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Traderous Instinct – 100 Random Thoughts

Sometimes it’s best for me to write a cohesive article that tries to make a salient point through exploration or analysis.

Other times there are a lot of fractured thoughts kicking around in my head that I just want to get on the page.

This is one of the latter times.

There’s so much going on this week in Magic and in my life that I couldn’t limit my article to just one thing.

Instead, I’m giving you a hundred.

Below are one hundred random thoughts that I’ve been musing about lately. Some are connected, and some are not. Some are about Magic finance, and some aren’t even about Magic at all.

Regardless of what formats you play, I think you’ll find some juicy nuggets in here. And if you don’t like what you read, just move on to the next thing! It’s ADD journalism at its finest.

Counting Up

1) A card I’m picking up everywhere in trades: [card]Birthing Pod[/card]. Not only is it a blast in Standard, people are brewing with it in Modern as well. The card is just an awesome time, and I can’t imagine it will be going down in price. I can still find them in binders for $3-$4, and I expect to be able to move them for $6+ without issue.

2) Innistrad is a set built around death triggers. Chances are, there will be some spicy new pod interactions with creatures that have Morbid.

3) I’ve also been trading for every copy of [card]Phyrexian Metamorph[/card] I can find. It’s my favorite card in New Phyrexia, though, so I might be biased.

4) I’m less all in on [card]Blade Splicer[/card], but it’s still a card I love trading for right now. Most people value them around $2, and it’s seeing more and more play. It’s $4 at the moment and could go higher.

5) [card]Tempered Steel[/card] is an $8 card now! I picked some up at $5 last week thinking I would be lucky if it had hit $6.

6) People will be playing Tempered Steel decks well into the next standard season, because it is explosive and fairly cheap to build. I’ve even seen some rogue affinity brews with the card in Modern.

7) It’s interesting where we as a society have drawn the line on exploitation. For example, drug addiction, certain mental illnesses (like hoarding), overeating, and sex addition are perfectly fine to show in prime time on national television. Yet there isn’t a series about, say, schizophrenics. I think part of that comes from the fact that addiction is a misunderstood disease that largely feels like a choice, even when it isn’t for those who have it. We’re ok poking fun at hoarders and morbidly obese people because in the back of our minds, we think, “they could always just stop eating/keeping so much…”

8 ) My initial, visceral reaction to the double-faced cards on Saturday night was worse than any MTG-related announcement since the introduction of the modern card frame in Eighth Edition.

9) I still believe that the modern card frame change was a mistake, gorgeous foils notwithstanding.

10) After 48 full hours and all seven stages of grief, I am at peace with the decision and willing to give Mark Rosewater the benefit of the doubt.

11) I would have had an easier time doing this if I didn’t feel that Wizards has had its worst year creatively in a very long time. The terrible SOM draft environment, [card]Dismember[/card] & [card]Mental Misstep[/card], Caw Blade and the first standard bannings in years, R&D admitting they didn’t even notice the interaction between [card]Splinter Twin[/card] and [card]Deceiver Exarch[/card], M12, and From the Vault: Legends were all ‘misses’ for me.

12) The Commander decks were my one ‘hit’ of the year, though I did enjoy the ‘fair’ Phyrexian mana cards as well.

13) I was apocalyptic about what double faced cards would to do draft before I learned that there will be one (and ONLY one) in every pack. I still think it’s going to cause a nightmare in draft environments with players who don’t really ‘get’ signaling. Players at random FNMs are likely to assume WAY too much based on who takes what double faced card.

14) As someone who loves foils, I am super unexcited about premium versions of these cards. Having to take them out of a sleeve multiple times each game and let people paw all over them means that they will degrade very quickly. I am not planning on adding any of these to EDH decks or my cube for the same reason – the awkwardness of these cards completely outweighs the coolness to me.

15) I expect mint/pack fresh versions of these foils to hold a premium as they will be far rarer than pristine versions of single-faced cards that can spend years in a sleeve.

16) The time for rampant Modern speculation is over. All the Ravnica dual prices went down, and the ‘bubble’ days of the format are coming to a close. If you have a ton of random Modern stuff sitting around from speculation, you should sell immediately. And by immediately I mean last week.

17) That said, MAN did prices go crazy! Some big price movers in the past two weeks (all prices CFB): [card]Life from the Loam[/card] from $3 to $18. [card]Gifts Ungiven[/card] from $3 to $14.99. [card]Vesuva[/card] from $8 to $40. [card]Plow Under[/card] from $1 to $10. [card]Tooth and Nail[/card] from $10 to $18. [card]Arcbound Ravager[/card] from $18 to $25. [card]Vedalken Shackles[/card] from $12 to $18. [card Kira, Great glass-spinner]Kira[/card] from $16 to $20.

