Category Archives: Think Twice

Magic Online Sucks Part Two

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By; Camden Clark

Today, I could have talked about the Modern PTQ season and cards to pick to capitalize on it.

However, there is an issue far more pressing than the Modern PTQ season.

It is the lack of one on Magic Online.

Not only were this but the issues I outlined in the article I wrote last week barely scratched the surface of the issues. I feel obligated to go deeper on the many issues with the Magic Online BETA and, more importantly, how this affects everyone who is investing in Magic at all.

Without further ado:

The Beta Part Two

I touched on the trading issues but the magnitude here is huge.

The beta makes trading between players more complicated and impossible. With the introduction of the “trade binder” system, the Magic Online developers had an opportunity to code an “auction house” or a way to seek out other players who have matching haves and wants in order to be able to support the economy. The old client’s infrastructure of merely marking cards as “tradable” made this infrastructure impossible. 

This opportunity was missed and thus the economy defaults to the limiting economy of the bots. However, few bots can work on the beta. The bots drive the economy of Magic Online. They make everything tick. If the infrastructure cannot support bots, the economy suffers.

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The beta makes trying to find a game ridiculously complex with a system that is both inefficient and worse than the old one. I appreciated the old categorization system that allowed easy access to the room with Scheduled Events, one for Limited Events, etc. There was a simplicity that made it easy to find a game.

The new system is contrived and confusing. It is the kind of system that makes you wonder, “How could this be designed so poorly?”

As an aside, it is extremely embarrassing that Magic Online still does not have a Mac version. Although this does not affect me personally there are many players who would appreciate a Mac version. The beta ignores this and furthers the issues by being based on Visual Basic (a Microsoft program) which will cause inevitable issues in a transition to Mac.

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The failure of the beta to address any of the underlying issues is not only the current developer’s faults. I honestly think it is the underlying infrastructure that causes this. It begs the question:

Why was Magic Online created in the first place?

Magic Online failed from its inception to recreate the fun of interacting with other players to play the same game. The token trading and classifieds system incentivized the creation of bots to drive the economy. There was no underlying infrastructure to allow easy trade between humans. None of the…magic of paper Magic exists on Magic online, except the game itself.

The logical conclusion is that Magic Online exists merely for players that are serious about the game and just want to grind against other competitive players.

The infrastructure is well set up for this: bots allow players to purchase cards at insulting upmarks and Wizards sanctioned tournaments allow the best players to shine.

However, there are so many inefficiencies in the programming that these growth problems were inevitable. When you have thousands in a tournament and your code is poor there will be problems.

It has hit this ceiling. The beta client attempts to paint over these problems with flashier graphics but misses the point that there are issues in the underlying infrastructure. Since the beta must connect with the old client it means the underlying infrastructure is still there. That does not just go away.

The beta should have scrapped that baseline and figured out a way to transfer the cards over to the new system. It would suck and be annoying at first but at least they would be doing something. The developers have dug themselves into such a deep hole with this it seems there is no way out.

That does not excuse the…

Insults

The handling of Magic Online’s issues has been insulting at best.

I think the easiest description of WOTC’s indifference to the issues is the simultaneous release of a new product, Vintage Masters, while cancelling the entire PTQ season.

Really? I mean…REALLY?! 

Vintage Masters looks like a good product. R&D is WOTC’s strong suit and I have no doubt it will be a very fun set to draft. Nevertheless, it is insulting to cancel ALL Pro Tour Qualifiers for the upcoming season at the same time as releasing a new product.

That shows WOTC does not care about returning service that the competitive players want and use Magic Online for. They only care about getting the product that people will pay seven dollars (7!!!) a booster for.

That, is insulting.

If Magic Online was created to serve a more competitive crowd, it fails tremendously. Once you cancel PTQs on Magic Online, what is the point? It exposes Magic Online as being a cash grab for WOTC.

People spend so much money getting Modern decks online. They spend more money on Daily Events to prepare for the PTQs that should be online. Even the cheapest of the Modern decks are still hundreds of dollars. If you want to play Jund you will be paying about a thousand dollars.

Prices will catastrophically drop with this news. It will be immensely hard to sell cards back to the bots at even a small fraction of the price.

