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Insider: What’s Next After the Pro Tour

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When I was a fledgling Magic player I didn’t even know what the Pro Tour was. I knew tournaments were cool, but I also didn’t have any transportation to enable my participation in them. The nearby LGS didn’t hold events, and this left me out of the competitive scene.

The only time I read the about results of high profile events like the Pro Tour and Grand Prix was when I picked up the occasional InQuest Magazine. This was typically one to two months after the event itself.

Needless to say, MTG finance was a bit different back then. And for me, it was nonexistent.

Connectivity Makes Speculation Difficult

Times have changed. Now there are rumors and legitimate leaks about what Pros are playing at a major event even before round one begins. That’s precisely what happened with Master of Waves.

Master

Sadly, I was trying to follow an alternate path for speculation. I correctly latched onto the devotion mechanic, but I had focused my funds on Heliod, God of the Sun and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. The former has thus far been a bust, but acquiring fifteen Nykthos for $3.50 a copy has paid off well thus far. It turns out that devotion is as good as I thought--just not in white (yet).

The result: I now have nearly 20 copies of Heliod, which I either have to move for a small loss or sit on in anticipation for some powerful white devotion cards in the next set. As for Nykthos, that one will pay off nicely at least, perhaps balancing on my losses from Heliod.

Nykthos

Overall my 50% success rate isn’t terrible as long as I bank more profits on Nykthos than I lose on Heliod. But to be honest, I’m walking out of this Pro Tour with a sour taste in my mouth. After two weeks of SCG Standard events giving us ideas for speculation targets, the Pro Tour jumped in a significantly different direction.

What happened to the likes of Advent of the Wurm? Where are all the Boon Satyrs? Did people even play these cards? Probably, but I didn’t hear anything about them on Twitter. All I heard about and watched was a blue devotion deck and a green-red devotion deck tear up the Pro Tour. While Thassa, God of the Sea has jumped from $12 to $25, Boon Satyr has pretty much leveled out.

This brings me to the title of this section: speculation has become difficult these days. The instantaneous flow of information is a direct cause.

If you plan to maximize profits from speculating on a new set after rotation, you basically have to drop everything and monitor event results from the get-go. Also, make sure you cancel any social events or travel plans the weekend of a major event early on in a Standard season. You’ll need to be at your computer making purchases.

Even if you manage all of this, you still have to overcome the hurdle of selling cards once they arrive. Buying Boon Satyrs at $3 two weeks ago was still a good move, as long as you’ve since received the cards and flipped them immediately. If you try to list them on eBay now, you may be disappointed with how slowly they sell. I’ve seen sets of Nykthos sell every hour, while I’ve been watching the same set of Boon Satyr for a few days now without a bite. Turns out, someone has listed sets cheaper.

My Takeaways

For Theros, I promised myself I’d take some additional risks with MTG Speculation. Too often I keep my speculative buys to a measly eight copies, only to kick myself when I successfully double up. This happened to me with Huntmaster of the Fells // Ravager of the Fells and Craterhoof Behemoth.

So this time around I increased my exposure when rotation came around. I took much of my recent proceeds from profiting on Return to Ravnica stuff (which are likely peaking soon, by the way…do you really see Jace going higher still?) and moved them into M14 and Theros cards. That’s what I wrote about last week, in fact.

Jace

In hindsight my strategy only half-worked. I did my best to latch onto the hot deck of the week, only to witness many of the successful cards from one week fail to make an appearance in the next. After all the hype on Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver the first weekend of Standard, it was shocking to see zero blue decks Top 8 SCG Cleveland. In Cleveland Boon Satyr and Advent of the Wurm got positive press. Nylea, God of the Hunt was also a smashing hit thanks to the mono-green deck. Yet, I see so little mention of these cards during the Pro Tour.

From these experiences trying to beat the system despite hundreds of others attempting the same thing, I learned some valuable lessons. In no particular order, the lessons are:

1) Avoid the temptation of blindly buying into hyped cards week one of a new Standard format. Always consider the long-term viability of every strategy before buying. Even if you can still react quickly enough to acquire a hyped card cheaply, the risk that the card will become forgotten one week later (before you even receive the cards) can still be high.

2) It is often wiser to speculate on cards with significant playability in multiple decks. Rather than go deep on a card like Advent of the Wurm which fits nicely into a specific archetype, it is wiser to buy into robust cards like Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, Mutavault or Scavenging Ooze. Nykthos works with any devotion deck and Mutavault will be played in most single- and two-colored decks.

