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Jason’s Article: Feeling Lucky

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Greetings, Therosians!

Anyone else feel like the first week of new Standard directly contradicts the second week of new Standard?

Signals

Based on what we saw at the first tournament of the new Standard format, I thought Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver at around $15 and Hammer of Purphoros at $1.50 were good buys. I figured given a week for the rest of the metagame to notice how much play they got would see them peaking and me selling. So far there is barely movement on either.

Meanwhile, that money is gone and a whole raft of cards popped up this last weekend that are totally different and I'm kicking myself for not waiting. Ashiok was nowhere to be found this weekend, nor was Jace, nor Hammer (Mono-Red in general underperformed given how strong it was last weekend) all of which leads me to wonder whether I should have given it a second week to draw lines between data points a little bit.

Watching coverage this weekend, I don't feel like I got a better sense of things right away. Even armed with three block rotations as a financier to draw inferences from, I felt lost. Not because I think I'm bad at this, but because I want to understand it even better than I do.

Is Boon Satyr a good buy at $5+ given it saw play in one deck over the weekend? I bought in closer to $3 and feel good about it and I think it has more playability than its inclusion in just one deck would indicate. Would buying Reverent Hunter at $1 and targeting $5 for a sell point be a better play than buying Satyr at $3-$5 and hoping it pulls a Boros Reckoner?

Feeling like a monkey for having a big pile of Ashiok on the desk next to me--although I think I'll be vindicated by Dublin as pros play control more than people at SCG Opens--I took a more holistic look at the spikes from this weekend. My hip-shot method didn't feel sustainable to me, and I made so many good calls last year fueled by nothing more than a gut feeling it was hard to feel like I was good at this. I felt like I was lucky at this.

If I want to stop feeling like a lucksack when I'm right and a monkey when I'm wrong, I'm trying to steer away from speculating based on gut feelings. After all, in the immortal words of Rob Gordon from High Fidelity, "my gut has shit for brains".

I think cards that only work in Mono-Green are not likely to be good speculation targets, and I feel good about that conclusion. Reverent Hunter may be an okay spec just because he's a damn dollar and I like low-risk specs, but he seems low-reward, too. Comparing Nylea's $7 to Purphoros' $25 only makes sense if you think Purphoros will maintain that $25, which I don't. I still think $7 for Nylea seems low, but compared to how "off" Temples at $4 feel, I would rather "invest in real estate".

I decided to do what I used to do in past situations, and look at cards whose entire price is based on demand. Low supply is going to artificially inflate prices farther than pure demand would, so I decided to hope--"Hope is not an investment strategy!" - Sigmund's Dad or whoever--Ashiok goes up and, if not, sell to break even, shrug my shoulders and get back to my roots. A lot of Ravnica block cards are going to go in decks and they could move based on this weekend.

I am bullish on Boon Satyr, but not convinced. What I am convinced of is that $3 for Advent of the Wurm is ridiculous. Ridiculous! You know what's $3? Master of Cruelties. Aurelia's Fury. Nightveil Specter is up to $2.50 based on the rock solid logic that "maybe, kinda, sorta, turning on black or blue devotion might be kinda okay, maybe." You think Advent is at the very least $0.50 better than that? I sure as heck do! I think you will feel better about a $4 Advent of the Wurm than a $7 Nylea in a few weeks.

Detention Sphere shot up this weekend, but caveat emptor--it's in an upcoming precon. Someone is buying out TCGPlayer under $5. A card with approximately all of the copies on Earth floating around that's going to be in a precon being sold out on SCG at $5 has never made me want to pay $4 cash, especially since that seems to be twice the best buylist price I could find. I don't care how sold out SCG is, a 48% spread has never instilled confidence.

Would I have differentiated between Advent of the Wurm and Detention Sphere in this same judicious manner two years ago? Would I have gone with my gut? Flipped a coin?

