This morning, I got to thinking about what it takes to make this community happy.
The Grass Isn't Always Greener
I love writing for the free side of Quiet Speculation. My work being shared outside this website is a good feeling, and not feeling like I have to provide content that will make people money (although sometimes I still do) leaves me free to talk about my bowel movements or cat pictures or whatever.
One consideration I do have to make, though, is that not everyone who reads my work is a QS insider. A lot of you are, and that's great, glad you are taking the time to read an article you technically didn't pay for directly, thus diluting the overall value you're getting from your membership fee.
But for the rest of you, thanks for reading, and if you are at all interested in finance, you should consider the investment, and a big reason why is the Quiet Speculation forum. A good source of finance information, it also provided the inspiration for today's editorial.
Is it "qq" or "QQ"?
I never played any online game where that was used to mock someone who was whining, but I do know people who say, out loud and in person, "QQ" (or "qq") as if that were at all acceptable. One of these people, when I finished hitting him with his own shoe, explained that it is supposed to look like a set of eyes that are crying.
I think "QQ" and "qq" are tied for "looks the least like someone crying" so it's a toss-up. Either way, I wanted to use this hip interweb lingo used by you whippersnappers with your skateboards and your sexting and your injecting heroin into your scrotums or whatever kids are doing to get high these days.
The point is, there is a lot of Qq'ing going on and I actually wanted to mock the internet because I blame the internet. How do you make people in the Magic Community happy?
What Was All That About the Forum?
I'm getting to that. Let me get there at my own pace.
I Wish You Would
Right, anyway, as I was saying, this article was inspired by some "queue cue" action in the forum today.
If you're not aware of the QS forum because you're not an insider or you are an insider but have never been in the forum because you really hate value, the QS forum is exemplary. Seriously, it is the best. If you have been anywhere else and you come back here, you'll understand how good it is.
People are generally helpful, the paywall helps police behavior to an extent because no one who is paying for access really wants to troll and the occasional troll is policed by the community. People are much more open about giving actionable financial tips because they know everyone reading them paid to read them and will likely not proliferate them outside the site for free. It may have been by total accident, but the paywall on the forum has actually made it, in my opinion, the best place on the web to talk finance, and probably the best place to talk any kind of Magic.
Is that bias talking? Well, considering I don't actually have a financial incentive to convert new subscribers, I don't think so. So far, no one has signed up for a membership and said "I'm here for the forum!" because the only way to make that statement sound more ridiculous to most people would be to say "Im hear 4 thu forumz dawg #yolo #Swag #Kony2012".
It even sounds ridiculous to me and I'm literally advocating for the forum. So this isn't a sales pitch, it's a statement; the QS forum is exemplary in this opinionated opinion writer's opinionated opinion.
It's so good and yet I feel like the best metaphor for it is a Swedish prison.
Here's a "cell":
a cell block:
and here's the view from a typical cell, through the window, not bars:
And yet, all anyone actually inside a Swedish prison ever says is “Prisøn sucks, I want tø gø play øn the fjord.” Have these people never seen another prison? If they had, they might know how good they have it. Similarly, I think QS forum members may sometimes forget how good they have it. Sure, internet discussion forums are going to have inherent problems like new people not knowing what they're doing coming in and posting, but everywhere else it's worse.
They're not bad people, quite the opposite. They are the constituency of the best online Magic community there is. I think everyone just needs to be reminded from time to time that the grass is not always greener elsewhere. Sometimes everywhere else is worse by comparison.
You're not wrong for wanting the QS forum to be the best it can be. Not wrong at all. You're not even Big Lebowski "not wrong, just an asshole" not wrong. But let's all take a deep breath and remember that things could be a little better and they could also be a lot worse.
If the biggest problem with a forum is that too many new people are joining, then life is pretty good. Spend five minutes on any other finance forum if you don't believe me.
Are Finance People Just Spoiled?
Far the hell from it! In fact, when QS insiders are complaining they are roughly half as annoying as the average Magic player quietly shuffling a deck and politely making small talk with their opponent. I have a great example.
This is a picture of a sliver:
The Magic Community managed to really surprise me during M14 spoiler season when they announced there would be slivers in M14. I expected a roughly 75/25 split between "Sweet, I like slivers" and "Boo, I hate slivers." What I was treated to were myriad different complaints.
"These don't look like slivers."
"I don't like how they don't share abilities with opponents' slivers. They keep dumbing the game down. I should quit."
"They cost too much."
"These are going to ruin Limited."
"Great, another Muscle Sliver. Might as well burn my Merfolk deck."
"Slivers are native to the plane of Rath. How could slivers possibly end up on the plane of Shandalar?"
What's worse is finding out these creatures don't share abilities with opponents' slivers because they were not developed as slivers. They were going to be sliver-like creatures, native to Shandalar (if I got the plane information wrong and you feel like correcting me, I'm warning you in advance that I don't care) or whatever plane M14 is on.
