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Jason’s Alticle – A Bit of History Repeating, Repeating

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Greetings, Spectators!

Well, maybe you weren't spectators this weekend. Is it just me, or has everyone else already made money on all of the cards that spiked this weekend?

Everything Old Is New Again

amulet

azusa

The first spikes we saw were associated with a ramp deck that accelerated into an early Hive Mind, winning by forcing the opponent to pay for pacts they could not afford. Summer Bloom effects combined with Amulet of Vigor and Ravnica bouncelands can ramp you very quickly.

Azusa was gettable at around $15 at the start of Friday's event and by Friday night the card was selling for $30. An EDH all-star and powerful effect, the card is very good.

So why did I advise against buying at $15?

Namely, I think this is a $15 or less card. The "it's used in EDH" argument doesn't compel me particularly, as EDH demand saw this card go from bulk rare to $4 rare. What made it spike from $4 to $15 then down a bit was this exact deck in a Modern event back in March of 2013.

The card is not a new card, the deck is not new and Matthias Hunt said in an interview that, in terms of sequencing, it was one of the most difficult he has ever played. I don't expect a difficult deck that didn't establish itself as a real Modern contender last time around to suddenly put up the kind of demand that will keep it from correcting to a price closer to $15 than to $30.

It's already down $5 from the $30 it peaked at and I expect it to continue to fall. Even if it doesn't hit its pre-spike price, I think it will be close enough that if you make $3 or $4 a copy after fees, if you can find more buyers than sellers, it wasn't worth paying $15 a copy up front. Making 20% is good, but I don't want a mere 20% appreciation when the buy-in is so high.

True, it's easier to move a small number of copies than it is a large number, but I dislike large buy-ins that preclude a double-up. Not every investment is a double-up, but I didn't like Azusa based largely on historical precedent. After all, this has spiked before.

So what is different now? I think there were more buyers at the inflated prices, so the card sold out quickly on TCG Player and that was all it took. There were fewer than 40 copies of this card on TCG Player this weekend, and with a lot of individual actors, it wasn't hard to buy the site out.

With a lot of new, amateur financiers taking their cues from TCG Player, people, in my view, overreacted. These were selling for $30 on TCG Player while there were still $17 copies on Amazon. With such poor fundamentals being exercised by this new wave of speculators, I had no confidence in this card maintaining $30 long enough for copies I ordered online (if anyone I ordered from shipped them) long enough for me to resell them for much more than I paid.

Twitter sensation Nick Becvar was very bullish on this card and encouraged people to be buyers at $15. I hope he made some people some money, but I suspect the people who made out the best here were the people who had copies already.

There was money to be made here for sure, I just calculated that it wasn't enough to risk being a bagholder. I passed. Not everyone agrees with that choice.

becvar

Amulet of Vigor

Quickly, Amulet of Vigor has spiked historically, twice. A lot of people expressed surprise this weekend that a "bulk rare" was now going for $4. Dafuq? Bulk rare? Maybe in 2011. This card spiked at a PT or GP when (correct me if I'm wrong) I want to say Channel Fireball broke the card in conjunction with Cloudpost.

Luckily for Ryan Bushard, he was at the event with a bunch of them in his box of shame and he made $10 a copy on the floor of the event. If I had hundreds of dollars for every time a card in my box of shame suddenly became the new hotness... I would be in the exact same position because that happens sometimes.

I have lost money because I buylisted cards that later went up and have had no regrets, but for some reason I can never bring myself to fire-sale busted specs.

If my Nightveil Specters that I bought on the ridiculous premise that they are "good in Vintage" which is an embarrassingly-idiotic thing to have said out loud let alone spent money on can become worth money, I am going to sit on the Hypersonic Dragons I bought for the same reason. There isn't much hope for all these copies of Boom // Bust and Punishing Fire, but maybe some day.

Amulet spiked again in March when people were using it to play bouncelands in an Azusa deck. The only reason I can come up with that things spiked even harder this time around is that there are more greater fools buying after two or three or four price adjustments.

Couple that with the recent trend of prices spiking hard and players panicking, thinking they better buy now if they ever want the cards to play with and you have a recipe for spikes like this.

