This Week on Insider: 6/15/2014

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Sigmund Ausfresser - Fetch Land Reprint Speculation

Sig addressed the vital issue of Modern staples, specifically the curious case of fetch lands.  They've been up, they've been down, and no one is really sure where they'll settle.  Rather than blindly speculate on their future, Sig went back and dug through the data.  But it wasn't price data he was after, it was statements from MTG R&D.  He cites Mark Rosewater discussing Scry Lands, specifically their desire to print 10 instead of 5, and draws some really interesting conclusions.

That lends some credence to the thought of a reprint of ONS-era fetches (so that they'd be legal in Modern alongside their enemy color counterparts) but then he digs deeper.  In a Brainstorm Brewery interview, Aaron Forsythe is quoted as saying, in regard to the sudden spike of fetch lands, "...we are definitely aware of....what cards people need to build decks to play Modern and what cards they’re after. So we are going to do what we can."  

Sig did a lot of digging into the past for this article, and it's definitely a candidate for my top article of the week.  There's even more research in it that I won't mention here.

>Read the Full Article

Paul "Zwischenzug" Nemeth - (Video) 4 Rounds with Standard Jund

It's tough to summarize a bunch of MTGO videos without writing what amounts to a tournament report, but Paul (the reigining MTGO Player of the Year) once again delivers a stellar performance.  He talks through his plays as the games progress, which I find crazy useful.  Watching a top Pro talk through his lines of play is one of the best ways to improve at competitive Magic, and we're real glad to have Paul streaming for us.  QS author Alexander Carl commented, "I won’t spoil it for anyone, but man, what transpired in game 3 was like nothing I have ever seen."  I won't spoil it either, so you'll have to watch and see for yourself!

>Read the Full Article

Danny Brown - Organization is Abreast of Heliod

Yes, the article's title is very strange.  No, "abreast" is not a naughty word.   Danny sums up his post nicely, saying "If you’ve ever frantically searched for an expensive playset that you know you own but just can’t locate, today’s article is for you."  I've personally never had that problem, because my Magic cards have always been meticulously organized, but I know some of you out there have some...issues keeping things straight.

 I like that Danny describes an organization system that isn't just "set, color, alpha" or whatever;  he has his cards separated by function and destination, complete with placeholders for when cards might be in more than one place at the same time.  Sorting cards is something we hate to think about, but it's a vital part of being a Magic trader.  Anyone who's ever worked retail for any length of time knows that it's way easier to keep your physical inventory tight on a day-to-day basis instead of having to go through and fix it periodically.  Unsexy, yet vital.  Such is life.

>Read the Full Article

Jason Alt - What Doesn't Go Up

Who didn't see this coming?

Not that SCG is the be-all and end-all of the market, but they're usually a pretty fair barometer.  And if they're out of stock of Abrupt Decay foils at a C-Note, then I'll take that at face value.   Jason had this to say about speculation ( which is only a small part of MTG finance, by the way ):

We’re not always going to hit doing this, but the real money to be made is by being ahead. Your copies bought the day a card explodes on camera may not get shipped. You’re competing with other reactive people for copies when you wait.

People who are a week or two ahead have the luxury of getting their copies arranged, listing them and waiting to adjust the price according to new adoption. You have the luxury of having 50 copies on your desk ready to buylist for three times what you paid. You have the ability to be a hero, striding into the LGS with four playsets ready to have trade value veritably foisted upon you.

Couldn't agree more.  These days, trying to beat the rush on a hot card is a loser's game.  Being prescient and having stock long in advance is the way to be.  I won't say much else about the content of this piece, because a few commenters did it for me.  Our own Sigmund said, "Great article, Jason. This is one of those articles that teaches us how to fish rather than feeding us for a day. Your approach to find good bets can make people lots of money in the future. Well written."

Maybe Sig is biased because he works for us, though he's not one to blow smoke if there's no fire, but the reader who wrote this isn't an employee:  "Excellent article Jason! I am new to the site and to magic finance, but I have to say every article I have read by you has given me new perspective and wonderful insight into the world of MTG finance. I do have a question though, with Eidolon and Courser both going up in price why is mana bloom still stuck as a 25 cent card? If a full deck is going to trend upward would it not drive up the prices on most cards in the deck? Thanks for making this site awesome!"

Also in contention for my top Insider article of the week.

>Read the Full Alticle

Sylvain Lehoux - Farewell to Older Standard Sets (MTGO)

Slyv took a brief hiatus from his brilliant Portfolio Management series to talk about seasonality in our MTGO markets.   Now's an important time to be thinking seasonally, as he explains:

I’m talking about the price depreciation of the older Standard sets, currently Return to RavnicaGatecrashDragon’s Maze and M14. This seasonal phenomenon is a classic on MTGO. Starting as soon as April, and even sooner for specific cards, prices really drop and will keep dropping until next Fall.  Ignoring this effect may have very unfortunate consequences on some of your investments.

