Thursday, February 23, 2017

Forty Predictions for Magic in 2017

EDIT #2: Throughout the spoiler season for Modern Masters 2017, I will indicate where card reprints have confirmed or refuted my predictions.

EDIT: Within an hour of this article appearing, I was asked rather pointedly where I had gotten my information.  Take that for what you will.  I do not have any inside information.  As I explained in the article, I spent years as a professional analyst.  I observe, I assess, and I draw inferences.  Every prediction in this article is a combination of what I've seen parties such as Wizards of the Coast actually do publicly, what they say publicly (especially Mark Rosewater's blog, which telegraphs a lot), and how the market and its inhabitants have behaved in reaction to various events.

Why should you ever believe anything I write?  How can you tell whether I know what I'm talking about?  I see people all over the greater comic and hobby game trade generally making all kinds of predictions, and rarely are they held to account.  It's even worse when those predictions are made in a self-serving interest toward the commentator's own investments.  There is a fundamental ethical breach there.

This comes up, of course, because of the MTG Finance (tm) community relentlessly dumping on Modern Masters 2017 in a misleading effort to be able to buy in as low as possible, and retailers dumping on it in an effort to get ahead of the preorder cycle after the underperformance of Aether Revolt.  I am going to run contrary to the prevailing winds and state that I think Modern Masters 2017 will be a hit.  But how can that be expressed in a way that is objective and not subjective?

I have been reading a lot of liberal psychologist Scott Alexander's Slate Star Codex blog lately.  Mr. Alexander's stock in trade is that he strives to be excruciatingly honest about his own beliefs, thoughts, motivations, possible biases, logical fallacies he might be committing, and so on.  He has written that unless the examination is enough to make you uncomfortable, you haven't truly reflected and you aren't truly challenging your own preconceptions.  Then, through that lens, Alexander examines the social and political news of the hour.

Alexander's political and legal analyses are extremely insightful.  When I say this, I remind you that I literally made a living as a political and legal analyst from 2007 to 2014, so I hope my praise of his acumen carries some weight.  He has earned the ire of readers of both major political parties, and rightfully so, as he has made them uncomfortable by pointing his incendiary flashlight at their respective parties' hypocrisies, hypocrisy being one of the core dishonesties he seeks to stamp out.

One of the best things Alexander does is putting his analyses to the test by recording his forecasts with a confidence level, and scoring them afterward.  Thus, we may judge for ourselves whether he is a credible pundit, and it is no longer a subjective question.  It is proven.

As Alexander writes, "There's a failure mode where pundits make lots of predictions, get proven wrong again and again, but keep their editorial columns and TV shows and reputations.  If you're wrong often enough, at some point people should stop treating you as a sage and start looking for wisdom somewhere else.  There's an opposite failure mode where somebody is wrong once about some freak event and their opponents demand that they never express an opinion again.  The solution is to predict probabilistically and keep track of the results."

That's the honest, credible, objective approach.  And I am up to the challenge.  If I can post good scores year in and year out on this sort of thing, you will know that I am credible and my analyses can be trusted.  Moreover, if my scores vary widely by topic, you will know when you can put more confidence in my assessment.  Once I get the mechanics down pat, maybe I will even take bets like Scott Alexander does.  The use of confidence levels allows him (and now me) to stretch out a little and make some more meaningful predictions, and to nest predictions inside one another.  I think this is going to be great fun to watch unfold.

The scoring is purely mathematical, so subjectivity shouldn't be a factor.  Out of every ten 60% predictions I make, I should be right about six times, and there's about one step of margin of error.  If I'm right four or fewer times, looks like I'm not as knowledgeable on that topic as I thought.  If I'm right eight or more times, I am probably hedging too much and underestimating the accuracy of my guesses.  Which is fine, it just means I should be making more ambitious predictions and cashing in on them in advance.  Over time I should trend toward even.  I should only be wrong once in ten tries at 90%.  I can be wrong half the time at 50%.

The steps I will use are 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%, and 95%.  If you are at least two steps away from me on your prediction, we have a challenge.  (If you think my 60% prediction should be 55%, for example, we don't really have a substantial disagreement.)