It's the players who get the worst of this--they end up paying top dollar for a card that corrects lower after they buy it and sometimes it turns out the deck isn't that good and they are stuck with copies worth half what they paid. They get angry at the finance community for "ruining the game" with their speculation, when in reality their own role in the process was the only thing that allowed many speculators to make any money (and avoid learning a costly lesson).

Azusa and Amulet are fine cards. I sold the rest of my Amulets for $4.50 each and didn't see any opportunity in buying at that price. The ones I had left were Chinese, cards I was unable to move when demand for the card was low and which resided in my box of shame. The people I sold to in person didn't care about language, merely buying into hype.

I certainly didn't have enough copies to make real money, though, and that is unfortunately who is going to make money here. I see Amulet correcting to closer to its original $2 than its current $5 ish.

Buy This Instead (If Anything)

bloom

Visions only of course. Some other of the many printings of this card buylist for much more than the Visions version. I don't think white-bordered versions of the card should be more than the original, and I think this is due for a price correction. This is a risky, unproven spec and the multiple printings give this a lower chance of upside than a rare from the terrible Kamigawa block like Azusa, but this has the benefit of not having gone up in price yet.

Am I buying this particular card? No, I'm not but let it represent the way you should be thinking.

You're not going to make money following others--the ship on Azusa and Amulet sailed. However, cards like Summer Bloom still haven't budged, probably because there are more than 40 copies on TCG Player and it never went out of stock, triggering a panic.

Foil Summer Blooms didn't move, and Modern pimping will be a thing. The deck isn't Tier 1, but it also isn't going anywhere and the more Modern starts to represent Legacy, the more foils will matter. Foil bouncelands get played in cubes and EDH deck and those didn't move either.

Hive Mind didn't jump as much as it could have, considering it's the marquee card in the deck. There is money to be made, so if you stayed out of the Azusa frenzy, don't panic. There are other cards in the deck.

More Silliness

A past

Ascension

See those bumps in March? That was the result of this deck doing well at the same Modern event where we saw Azusa and Amulet spike. Brief interest, unsustained interest, price normalization. The difference this time around has to be attributed to more speculators.

Finkel and Kai played the deck, but so what? They were going to play the deck anyway. Not only that, Deathrite's banning doesn't make this a better choice in the new meta. You know how I know?

finkel

Finkel said so. This deck is not better or easier to play now. These price spikes are not corrections, they're the result of buyouts and a panicked market. The PT wasn't bigger or more prominent than the event last March. The player base didn't quintuple since then.

Pyromancer Ascension should correct. It might not hit $2 again, although last time it "spiked" that was where it ended up. Historical data is hard to track and multiple sites may tell a different story, but although I bought a few Ascensions at $2, it was because people asked me for them.

If you had them to sell into the hype, great. But by the time your order gets fulfilled (if it doesn't get canceled) I don't predict there will be buyers for your copies.

Buy This Instead

angel

Another deck that is nothing new using Ad Nauseam and Angel's Grace to draw the entire deck and then combo-kill them made a splash at the PT this weekend. Kai and Finkel didn't play it so it went under the radar a bit more. It's just as durdly a deck.

I don't think Angel's Grace will go up soon, I just think you snag cards for the deck because inevitably, it will get covered at the next Modern event. If there is a small number of copies on TCG Player, expect the hype train to barrel out of the station at full steam, and when it does, you'll have copies to sell into said hype.

Ad Nauseum, Phyrexian Unlife, Lotus Bloom, and Simian Spirit Guide are all in the deck. I don't think you will make money back soon, but I think at the immediate next Modern event, people who didn't pay attention to this one and who are new to speculating will want to buy up copies and you should be able to oblige them.

After all, none of this is new.

Take a Few Minutes to Read This

It has nothing to do with my alticle, but I have been laughing my ass off all morning.

This is a great example of how not to run a business. I imagine this is going to hurt sales, making his profanity-laden rants the nails in his coffin. It's like watching the Titanic head for the ice berg in slow motion. Words can't expressed how much I love everything about this situation.

