Roadmap: 2022 and Beyond

As part of this Mega Update I’ve been thinking a bunch about the sort of content I produce. From the very beginning, I feel like FAB with Freyja has been fairly rangy in terms of topics I’ve covered. Ignoring my first introduction post, the first three articles (way back in mid-November 2020) are: a finance article for people just getting into FAB, a sort of resource post on promos that began a four part series, and the first of a two part series about the use of gory and grotesque art in Magic and FAB, comparing their different uses of the genre. That said, out of the gate, my emphasis definitely slanted towards the financial end of things. There were a couple reasons for that: it was one of the topics I was already known for in the community. As part of the reason that the #wall-street channel was created in the main FAB server (because me and a handful of other people wouldn’t shut up about it in #general), I had a lot of thoughts on this sector of the game. I also launched the site right as WTR and ARC boxes were going from a nice double up to absurdly valuable. So, despite the presence of content on art and design going back to the site’s first day, I feel like finance was sort of tied to my “brand,” as it were. Which brings me to an important question.

Is This Still a Finance Blog? (Was it Ever?)

“Money talks” as the more polite half of the saying goes, but, if I’m honest, I’m increasingly less interested in talking about the money end of the game. The end of 2020 through mid-2021 was an incredibly exciting period of time to be writing about and engaging with CCG markets, but it was a huge anomaly and no one should be expecting that sort of action to recur in the next couple years. My position is that we’ve passed the wild volatility period for FAB, and the week-to-week and month-to-month movement in the FAB market is going to be a lot more boring for the next few years unless A.) The game dies (I don’t think that’s going to happen) or B.) Another massive unexpected global event happens. B could totally happen, but it’s also pretty much impossible to make decisions around something like that, you sort of have to seize the moment and react quickly when it happens.

Anyway, this all means that the big exciting things to write about will be fewer and further between. That isn’t to say that we won’t see some signficiant movements from time-to-time. There are still a bunch of things that I think the market is pricing wrong in both directions but it will likely take years to properly calibrate for (which obviously assumes the game’s continued success). To give a few quick examples, first edition ARC boxes remain underpriced relative to alpha WTR boxes. WTR/ARC first edition Majestics are underpriced, a lot of WTR/ARC first edition foils are underpriced, MON/TOA CFs are likely miscalibrated (though some of that is contingent on what we learn when the print runs are revealed). What this means for me is that when I sit down to write an article, a finance topic being the thing that strikes my interest is increasingly lower. As of now, I still plan to write 1-2 finance articles for the Rathe Times per month. I plan to continue to do this for a couple reasons. Doing the monthly state of the market article forces me to sit down and articulate my thoughts while reviewing my notes. Part of the reason I took up the offer to write for them in the first place was that it allowed me to start separating out the nuts and bolts financial content from the content that I post here, which I think of as more dynamic. This follows through in the writing style. The style I use for Rathe Times articles still sounds like me, but it’s a more restrained version, more focused and educational as compared the stuff I write here which varies in tone and has a lot more latitude in terms of where it can go. Beyond the Rathe Times content, I do expect that I’ll still be writing some articles that are, at a minimum, finance-adjacent for this site (Like the FAB 2.0 review). But I expect their frequency to decrease over time.

Consumer Advocacy

In terms of the finance community, I find myself in a sort of weird place. My personal experience and relation to buying and selling cards is pretty odd compared to most content creators in that space. I’m fairly well off, but I’m not a fractional one percenter. This puts me in a weird spot because, just being perfectly honest, I can afford to spend more on cards than the majority of the community, which makes me kind of unrelatable. But I’m also not so flush with cash that I buy at a level that becomes interesting in and itself. By that, I’m talking about the way that some of the better known whales of the community generate content via showing off collections of truly unobtainable cards, opening expensive boxes, and/or discussing graded cards. None of that really applies to me. While I conceptually understand the appeal of box openings or scoping out someone’s gold foil collection, it’s just not a thing that’s ever been engaging to me personally. Most of my friends who are into the higher end FAB market enjoy watching people crack something rare like WTR Alpha, but my response is usually just a low-key, mildly curious “did they hit anything notable?” And even then, that’s usually only if I know or at least know of the person opening the box. Similarly, I don’t own any graded cards and have no interest in getting into them, though, again, I understand why other people are into it.

