Last time around I talked about Team Covenant. As I noted in that piece, Team Covenant has a pretty sterling reputation in the table top space. They’re extremely well loved, and their vision of innovation in the tabletop space gives them this air of dreamers that have somehow managed to thread the needle and function as a business. And then we have Alpha Investments, or perhaps I should say we have Rudy. After all, Alpha Investments is really a one man show. Unlike the chill, wholesome vibes exuded by TC, Rudy is animated by a manic energy and exists very much as a “love him” or “hate him” figure in the cardboard community. And people do both of those very fervently. However, regardless of your position on Rudy, he is undeniably a massive force in shaping the current state of FAB and continues to impact the game, particularly in the US, more so than any other single person not employed by Legend Story Studios. In a second we’ll go into the article proper, but we’re going to pause for a second in recognition of the absolute fucking tragedy that is the fact I’ve already used both Rudy FAB playmats, a funny still from an Alpha Investments Video, and the art from Kavdaen, Trader of Skins as the images for other articles. While these first three are a fitting testament to how much Rudy impacts the FAB financial news, it really put me in a fix, especially when I couldn’t find a suitable high resolution copy of Consuming Volition’s art.
Note: This is absolutely going to be the same deal as my Team Covenant piece where I talk about the company and my relationship with them for a bit before eventually getting to the part about how you can make money. If you don’t care about my musings (fair) feel free to skip the first section.
What is Alpha Investments?
So, right off the bat, I want to note that I’ve been familiar with Alpha Investments for far less time than Team Covenant. Per the YouTube stats, the channel was started on August 22, 2013, which was also very near the time I was selling out of Magic. So, I sort of just passed by his content. Between my exit from Magic and my start with FAB, I became vaguely aware of Rudy’s existence because I still had friends who played the game. I didn’t really tune in because I had no stake in the game anymore, and I certainly didn’t have the cash on hand to get into cardboard investing at the time (wee grad school!), but I was kind of vaguely excited that someone out there was talking about Magic as an asset because that had long been my experience with the game. Buying up cheap reserve list collections in 2008 built the foundation of my collection and allowed me to fund both my engagement with an expensive hobby as well as several other purchases that improved my wife and my quality of like while were making shitty grad student pay.
At any rate, I knew Rudy was “a thing” but I hadn’t really looked into his content until I got into FAB. Back in July when I was scouring ebay for cards (you could look through pretty much all the FAB listings in 2-4 pages back then) I saw the King Rudy playmat, realized he had an association with game and rolled over to the YouTube channel to see what was up because those playmats were listed at $100, and, as you’ll know if you read my playmat article, $100 playmats are meaningful collectables in that space –so clearly people were paying attention to him. That prompted a Rudy deep dive. Now, I have certainly not watched anywhere close to all of his content –the dude makes a ton of videos– but I’ve taken in enough to have a read on him. And what is that read? Well, it’s complicated.
So, there are a bunch of different components to Rudy’s channel and Patreon, and I have different feelings about different elements. We’re going to kick the Patreon forward to the next section, but the spoiler is pretty much that I’ve been saying for months that, if you’re into FAB, the Patreon is absurd value; it remains so, and, honestly, is seems like it’ll be even better in 2021. Now Rudy’s actual channel has what I think of as four broad categories of content: unboxings, white board videos, discussion of the markets of various ccgs (mostly Magic), and Rudy Rambles videos. There are also some things that don’t fit neatly into these categories (the recent James White Q&A Series for instance).
From what I can tell based on view counts, unboxings are Rudy’s most viewed current content. To me, these are the least interesting things on the channel. I, admittedly, don’t really seek out unboxing content. I get the appeal of watching an occasional video of an old set as a little nostalgia kick. The recent Shards of Alara unboxing video was fun to watch because I drafted enough Shards that I had a playset of set redemptions by the end of it. I’m very familiar with the set, and it was fun to think back to that time in my cardboard slinging life. But, in general, these videos don’t really appeal to me, and they also have the highest amount of what I consider to be Rudy pandering to his audience. Essentially, it’s meme-dense content that involves throwing around a bunch of in-jokes for Rudy fans. It also includes a fair bit of content that is just generally grating to me, specifically the “I’d X her Y” type jokes with every other card with an attractive woman on it, which feels lazy. But, as I said, these videos get the view, Rudy knows what his viewers want and he serves it up (if this was a Rudy video there would be a taco joke here). Now, the rest of the content is a lot more interesting.
