Well, 5 months have come and gone. I definitely made some mistakes, but the important part is that I’ve been able to learn some things along the way. Oh, and I did make 1002 tix in profit, so that’s cool, too. At the beginning of this competition I laid out "learning to take more risks" and "getting into Standard speculation" as my main goals. I think I’ve made some progress in each of these categories. Unfortunately, I did have some missteps where I used these two goals to justify bad decisions, something I worked to corrected in the middle stages of Battle of Tix. So, let’s look at the final numbers and some statistics, mostly just for kicks rather than to make meaningful conclusions from.
Closed Positions & EVERY transaction: https://docs.google.com/spread...
So, 1502 tix and some worthless rares that were not worth enough to sell, so I just kept them. I also had ~10 tix worth of credit spread across bots. This was ~20 tix credit when I closed out all my significant positions, but I extracted about 10 tix by selling a few of these low-value holdings. I also did a bit of consolidation, where I used MTGOTraders hotlist to find cheap cards they were buying at great prices, buy them from bots I had credit from (using only credit), and then sell to MTGOTraders. This let me turn credit from several different bots into tix with MTGOTraders. Because I used the hotlist, I even made (very small) profits for many transactions. Just a heads up as to why, if you look at the transaction log, you’ll see random things like buying and selling Chromatic Star on the last day of the competition.
My margins were okay?
During the competition, I spent a grand total of almost 5700 tix on cards, which I was then able to sell for almost 6700 tix, for my ~1000 tix profit. This results in an average profit margin of ~15%. I have no idea how good or bad that is. I know that my approach to Battle of Tix was probably the most "grindy" of all the competitors (cause I wanted to win). My ‘normal’ spec purchases aren’t nearly this grindy. I think I tried to "force it" too much during Battle of Tix, something I’ll expound upon near the end of the article.
Standard was most profitable, while Modern was most consistent.
This isn’t too surprising to me. I was pretty experienced with Modern specs coming into Battle of Tix and I’ve been playing since Odyssey block, so I lived through the entirety of the Modern format, as it was released. This gives me a good foundation for Modern, as I know the vast majority of the cards and remember old decks that can randomly be revitalized. Standard specs were something that I was pretty inexperienced with. I knew going in that that’s where the most profit can be made, as the buy/sell margins are thin (eats into your profits less), the prices were more volatile, and you can get some of the highest spikes (Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, anyone?). Legacy, I was also inexperienced with, but there are also fewer opportunities due to lackluster demand (in my opinion). Thus, I was able to turn a good net profit with Standard legal specs, but I also suffered most of my losses in this category. This bar graph shows net profit and total losses, so the losses have already been accounted for in the net profit bars (gross profit, would, of course be the sum of net profit and losses).
Also to note, I had almost 400 tix in losses. If I had simply not made any of those bad specs, I would have almost hit 2000 tix for my portfolio.
Reactive is better than proactive?
I tried to categorize all of my positions loosely based on my rational or timing for each. While the categorization isn’t going to be perfect, it gives us a little something to look at. As you can see, reacting to Decks, Announcements, and Particular events provided the bulk of my net profits. Things like cyclical patterned specs and "other" (general speculation) were the more proactive categorizes, where I attempted to spec in a way that is more true to the definition of "speculation". I suppose this isn’t too surprising, as inherent in a reactionary spec is the presence of demand. For example, I saw CatPact was doing well at GP Portland and reacted to that, buying up some Pacts & Dark Petitions. It was quite obvious that the demand would follow suit, when the deck made top 8. All I did was react to its success and buy cards before it actually made top 8. If I had blindly spec’d on Pact and Petition, I would have been waiting and hoping that a deck made an appearance, which might have never actually occurred.
This grouping also helps to put specs in different ‘baskets’ to see how certain avenues fared. For example, I did really poorly with PT SOI. For one, I got excited when Battle of Tix started and totally forgot that I’d want to spec for the PT, instead I opened a bunch of semi-long term positions on April 1st (oops). I also had virtually no time during the PT, as I was out of town with little computer access. However, we can use this to see how my ‘going wide’ approach to PT EMN worked (I’d say not bad). This is important, especially here, as the goal was to go into many specs, with the assumption some would be losers. Thus, pooling the results is the only real way to see how it worked out.
