In Defense of Durdling

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Since I am not writing Finance articles for MTG Price exclusively now, it felt appropriate to do an introductory “first” article to introduce myself and my goals for the series I’ll be writing. Why the ironic quotes around “first”? Well, as much as this feels like a new beginning, I have contributed to MTG Price in the past.  This is as much a homecoming as it is an introduction.

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Still, a lot of you weren’t around last time I was here and it’s all new to you. Perfect. Even though I’m merely resuming writing, I am launching a new series and I am excited about it because it’s well within my wheelhouse. Corbin introduced himself and his goals very well and I think I would like to do the same.

I want to talk about EDH and its financial implications.

I will now take questions.

EDH Finance FAQ

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Q: Why not continue your series from where it left off?

A: It was a little dry and technical. It was sort of a blueprint for how “not to” MTG Finance, which is useful, but I also said nearly everything I wanted to say in that series. I covered some more topics on Quiet Speculation and I think repeating what I already wrote is a lazy way to start a series. I am sure I will end up reiterating some things as they come up, however.

Q: What are your goals for the series?

A: I want to cover the nuances of EDH and how it uniquely pertains to finance in a way that formats like Standard do not. Some of our instincts as financiers are very good and some of them are very, very poor. Learning those nuances is very helpful in finance and since I’ve been deep in EDH for two years, I feel like I have learned a lot I can pass on. You learn by doing, or reading from people who have been doing. I am sure most of you would rather just read about my trial and error process. There has been quite a bit of error and it’s been enormously instructive. I’m looking forward to passing that knowledge along to people who have great finance instincts and are eager to learn about how EDH is unique.

Q: Will you cover Tiny Leaders?

A: I am sure I will. There are some corollaries with EDH and there are some wild divergences. I don’t understand Tiny Leaders as well as I would like to but I am investigating it on a weekly basis and learning more all the time. If I say anything about a format like Tiny Leaders that I don’t understand as well as I understand 100 card, it will be because I’m very confident in what I am saying. The last thing I want to do is lead people astray and have them end up holding the bag on bad specs that were hype-based rather than reality-based. If Tiny Leaders has staying power as a format, it’s worth taking some time to really understand it. That said, I have some impressions that I will share in the weeks to come.

Q: Is EDH Finance really all that different?

A: Yes and no. While good cards are going to be worth money and bad cards are going to be worth not money, just like in other formats, there are some nuances. I have learned a lot through trial and error and I want to impart some of that hard-earned experience. It’s easy to buy too early, sell too early, misread signals and buy the wrong things. Good cards end up worth nothing three years after they’re printed. Mediocre cards rocket up in price. Even people who understand EDH as a format very well struggle sometimes. How can someone who doesn’t pay attention to EDH at all be expected to make sense of it?

EDH Finance isn’t harder than any other facet of finance, but there are some rules that don’t apply to other types of finance. Once you learn those rules, it will all start to make sense. You could take the time to learn some of the nuances on your own, but you don’t have to. I’ve got you covered.

Q: I don’t care about EDH.

A: …that isn’t a question.

Q: I don’t care about EDH?

A: That’s not really… you know what, forget it. I’ll actually field this one.

I don’t care about Vintage, but if I find a foil Vandalblast in a bulk foil bin for $0.50, whether or not I care about its Vintage implications is irrelevant; I am either knowledgeable enough to stack that scrilla or I’m not. My personal feelings don’t enter into what is essentially a financial transaction, so don’t leave money on the table because you aren’t an EDH player. If you know the Blackhawks are going to win the Stanley Cup you bet on them regardless of whether or not you know how to skate.

Making smart moves in MTG Finance requires you to pay attention to as many facets of the game as you can manage, so at least knowing what’s going on in EDH when major events like a drastic rules change or the spoiling of new cards from a Commander sealed set happen. Knowing how to handle those situations means you buy ahead of hype and sell into it. That’s the play, after all.

I keep talking about how I plan to codify as much of what I’ve learned as I can, freeing you up to really focus on other aspects of finance, but I think now that I have outlined my goals for the series a bit and still have your attention, I want to make the case for caring about EDH yourself. I want to help you know what you’re talking about. I am even going to try and convince you to build a deck and play a few games. Do you have to? Nope! But I think you’ll be glad you did. You can take that to the bank.

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Better do what he says, he looks crazy

 

In Defense of Durdling

I am a pretty late EDH convert. I wasn’t excited about the format initially and when I saw huge, durdly games with 5 players take up an entire card table with gigantic board states and no one able to really swing profitably, it turned me off the way it has a lot of people. I couldn’t see myself investing two or three hours into one game without starting to wonder which make and model of pistol had the tastiest barrel.

When Innistrad block came out, trading at large events was still a thing, but barely.  I would spend hours before the event packing my binders with a mix of casual and competitive cards. I would make sure I had a long list of staples specific to the event I was going to. I made sure I knew the prices of every card in my binder so I could cut down on the time people spent looking cards up. I was ready.

