I played a bunch of EDH last night with some casuals I used to work with and they said, "You should write an article about us!" because they don't know what "humor" is and also because they thought I wouldn't do it. Joke's on them--I know they won't read this so I will write about them because I think I can get away with it. Someone should have told them that nobody tells me what to write about and emerges unscathed. Let's look at a brief history.
Telling Jason What to Do
April 2012 - Site cofounder Kelly Reid tells me that my article will have to contain content from Reddit. I get my revenge by complying and posting Reddit content on the site, thereby lowering the average article quality of articles significantly. Insiders flee in droves.
May 2012 - Content Manager Tyler Tyssedal tells me that my article will have to contain a summary of recent event finishes. I respond by making thinly-veiled sarcastic comments about what a chore it is every week despite the fact that it's genuinely edifying for everyone and making me a better speculator. I also prank him by having a 50-pound bag of premium, unbleached flour delivered to him because I know he doesn't eat gluten. It was too expensive a gift to throw away so he has to put a 50 pound bag of flour on his mantelpiece every time I visit.
August 2012 - A reader insists I post more pictures of cupcakes with mana symbols on them because it's been two weeks since I last did that. I respond by dropping the Reddit content from the format. No one notices.
October 12th 2013 - I exit the time machine and turn in my article about the legal issues surrounding cancelling orders with three days to spare.
October 15th 2013 - Corbin claims his article about the legal issues surrounding cancelling orders is the best work he's ever done.
July 2020 - Corbin is honored with a "Urich"--an award given out for exceptional web journalism and named after fictional Marvel Comics journalist Ben Urich. Stan Less presents the award to Corbin.
August 2020 - Corbin drunkenly bets me I will never in a million years write anything as good as his article about order cancellation. We feud bitterly and our grudge continues for centuries.
December 2045 - I perfect time travel and go back to October 12th 2013 to preempt Corbin's article, thus preventing the ugliest blood feud of the 21st century.
With the use of the time machine, I also go back to April 23, 2013 to preempt my own article.
You Going to Talk About Magic at Some Point?
Do I ever? Anyway, I was going somewhere with this, don't interrupt me.
So anyway, we're playing EDH with modified house rules that state winning the three-way EDH game is worth 3 points and preventing me from winning or making sure I die first is worth 5 points. One of the players--I really shouldn't use real names, so I will call him "Ben" because that's his real name and I don't feel like inventing something--had a tendency to play removal spells on the first possible legal target.
It's tough to beat a Druids' Repository with a dozen counters on it because you used a Disenchant to destroy my Illusionist's Bracers at a time when they were my only non-land permanent. Similarly, a Mycoloth with ten counters on it is going to kill everyone if you wasted a Terminus to kill just my general and a Hellkite Tyrant and no other creatures.
Ben got 5 points in that game and the other player only got 3, let's put it that way. I hope after the game was over and we'd both gotten steamrolled by the player left relatively unmolested that I made a decent case for "just because you have a target for your removal spell doesn't mean you should play it right away".
When I woke up this morning and checked Reddit, someone had gone absolutely nuts in the finance subreddit, pointing out that someone had independently verified that the Japanese GR monstrosity deck from the Top 8 of the Pro Tour was, in fact, playable in an article on Channel Fireball. This means EVERY CARD IN THAT DECK IS A SPEC NOW!
In all fairness, he was one of four people who suggested Arbor Colossus as a spec, but the idea of the contents of this deck being potential speculation targets is not really new. The diversity of decks in the Standard format may make it tough for a card that doesn't get played across a lot of decks to go up too much, and with packs now being opened constantly and redemption looming, I don't know if Arbor Colossus has any chance of being the next Nightveil Specter or Tidebinder Mage if it hasn't already. Maybe Colossus can get there. I am not buying any, but you can do what you want.
Nice, Pick on a Redditor
See, that's not really where I was going. I think what's remarkable here is the enthusiasm.
It's certainly true that all the cards in a deck that has proven itself are potential spec targets, and it takes a lot of experience to be able to remember analogous cases to keep from getting an enthusiasm boner and spending money you're not getting back. It takes a calm head to say "Where do I see this peaking?" and "How cheaply can I get in?" and "How do I plan to get out of these?" and When?" Being calm in an exciting situation is pretty tough.
I got an enthusiasm boner last week when Liliana of the Dark Realms went up by 50% in 24 hours on MODO and saw play in a lot of dailies. I am really inexperienced at MODO finance, and I imagine I may have a tough time recouping my investment on Liliana. Just because I saw a price spike I didn't really understand didn't mean I should have spent actual money. I got swept up and should have done more research.