Back on Track

It was a good weekend for Canada. As an American hockey fan, watching Team USA implode in the game against Finland was pretty painful. My favorite player, Patrick Kane, struggled the whole game and his total failure to make a goal happen despite beating Tuuka Rask out of his pads several times was frustrating. I don't know whether they just didn't care because playing for Bronze is too disappointing or if they just ran into some bad luck--after they failed to cut the two-goal lead in half, they stopped playing.

Team Canada fared better, though, and as a Blackhawks fan, it was nice to see Toews, Keith and Sharp get gold medals and Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya and Marcus Kruger of Sweden get silver. Canada, though, cruised easily through the tournament (although Latvian goalie Kristers Gudļevskis nearly blanked them, standing on his head and playing so hard that his body literally overheated and he collapsed) and won the Gold.

Shaun McLaren did the Great White North even prouder by beating fellow Canuck Jacob Wilson to win Pro Tour Born of the Gods. Modern and Limited prowess were required to take the event down, and McLaren won a nailbiter in game five. Despite losing his lands to Ajani in game four, Wilson almost clawed his way back to take the series 3-1, but it was not to be.

Pro Tour Born of the Gods

Let's talk turkey, shalls we?

PT Born of the Gods Top 8 Decks

Now on their own page! I am loving how much easier this makes my life and yours.

I predicted a Birthing Pod deck would win the event, and I was almost correct. Wilson had McLaren on the ropes, up 2-1 and poised to take it all down in game four, but it was not to be. McLaren's sideboard helped a great deal. Threads of Disloyalty was the savior in game five.

That ship has likely sailed, but a similar card I really like is Vedalken Shackles. If the Blue Moon deck continues to be a thing, and why would it not, Shackles is bound to go up. I liked this as a pickup a long time ago and have a bunch of copies that I made very little on, but even then I was lucky as I sold out before its reprinting was announced in Modern Masters.

Modern Masters isn't as much of a reason for the price to be so low as the current price indicates, and I think there's upside. Blue is good, Islands are good and Sun Tzu said "a bushel of my enemy's grain is worth ten bushels of my grain" so I like Shackles a lot.

Shackles are a bit of a nonbo with Blood Moon turning Steam Vents off, but with 11 basic Islands in the deck, you can snag a Griselbrand if the game goes that long even though you're more likely to stymie them by stealing a Goyf or foil them by stealing a Melira.

There's actually no end to what you can swipe with this powerful artifact. While it's more mana-intensive than Threads, it's also reusable and scales up. $12 is totally incorrect in a world where Pyromancer Ascension flirted with $10. Tell yourself it's good in EDH, too, if that helps.

The Storm deck may not be new, but Chris Fennel did well to make Top 8, a feat not accomplished by Budde or Finkel, although Limited performance matters for the purposes of making Top 8. Shivan Reef over Sulfur Falls is interesting. It's all about that turn one cantrip.

Nothing new with an affinity Top 8, I'm just glad. It's one of the less expensive decks and it is consistent. Cranial Plating is legal in Modern and that seems unfair to me if I don't get to have Green Sun's Zenith.

Tarmotwin sounds like the name of a deck I came up with as a joke. When Tarmogoyf first broke out, people jammed it in everything. "Why not jam Goyf in a combo deck? We can call it Twinagoyf!" No, they call it Tarmotwin and it appears not to be a joke. All hail Tarmotwin.

Lots of Twin decks in the Top 8, something most people predicted would not happen. I have seen a lot of people asking "Why is Twin so bad right now" and three copies in the Top 8 seems to argue with that notion a bit.

Lee Shi-Tian ran one copy of Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir in his sideboard of Blue Moon. If that is justification for someone buying out TCG Player of Teferi I am a monkey's uncle. Stop it.

The rest of Blue Moon is exciting. My brother who hasn't played since the 1990s asked me "is Counterburn still a thing?" and I snap said "no" until I remembered, yeah, it kind of is.

