How many of you stayed up yesterday thinking that Banned and Restricted announcement was last night?
The new policy is that the Banned and Restricted list update will take place after the prerelease has been in effect for a while, but it wasn't really clear to everyone just what that meant. A lot of people were confused as to when the announcement was taking place.
Following the right people on Twitter is a big help, and there was an article on the Wizards homepage announcing the announcement, but that is only useful for people who read articles on that site and happened across it. People who didn't know when the announcement was happening would have a hard time finding the article because they didn't know they needed to look for one.
Couple all of that noise with people disseminating the wrong date because the internet makes it hard to tell who knows what they're talking about and who is just smashing keys on their keyboard to make the voices stop. The announcement was not yesterday. It is six days from today.
Six days is not a lot of time, but it gives me a second to review my B&R announcement evening ritual of loading up online shopping carts full of cards that could go up due to unbannings and then emptying said carts instead of checking out should midnight come and go and bring no tidings of those cards' unbanning. In fact, I am going to walk you through the process right now.
First, I'll go to a retail website; let's pick Star City. I'll just put some copies of Bitterblossom in my shopping cart and HOLY $%@* IT'S SOLD OUT AT $35.
Y'all Is Crazy, Etc.
Why, folks? Why did Bitterblossom sell out already? Instead of waiting until we had some sort of confirmation, people are betting money on the outcome of the announcement.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for betting on this. Ryan Bushard and I make "who buys who dinner" bets all the time. Jon Johnson and Noah Whinston famously bet $1,000 on whether Jace, the Mind Sculptor was going to be unbanned in Modern roughly this time a year ago, if memory serves. I think those bets are fine.
I never thought in a million years that Jace would be unbanned in Modern, but I wasn't inclined to back that gut feeling with $1,000 of my own money. Similarly, I am certainly not going to bet my money on a Bitterblossom unbanning. There are a few outcomes here, and the downside is worse than you might think.
The way I see it, here are the potential outcomes:
- Bitterblossom is unbanned and you, having bought quite a few copies at $20-$25ish or whatever price you managed to get in at when you noticed the price was moving, have your copies in hand. You sell them for probably $75 in the short term because that is likely what they would spike to in the near term until everyone calmed down and realized they paid Savannah money for a Bitterblossom. These could be $50+ because of how good they are in Modern and how dumb Modern prices are. If Fulminator Mage is $30, Bitterblossom can't be $30.
- Bitterblossom doesn't get unbanned. Sorry about your luck. Not only does no one want these at $75 or $50 depending on the time frame, no one wants these at $35. You lose money on every copy and your girlfriend leaves you for a better speculator.
While the first scenario has significant upside, you are essentially betting on the reprint since you will lose money if the card is not unbanned. You will have copies you likely overpaid for and there will not be more demand than there was before talks of an unbanning began and it will be a buyers' market with many people trying to recoup but no buyers.
Why So Early?
I believe there are several factors that contributed to Bitterblossom selling out weeks in advance of the announcement, behavior we are unused to seeing.
The first factor is the glut of new speculators on the market. While conventional behavior in the past was to wait until the announcement actually went up, an influx of new actors has really upset tradition. For one, many of the new actors aren't as experienced as the community at large and might not have received any advice to wait until the list went up.
Inexperience may have caused people to buy too early, a common mistake for new speculators. Couple that with the sheer number of new speculators and even 1% of them making the mistake of buying too early was going to signal the market that there was movement on the card.
Once it started to sell out, people stampeded to get the copies under $30 and that was all she wrote. Even experienced speculators would know that there would be no copies under $35 by the time the announcement was made so if they wanted in at all they would have to commit then and there.
Another factor is the new trend of stores cancelling orders on cards that went up. This is not new per se, but what is new is the sheer volume of stores that used to be considered "safe" refusing to honor their pre-spike prices.
When the Pro Tour stop in Dublin saw significant spikes in the prices of many cards in the Mono-Blue devotion deck, many speculators got shafted when stores refused to honor their prices and cancelled orders. Filling a shopping cart and checking out at 12:01 is a great strategy provided the store won't just cancel your order.
After all, you would have no qualms about just not completing the transaction and stores are realizing they can get away with the same. Buying Bitterblossom for $25 at midnight isn't going to feel all that great if all you accomplished was alerting the store to a spiking price and reminding them to jack the price up when they relisted the copies they decided not to send to you.
With many stores adopting this practice, confidence is low, forcing speculators to commit to buying far enough in advance of the announcement that the stores would be sure to actually honor their prices.
My New Technique
It's a simple, yet effective technique and it's crazy enough to work. I am staying out of it. In years past I would try to think next level and rather than speculate on Bitterblossom I would buy cards that are not played in Modern right now because there is no Faeries deck, or B/W Tokens deck, etc.
Scion of Oona might go up as might Mistbind Clique or Zealous Persecution or Intangible Virtue. A Wild Nacatl unban might see Zoo cards like Knight of the Reliquary going up. Not everyone will think of these cards immediately, increasing the odds that you will get your copies sent and decreasing the odds that they will be bought out weeks in advance.
