Jason’s Alticle: The Other Kind of Insider

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Greetings, Primordials!

Reading last week's alticle sure seems funny in light of the Banned and Restricted list changes.

What Happened?

See for yourself.

Wild Nacatl and Bitterblossom are both unbanned while Deathrite Shaman is now banned.

Now, is reading last week's alticle where I talked about how Bitterblossom being bought out so far in advance of the announcement was silly and the result of new, inexperienced speculators funny in hindsight or does it smack of a degree of naivete that is a little alarming?

As cynical as I am most of the time, it never occurred to me for a second that the people buying all of the Bitterblossoms knew something that most didn't and were about to make a killing. With Bitterblossom sold out everywhere except on sites where a few enterprising people are attempting to get $80 for their copies, it's looking like the people who paid $35 last week aren't quite as bad at this as I had thought.

Hindsight is 20/20, but the consensus from the finance community pre-announcement was that $15 (the difference between the price of Bitterblossom a month ago and the price a few days before the announcement) was a lot to wager on a card that was considered so good that it was never legal in Modern from the time the format was conceived until right now.

I don't think anyone anticipated copies going for $80 either--and to me, that price coupled with how far in advance copies began to sell starts to make sense.

Insider Trading

Insider trading is like porn--I can't describe it but I know it when I see it.

When we saw Aluren spike wildly in price all we could muster was a rousing, "Huh?" only to get our answer a bit later--a Judge foil printing of Imperial Recruiter. It was clear that someone was operating (poorly) on inside information.

In the case of Bitterblossom, the mere information that the upcoming Modern Event Deck would contain tokens didn't seem like enough of a rationale for speculating on Bitterblossom. After all, Modern already makes use of Lingering Souls, one of the most efficient token generating spells outside of Bitterblossom.

I personally didn't see that as enough justification for buying Bitterblossom, and went full hyperbole mode on Twitter.


That was how I really felt about it. A card too good to even be included in the discussion from the beginning didn't seem like a likely candidate for an unbanning. I was a bit more bullish on a Nacatl unban, mostly because I didn't like the rationale for banning it in the first place. With what I saw as a flimsy rationale for risking $15 a copy on Bitterblossom, I stayed out of it.


SCG announced this token in December. Conspiracy? No, I tend to doubt it. If you're going to do an Ari Lax token, this is the best choice, and I am not implying SCG knew about the unban. Besides, Ari picked the token, and I think it's even less likely that Ari knew something. I do think the timing is funny, and some people are pointing out the coincidental timing, some wearing tin foil hats, some not.

I think what's clear here is that the buyout of Bitterblossom "felt" different than the preparation for any past Banned and Restricted list announcement, and that is attributable to someone acting on on inside information.

These are the breaks when you're dealing with an unregulated market, though. Instead of focusing on the money other people made, possibly through inside information, it's probably best to focus on what we can do to make some money by thinking next-level.

Money Still on the Table

"Buy Bitterblossom and Nacatl" is obviously first-level thinking. Those cards were unbanned and therefore their legality in another format will up demand and the price along with it. But what about second-level thinking?

Second level thinking involves snagging cards that will go in those decks. "Invest in Real Estate" is true here, and Darkslick Shores, Drowned Catacomb, Watery Grave, Secluded Glen and Verdant Catacombs all have the potential to see more play.

Cavern of Souls is way too cheap right now. With Merfolk getting more popularity in Modern--although I imagine it struggles with Wild Nacatl a bit--and in Legacy too, Cavern is probably at a historical low right now.

Scion of Oona and other cards that go in Faeries are going to go up, blah blah. Zoo cards, too. I like Knight of the Reliquary now that Nacatl is in and Deathrite is out--those two cards swapping probably affect Knight of the Reliquary more than any other one card, although printing in Modern Masters limits the potential for Knight a bit.

I kind of feel like giving all of this the "yadda yadda yadda" treatment because it's all pretty obvious and has been written about before. This is second-level thinking. A lot of this stuff has been scooped, or will be by the time this is published. Where I think there is still money to be made is thinking third-level. What do we need to beat these new decks?