I needn’t have bothered.

I got to the event site both days of an SCG Open with the cards people needed for either Standard or Legacy and got a few trades in from people frantically trying to get the cards they needed for their decks, but for the most part people just bought the cards they needed for decks. The trades I did get in took too long because my trade partners wanted to look up my cards and their cards to make sure that even though I was willing to trade them the card they couldn’t play the event without and take whatever they had in their binder so long as it was worth it for me financially that the trade wasn’t in my favor by as much as a quarter. After the event started, the only people trading were other sharks, and trading with them was only semi-productive. If you are forced to trade straight across with someone who knows prices as well as you do, all you can do is target cards you think will go up soon and try and maximize the number of cards you don’t think will go up that you get rid of. It’s worth doing, but only just barely.

The worst part was, I needn’t have bothered showing up with a fully stocked binder. If I’d bought 20 copies of Snapcaster Mage I could have had the only card anyone asked for and had a better time. People would look through 3 binders that had thousands of cards and say “no thanks; I didn’t see anything”. If this had been a GP, I could have sold cards to the dealers and made the trip worthwhile, but this was an SCG Open so even that wasn’t an option. Dejected, I slumped down on a table far from the trade tables and tables set up for the event. I dropped my binder on the table a little harder than I meant to and the gust of displaced air buffeted a pile of booster pack wrappers sitting between an older gentleman and his pre-teen son. sitting near me at the table. They looked over at me and both eyed my binder. The older man said to his son “Why not ask him?” and the kid asked me “Excuse me, do you have a” and I thought “Great, he gets to be person #400 to ask me for Snapcaster Mage. Best weekend ever” but he finished his sentence “Ludevic’s Test Subject?”

I snapped out of my funk. “Uhhh, yeah, absolutely.” I put my binder away and got out a different binder. Both of their eyes widened. I flipped the binder open “Do you want the set copy or the promo?” which was met with a “There’s a PROMO?!” from both of them. I slid a copy out and set it on his mat. The thought of looking through a binder didn’t appeal to me so I was prepared to give him the card, but he said “Will you take a Garruk for it?”

I think at the time, Garruk was worth $25 so that made the trade roughly… $25 in my favor. I tried to give him a playset, but he said “It’s for my blue monsters EDH deck. I only need one”. He handed me the Garruk and turned back to his father, elated, and they started picking up the pack wrappers and throwing them away. “We bought a box of Innistrad but didn’t get any Test Subjects” the dad explained. I was stunned. He was happier with his bulk rare Test Subject than I was with my Planeswalker. I had to know their secret. Over the next hour, we went through my binder page by page, pulling out cards for his blue monsters EDH deck and other cards he just liked. Every time I told him it was OK to pull more cards at me, he looked at me like I was either nuts or untrustworthy; like I was someone in a police procedural movie keeping the criminal on the phone long enough for the police to trace the call.  He pulled out cards until he couldn’t find anything else he wanted and then I made some suggestions for cards he already owned that he could put in the deck.

All in all, he probably got $18 worth of cards and I made his whole weekend. I got a $25 card for $18 worth of bulk rares and garbage but that wasn’t what made my weekend. It was realizing that I had been trading with the wrong people.

I decided to try and build some EDH decks, and after going to a local shop on EDH night, I was able to trade a small number of expensive cards for two complete decks, decks I could work on improving. Not only that, I traded out a ton of the weird, foreign and foil cards I couldn’t sell on TCG Player and had been sitting on for months. They didn’t just want Snapcaster and the other 10 cards that were getting played in Standard. They wanted everything. My bulk rares were worth their weight in gold all of a sudden.

I stumbled into a community that still trades cards. A community that sees the value in cards like Boros Battleshaper and Progenitor Mimic. A community that isn’t looking to optimize their deck but rather optimize their experience. We should be thanking them, frankly, because if it weren’t for EDH and casual, only like 100 Magic cards would be worth money. Standard couldn’t make Chromatic Lantern worth $6 but EDH did. Modern couldn’t make Creakwood Liege worth $11, but EDH did. And Legacy couldn’t make Savor the Moment worth $5, only a speculative, targeted buyout predicated on the notion that the card is somehow good in Tiny Leaders could do that.

If you haven’t gone to the shop on EDH night, maybe try it one week. Take your trade binder with you, if you even still have a trade binder. You might be surprised with how much fun you have. You might see some cards in action that you weren’t aware of. You may do what I do all the time and see EDH cards in action and think to yourself “Why isn’t this card worth way more money?” That’s one of the burning questions I hope to answer with this series. Whether or not you take my advice and find an EDH group to trade with and learn a little bit from, we’re all going to benefit from discussing EDH with some scrutiny and an eye toward figuring out why certain cards aren’t worth more money.

