Ever feel like you're the last sane person on earth?
True-Name Nemesis was true to his true name this weekend. His first day of legality and he was stomping faces in multiple formats and giving slower formats a clock. The only way to get ahold of True-Name Nemesis was to preorder him for $40+, pay the $70 Star City Games was charging for the precon he was in, or doing what I did.
I went to Wal-Mart.
In a brief tour of Meijer and WalMart stores in my area, I got five of each Commander deck and could have gotten more. The most I paid was $30 for them. There were plenty available, even of "Mind Seize", the deck that contains both True-Name Nemesis and Baleful Strix, and I paid MSRP. I know I say to support your LGS, but my LGS sold out of their initial allotment very quickly through a combination of a good track record of customer service and a strange, novel sales tactic called "selling the %#&*ing things for MSRP" that, reportedly, few Local Games Stores around the country are attempting.
So how many predictions about this set came true? Let's go down the list.
1) True-Name Nemesis Is Eternal-Playable
That's a big affirmative. I'll get into it when I cover decks, but the card is a mini-Progenitus in a lot of situations, but one that can hold equipment and get buffs from a big pile of merfolk lords.
The card is a multi-format player, and while its initial play may be experimentation and hype, I don't expect it to fall off completely, and with decks besides just Merfolk jamming it, the card may be here to stay. Again, I don't want to harp on it too much here because I'll cover results later.
2) Better Pre-Order the Commander Decks
My reaction to this at the time was "why?" and if you didn't need specific cards for Eternal Weekend or something, you will have all the opportunity in the world to pick up these decks cheap.
3) The Commander Decks Will Sell Out Fast
I never got this mentality. Wizards came out and said that they were not limiting the print run of this set and would print more as needed to make sure everyone who wanted some got some. They may go quickly initially, but unless you want to flip them (and how can you when Walmart has them for MSRP?) or bust Mind Seize open for singles, there is no real hurry.
Stores will restock this product for a long time and you'll be able to buy this to play with or even sock away, although the time frame for investment could be pretty long with the continuous-print policy. Given the last decks taking two years to double, this was always going to be a long-haul investment regardless.
4) There Is no Point in Buying Decks Other Than Mind Seize
This is the same logic as saying "There is no point in buying decks other than Political Puppets--just flip them for the Flusterstorm and Chaos Warp" right when they came out last time, or "Just flip them for the Scavenging Ooze" a month later.
Political Puppets and Counterpunch are the two cheapest decks now. It is going to be tough to predict which sealed set will be the most expensive in two years and all five decks have unique singles that are good in EDH like Toxic Deluge, Unexpectedly Absent and Primal Vigor.
If I had to guess, I would say the Esper deck has the best chance of being worth a ton in two years. Luckily, I don't have to guess. Considering the three decks that weren't the "OMFG so obvious value" decks last time all did better than double, I say you pick them all up.
5) Mind Seize Will be $70 on SCG By Next Week
Awesome. You shouldn't buy from SCG, then.
What we have seen is that these are widely-available and when I checked out eBay to see what I could get for the sealed Mind Seize copies I bought Friday night, they were going for about $40. After fees and shipping, I would lose money. People who needed them Thursday night for Eternal Weekend may have been paying $70 from SCG and picking them up at the event, but there is no way to capitalize on that need unless you were going to be at the event since you couldn't ship cards to those few desperate people in time.
What we have is a few people who really misread signs in the market because they don't understand MTG finance at all. They saw short-term price gouging and saw the new normal. They saw a few LGSs upping prices and thought it was a good idea to buy at $45 and flip in a week when they doubled. They saw empty shelves at Target and thought we had another San Diego Comic Con Planeswalkers or FTV20 on our hands.
Worst of all, some of these people are podcast hosts, article writers and members of communities like Reddit and MTG Salvation, and their misreading of the market sowed a lot of panic. It's important to look at historical data and other factors when determining what to do in a situation like this. I don't think there was much panic in the QS forums, but other places online were not quite as calm and rational.
Now that the weekend is over, my advice is to pick these up slowly, at your leisure and sit on them. A card in one of the other four decks that are not Mind Seize is likely to break out soon the way Scavenging Ooze did, and if you want to flip your set then, be my guest.
I plan to sit on the sets I bought for a good long while, but I only bought them this weekend because I had the money and wanted to flip Mind Seize.
In a way I am lucky because the Merfolk actually put up good numbers, otherwise I would be stuck with the set least likely to grow more in the short term once it's ruled out. It has Baleful Strix, but I couldn't sell those for $12 last week so I can't imagine I want to sell them for a loss now that there is way more supply.
No, I think the play is to hold, remain calm, and just wait for another single card from these sets to go bananas. No one knows which one yet, but since there are good cards in all of the decks and Commander players seem to love them, these are a solid long-term investment. Just don't get carried away, and don't make the same mistakes when Commander 2015 comes out.
So Many Tournaments!
And it was a good weekend for it. Let's do this quickly because there is a lot of ground to cover and maybe a ton doesn't need to be said about all of it.