3) Speculation on the devotion mechanic and the gods was largely the correct play. I almost overlooked this mechanic completely after the first two SCG Opens of the new Standard. But I should have trusted Wizards--they do quite thorough testing nowadays and I find it highly unlikely they’d create a new mechanic only to have it be irrelevant. I don’t regret buying deeply on Heliod because I took a shot speculation-wise. In all honesty, who had their bets on Thassa prior to the Pro Tour?

4) Shocklands look unattractive to me right now, due to the popularity of one- and two-color decks.

Next Steps

As I write this article I’ve got many cards on their way in the mail, all purchases made during the Pro Tour and SCG Cleveland. Some cards I intend to move immediately because I’ve lost confidence in their staying power. Other cards I’m content to sit on for a longer period of time.

While I still have respect for the SCG Open winners of the past couple weeks, I’ve also become very weary of narrow cards like Advent of the Wurm. I may look to move those quickly once they arrive. Ashiok is another one I’m luke-warm on at best–-I’ve moved my two copies and I will plan to avoid in the short-term.

On the other hand, I’m perfectly content to sit on my Mutavaults and my Nykthos. In fact at GP Louisville next week I may seek to acquire even more of these depending on how high they shoot up. I’ve trimmed back my Scavenging Oozes, but I’m still sitting on 25 copies and I’m content with this number. I’ll trade them if I get a favorable price because upside is small in the short term, but I also know these have stabilized in price. I’m also relieved to see a few copies show up in the Pro Tour Top 8.

Ooze

I also like this list above because of the Nyleas, which gives me hope that devotion to green is still solid moving forward. In fact it’s rather depressing to see that Heliod was the only god that didn’t enter the Top 8. Perhaps his deck just requires some more work.

Lastly, I plan on modifying my approach to how I speculate on Standard post-rotation. After the experiences of the past three weeks, I’ve learned more about the risks and rewards of speculating in this time frame. With instant event coverage it’s especially tempting to pull the trigger on every card that sits in the spotlight for five minutes. It’s absolutely critical I stick with the fundamentals before buying blindly.

Robust cards that can fit into multiple decks are safer to bet on. Of course if a Pro Tour Top 8 contains three of the same deck (Mono-Blue in this case), I’m more inclined to have faith in the strategy’s merits going forward. But there is still little reason to overexpose oneself to a single strategy when there are a handful of viable investment opportunities which do not mandate this risk be taken.

Next time around I’m going to buy 100 copies of the newest set’s “Nykthos”…once I identify which one that is.

Sigbits – Saturday Evening of Pro Tour

I’m writing this article at 4:00 Eastern Time on Saturday. The Top 8 deck lists have just been posted to the mothership. Here are three hyped cards from this past weekend along with their TCG Low price and Star City Games price. Let’s see how much momentum these cards have once the Pro Tour ends by comparing these numbers with Monday’s.

  • There were eight Desecration Demons in the Pro Tour Top 8. That’s actually fairly impressive. On Star City Games there are currently 11 Near Mint copies available at $11.99. On TCG Player you’re looking at around $9 to acquire these.
  • Thassa, God of the Sea has my attention because it showed up in three of the PT Top 8 lists, each as a four-of. It also has casual appeal. The cheapest copies on TCG Player are just shy of $20 while SCG is sold out at $24.99.
  • Even though Nykthos got a lot of attention last weekend, a different nonbasic land showed up twice as often in the Top 8. That card is Mutavault. Currently SCG has one M14 copy left in stock at $17.99. Copies can still be had for just under $14 on TCG Player. This one’s a reprint and yet it’s still a rare over $10. I don’t know if the ceiling on Mutavault is too much higher, but it’s certainly worth watching.

19 thoughts on “Insider: What’s Next After the Pro Tour

    1. Nice play, Gerard. I didn’t preorder anything but I did acquire a couple sets cheaply. Then I sold them for like $7 each before fees, shipping. I don’t feel awful for selling these early and locking in profits though. It’s our nature to try and maximize profits, but it also seems like a psychological paradox when we get frustrated for making less profits than was possible. Profit is profit – making money on MTG is the goal. Not making more money on MTG than anyone else. We all have our own strategies and comfort levels.

      Thanks for the comment!

      1. I know that feeling of not have been able to maximize profits. But I always think to myself this way. Say I had spent $2k on some stocks and three months later I sold them for $4k. I might think, if only I spent $5k on it, I would’ve ended up with a lot more! But suppose I actually had spent $5k on it and walked away with $10k. I would have thought the same way: why haven’t I dump all my cash on it (say, $20k) and win much more? And why haven’t I borrowed $100k for some months to invest in it?

