Insider: Learning from Speculation Mistakes

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Welcome back, readers!

Today's article will focus on an issue that cropped up with this last Pro Tour. I got giddy with some potential speculation targets, ones that I honestly didn't believe in and decided to buy anyway. This giddiness cost me around $50 as none of the cards panned out.

You'll often hear people touting their wins when it comes to speculation, but it's just as important to review our misses. I've discussed this previously here, where I go over the reasons why my misses failed. But what's even smarter than reviewing your mistakes is learning from them and not repeating them again...

Luckily for all of you (and unluckily for me), I repeated some of my previous mistakes with these Pro Tour speculation targets. This isn't to say you should never order cards before the Pro Tour begins when you see something clearly overperforming in playtesting or practice. But always beware the dangers of second-hand knowledge you gained from someone else's experience.

Obviously, we are going to make some decisions using this type of information. After all, you're paying for a membership on this site for the information it provides. There's clearly value in benefiting from other people's experiences rather than having to learn everything from scratch.

However, we have to be careful not to make assumptions about things we don't know first-hand. We need to think critically about the claims being made, and apply the finance fundamentals.

Failed Specs

Since I know you're dying to know which targets I picked (and whiffed on), here they are:

  • 26x Smothering Abomination @ $0.67
  • 13x Lantern Scout @ 0.79
  • 12x Wasteland Strangler @ $0.4
  • 24x Blight Herder @ 0.44
  • 4x Fathom Feeder @ 1.79

For a grand total of $50.21.

Before discussing why these were ultimately poor spec targets, let me explain the reasoning that led me to them.

Smothering Abomination - The first constructed game on camera at the Pro Tour showed a G/B Aristocrats deck stalling out Atarka Red with Smothering Abomination. It provided a big blocker, as well as a card advantage engine when coupled with all the creatures that make Eldrazi scions. The latter also happen to be good at blocking and trading with most of Atarka Red's creature base.

This also has EDH written all over it, and being mono-colored it can fit in a lot of potential decks. My LGS owner is pretty big on this card as well (he picks them up and sets most aside in a long-term box).

Lantern Scout - I heard a lot of people talking about Lantern Scout as a better solution to Atarka Red then Arashin Cleric. Lantern Scout has the possibility of gaining a lot more than three life, but it's pretty lousy on an empty board. It does play really well with the new Gideon (which can trigger it every turn), but clearly not enough to break out.

Wasteland Strangler - I read Adam Yurchik's article last week and believed his arguments were valid. I'd already been a big fan of Silkwrap (though I don't tend to invest in uncommons unless they are Eternal-playable).

The dream curve is turn 2 Silkwrap on Jace, turn 3 Strangler to kill your Mantis Rider. I got so focused on this that I forgot, 1) by unexiling Jace you turn Ojutai's Command back on; and 2) there isn't enough synergy to make me play a mediocre creature with a conditional ability.

My biggest problem with the processors is that it's difficult to reliably turn them on early. So while they may seem drastically undercosted, the upside is mitigated since they can't be cast until later in the game.

Blight Herder - Another one on Adam's list. This one had the largest percentage increase leading into the PT (and thus, I felt, the highest demand). I feel like it's far easier to set up late-game processors as the better exile spells are in the 3-4 range (Utter End, Complete Disregard, etc). I also noted that I could buy all 24 copies from the same vendor and save on shipping costs.

Fathom Feeder - This is only a semi-spec as I wanted some to play around with (hence why I only bought a playset). I'm currently working on an Esper Control deck in Standard that pairs the Feeder with Ojutai's Command. However, if I waited another few weeks I probably could have gotten them for half the price.

As we know by now, there was no breakout deck at the Pro Tour utilizing processors. I still think Smothering Abomination may be a fine spec later on down the road. But as I could most likely get them for far less in a few weeks, it counts as a loss in my book.

Learning from Mistakes

I broke some basic rules of mine when deciding to go in on these specs.

With Wasteland Strangler, Blight Herder and Lantern Scout, I jumped right on the hype train. I thought only about the best-case scenario plays, and ignored the more likely ones.

Don't speculate solely based on hype. Even if the cards appreciate in the immediate future, the value may not even hold long enough for you to receive them in the mail.

It's also difficult to trade off cards that suddenly jumped due to hype, because players are hesitant to pay the new price. This is why I could never move copies of Hardened Scales in my area. People wanted to play the deck, but didn't believe the card was worth $5.50.

As for Fathom Feeder and Smothering Abomination, I simply pulled the trigger too early. Even when you believe in a card's power level, it's better to wait for it to prove itself. I still like both of these cards long-term, but I didn't need to pick them up now.


Speculating on Magic can be tricky, there's no doubt. I'm looking to avoid these mistakes when the next Pro Tour rolls around, and hopefully you can learn from them too.

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