The players are getting alienated. PTQs used to run, at least. Now there is nothing but the Daily Events and the draft room.

Not only were the PTQs cancelled but the MOCS finals were cancelled as well. Many players grind Magic Online just to get QPs (qualifier points) just to get into the MOCS tournament which has a very good payout. With these cancelled, there is no reason for these people to play Magic Online more.

The vision of Magic Online was to allow for people who did not live near a local PTQ to be able to go into a major event and have that opportunity. You could also participate in a few of the Magic Online PTQs to be able to play at that competitive level outside of local events. That is all gone now.

Magic Online has failed in every respect to accomplish anything and is an insult to anyone who supports WOTC.

The Economic Effects

This obviously has many implications for the wider world of MTG finance.

Modern PTQs will not run which means that there will be no event reports that show the best decks on Magic Online. That removes a HUGE gap in the potential information we had to invest on. We are entirely dependent on local PTQ results which may or may not reflect the wider metagame.

Many of the potential opportunities are gone. Whether you like it or not, Magic Online is where all of the professional players come to test their decks and play in PTQs. As more and more players lose their faith in Magic Online it will lose its importance. There will not be as much data for us to scour.

We are already seeing the effects on Magic Online itself. Past in Flames has dropped by 5 dollars. The economy cannot support being tested like this.

It shows in real life too. WOTC looks inept. The situation is embarrassing. There is a general low morale for anyone who has ever booted up Magic Online.

Conclusion

It is really a shame what has developed on Magic Online. There is no end in sight to the problems.

There is no timeline for a full switch to the beta. There is no timeline for the resumption of MOCS and PTQs. There is no timeline for a Mac client.

The only timeline we have is the release of the cash cow Vintage Masters.

That should be eye-opening to how WOTC really feels about Magic Online.

There is no outreach. The “community outreach” people for Magic Online fail to acknowledge the glaring issues with the infrastructure or provide a solution to them.

The players on Magic Online are not valued by WOTC. They can release anything and people would buy it. Drafts will continue to fire. People will continue to invest thousands into Modern, Standard, and Legacy decks. Why do they do that? Because they love the game. Not because Magic Online is worth anything.

I am going to stop with the Magic Online articles for now. I hope to revisit at a time when there is good news to talk about. I am not optimistic. I don’t see an out for the developers to create a better client. We were screwed from the start.

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Magic Online Sucks and You Should Care

By: Camden Clark

I recently booted up a game called Hearthstone.

You may have heard of it like I have. There are thousands and thousands playing this game as we speak. It is made by Blizzard and features similar mechanics and a lot of shared cards with the discontinued World of Warcraft trading card game. However, it is entirely online.

Hearthstone is well designed. It features a well thought out tutorial and a brilliant user interface that is flashy and intuitive. It took me only a few minutes to figure out how to do virtually everything in the game. The crafting interface makes up for a lack of trading and is extremely innovative. “The Arena” is similar to drafting in Magic Online except that you can stop and start in between games and picks and the drafting is single player.

People are flocking to this game in droves. Streams have went from a few hundred viewers to competing with League of Legends. This is astonishing growth for any game and shows how well designed this game really is. Even many Magic Online streamers have moved to Hearthstone.

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Magic Online is, by contrast, poorly designed. It never really occurred to me how broken Magic Online really is until playing a better game. The sheer apathy towards improving Magic Online is insulting to everyone who pumps insane amounts of money into the system.

What exactly is wrong with Magic Online?

Event Cancellations

If Magic Online is so broken that their premier tournaments, the Magic Online Championship Series, and the Pro Tour Qualifiers are being cancelled, something is seriously wrong. Many professional players use Magic Online as a platform to play PTQs if there is not one locally. Aspiring players who live in more rural areas may not have an opportunity to play Magic Online.

Read the full announcement here: http://www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.aspx?x=mtg/daily/other/03112014/ptqannouncement

One comic line from the release follows:

“our high standard of fidelity”

If you have played Magic Online, you’ve experienced the irony of WOTC’s official jargon. If you have not booted up Magic Online you cannot even fathom the joke that WOTC maintains a “high standard of fidelity” for Magic Online but I hope I can give you even an idea of what long time players have experienced.

