PROTRADER: A Cautious Reaction to SCG Indy

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I began my Sunday morning the same way I always embrace the day – well, at least from an MTG finance standpoint. I suppose technically Monday is fairly unique in absolute, as I have the day off and I need to come up with an article topic.

This week I figured there’d be some interesting movers and shakers from the SCG Indianapolis Open worth diving into. It’s a brand new Standard format, and cards are bound to break out right? Surely there will be some key speculation targets based on Saturday’s results?

Honestly, I’m not so sure. While I’ll be first to admit I watched virtually zero coverage of the event yesterday (it was my wedding anniversary and so MTG time was understandably scarce) I did manage to catch up with what happened fairly quickly. And with this limited information, I don’t see anything to get very excited about. That, combined with the fact that Battle for Zendikar cards still remain one of the worst investments for anything behind a 2 week time horizon, and I am faced with some fairly limited options.

Allow me to explain a bit further, and then hopefully provide some constructive ideas that are worth considering.

Saturday Movers – Non Battle for Zendikar

Expecting to read up on the hottest strategies of the weekend, I started off at Star City’s website to read Saturday’s recap. Unfortunately, the site didn’t have much to offer in terms of what strategies were most successful.

“Day 1 of the #SCGINDY Standard Open is in the books and one thing is clear: you can play anything you want in Battle for Zendikar Standard!”

No leads here – and in fact, the more diverse the format is going to be, the less likely certain cards will be able to stand out. Take Saturday’s top winner (according to mtgstocks.com/interests) for example: Atarka’s Command.

Chart from mtgstocks.com due to recency of data.
Chart from mtgstocks.com due to recency of data.

The green/red instant is pretty much sold out across the internet thanks to a strong showing on camera during day one of the open. I can certainly get behind this card’s strength and utility in new Standard. But $17 guys? For a multi-colored rare? How often do we have a multi-colored rare sustain a $17 price tag in Standard? Not many come to mind from the past couple years, and I don’t think this card necessarily merits the price either.

I can’t get behind the magnitude of this move, and I can only advise to sell immediately into this spike. I checked top vendors and none have moved their buy prices just yet – I suspect a small bump, but not a 2x increase. In other words, I don’t think vendors going to chase this card this high and I recommend you don’t either. I missed this train and I’m not going to try and chase it down. Let’s move to the next one.

Things only become more perplexing when I look at the next top Standard “interest” on mtgstocks.com.

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Chart from mtgstocks.com due to recency of data.
Chart from mtgstocks.com due to recency of data.

A $64 Planeswalker in Standard is not brand new, but it sure is rare. I believe Liliana of the Veil notched that honor only briefly while in Standard, and of course everyone knows the story of Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

So is Vryn’s Prodigy the next Jace 2.0? It certainly has some commonalities to the iconic Planeswalker. Most obviously, it’s Jace. It’s Jace that costs two mana, can flip easily, starts with five loyalty, can protect itself, can give you card advantage, and can help you win the game rapidly with his ultimate ability. Additionally, Vryn’s Prodigy was printed in what probably amounted to an under-appreciated and under-opened set. Fewer copies of this mythic exist than mythics from, say Dragons of Tarkir or possibly even Fate Reforged.

Net, the story matches up fairly well and naysayers (including myself up until recently) need to respect this card. Does that mean we go after copies in the $60 price range? Honestly, this is a difficult call. If he does have the appeal of Jace 2.0, we know his price ceiling is in the $100 range. But even if the card does retail for $100, you’re looking at selling copies for $90 on TCG Player, netting you closer to $80 after fees and shipping. Risking $60+ to make $80 at most is not the most attractive risk/reward equation. And if Vryn’s Prodigy comes short of my ceiling and stops around $75, you’ll be lucky to profit on copies you buy today. I’m going to sit on the sidelines for now – I may regret this decision later, but I would rather put my speculation funds to work in an asset with better risk/reward prospects. But as events unfold, it would appear the time to buy copies for use in Standard may be “right now”.

Beyond these top movers, I hear Hangarback Walker is still relevant, various Dragonlords saw play, and we haven’t seen the last of Siege Rhinos or Mantis Riders. All of these creatures are thus far still relevant in Standard post-rotation, and therefore they all remain attractive cards to keep an eye on. I would prefer cards from Origins or Dragons of Tarkir since they were opened up less and don’t have Fetch Lands to compete with for value. That being said Hangarback Walker has likely already peaked, while Mantis Rider remains attractive at a buck and change. Though the Dragonlords may be the most exciting targets – they’re mythic rares from Dragons of Tarkir selling at reasonable prices. If they have a large impact in new Standard, they are well-positioned to double in value.