Is True-Name Nemesis the real deal?
Well, Joel Lim won the event with one in his Merfolk deck. Merfolk was always a thing in Vintage because tempo matters a great deal, creatures frequently go unblocked and since blue is the best color, why not go mono-blue?
I think having an un-dealwithable merfolk in the deck was all it needed to really grow the beard. An unkillable yet pumpable clock in the deck was too much for a metagame unused to dealing with it could handle.
I don't think there is a ton of financial relevance to a Vintage event that didn't use a ton of new cards or a new archetype, but I should mention briefly that Vintage is a great, robust format. We had eight different decks in the Top 8, and I want to use my bully pulpit to give a shout out to Michigan's own Vintage master Kevin Cron.
Kevin is a guy who plays Vintage most weekends and laughs at the notion that the format is dead. You may have to travel a bit to find what sometimes amounts to a rinky-dink store tournament, but if you win enough of those it's real money and real practice. Kevin is a cohost of the "So many insane plays" podcast and a damn nice guy to boot. I wish he hadn't insisted on being photographed in that hideous U of M hoodie, but no one is perfect. Nice work, Kevin!
I will say that it's fun that Legacy strategies like RUG Delver and Merfolk translate well to Vintage. With prizes on offer for the best finish in the event without using power, you could somewhat easily port a Legacy Merfolk deck or Legacy Delver deck pretty affordably to the format. Without power to buy, the rest of the meta-game adjustments are cheap--you'll add some Steel Sabotages, Mental Missteps, maybe a Null Rod or four.
The winning Merfolk deck likely benefited greatly from Time Walk, Mox Sapphire and Black Lotus, but let's not pretend it wouldn't have been competitive without them. If it were me, I would have gotten cutesy and added a Time Vault and a fourth Merrow Reejerey, but I'm a dingleberry like that. Sort of a nonbo with the Null Rods, but Null Rod is a fine choice for the metagame. Sure it doesn't allow you to run Aether Vial, but you wouldn't do that in Vintage anyway.
Looking at Vintage coverage I see a lot of Griselbrand. Gris is too cheap right now. I expect him to pull an Ulamong in six months, so I'd buy now. They probably won't get cheaper.
Honestly, there is more play advice than finance advice buried in the Vintage coverage, so take some time and check out the matchups. It's a fun format, and next time you hear some neckbeard in your LGS waxing philosophical about how it's no fun to get killed on your first upkeep, ask him how many Vintage events he's played in. Chances are it's zero.
I know I harp on this concept a lot, but if you did a $10, split prizes with the store, unlimited proxies Vintage event in your LGS, people will come to it. If you offer great prizes, even better. If you talk to Kevin Cron or Stephen Menedian and ask them about how to run it with "Vintage Achievements" it will be even more fun. What else do you guys have to do on a Sunday afternoon? Date?
I really don't hate it when Ari Lax wins stuff. Along with Kyle Boggemes, Ari was the result of an aggressive training program at RIW hobbies that involved kidnapping infants from amusement parks and training them to be Magic phenoms by making them jam games against Mark Heberholtz and Pat Chapin until they understood the game on a muscle memory level.
Ari's a genuinely pleasant person, as well, and reports to the contrary should be taken as seriously as reports that Vintage is a turn-one format. Okay, for the first sentence of the next paragraph to make any sense, pretend the phrase "Death and Laxes" somehow naturally came up in this paragraph. It might not make any sense right now, but bear with me.
Speaking of Death and Laxes, Ari used a Death and Taxes deck to win the Legacy portion of Eternal Weekend! (nailed it).
The deck was a breakout of a European Grand Prix, to the extent that a known Legacy deck that is dormant and suddenly gets a lot of publicity can "break out". That deck's sudden popularity completely negated the judge foil printing of Karakas and made Rishadan Port double in price.
The deck is saucy, it's one of the reasons I have a billion copies of Thalia stashed and it's easy to play but intricate enough that you benefit from taking the time to really learn it the way Ari has. Great job, Ari, and great deck. He didn't invent it, but he had the balls to show up with it in a room full of Sneak and Show. So did Micah Greenbaum, in fact.
There were five unique archetypes in the Top 8 here, with repeats being Delver and D&T. I call it D&T because I played the deck enough to garner a sort of familiarity. I, of course, added green, then green and black, then back to just green, then just black, then I quit competitive Magic. Delver was an obvious repeat, but what wasn't obvious was the lack of Sneak and Show in the Top 8. Legacy MUD did better.
Toxic Deluge wasn't in a Top 8 deck, but I expect it to be a thing in Legacy. Deluge is in the Esper deck, making my bet on that deck being the one most likely (right now, and I'm guessing) to spike in the medium-to-short-term seem a bit better. Deluge is a great board wipe spell and it pulls Delver's pants down, though not enough to keep several copies out of the Top 8.
There isn't a lot new here, so let's move on to the GP.