Not that it's going to be tough to get rid of planeswalkers I bought for under $5. I jam those in the case at the LGS for $5 and I bet they're gone in two weeks. Still, check your enthusiasm. I didn't.
So rather than dismiss the reddit posting because I was able to recognize that there was a high potential for hysteria and bad financial decisions, I sat down and checked every card he mentioned, checked their price trends and tried to verify how many decks besides that one were using them.
It's good to pay attention (I even said so last week) and I am glad that posting was made. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from this situation and even people with experience speculating have a lot to learn from how this all pans out.
What Was All That About Plagiarizing Yourself?
Well, after the experience with someone playing removal spells like they were burning a hole in his deck and the experience with a sudden wave of enthusiasm surrounding a few specs that might not necessarily pan out, I had a theme for the article.
I was going to call it "Just because you can" and use that theme to unite the initial anecdote about removal spells and then write more broadly about how to watch yourself when you speculate. Maybe after I finished up the deck section at the end, I could pepper in one more "Just because you can" reference and then I could go to the store, buy a microphone, come home, plug it in and drop it on the floor.
I was doing a little research for the dates of my old articles for the beginning of this article and I found out that back in April, I literally wrote that exact article. It was even called "Just because you can" and it mentions a scenario where Regrowth was unbanned in Vintage and someone bought my revised copies on eBay. No wonder I liked the idea some much when I thought of it--it was my idea already.
You're Running out of Room to Make a Point
Well, if you're going to insist I make a point, fine, let's talk about the Reddit thread in question.
If you are inclined to write something snarky in the comments, don't. That's my thing, and I don't appreciate being plagiarized by anyone but me.
OP identifies a few cards that are very cheap and therefore have the most room to move up if this deck becomes the new deck to beat in Standard, which I have to assume is what he assumes, which is an assumption chain that rivals the Human Centipede.
I think some of the logic is pretty solid, although I would caution people using the "it's dirt cheap, so why not?" logic as applied to untested cards. I will sometimes say "this seems low risk" if a card has spiked already and no one knows why yet, and I advocate buying bulk rares as specs because you can always out them again for bulk and sometimes you have a big stack of Nightveil Specters in your box of shame like I did.
However, I wouldn't apply that to cards that could potentially get played in a deck that may or may not remain popular--mana cost and color are not enough of an impetus on their own. I like his logic as applied to Arbor Colossus and Reverent Hunter. I like it less as applied to Pyxis of Pandemonium and Sylvan Primordial--the latter a card I am deep on but for other reasons.
It's a great exercise to notice a deck getting recognition and analyzing some of the cards that might be undercosted. It's quite another to speculate baselessly. I don't really know which of those two this post is, but I would watch a few of the dollar rares in this deck.
However, one important thing to point out is that we have to have realistic goals about how much money we need the card to increase before it's worth speculating. If the ceiling for Arbor Colossus is $2 and we buy in at $1, we might as well not bother. If we buy in at $0.15, I'm listening.
As always, you have to play to your outs. If you're eBaying, you're paying fees on every play set you sell. If you're buylisting, you're shipping a $2 for the same $1 you paid for it. If you're trading them out, the card will have to be a bit more popular than "$2 TCG Mid" to fly out of your binder.
Another card I've seen mentioned is Rubblebelt Raiders. It isn't seeing any discussion in the QS forum, but Reddit and other forums seem excited. Are these devotion decks a flash in the pan? Are they the new way we're going to build decks from now on? Could cards like Rubblebelt Raiders and Boros Reckoner be what enables two-color decks to trigger devotion in multiple colors?
I'd watch closely. My inclination is that Rubblebelt Raiders is not going to see the same $5 that Nightveil Specter is commanding, but I certainly wouldn't be shocked. I am not betting my own money on it, in other words. I suppose what I am doing is reserving the right to say, "Ha! Totally said this could happen!" if it hits later. That would be pretty funny if I did that.
It would be even funnier if someone said "Great, how much money did you make speculating on them" which is what I want to ask whenever someone says something like "called it" but I usually just bite my tongue instead.
After all, I made a lot of money on Nightveil Specter and I did so because I had a lot of copies that I bought on pretty poor logic and sat on because I was too embarrassed to sell them for bulk. So if you think Rubblebelt Raiders could be a thing, or Arbor Colossus or any other cheap card that is a component of these sorts of decks, they're cheap as heck right now and I'm not going to compete with you for copies.
