fair share of play sets for a sound profit.

May 29

Here we mentioned a few pricing strategies we had come up with while managing our bots. We were aiming for quick flips and also to acquire a few SOM cards on the cheap for the longer term. We bragged a little, showing off how profitable it was to acquire Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Linvala, Keeper of Silence, Razorverge Thicket and all the other fastlands, Goblin Guide, Birthing Pod, and Grove of the Burnwillows.

It turns out that fastlands tripled. We were buying Linvalas at 14 and flipping them back the next day at 17-18 before the ROE Cube events. We were buying Jaces 47 only to sell back the next morning at 51-52. We also bought Goblin Guides at 1.35, Birthing Pods at 2.49, and Grove of the Burnwillows.

Right now, these are all sold already, but they were worth 4.9, 10.0 and 14.8 when we sold out at a small discount. I'm getting the feeling that we were doing something right. And trust me, it is a fun feeling.

Back to that week. We were on the forums talking about how great of an idea it was to buy RTR and GTC boosters and embarked on that train with a very deep position. We were at a time of the year where there was not much movement, so we put roughly 1000 tix into these boosters. We bought in at what happened to be the very bottom of these boosters' value, and we sold at their peak. Maybe a lucky strike.

June 5

With the spoiling of Vendilion Clique, we looked into this card's potential. We advocated a buy at 18 dollars, suggesting that would be its floor pricing. As it turns out, the real floor was closer to 20 tix, so we adjusted accordingly. We sold our last copies last week for 31 a piece.

June 12

Here we covered the mythics of MMA. We knew we'd have a hard time determining precisely where the floor prices would end up, but we gave you this piece of advice:

"All in all, we will be scanning the market for these cards, but we will be patient and we will avoid committing our money if we cannot clearly identify the new floor prices, or if the prices remain stable and see no decline at all."

With that in mind, we finally saw a clear pattern showing up for MMA mythics, with a short window of opportunity to buy at a discount, pretty much like we had anticipated. We suggested buying Dark Confidant at 10-12 (now worth 19), Vendilion Clique at 20 (now 32), Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker at 4-5 (now 9.25), Tarmogoyf at 38-42 (now 65.50).

Tarmogoyf was clearly being aggressively bought by the major bot chains. We followed the trend and kept increasing our buying price. We still own three copies, which we should probably have sold last week, assuming we had known about 2014's schedule. But these three copies still represent a 30% ROI as of tonight's price.

The Swords could be bought for 3 tix a piece, Elspeth, Knight-Errant for 4, Vedalken Shackles for 4. All these cards could be sold right now for a healthy profit.

We also mentioned in passing that Spellskite represented a good opportunity. We were not as explicit as I first thought. We didn't say buy that. But I know we did and we doubled our money there.

June 19

We searched for value in the rares and uncommons of MMA. The targets we covered were many.

Namely, they were Kataki, War's Wage, Cryptic Command, Gifts Ungiven, Glen Elendra Archmage, Kira, the Pacts, Blood Moon, Bridge from Below, Life from the Loam, Maelstrom Pulse, Arcbound Ravager, Blinkmoth Nexus, Chalice of the Void, Engineered Explosives, Lotus Bloom, Aether Vial, Kitchen Finks, Path to Exile, Eternal Witness, Spell Snare, Tombstalker.

Of all these cards, some have already recovered nicely, ensuring us a profit almost instantly. Some others still have to recover from the reprint, and we believe there are still some nice buying opportunities.

Notable cases are Kataki, who went from 1 ticket to 2, Cryptic Command which went from 6.5 to 12+, Path to Exile which could be had for 0.5 and is now worth 4 times more (1.90), or Blood Moon, which we stockpiled at 3 and sits now at 5.75.

June 27

We suggested you keep on buying shocklands. These are already showing signs of picking up value. We will not sell for now, just like most of you. We're pretty sure this is the safest, easiest prediction we've made so far. Keep buying by the way.

On the forums, we were pretty enthusiastic about Thragtusk and Restoration Angel, being firm believers that these two would recover from recent price weaknesses.

We learned from this experience that when a massive amount of players start selling out their play sets in anticipation of rotation, even as early as June, the target becomes extremely risky. We've taken note of this and we will always refrain from buying into a target in the hope of "one last spike".

For these two cards, I must admit we suggested a buy, and we lost a lot of money, probably close to 200 tickets. Quite a harsh learning lesson. We also decided to depart from other "one last spike" targets, namely Tamiyo and [card]Temporal Mastery[card], which we had been holding for over 6 months, only to see their value cripple down with time.

But in our article, there was a mention of the manlands, Creeping Tar Pit and Celestial Colonnade. Did you know Celestial Colonnade went all the way up to $10? Too bad we couldn't counterbalance our Thragtusks with an equivalent amount of Celestial Colonnade...

July 3

This was our last article, before a long-awaited vacation. We both needed some rest, and we wanted to stop writing articles in order to fully restore ourselves. We added two cards on the "one last spike" train: Huntmaster of the Fells // Ravager of the Fells and Olivia Voldaren.

Thanks to this vacation, and with this retrospect, we confirm that it is a pretty risky and bad idea to try to buy into mythics that are about to rotate. Sure, there may be one such last spike, but in the meantime, we see our cards losing value on a daily basis and we risk being stuck with very difficult decisions ahead of us. We're absolutely committed to avoiding speculation on rotating cards next year, probably as early as the month of May.

There are other formats to focus on anyway, such as Legacy, which many players are going to turn to in the absence of Modern. (We'll cover that for you eventually).


While writing this article, I realized we did not always explicitly tell people to buy cards. Instead, we used phrases such as "we are putting this on our watchlist", "we are waiting to find the floor before buying" and such.