Most of my profit was from OGW and ORI
This is more trivia than sound strategy, I think. Well, I suppose there is one commonality here, empirically, it appears that OGW, ORI, and DTK all have/had relatively low supply. Low supply means higher swings in the market. When something spikes, it can spike higher if it’s already in low supply. This is in stark contrast to a set like SOI, where more than once (in the last ~month) I would spec on a card, it would get coverage, and then the price would barely move. There’s just SO much supply that a spike in demand is easily buffered (with SOI). Also, I spent alot of money on DTK. To be fair, if it wasn’t for a few very bad decisions (CoCo, Atarka, Secure the Wastes), this paragraph would be about how DTK was also a slam dunk, oops.
On MTGO, there’s little incentive to hold long term
This comes as no surprise to me. I warned about this when I went over how MTGO is different that paper MTGFinance (https://www.cardhoarder.com/content/battle-of-tix-week-3-update-mtgo-is-different-120). Prices are too volatile on MTGO and there is virtually no demand from casual and commander. This means that MTGO (usually) doesn’t see slow and steady long term growth. On top of that, there are things like flashback drafts, which violently inject new cards into the system. Again, mostly for fun, I plotted the profit for each position vs the time I held the position. As you can see, most positions were closed within 2-3 weeks. I will admit that there is a bit of a bias here. One thing that I currently struggle with is closing a losing position. I’m very optimistic and tend to hold onto specs for much longer than "I should". This is due to the boom-bust nature of MTGO. You never know when something is going to generate a spike in demand. The only thing that feels worse than losing money on a spec, is throwing the in towel and cashing out, only to see someone take down a GP or SaffronOlive post a budget deck resulting in the card you just sold rocketing in price. One good example would be Den Protector. I (stupidly) picked up a playset near the beginning of the competition (>4 tix a copy). Almost immediately, it went negative, but I stubbornly held onto it, hoping it would rise. There was a small bump during PT EMN, but I stayed the course and tried to hold out for the price to rise above the break-even point. It didn’t, and in the post-PT price crash, Den Protector went all the way down to a measly 0.6 tix/card. Of course, being so cheap meant it was now viable to use in one of Saffron’s budget magic decks! It was! And, I then almost recouped my investment. Of course, the smartest move would have been to sell my playset of Den Protectors back in April, when they started to dip and it was apparent they weren’t a major player in the metagame. This would have given me more tix to invest (opportunity cost) AND saved me from depending on a major spike to recoup the investment. Basically, what I’m getting at is that my resistance to sell losing positions is because of these (seemingly) random spikes in value that can swoop in and rescue a failed spec, so I hope for them to bail me out. However, it is something I need to (and am) actively work on. If it’s clear a position isn’t going to work out, just recoup what I can and move on!
Also, note that very few positions were negative, 4-10 positions account for >90% of my losses. Just a couple of bad decisions that I’d wished I had dodged.
I use a lot of different bots, I find it’s a good way to get an edge. Sometimes you’ll find 0.1-0.25 better buy prices for certain cards at certain bots (at certain times). It might not sound like much, but that’s 0.5-1 tix a playset in potential profit. Also, if you want to go deep (50+ copies) on a card, you pretty much have to use many different bots. Not only will selling to the same bot lower its buy price, but it will eventually just stop buying that card from you (if it even buys more than a single playset). Outing a bunch of a card means you need to sell to many different bots, both to maximize profits and to make sure you can sell all of your stock before the spike ends (in, like, an hour). So, for fun, I plotted my total purchases and sales to all the bots I used during Battle of Tix. Again, this is for fun and not an endorsement or condemnation of any bot (though cardimania and VRTStore did ban/shadow ban me and won’t return my emails, so screw those guys).