Not User Friendly

Imagine you are new to Magic Online. You want to play standard. You boot up Magic Online and sign in.

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This is what you see when you first log in. You say, “oh, I need to trade for the cards… what do I trade them for? Money?” Eventually, after much googling and asking random people, you realize you have to use the currency of event tickets to purchase cards. Thus, you buy event tickets. Now you are ready to trade with all the other real live human beings on Magic On–

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-what?

What is this bull? I guess there are bots to get the cards you need but how would you know that? How do I know if I’m not getting ripped off? Are there standard card prices? Can I have a fraction of an event ticket or will the bot store the credit for me? What if the bot runs off with my credit? Do I have to keep credit on a bunch of different bots just to get the cards I need? Can I trade with real people? Are there real people who want to trade with me like in real life?

These are all obvious questions that you would have to ask if you were playing on Magic Online. The only good answers are ones provided by third parties. WOTC, despite incentivizing the use of bots due to the broken and unhelpful trade system, fail to address the obvious issues that a new player would face. They sidestep them and pretend like they don’t exist.

For example, look at this conversation between me and one of the WOTC employees on Magic Online:

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As told, I go to the auction chatroom

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I find nobody. Ok then, I’ll check the classifieds again…

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There are almost no human people trading for cards on Magic Online. You MUST go to the bots or you will never successfully construct a deck.

Why didn’t WOTC create a system to find other people who want to trade the same cards? You could put a “want” list and an “offer” list. It would be simple to program this even with the online currency. However, we are left to sludge through the bots to find all the cards we need. These bots need to turn a profit and therefore cards have a steep markup compared to the buy price from the bots.

A common counter to this argument is “well, card shops are the same way.” Sure they are. But there is almost NO way to get cards by human trading. This turns off many more casual players who just want to build fun decks with their friends. It makes Magic Online a grind and only for the most masochistic of us.

The poor design aspects of Magic Online are very apparent once you consider why Magic was a popular game anyways. People enjoy the social aspect of gaming. They want to hang with their friends and play Magic. They want to build decks and show them off. They want to trade with other players. Magic Online ignores all these elements and supplements a poorly designed interface instead of creating an engaging game.

Worsening Prize Support

I recently vented about the worsening prize supportThere have been so many recent reductions in prize support for events and lowering the amount of events for various formats. The support in the community shows how everyone else is angry about this.

Many say “well, redemption makes it so the heightened prices and low prize support have some paper backing.” However, I can say it no better than /u/falterfire:

“Fine, let’s stop ignoring redemption for a second – Every non-redeemable product is still equal in price to its paper counterpart. Commander decks are still $30. Duel decks are still $20. Heck, Vintage Masters is absolutely completely non-redeemable and is $7/pack.”

It is painfully obvious how this is a big deal. While WOTC cancels many events, they are charging 7 dollars a pack for a brand new product.

The Beta

I wish I could say things are looking better for the Beta. They aren’t.

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I just want to play Magic!

Trading is even worse on the beta and virtually impossible for anyone to figure out in less than an hour. You have to “create a trade binder” and fill it with the cards you want to trade. However, you also have to mark it as the “active trade binder” which took me a while to figure out. Then there are the bugs. I know it is in beta but the bugs are astonishing. Cards appearing in double on the trade client is inexcusable and really annoying.

Just about everything with the beta is more annoying or broken. Sure, it looks a little nicer. It still sucks and addresses zero of the underlying problems with Magic Online.

Why You Should Care

It would be nice to say that this is the extent of the problems with Magic Online. In all honesty, I’m barely scratching the surface in this article. People pay so much just to get onto Magic Online that we should be entitled to a working, efficient client.

Ultimately, all of this has a major effect on the paper market as well. Magic Online is where many of the professional players test their decks and test the new drafting formats. If less people are playing PTQs online there is less obvious experimentation with the format. This means there are less opportunities.

It also looks really bad on the game. The relationship between WOTC’s client and Hearthstone are analogous to the differences between a Geocities blog and Twitter. WOTC’s client really looks like trash. It looks like a ten year old designed it (perhaps that is insulting to ten year olds, they would probably design a better system). It is the laughing stalk of the gaming world. Yet, WOTC makes bank off of people who sludge through the embarrassing client just to play the awesome game that Magic is.

