Really, how much of what we do is pattern recognition?
Everything Old Is New Again
Pop quiz: what do you do with Jace, Architect of Thought? The future of this card will be determined by a game of tug-of-war between two diametrically-opposed forces. One is his damn near ubiquity in the decks to beat in Standard. The other is his impending reprint.
We have two prevailing theories here. One theory about Jace's price is that reprinting will pull the price's pants completely down. Another is that since he is played in so many decks and the reprint is a few months away demand will keep up with supply and we won't see a huge depression.
Are both of these theories equally valid? If we're evaluating them in terms of their merit as guesses, sure, I guess. However, we don't really have to pretend like we're totally in the dark here, because we have some data to look at. That data is "every duel deck."
That Doesn't All Seem Relevant
No, indeed not. Comparing a rare like Life from the Loam to a mythic like Jace, Architect of Thought can only tell us so much. However, the downward trends in the prices of Life from the Loam and Hellrider are noticeable as soon as the duel decks are released and the market begins to get saturated.
One more interesting thing to look at is the price of Sorin, Lord of Innistrad. It appears like the price depression began in advance of the actual printing on green's (ABU) graph, and stayed relatively flat on red (SCG) until the printing. Some dealers got cold feet a bit early, but SCG didn't drop its price and it maintained up until the 11th hour.
The yellow is eBay, and eBay is instructive to look at ordinarily, because it's a sum of the individual buying and selling behaviors of a crowd of people. Where one dealer like ABU might get cold feet and one dealer like SCG might say, "No, this is our price," a line of best fit through the wacky-looking mess of eBay's prices shows a downward trend that starts in January, when the deck was announced.
Since Sorin is a mythic that saw play in a popular deck or two around the time of Sorin vs. Tibalt's printing, this is a good analog for Jace.
If you are looking to trade Jace out, they should retain decent trade value if you peg your price to a site like SCG that is less inclined to panic-sell Jace in preparation for the duel deck printing.
If you are looking to sell Jace, I would do so now. eBay prices were all over the place, but they started trending down in January, which means when the deck was announced, which means now. I predict TCG prices will follow suit.
When the deck finally does come out, I expect a decent portion of the demand for Jace to have died down, but that all depends on how he performs in the mean time. Right now he's a powerhouse and doesn't show signs of stopping, but the printing of the duel deck will correlate with an attenuation of Standard play in general, so it's possible there won't be the kind of insane demand for Jace.
In all likelihood, $20 is a hard cap on his price and I expect him to be under that. Until then, expect SCG to try and charge what he is now. It's possible that his price could go up if there is even more demand, but with speculators who bought in at $10ish wanting to cash out now, I expect there is enough supply.
What Else Is (Not) New?
Also announced for an upcoming printing is a series of five Commander decks, one for each Alara block shard. Obviously, the Grixis one is bonkers with the 3/1 merfolk and Baleful Strix, but I can't help but remember the last Commander deck printing.
Last time everyone saw Flusterstorm and lost their minds. Political Puppets was preselling on eBay for far above MSRP because there was no precedent for product like this and people were all about Flusterstorm in Legacy. It took almost a month for a Legacy GP in Indianapolis to roll around for the new Maverick deck to show everyone how bonkers a little card called "Scavenging Ooze" was.
Counterpunches were still gettable for MSRP at a ton of stores, and my drive back from Indianapolis involved going into Target and Walmart stores to grab as many as I could find. I sold all the other singles and made bank on the Oozes. I felt like I was a genius for having a few sealed Counterpunches sitting aside when Ooze first hit and everyone else was all about Flusterstorm.
You know who the real geniuses were? The guys who bought all of the decks and sat on them. I made $50 selling Couterpunches and felt great about it and it feels even better now that Ooze got a reprint and the sealed decks are about that.
The people who bought Heavenly Inferno when the other Keynesian Beauty Contest contestants were fighting over Counterpunches and Political Puppets made the best bang for their buck--Heavenly Inferno routinely sells for over $120 sealed. Could anyone have predicted that? Not when they were busy cannibalizing the sets for singles.