However, what I am really doing is sitting this one out. I don't have a strong inclination that anything will be banned or unbanned in Modern and I think the whole exercise will ultimately prove to be a futile.
A ban is just as likely as an unban with Birthing Pod and Deathrite Shaman touted as targets. Modern is a pretty diverse metagame right now and it's possible that nothing need be done. For all of the complaints about the number of Jund decks in the Top 8 of GP Detroit, Jund didn't even win the event and the deck has fallen off a bit since.
While someone who isn't me may make some money off of Bitterblossom, I decided as soon as I saw the price move that I was going to abstain. If you are inclined to fill an online cart full of faerie and token cards in anticipation of new archetypes being possible in Modern, be my guest.
But in the spirit of "do as I buy, not as I say" I am going to point out that there is safer money to be made on Modern cards. Pick a Modern rare from Lorwyn or Time Spiral block that is played in at least one deck. If it isn't $30, buy it now and wait until it is. This really is too easy sometimes.
Another technique is to pay attention to what this cartoon is doing. Can I stop him from saying stuff like "Speculate heavily on Primal Command?" No, I sure can't. But I really wish he would stop. If a bunch of sheep get burned on this "tip" they aren't going to blame Travis Woo, they are going to blame the finance community.
Either Woo doesn't realize that his proclamations aren't based on reality but rather a self-fulfilling prophecy, or he does realize that and he's trolling all of us. I'd give either outcome an equal chance of being the case.
The Weekend's Festivities
The weekend saw a Standard GP in Vancouver which was won by Alexander Hayne, his third win in his last seven Grands Prix. The city of Vancouver responded by burning police cars and looting store fronts.
I hate to gloss over an entire event, but there was only one real thing of import that happened in a Standard format that will be different next week. Okay, two things of import.
John Torrez got 90th at a Grand Prix. With Maze's End. Maze's End now has more GP Day Two finishes than I do, and it feels bad. So when before people would say, "Kiora will be great in Maze's End," and I would hear, "I am a cartoon character, giving you information that is technically accurate but totally useless," now I hear, "this will improve a GP Day Two qualifying deck".
I shouldn't roll my eyes; a deck archetype has proven it can do well at least one time and is a fun alternative to Mono-Boring Devotion if not an overly credible one.
The other thing of import was Alexander Hayne and friends jimmy-jamming a full playset of Archangel of Thune in the board to make the matchup with Mono-Blue Control, among others, a breeze.
Archangel has significant price upside but it was already pretty high. Casual appeal will keep you from losing too much if it doesn't take off. If these are still reasonable at the time of publication, people are going to want Archangels.
A Top 8 full of Mono-Blue, Mono-Black and Azorius is boring. I kind of wish Maze's End would have made Top 8. But, I also wish KYT had managed Top 8 (he got 11th) so, wish in one hand, I guess. Honestly, this GP was boring. Who cares about Standard right now?
I Made a "The Wire" Joke Last Time, Didn't I?
The Top 8 is a little less boring here. Is that because it's less optimal? No Alex Haynes or Matt Sperlings here. That could be it. What I do know is that there are more interesting decks here. Honestly, how much do you want me to get into it? There's nothing new here, is there?
There is a decent amount of G/R here. Domri Rade has room to go up and Xenagos the God could get at least tested in these decks. I think that's a card you pop in a pack and try to ship at the prerelease, but if it sees play it could sustain its price giving you time to get out of your copies.
Mono-Black is doing well, and with the removal it's about to get, it could surely improve.
Red is getting the second coming of Searing Blaze and a durdly phoenix that may or may not see play. Expect people to at least test the phoenix.
Standard doesn't matter anymore. Next time people play it, there will be different decks.
So in the same weekend Maze's End manages Day Two, Lands wins a Legacy Open? It's a good time to invest in real estate, I guess. There aren't many good spec targets in this deck, and its finish is based on the Dark Depths combo which could see more finishes like this in the future. Thanks, Thespian's Stage. Pet deck of the week or future contender?
Three Delver decks in the Top 8? Maybe Legacy could use bans more than Modern? Kidding, but there has been talk about True-Name Nemesis on the chopping block, which would be one of the bigger WotC blunders in recent memory if they have to acknowledge that a non-interactive merfolk is running roughshod over Legacy.
Death and Taxes continues to prove it's a Tier 1 contender. Again, not much room for profiting here.
Painted Stone manages Top 8. I'm giving this "Pet Deck of the Week" although the hope is that Legacy will return to being a pet deck format some day. Only one Blade variant in the Top 8 is encouraging. More were in the Top 16.
Also Top 16 were two Elves decks that bubbled out on tiebreakers. Better luck next time, guys.
Waiting for Me to Stop Talking
We will have to see if Born of the Gods contributes anything to Legacy, but based on these results, Legacy is insanely healthy and shouldn't need to be shaken up by any bannings. You can wait with bated breath and a full shopping cart, but I can think of a lot of ways I'd rather spend the last two minutes to midnight.