Unlocked Pro Trader: A Thesis Defense

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Last week was a nice break from the norm, wasn’t it? I enjoyed it so much that I think this week we’re going to take a break from the norm. Whereas last week we were concerned with Explorers of Ixalan (a great idea and a great avenue for reprints and if you buy this and play with it, give yourself a wedgie) and how this could affect not only the prices of the cards printed in it but how it could impact future confidence in our picks for the role of “this will go way up if it’s not in the Commander set” like we saw this year with cards like Patriarch’s Bidding, Cover of Darkness and Mana Echoes.

I noticed something else worth talking about this week, and it ties in a bit with a question a Brainstorm Brewery listener asked on the podcast this week. If you’re reading this on Thursday, the episode will be out tomorrow.

What Was The Question?

A listener (I don’t remember who but I sort of feel like I should because I remember recognizing the name and now I feel kind of bad but only to the extent that it’s on brand for me to care about stuff like that, which is to say “not much”) asked about the limitations of using EDHREC as a metric for speculation targets. Wouldn’t the decklists seem to skew toward older cards? Would new cards that affected older archetypes even be counted since people aren’t likely to re-register their deck just because one new card was printed? In short, aren’t we missing a bunch of stuff?

What Was My Response?

At first I barely wanted to answer the question. It’s a mixed bag of things we’ve addressed, things that don’t matter and things that are impossible to quantify. The point most worth going into, that people aren’t going to re-register their decks just because of a new card being printed. That’s a huge blind spot for EDHREC. If our premise that new cards affect the prices of older cards, how will we ever know that? It’s a gigantic flaw in my model of using EDHREC to try and predict coming price spikes.

I think that would be a gigantic flaw if that were true. I think, though, that we’re seeing the opposite. I also think that’s not a problem.

 

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Why Wouldn’t It Be A Problem?

Well, if we are not going to get people registering new lists for old decks predicated on new cards, we’re going to miss cards. Missing cards sucks, but it happens. Missing a spec feels bad and that’s about it. You’re not harmed by missing a spec. You didn’t get to make money but you didn’t lose any actual money. If people are looking at Growing Rites of Itlimoc and deciding that they’re going to update their Meren of Clan Nel Toth deck. So? They’re not building a brand new deck so they’re not going to move the prices on any other cards. If they build a new deck, they’ll buy new cards and that means they’re more likely to register a new list on one of the sites EDHREC scrapes and we’ll see movement. So either something happens and we don’t notice it unless we notice it a different way, or something happens that we’ll notice or nothing happens. All of this is fine.

Is The Opposite A Problem?

If someone decides that Growing Rites of Itlimoc means they want to update their Meren deck and they make a new list, or update the old list on a site that re-registers the original deck and the update as two decks on EDHREC, or if EDHREC is just garbage at accounting for that (that’s something I don’t know and should maybe look into), then it’s possible we’ll get false positives. False positives are actually probably bad. Missing a spec feels bad but buying a busted spec IS bad AND feels bad. You’re out actual money, not theoretical money, and while getting nipped by fees when you buy and when you sell is usually OK on a good spec since that just takes a tiny nip out of your profit sammich, getting slapped in the ass coming and going on a busted spec that you end up putting in a box of shame forever or buylisting or forgetting about is worse. Buying a card that never goes up because you saw a signal that was really just noise is bad. I think the opposite of the bias our listener (I mean, based on how I interpreted the question he asked – he could have been asking about this and not the opposite and I just didn’t get it) was asking about is potentially a problem, but it’s not really a huge one. Even if people aren’t building more Meren decks, them registering new lists can put Meren back on the front page and that gets eyeballs on Meren. Some of the noise develops into signal just based on visibility. Can I quantify that effect? I mean, no, but that’s not anything that’s plagued us.

It’s not as though we’ve been whiffing when we base our specs on what people are registering. Wheels are in a bunch of The Locust God decks, wheels went up. Stuff like Morphling and Hateflayer are in Mairsil decks, they went up. EDHREC is probably bad at two things.

  1. Cards under like 18 months to 2 years old that could go up based on new decks
  2. Weeding out fake lists, or placeholder lists, or duplicate lists of the same deck (I mean, maybe. I don’t know for sure).

I think we’re probably OK with both of those things.

What Our Model Is Good At

By “our model” I don’t necessarily mean EDHREC’s because while I contribute in some modest capacity to the site, I don’t do any of the coding because nobody wants that. “Our model” refers to the one we have adopted for this series, namely that we see what people are building when a new commander comes out, or when a new card significantly shakes up old archetypes. That second one is more rare – we’re talking Panharmonicon, Paradox Engine, Anointed Procession-tier non-general cards.