Wizards decided at the last minute, "Screw it. We should just make them functionally better slivers so players can add these to their sliver decks with their old cards. Our players are good people and they deserve something nice." The "good people" of the community responded by bitching up a storm.
Remember, they didn't do anything controversial. What they did was make a last minute decision to throw us a bone and they were treated to complaints the likes of which I was naively unable to anticipate. Why do anything for these people?
Well, it turns out Wizards could predict the bitching, and they didn't care. It turns out Magic is insanely popular and grows and grows each year. "Bitch all you want online, Johnny Neckbeard. We both know your Vorthos-loving ass is buying a box of M14 and you're jamming those slivers in your deck," is probably the correct attitude here.
It's not about Wizards not caring about what their fans want, by any means. It's about Wizards putting out what they feel, based on past success and input from the design and development team, is the best product, knowing there will be bitching no matter what.
Too Late to Start with a Quote
But maybe not too late to include one.
We get a lot of feedback about Brainstorm Brewery. Well, we see it as feedback. People who give it see it as valuable, life-saving advice to help us get back on track and stop messing up like we have been all along.
One particular bit of feedback was pretty scathing. In addition to criticizing the length of the cast, it criticized the banter between hosts, specifically the "Shut up, Corbin" meme. The gist was that they don't tease each other on "good" casts like Limited Resources--nice, imply we're a bad cast by comparison; very subtle--and the writer "wouldn't be surprised if we didn't like each other or hang out outside the podcast."
Worst of all, it singled me out as Corbin's main antagonist, but instead of saying so, callowly stated, "I won't say who it is," which is easily the douchebaggiest thing to say in that situation and it's not particularly close. "You're going to lose a lot of listeners if you don't change," was the final bit of advice imparted.
I stared at the screen for a few minutes, feeling like, "Why do we even bother with a podcast," until Marcel saved the day by replying to the four hosts with an e-mail, which said, succinctly,
"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." - Bill Cosby
People who have never met Corbin come up to him and tell him to shut up. That meme has easily been one of the strongest unifying elements for our fanbase, and even Corbin thinks it's funny unless he's heard it like thirty of forty times in the past 24 hours. If we took all the "advice" people gave us about the podcast that was absolutely, positively the step we needed to take unless we were idiots, we would have to:
- Lengthen it to two hours.
- Shorten it to thirty minutes.
- Put all the information in the show notes (presumably eliminating the need to actually listen).
- Be nicer to Corbin.
- Be meaner to Corbin.
- Talk more about finance.
- Talk less about finance.
- Never bring a guest like Christine Sprankle back.
- Have a guest like Christine Sprankle every week.
I guess the only thing we learned was that people are going to bitch about something. We'll take advice if it resonates with us and fits with our core philosophy, but at the end of the day we put out the best quality product we can and realize we'll never please everyone. Wizards did that with slivers and QS is doing that with the forum.
No product will ever be received without bitching, and we have to accept that as the cost of doing business. The internet has given everyone the notion that because they have the ability to make their opinion known, they are obligated to do so.
The QS forum is awesome, it's great to have slivers back and if you don't shut Corbin up every once in a while, he's going to talk about Taylor Swift or encourage you to invest in cans of Surge. This is just how it is.
What Else Happened?
GP Prague was Limited, so I don't have to talk about it, which is good for both of us. I may get all the way through to SCG results before wanting to kill myself. I know, kyoo kyoo more, right?
Philadelphia isn't all Liberty Bells, lawyers with AIDS and a hockey team that makes terrible decisions regarding their goaltenders. It's also home to Motyka and Slick Jagger, the homebrew geniuses behind the upcoming "Brainstorm Brew," and it was home to an SCG Open this weekend.
Standard is nearing the end of its life. Will the old, lame ducks limp on? Is new tech already being tested? Let's take a look before we put a pillow out of this format's face and put two in its dome once and for all.
Kibler Gruul gets there, predictably. The more straight-forward a deck is, the fewer late-game, Hail Mary topdeck answers it has, but if you can punish stumbling in the early game by your opponent, you win.
If you are predicting that Xenagos, the Reveler will be a factor in the continued success of this deck going forward, I can't agree less. The last thing it needs is another non-creature. Expect Domri to maintain or go up due to Searing Spear getting a functional reprint and all the initial excitement around Porphoros.
Scavenging Ooze seems like it could maintain as well, but with all the relevant graveyard stuff rotating, it may get less play in Standard. It's still a solid bear, but it's less important going forward.
The Naya midrange list in second tells us almost as little about the future.
I like Zachary Schultz's B/W Midrange list, but it's almost all rotating. Without Liliana of the Veil, I don't know what this deck archetype would do. Obzedat, Ghost Council and Desecration Demon are sticking around, and with a black, instant-speed Terror that nukes planeswalkers, it may be something to brew with going forward.