So, I’m not really writing for people like me because “people like me” (in this respect) are a pretty small portion of the community, and honestly, if you’re part that group, you probably don’t need a ton of advice or advocacy because you’re already doing fine. The audience I imagine for my financial-adjacent writing is the sort of person who buys a box to a case of a new expansion. As this focus has solidified, I think it’s really informed what sorts of things I write about. Put simply, I’m less interested in whether there are uber-rare chase cards that appear one in a dozen cases, than I am that the average person opening a box of Flesh and Blood isn’t ending up with $25 in singles more often than not. This is why my tone over the past year has leaned more towards critical. While the high end community is scooping up gold foils and salivating over the even rarer CF Ls of FAB 2.0. My question remains, “is buying this product a good deal, or at least a fair one, for someone who only buys a single box?” As long as I feel like the answer to that question is “no,” I’m going to continue to criticize the approach until LSS gets it right. So that sort of “financial” content will remain a fixture on this site.

Weird Things

Back when LSS interviewed me, I capped off my conversation with Nicola Price by saying “I think there’s a firm base for discussion of actual technical play, and the finance side, I think that those are sort of fine. I want to see weird content. I want to see people doing stuff that is not on those avenues… and I don’t know what that looks like, yet.” (Well, I rambled for a bit longer after that, but if you’ve read my writing or talked to me before, you probably inferred that).  In any case, that remains my position on FAB content. While other people have produced some interesting and novel pieces since then, content is still fairly focused on the well-trodden paths of gameplay and finance. So, in the spirit of being the change you want to see in the world, I plan to intensify my focus on pieces that don’t fit into those two categories.

What does that mean in terms of what to expect? I want to write more pieces like my Everfest and Tales of Aria previews where I tried to connect Flesh and Blood up to broader conversations in media analysis. I don’t really get to use my academic background very much in my day job, after weirdly landing in the tech sector (I work on Alexa). Writing about FAB has given me a way to use some of my atrophied skills. Despite it being a ton of work, I really loved running the flavor-text contest that LSS graciously provided promos for as part of their Content Creator Appreciation Kit initiative. I got an absolute ton of entries, and it was really fun to see people in the community engaging with the game outside of just complaining about whichever Runeblade was currently over tuned, and I hope to have the opportunity to do something like that again (spoiler, I’ve got a pile of promos sitting here, and will be working on another contest soon).

I suppose I would be remiss to not mention the How Dateable are the Women of FAB article that I sort of sheepishly put out last year at the end of Pride. That article started as a thing I thought was funny but wouldn’t have a huge audience because, like, there couldn’t be that many people who wanted to read my Sapphic joke article, right? Well, I mentioned it to some friends as a “wouldn’t it be funny if…” thing and then they kind of egged me on. Add to that the special sort of confidence that belongs to a drunken white woman, and I said “fuck it,” shrugged, and wrote the piece… It went on to be one of the most-read piece on the site, which goes to show one of two things (or maybe both): people are horny, and I apparently have no idea what’s going to land with the FAB community. Alright, that’s maybe a little cheeky. To be serious for a moment, I have received a bunch of very sweet e-mails and comments from people thanking me whenever I publish some LGBTQ content, and it really warms my heart, maybe more so than any other sort of feedback I get from my writing. So, for you, fellow queers, know that this site will continue to be just sort of ambiently gay, and it will be extra gay during Pride this year. If you want a teaser (and this is some deep FAB with Freyja lore): I once promised that there was a very specific bit of content that I wouldn’t write, and I’ve got an article in mind for this year that doesn’t technically break that promise, but it definitely flirts with it.

