Newspapers came first.
Well, technically I think shouting at other cave people came first. If you had big news about how the mammoth hunt went, there was a grunt dance you had to do for the tribal chief. It had lots of oogahs and boogahs and one of those sticks they used to have at the Disney Store where you turn it upside down and it kind of sounds like rain.
By the 20th century, though, newspapers had become the dominant form of news delivery. After that came radio and then broadcast television and then cable television and then 24-hour cable television and then internet articles and finally social media. If you like getting lots of information very quickly, it has been an improvement. If you like getting accurate information, it has been a disaster.
Eight years ago reading my articles every week would have been enough for you stay ahead of the curve on Magic finance. You’d be getting all the information before those poor slobs still relying on print sources like Scry and Inquest, putting you at a major advantage. Back then anyone with knowledge of "internet prices" could go into local shops and clean up, buying underpriced or mispriced singles and flipping them to those in the know.
Nowadays I write my articles on Wednesday or Thursday, and by Monday when they go up half the information is already outdated. I want to tell you that Griselbrand is shooting up right now and the smart money is on picking them up ASAP, but what’s the point? By the time you’re reading this, all the cheap Griselbrands on the internet will be gone. They’re probably gone by the time I’m writing this.
Many of my best articles tend to work well as a retrospective of what happened last week (Griselbrand) as well as providing a look forward (Splinter Twin?). You might not have time to buy in on Griselbrand, but at least now you’ll know not to trade or sell yours at last week’s price if you missed out on that headline. And even if not all of the info in these articles is actionable, I think there’s still a place in the world for solid analysis. If journalism devolves entirely into a pile of easily discarded quick takes, we’ll all just sort of keep reacting to stuff without understanding why it’s happening. The early bird catches the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
Of course, sometimes it’s better to just get the worm. Assuming you’re a metaphorical bird, metaphorical worms are pretty awesome. They’re all wriggly and delicious, and if you get them first, you can squawk to all of your friends about how good they taste.
It’s 2013, and reading this column alone just isn’t good enough anymore. If you aren’t tracking prices and trends in real time, you’re missing out on all the best speculation opportunities. Information is now instantaneous, so make sure you’re getting it before everyone else—even if it isn’t necessary correct.
Reddit gets a bad rap around these parts.
For whatever reason, even though a good 75% of my online time is spent interacting with Reddit or a link I found on Reddit, the Magic community hates the place. In my struggle to understand why, I reapproached the site as an outsider and attempted to see why so many people found the site unbearable.
For starters, the default subreddits—the forums you are automatically subscribed to when your first join or are forced to interact with when you don’t have an account—are among the most polarizing and juvenile on the site. Denizens of r/politics hate pretty much all conservatives and moderates as well as Obama and most mainstream Democrats. The atheism forum—which was a default subreddit up until a few months ago—is openly hostile to anyone with faith in a higher power.
Without logging in, you’re also blasted with a full assault of memes, rage comics, advice animals, and other pieces of lowest-common-denominator humor. In addition, Reddit’s open world nature has helped foster some disturbing subcultures, gross-out forums, and men’s rights activists. Even though that stuff isn’t right there on the front page, the fact that it’s lurking somewhere beneath the surface is both scary and icky.
The reason that so many Magic community folk in particular are down on Reddit is that the subreddit for discussing the game, r/magictcg, doesn’t have a very high level of discourse. On the day that I started writing this introduction a few months ago, here were the top posts on the forum:
1) Can you help me with this rule I don’t understand?
2) Mirror of Fate + Lab Maniac = Standard combo!
3) What cards are gonna get reprinted in Commander 2013? Maybe some ones I want?
4) My comic is about how Magic can make friends get mad at each other.
5) Can you help me find some good combos?
6) I made my basic lands look like Minecraft.
7) I made some Unglued II cards based on Mark Rosewater article.
8) Dang, if you put "Turn" on your deck registration instead of "Turn // Burn," you will get a game loss.
9) Are Event Decks any good?
10) I’m new to Magic Online. What are some tips and tricks?
11) Check out this game state on my kitchen table right now.
12) What is this weird card? (It was an artist’s proof.)
13) Is blue "just bad" in Standard right now?
Wanting to see if this was just a bad day, I waited a while before finishing this article so that I could see if things had improved. Here were the top posts on the forum last Thursday:
1) This die might make it easier to track the P/T of a Tarmogoyf.
2) My card got altered! Check it out!
3) Do you ever take apart the pre-made decks you can buy and like make your own?
4) Who is YOUR commander? Mine is a guy.
5) This is a proxy I made.
6) This Theros Draft article seems bad. Is it bad?