To me it was pretty clear that when the time was right, we would buy aggressively to match other bots' buylists. To determine the right timing is one thing. To mention it properly in a weekly column aside from the live action is another. Our profits are apparent to us because of the chat, the phone calls and the meetings we had over the past few months.

We certainly hope that you could make similar amounts of money, finding out by yourself when the time was right to buy and to sell out. We set up the main guidelines, the theories underlying our reasoning and the targets per se. The rest laid in your hands.

If you had bought like we did, at the prices we got in, and sold at the prices we sold to, with the quantities we handled based on the size of our bankroll, this series of articles has made you richer. For us, we're talking about an overall ROI of 30%. In absolute value, it represents a growth of approximately $2000.

As speculators, we believe in our analyses. We have to, otherwise we wouldn't be able to cope with the stress of gambling big chunks of money. So we put our guts into our reasoning.

As writers, we also worry about influencing other people's decisions, and ultimately, the impact it will have on their bankroll. My hope is that our analysis here further establishes our credibility and legitimacy.

8 thoughts on “Insider: Past Articles and Responding to Criticism

  1. Nice work! I loved the Wilt-Leaf Liege call.

    Any thoughts for when to start putting money into Modern again with the delayed season? I’m going to start watching things more closely at the end of October, but Dec/Jan seems to be the best window to in order to keep reprint risk down.

    1. With all the rumors about MM2 and the risk for CUBE reprints, I’m tempted to reply that we will wait for as long as possible before buying into Modern specs in general. However, there are cards that have never been this low before, thanks to MM1, and I feel it’s ok to invest into cards that have never been this low before. I will for sure keep investing in fetch lands if they drop around 10-12 again.

  2. Always glad to see writers own up to their calls. I’m also happy you were able to profit, with all the curve balls that were thrown. I have a love/hate relationship for speculating in standard. I love it when I profit (I say to myself “I should do this more often!”), and hate it when I lose money (I say to myself “I’m never doing this again!” and then I still do some unrealistic specs).

    Thank you guys for your contribution to the community and my bankroll. Good work!

  3. Thanks, as always.

    Just like the game of magic (or poker, or any other game with an element of luck), it’s the quality of the reasoning behind the decision that we can judge. Insofar as we can’t know all the variables affecting card pricing at any given time, I think we have to accept that even the best will miss some. Results follow good reasoning pretty quickly in this game.

    I also got owned on the Thragtusk train, and pretty hard too, but it seemed like it was due for a spike, as it was still one of the most played creatures (maybe still is?). Thundermaw Hellkite, which spiked recently is what we were hoping for, but it never happened. It’s interesting to see what the difference here is, given neither see much modern play. A couple cards of interest:

    Snapcaster Mage:

    Vexing Devil:

    Liliana of the Veil:


    These rotating cards that do or will likely see modern/legacy play. How far down do you expect them to drop on rotation? Or, are people more prepared to pounce?

  4. Maybe one thing critical thing your detractors did get is the notion of bankroll management. Something you guys have mentioned many time. The bankroll managment is even more critical as you hit bad bets and losing calls.

    It’s the key point of every investment and is even more true here with Mtgo cards.

    In general cards are really evolving the way we predict them (mostly up), cycles are obvious, demands and supplies can be anticipated with good accuracy, etc… I would says that at least 80-90 % of the calls made here by QS writers (Matt, Jeff and Seb) are profitable. Accepting that 10 to 20 % of the calls end up loosing is totally part of the game and part of the equation, and still very profitable overall.

    For rotating cards, a brief look at past major cards that rotated make me think that we can expect cards to drop by 3 to 5 time their highest value.

    For ex of price prevision after rotation:

    Snapcaster Mage: 2-3

    Vexing Devil: 1-1.5

    Liliana of the Veil: 10-15

    Thalia: 1-1.5

  5. Guys, I definitively like your writings, posts and what you bring to our community. I know you were upset by the comments made by ONE single recent forum member, but trolls are trolling and as one says, do not feed the troll (btw, the comments from this guy were so rude and so innacurate tha I wonder if it is not a sort of fake poster to pull down the level of debate on purpose…)

  6. I did a similar analysis on the physical value changes since the article dates, and the results are interesting:

    Mox Opal, Misty Rainforest, Scalding Tarn, Verdant Catacombs, Dark Confidant, and Tarmogoyf show significant returns.

    Glen-Elendra, Prime Speaker Zegana, Vedalken Shackles, Gifts Ungiven, Kira, Blood Moon, Life from the Loam, Blinkmoth Nexus, Engineered Explosives, Tombstalker, Thragtusk, Resto Angel, and Huntmaster all show significant losses.

    Everything else is effectively a loss with shipping overhead, although overall ROI was still a decent 9.4%. I did notice this increases to 12.2% if we only consider cards with an initial value of more than $10, which could be a reasonable strategy for minimizing overhead for shipping.

    It is notable the losses for MMA cards tended to be far less dramatic, so they are probably still decents for future recovery – I think it would be worth coming back to these next summer to see if they mature. I didn’t pull enough data to compare the MTGO/MTG performance, but that would be interesting as well – perhaps it could lead to a future recommendation for each environment!

  7. After reading this, i realized I almost bought none of the cards you suggested. That’s not what happens when i read Matts articles for instance, so I wonder if your intentions are less clear/visible to me, or if I’m affected by the little hesitations you include. I’m sure I read all of your articles (I read every article about mtgo) but I can’t recall ever thought about buying leylines. Perhaps you should end your articles with an overview buying/selling like Matt does ?

    My late reaction is due to my just coming back from a 3 week vacation myself :).

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