Any Magic: The Gathering Player Willing to Build Pro Tour Deck Around a Card Called Séance Offered Almost $40k in Bitcoins
This is a bit of an odd one, but in a nutshell, a mysterious benefactor made a very generous offer for an unusual task.
An eligible Magic: The Gathering player attending Pro Tour: Oath of the Gatewatch and willing to be part of an experiment was to be selected to receive roughly £25,000 or $38,000 USD in Bitcoins. The catch? They had to base their deck around a somewhat obscure card with an interesting history called Séance.
The offer went viral over the past day, and overnight the offer was rescinded. The mystery of Séance appears to be unanswered.
But it goes much deeper than that. Follow me down the rabbit hole that is Séance speculation.
The Return to Ravnica Speculation Rush
Séance, printed in the Dark Ascension set, was once sought after by speculators of the Magic: The Gathering finance community. Séance was only playable in certain types of combo decks, but a few months after the card was printed, some speculators thought it was worth getting their hands on.
The turning point was on October 5, 2012 when Return to Ravnica was released with some cards that interacted well with Séance (which, combined with cards published in the previous year, opened the potential for a Standard deck based around the card). The day after the set’s release, Séance’s average price raised from £0.25 ($0.40 USD) to £0.65 ($1.00 USD) – roughly a 250% increase. This may not seem like much, but speculators began to do the math on how many copies of Séance would be required to turn a profit.
Ryan Bushard, a writer for Gatheringmagic.com, collected thousands of copies of the card in hopes the bulk rare would see competitive play and continue rise in price. Others soon followed suit. What followed became known as “SeanceGate” as people debated just how good the card actually was, and how it would do in competitive play.
#seancegate another seance deck got top 16. Looking forward to writing Monday's article.
— EDH Ryan Seacrest (@JasonEAlt) October 13, 2012
Grand Prix Auckland 2012
The first Standard Grand Prix after the release of Return to Ravnica was Grand Prix Auckland in November 2012. This was the first true test of the new Séance deck, and two players with decks based on the card placed well in the tournament. One finished just shy of the Top 8 and one ended at 5th place.
@CryppleCommand Not 7th any more, it's up to the Semis!
— Graham Croucher (@gcroucher) November 4, 2012
The controversy surrounding SeanceGate continued:
@Becvar funny how a deck puts up results consistently and people make excuses for why it can't be good
— EDH Ryan Seacrest (@JasonEAlt) November 4, 2012
SeanceGate died out days later, but the card held steady at its new price until the end of the year. During the following year the card steadily fell down to half that price, and after its rotation out of Standard in October 2013 it plummeted to where it had once been before the release of Return to Ravnica.
The Burning Bitcoin Job
In early January 2015, Ryan Bushard wrote an article for Gathering Magic called “Out With the Old”, looking back on cards he had speculated on in the past and hadn’t panned out. The first card on the list was Séance, which he referred to as a card for which he had become well-known. Bushard concluded that he still had hopes that the card would see play once more and justify his collection (including a Japanese foil), but admitted it was a “slow hill to climb.”
In April 2015, an unknown Reddit user called “jobs141910” posted to the Jobs4Bitcoins subreddit looking for someone willing to perform an odd job. For anyone willing to drive to the Channel Fireball headquarters in Santa Clara, CA, purchase as many copies of Séance as possible, and destroy them beyond repair, the user was willing to pay at a set rate per card. The person who made the post stated he/she needed assistance because CFB would only ship 12 copies of a given card – as the user is likely located overseas – but assumed that a customer who arrived at the CFB storefront would be allowed to purchase a greater or even unlimited amount of copies.
This post was later updated with a correction that CFB would not sell in bulk even in person, and stated that the budget for the job would be reassigned.
A new post was then made by jobs141910. In this post, the user pointed out that CFB had changed its policy to only allow four copies of a card to be sold at a time and blamed a writer working for MTGGoldfish.com who pointed out the original Reddit post (the only readily available information connecting MTGGoldfish to the situation is an article from earlier that month mentioning Séance in a list of cards that had been speculated in the past).
The user also accused CFB of doubling the price of Séance (although, interestingly enough, mtgprice.com shows that the price spike occurred over a month prior to the original Reddit post, for no apparent reason). This new Reddit post offered a bounty on any destroyed copies of the card, offering even more for video proof of cards being burned.
After other Reddit users questioned the motives behind the post, jobs141910 replied explaining his/her situation.
