No sense talking about 2013.
I tend to write my "last week of December" articles on vacation at a family member's house, which makes me less inclined to write my typical 4,000-word tirades.
Furthermore, there is a tendency at this time of year to write some manner of retrospective article trying to make sense of 2013. While learning from past mistakes is a good way to avoid repeating them, everyone is writing a retrospective article this week.
Daring to be different, I decided to talk about something a little more exciting than 2013: 2014.
What's in Store
I love writing for the free side of Quiet Speculation. There is a lot of prestige associated with the Insider side but I enjoy writing for a broad audience and having my work shared outside of the site.
There is a decent chance that you, the reader of this and hopefully others of my articles, are not an insider. Having my work on the free side means anyone can read it, and I sometimes wonder whether Insider writers wish that more than just insiders could see a particularly good article they'd written.
To that end, QS is unlocking a few insider articles this week and sharing them with newsletter subscribers. If you're inclined, subscribe here and get in on some of this sweet action.
The Insider writers who worked hard on these articles will be glad you can read them. 2014 promises even more unlocked Insider articles for readers of free articles, subscribers to the Magic Finance subforum on Reddit and others who don't mind waiting a while to get good evergreen finance content for free.
2014 promises to be the year of the podcast. 2013 saw unprecedented growth in listenership and a number of quality podcasts emerging. The year saw the first ever Magic podcast Kickstarter campaign raise more money than anyone had expected.
It also saw Quiet Speculation first financially support, then eventually step in and take over MTG Cast, the biggest and best collection of Magic podcasts on the interwebs.
2014 promises a whole host of upgrades to the site, both aesthetic and practical. The site is going to look a little prettier and it will be easier to both post and find podcasts in 2014, making it better for podcasters and podcast listeners alike.
2014 is going to be a great year for Quiet Speculation Insiders as well, don't get me wrong! Planned upgrades to Trader Tools will make it hands down the best resource for traders and financiers. I have gotten to do a little bit of beta testing with Trader Tools 3 and it's unlike any other application.
Optimized for handheld yet still intuitive on a desktop, TT3 as it likes to be called incorporates all of your suggestions and mine and is all I use to buylist cards (I still check bidwicket out of habit, but I rarely need to ship a card to a buylist using it).
Trader Tools 3 has capabilities you never knew you wanted, and it's also accessible to non-Insiders. The non-premium version for non-Insiders is still very useful for accurately and quickly pricing a card and checking the spread--useful for trading, buying and spot-checking.
Am I trying to pitch Insider? Not really! Did you just hear me say non-Insiders can use Trader Tools? They totally both can and should.
2014 promises great content on Quiet Speculation's spin-off website, Brainstrom Brewery. With new, quality writers being discovered every week, expect some Brainstorm Brewery writers to be among the next wave of quality Quiet Speculation Insider writers of 2014 and 2015.
And you get to tell people "I used to read this guy when he wrote for Brainstorm Brewery. It's a pretty obscure site, you've probably never heard of it." Then you can adjust your fedora, give a smug bite to the stem of your corncob pipe and give your PBR a sip, you Magical hipster, you.
Will 2014 be the year we get to list foreign cards on TCG Player? Will eBay relax its draconian photo policy and make a comeback? Will 2104 be the year of Pucatrade? Will none of those things happen (probably)? Personal selling is a growing portion of the Magic market and it gets easier and more profitable every year, making markets more and more efficient as it does.
Could improvements to Magic Online usher in a new wave of finance? Planned improvements evident in the closed Beta will make it easier to both play and buy slash sell using Magic Online, and fewer Daily Events means more scarcity of cards and prize packs, making valuable cards more valuable in the short term.
Will we see MTGO return to its heyday or will the price of mythics around redemption time soar to even higher levels? With more and more articles being written about the MTGO market all the time, this may be the new frontier for finance.
2014 is going to bring you unprecedented opportunities, a ton of value, new tools to make your life easier and I bet someone who got famous from a show on the Disney channel will either get a DUI or leak a sex tape, so we have that to look forward to.