Despite there being few of those two sets left sealed because of speculators popping them for singles, the other sets are all worth more. Why? Because they appeal more to the EDH and collector crowd and ended up better long term investments, especially in the wake of Flusterstorm and Ooze getting reprints.
When you're hitting up Walmart and someone else got there first and cleaned out all the Grixis decks to go home and sell the True-Name Nemeses...
...maybe you take a second look at what's left on the shelf. You never know which one of those decks will have the better long-term growth potential (I would not have pegged Heavenly Inferno) and you should make like a Pokemon trainer and catch 'em all.
More Than Just Diamonds
Antwerp was also the setting of the largest Modern tournament in ever. Over 1,400 players showed up to play Modern, and I know for sure the Top 8 is going to surprise you.
Only one Jund deck in the Top 8? That's how you know it wasn't an American GP!
The biggest question over the weekend was whether it made sense to buy Living End at $8.50. It is trending down on Amazon, but TCG Player shows an inclination to sell a bit above SCG's current $7. Only damaged and played copies are under $7 on TCG Player, and when TCG Player does go above SCG, that's a good indication the market is going to go up.
However, it likely would have happened by now if it were going to. The spread is 45% which doesn't show a ton of confidence in the card from dealers. If it goes below 30% and someone other than a site that charges the most (ABU) is the highest buylist price, pay attention. Otherwise, I think you sit this one out.
European Grands Prix occasionally cause a spike in interest in strategies that seem fringe on the left side of the Atlantic (Death and Taxes springs to mind) but I don't think there will be a Living End Renaissance. It's cool to see it do well here, though.
One of the two Twin decks in the Top 8 won it, piloted by Patrick Dickmann. There were two Living End decks in the Top 8 as well and the rest of the Top 8 was all singletons--Jund, Affinity, Infect (lol, wut) and Tron.
If Living End does nothing, I don't know that there is a ton of financially-relevant info here. People were worried about Jund needing bans to nerf it, but it seems like Antwerp treated it like just another deck and beat it by playing solid Magic. No talk of banning this weekend, just the largest Modern tournament in History and five archetypes in the Top 8. This format could be closer to Legacy than Standard if we let it.
Lots more Jund and all of the Pod decks outside the Top 8. The Living End deck seems like a regional choice and may have been over-represented at the event. It also may be the rise of a credible deck choice in a sea of unimaginative Jund variants and one, monolithic combo deck. It may be at the right price right now, but expect Living End to trade out four at a time if people get the itch to play it.
That's really all I have to say about Modern, except the conspicuous absence of UWR variants may be regional as well. I see no explanation for Magus of the Moon disappearing from the internet over the weekend, also.
Let's move on to Indianapolis.
Both Legacy and Standard are in here, so let's take Standard first. These decks are listed in order of total finish, so let's take the finishes in either portion with a grain of salt.
Obviously the most important thing to talk about is Bard Narson's deck. This masterpiece seems like a quintessential Brad Nelson deck, so I expect it to get copied.
Using big stuff and control cards plus the crushing advantage offered by Assemble the Legion, you can cast your Anger of the Gods with abandon because all it can kill is their stuff and some of your expendable tokens. This deck seems like an Esper killer, shrugging off Supreme Verdict and offering so much inevitability that you have to take it seriously.
I wrote off Stormbreath Dragon initially because it's just a bad Thundermaw Hellkite and people will only jam it in that same deck slot if they lack imagination. It turns out I was absolutely right about everything, except I screwed up when I assumed any of that would matter. A bad Thundermaw Hellkite is just fine right now, and dodging creatures and removal is even better.
I am glad to see decks running Advent of the Wurm because at the beginning of the season it saw play in loads of decks before petering out. The card is too good not to play right now, and it is good against Esper if applied properly. A Naya deck now means you can run eight temples, so what the temples do now will determine the real price of the Born of the Gods temples at prerelease. I think this kind of deck is what you want in the current meta.