The Third Level

Great Sable Stag is a card that was used historically to deal with Faeries, and if that is a real deck, Stag will be a key component of dealing with it. Faeries really struggles to answer it, and if you strap some equipment onto Stag, watch out.

Speaking of equipment, Sword of Feast and Famine is another card that gives Faeries fits. They don't like to discard, and being unable to chump with their Ari Lax tokens turns their token generator into a liability, ticking their life total down for you. But it isn't just Stag who can wield this blade.

Thrun, the Last Troll is another card that could see a bit more play in the new landscape. Zoo will have trouble dealing with it and it's a good place to stash equipment. He's no True-Name Nemesis, but he is the best we have in Modern. The new legend rule makes him even tougher to deal with than before and his price saw a bit of a bump on that news, but not as much as I think we could see.

One card I haven't seen anyone discuss is Zealous Persecution. If Faeries is a deck, B/W Tokens will be as well. Persecuction, Lingering Souls, Intangible Virtue, Spectral Procession, Bitterblossom--the deck could be very potent, and B/W Tokens historically has been a nice foil to Faeries.

I wouldn't be surprised if B/W Tokens and not U/B Faeries emerges as the Bitterblossom deck of choice. If Mind Funeral could be $8, Zealous Persecution can go over a damn dollar, even with the dual deck printing. That deck didn't have Blood Artist last time around, either. I think Persecution and Virtue both are good targets if we're trying to foil Zoo and Faeries.

Nacatl is good, but I didn't ever agree it needed banned. Honestly, what is Nacatl but a conditional, non-flying Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration? Shocklands make Nacatl easy to power up, but it's still just a dork with no evasion in a format where Lightning Bolt was already seen as an essential inclusion.

I think Nacatl will be the right power level and if it gets too good, cards like Tidebinder Mage, Threads of Disloyalty and good old Tarmogoyf will keep things fair.

Could Snapcaster Mage see a bump if Domain Zoo comes back? If so, expect Tectonic Edge to step up to deal with that greedy manabase.

Black sideboards will get a bit of help in the form of Illness in the Ranks, a card touted as the second coming of Engineered Plague when spoiled but which never really took off.

Spell Snare makes sure Bitterblossom never resolves, and can hit their Spellstutter Sprite while it's at it. I wouldn't hold out much hope for the tape deck if you plan to hit Sprites all day when Cavern takes off, but Faeries likely wants Mutavault too. Running both could put strain on the mana base, especially if they want to cast Cryptic Command. If Tectonic Edge weren't already so insane, I'd say to buy in. Ghost Quarter has some room to go up though, especially foils.

There are myriad cards that haven't spiked but could because people are going to need them. Do some testing. What beats Zoo? What beats Faeries? What new decks can you come up with using Nacatl, using Bitterblossom, what new decks emerge now that your graveyard isn't under constant threat from Deathrite Shaman?

Think third-level, because first-level specs are gone and second-level specs are drying up. Modern got shaken up, so get with the future and make some money.

Prerelease Is My Favorite

With no tournaments to discuss, I can cut out a bit early. I do want to say something about Born of the Gods, however.

I don't like this set very much, but I probably like it less than it deserves. I saw just another Dragon's Maze and that made me think the set didn't have much merit. Packs of Dragon's Maze just rot on store shelves and fat packs of it are the cheapest of any in-print set I can remember. I feared Born of the Gods would be the same.

At one of the prerelease events I played this weekened, my LGS owner pulled me aside and confided that he was having trouble moving boxes of the set and he'd cut his order in half. I started feeling a little bit guilty, because I very publicly championed the notion that this set was DGM 2.0 and I didn't have much to say that was particularly constructive during the set review.

Is it my fault entirely that he's had to scale back his order and won't be making money off of this set like he has for past sets, Dragon's Maze included? No, not entirely, but I imagine I didn't help.

