Cents and Sensibility

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By: Cliff Daigle

I made it to an FNM a couple of weeks ago, and had a powerful lesson in value.

Here’s my trade partner, telling me he wants to build a Standard dragon deck. I try to steer him into EDH dragons, preferably with Bladewing the Risen, but he’s having none of it.

He takes an assortment of dragons out of my binder and I know none of them are expensive. There’s an M14 Shivan Dragon in the stack! Why did I even put that in a page? How long has that been sitting in there, dead weight in my binder? Bladewing the Risen

He breaks out his smartphone and begins building the trade. $1.20 here, $2.10 there…then he adds the Shivan and says “Whoa. Your side of the trade just went up to $90.”

I tell him to check editions. I could see an Alpha or Beta Shivan being pricey. That’s iconic art and if you played before 1998, Shivan was the finisher of casual decks everywhere. As a teenager, I referred to the Melissa Benson art as “Mr. Happy.”

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He taps his phone a couple of times and squints. “Thirty cents is the mid.” I tell him I’m not surprised and we move forward.

He ends up taking a couple of other things as well, and I get a Nykthos for my trouble.

This story has two takeaways.

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First of all, don’t ever underestimate how the small cards can add up if you’re trading with someone who likes to put every price in. Frankly, I would have just added the Shivan to a trade and called it worthless. That thirty cents; it’s value I never ever ever would have expected. No one is actually buying Shivan Dragons from M14. 30 cents is less than the stamp it takes to mail it. It’s bulk – but I’m getting more than bulk rates in trade.

Second, you want to take every chance you can to turn ten dimes into a dollar. Whenever you can turn ten one-dollar cards into one ten-dollar card, do it. The reason you want to do this is because you’re rarely going to meet people who want all ten of those cards and who will give you retail value for them. Thespian's Stage

If you’re speculating on cards and don’t want to trade your specs away, I get that. I’ve got 23 Thespian’s Stage that I wouldn’t trade for five Temple Gardens. I’d think about it, but I’d probably decline.

But I would much rather have one Nykthos than a Shivan Dragon, a Scourge of Valkas, a Hellkite Tyrant, and some other dragons I can’t recall.

On a related note, I think Nykthos is a solid pickup right now around $10. We have had a taste of how good the devotion decks are now with only Theros available. How much better will those decks be with two more sets? We have a Block Constructed Pro Tour in May and I would guess we will see a lot of devotion there.

Also, I want to call attention to Xenagos and Elspeth: The two new Planeswalker cards are finally coming down in price. I’ve advocated patience with new cards before, and while they see a little play, it’s not enough to justify a high price. If Xenagos gets to $10, I’ll go after him with zeal – I’ve managed to get him into play in EDH and he’s a house. Elspeth has followed a similar trend of creeping downwards, due to low Standard inclusion. She’s another card that is outstanding in any casual format you care to name, as a token maker and as a ‘destroy all big creatures’ condition. It seems that it’s mainly casual demand keeping her price up, but one big tournament and she’ll break $30 again.

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One thought on “Cents and Sensibility”

  1. I started reading this blog about 2 months ago and I really appreciate the insight and information provided. I even set up a twitter account and I am now following all the people you mentioned in your twitter roundup.

    Thanks for providing this for anyone that’s interested.

    Smaller things adding up is really awesome. I managed to trade a lot of low-value binder chaff into an abrupt decay a few weeks back. I am flabbergasted at the prices some 8th edition foils now go for, since some are the first foil print available. Look at Ambition’s Cost for example. Is this a trend that will continue onward, being completely fueled by casual demand?

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