18) You probably knew most of those cards had gone up due to Modern, but I bet you didn’t know just how much.

19) The shockland prices on CFB are stable or down across the board from the height of Modern speculation. [card]Steam Vents[/card] from $35 to $25. [card]Hallowed Fountain[/card] to $40 from $45. [card]Temple Garden[/card], [card]Sacred Foundry[/card], etc. holding at $25.

20) Also down $5 to $35? [card]Vendilion Clique[/card].

21) For the record, I sold ~40 of my personal Ravnica duals to Channel Fireball on their buy list. These weren’t cards I was ever planning to sell, but I felt that the price was at its highest point and I could re-buy them later. Not being totally sure, though, I kept around ~10 of the worse condition ones to trade away in the coming weeks. I now wish I had sold these too.

22) Welcome to the brand new era of targeted Modern speculation! The cards that actually see a ton of play in winning decks will either stabilize or rise in price. We will know far more about the metagame after the PT this weekend, when there are likely to be several ‘breakout’ cards no one saw coming.

23) If you are a speculator, hang out on Twitter during the first few hours of the PT and see what’s hot. Buy in accordingly.

24) According to MTGO daily events, the most popular winning decks in modern right now are Twelvepost, Hive Mind, Splinter Twin, Pyromancer’s Ascension, Dragonstorm, Melira Combo, Affinity, Elves, Jund, Merfolk, Zoo, Boros, and Living End.

25) By far, the most played winning deck is Twelvepost. Expect this to be the initial bogeyman of the format, and make sure you have a plan to beat it.
Staple commons in different versions of the deck to pull out of your bulk boxes/get foils of: [card]Glimmerpost[/card], [card]Cloudpost[/card], [card]Ancient Stirrings[/card], [card]Wall of Roots[/card], [card]Expedition Map[/card], [card]Overgrown Battlement[/card], [card]Explore[/card], [card]Simic Signet[/card], [card]Condescend[/card], and [card]Reap and Sow[/card].

26) Possible cool tech for the deck: [card]Amulet of Vigor[/card]. The card has gone from $0.25 to $2.00 on most dealers’ sites overnight. The card has always been close to broken, and it works well even in multiples in this deck.

27) Channel Fireball is selling [card]Amulet of Vigor[/card] for $4.99 – foils for $9.99.

28) Full disclosure: I’m all-in speculating on this card. Worst case I will hoard them until the day they do get broken.

29) I expect [card]Phantasmal Image[/card] to see significant play in Legacy, Modern, Extended, and Standard over the next year.

30) You can still get this [card]Phantasmal Image[/card] in trade for around $3. My LGS still had several at $3 in their binder until a couple of days ago.

31) Go look through Modern daily event lists and see how many Ravnica duals are NOT seeing play. Most decks are running between zero and three of them, even if they are 3+ colors.

32) Lands that are seeing far more play: [card]Vesuva[/card], [card]Horizon Canopy[/card], [card]Dryad Arbor[/card], [card]Dreadship Reef[/card], [card]Eye of Ugin[/card], the Zendikar fetchlands.

33) Another shocker: how poorly aggro and midrange decks are doing in Modern right now. People who predicted a whole field of zoo are wrong. Most of the field is combo or ‘unfair’ control decks like Twelvepost.

34) If this doesn’t change, Modern will flop. Magic formats are at their healthiest when a variety of strategies can compete, and at its most reviled when combo decks are strongest. This is a large reason why Extended has been so unpopular for so long – playing against a field of Hypergeneisis and Thopter/Depths is a slog and a half.

35) Remember when everyone you knew was brewing up decks for ‘Double Standard’?

36) It’s been largely forgotten, but there’s still theoretically an Extended season coming up.

37) Remember when [card kozilek, butcher of truth]Kozilek[/card] was spoiled and [card]Eye of Ugin[/card] hit $20+ overnight? It’s a $2 card now, and it’s actually seen a reasonable amount of play considering what it is.

38) [card]Eye of Ugin[/card] is still a mythic rare from a small set.

39) If you want to buy a copy of [card]Through the Breach[/card] right now, it’ll cost you around $8 despite having been a bulk rare for years. It is pretty close to strictly worse than [card]Sneak Attack[/card] in Legacy.

40) While the card is not making any waves in Modern right now, look for it to pop up if/when [card]Cloudpost[/card] is banned or the subject of undue amounts of hate. The Eldrazi titans are likely to show up one way or another.