The rest of the Top 8 was Esper, Mono-Blue and Mono-Black, which is no surprise. There isn't a ton of financial implication in a format that is getting stale, which is why you want to be on stuff that could go up. Nelson's deck is full of stuff going up, the others full of cards that are staying the same or going down. Don't expect a casual card like Pack Rat to go down, ever, but Theros cards like Hero's Downfall have nowhere to go but down when redemption hits.
Honestly, the Legacy portion of the Invitational wasn't better. You get a bunch of pros playing the consensus best decks. These events aren't very instructive and only serve to reinforce everyone's preconceptions about the format.
You know what's worse than a Sneak and Show mirror match? Everyone acting like it's exciting. It's not. We watched on camera as Huey had nothing but ways to put creatures into play and Nelson had nothing but creatures. How wacky! Being the best topdecker shouldn't determine who wins the invitational. Sneak and Show is a Tier 1 deck, it's not going away, but it's beatable, can be inconsistent and is boring to play in the mirror. Legacy is still wide open, but you wouldn't know it to check the Invitational.
One thing to consider pertains to the first section of the article. What to do about Baleful Strix? Will its inclusion in the Commander deck everyone is already going to buy bring it down or will demand outstrip supply?
I'm inclined to say the price is going down, and you should smoke 'em if you got 'em (smoke means sell) right now. Shardless BUG is a great deck, but expect price divergence from Shardless Agent, a tougher card to reprint, soon. Sell now and buy in later when they're cheaper, or trade them out. They are hot and hard to find right now.
There was an Open, but like 100 people played in it.
Reid won with a Bant Maverick variant, which I obviously thought was cool.
I wish Chris Andersen had done better in his "last" event, but Elves is Elves. Ben Weinberg didn't fare any better but both managed Top 8 at least.
Top 8 is better than the Shardless BUG decks managed.
Pet deck of the week? Not where there are a bunch of spikes gathered. Reanimator is the most unconventional deck choice unless you count Reid Duke's Bant deck.
The pod deck was pretty spicy this week. I liked this build. I like Strix in a pod deck, and that's one more reason why you want to get rid of these now while demand is high.
This is a little more like it. There was still a ton of Esper in the Top 16, but more than three decks made it up. B/G Devotion should serve as a blueprint for cards to watch as the two colors didn't hurt the devotion at all.
Ryan %&^*ing Archer came a hair's breadth from taking the event down with Scion of Vitu-Ghazi? I told you people that card had legs! You laughed at Ryan! You laughed at me! Can you imagine how much crow you'd eat if he'd won instead of getting third? You'd be all, "who cares, it was an SCG Open, those results don't matter when I don't like them." Yeah... total ownage.
I think if Esper is the deck to beat, or one of them, this isn't a bad place to be. Populate gives aggro decks fits and Rootborn Defenses is GG because keeping all of your dudes and time-walking against Esper gets there.
In other "people I know" news, my buddy Josh Glantzman drew into 9th, which is literally more tragic than the movie Schindler's List. Not bad for a guy who took some time off. He's back and he's ready to crush it again. We'll be seeing more of him for sure.
I think you can pretty much play what you want right now. I think Mono-Blue and Mono-Black are beatable and anyone calling them the best decks in the format lack vision. People who call Esper the best deck lack originality. Unfortunately, people who want to play anything else lack results.
There was a bit more Magic played this weekend, but you get the idea. I think we know what the new "Jund" decks are, so keep an eye on what's up-and-coming.
I'd watch the G/W list Ryan Archer played for cards that could spike, I'd keep an eye on G/B Devotion, and obviously, everyone is keeping an eye on "Joraga" Bard Narson's Naya control build. Assemble the Legion has implications in so many decks, and running that color combo gives you Chained to the Rocks and a temple. Can't beat that with a lucky topdeck.
That's all for me this week. Join me next time where I'll write a longer article.