Thanks for reading! I am glad to be back writing here at MTG Price and I am really glad to be writing about EDH and finance in the same column, finally! Check back next week and let’s start trying to figure out why certain cards aren’t worth more money.

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So You Want to Play Magic for Free?

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Greetings! Today is a big day for me: my first article on MTGPrice. I am humbled and honored to be part of this top-notch team of some of the best minds in MTG finance.

Goals and Expectations

When I first started writing about MTG finance, I felt woefully inadequate compared to many of my peers, and to some extent, that’s still true. Many of the writers on this site make a living exclusively by buying and selling Magic cards. Others have experience in real-life finance and stock trading. Some are funding their college educations through MTG.

By contrast, my primary goal in MTG finance is just to play for free. That’s it! Sure, every once in a while, I’ll buy in to a card and make some real-life cash profit. Those times are nice, but they’re not frequent, because constant speculating is time-consuming, and most of my free time is taken up by this little dude:

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The time I do have outside of my full-time job is precious, and the fact is that constantly buying and selling Magic cards is a pain. Maintaining a large inventory, the daily packaging and shipping of cards, having to travel to large events in far-off locations every single weekend… these things can be rewarding and profitable, but they’re a grind. Could I do it? Maybe. Do I want to? Not in the slightest.

I’ll tell you straight up: the perspective I’m bringing is of someone who worries over when the best time to buy a single copy of a card for my cube is, or maybe a playset for a Constructed deck. My definition of “going deep” on a card is 20 to 30 copies. If you’re a store owner or someone who goes hundreds deep on most speculation targets, I like to think my insights will still be applicable, but  there may be other columnists on this site whose objectives more closely align with yours.  Rather than feeling inadequate compared to those other writers, though, I’m just going to own it: my goals are different than theirs.

Namely, I’m looking to spend as little time as possible on Magic finance so I can spend the most time possible actually playing Magic without spending money to do so. Does that sound similar to what you want? Then we’ll get along just fine. Read on.

Why MTG Finance Matters

If you’re new to Magic: The Gathering, I hate to break it you, but you are going to have to spend a significant amount of money if you want to be competitive in basically any format. I know it’s rough, but unless you’re lucky enough to have inherited an old collection from a family member, you are just going to have to accept that this is an expensive hobby, and it’s at its most expensive of all when you’re just starting out.

Now, you’re currently on a Magic finance website reading an article about playing Magic for free, and that shows that you’re at least interested in mitigating these start-up costs. That’s awesome. Deciding you want to spend as little as possible to get as much as possible out of this hobby is an excellent first step.

I have good news for you new players, and it applies to the established players, too: once you have a decent-sized collection, the world of MTG opens up to you exponentially. Why? Because Magic cards are probably the most liquid, easy-to-sell assets that you own (unless you’re involved in commodities markets or drugs or something). There are buylists all over the internet, many of them featured on MTGPrice, waiting to buy your cards at a moment’s notice. Most adults don’t often work in the barter system, but trades of cards for cards happen every day in every LGS across the world. You can use a service like PucaTrade to turn the cards you have into cards you want from the comfort of your own home, or turn to eBay to try to sell individual cards for a little more than buylist pricing. There are many, many ways to get rid of cards for either cash or different cards.

So once you have a collection, it’s not hard to turn that collection into a specific group of cards you want—for play, for speculation, for collecting, or for chewing on (in my son’s case). Of course, you can only leverage your collection into the exact cards you want if you understand how MTG finance works: how seasonal price patterns work, how rotation works, how Standard pricing works, how eternal format pricing works, how casual formats impact the marketplace, the best ways to out your cards, and more.

That’s why Magic finance matters: because almost anybody can play almost any format with enough knowledge, time, and dedication. There’s no reason you need to resort to less powerful budget decks to get your fun out of this game, but there’s also no reason for you to overspend in acquiring top-tier staples in your favorite format. You just need to develop a couple important attributes.

Two Crucial Attributes for a Finance-Minded Mage

I can’t stress enough the importance of patience for the finance-inclined player.

It has been literal years since I preordered a card. Yes, occasionally there’s a Bonfire of the Damned or a Sphinx’s Revelation that blows up and makes those who got in early a ton of money, but in the vast majority of cases, cards fall steeply from their preorder prices. If we’re spending as little time as possible on MTG finance, that means just assuming everything in the set will fall and not worrying about the potential of underpriced cards.

Some players collect as much as possible from Standard-legal sets to allow the biggest pool possible when building a deck for FNM or other events. I’ve seen countless players who immediately start acquiring playsets of every card in the new set as soon as it’s available on shelves.

If you’re trying to stretch your MTG dollars to the max, though, you need to stop doing this. Between WOTC’s marketing and best-case-scenario mentality in a large portion of the playerbase, new cards are almost always over-hyped. So few of them end up being competitive staples, and those that do often still end up cheaper than their preorder prices.

