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Azuki Elementals: Explaining All of the Dramaby@ani-alexander
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30,733 reads

Azuki Elementals: Explaining All of the Drama

by Ani AlexanderJune 29th, 2023
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Zagabond.eth and his team abandoned Phunks, Tendies and Zunks. The Phunks community was trying to get a full handover and gain ownership over the Phunks smart contract. ZagabOND.eth walked away without prior notice leaving the unprepared community to themselves.
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Another day in web3 and another drama. Since yesterday, my Twitter timeline has been full of tweets about Azuki.


And while everyone is now focused on the project’s latest collection drop (which I will cover here too) I thought it was worth looking back and bringing the full story that unfolded up to this point.


So let’s go back to the roots, should we?

The Beginning

Many of you may not know this, but Azuki is not the first project that Zagabond.eth started… although it’s definitely the most “successful” one.


And yes, we all know that 90% of startups fail and there’s nothing wrong with trying until one of them succeeds

But here, the story is different.


There are two key issues here.


First is: things were NEVER transparent.


Back at the time when those three other projects (Phunks, Tendies, Zunks) were introduced to the market, no one knew that they were created by the same team.


The second issue is the way things ended.


Zagabond.eth and his team simply abandoned those projects… they just walked away without prior notice leaving the unprepared community to themselves.


Personally, I don’t know the details of how it happened with Tendies and Zunks but I have written two in-depth articles about Phunks (here are part 1 and part 2).


While writing the first article, I even spoke to and got quotes from Zagabond.eth himself just a day before he disappeared. Obviously back then I did not know it was him, and after that, he never spoke to me again… therefore, I won’t be able to show his side of the story this time.

The “Reveal”

I remember the days when the community discovered who Zagabond.eth was and the fact that Azuki was his 4th project after the 3 (which were labeled) “rugs.”


Back in those days (early May 2022), the Phunks community was trying to get a full handover and gain ownership over the Phunks smart contract. Until that moment, Zagabond.eth and his team were still receiving royalties from the collection.


So they were kind of gone… but not really. At least, they were still making “passive income” from Phunk community efforts.


That was the time when active Phunk community members were trying to find out who was Zagabond.eth and the people behind his anon team, so they were searching…


And there is this weird thing about blockchain - to people who don’t know better, it leaves two extreme impressions: 1. complete transparency and at the same time 2. complete anonymity.


Many “hide” behind a cartoon character, made-up Discord usernames, and different wallet addresses and think that people won’t find them. The thing is though… it is not that hard to be found you if you are not careful.


Long story short - after looking into the Phunk discord channels and roles, different members and their social media pfp-s and other behavior, then wallets, ENS domains, and their activities on Etherscan, it looked like several team members had left enough bread crumbs.


As a result, they were eventually identified.


By this time, Zagabond.eth and his team had been approached, and they already knew that there wasn’t much time left until the truth was going to be out.


Twitter was already full of what was back then rumors, and people were discussing those actively.


Topics were around the projects having the same team, Zagabond.eth making people believe that one of the projects was led by a woman (a very appealing story that people loved back in those days), Pauly doxxing one of the team members, many going against Pauly for doxxing people against their will, etc….


Chaos and drama around Azuki at that point with the overarching narrative that Azuki was founded by scammers who had already rugged 3 other projects before it was in full swing.


That started impacting Azuki’s floor price, of course… (note: back in March, the team had also sold a new collection called BEANZ).


The “Surrender”

So eventually, Zagabond.eth did what probably was the only option if he wanted to have any chance of “saving” Azuki. He decided to come out and admit and explain everything (on May 9th) in a post on Mirror called A Builder’s Journey.


Would he do that if his back was not against the wall and he was not “caught”… I don’t know… but probably not…


He positioned the whole “journey” full of experiments that brought many “learnings” which led him to Azuki. It was a nice story indeed.


Obviously, not everyone bought this… but we gotta give credit where credit is due. The guy is a very good storyteller and is able to tap into people’s emotions through words. Through that, he was able to already have quite a strong Azuki community before the shit hit the fan.