The timing of this article is deliberate: the Modern Masters 2017 spoiler week is about to begin, and I wanted to include some predictions for that.  For the purpose of limiting scope and keeping this simple, this first Fearless Predictions article will focus solely on Magic: the Gathering.  In particular, I am going to dump a bucket of cold water on some of the more pessimistic predictions I have heard circulating as of late.

Confidence level of prediction: Prediction, as specifically as I can articulate.

95%: There will be more WPN retail stores in the Phoenix metropolitan area on December 31st than there were on January 1st. YES
95%: Hasbro will report greater sales of Magic: the Gathering in 2017 than in 2016. PENDING QUARTERLY SHAREHOLDER REPORT
80%: Wizards of the Coast will not enact a comprehensive brand reinforcement scheme, like those of Asmodee, Mayfair, WizKids, or Games Workshop, in 2017. CORRECT

90%: Modern Masters 2017 will be effectively sold out from distribution by June 30th. YES
50%: Booster boxes of Modern Masters 2017 will sell for at least $300 by December 31st. NO
60%: ...for at least $280. NO
70%: ...for at least $260. YES
90%: ...for at least MSRP. YES

80%: The five "Zendikar Fetchlands" will be reprinted in Modern Masters 2017. YES x 5
90%: ...or in Amonkhet block. YES x 5
95%: ...or otherwise in 2017. YES x 5

95%: Snapcaster Mage will be reprinted in Modern Masters 2017. YES
95%: ...or in Amonkhet block. YES
95%: ...or otherwise in 2017. YES

70%: Liliana of the Veil will be reprinted in Modern Masters 2017. YES
80%: ...or in Amonkhet block. YES
90%: ...or otherwise in 2017. YES

60%: Cavern of Souls will be reprinted in Modern Masters 2017. YES
90%: ...or in Amonkhet block. YES
95%: ...or otherwise in 2017. YES

50%: For each of Blood Moon YES, Chalice of the Void NO, Mox Opal NO, and Tarmogoyf YES being reprinted in Modern Masters 2017.
60%: ...or otherwise in 2017. YES N/A N/A YES [I am throwing out the two artifacts because I realized them being printed in Aether Revolt as Inventions means I was already correct and simply had not noticed it.  So I'll take no credit for that.]

[100%: Griselbrand will be reprinted in Modern Masters 2017.  This was just spoiled so I don't get to use it, but I would have predicted 70% or so, which is a bit too cautious.  It is banned in Commander and thus highly appropriate to land in a Masters series set.]

70%: Damnation will not be reprinted in 2017 (aside from the judge foil still being distributed). NO

60%: Craterhoof Behemoth will not be reprinted in Modern Masters 2017. NO

95%: Nicol Bolas will have a planeswalker card in Hour of Devastation. YES

90%: There will be a Masterpiece Series card at a TCGPlayer Market price under $15 for at least seven straight days by December 31st. YES - Black Vise
80%: ...under $10. YES - Black Vise, Austere Command, Aggravated Assault

60%: There will be a casual-friendly product later in 2017 that will feature reprints from the Portal trilogy, Starter, and/or other ancillary products from long ago. YES - UNSTABLE

70%: The block after Amonkhet will be called Atlazan, like on the leaked booster wrapper samples. NO, Ixalan
70%: Atlazan block (or whatever it will be called) will contain Modern-playable dual lands. KINDA

90%: Wizards will announce the spring 2018 Masters series set by December 31st. YES, Masters 25 AND Iconic Masters
50%: ...which will be a sequel to Eternal Masters. YES in card content

80%: Crystal Commerce will not have another widespread outage lasting longer than 24 hours in 2017.  To qualify as a widespread outage there must be worse than 50/50 POS functionality and TCGPlayer must Deactive all sync accounts on its own initiative. CORRECT

80%: Frontier will become an official format by December 31st. NO
90%: ...and will not be included in the Pro Tour Qualifier sequence. CORRECT

95%: The Reserved List will remain in effect by December 31st. YES

95%: I will still be in business on December 31st. YES

There you have it, folks.  Think you can do any better?  Great!  Publish it and we can compare after the fact and find out.  Especially if you are a popular video or article pundit.  Rudy, Saffron Olive, I'm talking to you guys.  Go on record and let's see if your doom and gloom predictions really do come true, or if you are just clickbait.

60%: Saffron Olive will do it. NO
50%: Rudy from Alpha Investments will do it. NO

Let's see, then.

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