Just wait. Observe what’s competitive, figure out what you want to play, and obtain the cards that apply. Picking up cards blindly—especially Standard cards—just because “I might need it someday” is a quick way to end up with a bunch of cards that are dropping in value quickly and don’t have a deck.

If you’re acquiring a card for a casual format like Cube or Commander, there is no reason to ever preorder. In fact, if a card is a Standard-only staple, I tend to not pick it up until it’s rotated. For example, Elspeth, Sun’s Champion could not be more of a staple in Standard, but at a mana cost of six, it will never see play in competitive eternal formats. This means it will drop steeply at rotation, when I will pick a copy for my cube. (Off topic: it was such a missed opportunity to go with “Sun’s Champion” instead of “Champion of the Sun.”)

Now, let me state that it’s absolutely a fair stance to take to pay more for a card because you desperately want to play with it and are willing to pay the extra cost. You also should be playing optimized decks in major tournaments, and if that means overspending on a card, you gotta do what you gotta do. And if you’re speculating on a card, then as a matter of course, you think the price you’re paying is fine and that it’s likely to go up. These are situations where patience doesn’t really apply. But if you’re looking to spend the minimum amount on Magic that still allows you to be competitive or just have a fun-to-play-with collection , it’s the most important attribute you can develop. Wait until a card is at its floor price before buying in. If you need it beforehand, sure, buy it, but until then, there’s no rush.

Speaking  of needs, the second key attribute I’ll be mentioning today is developing a good sense of the concept of wants versus needs. You need to be able to look at that Sower of Temptation foil in your LGS’s display case and say to it, “It’s you I want, but it’s [the non-foil copy] that I need.”

It’s hard to think of two less related things than playing Magic for free and acquiring foils and other high-value cards. This is 100 percent a matter of personal opinion, but to me, there’s no sense in acquiring anything other than the least expensive version of a card to play with (within reason—I’ll pay a little more for an old-bordered version of a card, for example). I believe that it’s easier to have fun with 30 cards worth $30 each than with one card worth $1000, and that’s how I treat my own collection.

Now, I’m not saying you’re not allowed to like foils, and you can even incorporate the acquisition of foils into this whole “playing Magic for free” thing, but you’re almost never going to see me talk about them or advocate buying them. They’re a facet of the market that  I don’t fully understand, appreciate, or even like. My advice is to simply focus on non-foils until you have every card you could ever want to play with and are ready to start upgrading. Until then, high-end cards just don’t make a lot of sense.

And frankly, even if I ever reach the point of owning every card I could possibly want, I’ll just keep my non-foils and spend that extra money on things unrelated to Magic, thank you. That is allowed, you know.

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Pass the Turn

Again, I’m looking forward to being here at MTGPrice for the foreseeable future, and I’d love to hear your feedback on both what I’ve written already and what you’d like to see me write moving forward. Always feel free to leave a comment below or reach out to me on Twitter at @dbro37.  See you next week!

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Back to the Future Sight

Welcome back! Go ahead and pull out last week’s homework when you sit down, and we are gonna go over it together once the bell rings. Oh, and if you have the signed parent forms and check for the field trip, I’ll take those, too.

So last week, I asked you to compare some of the more expensive cards from Avacyn Restored and Rise of the Eldrazi with new cards from Dragons of Tarkir. Now, my findings are not the full extent of this exercise, nor are they likely all correct. This is not a binary “right or wrong” question, but more of an exploratory practice to grow your own skills.

Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll make money buying and selling Magic cards on the Internet. Uh, or something.

–Ross Lennon

The first thing I looked at were lands. None of these three sets had a cycle of rare lands that produced colored mana—but all three did have a marquee rare land1 (Eldrazi Temple, Cavern of Souls, and Haven of the Spirit Dragon). Cavern of Souls is clearly the most versatile of the three, and it’s priced accordingly (remember, this is a card that even sees some play in Vintage), but Haven certainly has real-world applications. Like Temple, it slots in with a very popular creature type, and presents a very low opportunity cost for deck-builders in EDH. Both have the opportunity to get better over time (as more Eldrazi/Dragons are printed), but Haven also benefits from future forms of Ugin. Foils are likely the safest, but at $8, I may be tempted to wait a while.

All three sets contain above-average mono-red cards at mythic: Vexing Devil, Kargan Dragonlord, and Dragon Whisperer. This is most likely just a coincidence, although Zurgo is in DTK also. All four of the cards I just mentioned are Cube and Modern-worthy playables, though.

The majority of the value of the older two sets is tied up in mythics. If any of the marquee mythics (the elder dragons, primarily) tank at rotation, I would consider them a decent long-term option.

Did you see something I didn’t? Let me know in the comment section!