What I call the white board videos are, the videos that are far and away the most universally useful to people and the ones that convinced me to take Rudy seriously in the first place. I grew up in a family where, when I was in elementary school, were lower middle class. My mom made a lot of my clothing and money was tight, but my dad is a businessman at his core (he had made and spent/lost large sums of money prior to marrying my mom), and he moved into the mortgage industry when I was still young, opened his own company, and then sold it for seven figures when I was in high school, which funded his retirement and put my siblings and I though college. Growing up in my family meant I was used to talking fairly candidly about money, being paranoid about my credit rating, and thinking of 6-7% annual returns as the financial goal. Between myself, my brother, and my sister, I’m the only one who doesn’t own a business either as a primary source of revenue or as a side gig. Hell, I think that, to this day, the thing that I’ve done that most impressed my father isn’t going to grad school, but rather selling my Magic collection for more than a year’s wages (which reminds me that I really need to call him and tell him about my FAB holdings and profits). So, for me, this part of Rudy’s financial content feels very homey. However, knowing that my experience is not the norm, I want to call it out as particularly valuable information that is criminally not taught to most people when they’re growing up.
Rudy’s other videos tend to target varying CCG market news and general financial trends, and occasionally he releases long videos that I think of as Rudy Rambles, where he talks about more rangy topics that might start on Magic cards and get into his broader thoughts of pretty much any topic that strikes his fancy. The news ones are worth watching for any game you’re participating in the market for because, whether you agree with him or not, he has a large audience and other people will be listening and taking his advice.
Why Should You Care?
Rudy moves the FAB market. That is not hyperbole. I’ve written two articles about major spikes in the FAB market related to news that was broken by Alpha Investments. In both cases, people who were aware of these announcements had precious time to act in ways that allowed them to make money. I reacted to Rudy’s announcement that “a wealthy individual” has bought up a large position in FAB and that Rudy was now valuing Crucible of War at $200+ by immediately expanding my position in CRU with additional boxes at $100-130 because it was clear that my previous assumptions on how long it would take to get to a $300 CRU box were a significant overestimate. By the time Rudy broke the “no Unlimited CRU” news, I was now sitting on several thousand dollars’ worth of addition sealed product beyond my initial position. Again, you need to pay attention to Rudy if you’re messing around in the FAB financial space with any degree of seriousness.
Now, all of that information I just mentioned came not from Rudy’s Alpha Investments YouTube, but from his Patreon. Rudy’s Patreon is Magic focused, but it’s also the venue that he used to help launch FAB in the US market. Essentially, a $15 membership (there are a few other tiers) supports his YouTube content and allows you to buy bulk Magic product from Rudy and participate in various special sales that include non-Magic product. That second category is what really matters if you’re looking for value in FAB. Like Team Covenant, Rudy was an early promoter of FAB in the US and has a partnership with LSS. This means he has access to promotional items and bundles that are usually incredible values. To date, you could buy almost any of the Rudy kits, turn around and sell the promos and either largely pay for the booster boxes or even make a profit before even touching the sealed product. The alternate art cold foil Crazy Brew alone is now selling for more than the entire kit it came in (I still really don’t like the long term prospects of that particular card at current prices, but that’s a different article). In short, to date every FAB bundle Rudy has offered has been a steal and if you had the ability to buy one you should’ve.
Which brings us to the tricky part – much like Team Covenant’s subscriptions, Rudy’s Patreon is hard to get into at this point. Unlike TC which will probably add more spots in the future, Rudy’s Patreon is a closed shop with no plans for that to change. So, why am I talking about it? Well, there is a way to get in, it just takes diligence and a bit of luck. Whenever a current Rudy patron drops a spot, it becomes available for someone to sign up for unless Rudy manually removes the vacancy. If you’re trying to get in, this is your chance. The best approach it to keep a tab open in your browser and periodically refresh it to see if a slot has opened. I know that all sounds very random and perhaps not particularly helpful, but there are some trends in when people drop that you can use to increase your chances of finding a spot. Patreon bills on a monthly cycle, and they send out a reminder to you that you have an upcoming charge. This means that the end of the month is usually when people decide to drop memberships. Additionally, anytime Wizards of the Coast makes a change to Magic that pisses people off (which seems to be happening every other week lately) or any time Rudy runs a sale that sells out quickly, he has people rage quit his Patreon. So if you hear rumbling about either of these things, it’s a good time to be a little more vigilant about checking the Patreon.