Lightning Bolt is excellent removal and reach, Blood Moon is as close to a Back to Basics as you can get in this format, and Shackles snags anything Bolt can't kill. Master of Waves is good in this deck and Snapcaster Mage seems to be finally living up to his potential. Snaps is likely the biggest winner in a post-Deathrite Shaman format. This card will never be as cheap as it was again.

There isn't much more to say, here. The Modern meta is exciting, innovations are happening, and even if no one innovated, people are just going to pretend the same old decks are somehow new and the prices will go out of control all over again.

SCG St. Louis Open

SCG St. Louis Top 16

While Modern had a lot of exciting new decks that weren't new, Standard is back to suffering from a crippling lack of diversity. Of the eight decks in the Top 8, five were some variety of Monsters deck.

R/G Ramp has always been a thing. My first deck used Orcish Lumberjacks to try and drop Shivan Dragon early. It's no surprise that the deck is doing well in Standard given all the tools Wizards seems determined to give to R/G. It's good to see Devotion get edged out although Dustin Biggers managed 8th.

Not all Monsters versions use Xenagod, but I think it gives the deck a lot of punch. He is easy to turn on, and turning a Stormbreath Dragon into a Hidetsugu's Second Rite is appealing. A 5/5 like Polukranos deals the full 10 Rite does and is useful as removal as well.

I predicted when Xenagod was spoiled that it was better to play creatures you would play already rather than try to jam cute stuff like Kalonian Hydra. That seems to be mostly playing out, although I won't be shocked to see someone get there with a hydra. The Jund version jams Reaper of the Wilds and Dreadbore and the mana base doesn't really suffer. Very nice.

Ben Stepka and U/W Control didn't manage to beat Jonathan Habel and his monsters, but I like this build. I wish I had watched coverage to see when he boarded in Angel of Serenity. Fated Retribution proves it isn't too many mana to get play in Standard, which I think is cool. I liked this card for EDH, but even with the Standard play it's still a terrible pickup.

You heard me. It's a non-mythic one-of in a deck that is difficult to play. It's going to take a lot to make this card worth more than some of the other rares with the benefit of high demand from casual players.

It's too bad Ryan Hipp got 9th because I almost didn't notice his deck and it's the only thing I am excited about. Using Ephara and Brimaz together as Heliod intended, this deck also runs Whipzedat. Hipp likely got 9th because the guy he played in round three dropped, not because his deck isn't as good as any other deck in the Top 8. Ignore 9th place decks at your own peril.

This is a real build and no one is going to see Blood Baron or Obzedat coming; they'll think the Temple of Silence is there for the scry triggers. The 16th place B/W Midrange deck was a little bit similar in construction. No B/W weenie-esque builds with Xathrid Necromancer in evidence. That type of strategy was on its way out before they printed Bile Blight.

SCG Open St. Louis Legacy Top 16

How fun to see Painter's Stone take the whole thing down. The deck is tough to pilot but sometimes gets served early, free wins. I like some number of Spinal Villain somewhere in the 75, but I think that role is being filled by Jaya Ballard, who is a bit more flexible. The deck works and although the recruiters make it expensive, it continues to pop up. Nice work, Greg Smith, if that is your real name.

"Greg" managed to beat a traditional RUG Delver deck, which isn't always easy with the amount of disruption that deck can muster. Still, Hayden Passarelli's sideboard had no answers apart from maybe Ancient Grudge and he has to settle for the Silver medal.

Two Deathblade decks in third and fourth sported the powerful combo of Stoneforge Mystic and True-Name Nemesis as did the 5th place UWR Delver deck. It's a good thing Reddit pointed out that Esper Deathblade is a fringe deck that has fallen by the wayside because I would never have guessed that given the results at this event and the GP in Paris.

The 7th-place Shardless BUG deck also packed a Jace the Mind Sculptor, prompting me to reiterate that Jace is absolutely not dead in Legacy. Dead, fringe decks don't get third place at an SCG Open, and the very concept of "tiers" is a little silly in Legacy where any given Sunday any deck has the power to get there through a combination of luck, skill and preparation.

Sideboarding matters a great deal in Legacy and those who do it well do well themselves. I'm not ready to call Deathblade anything other than one of the best decks in the format.

