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Insider: [MTGO] Taking Advantage of Hype on MTGO

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I don't know if it is me or not, but one thing caught my attention these last months and feels different since I started investing on MTGO. Sudden price spikes have been getting stronger and faster than ever. Consequently, the MTGO market is sold out quicker and quicker when a card attracts too much attention.

Maybe I'm paying more attention to price evolution now than two years ago. Maybe the tools we have now, especially MtgGoldfish, make things more obvious than ever. Or maybe more and more people are trying to speculate on popular cards to generate few extra tix. This is specially true with Modern cards, where everything seems to be a hidden gem waiting for the spotlight.

During the last six to twelve months, hype drove the price of many cards extra high before falling flat down after barely a week or two. Very few cards "survived" a violent increase of 500% or more of their price in a matter of hours. These sudden spikes might have caught some of us--we bought too late and too high and/or we sold too low too late.

In this article we'll see that not all hyped cards are equal. Depending on how a card is "revealed", its price may rise more or less rapidly and can be sustained for couple of hours to weeks. I'll also discuss the strategy I think is viable to make some profits with these unpredictable and fast opportunities.

Different Types of Hype

GP and PT Exposure

These types of events make it patently clear to the Mtg community that a card, or a deck, is potentially interesting. Potentially only.

Not a long time ago, Fist of Suns saw a second round of increase due to coverage at GP Prague. Early in December, Fist of Suns got some attention because the card started being seen in Modern Daily Events (DE).

The initial jump was pretty nice, from 0.4 tix to 2 tix, an already substantial 400% increase. The final stroke after GP Prague made the price of the artifact double despite its already inflated price.

 

Since then, Fist of Suns keep dipping as the deck is not consistent enough, even after the ban of Deathrite Shaman.

During the last PT, Amulet of Vigor received a strong but extremely short moment of glory after the deck got on camera. However, neither Matthias Hunt, nor any other Amulet player, had a strong day two. The fame of Amulet of Vigor lasted two days and it went back to its original price, around 1.5 tix.

 

Pyromancer Ascension is another interesting and revealing case of 1) the popularity of Modern, 2) the PT effect, and 3) a bigger and faster hype.

Making its way through several B&R changes, the Pyromancer Ascension deck has been around since Modern's inception, placing two decks in the Top 8 of PT Philadelphia in 2011 and receiving the continued blessing of Jon Finkel who played the deck at all three Modern PTs.

So, nothing really new. The price of Pyromancer Ascension was nicely oscillating between 0.5 and 2 tix, until PT Valencia, where the red enchantment jumped to more than 4 tix in two days. Why? Probably more speculators this time around...

Lastly, and in connection with Pyromancer Ascension, Past in Flames also got hot last month. The sorcery was on nice and slow upward trend since last October, and the PT happened. For similar reasons as Ascension, the price of the 10-tix mythic more than doubled in a couple days.

 

The Travis Woo Effect

By posting videos of his brews on the ChannelFireball website, Travis Woo made himself a name as an alternative but competitive deckbuilder, mostly for Modern but also Standard, and as a "hype creator" in the MTGO world.

Woo's decks are mostly non-Tier 1 decks in between casual and competitive. He is often brewing with unusual cards which set a perfect ground for a spectacular rise in price.

He was at the origin of the Breach-Post deck that made Top 8 at PT Philadelphia in 2011 and greatly contributed to make Living End deck a serious contender in Modern. Among the decks he popularized are Intruder Alarm Elves, different variants of OmniDoor decks, Ninja Bears, Modern Mono-Green Devotion and Mono-White Enchantments.

Six months ago, the cards Travis Woo was using in his brews showed moderate and slow increases in price. The effect was there and you could see it happening over a period of several days or weeks.

Not all the cards he touched were instantly transformed into gold. But the simple mention of a card in his decks or his tweets is sometimes enough to set it on fire overnight. If the deck shows positive results in DE's, the hype might last for several weeks.

For instance, it took several days for cards such as OmniscienceIntruder Alarm or Disrupting Shoal from the Polymorph deck to get noticed and have their price significantly up.

However, more recently the same Disrupting Shoal really spiked when it was featured in the Ninja Bear deck. The deck got trendy and made several appearances in DE's, but never made the cut at bigger events. The Ninja Bear deck is probably more competitive and attractive than the Polymorph deck but the second spike was really a heck of a spike!

 

Primal Command, Summoner's Egg and Sigil of the Empty Throne are other examples of the hype that Woo's brews generates, around cards that were not necessarily born to be stars.

 

New Set Spoilers

New mechanics or cards can be enough to trigger a price rise of previous cards thought to benefit from the spoilers. Without any certainty of viable strategies for future, the Standard metagame cards can get caught in a hype.