I can't say for sure, but as much as the old adage "Better lucky than good" gets thrown around in the play community, I don't want to feel lucky. I want to feel good. I want my financial advice to mean something because I want to feel like I arrived at my conclusions based on all of the data. You can ignore a lot of factors and be right because those factors didn't matter, and that is a trap new speculators fall into. But you'll never be as right consistently as someone who takes more into account.

I am confident about Hammer. Even if it only ends up a two-of, I think I can double up--$1.50 is junk rare money and $3 seems attainable. I am also confident about Ashiok, because I don't expect a ton at a SCG Open and if they see play in Dublin I should be just fine. If not, TCG Mid is $26 already and although I sell for TCG Low, I should make a few bucks per copy.

I love that we're in a business where "just a little bit right" still pays out. What I am most confident in is that I am better at this than I was last year when I hit an insane hot streak of good specs. I felt lucky that my "gambles" "paid off". This year, I feel "confident" that my specs "were rooted in solid logic".

My attitude is if you think you're good at speculating, you should gut check yourself before you bet big on it. Are you betting big because you considered every possible factor there is to consider and you are confident your spec is rooted in solid logic? Or are you betting big because your gut feeling is that you're about to hit a big payoff? Should you always go with your gut?

Your gut has shit for brains.

Up All Night to Get Lucky

Speaking of luck, sometimes entire organizations can be lucky. In this case, Quiet Speculation has acquired the Podcasting network MTGCast. If you're a dedicated listener to podcasts, you may have noticed that the Quiet Speculation ads at the beginning of each podcast are gone now, and that's a very good thing. Speaking as someone whose podcast left MTGCast due to a conflict caused by the ad (not QS' fault, but still annoying) I am glad to be able to come back.

I wrote a little blurb I'd like you to read if you're interested in podcasts and are uncertain about the future of MTGCast.com.

Check it out at this link.

If you're not someone who listens to podcasts, why not? You would likely be interested in Brainstorm Brewery, QS's own Doug Linn's 15-minute MTGFinance News podcast called Merchant Scroll, or podcasts about other aspects of the game.

I try to read five articles a day for my own edification and I listen to as many podcasts a week. Four idiots with a microphone have a decent shot of coming up with a few profound points if they can get all four idiots to agree and four people with a lot of experience can consistently put out compelling product and have interesting guests on their casts. I have replaced watching television for the most part with an equivalent amount of podcast listening and I feel like it's helped me immensely.

Whether or not you already listen to podcasts, I would like to invite you all to consider MTGCast as a site worth spending time at in the future. With new improvements planned and being implemented on a weekly basis, the site will only continue to get better, and nothing you liked about the site before is going away. I hope you'll all be proud of the work we do there and if you're not a listener, you'll pick one or two casts and give them a chance. Nothing dulls the monotony of a long car trip or cures a case of the Mondays (don't kick my ass!) like some edutainment.

But I'm not getting paid anything extra to say all this, so I'll stop before I sound preachy. Hit me up with questions or concerns about the transition.

How I Got Lucky

I was lucky enough to attend Gen Con this year with a press badge, which afforded me a few opportunities not available to the general public. I told you a few weeks ago that I got to play Rob Dougherty and Darwin Kastle's new game, Star Realms, and my intial impression was "hells yes."

Well, the Kickstarter went live, as followers of yours truly on social media well know. If you're not following me on twitter, by the way, is it because you don't have twitter or because you do but only like my opinion on 140,000 character increments, not 140? Either way, remedy that toute de suite, because you may have missed out on all the early bird tiers of this kickstarter and I think you will really like this game. I think all Magic players will.

Kickstart your heart.

It would be cool if they were paying me, but they are not. 100% of my alarming amount of enthusiasm is based on having played the game.

It's like a stream-lined version of Ascension that is more interactive, less luck-based and quicker to play. It's also scaleable in ways that Ascension is not and I supported the kickstarter so I could have enough sets to give out to friends and play Two-Headed Giant, because any card game that allows Two-Headed Giant needs to shut up and take my money.