Turn In Your Papers—It’s Time for This Week’s Lesson

This week, we are going to do a little something different. Magic sets all have different values determined by the cumulative values of all of the cards in a given set. This value is most often assessed immediately upon release, even though that value is guaranteed to change over time. Some sets have the majority of their value tied up in a single card, like Dragon’s Maze, while other sets are full of expensive cards. The print run also plays a factor here, which is why Alpha and Beta are the two highest ranked sets in terms of overall value. Before we get too far into this, let me show you the formulas we will be working with:

FOR SETS WITH MYTHIC RARES:

(2R + 1M)/X

R = Combined value of all Rares in set

M = Combined value of all Mythics in set

X = Combined amount of mythics and twice number of all rares printed in set

FOR SETS WITHOUT MYTHIC RARES:

R/X

R = Combined value of all Rares in set

X = Amount of rares printed in set

These formulas may look familiar to you if you have an SCG Premium account, as they are the same that Ben uses for his preview articles. I hereby give him credit, although these formulas have existed for a very long time. You should write them down somewhere if you haven’t already. We are going to use these when we evaluate sets in the future, so expect to see them fairly often moving forward.

So anyway, as I was saying, obviously sets like Alpha and Beta occupy the top spots when you use these formulas to rank sets. But which Modern-era set has the highest value? The answer, of course, is Future Sight2.

Using some rough estimates based on TCGplayer median prices, we get a combined set value of  around $514. The set had 60 rares. Our formula tells us that the “average” Future Sight rare (and therefore booster pack) is therefore worth about $8.5. It is important to mention, however, that there is one giant, green, $200 outlier in this set, and its name is Tarmogoyf. Removing it from the equation drops the value to just over $5.25.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to always open a Tarmogoyf in a booster pack if at all possible.

–Ross Lennon

Future Sight, however, is more than just the Tarmogoyf lottery. The set was special in the sense that it precedes New World Order and the current era of design philosophy, and also features a ton of crazy cards that were designed to be unique. There are a lot of very good cards in this set. As a result, this set was very difficult to balance internally, and a lot of otherwise questionable effects got printed for the sake of being new and wild (hi, Bridge From Below!). Most of these cards (at rare, at least) have had some sort of Constructed-level impact, and have seen their prices develop accordingly. One of the important things to realize about Future Sight is that it’s “pre-mythic,” so every rare in the set is roughly as rare as ‘Goyf3. That’s a whole heap of potential.

I want to go through all of the low-end rares in Future Sight and see if we can find any diamonds in the temporal aether. Normally, I would say that I would do any card that is less than the price of a booster, but boosters of this set are… not $3. So we will stick to things that are largely $5 or under, but if I see any worthwhile exceptions, I’ll let you know.

Angel of Salvation.full

Angel of Salvation: Even before being reprinted, this card was not very popular. Foils are under $5, which is the only foil version currently available. The card isn’t great, but it’s a rare angel and the foils have room to go nuts.

Remember, if angel collectors only cared about their cards being good, they wouldn’t be collecting angels. #HotTake

–Ross Lennon

Barren Glory.full

Barren Glory: High ho, the dairy-o, The Cheese Stands Alone! And it’s obvious why. The best thing you can do with this card is get someone to draw Stinky Cheese Man on it—actually, that would be pretty cool. Foils are only about a buck, so I feel like that can’t be the worst way to spend a dollar.

Baru, Fist of Krosa.full

Baru, Fist of Krosa: I actually think the grandeur legends would be pretty cool commanders, except that their best ability is literally blank in the format. Again, the foils are worth less than a pack of Fate Reforged, and the potential is infinitely higher. I don’t expect to see any of these guys again. Baru is competing with a slew of strong mono-green generals, however, and is probably never going to make the leap.

Bitter Ordeal.full

Bitter Ordeal: So this is the first card that’s above a dollar! It’s worth five of them! I’m not even sure where this sees play anymore—it’s definitely one of the weirdest cards in the set. I don’t think we will ever see enough demand for worse versions of Haunting Echoes and Cranial Extraction that this card ever surges past its current price. It’s a sorcery, which limits the upside a lot.

Darksteel Garrison.full

Darksteel Garrison: This card is really cool and evocative. Sadly, it’s only playable in Magic: The Gathering, which really doesn’t have a use for it right now. I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but the foils seem very cheap. I’m sure there’s a Commander deck that wouldn’t mind keeping its Eye of Ugin or something alive.

epochrasite

Epochrasite: Reprinted in MM1 (at uncommon!) and in Commander 2014. If every deck on Earth wanted four copies, that might be enough demand to pull it up over a dollar.

Force of Savagery.full

Force of Savagery: It… uhh… triggers Experiment One? This card has always been a trap for novice green mages, and there are so many better things you can do. I’d rather not make money off of these down the road than spend a dollar a piece on them. I have my pride.