If Magic Online plays poorly, less people will want to play because the testing platform is annoying. The fundamentals of Magic Online’s design were all wrong.

This is why I wanted to create an initiative to boycott MTGO until the issues are addressed. There was a lot of support from the community and if you want to participate be sure to follow: https://twitter.com/mtgoboycott

Magic Online shouldn’t suck, but it does. The long and short of it is that it is an embarrassment to anyone who has ever played Magic, especially when compared to its main competitors. What issues have you had with Magic Online? Leave it in the comments.

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Channeling Emotions

By: Camden Clark

Emotions are an integral part of investing. They determine how we feel before, during, and after an investment that we make.

When it comes to MTG finance, there are very few articles deciphering the emotions within the context of Magic: the Gathering.

This is especially dire considering the effect emotions have on the game outside of speculation. As card game players, we are all subject to runs of good and bad luck. Respectively, we have ups and downs emotionally. Some people react to luck with superstition, some with rage, some with apathy. Regardless, we play this game that features the interaction between luck and strategy which is balanced quite well.

With investment in Magic cards the same emotions are at play. There are the ups and downs, the fear and bravery.

Except, this time, there is money on the line. It is more important here to be in tune with how you are feeling and how that influences the decisions you make.

Thus, it is valuable to take some time out to explore the reasons we make the decisions we make.

Fear

It is January of 2014. You have a few playsets of Remand but are concerned about a possible reprint due to its conspicuous absence from Modern Masters. Naturally, you fear a possible reprint of Remand which would depreciate the cards price. 

How about another hypothetical? You are on ChannelFireball.com at exactly 9PM PST. Travis Woo’s article is up. It has a new spicy brew that could pick up a lot of casual players. The brew features a card that is virtually bulk at the moment. But what if this deck doesn’t get any traction? Then you are stuck with these one-hundred of these bulk cards.

These hypotheticals are not far from real cases and fears people have. Fear can cause hesitation and lack of confidence. Conversely, fear can cause one to sell out too quickly before making any profit or even “cutting your losses.”

As much as fear is dangerous it is an important emotion to utilize as it provides a filter for all the potentially bad decisions you could make. I specifically use the terminology “in tune” because it quite accurately describes how you need to relate to fear. You need to take into account how fear may drive you away from these bad decisions but also how it could limit your decisionmaking.

One way to channel your fear is to do more research. To take one of the hypotheticals from above, if Travis Woo’s builds always cause a price jump on the cards that he builds around, let that guide your decisions as opposed to blind fear which can make you hesitate. The best antidote will be your own research and experience.

Ultimately, you have to be willing to take the dive or let a bad spec run its course. If you are taking major hits by selling out, choose not to sell out.

It all goes back to channeling your knowledge and experience as a player to determine from case to case where you should suspend your reservations or when it is best to move in.

Euphoria

It is easy to get wrapped up in your successes and feel unstoppable. If you are coming off many successes in speculation it can get difficult to say no to yourself. Investment may become an impulsive activity.

If you just made a whole bunch of money off of Restoration Angel, then Birthing Pod, you might be more likely to invest in the next Nivmagus Elemental. Controlling yourself after coming off a chain of wins is quite difficult and takes an enormous amount of self-discipline.

The best way to channel joy is to let it motivate you. Getting excited and pumped about wins should motivate you to examine what it was that made those decisions good decisions and rolling with those methods. It should influence you to do more work and try to replicate the wins you have just came off of.

However, do not let joy blind you. This is the main pitfall of this emotion. You have to stay rigid and do what works for you or you will get burned hard.

The best companion to euphoria is a healthy dose of fear. There are two types of stress, eustress and distress. Eustress is the positive type that motivates you to do things. Distress is negative and can cause you to have panic attacks. Channel eustress from fear to counteract the negative effects of getting overconfident.

Anger

How many times have you watched a twitch.tv streamer yell into their microphone and shut their stream off in frustration at the seventh land that has come off of their deck?

I have personally seen it far too many times.

Now how many times have you watched a popular twitch.tv streamer do the same thing?

I’m willing to venture a lot less.