My article today is a sort of warning for the newest speculators among us. By looking to what happened to past sets, I am going to explain to you why I recommend selling cards you may hold from the four sets cited above as soon as possible.

Sylvain cites examples of Mutavault, Jace, Architect of Thought and a few of the Black Devotion cards as assets that have already proven toxic on the balance sheet.  He also explains why Abrupt Decay, Vraska the Unseen and Rakdos's Return are not following the trend of their compatriots in RTR Block / M14, and which of these hot staples are worth selling at their peak.  Sylv gives us a good mix of strategies and tactics (what's the difference, you ask? ) as usual, which is what makes him such an asset to the QS team.

Another potential weekly winner in my not-so-humble opinion.

>Read the Full Article

Ryan Overturf - A Closer Look at Nyx-Fleece Ram

Make no mistake, this article is about Ryan's favorite deck - BURN.  He's looking at Nyx-Fleece Ram because it's being cited as a potential answer to his deck, not because he's looking at playing with it.  Here's a look at his latest version of the deck list:

Yeah, four Eidolon of the Great Revel in the sideboard.  Ouch.

Ryan waxes poetic about the difference between "hate" cards like Raking Canopy and Nyx-Fleece Ram and HATE cards like Volcanic Fallout and Great Sable Stag.  Without giving up all the goods, here's a taste:

Nyx-Fleece Ram as a singular card, doesn’t have the ability to completely change the pace of many games on its own. Additionally, it doesn’t address the biggest problem that Red Devotion actually has against Burn: Searing Blood is a huge beating. There’s really nothing that a Devotion shell can reasonably do that beats Searing Blood while staying competitive against the rest of the deck.

The second biggest problem is that an unanswered Eidolon of the Great Revelputs the Burn player unequivocally in the driver’s seat.  You know what they say though. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Damn straight.  Some of the white cards, like Banishing Light give this deck way more options than a traditional Burn Your Face strategy, which I very much appreciate as a long-time burn enthusiast.  Ryan's been writing about some incarnation of this deck for quite some time now ( some of it on Insider, some of it free ), so you should delve through his archives if you're at all enth

>Read the Full Article

David Schumann - Legacy Tournament Report: UWR Miracles

David usually writes finance articles for us, but because he's a big-time Legacy player, we thought this would be a great chance for him to talk about his favorite format.  The line between being a good trader and a good player/strategist continues to blur, so learning about competitive formats from the people who love them the best has proven to be very important.

He begins by discussing his deck choice, explaining the difference between small local events and larger regional events when selecting a deck.  TL; DR: the bigger the event, the more consistent you want your deck to be.  You can afford to run "glass cannon" combo decks at FNM-sized events, but in an all-day event you'll want something that lets you out-play your opponents (assuming you're any good at Magic...)  Here's what his main deck looked like.

You'll want to read the whole piece to learn about how he built his sideboard, which cards he chose and why, and of course, to find out how well he did at the event!  I'm not personally much of a Legacy player but this list looks like a ton of fun.  I mean, it's got Snapcaster and Jace!  What's not to like?

>Read the Full Article

Mike Lanigan - The SCG Invitational, M15 and Conspiracy

Mike drops a Mono-Blue Devotion list on us before delving into finance this week.  I was happy to see that 4 copies of Hypnotic Siren were in his maindeck, as I believe that card was seriously under-rated at first.   It looks both too small and too expensive ( depending on which end you're looking at ) but don't forget that you're paying the price for options.  And Magic is a game of options.

Mike has some strong opinions on Conspiracy, namely what to do with some of the reprinted rares.  And he's got a real strong opinion on Council's Judgment.  Can't say I totally disagree with him either.

>Read the Full Article

Corbin Hosler - The Current and Future State of Modern

Modern prices have experienced a contraction recently, and Corbin's got some ideas on why that's happened.  $100 Fetch Lands are only one of many reasons, but they represent a major psychological barrier.  He is rather bearish on Modern cards on the whole.

There won’t be a freefall. The bottom isn’t sinking beneath us. But the tide has stopped rising, and that means we won’t be seeing the growth we want. Prices will continue to drift downward without tanking, and it’s probably not a great idea to sell off your entire Pod deck with the expectation of it being half the price six months from now because I told you it was time to sell.

The reason comes down to opportunity cost. You will be able to reacquire these cards in six months at prices lower than current numbers, so there’s nothing wrong with taking your profits and having that money available for the typical rotation plays.

It's worth taking a brief moment to describe an important phenomenon in MTG finance writing, and why this particular article is special.  People often ask why QS charges a subscription fee instead of running ads or selling Magic cards and taking a commission.  This article is the answer.  If we relied on the whims of advertisers who just wanted us to push cardboard for them, we could never publish an article that says "buy nothing".

I once wrote a similar article for another site, and it was rejected out-of-hand.  Why?  Because they wanted to encourage people to buy cards and my article was telling them not to.   Quite simply, when the reader is signing the paychecks, the writer has license to write in the reader's best interests.   I'm not saying this happens frequently, or that anyone in particular is guilty of it.  I'm saying that this is why QS is a subscription site, not anything else.