The Gitrog Monster comes out and I say “I bet Squandered Resources goes up” because I understand EDH pretty well and I feel like every other speculation model I developed relied either one waiting for published decklists from tournaments which made us buy at the same time as everyone else or trying to stay ahead of formats I would have had to understand better than pro players to speculate in/on.  Since I’m one guy, I usually nail a few cards because this is what I think about all day long while you think about how handy it is not to have to think about that stuff. Then, I check EDHREC and holy $%#&, I guess one guy isn’t ever as good as every guy and gal because I notice that Constant Mists, Groundskeeper (get foils), Life From the Loam and lots of other cards are impacted. This is hypothetical by the way, I remember knowing Constant Mists and Life From the Loam would go up, I just don’t remember which cards I only got because I saw them on EDHREC and this is a hypothetical example. The point is, a new deck is like a bunch of blind people trying to describe an elephant based on just the part they’re touching or whatever that dumb example they used to use in Six Sigma meetings. No one person gets the full picture but EDHREC crowdsources for us.

What Are We Seeing This Week?

I’m glad I pretended you asked. I might have written about a topic kind of like this based on that podcast listener question because I felt like it was too much material for the episode and I told the guy “I write about this, just go read my articles” and now there’s something that specifically addresses his points, as I understood them.

It was equally likely that I would have just found a popular commander and done a normal article based on that. Instead, I found something curious.

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Meren? Shu Yun? The Scarab God is less curious considering it’s tearing up Standard. Kaalia just got a bunch of new Dragons. Atraxa is always popular. But Meren and Shu Yun?

Yisan? Is this because he was just unbanned in 1V1? Do we even scrape those lists or did a bunch of people mis-register? Ezuri? Hapatra? Why are older cards showing up in the most popular decks of the week but not the month? What happened recently that didn’t happen a month ago? Oh, I don’t know, maybe players getting their hands on cards from Ixalan. Let’s click on Yisan.

This is the only new card. That’s curious. What’s also curious is the text underneath that you may have missed or failed to interpret. It says “100% of 10 decks” which doesn’t mean 10 people ever have registered a Yisan, the Wanderer Bard deck. It means that of the 10 decks registered since Ixalan cards were tagged in the database, all of them play this card. That means 10 people made new decklists. Is this people with existing decks making a new list to incorporate Rites? Is it people making new decks? We don’t know, and that’s the problem my listener had with using EDHREC as a metric. Here’s where I’m going to get infuriating.

I don’t think it matters.

We use EDHREC deck inclusion numbers as a ratio, basically. We can say that the demand for a card that went up is half of what it is for another card and predict that other card will go up and we’re almost always right. We can use inclusion numbers to establish arbitrary thresholds below which we don’t think that the demand can soak supply. If the numbers don’t need to be absolute numbers, and they don’t, then it doesn’t matter if 10 people made a duplicate deck based on one new card or made new decks. It’s not going to shift the numbers enough to throw off our ratios. We’re not going to make bad decisions based on 10 decks. We’re not going to speculate on Growing Rites under any circumstances because the card is new and we like new archetypes to push up old cards with low supply and high growth potential.

Compare the 100% inclusion of Rites in the Yisan deck with the numbers we got for the only new card in the Meren decks.

Totes different. Meren is just getting built a lot because it’s in the Top 3 decks of all time and lots of people want to build it. Rites helps, but in fewer than half of the new decks.

 

It doesn’t take much drilling down to figure out what means new decks are getting made and what means decks are getting updated. I think I’ve managed to establish that my methodology for selection is sound and if we continue to let new archetypes identify older cards for us like we have been, we’re going to be able to continue to use EDHREC despite any limitations it might have (since we’re using EDHREC not at ALL the way it was intended to be used, so the fact that we are getting any usable data is pretty lucky).

I’ll now presume you’re all on board still/again/for the first time and use my last little bit of word count to use our old method to try and identify stuff with upside based on people building the 6th-most popular deck of the week, The Scarab God.

Scaraby got lots of new toys. The cool thing about the intersection of Commander 2017 and Ixalan is that while it was predicated on giving us strong Vampires with lots of overlap to make Standard players care about EDH and vice versa, there is a lot of “splash damage” and unintended tribes are getting sick goodies. Zombies got a tribal banner, a non-zombie that nonetheless swipes stuff so well we do it in Standard alongside Scaraby-face, a card that makes all of your cards zombies no matter what and the second tribe-matters land that taps for multiple colors in literally two sets. No wonder people are back to building Scarab decks.