South American Grands Prix aren't the best-attended and with a lot of Pro players being at the Eternal Weekend event, the Top 8 was a bit of a mixed bag. The Top 8 profiles are hilarious, because they left the hometowns from another event in there so it looks like all of the players are from the US even though they say where they're from later in the profile. Whoops! Someone should hire an editor.
It's not super exciting that there were three Mono-Blue decks in the Top 8. What is perhaps more exciting is that there are zero Mono-Black decks in the Top 8. Maybe this is a regional preference, but black mostly stayed a splash in this Top 8 that featured it in Esper and more importantly in one of the new decks of the weekend.
People thought Exava was a good pickup months ago when Hellrider was poised to rotate and it hasn't caught on--until now that is.
It was always saucy to put a Madcap Skills on a Tormented Hero, but Luis Navas went further, adding a ton of good humans along with Xathrid Necromancer. When your devotion to black was higher than the number of blockers they had, the game could end quickly with Mogis's Marauder, another card like Gray Merchant and Fanatic of Mogis that was tested in Standard after great success in Limited.
Shutting off all of their blockers and swarming seemed like it got there. Hasty creatures and burn helps, too. Cards from this deck spiked sharply on MODO, but I don't foresee paper following suit necessarily. Precon copies of Exava put a nice cap on that card's price, something we don't see on MODO where the card is up 300%. Watch paper and see if there is a similar trend. The deck is potent and affordable and it's a nice alternative to the absurdly-expensive Mono-Blue and -Black piles we see.
Another card not in this deck but spiking anyway on MODO is Underworld Cerberus, which is cheap right now despite having obvious power. Craig Wescoe called this one of the cards he thinks will go up, but whether you ignored him or just waited, either way the price is lower now than when he said that, so if it goes up, buy in. Paper lags behind MODO, but sometimes it just never follows it at all.
The R/W deck also looks fun and buildable, and its Top 8 finish should give it some credibility and get people testing it. It's nearly mono-red midrange, but has Chained to the Rocks and Assemble the Legion out of the board. I like it a ton and think it warrants testing.
No real surprises other than that. Watch those RB cards this week.
While we're talking Standard, let's keep talking Standard.
Eight decks in the Top 8? What is this, Vintage?
This really should temper any out-of-control speculation about the R/B cards that are in the winning Santiago deck and have been seeing play in Jund builds online. There is no "best deck" in the current Standard, and that's a very good thing. This Standard season is the healthiest I have ever seen the metagame and I want it to stay that way.
When a deck dominates the Top 8 at a PT, it's likely one team broke the format and all of them are playing copies of the deck. When you don't see it the next week, you know the metagame has adjusted. I love this current Meta. Last week's winning Naya Control deck managed one Top 8 finish but lost in the first round. This is not a "solved" meta; play skill matters and playing with a deck you're comfortable with is more important than metagaming right now. This is pure Magic and I love it.
Ajani could go up a bit on the back of Ben Lundquist tuning everyone up with it in his winning R/W deck. Ajani needed good creatures to kill people with, and he finally has them. This deck is all in one beatdowns.
Daring Skyjek is a card that I'm surprised took this long to get there. It is a bit better than Firefist Striker in a lot of cases, but people weren't triggering battalion with white creatures other than Frontline Medic. This deck is pure beats and it punishes bad draws. Best of all, until Ajani heats up, the deck is pretty cheap. SCG sold out of Ajani today, take notice.
The R/W devotion deck is interesting. All-in on Nykthos, the deck makes good use of Hammer of Purphoros, too. Fanatic of Mogis is "fanatastic" in a deck where the white is barely there. Red devotion splashing White got there in Santiago and did here as well. Be able to beat Assemble the Legion out of the board, or stay home.
Alex Gerlock's G/W deck isn't quite as "popular" (see what I did there?) as Ryan Archer's from last week, but it jams Soldier of the Pantheon instead of Scion of Vitu-Ghazi, making it pretty close to what Rob Dougherty played at the PT. Ajani is starting to pop up more and more, isn't it?
The rest of the Top 8 isn't a surprise, but no Mono-Black Devotion making Top 8 anywhere was a bit of a shock. The format continues to evolve and it's not trending toward less diversity but actually toward more. Pick a deck you like and jam it--play skill matters more than deck selection for the time being. This is good news for financiers because more cards are worth more than average in metagames like this and players switch decks more often, also good for us.
True-Name Nemesis is nowhere to be found in this Top 16. Expect more if it next week as it's tested in BUG, RUG, Merfolk and maybe even a few new archetypes.
This is a very boilerplate Top 16. I'm not even calling a "Pet Deck of the Week" because these are all Tier 1. Maverick is back again after being dismissed for some reason, but it's a pretty uninspiring field. The winner was determined by a playoff between RUG Delver and Sneak and Show, which, at least for me, is about as novel and exciting as watching someone else open booster packs. This is as good a time as any to wrap this one up.
Join me next week where we'll likely have a few new Standard decks to discuss and another week worth of testing Legacy to see how Commander is going to shape up. You won't want to miss it, and if you do, I'll find you.