41) Last week, I learned that some stores have a separate buy price for ‘in store’ vs. online. They’ll give you more money online because the cards go directly into inventory, saving them time and allowing them to pay you more. If you are going to trade in your cards in person, make sure you find out if you’re leaving money on the table first.

42) Some cards currently sitting in my ‘future spec’ box at home: [card]Terrastodon[/card], [card]Mimic Vat[/card], [card]Praetor’s Counsel[/card], [card]Command Tower[/card], and [card]Lurking Predators[/card]. Most I picked up for close to bulk in trade, and expect will become $3-$5+ due to EDH once the supply starts to dwindle.

43) Also in my spec box: [card]Manriki-Gusari[/card]. I bought in at $0.25, and the card is pretty good in endless Legacy equipment fights.

44) I have a causal deck from back when Time Spiral was the current set that uses [card]Vesuva[/card] and [card]Cloudpost[/card] to power out [card]Dark Depths[/card] tokens with [card]Explore[/card] to speed up my mana. The deck was as budget as can be back then, with Explore at ~$5 the most valuable card. Now it’s, uh, worth a bit more.

45) Yesterday morning, people noticed that Star City had started charging $16 for [card]Misty Rainforest[/card] and [card]Scalding Tarn[/card]. The community seems to be split on this, half saying that the price will go down upon rotation and the other half claiming that this is the new price point for the card.

46) I am of the mind that you should get your Zendikar fetchlands now. Some people will sell when Standard rotates, but enough people play older formats that they should stay stable and probably rise a little bit over the next year.

47) Everyone expected the Onslaught fetches to take a dive when they rotated out of Extended. Their prices didn’t even budge. That’s what happens to cards that are the best at what they do in the entire game.

48) The Innistrad enemy M10 duals went on sale at SCG earlier this week for $5 each, and promptly sold out. They went back up for sale at $6 each, which seems to be the going retail rate.

49) $6 is likely the correct medium-term retail price for these cards. Buy in (or not) accordingly.

50) That said, we as a community can’t whine too much about absurd retail preorder prices for things when we shell out for them time and again. If a retailer puts up 20 cards for sale at a price and they sell out instantly, they will raise the price as they should.

51) A lot of people are speculating that the Scars duals will go from $3-$4 each up to $7-$8 each after the Zendikar fetchlands rotate.

52) [card]Darkslick Shores[/card] already retails between $6 – $7.

53) A cautionary tale: people said the same thing about the Worldwake manlands, which saw a lot of play this time last year. Their price did nothing. Perhaps that was just because Jace and SFM cost so much and the EV of the packs couldn’t go past a certain amount, though.

54) It was very interesting watching the Jon Finkel/Alyssa Bereznak online dating controversy go viral on Twitter all day Monday. I got the link from someone I follow when there were only 2-3 comments up. Ten minutes later, Evan Erwin picked it up and the whole community started discussing it. A few hours later, it made the front page of Reddit. By the evening, CBS news had picked it up. It was bizarre seeing my non-Magic friends discussing a community issue.

55) It’s very interesting how the internet quickly made this a ‘good vs. evil’ battle without looking at all the facts. One of the interesting things about the Reddit thread was a response from another girl who had gone out with him and said his behavior was less than stellar. A few reviews of “Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids,” a book about him, also allude to him using sleazy pick up artistry techniques to get dates. I don’t know Jon Finkel – he could be the perfect gentleman. And I’m certainly not defending Alyssa’s horrible article. But I’m also not certain he is the man we all want to project all of our ‘nice guy’ nerd frustration onto.

56) I loved how wonderfully thought out and perfect Jon’s Twitter and Reddit responses were to the controversy. The guy played the situation perfectly. No wonder he was the best Magic player in the world for a while.

57) Until this week, my collection had been organized in binders, each 9-pocket page side containing two full playsets with the middle slot left empty. The problem with this method of organizing is that the large sets have really heavy, unwieldy binders.

58) I’m currently going through my entire collection and culling the chaff – all the commons and uncommons that I’ve only ever played in draft and will probably never see play in any deck I ever make again, casual or otherwise. It’s very liberating.

59) [card]Cemetery Reaper[/card] is an interesting speculation target for Innistrad. I would like it more if it could remove ANY card in a graveyard as opposed to just a creature, which means it is bad tech against flashback. It will certainly see casual demand as a lord for a solid causal tribe – you will be able to trade these at your LGS.

60) You can still find [card]Cemetery Reaper[/card] for $1.00 pretty much everywhere.

61) I think it’s funny that I’ve had 2-3 people tell me I should have been an even harsher critic of FTV: Legends in my article last week.

62) I’m very excited to see which offhand thing I say this week will inspire the most anger and discussion in the comments.