Gibbering Descent.full

Gibbering Descent: This is a black enchantment that costs six (or four) and doesn’t win you the game. Oh, and it’s better if you have no cards in hand! Necrogen Mists and Bottomless Pit are both much better, and Braids isn’t even a legal commander.

Heartwood Storyteller.full

Heartwood Storyteller: The foils are roughly seven times the value of the non-foils. There’s potential, but it’s largely a Commander or Cube card, so they’re going to move much slower. It’s also only good in a small selection of decks, which limits potential. If you want some, get them in trade.

Imperial Mask.full

Imperial Mask: You know, there was a period of time when WOTC was really pushing Two-Headed Giant. I wouldn’t mind snatching up a couple of foils if they present themselves.

Intervention Pact.full

Intervention Pact: The range of quality in this cycle financially goes from bulk to more than $20. This is definitely the worst of the cycle, but it doesn’t target, and it requires double white to cast, so it’s always an option for Hive Mind. That doesn’t make it a smart buy, though.

Jhoira of the Ghitu.full

Jhoira of the Ghitu: Reprinted in MM1 and competing with a couple other RU commanders. Foils are already $20, so pass.

Korlash, Heir to Blackblade.full

Korlash, Heir to Blackblade: My heart breaks for this guy. He was actually pretty good in Standard for a little while! I’d play him in Commander. I still care about you, buddy. (Don’t waste your money buying any more than you want to play with, though—no potential here.)

Linessa, Zephyr Mage.full

Linessa, Zephyr Mage: Mono-blue commanders are largely formalities. Don’t expect to get much out of this card.

maelstromdjinn

Maelstrom Djinn: Don’t make Fat Mhoti worse and expect people to pay more for it. That’s not how this works. Just take a second, compare this card on face to Delver of Secrets. Pass.

Magus of the Abyss.full

Magus of the Abyss: This is certainly the kind of card I could get behind. It’s good, but very fair for Commander. May be worth trading for a couple of foil copies, just because this feels like it could be in a Commander deck at some point.

Magus of the Future.full

Magus of the Future: I keep expecting to wake up someday and see these are super expensive, but it could also be in a pre-constructed deck at any point. There is a big spread between foils and non-foils, so there’s potential, but I’m not willing to stick my neck out on this one. If anything, this makes me like the other magi foils better.

Magus of the Moat.full

Magus of the Moat: So turns out that resilience to Lightning Bolt costs about $397. I’m not crazy about these where they are, and this card is not Modern-viable. Pass.

Magus of the Vineyard.full

Magus of the Vineyard: I won’t pretend to know enough about Tiny Leaders to say where this fits in that panoply. This could potentially fit in a number of formats, and I wouldn’t disapprove of trading for a couple of foils. I wouldn’t want to commit too much cash to getting them, though.

Molten Disaster.full

Molten Disaster: Reprinted and not very good. Pass.

Muraganda Petroglyphs.full

Muraganda Petroglyphs: This is a card that encourages playing bad cards, costs four mana, and doesn’t even keep Force of Savagery alive. The flavor is neat, but if I found some of these in my closet, I would be thrilled to get more than a quarter for them.

Nihilith.full

Nihilith: This is the kind of card that I like in Cube. That’s why the foils are worth $2 and the non-foils are largely worthless. Not a viable spec target, but I’m going to go add one to my cube.

Nimbus Maze.full

Nimbus Maze: This card took off right before Theros and hasn’t come back down. This is the type of cycle that I could see being printed someday, but is likely better in some of the other color combinations. If this card gets reprinted, I can see these actually holding or slightly increasing, because people might like the cool frame. That’s a small audience though.

nix

Nix: This effect is largely not worth a card in your deck. If Bloodbraid Elf gets unbanned, I could see this price going up as a knee-jerk reaction, but the price will crater back down quickly. If there is any kind of spike, get rid of any copies you have immediately.

Oriss, Samite Guardian.full

Oriss, Samite Guardian: Of this cycle, Oriss has the worst regular ability and probably the best granduer one (tied with Korlash). Pass.

Pact of the Titan.full

Pact of the Titan: Like Intervention Pact, it’s good, but only in one deck. Also has been reprinted.

Pyromancer's Swath.full

Pyromancer’s Swath: A trap and a reprint.

Quagnoth.full

Quagnoth: This card exists only to make people think for a brief second that they opened a Tarmogoyf and then quickly break their hearts. I vehemently hate this card. It is also very bad and dumb.

Rites of Flourishing.full

Rites of Flourishing: Reprinted in M12, and very fair. The only demand is in singleton formats, so there’s more than enough supply.

Scourge of Kher Ridges.full

Scourge of Kher Ridges: See my comments on Angel of Salvation, but replace “angel” with “dragon.” I never want to be in a situation where I cast this card.