7) Should I put Madcap Skills in my Standard deck?
8) Dang someone bought a graded Black Lotus for 27k.
9) A video where Felicia Day and Day9 play Magic (probably awesome).
10) Which basic lands have the best art?
11) I made a life counter.
12) Hey guys, what cards go with Zedruu?
13) Dang, Thoughtseize is basically Distress except it costs one mana less.
So yeah, chances are the regular readers of r/magictcg are much more casual than you, the StarCityGames.com Premium subscriber. And yeah, there are creepers and worse hidden in the bowels of Reddit. That still shouldn’t stop you from using the site.
For one, r/magictcg is kind of a neat celebration of what makes Magic fun. Are Minecraft alters or Garruks made to look like Gene Simmons in full KISS makeup going to help you make money or play better? No. There’s a lot more to Magic than finance and game mechanics though, and the Magic subreddit is fantastic at reminding me just how fun and deep the game actually is.
R/magictcg also provides a good reminder of how most people approach Magic. We who live and breathe the game can often forget just why a card like Nemesis of Reason climbs to $7 retail. If you only play in tournaments, that price sounds like crazy talk. Staying up on casual demands and trends is essential for making smart deals and squeezing as much profit as you can out of your collection.
Reddit is also home to r/mtgfinance, a community that currently has about three thousand subscribers. I feel like a lot of people gave up on r/mtgfinance early on, but the subreddit has finally started to blossom into a useful resource.
Right now there are basically three kinds of posts on there:
1) Read this article! It is my article, and I made it.
2) Heads up! This card is moving up/down, and you should buy/sell.
3) I don’t have time to think for myself. Is this random card/product worth buying?
Over time the number of posts that fit into the third category has been shrinking, and the subreddit has become more of an actual place where smart people discuss their specs. There are generally two or three useful and interesting discussions every day, and I recommend joining their community.
Really, this entire article was an excuse for me to tell you who to follow on Twitter. Twitter is the most useful tool in Magic finance by far, and most of the information in my articles is aggregated from a large group of followers who live all over the world and interact with the game in different ways.
Unlike Facebook, with its variably updating newsfeed and sprawling interface, Twitter is built to get information across as quickly as possible. While the character limit is off-putting at first, it’s great for something like Magic finance where the most useful bits of info can travel in quick hits. Twitter still doesn’t quite have a handle on the best ways to format interaction between multiple people (recent changes have made this worse). but it’s still a level above Facebook in terms of functionality.
Here are a few people I recommend following on Twitter if you want accurate information quickly:
He’s Magic’s Head Designer—what more do you want? If anything huge happens in the world of Magic, Mark is generally online talking about it. His Tales from the Pit comics are usually good for a laugh too, and he tweets a new one each morning.
The Director of Magic R&D. He’s unusually forthcoming from time to time about design and development issues, and occasionally he’ll ask a question that will spark widespread community discussion. When the topic at hand is about a card’s power level or an Organized Play situation, it’s very relevant from a finance perspective.
The Director of WotC Organized Play. Again, OP changes are very important in the finance world, and Helene is great about responding to questions and concerns. If there are issues with tournaments, you’ll want to know about them, and following Helene is a good way to stay in the loop.
It’s good value to follow LSV. You don’t need to follow all the pros if you don’t care about their private goings-on, but Luis is always jumping in on community issues, talking about the decks he’s playing, and making awesome puns.
Is there a more influential player in Magic right now? As the MTGOpocalypse unfolds, it’s worth seeing what Kibler has to say because his words have enormous impact. He also gets into really interesting conversations about design and development as well as deckbuilding.
Ben is the man behind the curtain at StarCityGames.com. He’s their buyer, and he’s also the guy who sets the prices. He doesn’t tweet much, but occasionally he’ll let the community know when he raises the buy price on something big or the latest spoiler has just gone on sale. This information is almost always relevant.
Jason is everywhere. He writes for Quiet Speculation as well as a handful of other sites, he’s on podcasts, and he’s one of the most prolific posters on r/mtgfinance. He’s also very prolific on Twitter, and his works speaks for itself. Follow him.
Corbin is another tireless worker, churning out articles for multiple sites (including Quiet Speculation), burning the midnight oil on r/mtgfinance, and shouting all day on Twitter. He’s a sportswriter too and has gotten into League of Legends a lot recently, so his tweets aren’t always about Magic finance, but when they are he’s always on point and ahead of the curve.
Rarely off-topic, Sigmund spends a ton of time doing thoughtful analysis and thinking it through with others on Twitter. You won’t get too many random tips just dumped online from him—instead, he’ll engage everyone in a discussion and try to reach a satisfactory conclusion. Sig is a stock-market guy, so he tends to analyze Magic in terms of the broader investment perspective.
