Privileged Perspective 2: A Fistful of Bullet Points

No time to chit-chat, we’ve got a lot to get to. What are you doing?! Go to the next paragraph, hurry!

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

I’ve lived through a lot of changes to Organized Play. I saw the fall of the Junior Super Series, the old States, Regionals, Player Rewards (I’ll mention these again later!), and more, but this is the strangest of them all:

FNMFormats

There are several interesting takeaways here.

  • First, the idea of consistently being able to fire a cube draft as a part of, rather than as opposed to, the FNM structure is exciting. It’s always hard to get enough people at the table all at the same time, and using the built-in attendance of Friday Night Magic is a great way to draft your cube with sketchy strangers and kids who don’t know what half your cards do.
  • They have just about every format but Vintage listed. Sure, it wouldn’t matter if they did, since they would almost never fire, but still—it’s disrespectful.
  • The fact that they have a choice called “Invent Your Own Format” followed immediately by “Any Combination of the Above” is possibly the most nihilistic thing I have ever seen. Screw it! LET THE PEOPLE PLAY WHAT THEY WANT. THERE ARE FANATICS OF XENAGOS TO BE WON.
  • If you’ve ever run FNMs, you know there is always a new kid who has a deck that is basically every white card he has ever seen, and there are usually some non-Standard cards in the mix. The first thing I thought of when I saw this announcement was, “Well, I guess I won’t ever have to worry about that again”. I’ll call my new format “Standard Plus Shitty Grab-Bag Commons for Middle Schoolers.”You can’t stop me!
  • Emperor is seriously underrated. That was my favorite multiplayer format, and I guess still is.
  • Story time: The only time I ever played Archenemy was at Pro Tour San Juan (what we would now call Pro Tour Rise of the Eldrazi), and they were debuting the format as a part of their “Summer of Multiplayer” program. I was pitted against Randy Buehler (the archenemy!), and my team was a couple of Puerto Rican kids who had come to visit the event site and spoke no English. Now, I speak enough Spanish to lie my way through a job interview, but trying to translate how to play actual Magic against a Hall of Famer who has, like, 1000 life and keeps drawing extra cards somehow wasn’t in my linguistic wheelhouse. So yeah, Archenemy sucks.
  • I’ve never heard of Wizard’s Tower before and it sounds dumb. I bet WUBRG the Muppet plays it a lot.

COMMANDER-ALT-DELETE

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Ross, these stories are really great and entertaining, and I would love to send you money on Patreon, but what about the REAL NEWS? We can play Commander FNMs now!”

That’s true! But I don’t think that this is going to be a major change for the format as a whole. Like any good researcher, allow me to walk you though personal experiences I’ve taken from a small sample size:

There are a handful of guys that show up at my LGS to loiter play Commander on FNM night. They do not play in the Standard tournament. Most of them have what you would consider to be competitive or powerful decks, and they never fail to show up weekly, even though the only thing they are doing is taking up valuable table space and cursing loudly. Your first thought might be, as mine was, along the lines of ,“Now they can play FNM!”

But in reality, they may not want to.

As generous as these new formatting options may seem, they are still sanctioned Magic tournaments. Many players, for one reason or another, use proxied cards in their decks, and these guys are no exception. This is our first snag to getting people to play CMDRFNM: card availability. Card availability is always an annoying argument to make, and it exists to some degree in all formats. In this case, cards may be more than a decade removed from printing, and may not be available for purchase in the store at all. The players who want to participate will power down their lists, while the rest will continue to play unsanctioned, proxy Magic for free.

forceofwillgoldborder

What will happen to those that do play? Well, the local environment will quickly dissolve into Haves and Have Nots. Competitive Commander is in many ways less balanced than Legacy or Vintage, in the sense that the padded life totals and deck restrictions actually favor combo, while pushing out aggressive strategies almost entirely. This means that the winner of the events is going to consistently be the guy who shows up with Five-Color Tutors for Turn-Two Combos, which will get old fast. The idea of a “gentleman’s agreement” in this format goes out the window when you pay $5 to play. It won’t be long until the fish go back to playing free, proxied, unsanctioned Commander, and the sharks go back to Standard, sanctioned Draft, or Wizard’s Tower.

#MTGFINANCE INCARNATE

The best weekend of the year is coming up for MTG finance people, and you may not have even been aware of it. I don’t mean some sort of cyclical, Farmer’s Almanac sort of week where prices are at their lowest (I’ll take that secret to my grave!), but it’s a week where anything can happen, and where you can get really good deals on high-profile cards. It’s Legacy GP weekend! If you aren’t sure why these are a big deal, let me walk you through a couple quick points, and then we will dive in deeper from there.