If you don't want to support the kickstarter, at least keep an eye out for it when it hits stores--its price point is attractive and it's all of the fun to play.

Who Else Got Lucky?

Corbin Hosler got lucky because he was on the Wizards coverage team for the Grand Prix in Oklahoma City. He wrote a few good pieces for the event and was going to be at the event anyway. This could be the start of a regular gig for him, and that's pretty awesome.

Did you check the page out? If you did, you'll see the format was Limited, which means I don't have to write about it. How lucky can one man be?

So, the only thing to talk about is the Star City Open. Speaking of Star City, did you notice that SCG will be continuing Legacy in 2014? A lot of people told me I was an idiot for not seeing the signs that Modern was going to replace Legacy at SCG Opens. I don't think this one is luck on my part. This is pure, unadulterated "I told you so."

Let's talk about Margical Crads before I stop wanting to.

SCG Cleveland Open Top 16 Standard

In first is the deck that made me the most happy. I liked Craig Wescoe's deck from the Block PT, so when I saw no love for Green-White last week, I was a little sad. That Mono-Red is low-hanging fruit and it was obvious to build, but I don't know that it will be the consensus best deck moving forward. I think G/W has chops, and I bought a big old pile of Advent of the Wurm to celebrate.

Trostani, Selesnya's Voice could stand to be a two-of if you ask me, but I could be the most biased dude on Earth in this instance. I think the lifegain gives red fits and the populate is too powerful to ignore. Rootborn Defenses is such an elegant response to many problematic things and you get another 5/5 to boot. Be able to beat this deck, or stay home.

Advent also made a splash in the second-place Junk deck. I like this configuration and I feel like it has a lot of good tools to beat the future format. Can it handle the caliber of control deck we're likely to see out of Dublin? Only time will tell. Obzedat, Ghost Council plus Whip of Erebos is very potent--whip is a very good buy right now.

Advent is in the third place Naya deck. See a pattern? I also think Loxodon Smiter is underpriced right now. I expected Naya to take advantage of the Temples at its disposal, but turn one dork seems important, so the only Temple played is of the Garden variety. Not, like, a "garden variety" temple as in a generic one, I was mentioning that the dude played Temple Garden. That's all I was saying. I bought Domri Rade very cheap and sold him a long time ago. For a profit, but, still. I wonder how high he will go.

Mono-Green struggled to fit Advent of the Wurm and eventually cut it because it was totally uncastable. It is a good home for Boon Satyr, too, so trade for these at $5. They may not be done going up. I don't like these for cash right now, though.

B/W and B/R/W Midrange are both solid midrange choices. The Obzedat and Whip combo is potent and oppressive, and if you don't have Ooze or Deathrite, come up with some creative way to deal with the combo because it ends games.

Mono-Red managed a Top 8, but it was a decent percentage of the field. Mono-Red deals 18 damage very easily. It struggles to deal 24 damage, however, and just when Thragtusk and Restoration Angel were gone and Mono-Red thought it would have its day in the sun, Trostani and Obzedat, Fiendslayer and Courage, Blood Baron and Warleader's Helix showed up to prove it wrong. Can Mono-Red survive? I think so, and Chandra's Phoenix and Burning Earth are key components in the strategy. Skullcrack couldn't hurt, either.

If you are looking for cards to buy, there is stuff from Theros that could spike. However, don't forget stuff from RTR block that will get played in all of these decks. There are a few cards that are just way too cheap and their price spikes will be based solely on demand and will be more predictable. Yes, listen to the guy with an envelope full of Hammer of Purphoros, right?

Speaking of "Legacy forever!"

SCG Cleveland Open Top 16 Legacy

City of Traitors is going to spike again. It's going to happen, and it will likely be $70 when it does. If you don't see much upside to buying in, do you think it's likely Ancient Tomb will also spike? It's potential will be attenuated by the number of copies from its myriad (maybe not quite 10,000) printings, but its buy-in price is lower and you can sock away more copies. Food for thought. Don't listen to me, I don't write finance articles.