If black gets weaker or white and green get stronger, expect the price of Lifebane Zombie to fluctuate. Currently it seems overpriced, but core set rares are funny. Thundermaw Hellkite experienced a nice price renaissance, and while that's a mythic, core set cards are funny. Core sets don't get opened as much, giving real price upside if there is a sudden spike in demand. This is a card to watch for sure. As for Varolz, without anything to sac for value, get out while you can.
I think the B/G Midrange decks that people took way too long to embrace are good indicators of likely future archetypes. We will retain Abrupt Decay, Desecration Demon, Lifebane Zombie, Deathrite Shaman, Vraska the Unseen, and we will get a ton of new goodies in Theros. The Rock is a fine arcehtype and it looks like we have all the tools. Losing Liliana hurts, but we managed when we lost Jace, too. Black is going to have a lot of solid tools going forward while white and blue lose the most.
Bant Hexproof simply won't be a deck anymore. Good. An auras build is still possible, especially given the occasional juicy-looking bestow guy and the retention of Ethereal Armor, but it won't look anything like it does now in all likelihood. Cards that could retain value are Voice of Resurgence, Fiendslayer Paladin and Unflinching Courage.
I would look to Block decks like Wescoe's G/W as a good place to start testing for the future. Naya looks poised to do good things as adding red gives access to the closest thing we'll get to Path or Swords. Brew something--that's how good spec discoveries get made. It was testing that finally convinced me to go deep on Deadbridge Chant and I made so much money selling those at $8 that now I can afford to drink brand name Orange Juice.
Let's move on to Legacy, shall we?
He would say that, wouldn't he? Reid Duke, of course, won the event with Elves. What these people see in that silly deck I'll never understand.
At least Reid didn't jam the one-of Ruric Thar advocated by Jon Johnson, a decision that hurts my head because it's so ridiculous yet I can't come up with a compelling argument against it.
Natural Order fell heavily out of favor, but decks like this could see it return to its glory days of high prices and high demand. Seems like a decent time to buy low would have been a few months ago when it was $25--try and see if you can get them for $25 in trade. People might not know they're back up.
I didn't watch coverage, so I have no idea how Reid beat Shawn Tappen's Reanimator, considering Elesh Norn just pulls that whole deck's pants down. Iona naming green is similarly-troubling.
Kurt Spiess wins "Pet Deck of the Week" with his Top 16 finish with Lands. Any given Sunday, right?
Garfield creator turned Magic player Jim Davis managed to get 4th with Goblins while the best Merfolk finish was 9th. Shut up, Corbin.
Epic Storm is seeing a lot more play. This was a real 2009 kind of deck, but it's replacing ANT lately because a partial combo isn't a loss if you can Empty the Warrens for 12 tokens. Burning Wish doubled in price this summer but looks like it may be cooling off. I wouldn't buy in now.
Lots of decks are running Gitaxian Probe. There are a lot of those promo probes still sitting in binders, being undervalued. While set foils are more pimp, the promos are low-hanging fruit. They snap-sell online, so try and underpay on those because they're being undervalued.
Maverick may no longer be the hotness, but it can still throw down. Cards common to this deck and decks in Modern should keep the prices propped up. Not a lot of opportunity here. Foil Thalia is back down to around $15 and that's a price I'm comfortable paying. I don't expect rotation to hurt the foils too much, but I will wait and see if they tank anyway. It's going to feel really good if the non-foils drop to like a buck. If they do, I'm cashing in my 401k to buy out the planet.
The W/B/R Deathblade deck is back, and I think it's a real deck to watch. The current format is cold to Grim Lavamancer. The biggest difference between this list and the former failed experiment, Team Italia, is that this deck has Deathrite Shaman and also murders Deathrite Shaman.
Badlands is up to $80. I hope you bought them at $40 when I said to--Jund is never going away and these are never going back down. At this point, just buy Plateau on principle because the odds of a deck never coming along to push the price up is so remote it's hardly worth mentioning.
Similarly, there's no way that Arid Mesa doesn't hit $50 soon. The blue fetches went from $15 to $30 and not many people pounced on Catacombs, Mesa and Flats at $15. Sure as shooting they went to $30. With the blue ones at $50 now, I have been advocating buying Catacombs for a while, only to have people say, "But it was in an event deck," to which I can only reply, "then why aren't they still $15?"
Catacombs, Mesa and Flats are going to be $50. Probably in the next few months. Modern isn't even driving the blue ones up because blue is not dominating Modern. Decks with Catacombs in them are doing that. Be smart, buy the fetches that haven't gone up a second time yet.
That's All For Now
With no GP to talk about it's time to wrap things up. Join me next week for more quality content and to feel like you're being attacked on a personal level in a subtle way you're unable to prove. I know, it's not my typical 4,000 word output.