Randomness is an inherent part of the game we play. We have to take risks and sometimes get punished for them.

Just like in Magic’s gameplay, investment is never a “sure thing.” There is always inherent risk in any investment. Many investments are a promo away from tanking.

It is very easy to get just as wrapped up in failure as in success.

The best thing to do is get some perspective. Take a break from the grind. It will make you a healthier and happier person. After you have taken a break, you will be able to approach everything with fresh eyes and not make rash, emotional decisions. Perhaps you even focus on playing the game you spend time investing in as opposed to only being focused on the bottom line.

It might be a good idea to reconsider why exactly you are into Magic finance when you get angry. The reason most of us get into MTG finance is because we like the game. You should get excited for playing the game and watching the players you like play it. That will reinvigorate you and refocus your efforts as opposed to wallowing in anger.

Complacency

When you are making money it is easy to get complacent. You won’t pursue new avenues to make money or might even ignore great opportunities to make serious cash.

It is hard to determine when you are getting complacent or if it even matters to you. If you are making money it can be difficult to realize the potential of thinking outside of the box and opening up new opportunities for profit.

The main way to get out of a complacent mindset is to read what others have to say about Magic finance. Try something new. Do something that looks interesting or groundbreaking. Make sure you are recording your efforts efficiently and with a focus on learning. The best thing about evading complacency is the opportunity to learn something.

This extends to what you’ve already been doing. If you fail to gather valuable data and stretch the limits of the methods you are already doing you have gotten complacent. Learn more and you’ll achieve more.

 

Many people will think that these ideas and concepts are rudimentary. However, there is value in exploring them.

The game of Magic itself is a card game. It is a game of strategy. However, it is also a game of chance. Emotions run high in a game of chance. The same people who are attracted to games of chance are attracted to using that game as an investment platform. We are all victim to our emotions at one point or another. 

Just like playing Magic, we have to use strategy to mitigate chance in the finance aspects of the game. You should be reorienting your strategy constantly in order to maximize your profit.

The key is being cognizant of the fact that we are humans. We have emotions. We act and don’t act based on those whims. Once you have awakened this self-awareness you can be more effective and objective in your analysis.

The end all be all is that you have to focus on analyzing what it is that makes you successful or not successful. You cannot be an emotionless robot. You can use your emotions to make better decisions or try something new. Even anger can be channeled into something positive.

I have become enamored with a sort of meta-analysis of the investment actions we take. It is necessary to question the preconceived notions that we have in order to get better at what it is we do.

What experiences have you had with emotions running high or low in your investments? Leave it in the comments. Thanks.

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Knowledge as Power

By: Camden Clark

As financiers, we gain the power that we have from communication.

Communication is social media.

Communication is Twitch streams.

Communication is talking to Magic players like you and me.

But above all, communication provides you with the information to make wise decisions.

Kind of like organization, communication is an abstract concept in Magic finance. We all have personal expectations for what it means and how we utilize it. However, most of us fail to see deeper. We fail to analyze whether the information we are gathering is useful and where it is produced from. Even more dangerous is receiving information and archive it but never use it.

What does this even mean?

It means we have to analyze the sources of our information.

The first level (and the most basic) is the finance level.

Twitter – Finance

If you are not on Twitter, sign up for an account now. It is almost no hassle to install on your smartphone and just follow the people who are very established and know what they are doing.

Chas Andres
Corbin
Sigmund
Jason
Travis
Also you can follow me – http://twitter.com/CamdenClarkMTG

The #mtgfinance hashtag is also an extremely valuable source of information. It can give you an ear to the ground on how people in the finance community are feeling. There are few other places where you can get random blips like this that you may have not been aware of.

I use Twitter because it is an easy and time-efficient way to interact in the MTGFinance community. There are millions of people who have accounts on this website for a reason. It provides really easy blurbs from people that are well respected.

Twitter is good for what it is but there are some inherent limitations. The 140 character limit prevents extended analysis of picks. Moreover, most of the information is not very relevant to speculation. There are simply so many people here that it becomes hard to distill valuable content from just some guy on his iPhone. Another issue with Twitter is the community centric aspect. With so many people posting it is difficult to have one tweet to have a major effect.