Zagabond.eth went to Twitter Spaces trying to address further questions and explain his position. It felt like he is definitely much better at writing than speaking - and recalling that Twitter Space, I thought it did more harm instead of what he probably intended to achieve with it.


After it, the community sentiment was not that good. So Zagabond.eth tapped back into his strength and wrote a Twitter thread after the Twitter Space (you can read the full thread here)

And although the 3 abandoned communities did not believe a word of it, it felt like the rest were kind of OK with this. Some probably did not have the details of how much damage they left behind, some were trying to protect their bags, and some truly did not care.


In this space, ethics and morals seem to be quite fluid and flexible, so I am not surprised.


And just like any other similar story, after a few weeks’ time, everything seemed to be back to “normal.”

Present Days

These days the whole concept of “blue chip” NFT sounds ridiculous, but at some point, Azuki kind of touched that status.


The project “re-appeared” in my Twitter timeline recently with different videos from their Las Vegas party. NFT degens absolutely love crazy and cool parties, so if you have the money to throw a massive one, you can’t go wrong.


You could see tons of tweets similar to the ones below

You can check this Tweet with a video for the vibe and the community.


Let’s admit it - it’s super cool, isn’t it?


And so, the Azuki team released their new collection: Azuki Elementals (20,000 characters).

And Here Comes Another Round of Drama

Looks like the mint of the collection did not go smoothly at all, and after that, the reveal of the characters caused an even bigger disappointment in the community.


So let’s see what exactly happened.


From what I gathered (and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong since I have not minted any myself)

  • It was a Dutch auction with the starting price being 2 ETH.


  • There was a very short window of 10 minutes to mint.


  • Pre-sale was open only to Azuki community members.


  • There was no public sale because they sold out.


  • The NFTs were revealed after the mint, so they had to wait to see what they got.


Maybe a much more entertaining short summary of what happened is here by kmoney.


The first complaints came right after the mint - people were already not happy even before seeing the design of the collection.


They hated the minting experience: it looked like there were some glitches and tech issues, the 10-minute window was adding stress to the whole matter, many people even from the community were not able to mint, etc.


And then the anticipated reveal happened… and people started complaining even more!


Why?


Many were truly pissed… and some with a more positive outlook started creating memes.


In any case - you’ve got the point. People had deja vu!


And what happens when the community is pissed?


Well - you’re in a danger zone!


Azuki’s original collection floor immediately reflected the sentiment.

At the moment I write this, Azuki is down 50%, and Beanz is down 57% in 7 days.


The floor of Elementals is below mint…

In short, it looks like the community got screwed… and the value of their holdings dropped a lot within hours…

Let’s Try Again

Vagabond.eth has been around long enough to know that when the community turns against you, (which may happen in this situation) you gotta take action fast.


He also knows that if you tell them what they wanna hear, tell it in a really good manner, and tap into their emotions - it may work.


It did already before, hasn’t it?


So that’s what the team did - came back with this thread here.

Aftermath

  • Azuki got $38 million worth of ETH in 10 minutes (in a bear market)


  • They will keep getting the royalties on top of that amount


Apparently, there is yet another new collection out there (probably they too will look like the original beanz?)


Learnings

Zagabond.eth had many learnings that led him to where he is…


So, what can WE learn from this story then?


  • The web3 community is either very forgiving or too greedy.


  • Good storytellers do better than the rest.


  • When you have a community behind you - you can “raise” millions even in a bear market.


  • You can tell you care about the community but do the opposite… and you probably can get away with it too.


  • Web3 community forgets and moves on fast cause there is always the next thing to have drama around.


  • When the community turns against you - you gotta come up with new solutions to keep them around (what will it be this time? A token? Another airdrop? Another “Sorry we fucked up?”


Let’s wait and see what happens next - I don’t think this is the end of the story.


But it is the end of this article.


Take care, rebels!


Also published here