During Theros spoiler season, when the devotion mechanic was revealed Boros Reckoner was in everybody's mind. The minotaur gained about 2 tix quickly and went finally up to 10 tix when confirmed to be playable in Mono-Red Devotion decks.

Boros Reckoner's ascension was overall "slow". Again, more recent examples showed us that that sudden spike is becoming the new norm.

Trostani, Selesnya's Voice doubled in two days with the revelation of the green-white god. Similarly, Ral Zarek also jumped from 5 tix to more than 8 tix almost overnight when the inspired mechanic was spoiled.

 

B&R List Announcements

Typically, B&R list changes are a great time for speculations and hype surrounding changes to the list. This time around, the new B&R changes in Modern had a dramatic effect on several cards in a matter of hours.

When Bitterblossom got unbanned, several Faeries-related cards got a huge boost. Among them, Mistbind Clique and Scion of Oona spiked instantly. After a week or so they were almost back to their initial price.

 

And when Wild Nacatl got reintroduced to the zoo, Knight of the Reliquary tripled on the spot, for not more than a couple of days.

 

Profiting Off Sudden Spikes

A trait common to all these recent spikes is a very narrow time frame. In only a couple of hours, one day at most, the price skyrockets. And it usually takes not more than a week for the prices to seriously drop to close to their origins. This trend seems to be the new norm.

I have been caught myself wanting to hold these cards for too long, blinded by the hype. Even if I was able to grab some copies at low price, I was simply becoming too greedy with these highly speculative positions.

For instance, I got stuck with my copies of Trostani, Selesnya's Voice, hoping for unreal expectations. I also sold only half of my stock of Mistbind Clique at the top price. I sold the other half at my buying price because I waited too long, knowing that Faeries were not great in Modern.

Nonetheless, and despite bad judgment on few cards, many others turned out profitable. Here are some rules I try to apply in order to keep a positive balance in any circumstances.

Defining Goals and Discipline

Speculation based on hype can be quiet risky if you haven't established a goal and concrete expectations. As you see in the examples mentioned in this article, price movements are ridiculous, 100% to 1000% in a matter of days. However, these prices only last for couple of days, sometimes even less. Integrating these parameters is crucial for such speculations.

I suggested in a previous article that these quick flip positions could represent up to 50% of small bankrolls. This is a fast way to grow your bankroll if your are able to maintain strict discipline.

Timing Is Crucial

Timing is pretty much is only thing that matters here. You have to be vigilant to any news (such as the one mentioned here) that can lead to sudden spikes. You may have only a couple of hours (in the case of GP/PT coverage and B&R announcement) or one or two days (spoilers season or Travis Woo videos) to buy as much as you can of the hot card. Have you seen how fast the MTGO bots get sold out these days?

Then, I would strongly suggest selling after two or three days, whatever the price is. Hopefully, the price will be still on the rise or will have reached its peak. This is where you have to take your profits and move on. If you are getting greedy or think you can outsmart others you are heading for trouble.

Prices are going crazy, very high, very fast, and then falling flat. More and more people are speculating--you want to be the smart one, who actually doesn't speculate, but rather sells into the hype.

You only lose money when you want too much, never when you sell too early as compared to the real peak. Your goal is not to sell at the tip-top of the curve, your goal is to grow your bankroll. Your goal is to generate profits, not to established a record, and I really think you can successfully ride these sudden spikes.

Thank you for reading,

Sylvain Lehoux

5 thoughts on “Insider: [MTGO] Taking Advantage of Hype on MTGO

    1. Deathrite ShamanI a little bit annoying for KotR but think people remembered Big Zoo with Wild Nacatl and KotR, and though that would be a great deck again.

  1. The time span of the Amulet of Vigor spike is laughable. I don’t think it was possible to gain much profit even if you were a lightning-fast selling robot.

    You should definitely mention Nightveil Specter instead of Boros Reckoner. Nightveil got something of a 700% increase!

    1. Always hard to catch the peak, unless you are lucky. I was fortunate to catch the peak on the Amulet of Vigor spike. It was featured a couple times on camera that day and when I saw it hotlisted for 4+ I leaped…

      I think Sylvain’s advice about not being afraid to take profits is a good one. You’ll often miss out on that last 10%-20% but in return you can stay liquid and move on to the next opportunity.

    2. If you were able to watch live the PT and grab some amulet at 2-2.5 tix, even 3 tix, you would have been able to sell at 4-4.5 on Saturday/Sunday.

      You can’t make millions with these sudden spikes as cards disappeared quickly, that’s why it’s very reasonable strategy fro small bankroll, as making 10-20 tix profits in 48h represent a fair part of the bankroll.

      Nightveil Specter got a little less hype after the devotion mechanism was spoiled, because not many people were sure it would be playable (it was not before). The PT theros revealed the Specter.

      Many other examples could have been cited. And many cards are worthwhile keeping an eye on when comes spoilers, PT, GP, etc…

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