U/W/R Stoneblade looks somewhat novel, and somewhat novel is somewhat good. I love that Legacy has gone oldschool and dealt with Deathrite Shaman with Grim Lavamancer. Modern could easily do the same thing and likely won't. I am a little surprised not to see Basilisk Collar anywhere in the 75, but the guy just won an Open so I will defer to his judgment.

Second and Third were both Reanimator? Legacy is a format where the metagame is regional, even in the age of the internet, and I love that. I haven't seen a ton of Tidespout Tyrant lately, so maybe that inclusion is regional as well. Solid work, guys.

Goblins in the Top 8 and no Merfolk. Suck it, Hosler. I know you're reading this.

I think we can call Belcher the "Pet Deck of the Week". I like seeing Belcher decks Top 8. They are fun to watch, fun to play and can take down the best of them.

Painter's Stone is back to its roots here. It's very much a Welder deck as opposed to the "Make everything blue and MURDER IT" deck that Reuben Bresler played on camera. No Blood Moons here, just Transmute Artifact, Welder stuff and combo kills. Very nice.

Speaking of Welder decks, a Metalworker deck made it! Metalworker decks need to Top 8 every once in a while to remind people that Metalworker isn't banned in Legacy. Grim Monolith was unbanned a few years ago and nothing bad happened. It's nice when that happens.

I love the four-color cascade deck. I wish it had won the event. Having a non-zero chance to hit Bloodbraid Elf -> Shardless Agent -> Strix/Hymn is devastating, and can be accomplished on turn three. Every card in the deck is gas, it fuels Goyf nicely and it isn't boring. I love decks like this existing! I want to play this deck.

That's all for now, Kiddos. Join me next week where I'm sure I'll have a bad beat story about eating it on a pile of Ashioks. Shoulda sold at $21, Future Jason!

14 thoughts on “Jason’s Article: Feeling Lucky

  1. I really have no idea how Advent is not more than it is.

    I put 4 up on ebay for $23 and it sold it 24 hours (Australia). There is not a heap of them around and a lot of players like GW decks. I think this is probably one of the better opportunities out there at the moment.

    If bant/GW or Naya are big in pro tour there could be a huge run on this.

  2. Umm, who is buying out TCG under $5 of DSphere? Mine have all sold slowly to multiple people for 3.60, and lots of copies under $5 still.

    Also, for Pete’s sake, can we get your article series title changed? Jason’s Article is just bland. You could at LEAST call it Jason’s ALTicle.

  3. I loved the SCG Legacy Top 16…so much variety. My friend actually played the 4 color cascade deck at SCG-Atlanta…unfortunately it plays a lot of lands and he drew 7 of them in one turn.

  4. I can\’t wait for the day that QED2 accidentally says something that isn\’t condescending and unproductive and he turns into a pile of ash like the gypsy woman said.

  5. These articles are like taking a walk through Jason’s weekly thoughts.

    I think Hammer @ $1.50 is a fine buy, also keeping an eye on Whip of Erebos – both look like they can go 2-ofs in MB if not SB.

    Bought:

    From #SCGCLE results I dipped my toes into Trostani and Fleecemane, so I’m with you on Trostani 2-ofs

    Sold:

    I got out of deep positions (+20) on DSphere, AoT, Domri Rade and Cyclonic Rift over the past week as they all hit my target price. AoT to LGS buylist was a spectacular ROI, that spec alone would have paid for an annual QS sub a few times over.

    PT Dublin:

    This weekend I’ll have my carts crammed full of cards, ready to hit checkout as soon as I see some decklists. I also anticipate stronger showing for control – hoping Swan Song makes it into a few lists.

    1. I dunno, man. In standard, I kind of feel like Swan Song is a narrow Thoughtseize that can deal more than 2 damage. I obviously hope it works out for you, though.

      I am a bit more bullish on whip than I am hammer, now, which is too bad because I bought the wrong card for sure.

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