Let's Do The Same Thing a Few More Times
It wasn't just the G/R monstrosity deck that is worth looking at. We had a bunch of toinaments over the weekend. Let's take a peek at some of the results.
If you wanted to see an exciting GP final between Shuhei Nakamura and Martin Juza, I hope you didn't make the mistake a lot of people did and go to GP Louisville. This showdown took place at a Limited GP in Hong Kong. Those of us in this hemisphere are probably a little more concerned with the financial implications of an evolving Standard format.
I guess what I said about Standard being wide open may have been a bit ambitious. It looks like everyone wants to play mono-colored devotion.
If you want to find the next Nightveil Specter, I bet it's not the jolly green giant, but rather the best card in Return to Ravnica Limited. Pack Rat turns on your devotion to black in a big way, turns bad cards late in the game into more rats and powers up Gray Merchant of Asphodel to insane levels.
Still gettable at $2 and likely to always be worth something due to casual appeal, Pack Rats is a card that I never didn't like as a spec. Now is the time to get in cheap if you can.
Anything under $2 is probably good although I don't know where the ceiling is. I feel confident that its casual appeal will help this retain its value a bit longer--I generally like cards as specs if they have utility outside of just Standard.
Expect Nightveil Specter to stay where it is because of its utility in Mono-Black as well. Tidebinder Mage is beginning to fall in price a bit but Specter is in the two hottest decks. I wouldn't expect another bump but it should maintain its spike price for a while longer on this news.
Underworld Connections is sold out on SCG for $3, so you may want to try and wrangle some of those as well if you can. The card has always been good but didn't have a home. Those two black mana symbols that were a bit of a liability in Jund are now a big boost to the card. As long as the devotion craze keeps on keeping on, play cards that are good in those decks.
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is on an overall downward trend, which is odd. I expect it to maintain its price for a bit longer due to everyone wanting to jam some manner of devotion.
Ray Perez, 11th place PT finisher, talked a lot about how his Esper control list had the gas to beat Mono-Blue and that seems reasonably borne-out by the results. Five decks in the Top 16 says a lot. The cards in that deck were already money due to their being staples in control decks--the only real price movement I see is the new Jace vs. Vraska duel deck putting a damper on the price of Architect of Thought.
The red-green decks made the Top 16 as well. I am not convinced that a ton of those cards are good specs, but if there should be hype, be prepared to sell into it.
The Polukranos duel deck goes for almost $10 on TCG Player (low). Can you find $10 in the other 59 cards, one of which is a foil Sun Titan? If Polukranos moves up any more it may be worth it, but I tend to see the deck putting a cap on the short term price of Polukranos rather than it being a good source of under-priced singles. I think more packs being opened and redemption will further curb the price.
I would hold off on speculating on any weapons. They are legendary after all and also widely-available. As good as [card "Whip of Erebos"]Whip[/card] and [card "Bident of Thassa"]Bident[/card] are proving and as strong as Hammer is and Bow could potentially prove to be, I see low financial potential here.
If Thoughtseize comes down any more with redemption, I think you buy in. Some people are saying to buy in now but I disagree. Wait until redemption happens and the dust settles from that. We're not at peak supply yet and roughly as many decks as we thought would run Thoughtseize are doing so.
Aetherling turned out a pretty bad spec. It may be near ubiquitous in the future, but most decks aren't running more than one so there isn't enough demand to move the price up much. I suspect there are a ton of these squirreled away in spec boxes as well, giving me even less confidence in holding mine.
Sam Black appears to be running a split of one Rapid Hybridization and two Rapid Hybridization, which I think is ballsy. Most people just run three Rapid Hybridization instead of a split like that.
Brian Bruan-Duin took the GP down with Mono-Black which should only fan the flames of hysteria surrounding the deck.
If you go beyond the Top 16, though, you see a different story. There were a lot more decks played than the results would indicate and those decks, once they figure out how to beat the devotion decks, will shine. Soldier of the Pantheon was all over coverage until we got to the end of Day 2--maybe people missed that so you might want to watch the price of that card. It's solid and it punishes those greedy cards like Nightveil Specter. It can't do diddly against a pile of Pack Rats, though, so be careful.
Boon Satyr is all over the place. SCG has them at $7 but TCG Player tells a different story. The card is the real deal and with cheap copies online, I think you might want to get them under $5 if you still can. These will trade very well.
This event was essentially Mono-Team SCG in the Top 16 so I don't really want to harp on it too much. There were basically three decks in the Top 16, Mono-Blue, Mono-Black and Esper. Boring. Let's check out the SCG Open and see if that is a little more diverse.