Cody Johnson managed 6th with the Lands build we all love so much. Sylvan Safekeeper was not in evidence in this 75. Is this the best Punishing Grove deck? I can't say, but I am a big fan of this build and its popularity did something I hadn't expected and made Tabernacle go up another hundred bucks on some sites.

I imagine there are a few people who were saving up and having the card pulled a little further out of their grasp can't feel good. Don't wait on out-of-print stuff.

I toyed with buying a Land Equilibrium for EDH at $25 and decided against it because I thought $25 was a bit expensive. Maybe it's expensive for EDH, but it's a steal for a 20-year-old card that is totally unfair. Any playable Legends card that hasn't spiked will, and any that hasn't spiked twice yet is due for another.

20 years is a long time to keep a piece of cardboard from disintegrating. Just think--somewhere in a shop that doesn't sell singles or in someone's attic a Tabernacle is sitting in a binder on a page between an Urborg and a Sorrow's Path. That will be a nice find for whoever uncovers it.

The unlucky 9th place finisher with Death and Taxes ran a pretty stock list as well. I suspect any chance of innovation in Legacy outside a real testing breakthrough would have been accomplished last week for Paris, not so much for a random Open. Still, innovation is happening all the time and you want to be one of the first to notice.

Is Goblins the pet deck of the week? Sorry Merfolk. Also, sorry about your poor showing in the Modern PT. Lots of people audibled into a different deck when they saw all the people who cam-loaded for bear with Anger of the Gods. I expected Firespout, but since Faeries wasn't a thing, why force yourself into green? Anger is an improvement on Volcanic Fallout for a few reasons and it was all over the PT.

There you have it. Join me next week for a shorter article unless they start paying me by the word.

8 thoughts on “Jason’s Alticle – A Bit of History Repeating, Repeating

  1. “The difference this time around has to be attributed to more speculators.”

    -> It has to be reddit. We saw perfect normal market behavior last year (check most of your graphs), but now everything seems to go crazy somehow!

  2. I feel the opposite in regards to not wanting narrow margins when there’s a high buy in. I’d much prefer that to a wide margin with a low buy in.

    Sure you might do better percentage wise with summer bloom than Azusa, but if you get only 20% profit and bough in at 15 and sell as a set, you’re making $12 per transaction. If you double up on summer bloom bought at .7 you’re only making like 3 bucks per transaction. And that’s if you can sell all your copies at a double up? What if the price dips a little and you’re only one and a halfing up? Then you’re only making a little over a buck per transaction. It quickly gets to the point where it’s not worth your time.

    I’d take the 20% profit on selling a playset of azusas all day over 50% profit on the set of summer blooms all day. I see people say they don’t like narrow margins on a high buy in all the time and I don’t think I’ll ever understand the reasoning. Actually, the higher the buy in the more okay I am with narrow margins

    1. Man, Mark nailed it on the head. Also exactly why I bought $2K worth of Cryptics….I’ll wind up making 30-40% on $2K instead of say 100% on $200. So much more money in roughly the same amount of time and effort.

  3. I think it’s more that there’s been nothing happen that makes storm suddenly better. It’s a good deck. It’s always been a good deck.
    And either your link is broken, or it just doesn’t want to work on my mobile. Weird.

  4. Sweet article. I love the breakdowns. Pyromancer is a card I’ve made money off twice now, and I don’t see a reason to hold on for more profit. Even if the deck does well in the near future, it won’t merit a larger spike (imo).

    Summer Bloom may be a good spec, but with WotC stating they will ban anything capable of <4 turn kills, I see the Amulet getting the banhammer hard next round. Play the deck at your own risk…

    Vedalken Shackles never got any less good, it just got a mythic printing in MM. I can see this card doing wonderful things. I already buylisted my Blood Moons though.

    Land Equilibrium = gold. I love this card, and edh players have been driving some powerful prices lately. If it is seeing even fringe play in Legacy, it should be an obvious trade spec. I might go out and get myself a playset just to be on the safe side…

    As always, you pioneer this forum's free articles and show why people like me are happy to have spent money here. Keep up the good work!!

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