Given the last paragraph, I suppose that this is as good a time as any to address the complaints I periodically collect when my writing gets “political”. I’m adding these next two paragraphs in at the last minute because it feels particularly salient today, as today is the day that Wizards of the Coast announced it’s Pride Across the Multiverse Secret Lair project. So, putting rainbow capitalism aside for the moment… actually, let’s address that quickly: while the critique is still valid, earlier today I talked to one of the people who worked on this Secret Lair, and they confirmed my impression that the people working on it were themselves queer. They felt like it was doing a good job of putting a meaningful portion of the money into the pockets of queer creators and queer charities -I would agree that 50% of the purchase price, going to The Trevor Project is pretty good compared to what a lot of companies do with these sorts of things. Anyway, beyond the rainbow capitalism discussion, experiencing this press release play out was a weird reminder of both the value of having a queer community but also how far the general community has to go. In my board game co-op’s Discord, there was a lot of enthusiasm, which makes sense. A lot of us occupy various letters of the LGBTQ alphabet soup, and it’s nice to see people like you on cards occasionally, especially in a celebratory spirit as opposed to the normal “solidarity against shared oppressions”. Meanwhile, I watched posts about it across various Magic Facebook get locked for being “political”. What political means here is that the bigots complained that people were excited until the mods closed threads.

I’m not super interested in pulling punches, so I’m going to be fairly blunt. I have no patience for the bigots making bad faith arguments about the existence of Bearscape or whatever other assorted shit they came to whine about. The rhetorical use of of “politics’ as a way to exclude people you don’t like while attempting to make it look like you’re practicing decorum, is scumbag behavior, and I’m not here for it. Literally everything is political. From the foods you buy, to the clothing you wear, to the games you play. All of it is political. When people call something “political” as a way of attempting to make a topic off limits, what they’re really saying is “I don’t like that thing, so I don’t want to see it.” You don’t have a problem with politics, you have a problem with politics you don’t agree with. I’m pretty upfront about what my politics are (very left), and that’s not changing. I generally try to present so-called “political” issues in a way that is accessible for people who haven’t spent huge portions of their lives in academia and are open to learning (the Everfest Preview is a good example of the appraoch I’m talking about). That sort of content is not going away. If anything, there will be more of it. What I want to say here is if my politics are a problem for you, just stop reading my stuff. I don’t care about your bad takes; I’m not interested in debating with you, because I can assure you, complaints that I’m “too political” will continue to fall of deaf ears.

Alright, that concludes the unpleasant section of the roadmap, on to more upbeat matters. Art is another subject that I hope to discuss semi-regularly. Although, that is, perhaps, the area of my interest where other people in the community have most stepped up their game since the interview I mentioned earlier. The Flesh and Blood Arthouse Facebook community is up to over 2,000 members now, and the Arthouse Syndicate has been working with FAB artists to get FAB art in the hands of fans in the form of prints and artist proofs. (Note: I haven’t gone over their operations with a fine tooth comb, but I’m going to err on the side of them above board and worth mentioning because A.) I haven’t heard anyone register any complaints thus far and B.) Artists don’t make enough money for their work in the first place. The Arthouse Syndicate’s work in facilitating artists’ ability to connect fans with their art, is, by all appearances, a boon for artists, particularly smaller ones who are breaking out in part because of their work on FAB.) Also, tangentially related, I’m still bummed that I missed out on the sweet full art Prism proofs they had a while back.

I’m interested in looking at some more “big picture” game design topics. I’ve mentioned it elsewhere, but along with getting pulled back into CCGs during covid, I also got drawn back into doing tabletop game design. I find some of the design choices LSS has made with FAB to be very interesting, and the sort of high level concept stuff usually doesn’t get talked about a lot by the community in comparison to discussions of “Hero X” being overpowered. To give an idea of what I’m thinking about there, I’m currently trying to conceptualize an article talking about the implications of FAB’s hero-centric design approach with comparisons to Netrunner’s factions and the Legend of the Five Rings’ clans.

Beyond that, who knows what I’ll write -probably whatever seems like a good idea at the time. And, given that I apparently sometimes get high (I think I’m supposed to mention that it’s legal where I live) and write weird vibes pieces about opening boxes of cards, the scope of “a good idea at the time” is pretty expansive. Also on that note, shout out to the person who commented that the piece in question read like a “lo-fi beats to study to” playlist; you’re on on the same wavelength as stoned me.

Anyway, that’s a very long way of saying, FAB with Freyja is probably on a trajectory to being weirder, queerer, and less about money.

*Header Image: Ancestral Empowerment by Alexander Mokhov

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