Rooftop Storm – Is the first card I want to talk about. Ric Amundson wrote an EDHREC article about using Zur to grab Arcane Adaptation to make every creature in your deck a Zombie to make Rooftop Storm ridiculous. I think that’s cute, but since we’re playing Adaptation and Zombies, Rooftop Storm features heavily. I think the reprint risk of this card is pretty high and I might grab foils, as lazy as that seems to me since they’re harder to move and harder to buy large quantities of. Luckily the price isn’t that high so there’s no huge impetus to reprint other than “it might work in this goofy precon” although they may stay away from Zombies for a while. I like this pickup more and more as people build old tribes and Zombies continues to be one of the most popular.

Phenax, God of Deception – Everyone is holding their breath on the Gods after the reprinting of… the Boros one (I am bad with names) in a precon last year. They’ll reprint Thassa for EDH before they reprint Phenax. In fact, where DO they want to reprint a dedicated Mill God? He’s awkward in any product you put him in and that mitigates his reprint risk so much that I’m in below $10 on this guy.

Door of Destinies – This is another card I think they’ll leave alone for a while. With no dedicated tribal stuff coming in the forseeable future (except for when they bring core set back, I guess), you have a while for these to grow. But at the floor and get out as quickly as you can even if you leave some money for the next guy. These are risky long-medium-term but super juicy in the short term.

That’s all for me this week. I’m sorry for the wall of text. If this was boring, I’ll remind you that it’s sometimes important for me to defend the fundamental thesis of my entire series occasionally lest all of my advice be suspect all at once. I think we’ve developed a pretty good track record using the new method and I think weaknesses in the model don’t matter. If you think they matter or I missed something, let’s argue in the comments section. Thanks for reading. Until next time!

 

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MTG Fast Finance Podcast: Episode 89 (Oct 12th/17)

MTG Fast Finance is our weekly podcast covering the flurry of weekly financial activity in the world of Magic: The Gathering. MFF provides a fast, fun and useful sixty minute format. Follow along with our seasoned hosts as they walk you through this week’s big price movements, their picks of the week, metagame analysis and a rotating weekly topic.

Show Notes: Oct 12th, 2017

Segment 1: Top Card Spikes of the Week

Charmed Griffin

Charmed Griffin (MM, Foil Uncommon)
Start: $.75
Finish: $5.00
Gain: +$4.25 (+567%)

Quicksilver Fountain (MRD, Rare)
Start: $1.00
Finish: $5.00
Gain: +$4.00 (+400%)

Longtusk Cub (KLD, Foil Uncommon)
Start: $2.25
Finish: $7.50
Gain: +5.25 (+233%)

Hunting Grounds (CMA, Foil Rare)
Start: $9.00
Finish: $25.00
Gain: +16.00 (+178%)

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Fiery Justice (MM, Rare)
Start: $3.00
Finish: $7.00
Gain: +$4.00 (+133%)

Aether Flash (7th, Foil Rare)
Start: $6.00
Finish: $13.00
Gain: +$7.00 (+117%)

Memory Jar (URL, Foil Rare)
Start: $185.00
Finish: $400.00
Gain: +$215.00 (+116%)

Search for Azcanta (IXL, Rare)
Start: $7.00
Finish: $15.00
Gain: +$8.00 (+114%)

Nicol Bolas (LEG, Rare)
Start: $27.00
Finish: $55.00
Gain: +$28.00 (+104%)

Vraska’s Contempt (CON, Foil Rare)
Start: $5.00
Finish: $10.00
Gain: +$5.00 (+100%)

Segment 2: Picks of the Week

James’ Picks:

Thought-Knot Seer

  1. Thought-Knot Seer (OGW, Rare)
  • The Call: Confidence Level 8: $7.00 to $20.00 (+13.00/185%) 6-18+ months)

2. Sigarda’s Aid (EMN, Foil Rare)

  • The Call: Confidence Level 8: $3.50 to $10.00 (+6.50/+185%, 12-18+ months)

3. Aetherflux Reservoir (KLD, Foil Rare)

  • The Call: Confidence Level 8: $5.00 to $15.00 (+10.00/+200%, 6-12+ months)

Travis Picks:

Assemble the Legion

Duskwatch Recruiter

  1. Assemble the Legion (GTC, Rare)
  • The Call: Confidence Level 9: $6.00 to $15.00 (+9.00/+150%, 6-12+ months)

2. Phyrexian Metamorph (NPH, Rare)

  • The Call: Confidence Level 8: $9.00 to $20.00 (+11.00/+122%, 0-12+ months)

Disclosure: Travis and James may own, or intend to own, speculative copies of the above cards.

Segment 3: Metagame Week in Review

The Standard meta at the World Championships was the topic of the week, as the crew reviewed the continual narrowing of the meta into Red, Energy and UBx Control strategies.

Segment 4: Topic of the Week

Travis and James took a deep dive on the state of Magic: The Gathering branding and how it might impact the future of the game.

James Chillcott is the CEO of ShelfLife.net, The Future of Collecting, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.

MTG Fast Finance Podcast: Episode 88 (Oct 5th/17)

MTG Fast Finance is our weekly podcast covering the flurry of weekly financial activity in the world of Magic: The Gathering. MFF provides a fast, fun and useful sixty minute format. Follow along with our seasoned hosts as they walk you through this week’s big price movements, their picks of the week, metagame analysis and a rotating weekly topic.

Show Notes: Oct 5th, 2017

Segment 1: Top Card Spikes of the Week

Volrath's Shapeshifter

Volrath’s Shapeshifter (STR, Rare)
Start: $.80
Finish: $22.00
Gain: +$21.20 (+2650%)

Rishadan Footpad (MM, Uncommon)
Start: $0.50
Finish: $8.50
Gain: +$8.00 (+1600%)

Approach of the Second Sun (AMK, Rare)
Start: $.75
Finish: $3.00
Gain: +2.25 (+300%)

Diachan, Artful Beauty (CMA, Foil Rare)
Start: $7.00
Finish: $22.00
Gain: +15.00 (+214%)

Rishadan Brigand (MM, Rare)
Start: $7.00
Finish: $20.00
Gain: +$13.00 (+185%)

Heroic Intervention (AER, Foil Rare)
Start: $5.00
Finish: $14.00
Gain: +$9.00 (+180%)

Deathgorge Scavenger (IXL, Rare)
Start: $2.00
Finish: $5.50
Gain: +$3.50 (+175%)

Rishadan Cutpurse (MM, Foil Common)
Start: $8.00
Finish: $22.00
Gain: +$14.00 (+175%)

Hostage Taker (IXL, Rare)
Start: $7.00
Finish: $18.00
Gain: +$11.00 (+157%)

Mirari’s Wake (CON, Foil Rare)
Start: $35.00
Finish: $80.00
Gain: +$45.00 (+129%)

Segment 2: Picks of the Week

James’ Picks:

Thought-Knot Seer

  1. Thought-Knot Seer (OGW, Rare)
  • The Call: Confidence Level 8: $7.00 to $20.00 (+13.00/185%) 6-18+ months)

2. Sigarda’s Aid (EMN, Foil Rare)

  • The Call: Confidence Level 8: $3.50 to $10.00 (+6.50/+185%, 12-18+ months)

3. Eldritch Evolution (EMN, Foil Rare)

  • The Call: Confidence Level 8: $5.00 to $15.00 (+10.00/+200%, 6-12+ months)

Travis Picks:

Assemble the Legion

Duskwatch Recruiter

  1. Assemble the Legion (GTC, Rare)
  • The Call: Confidence Level 9: $6.00 to $15.00 (+9.00/+150%, 6-12+ months)

2. Phyrexian Metamorph (NPH, Rare)

  • The Call: Confidence Level 8: $9.00 to $20.00 (+11.00/+122%, 0-12+ months)

Disclosure: Travis and James may own, or intend to own, speculative copies of the above cards.

Segment 3: Metagame Week in Review

The guys talked over the most recent Standard results, pointing out the dominance of Walking Ballista, Hostage Taker and The Scarab God.

James Chillcott is the CEO of ShelfLife.net, The Future of Collecting, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.

UNLOCKED: The Watchtower 10/16/17

By: Travis Allen
@wizardbumpin


Don’t miss this week’s installment of the MTG Fast Finance podcast, an on-topic, no-nonsense tour through the week’s most important changes in the Magic economy. And if you enjoy playing Magic, make sure to visit https://scry.land to find PPTQs, SCG Opens, and more events on an interactive map with worldwide coverage. Find Magic near you today.