Wow. I am as encouraged by the seven decks in the Top 8 as I am the only mono-colored devotion deck, a deck that did not win the event. Instead, U/W Control took it down using practically zero cards from Theros. "Sweet, we got a new counterspell," Jesse Hampton must have said, opening a single box of Theros to make sure he had enough Yoked Ox for his sideboard and then taking down the open. Nice work, Jesse. Control gets there.
A lot of cards I have been talking about figured heavily into the W/B deck. I like playing cheap dudes and removal then closing the game out with Whip and Obzedat. It's a solid strategy and I see it panning out long term.
The R/G deck showed up at the Open, too, and it's a deck that should be in your gauntlet.
You can add a little green to the mono-black deck and still have plenty of devotion to black but get the flexibility of cards like Reaper of the Wilds, Abrupt Decay and Scavenging Ooze. I didn't like Reaper much on paper but he adds value and is a cheap buy right now.
I think the Top 16 of this Open more accurately reflects the field you are likely to face than the GP. You can really build what you want. The framework can remain similar, but even in devotion-based decks, people are adding other colors and not suffering. I expect the Temples to go up soon once people start splashing a bit, and you can get them cheaply now. I would trade for these--I am not paying cash on them.
I expected to see more mono-red devotion, but Thoughtseize likely gives it a hard time and mono-colored decks make Burning Earth a bit worse, but not as much as you'd think. People are trading mana-fixing nonbasics for lands like Nykthos and Mutavault which work well in mono-colored decks. I think red is a force to be reckoned with, although Fanatic of Mogis is shaping up to be just a bad Gray Merchant.
Let's move on to Legacy.
Two copies of Rug Delver including the winning deck piloted by Jacob Wilson joined two copies of Elves in the Top 8. I didn't really expect there to be less diversity in Legacy, but that's how it goes sometimes. Deathrite Shaman has really made Elves a bit more appealing, and that's cool.
I am actually liking the URW Delver decks right now. You get a bit better removal than RUG Delver, you get Stoneforge Mystic which is huge in the Delver matches and you can crush people with Geist of Saint Traft. I like running a Basilisk Collar in the board if you're going to run Grim Lavamancer and Stoneforge in the same deck, however.
"Pet deck of the week" goes to Affinity. This is a deck that doesn't feel like it's Tier 1 but also feels like it always has the potential to Top 8. It's mediocre against the entire field, which is actually a good thing because it means you don't have 0% matchups and your sideboard can really help. The deck is dildos if people show up with a sideboard against you, but no one is doing that so it's not a bad metagame choice on occasion. It's potent, explosive, simple to pilot, consistent and finishes matches quickly, win or lose. Gotta love it.
Shardless BUG fans will be glad to hear that Baleful Strix is confirmed for reprint in the new Commander product. This should make Strix a little bit more affordable and we should see some price divergence from Shardless Agent.
Punishing Zoo? Now that's what I'm talking about! I wish Shawn Yu had won the event with this beast. I like the deck a ton and I think if people are adding Grim Lavamancer to deal with Deathrite Shaman, you want to play a card that deals with both. I don't like Jund, but I do like pitching Punishing Fire to Liliana. Still, this is my kind of deck, and I wish it had never stopped being Tier 1.
If you're confused, this is Punishing Maverick and Star City just sucks at naming decks. Adding Wild Nacatl to a Maverick list is hardly enough to make it not Maverick. Whatever you want to call this deck, it's always going to be a contender.
It's too bad none of the interesting decks made Top 8. This deck is my $%(*! I don't know if I could make myself not play black for Hibernation Sliver, but this looks fast and solves the problem of "fewer lords than Merfolk" by printing another lord in M14. This may be a better vial deck than Merfolk now because of cards like Harmonic Sliver and Galerider Sliver. Your mana base is a bit dodgy, but this is Legacy--just like rich white people problems, throw some money at it and it will become solved.
This Landstill variant is also potent and looks fun to play. You don't sacrifice much to splash a little red, and it makes your Engineered Explosives that much better. Lightning Bolt and Izzet Charm are both solid. I like how this is built very much.
The Past and/or Future
That really does it for me this week. I will try not to be inspired to write an article I already wrote six months ago. I already know I'm going to call it "Pro Activity" which will talk about following what the pros are doing and also relate it to being proactive and staying ahead of price spikes.
Actually, I can't call it that anymore, now I'm going to call it "I told you I was going to call it 'Pro Activity'" to relate it to the end of this article which I can't believe you're still reading.
That's really all I've got. Join me next week where it's possible I will be wishing I'd gotten Arbor Colossus before it spiked to $7.