63) This weekend, I will be flying to New Hampshire and officiating a wedding between two of my best friends. While preparing, I learned that it really isn’t all that hard to marry someone. For $20, New Hampshire allowed me to have a one-day license as long as I was ordained in my home state. Doing that took a five-minute Google search and a free form on a website. The entire process only took about a week.

64) I have several more friends that will likely put me in the wedding party if/when they get married, but most of them are pretty well single at the moment. I only have one real shot to get tagged as the best man, and I’d actually be secretly disappointed if he named someone else when the day came.

65) My least favorite side-effect of Modern: the price of unopened Ravnica block packs. Every year I want to buy several boxes for drafting, and now it’s just too expensive.

66) As someone who has avoided pop music since 1998 or so, I’m pleasantly surprised whenever a song I actually like starts seeing mainstream radio play. I wish it happened more often.

67) A few notable examples: 2003’s “Hey Ya,” Modest Mouse’s “Float On” in 2004, “Listomania” in 2009, and last year’s rise of Cee Lo Green. I’m currently digging the fact that Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks.” Is starting to make the rounds beyond the indie circle too.

68) Why is [card]Commandeer[/card] only a $2 card? Playable in Commander and possibly tech in Modern as well.

69) [card]Gilded Drake[/card] is awesome in most blue/x Commander decks and is on the reserved list. It is currently listed here for $14 and sells over $9 with regularity on eBay.

70) [card]Treachery[/card] is awesome in EVERY blue/x Commander deck and is on the reserved list. It is currently listed here for only $10 and sells around $7.50 on eBay.

71) Regardless of how well Mentor of the Meek does in Standard, it will be in all star in every white/x token, weenie, or aggressive Commander deck. Sleep on this guy at your own risk.

72) A look back at my New Phyrexia set review shows that I was pretty far off base on most prices. Even though I predicted lower prices across the board than almost every other set review, they were still too high. I whiffed on [card]Spellskite[/card] too, though again so did almost everyone else.

73) I am proudest about my calls that [card]Birthing Pod[/card], [card]Blade Splicer[/card], and [card]Phyrexian Metamorph[/card] would be good but I underestimated their value by a fair margin. It was overall not my finest piece of work. Calling [card]Despise[/card] over [card]Dismember[/card] as the constructed uncommon out of black was gigantic swing and a miss.

74) I would love to see a Red Sox/Yankees ALCS and a Philly/Milwaukee NLCS this year. I’m not getting a “flukey bad team that gets hot at the right time” vibe from anyone, so I expect two of the teams that have been consistently good all year will be heading to the series.

75) It’s odd having to justify my allegiance to the Red Sox to pretty much every non New Englander I meet. In my childhood, they were the lovable losers. I lived through the Ed Sprague/Craig Grebeck years and all the times Pedro’s crappy older brother took the mound against the hated Yanks. Then came the 2004 miracle and the 2007 drubbing and suddenly the Red Sox were the same as the Yankees to everyone else in the country. Yeah, the payroll got bigger, but they’re still $40mm/year under the Yankees and 10mm/year under the Phillies, a team that doesn’t get nearly as many “you just bought all the guys you wanted” accusations. Heck, they’re only 10mm/year over the Angels, who everyone has decided is a pile of scrappy underachievers.

76) Honestly? I blame the Patriots. They lost for years too, and when they started winning they became the swagger-filled decimators of the NFL. They didn’t just defeat their opponents – they obliterated them. I think most of the Red Sox hate is really just spillover Patriots emotion.

77) The [card]Venser, the Sojourner[/card] and [card]Stonehorn Dignitary[/card] combo in Bant Pod is really funny. It’s about as weak as a two-card combo can get, especially in a field where you need spot removal or you’ll just die to Splinter Twin, but there are some games it will straight up win. Not bad for like 3 slots in a deck.

78) The best & most popular decks in standard right now are Valakut, Caw Blade, Goblins, Splinter Twin, UB Control, Bant Pod, RUG Pod, and Tempered Steel.

79) Valakut is stone dead after rotation. Caw Blade is dead, but U/W control will be around somehow. Goblins will likely morph into a different red deck. Twin is dead. UB control and the pod decks will have to regroup, but should survive in some form.

80) [card]Solemn Simulacrum[/card] and [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card] will be as good or better post rotation If you plan on playing them, get your set now.

81) Make sure to closely follow the titan carousel to see which one is the next to see extensive play. I predict we won’t see much of [card]Primeval Titan[/card] in standard next year, but that won’t stop him from being a powerhouse in both Extended and Modern.