Scout's Warning.full

Scout’s Warning: Did you know you can crack a Black Lotus on your opponent’s turn and cast this and Serra Avenger? If that’s your idea of fun, then buy these to your heart’s content, but you should probably look for a different hobby.

Seht's Tiger.full

Seht’s Tiger: A 3/3 for four at instant speed with a worse Angel’s Grace attached. It has its uses, but they are not strong enough to inspire financial upside.

Shah of Naar Isle.full

Shah of Naar Isle: This card lets your opponent draw three cards.

Shapeshifter's Marrow.full

Shapeshifter’s Marrow: This is neat, but swingy and risky. I think I want to own one foil copy, but that’s it.

Shimian Specter.full

Shimian Specter: My brain is falling asleep.

Spellweaver Volute.full

Spellweaver Volute: Zzzzz…

Steamflogger Boss.full

Steamflogger Boss: Don’t. Just don’t. WOTC knows this won’t happen, but nobody at the company has the heart to tell you.

Take Possession.full

Take Possession: This was also reprinted as an uncommon.

Tarox Bladewing.full

Tarox Bladewing: This is worse than Oriss.

Thunderblade Charge.full

Thunderblade Charge: This is worse than Hammer of Bogardan.

Tombstalker.full

Tombstalker: This is the safer version of Tarmogoyf. It has a price history that has been as high as $10, has evasion, is good in a lot of different types of decks, and is still respectable in Legacy. It was reprinted in MM1, and is the kind of card that I could see WOTC printing one or two more times, just because it is the kind of broken threat they want us playing with (as opposed to Griselbrand or Emrakul). It’s good in the mono-black Legacy decks that lots of players new to the format typically play at least once. It’s definitely worth owning a set.

Veilstone Amulet.full

Veilstone Amulet: Oh sweet, hexproof: everyone’s favorite mechanic. I could see this card being good in Tiny Leaders, since there are fewer board wipes in the format. I’m still going to pass, but I won’t think less of you for buying in.

Whetwheel.full

Whetwheel: Of all the ways to kill someone with infinite mana, this is technically one of them.

That’s It

So we didn’t find very much. There are a few things with niche potential, but this was also an important exercise to demonstrate. Magic finance has gotten to a point where there are very few hidden gems left, so it’s worth doing a detailed analysis of sets with opportunity.

Thanks as always for joining me, and I’ll see you here next week.

Best,

Ross

BONUS!

Here is the formula breakdown for Modern Masters, which actually has a higher value than Future Sight (but wasn’t ever a Standard-legal set).

Combined value of rares: 371.25 (x2 = 742.5)

Combined value of mythics: 537.75

Total number of rares in the set (x2) plus the number of mythics: 121

The average price of the rare slot: 10.58

The average price of the rare slot (excluding Tarmogoyf): 9.00

Even with Tarmogoyf, the rare slot is only about half the price of the market value of an MM1 pack. Of course, the guaranteed foil slot is nice, but it’s too risky to predict.

1 Avacyn Restored also had the last three pieces of the Innistrad block rare land cycle (Desolate Lighthouse, et al), but those don’t really matter here since there is no parallel between the other two sets.

2 As in, the set that was standard legal. Don’t worry, we’ll get to you-know-what soon.

3 Impossible to say without seeing the sheets, but it’s close enough.

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Asset Appreciation

By: Cliff Daigle

So I’ve come to a decision: I’m selling my Kaalia of the Vast deck.

If you’re interested, here’s the decklist. I’m not trying to sell it to you. I’m not trying to stump for the prices using this bully pulpit, but the list of what is foil is instructive. I certainly did not spend or trade about $2,000 to acquire this deck, but the prices have all steadily increased from what I got them for.

As I’ve admitted before, I’m a collector. I really enjoyed having these unique and valuable cards in my deck, and playing a foil French Angel of Despair started some interesting conversations in games. Whenever I had a chance to pick up something outside the usual version, I went for it, and did so for years. As such, the value increased, and with some of my foils, I picked them up at their printing, when they were significantly cheaper.

I started this deck in 2011, when the Heavenly Inferno deck came out and when Commander really hit the mainstream of Magic awareness.

Today I want to go over some of the cards and the specifics on how/why they went up in value so much in the past couple of years, and see what trends jump out.

Akroma, Angel of Fury (foil)

This ‘alternate’ version of Akroma has not seen the same level of reanimation or love that the original has, but she remains a ridiculously powerful card. It’s only got one foil despite being in Heavenly Inferno, and she is the only mono-red Angel. There was once a combo involving turn 2 Radha, Heir to Keld and unmorphing Akroma on turn 4’s attack, but this increase in price is mainly due to age and availability.

 

Avacyn, Angel of Hope (foil)

This is the heavy hitter of any Angel deck. I have written before about how I expect her to headline FTV: Angels this summer, and her nonfoil price will take a hit but rebound nicely. Avacyn benefits from being incredibly powerful, in a popular tribe, and a mythic in a set that was widely regarded as unfun (and therefore opened less).