>Read the Full Article

Adam Yurchick - An Intro to Effective Sideboarding

Adam knows a little something about being a winning Magic player.   His resume, which we detail in a rather in-depth biography of him, counts 6 GP Top 8 finishes, multiple Pro Tour money finishes, and a spot on the US National team.  We brought him onboard our Insider team because our readers asked for articles on sideboarding.  As we've evolved from a small finance blog to a site that many Magic players reference almost daily, we needed to expand our offerings by providing information that helps our readers become better Magic players.

Adam has done a bunch of wonderful Visual Sideboarding Guides, which you should really check out if you're playing Standard or Modern at all this season.  Here's an excerpt from this week's guide, which is about the strategy behind sideboarding as opposed to a specific set of tactics for a given deck.

It’s a common flaw for players to fill their sideboards with theoretically strong sideboard cards, only providing marginal value, so it’s very important they have a high-enough impact to warrant inclusion. There was a period of time when Monoblack Devotion would play a high number of Dark Betrayal in the sideboard. It was great for combating the mirror match, but players would usually cut Hero's Downfall in order to find room.

In a world where maindecks are pined over, shared, tuned, refined, the process iterated constantly, the sideboard is often overlooked, considered a last-minute thing to worry about, even looked at by some as an inconvenience. Remember that the sideboard is an extremely powerful tool, and honing sideboard skills and spending the time practicing and thinking about your matchups will yield dividends to the tournament player.

>Read the Full Article

Dylan Beckham - The Event Horizon IV

Dylan went to a Modern PTQ over the weekend and what did he learn?  Modern is healthy and diverse as competitive formats go.  What does this mean for us?

Pick a deck, and stick to it until you know it inside and out. That’s it. There will be more success this way than any other strategy.

What does this translate to as far as finance? Don’t listen to the skeptics, there isn’t a single “bad” card to invest in. Focus on the fundamental important cards that certain strategies hinge around. Scapeshift, Arcbound Ravager, Snapcaster Mage, Dark Confidant, etc. These are all cards that are built as keystones in the format. End of story.

I continue to harp on these base fundamentals because of one key reason–not many people do them! Most of the speculators run into continue to believe that Modern is just like Standard. Key cards that make the format turn. Flip, buy, rinse and repeat. That’s it, to them. This format is a completely different animal, and while it does compare to Legacy in many ways, there’s a larger percentage of copies available for Modern than for many Legacy staples.

Dylan then specifies 5 cards he think are Modern staples that will remain perennial all-stars.  Some of them have already begun to appreciate in value.  I love his calls in this article, and I really don't see him whiffing on any of them.  Sure, they may fall victim to a reprint, but we've see what that can do to Modern prices - spike them.

>Read the Full Article

Alexander Carl - The Vintage Masters Freefall

Alexander Carl has been our new MTGO specialist since Matt Lewis took a hiatus to go get married and stuff, and he's been filling Matt's shoes spectacularly.  Vintage Masters was an unprecedented release on MTGO, and what happened afterwards was kind of mindblowing.

When things stabilize there will be some really good buying opportunities. But where is the floor? We are in uncharted territory because we don’t know the viability of Vintage and Legacy as online formats and because there is no redemption to soak up excess supply.

In addition, the number of MTGO users this week skyrocketed and drafts were firing like crazy. Yesterday Matt Lewis noted in the forums a total of 7,500 users in tournaments–that’s 50% more from what we saw during JOU release events.

So what do we do now?  Alex has a whole bunch of bullet points in this article, explaining where we stand, what we should and shouldn't do, and what else is happening in the market that could compound the effects of VMA further.  Here's a quick bit:

  • Keep your powder dry: As we predicted last week, prices on rares seem too good to believe, but should continue to fall for the next few days. Next weekend would be a good time to buy in.
  • Limit your drafts: These things have become highly negative EV. You are bleeding tix if you enter them. If you really enjoy the format, go for it. But be careful not to overextend.
  • Watch the spreads at sites that show you buy and sell prices, like Goatbots. Wide spreads suggest uncertainty. Narrowing spreads suggest that the price of a card is being established.
  • Don’t sell if you don’t have to: The spreads are wide enough that it makes sense to hold unless you get a good offer (e.g. in the classifieds.)

Oh, and he also put up a little contest:  Guess the price in TIX of Black Lotus on July 1st.   The submissions are closed now, but drew guesses between 70 and 250 tix.  That's quite the range.

Yet another article in contention for Pick of the Week.

>Read the Full Article

My Pick of the Week: Sigmund Ausfresser - Fetch Land Reprint Speculation

Why?  It's a vitally important topic and Sig did a ton of research to figure out what's going to happen next.  He delved into old articles, podcasts, and Twitter to learn as much as he could.  For such outstanding effort in service of the edification of QS Insiders, he earns this week's top honors!  Now I feel extra-good about that one time I bought Sig pizza in Boston on the company credit card.  You hear that?  Don't say I never gave you nothin'!

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