From my experience watching people in the #wall-street Discord channel, most people who are trying to get in and check once or twice a day tend to manage to find a spot after a few weeks. Speaking of #wall-street, people often call out open spots when they see them, which means that they spots get snapped up fairly quickly –I saw one while writing this piece, posted about it, and someone reported that they’d taken it about 10 minutes later (and it was 2am EST, it would have probably gone quicker a few hours earlier). Finally, in case this all feels a little shifty to anyone, I checked with Rudy to see if it was alright to talk about this method of sliding into the Patreon and he signed off on it:
I’ve got to admit that my thoughts on Rudy have changed a lot since I started writing a cardboard finance blog. I used to think Rudy had a weird persecution complex with his references to detractors, people being mad at “evil investors,” and people saying his takes were crazy/a scam/market manipulation. …And then I started receiving these sorts of comments myself, and I was like “well shit.” So, I can relate to him a bit more these days even if he is a whale in the cardboard ocean and I’m more of a dolphin, at best. At the end of the day, I believe that there are two Rudy’s: there is Rudy the finance guy who has what I generally consider to be pretty on point takes about building wealth, and then there is Rudy the raconteur who is selling personality as product via YouTube. The challenge for people who don’t like the Creepy Rudy persona or the humor that is built on years of accumulated in jokes is to not dismiss the information finance guy Rudy is handing out. Again, love him or hate him, you’re making a mistake by not paying attention to him.
This is a bit of a random aside, but regarding the more bombastic Rudy content, while digging through the back catalog, I was sort of surprised to discover that the older content had a lot more swearing. I assume that went away in an attempt to appease the algorithm gods (I could be totally off base). But I find a lot of that content to be the funnier than the current videos where the use of “flipping” and other alternatives feels less natural to me. This is, perhaps, a weird thing to focus in on, but I think about it a lot lately since people have been asking about the possibility of me adding video content to this site, and I swear a lot more in conversation than in the blog (which is a rhetorical choice), but I’m not sure how I would want to present myself in a visual medium.
Anyway, let’s get back to the intersection of Rudy and FAB and wrap this up. Rudy, as he will be quick to tell you, was involved with FAB long before it was the $3000+ box, $12.5k cold foil heart, cardboard crypto explosion that it is today. He has promoted the game and continues to do so, which a couple of weeks ago led to someone in #wall-street asking what people thought about Rudy’s shift to possibly including more FAB content (since then, he’s started cracking FAB boxes on his channel, and it looks like the Patreon will have more FAB offerings in 2021). I feel like the question was asked in relation to the perpetual speculation that goes on about people’s intentions when their content is finance-related: are they doing this to manipulate the market in the favor? Is this all a scam?
To sort of re-harsh my response to that question, I believe Rudy is pretty sincere in his excitement about FAB. I know that he gets the perpetual critique about not being super well-versed in playing the games he creates content for (which I believe is definitely something he leans into as part of his character), but honestly, the guy also seems like he’s working 70-80 hour weeks, which doesn’t really leave a ton of time for play. Rudy is very clearly someone with a passion for early era Magic the Gathering. If you don’t believe that, go watch some of his videos where he’s looking at ABU or Four Horseman sets and you’ll see the character fade away as he lapses poetic about the art and charm of these old cards. The thing about early Magic though is that it’s the past. I have fond memories of old Magic, but old Magic is something you engage in with through the lens of nostalgia. The new stuff is distinctly different, and lacks some of the soul that made the weird early sets so compelling. Flesh and Blood, by design, evokes a lot of early Magic vibes, which is immediately exciting if that’s something you miss. Beyond that, the truly early days of Magic occurred before Rudy was in his current position as a big buyer or force in the hobby, but, with FAB, he got in on the ground floor (or as close to it as pretty much anyone in the US did), and not only did he get into it, but he did so as an active participant in building the game. For someone who loves old Magic, this seems like one of the coolest experiences you could have without the ability to go back and relive the early and mid-90’s Magic scene. When Rudy looks back on Flesh and Blood in 5-10 years, assuming it’s still chugging along, he’s going to be reminiscing about how he was a meaningful part of that early growth, not just a fan grabbing some packs at a local store, but as a notable part of that history. I think that this, far more than profit (let’s be real, Rudy’s cardboard money is still predominantly in Magic) is what’s driving his enthusiasm about Flesh and Blood.
*Header Image – Scrooge McDuck Diving into a pile of money