Marcel is the melodious voice behind the Brainstorm Brewery podcast, which is pretty freaking awesome if you haven’t checked it out yet. He’s also very active on Magic Online, and his online spec calls are usually very good.
Ted is kind of a big deal on Magic Online. Ted thinks big, acts big, and is usually pretty up front about what he’s up to. His tweets aren’t only finance-related—he covers all aspects of Magic.
Jonathan plays a ton of formats and focuses a lot on high-end foils and other "pimp" cards. If those prices shift much, he’s on it.
Heiko is a Japanese vendor and the #1 Twitter resource for anything having to do with Japanese cards and prices. I can sometimes feel at a loss when dealing with foreign cards, and reading Heiko’s feed helps me make sense of the foreign markets.
Nick is my favorite follow on Pro Tour or Grand Prix day. He’s always got the best information from the floor, and he’s generally an hour or two ahead of everyone else. I haven’t always made money on cards Nick has touted, but he’s never been wrong about a sleeper card about to burst into the public eye. He’s very sharp and aggressive.
Heath runs MTGO Traders, and he was the one tabulating prices and figuring out redemption strategies last week when Magic Online tanked. He’s a numbers-oriented guy who does a lot of business online.
Igor is all finance all the time. He’s a vendor in Indiana, writes a column, and does a lot of online trading and selling. If there’s a finance conversation going on, Igor is probably involved.
Should you follow Dr. Jeebus? That depends on whether or not you can deal with your blood boiling over every couple of weeks. Jeebus prides himself on being a troll, and he’s going to say stuff that will set you off no matter what. His financial analysis tends to be pretty good though, and he does actually run a brick-and-mortar shop—a rarity for a finance type on Twitter. Follow at your own risk.
Paul is a finance writer for Legit, and his advice is exactly that. He’s been all over the Magic Online crash, and he tends to be very active online during Pro Tours and other times when cards are skyrocketing in value. If he’s crowing about a sleeper hit, you probably want in too.
Me! Come for the finance talk; stay for the inane ramblings about Red Sox baseball, television shows I like, and Arcade Fire.
Travis writes good columns for MTGPrice, and he brings a lot of that verve to Twitter. If he’s online and there’s news in the community, Travis is usually right there giving some really good advice.
This is the Twitter account for the best Magic Online price-tracking site. MTG Goldfish will often send out updates on how the online market is doing. Invaluable in a crash or surge.
Ross has been playing Magic pretty much forever and is always one of the most active names on my feed. He doesn’t tweet about finance much, but when he does it’s about some random old card you probably had no idea even existed.
Ryan is another Brainstorm Brewery host and the weekly finance columnist for Gathering Magic. Ryan is both conscientious and sharp, often approaching finance puzzles from a unique perspective. He’s got an especially good handle on Standard and is clutch during spoiler season.
Even if you don’t follow any of these people, it’s worth keeping up on the #MTGFinance hashtag. While not everyone uses it, most of the biggest news is tagged accordingly, and it can be a good way to catch up during a major event or market shift.
This Week’s Trends
– Modern stuff is starting to move. Griselbrand was the first—several outlets started paying more than $10 for NM copies of these, which caused a mini-run on the market. SCG still has some SP copies available for $14, but I don’t think those will last much longer. This will be a $25-$30 card before long.
– A few people noticed that Splinter Twin was selling at $10 and above throughout Europe and tipped off the US market. SCG is sold out at $5, and you can’t get sub-$10 copies anywhere anymore. If you see any, pick them up.
– I’m not sure which card will be next, but Phyrexian Obliterator, Karn Liberated, and Birthing Pod are all on my short list. Modern season is still months away, but I’m expecting certain cards will start popping up as the finance community clues in on them. Staying ahead of these trends is a good way to make money. Follow all the people I told you to follow on Twitter and you’ll be well positioned.
– Big-box stores are still restocking Commander 2013 decks. Mind Seize decks are still fairly easy to find at retail, and you should still pick them up. True-Name Nemesis will start to fall a bit, but long term it will be a $40+ card.
– Restoration Angel is up to $6 again, and a lot of the other rotating stuff is bouncing back. Last chance on Innistrad cards.
– The initial crash from the MTGOpocalypse is over. Priced dropped about 20% and then stabilized about 12% under the pre-crash values. If you want to buy in now, feel free, though once Worth comes back in mid-December and tells us that the large tournaments won’t be back until spring (my guess) I bet everything will drop 20% again.
– Standard is very diverse right now. Pick up a deck and enjoy!
Until next time –
– Chas Andres