  • This is one of the few high-profile Legacy events on the yearly calendar. Sure, SCG has their circuit, but these are typically more in line with the Bazaar of Moxen or Eternal Weekend (formerly just known as GenCon). You will see a lot of players fly in from out of the country for this.
  • This is the only grand prix where players have access to Reserved List cards, or anything else below the Mirrodin line. This creates some very interesting opportunities for floor-traders and dealers going into the weekend.
  • The dealer situation at these events is typically the best of the year. You may get the big boys at most of the GPs (SCG, CoolStuff, etc), but Legacy Weekend draws out more than usual, and they bring all their high-dollar items with them.
  • Those vendors I just mentioned? They typically end up with more stuff than they want to take back home, creating a great opportunity for buyers with cash in-hand. The smaller vendors that end up with high-dollar items are also more than happy to trade for Standard staples, if you’ve ever wondered how many Elspeths it would take to make a [card]Mox Emerald[/card].
  • If you have any interest in the niche Magic markets like #JPFoils, these are basically a family reunion. Who’s hungry for casserole!

briberyjap

Some of those are self-explanatory, but let’s walk through the important parts. Legacy is a tough format to crack, since it is one of the few formats that is still defined regionally (every store has Khans, but how many have Revised?). The list of decks in the format is staggering, but there are some that you will see more often because they are easier to assemble for newer players. The percentage of those decks appearing scales with player attendance. To put it plainly, the guy with the set of Candelabras is going to show up no matter what, but the majority of people who decide to come either on a whim or with friends is likely going to register some number of [card]Fireblast[/card]s. If Grand Prix New Jersey even comes close to its lofty attendance expectations (I’ve seen numbers that would put GP Vegas to shame), then the amount of people registering these more common decks becomes a serious metagaming consideration.

Let’s use an example of this to discuss the second bullet point. Grand Prix Providence was the Legacy GP in 2011, and the format was starting to see serious growth due to the SCG circuit in the US (Europe has, for various reasons, a much longer pedigree with eternal Magic). One of the better decks in the format at the time was Merfolk, which was (and still somewhat is) very easy to put together by Legacy deck standards. The deck was all over SCG streams, and was considered by many to be a known quantity going into the tournament*. Prior to the start of the main event, Merfolk pieces saw a rise to match the obvious demand, but what really shot up were the expected hate cards. I am not proud to say how much I spent on my two of [card]Llawan, Cephalid Empress[/card], but they were some of the only available copies left in the building. Dealers were paying great percentages on them because they knew they could make a quick flip before the event started, but by Sunday evening they were back to reality. One copy of Merfolk made the top eight of that event, and I played it twice on Saturday.

*If you are playing in a Legacy tournament, knowing that you will play a certain matchup at least once is a considerable advantage, since Sideboard space is limited. Knowing you may play it multiple times over the weekend? Valuable.

Let’s skip past the next bullet, but make sure you read it. Got it? Okay.

In 2014, it’s going to be rare that you go to a GP or equivalent-sized event in the US and don’t see some combination of Star City, Cool Stuff, Card Kingdom, Strike Zone, Troll & Toad, etc. At the very big events (like this one!) though, you’ll see smaller shops come out of the woodwork, and boy, do they want to make a splash. Come Sunday of Legacy GP weekend, though, and they are looking at a lot of cards they don’t want to lug back home. You see, Star City Games (and a very small percentage of their competitors) is large enough that they have the luxury of being able to “sit” on that crimped, miscut, artist-signed [card]Moat[/card] they bought Saturday morning—they know the right buyer will come along eventually, and when he does, they will get whatever they want for it. The vast majority of vendors, however, are going home to a much more predictable market. Maybe they are bringing back some beat up dual lands because they know there are a couple guys who will pay cash for them, but for the most part, they are burdened with a lot of stuff that is going to rot in a display case for a long time.

This creates the second great phenomenon of Legacy GP weekend—the buyer’s market. Bring cash, and negotiate prices (within reason. Being a jerk by offering insulting prices is the quickest way to lose out). When negotiating with a vendor, especially on high-dollar items, consider the following:

  • How much do they have in this already? Assume that they were likely buylisting for at least 55 percent. If they weren’t, who would have sold it to them? If it is a very unique or expensive item (think Power or an absurd foreign foil), it is not rude to ask what they have to get out of it to make a deal (although I wouldn’t ask anything much more probing than that unless you have an established relationship with this dealer).

  • Keep perspective of what you’re buying. The Reserved List isn’t going away, so these prices don’t have the same risks inherent in Modern cards. With the exception of Kai Budde’s house, dual lands don’t just show up out of the blue anymore, so getting 85 percent on an [card]Underground Sea[/card] is going to be a real value.

  • Condition is always negotiable. Again, don’t be a jerk, but if you honestly don’t feel happy paying $X for Y, tell them. They will either talk it down with you, or let you walk.

With all that being said, here’s a little cheat sheet on how to plan your weekend, if you are going to GPNJ and don’t care about actually playing in it:

FRIDAY: Sell into hype with vendors, trade with players (remember, no selling to players!)

SATURDAY: Trade with vendors (how many [card]Steam Vents[/card] for your [card]Time Walk[/card]?) since they have nothing to do during the early rounds anyway. Try to learn what they need, and build a rapport. Identify which ones you will want to check in on tomorrow.

SUNDAY: Starting around lunch time, have cash and make deals.

I hope this all helps! Legacy GP weekend is also a lot of fun, so don’t spend all your time wheeling and dealing.

Come back next time, when I answer all the questions you’ve ever had about Legacy (but were too afraid to ask).

Best,

Ross

TweetTheBird

Ross Lennon

I've been gaming MtG finance since artifacts were brown.
Longtime magic player and TO.Loving husband and father. Cube > Commander.
Ross Lennon
TweetTheBird
About the Author
I've been gaming MtG finance since artifacts were brown. Longtime magic player and TO. Loving husband and father. Cube > Commander.

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