        This last thought borders insanity. What if there’s as small as a 20% chance that I don’t end up get my investments doubled, instead I lost them all? That’s a 20% chance my whole life would have gotten ruined.

        Say you have $20k, and you invest exactly one half of it on something. If you end up winning, you walk away unhappy because you should’ve invested much more. If you lose, you walk away unhappy because you shouldn’t have invested anything at all, or perhaps you should even have selled short. This is ridiculous – if we can’t be happy whenever our profits aren’t maximized, we can never be happy until we go to extremes and go insane.

        1. Yuka, this is an excellent point! In reality, it’s impossible to expect perfection here. We can’t buy at the absolute bottom and sell at the absolute top. Especially considering how much inefficiency there is in the MTG market. Thanks for sharing this example as it actually does make me feel a little bit better 🙂

  1. My lesson learned: Master of Waves is a mythic, so I should’ve ordered them at $8 Friday morning! I thought they had seen their jump and moved into Thassa and Nykthos, so I’m still doing alright, provided I flip them asap. But I’m so tempted to build the deck now and I own zero Masters 🙁

    One other card that I noticed was the 4-of Underworld Connections in the Mono-Black Devotion list. Those are under a buck each still. Does that deck have legs? It was certainly out-shined by it’s azure brethren but a PT T8 is still a PT T8.

    1. Yeah, I definitely missed the Master of Waves jump on Friday. I saw the card was moving “mysteriously” and I didn’t have the confidence that the rise was legit. Apparently something linked. Ahhhh…technology.

      I am also tempted to play the mono U deck, but I only own 1 Master myself.

      Underworld Connctions could be interesting. It may be wise to pick up a few in case the black devotion deck gains traction.

  2. I’m in the same boat after I bought on hype during the two SCG opens. I picked up some Trostanis, Selesnya’s Voice and some Fleecemane Lions on the cheap.

    Looking at the decklists at PT Dublin,there were plenty of Naya and Selesnya decks in the field of +400, just none of them were very successful. I believe Advent of the Wurm and other GW cards still have upside, but we might have to wait…

    While I hit with Nykthos and Master of Waves, it was only because I was buying during the event, rather than before or after the event, something which I had learned from watching the Worlds stream (where Lifebane Zombie and Burning Earth got hot). You might forego a bit of profit but at least you’ll know if you’re on the right platform for hype-train.

    1. There’s definitely merit to this approach. It’s much safer. I cannot fault you for following it.

      I hope you’re right about Naya and Selesnya. But I’ve definitely become less excited about stuff like Boon Satyr after seeing this Pro Tour.

  3. Nykthos was the right call (thanks QS community). Everyone was looking at the Gods and master of waves. Someone mentioned Nykthos was overlooked then. That was totally true.

    An interesting quote:

    ” But I should have trusted Wizards–they do quite thorough testing nowadays and I find it highly unlikely they’d create a new mechanic only to have it be irrelevant.”

    Does this mean we should see an heroic deck too?

    Maybe it’s possible, Boros heroic.

    1. Great point, Brecht. Heroic is severely underutilized right now in Standard. Maybe there’s an opportunity out there but no one has uncovered it yet? It’s definitely a speculative play, but worth thinking about.

      Has anyone seen any successful heroic decks? Maybe there are some sweet targeting spells coming in the next set?

      1. Heroic reminds me of Cascade: you get an “uncounterable” spell even if your initial spell is countered. It’s hard to ignore that kind of value. Now, we’re not Ancestral Recalling ourselves with Heroic (there’s not enough Fortune in those Tides to Hunt!) but there’s still some potential.

        However, if Paul “Boros” Rietzl wasn’t playing RW heroic at the PT, then I’m a little worried that it’ll take another set or two to shine.

        1. Heroic is tough because competitive decks don’t usually play spells that target your own creatures. Control decks have almost no creatures, so those are right out. Mono-green / Gruul wants Domri and/or Garruk and almost all creatures. Same goes with Mono-blue and RDW (whose only targeting spells are burn).

          I feel that it’s a mechanic that needs a LOT of support to be viable in Standard. Spells with buyback, auras that bounce cheaply, top-quality spells that target two or more creatures.