My advice for using Twitter is as follows: watch, but take everything with a grain of salt. It is a fun and easy way to keep an ear to the ground but following the mtgfinance people exclusively is dangerous.

Twitter – Players

The Twitter Magic community is quite similar to the Magic finance community. There are major moguls who constantly post about their records at major tournaments and talk about specific cards and decks.

There is even more information than in the Magic finance community so it becomes hard to discern what is useful and what is not. Most posts from ordinary people should have no bearing on your financial decisions or learning. In contrast, the tweets from professional players and major people in the community should have a major impact on how you think about certain cards.

A couple of pitfalls to avoid is that pros sometimes joke about certain cards or decks. There are also some professional players who tweet nothing but their records at a tournament and provide little value for finance.

/r/mtgfinance

This subreddit has a lot of potential. Recently, the community became a dung-throwing festival where posters accused the moderators of being in cahoots with content writers on a few different sites. However, I find these accusations to be untrue and most of the community feels the same way. It seemed to be a very vocal minority who believed that /r/mtgfinance was only trying to shill certain websites.

Nevertheless, after that situation the subreddit picked up steam again and seems to be back in working order.

The good things about Reddit are similar and magnified. The voting system allows content that the community feels is valuable to get more airtime while content that is not so good gets voted down. Everything in this subreddit is submitted by community members and it is extremely transparent who is submitting the content and what they hope to achieve. Discussion is amplified because each post usually gets at least three commenters who have good and unlimited analysis.

The downfall of Reddit lies in the voting system as well. Opinions outside the majority may get voted down in controversial topics, resulting in certain people’s thoughts being given little visibility. However, adopting a holistic view on reading comments and even reading those that have been downvoted will dissuade this. Another issue with this community lies in the “pump and dump” mentality of many of its users. They often post a discussion or “speculation” thread and attempt to create a buyout for the card they open a discussion post for.

The best way to use this community is similar to Twitter. It is a valuable source of legitimate discussion and can foster very good debates. The posting system creates a pseudo-filter to get rid of garbage content. Still, take everything with a grain of salt and make sure that you are making educated decisions by doing your own research

Moreover, use Reddit to ask questions and create decent dialogue. That is where you can get the most value out of this subreddit. People there have experience and you can get a variety of opinions on whatever you post. I highly recommend utilizing this subreddit not only for reading but also contributing. You will learn a lot.

/r/spikes

The subreddit for people who grind PTQs is also a great resource for determining good investments. These are the people who spend hilarious prices to buy the cards they need for their deck that they want to take to their PTQ. It is literally like being in the mind of the people that you are trying to predict.

Tournament results that get a major nod here are probably significant. They should provide you with the foundation for determining what decks are likely going to become more popular. As we approach Modern PTQ season this gets more and more important. I always talk about how open Modern still is. There is a lot of potential for specific cards and even overlooked staples to rise in major levels.

I have no doubt that if you pay some attention to /r/spikes you will be able to profit a little bit. You will also be able to pick up staples for Modern before they skyrocket if you just want to play in PTQs. This is even relevant if you don’t want to invest but just want to play Magic and not have to spend as much money.

Content Sites

There are a whole host of websites out there that push content of varying quality. A lot of it is valuable. Some of it is not. That is the double edged sword of content: it is top-down. 

However, if you are reading content by people who know what they are doing it will be quite obvious. Many of the people above who are major personalities on Twitter also have corresponding content on websites. That makes them automatically very good people to track and at the very least skim through their content.

Analyzing the utility of such content is a different story. There are very useful articles posted that go over fundamentals and examine merits of different investments. Many also examine the history of the writer’s picks or recommendations and does a self-evaluation.

These are the best type of articles in my opinion. When we go back and examine what we did and our decisionmaking process we learn new things that we wouldn’t have learned had we chosen not to examine.

I have gone over the content that comes from the financial sector. Although it is very valuable to read content and be a part of the MTGFinance community, most picks are gone by the time MTGFinance people get turned onto them.

This is why it is also useful to follow the players’ communities as well. They are the ones who buy the cards. They are the ones who build the decks that the speculators end up speculating on.

How has knowledge meant power in your experience? Leave it in the comments.

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