82) Speaking of [card]Primeval Titan[/card], how good is [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card] in Modern? It can go big for the titan or act as a [card]Rampant Growth[/card] for 1 with [card]Dryad Arbor[/card]. The card is sneaking back up in price – up to $8 on CFB – but you can still find them everywhere in trade for the old price of $5.

83) I know I’m a pretty bad nerd for admitting this, but I’ve only just gotten around to playing Portal. I had high expectations, and they’ve all been met or exceeded. If you haven’t played the game yet, seek out a copy and do so immediately.

84) I don’t know what it is about M12 draft, but I feel like it’s just ruined everyone’s signaling. I’ve been seated next to good and bad players over the past several weeks, and almost every time I ended up in the exact same colors as the guy feeding me. Last week, my first three picks were [card]Fireball[/card], [card]Shock[/card], and [card]Fireball[/card]…and the guy passing to me took [card]Flameblast Dragon[/card], [card]Incinerate[/card], and [card]Gorehorn Minotaurs[/card] in his first three.

85) These facts have gotten longer as the article has progressed. It’s time for a few short ones in the home stretch.

86) There’s a reason Alternate 4th Edition hasn’t caught on among most collectors: who can tell the difference from across the table? Pimp cards need to be instantly recognizable as rarities.

87) Foil Zendikar basics are $7-$15 retail now, and non-foil Zen basics book around $0.50. Yeah, that’s full-on retail at the moment, but there’s only one direction these lands are heading in…

88) The joke would be on us if [card]Gruesome Encore[/card] ever became constructed playable.

89) This Craigslist ad has to be the weirdest collection of Magic collectables that are worth money but no one actually wants that I’ve ever seen.

90) I’ve managed to go this far without bringing up my super liberal political viewpoints…but don’t jinx me!

91) Ever since I ran my token article, I have come across approximately zero people willing to part with their rare tokens as a throw-in. I guess everyone I trade with reads my writing!

92) If you aren’t on Twitter, it’s time to get on the bus. I was a holdout too, but now I tweet on a constant basis. Pretty much all of the top MTG financial writers/speculators are having conversations about cards and formats all day long, and nearly every card that goes up in price shows up on my feed at some point before the rest of the community knows about it. Seriously – make an account. Follow me @chasandres and the rest of the MTG financial community too. If you’ve been putting it off, now is the time.

93) If you’ve never been to the west coast, you could do a lot worse than a three-week road trip this autumn. Fly into Vegas for the SCG open, drive to San Diego for the GP, and then up the coast to San Francisco for Worlds.

94) Magic has had fluctuations, sure, and prices go up and down each year depending on the seasons and what formats are popular. But the game as a whole hasn’t had an actual market correction since Chronicles. It’s been either stable or going up for almost twenty years now. People have lost confidence in cards and formats, but never in the game at large. That’s damned amazing, though it cannot last forever. A time will eventually come with the entire market will take a dive.

95) Of course, how low would, say, Underground Sea have to go before people just said, “screw it! I’ve always wanted one – I’m buying in.” Some cards – the best ever at what they do – will always have value.

96) What would your Magic experience be like if Wizards ever stopped printing the game or really did ruin it for good? I’d keep my cube and EDH decks intact for sure. I’d imagine independent organizations would run eternal formats with their own banned/restricted lists too. And we’d see a large rise in playgroups building their own sets for draft. The community would probably stop growing that day, but barring major world-changing events it would take at least 20 years for Magic to really die.

97) I’m years away from even thinking about having a kid, but one of the days I’m already excited for is teaching them their first game of Magic.

98) Eric Klug has had a few chances to alter the Power 9 and has come up with outstanding results. I am of the belief that there are only two truly world-class alterists working right now, the other one being Sandreline out of France. She has yet to work on power…

99) …until now. I am in discussions with her to alter my cube set of beat Unlimited power. We have a spicy theme cooked up for the entire set that will make them the most beautiful pieces of power I could possibly own. I am beyond thrilled.

100) Ultimately, there are enough things I love about the game that nothing Wizards can do will ever ruin it for me. Even if they never print another card I like, there’s enough cardboard out there to last me a lifetime.

So next time you get frustrated about double-faced cards, modern prices, the jerk in your LGS who mocked your deck, or some stupid e-date who rejected you because you’re passionate about something, focus on the places the game has taken you, all the sweet plays that are still yet to be made and decks that are yet to be built. Think about the friends you’ve made and kept and the beautiful pieces of art you’ve been exposed to.

If you don’t have the passion anymore, don’t play.

Magic will be waiting if you ever want to come back.

….

That’s it! One week, 100 thoughts!

Until next time –

Chas Andres

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