Atarka's

If the Standard format truly is slowing down as many expect with Battle for Zendikar, then these are bound to see increased play.

What About Battle for Zendikar Movers?

Nope. Don’t do it. People chasing Bring to Light last weekend are not going to make much on the card unless it makes a huge splash at the Pro Tour – and even then, they have to sell the card immediately. Don’t get me wrong, the card is powerful and cool. I really hope it does well in Standard. But it’s already up over $6, and as a rare in Battle for Zendikar I just can’t see this card maintaining this price tag. Again I look to Siege Rhino for comparison – if Siege Rhino can only be worth $3 there’s no way Bring to Light is a $6 card in one month unless it is the go-to strategy for Standard. Can money be made on the card in the short term? Perhaps, if it breaks out at the Pro Tour and you sell right away. But understand that this has to be your strategy if you hope to profit on Bring to Light.

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Bring to Light

It’s encouraging to see Oblivion Sower stabilize in price after making waves last weekend, but being in the Duel Deck sure puts a damper on the card’s value. Radiant Flames also saw play and an ensuing bounce, though I’m not sure what upside remains. Often these type of cards sell for in the $3-$5 price range, and applying the Expedition tax yields a target price in line with where the card is currently trading.

In short, I couldn’t get particularly excited about any Battle for Zendikar cards heading into this weekend and that hasn’t changed. It’s refreshing to see the newest set on camera, but there’s just so much risk from excess supply going forward. If you hope to profit on cards from the latest set, make sure you have an exit strategy related to any possible Pro Tour hype spike. That will be your best bet.

One Last Caution

We’ve been here many times before – certain cards make a splash during the first Star City Games open a new set is Standard legal. Certain cards appear to be the break-outs, only to remain absent in all subsequent events. Being such a young format, we cannot place all of our bets based on this weekend’s results. They’re better than nothing, perhaps, and we can glean certain ideas from them. But the Pro Tour is where the real movement takes place.

With this in mind, I’m going to keep most of my funds on the sideline. For one, I’m not a huge Standard speculator as it is. But more significantly, I didn’t see enough compelling data on Saturday to indicate that a given strategy is definitely here for the long haul. Rotation brings major change, and large format diversity only tells me things haven’t settled in place yet.

If I had to place bets, I would consider Dragonlords as prime targets. They are mythic rares from a less opened set with real potential in a slower format. If you want to make money on Battle for Zendikar, these next two weeks will be your window to do so. But such an endeavor comes with sizable risk, as you need to place correct bets on which cards break out at the Pro Tour. I may dabble here and there, but most likely I’ll watch this rodeo from the sidelines – it doesn’t fit my risk/reward equation well enough.

I wish everyone the best of luck as they place their bets these next couple weeks. I’ll be sure to weigh in on various ideas in the forums where I can, but understand that I remain largely risk-averse when it comes to Standard. I still maintain there are much safer plays out there with comparable upside, albeit over a longer time period. Modern Masters 2015 cards, for example, continue to reach all-time lows – eventually these will be attractive pick-ups, and moving hot Standard cards into staples like Cryptic Command or Mox Opal could be a very sound strategy.

Also don’t forget to pick up the Theros block cards you’re after these next couple months as they tank on their rotation (interestingly, Keranos, God of Storms has already bounced off its lows from a couple months ago).

Keranos

With Standard on the forefront of everyone’s minds, just don’t lose sight of other worthy pickups. Some of the most ignored cards now could become some of the most desirable six months from now. I’d rather remain ahead of the curve, and if I couldn’t do so with something like Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy then I will remain forward-looking and identify the next opportunity. It may be some Pro Tour breakout in the near term, but always think one step ahead and you’ll always have ample opportunities for profit.

Sig’s Quick Hits

  • It’s worth noting that eternal all-star Thoughtseize has sold off a little bit on its departure from Standard. Granted it’s still $21.15 at Star City Games, but they have plenty of stock and I believe we’ll see a dip below $20 before the card finds price support going forward.
  • Here’s a card I don’t hear about all that often: Nirkana Revenant. According to mtgstocks.com, the black creature just hit a new all-time high. