Snarkmas 2015

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Previously, on Accumulated Knowledge…

“So I’m doing some research on card prices right now… I’ll have most of this information synthesized in next week’s article.”

“I’ll be back next week with a more focused, technical article talking about what looks good and what doesn’t long term.”

*GUNSHOTS* “Get down!” *EXPLOSION*

“TELL US WHAT YOU KNOW ABOUT THE DEVICE! NOW!”

*CLICHÉ TORTURE SCENE CLIPS*

“End of the line…”

*Fade to black*

Welcome to another installment of Accumulated Knowledge, the last one of 2015. A couple of things occurred to me last week as I was working on this piece:

  • Everything in Standard is so cheap right now (especially BFZ), that the answer to pretty much everything is either “buy it now!” or “this card isn’t good, so don’t bother!” That’s not a fun article to write, and it’s probably not very fun to read.
  • I’m still in my first calendar year with the MTGPrice family, so if I want to come up with cool/clever/contrived traditions, now is the time to start.
  • Prices are unlikely to shoot up before I start AK back up in two weeks, so the impetus for getting this information out to you “on time” isn’t really there.

So with all of that being said, we are going to celebrate the holidays by doing what I treasure most this time of year: putting off doing something boring until January! Welcome to the first annual…

ACCUMULATED KNOWLEDGE SNARKMAS SPECTACULAR!

This is going to be a “best-of [YEAR]” style article with my own brand of edgy but accessible humor, as well as some holiday treats and even some musical guests1! Honestly, if you’ve made it this far you’re probably going to read the whole thing regardless, so let’s get started!

I’ve also made this article free for everyone, because pageviews are my lifeblood I’m a kind and generous hero! Hooray for me!

BEST NEW SHOW INVOLVING MUPPETS IN 2015

“The Muppets” on ABC. It’s really good!

BIGGEST MAGIC COMMUNITY ISSUE IN 2015

This one was a buzzer beater, but the answer is undoubtedly the Oath of the Gatewatch leaks. Magic has had these kinds of issues for as long as I can remember (I believe Judgment was the first major online leak), and they are really bad for the game in a number of ways.

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The first issue is that most of the cards that get spoiled are rares and mythics, which were likely going to be previewed by another site or source. Now you’ve ruined the surprise of the card, as well as had a negative impact on a community site or member that likely has a financial impact, as well. If only 50 percent of people visit a site to see a card that was already leaked, you’ve cut that site’s clicks in half, which means less compensation from advertisers, which means no money for Christmas presents for their kids.

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I also think that the damage done now is different than the Rancored_Elf days because Magic casts a much wider net. When leaks like Judgment one happened, the Magic community was almost entirely the competitive community. Now there are so many ways of playing and engaging in the game that a leak totally torpedoes the excitement of a subsection of the community when its big surprise gets ruined.

The last point I’ll make about that is this: I keep thinking back to how amazing and exciting the reveal of Damnation was2, and how that incredible, memorable moment would have never happened if the card had been spoiled early.

All that being said, let’s talk about some of the spoiled cards (I know, I’m the worst).

Nissa, Voice of Zendikar: At 1CC, it’s tempting to compare this with Jace Beleren and Liliana of the Veil. That will not end well for Nissa. I’m not sure that any of the decks that want to immediately to use her second ability wouldn’t be better off playing the new Gideon instead.

Chandra, Flamecaller: This costs six mana, so it’s virtually useless. Chandra is the Britta of planeswalkers.

Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim: I was really trying not to play Shambling Vent in my Abzan Aggro decks because it comes in tapped, but Ayli is such a good two-drop that I may have to regardless. This is a card that definitely feels pushed for Constructed, even if you never get to activate her last ability.

Wasteland (Expeditions): I wish I could tell you that this would create a statistically significant amount of Wastelands so as to breathe life into Legacy, but I don’t think that it will. What this will do is bottom out the price of every rare in the set, and probably most if not all of the mythics also. This is the most important Expeditions land of all the 45.

Forbidden Orchard (Expeditions): Someone with a lot of influence in or around Wizards of the Coast plays Oath of Druids in Vintage. That’s the only explanation.

Kor Haven (Expeditions): I blame Sheldon Menery for this one. Dust Bowl I can understand, but seriously?

Tectonic Edge (Expeditions): F*** you.

CHRISTMAS MOVIE THAT YOU SHOULD WATCH

Jingle All the Way! This movie holds up really well, and has a pretty impressive cast. Definitely in the upper tier of Christmas movies.

OVER-RATED CHRISTMAS MOVIE THAT YOU’LL PROBABLY END UP SITTING THROUGH THIS YEAR

Polar Express. This isn’t really intended to have humor for kids and adults like Jingle All the Way, so I can’t knock it there. Here’s the thing that I always think about when it’s on though: can you think of a movie Tom Hanks has done in the last twenty or so years that ranks below this? I couldn’t get through all of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, but that had more to do with the film being twenty minutes too long in my opinion. Tom’s had a lot of hits in his career, so I guess when I’m watching Polar Express all I’m thinking is, “We could be watching Catch Me If You Can right now!”

BEST NEW MAGIC-RELATED THING IN 2015

Arena of the Planeswalkers! In his Drive to Work on hooks in games, Mark Rosewater stated that for the vast majority of games, there is a very small life-cycle. Sadly, this is probably true with Arena, which itself is a revival of a game (Heroscape) that died off a few years back.

Arena is really fun, and it does a good job of integrating the kinds of gaming strategy that Magic (the card game) doesn’t have access to—things like spatial awareness and establishing territorial advantage. The only problem with Arena, and what has likely killed it, is that there was no “out of the box” variety: the rules were written so broadly as to be modular with new expansions almost to the point of being unnecessarily complex, but there were no extra pieces to choose from. The first expansion was promised for January 2016, and I plan to buy it for sure, but I have a hard time expecting that there will be any others after that. If you find a copy while out shopping (at one point Amazon had them for $18), pick it up. It’s a great way to game the winter away, even with non-Magic playing friends and family.

WORST NEW MAGIC-RELATED THING IN 2015

Magic: Puzzle Quest! Even though Arena is a totally different style of game, it takes a lot of the soul and spirit of Magic and incorporates it well; the two feel symbiotic.

With Magic: Puzzle Quest, however, the marriage feels forced—it’s a match-three puzzle game with a gimmick and a #brand makeover. The cards used in the game have no relation to their real-life counterparts, and the whole of the narrative in the story mode is core set flavor text. It feels like a game that was designed by people with no background in Magic, but received the needed corporate stamp of approval from someone on the Hasbro totem pole.

The fact that it’s a “freemium” game only makes things feel cheaper, although that’s likely to be expected in 2015 (Hearthstone remains one of the only games to feel both freemium and respectable). There is a ranked play option, and after 33 matches, I am (as of this writing) the 15th highest ranked player in the game. For most of those games, I didn’t entirely understand the rules (I’m still a little foggy), and am at the point where I need to win dozens of games to catch up with the players ranked ahead of me. I have no real interest or incentive to do so. Also, of the 33 matches, I have only played against non-green “decks” three times (players only have the choice of the five mono-colored Origins planeswalkers and their associated decks). That means more than 90-percent of the competitive environment is one style of play—worse than anything experienced in the paper game’s history. I genuinely doubt the Puzzle Quest designers know or care. If Duels of the Planeswalkers is the digital lead-in to paper Magic, then this unpolished simulacrum is an equally likely deterrent.

HEARTWARMING MTG FINANCE CHRISTMAS CAROL OF 2015

(To the tune of “Dominic the Donkey”)

Hey, chingedy ching, hee haw, hee haw
It’s writer Jim Casale!
Chingedy ching, hee haw, hee haw
Magic‘s Jim Casale
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
La, la, la, la, la, la, laeohda

Next year’s song: “Corbin Got Run Over By A Reindeer”

MY BEST DECK OF 2015

Abzan Aggro (prior to BFZ)! We chopped the top eight and I left without playing, but I’m confident I could have run the whole table. This list was great.