Barrel Down Shizouka
Due to an unfortunate e-mail error, thousands of messages that were supposed to go out to Japanese Magic players from Wizards of the Coast corporate warning them that they were only allowed to play Mono-Black Devotion or Azorius Control at the GP never went out.
By the time the error was caught and the e-mails were sent it was too late--Japanese players had already brewed new decks and had registered them at the Grand Prix.
The damage was done--six different decks ended up in the Top 8, including and updated Esper Midrange, a W/B Humans deck and zero Mono-Black decks. Three copies of Mono-Blue Devotion made the Top 8, though, which wasn't super innovative. Luckily, the event was won by that innovative white-black humans deck.
Nakada's plan for Mono-Blue appears to have been "Board in Profit // Loss," although his maindeck appears well-tuned to be more aggressive and faster.
[cardXathrid Necromancer[/card] went up a dollar or so this weekend, but with no real hope of it going above $5, I don't see a ton of money to be made buying in, now. If you bought in cheaper, its increased play in the last few events should make you feel pretty good about the investment.
I would feel good about all of the Imposing Sovereigns I bought if I hadn't buylisted all of them for a modest profit. I got tired of waiting and that goes to show the "when do I sell?" half of speculation is trickier and much more important than the "when do I buy?" half. I left way more than 10% for the next guy.
Still, Sovereign is still kind of cheap and has a bit more legality. With weenie strategies being clutch right now and Necromancer making it relevant to play humans, making their Hail Mary blocker come into play tapped is usually a Time Walk against a slower deck, but this Time Walk is a clock, too.
This deck is pretty affordable and it's battle-tested. This will likely be a popular FNM choice, especially if you can suggest the deck to people and provide them with the staples. This is also another venue for Temple of Silence which I said a few weeks back had the most potential of all the temples in the short term.
If you can trade these down, they may be peaking now, but holding can't hurt if we get some multicolored goodness in the next set. G/W is coming and Junk is a popular archetype, and Esper did very well in Japan, too.
Shota Takao's Esper deck is also a refreshing departure from the "play this with two win conditions" builds we have seen out of Esper. Maybe Takao didn't want to go to time every round. Using humans we forgot all about such as Lyev Skyknight, a card that solves zero real problems but helps establish a clock, this deck looks fun and did well enough that it bears discussion.
It's also going to help drive the price of Xathrid Necromancer. This is likely to hit $5ish, so I would trade out the ones you have. If it goes above that, I will be pretty surprised, but the small amount of M14 opened is going to help it potentially get there. Mike Lanigan has been big on this card forever and he has to be feeling vindicated.
The Whip-Obzedat combo is also used to great effect here. That's a powerful combo we all treated like Dre and forgot about.
It seems like a lot of Mono-Black decks in the Top 16 but none in the Top 8 would indicate the emerging decks either managed to solve the problem of Pack Rat, or they got better tie-breakers. It's hard to read much into an X-2-1 deck in 6th place being Mono-Blue and an X-2-1 deck in 9th place being Mono-Black as so often happens.
However, the winning deck's four copies of Brave the Elements maindeck give it a big boosts against monocolored decks, and Spear of Heliod both deals with threats like Desecration Demon and boosts the pile of tokens the deck is liable to generate.
I wouldn't call decks like Mono-Black and Mono-Blue Devotion "solved problems" but neither are they the only way to attack the metagame, and Japanese Grands Prix are always exciting because of the innovation they bring.
I hope the impending holiday doesn't completely overshadow these innovations--a lot of people are totally checked out mentally here in the West whereas the Japanese are going to spend Christmas building new deck archetypes and eating KFC for some reason.
No SCG events over the holiday weekend, so I will bid you farewell and do my level best to bring you something next week. Have a happy holiday season, visit some family, try not to die in the ice storm that craphammered the Northeast, including my home state of Michigan (70 and sunny here today in Maryland--suck it Mitten state) and don't forget about Obzedat-Whip, Japanese innovation and looking forward, not backward, on the precipice of the new year.
If this is my last article of 2013, thank you for another great year and 2014 promises to be even better.
If it isn't my last article of 2013, pretend I said all of this next week.