The above reply was later deleted by the user, but not before a screen capture was posted to Twitter by another user.
The Wizards reveals himself pic.twitter.com/DOAweqwQhf
— Tristan Gregson (@TristanGregson) April 12, 2015
People began to speculate that jobs141910 was possibly a BitCoin millionaire, due to having so much money to spend on such an experiment and also having quit his/her job. The user has chosen to stay anonymous, so nothing is known for certain.
Within a week of the posting, $1200 had been given out to people claiming the bounty. Later that same month, the user made another post offering close to $1000 total for burned copies of Séance, at double the previous rate per card. The final edit on the post stated that the job had been completed and the third round would commence in a few months (the post was last edited this week, but it is unclear when the job was actually completed).
Team Séance and a New Offer
Between “Round 2” of card destruction bounties and now, the only sighting of the Séance researcher was in October when a few Magic players were paid to wear Séance t-shirts. Magic pro Doug Potter posted a picture of himself wearing the shirt, which was taken on his way to a Regional Pro Tour Qualifier.
— Doug Potter (@DougPkr) October 31, 2015
Potter won the RPTQ with Living End, but that was all he could confirm about the tweet when asked.
This week, jobs141910 reappeared and made a post on three subreddits: Jobs4Bitcoins (where the original posts were made), magicTCG (the official Magic: The Gathering subreddit), and spikes (a competitive Magic subreddit). In this post, which is identical on all three subreddits, the user offers 90.5 BitCoins (£25,000 or $38,000 USD) to any player willing to pilot a deck based around Séance at the upcoming Pro Tour: Oath of the Gatewatch.
The post points out that the price offered is slightly less than the first prize payout, but the player who will be chosen will not be required to place in the tournament in order to receive payment. The primary requirement is that the person chosen needs to have already qualified for the Pro Tour.
Imagine being within 20 feet of Ryan Bushard all day today. This is my reality. #SeanceGate
— Joemtg (@joemtg) December 9, 2015
The post states that “All correspondence will be kept confidential”, and the user would not be answering any questions regarding motivation. On the surface it appeared that this unknown researcher was moving towards the later stages of his/her experiment, now that a substantial quantity of Séances had been destroyed.
Guess it's time to brew a serious Seance deck in Modern. This should go well. I've got three sweet ideas already =)
— Zac Elsik (@utdzac) December 9, 2015
Until this week the price of Séance has held steady at just over £0.30 or $0.50 USD since its sudden rise in March, unaffected by the destruction of hundreds, possibly thousands of copies. It is worth noting, however, that while StarCityGames and ChannelFireball are sold out of the card, the overall price saw a downward trend this week.
The Offer’s Rescission
During the time the offer remained in place, several pro players expressed interest in taking it up, including Brian Braun-Duin and Zac Elsik of Lantern fame. Jobs141910 updated the post saying he/she would be choosing the Séance champion in the next day or so after sifting through the many responses that have been sent. The post quickly found its way to the “Best Of” subreddit, with close to 4,000 upvotes.
I really want to brew with Seance in Modern. No outside motivation. Just really seems like a strong, underplayed card. Yeah.
— Brian Braun-Duin (@BraunDuinIt) December 9, 2015
This morning, the offer was rescinded with an update to the Reddit post.
The reason given is cryptic and vague, but nonetheless the hopes of many a pro player were dashed. Who would request that the offer be removed, and for what legal reason? If Wizards of the Coast requested its removal, why would they be an anonymous party? Was this all part of the plan to generate hype for the card, or was the experiment cut short unexpectedly?
In the meantime, many interesting questions have been raised. How much can one person affect the price of a card over the course of a few months? Does the card’s quality affect price, or just its perceived quality? Does the supply of a card matter when it is considered a “bulk” rare?
This experiment is partly based on precedent, as often a card’s value will spike after its appearance in a Pro Tour. Take Master of Waves as an example, when the card spiked almost £12 or $18 USD in six days, topping out at £16.50 ($25 USD) during Day 2 of Pro Tour: Theros (not after, but during). There are other factors that affect a card’s sudden increase in price, but it can often be unpredictable and even volatile.
Much remains to be seen, but for the moment, the Magic: The Gathering community has exploded with discussions of this sudden, generous, and bizarre offer. Is there anything to learn from this, or will it simply be remembered as another card speculation anecdote?
Only time will tell.
Community Question: What do you foresee would have been the result of the Seance experiment on the pro tour and the card’s price? Let us know in the comments below.
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