  4. Jace is played in one more deck now – the monoblue devotion deck (there are three of them in top 4 in Pro Tour Dublin) has 4 copies total in maindeck and sideboard. Of course, control decks still want 4 copies. As for Advent of the Wurm, let’s at least wait til Temple of Selesnya comes out.

    Polukranos seems pretty good right now (because of Nykthos), but it did see a price increase.

  5. No offense, but I really don’t get the slightly whining tone of this article

    “Sadly, I was trying to follow an alternate path for speculation. I correctly latched onto the devotion mechanic, but I had focused my funds on Heliod, God of the Sun and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. The former has thus far been a bust, but acquiring fifteen Nykthos for $3.50 a copy has paid off well thus far. It turns out that devotion is as good as I thought–just not in white (yet).

    The result: I now have nearly 20 copies of Heliod, which I either have to move for a small loss or sit on in anticipation for some powerful white devotion cards in the next set. As for Nykthos, that one will pay off nicely at least, perhaps balancing on my losses from Heliod.”

    Perhaps? Depending on when you bought them, you’re going to lose a buck or 2 on the heliods. You’re making over $10 each on the nykthoses.

    Overall my 50% success rate isn’t terrible as long as I bank more profits on Nykthos than I lose on Heliod. But to be honest, I’m walking out of this Pro Tour with a sour taste in my mouth. After two weeks of SCG Standard events giving us ideas for speculation targets, the Pro Tour jumped in a significantly different direction.

    “What happened to the likes of Advent of the Wurm? Where are all the Boon Satyrs?”

    Advent could still spike before it rotatates. If not you can always sell now to cut your loses. Boon satyr I would have sold after it spiked, but I don’t think the price has crashed on it yet. You can still sell and make money off them.

    Did people even play these cards? Probably, but I didn’t hear anything about them on Twitter. All I heard about and watched was a blue devotion deck and a green-red devotion deck tear up the Pro Tour. While Thassa, God of the Sea has jumped from $12 to $25, Boon Satyr has pretty much leveled out.

    This brings me to the title of this section: speculation has become difficult these days. The instantaneous flow of information is a direct cause.

    “If you plan to maximize profits from speculating on a new set after rotation, you basically have to drop everything and monitor event results from the get-go. Also, make sure you cancel any social events or travel plans the weekend of a major event early on in a Standard season. You’ll need to be at your computer making purchases.”

    This weekend was a huge opportunity to make money. I made much more from this pro tour than I did from my full time job this week. All you had to do is scoop up the hot cards once they start buzzing. Master of waves, thassa, tidebinder, nykthos. Youre right that you have to spend a lot of time monitoring results, but it’s probably worth it if you want to make money. If not then don’t worry about it, and leave more $6 master of waves for the rest of us. I don’t get why you’re talking about this like it’s a negative thing….

    1. Mark,

      I apologize for the negative tone (and consequently the negative tone of this comment). I could have definitely written this article in a more optimistic way. The glass wasn’t always half-empty.

      In the case of Nykthos gains vs. Heliod losses, Nykthos was only $8 or $9 when I wrote the article and now two days later they’re $15. So my tone here would have been different. I’m estatic with my Nykthos gains and they will likely outweigh the Heliod losses, which should be minor because I paid a reasonable price for them.

      I’m frustrated by Boon Satyr because I am still waiting to receive a few copies because I had to travel on business. This was my own lack of foresight. Still I assumed I had at least a couple weeks to out these profitably – and I still may. But the absence of Boon Satyr from the Pro Tour Top 8 does give me doubts.

      In any event, thank you very much for the feedback. I’ll try to be more conscious of my article’s tone in the future! I really appreciate your taking the time to share these thoughts. The only way I can improve my writing is with feedback!

      Sig

  6. No need to apologize, I’d be frustrated too if I missed out on the easy quick flip money this weekend. I remember I was bummed when I missed out on the cheap sdcc planeswalkers. But really it’s good news that there’s so much money to be made off quick flips in this game. It’s really amazing, almost too good to be true. Seems like every week there’s a card that you can tell is obviously going to spike… And almost every time, lo and behold, it does. You might miss a few here and there but you can bet there will be another one soon… When’s the next major event? I’m excited 🙂

    1. Lol, MTG Finance is crazy attractive right now and the more people that pour into speculation, the more price movement there will be…for better or worse.

      Staying ahead of the curve will be so key. The QS forums, our Insider Content, Email Blasts, etc. will provide you with access to what people are watching. If you wait until the next Monday after an event to read about it, you’re too late. That’s what technology has done – and there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just the new reality!

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