Nationals was back this weekend, and people were loving it. Players across the world took part in their country’s event, and it was clear across social media that this wasn’t just another tournament, that Nationals means more to people than just another GP. Nationalism is not always such an innocent motivator, but at least this weekend, it brought out the best in countrymen. Especially Brazil, whose team of three — yes, all three — are Pro Tour champions. One is even in the Hall of Fame! Hardly a fair fight, guys.

Nationals brought us Standard lists, the SCG Open brought us two Modern events, and EDH continues to be a driving force in the markets.

Confiscation Coup

Price Today: $.25
Possible Price: $3

While UB Control won US Nationals, various forms of energy took 9 out of the top 16 slots, including second place in the hands of Gerry T. In every single one of these lists we can find at least one, and usually two or three Confiscation Coup. Wizards has a long history of printing various permutations on Control Magic, and some have been quite good (Threads of Disloyalty) while others have been unplayable (Willbreaker). Confiscation Coup is looking to land firmly on the top half of the scale.

It’s not so much that Coup is a pushed or especially powerful card, so much as it is that energy is not a balanced mechanic. As a result, Coup ends up playing as one of the best Mind Controls ever, since it isn’t an enchantment, but rather a sorcery. This alone is a meaningful difference. Add in that The Scarab God and Hazoret the Fervent are two major threats in the format, threats that are highly resistant to typical forms of removal, and you’ve got a recipe for permanent control effects to rise to the top.

Coup is never going to be an expensive card, let’s make that clear. It is a useful card though, and it could end up moreso in the coming weeks. If you’re able to snag these for $.25 each, you’re going to have no trouble trading these away for $1 or even $3 each at your local store. For armchair speculators like myself whose primary outlet is selling online they’re probably not worth it, but if you still grind trades locally, a couple of cheap stacks of Coups could turn into some real cardboard on the trade tables.

Angel of Sanctions

Price Today: $1.75
Possible Price: $6

Blue sorceries aren’t the only way to deal with annoying gods. Back in Amonkhet Wizards gave us another answer that’s been quiet thus far; Angel of Sanctions.

Sanctions clears out Scarab Gods and Hazorets while simultaneously presenting an evasive threat, which is beyond helpful when you’re trying to not die to your opponent’s best card and also close out the game. Given that Sanctions is a temporary answer, closing out the game is of course important.

Sanctions’ four toughness is particularly appreciated against red, where Lightning Strike isn’t enough to finish it alone. Then, even if they do manage to destroy Sanctions (but not with Fatal Push!), you can just embalm it to run it back. Sanctions isn’t a permanent answer to either Scarab God or Hazoret, but it can typically manage for at least several turns. And all of this is just about those two threats. Don’t forget it hits all non-land permanents, which means you can aim it at God Pharaoh’s Gift, Anointed Procession, and other annoying creatures, Walking Ballista chief among them.

At $1.75 for a playable, useful mythic, I’m tempted. I’m not expecting this to blow up or anything, but it could easily show up in more strategies than we’re seeing today. How about a 4x Hostage Taker, 4x Angel of Sanctions deck? Makes me long for Eldrazi processors again. In any case, it’s not hard to see how Sanctions could make the climb to $5 or $6, maybe even more.

Heirloom Blade

Price Today: $.75

Possible Price: $5

On the Commander side of things, tribal continues to dominate the most popular decks of late. One of the biggest hits out of Commander 2017 to join along in that ride is Herald’s Horn, with a price tag today of $6. Heirloom Blade is at $.75, and it’s possible that’s out of sync with where it should be.

Herald’s Horn is currently logged in 1,700 EDH decks. Heirloom Blade isn’t in quite that many, rather, a little over 800. That puts it at about half the popularity of Herald’s Horn today. Both are in two Commander 2017 decks, so it’s not like one is more available than the other. If we assume these numbers should be in equal ratios, Blade should cost about 50% of Horn today, or about $3.

And that’s just today. Tribal will continue to be popular for several more months, with Rivals of Ixalan promising to continue the trend set forth in Ixalan. That means more cards that help tribal strategies and more attention on those types of decks. All of these new tribal tools also make other tribes more attractive. My personal project, Clerics, is far more viable now with more cards like Horn and Blade floating around.

There’s no reason Blade shouldn’t cost nearly $3 right now, and that number should rise over the coming months as supply drains and there are more signals to push people to tribal strategies.


Travis Allen has  been playing Magic: The Gathering since 1994, mostly in upstate New York. Ever since his first FNM he’s been trying to make playing Magic cheaper, and he first brought his perspective to MTGPrice in 2012. You can find his articles there weekly, as well as on the podcast MTG Fast Finance.


 

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