SIGN THAT MAGIC IS GROWING LIKE CRAZY

We even have a morning show now! I expect MTG Breakfast to be on in the waiting room next time I’m getting my oil changed.

CARDS THAT YOU’LL WANT IN FIVE YEARS

One of the most painful things in Magic is looking at prices of cards that you used to own. Here are the cards that are around $5 or so that you’ll be kicking yourself for not holding onto in a half-decade (as well as a percentage degree of confidence):

Dragonlord Silumgar: Not the best one to lead off with, but I’m seeing prices north of ten and south of five on this guy already, and the foils are floating around $30. Giving him a low degree of confidence, but as a mythic dragon, there is nice casual appeal baked in. (15-20%)

The Great Aurora: It’s a splashy mythic from a core set that is going to be difficult to reprint and is currently under $1.You don’t have to like this card to appreciate those factors. It may never be a breakout Constructed staple, but it could have a price trajectory similar to Darksteel Plate or Asceticism. (65%)

Clever Impersonator: Another casual card, this just feels too cool to stay below the price of a booster forever. (45-50%)

Shaman of Forgotten Ways: I don’t think this was banned in Commander, right? If it wasn’t and it never is, this is an early game ramp spell and late game finisher. (50-75%)

Kiora, Master of the Depths and Sarkhan Unbroken: Planeswalkers almost always have a higher floor by virtue of their card type. The only reason these make the list and the Khans version of Sarkhan doesn’t is that he was more pushed for Constructed, and these are more for casual play. The other Sarkhan is good for your cube, though. (90-100%)

Crux of Fate: A black sweeper that can leave you with your finisher unscathed. It’s probably not going to make it into most Modern decks, although it could always go in a Gifts Ungiven package. I don’t know that it has enough in it to get past the point where buylist numbers exceed the current price, though. (15-25%)

Zurgo Bellstriker: Probably not the best back-up to Goblin Guide since we have Monastery Swiftspear, but 2/2s for one mana always have appeal. (25-30%)

Exquisite Firecraft: Being a sorcery hurts, but three mana for four damage is in that sweet spot where a lot of decks may try and make it work anyway. (50-75%)

Siege Rhino: Sometimes I think about how good Loxodon Hierarch and Ravenous Baloth were and then I look at Siege Rhino and smile. This card is already being played in Modern, where Abzan is a perennial favorite. The Duel Deck foils are dirt cheap, too. (65-70%)

Tasigur, the Golden Fang: This is played in Modern, Legacy, and Vintage, as well as Cube (and probably Commander). This card inspired this segment, and is probably the closest thing to a guaranteed winner possible. I’m not scared off by his reprint in the Event Deck, since that was on a small scale. (95%-100%)

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

I know that the holidays mean different things to everyone, but I just want to wish you and yours the best, and say the words that everyone needs to hear at this time of year:

“May the Force be with you.”

See you in January!

Best,

Ross

1 Not really.

2 For you new folks: the day Damnation was revealed, visitors to Daily MTG where immediately shown a huge copy of Wrath of God and then watched it morph into Damnation. This was before the current age of social media, so most people experienced it without knowing. It was hands-down the best reveal Wizards has ever done.

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7 thoughts on “Snarkmas 2015”

  1. My friend actually plays Dragonlord Ojutai in his Gifts Ungiven deck, which makes Crux of Fate look even better.

  2. Jingle All the Way! sounds terrible, first thing against it is that its Xmas themed and it doesn’t have Nightmare in the title.

    I appreciate the leaks. I don’t appreciate page views or ad revenue (yay adblock) but I do appreciate free information for all that wish to have it. All spoilers generally go onto one popular site as soon as they go online anyways.

    I enjoyed your speculation on cards to keep for half a decade 🙂

  3. is there anywhere in the motherships archives the magnificent piece of revealing Damnation to be found? Has anyone a link?
    Thx, and merry christmas, guys!

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