As mentioned above, I am still working on a couple of personal character flaws. I tend to hold on to losing positions like Gollum clutches the One Ring. This is A) losing me money (as these positions usually further sour) and B) losing me money (as there’s an opportunity cost to leaving the tix invested). Yes, occasionally, I will get lucky and the card will spike back up, but there is a difference between blind hope and calculated risk. Many times throughout the competition I had specs that were failing, I went deeper, and was able to turn the spec around by lowering my average buy price and selling out during a mild spike (opposed to needing a large spike had I not gone deeper). These examples are calculated risks, as I had recognized potential in the card and just needed it to be realized, which I was confident would happen to some degree at some point in time. However, for example, when I went deeper on Dragonlord Atarka during PT EMN…that was just dumb. Who wants a dragonlord when you can play Emrakul for, like, the same amount of mana (but no color restrictions)? Yeah, should have been obvious that it was a bad idea, just unfounded optimism.
I also made a huge misstep with Dromoka's Command and Collected Company in the last few weeks of the competition. To be fair, I think I was spot on with my post-PT EMN analysis of Standard (and could have made a nice little profit had I sold CoCo and DCommand 1 week after buying in). Collected Company was still king of the hill. However, I severely underestimated people’s willingness to abandon CoCo and DCommand this "far" out from rotation, so my analysis of the market was off. It could also be due to people being sick of CoCo, selling out to play a deck that is 48% but more fun (Temurge?), rather than play the 55% deck (CoCo). Also, looking back, I had not spec’d in CoCo earlier because I never imagined a standard legal rare going to 35 tix! That’s just insane to me. So, now, when CoCo has fallen to ~8-9, that’s what I’d consider reasonable and the max for a Standard rare. Thus, it shouldn’t be that odd that CoCo is at 8-9 tix, as that’s the range I would expect a Standard rare. It’s just that somehow (likely low supply) CoCo went to insane heights. I suppose that I, in the pursuit of trying to ‘learn how to spec Standard and take risk,’ had forgotten the internal metrics I have for what is a reasonable price for a Standard rare.
Here’s where I’d like to touch on the idea of "forcing it" in MTGOFinance. Starting Battle of Tix, I really wanted to win, since I can be quite competitive. Thus, I was jumping at opportunities. While that can help maximize your total profits, it will lead to a very grindy methodology (and sometimes losses due to impulse buys), with low profit margins and efficiency (lots of work). It’s much better to just go with the flow and take things as they come. Identify opportunities if they come, keeping in mind a realistic profit level, and balance that with the input time required. I think part of the problem was the time limit of Battle of Tix, not that it was too short, just that it was there at all (I hate deadlines). I like being able to open a position and say "this will work out, I don’t know when, but it will." For example, I bought tons of Heartless Summoning on MTGO years ago. Along come the Eldrazi and Heartless Summoning is suddenly in a deck (for, like, a week), it spikes, and I can make some easy profit. As another example, when I was selected for Battle of Tix I got "more serious" with my specs, in preparation. Outside of Battle of Tix (so, in addition to all of these specs listed here), I made an average of 360 tix profit per month, since March. Of course, caveats include a higher bankroll and those numbers only include closed positions. But, my point is that I think I fare much better going with the flow and not setting deadlines. At the very least, it’s vastly more efficient that trying to eek out every cent (not my normal strategy), as I frequently did with Battle of Tix. I know that that ~360 tix/month profit from Non-Battle of Tix specs involved probably an order of magnitude less time input.
Lastly, let’s take a look back at my Battle of Tix articles. I tried to do some widely-applicable pieces explaining my perception of the Finance of MTGO
To track our progress in the competition, we used Google Sheets. This triggered my inner mad scientist and I started doing all I could to turn Sheets into, basically, an inventory management tool. I shared my final products with you guys, in hopes that it was useful
And, the rest of the articles were usually going through card-by-card to explain my thought process while getting in and out of specs.
As always, if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions (particularly about features you’d like in a spreadsheet), I can be contacted via reddit (https://www.reddit.com/user/MTGKaioshin), Twitter (@MTGKaioshin), or email (MTGKaioshin@gmail.com)
Hope you guys enjoyed!