The Bad and the Good

Here's the thing--while I had a real "this set is dildos" mentality, a lot of that was due to how bad I think a lot of the mythics are. I think the "browbeat" mechanic turns a lot of potentially good cards into stone unplayables. I think Chromanticore is one of the stupidest cards ever printed, taunting anyone playing sealed, "J/K, you get 5 rares, not 6". I stand by all of that.

What that ignores is what this set has going for it. A cool planeswalker that even I have been waiting for ever since I saw a picture of Kiora on a Duels of the Planeswalkers game. Two powerful gods in Xenagos and Phenax, the latter of which overperformed at the prerelease. Good, solid rares.

While Dragon's Maze had rares that looked much better on paper than in practice, the opposite is true with this set. "How could they print a card this good?" was what people were saying when they saw the spoiling of Plasm Capture, and "How could they print a card this good" is what a lot of people said when they tested Spirit of the Labyrinth in Legacy.

Pain Seer isn't a $12 card, but it may not be a bulk rare either if Mono-Black players are to be believed; some good players are hot on this card. Will Kiora follow the same price trajectory as Ral Zarek? Will Brimaz follow Voice of Resurgence? Xenagos to Blood Baron?

It's hard to say, but what I can say is that Courser of Kruphix is better than Obzedat's Aid, and that kind of thing matters. Born of the Gods has good utility uncommons as well like Fanatic of Xenagos which should be another $2+ card. Black is getting good removal.

Hey, didn't I say I think W/B Tokens could be a deck? I don't know if Brimaz belongs in that deck, but if he does, that could be the multi-format adoption he needs to follow in Voice's footsteps. A lot of people are just buying a playset of Brimaz and calling it a day, and I think you're going to feel like a tool a bit later when you see how much you've missed out on.

Go buy a box of the damn set. I'm getting a case, you can afford a box. Don't buy online, buy it at your LGS. Buy it in the store, sit at a table and open the damn thing in front of other Magic players. You'll get trade requests when people see you open stuff they want, you'll put $20 in your LGS owner's pocket and keep the lights turned on for another day.

You'll pick up cards people will want down the line, stuff you can brew with and you'll make sure you have a place to hang out in the future. The set has temples, gods, bears and if you open a Chromanticore, ship them to me like everyone else is doing.

There's more to like than we gave the set credit for. Even if this set is Dragon's Maze 2.0, it's still better than anything that has the word "Kamigawa" in the title, and if that isn't good for a C-Note, I don't know what is.

35 thoughts on “Jason’s Alticle: The Other Kind of Insider

  1. Enjoyed the Alticle. I like the third level thinking because it’s so accurate and the best way I’ve benefited. I was with you on the “there’s no way they unban bitterblossom” train…so much so that I unloaded my 3 copies last week @$30 and was thrilled to do so…luckily I hedged my bets and picked up a playset of Mistbind Cliques with some of that profit (they were $3.50 when I ordered them…). I’m also in agreement with the B/W Tokens potential for modern…in fact the only actual “speculating” I did yesterday morning (because I’m not staying up until midnight to watch all my orders get cancelled due to “stock corrections”) was to pick up stuff for B/W Tokens (10x Intangible Virtue, 10x Zealous Persecution, and 8x Hero of Bladehold). I do disagree with the buy BoG boxes just to support your stores philosophy….I do wholly agree with the need to support the stores and I didn’t order much BoG, but I think the bigger problem is that due to the power creep inherent in the games design (in order to sell you need bigger/better things each time) the player base has become over-expectant on powerful cards and when WoTC doesn’t deliver over-powered cards the player base just passes on the set.

    1. I don\’t think you buy boxes because you pity your LGS. I think you buy boxes because the set isn\’t as bad as Dragon\’s Maze, so you should, at the very least, not buy less BotG than you bought of DGM, which a lot of people are doing. The rares in this set are very good and if the set doesn\’t get bought a ton, the prices will stay relatively high making it cost effective to buy boxes to bust rares. I think people are down on the set because they are viewing it in the context of a set that isn\’t as good as the first set in the block and post-DGM all anyone can think of is DGM, but I think that isn\’t the case.

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