 

Kokusho, the Evening Star (CHK foil)

Interestingly, the Kamigawa foil is about $13 more than the Modern Masters foil, even for being the same card. The only differences are a line of flavor text and a set symbol. This card was initially deemed too good for Commander, and was banned for quite some time. Sheldon Menery used to give hints in his columns about cards they were ‘trying out’ and I got three Kokusho before the unbanning and subsequent price spike. Sadly, there’s no longer such indicators.

 

Gisela, Blade of Goldnight (foil)

She’s not as in-demand as Avacyn is, but many of the same price pressures apply: small sales, mythic, ridiculously powerful. Being two colors is the worst thing about her.

 

Aurelia, the Warleader (foil)

This is one of the most recent foils and at a multiplier of six from non-foil to foil, it’s an indicator of the casual appeal. Gatecrash sold very well, so that’s helping keep the price low. It’s one of the easier cards to cast, at only six mana, and that has probably put her into a few Cubes as well. Her synergy with Kaalia is undeniable, should you always play Aurelia a turn or two after Kaalia.

 

Iona, Shield of Emeria (foil)

First of all, her foil is sought after for Legacy Reanimator builds. This is one of the most powerful things to cheat into play, as it simply denies your opponent the ability to play spells. They aren’t countered, they aren’t exiled, they simply cannot happen. This is also one of the best Bribery targets in Commander. Zendikar is often regarded as a set that brought Magic to a new level of growth, but this is still in a lot smaller quantity than a mythic in Theros or Khans.

 

Baneslayer Angel (foil)

Being in two straight Core Sets should have her price lower than it is, but the power of this card is rather high. Five mana, flying, 5/5, lifelink, and a little protection was good enough to define Standard for quite a while.

 

Linvala, Keeper of Silence (foil)

Rise of the Eldrazi was ridiculously fun to play and a surprisingly deep set. This was opened at a very healthy clip for its season, and a little more afterwards. I remember my LGS choosing Rise drafts over M11 more than once. Linvala’s price has been creeping upward steadily for a while, a combination of her power in Casual formats and as an answer to many problems in Modern.

 

Swiftfoot Boots (foil)

The regulars are a dollar or less, from M12 and two Commander printings. The foils are $6, and it would not be a surprise to see then break $10 within a year, being the only chance you have to get them in foil. A foil-set reprint (Conspiracy 2 seems like a good spot for this) will impact that price somewhat, and should not be discounted.

 

Command Tower (foil)

Now, there’s two foil versions out there: the Judge foil, and the Commander’s Arsenal version. Both are a couple of years old, and aren’t terribly common, but the judge foil is still not hard to find.

 

Thespian’s Stage (foil)

I’ve written about this multiple times and this is the short version: Get the foils you need now. A reprint on this land is very likely, as it’s one of the best things you can be doing in Commander, but the foils are much more likely to hold their price for the long term.

 

  

Sacred Foundry, Godless Shrine, Blood Crypt (all foil)

Foil shocks are as safe as can be for the next five years or so. We had some pricey ones before Return to Ravnica block, and then the newer shocks have crept up to the $50 range, depending on the colors. The older shocklands provide a price ceiling, and while I don’t expect huge growth out of RTR/GTC foil shocks, I do see them at least holding steady. If I were trading Standard cards to get Modern ones, foil shocks would be my ideal targets.

So what lessons are there to be learned?

First of all, if you need to get foils that are not in print, go ahead and get them now. Waiting won’t make them cheaper. At best, they will be the same price, at worst, they will be much, much more. So take it from a collector, a foil hound, a magpie: Get them now and revel in it.

Secondly, the print run matters, but not as much as the Eternal play. Iona and Linvala’s foil prices reflect this. There are more foils of Iona out there, but she doesn’t see much play outside of being a one-of in Reanimator. If it’s a short print run, that will make a difference as well, and could be a factor sooner rather than later.

Finally, if you can stand to wait until foils are at their bottom, do it. This is not necessarily the time when they rotate out of Standard, but instead when supply is at their greatest.

For an example, let’s look at Sarkhan Unbroken. Right now, his foil is at a comfortable $50, and that’s nearly half what it was when the set arrived. In about six weeks, Modern Masters lands, and this summer, we’ll have Magic Origins. Origins’ arrival is when I’m hoping that Sarkhan’s foil will be $30-$40 or so, and that is a price I’m comfortable at. The power level in Commander and other casual formats just won’t let the foil go lower, and it’s likely to appreciate well.

I hope you’re able to look at foil appreciations and figure out what else we should be watching (Eidolon of the Great Revel at $30 is a fair price now, but it’ll be $45 by summer 2016) and picking up for our collections.

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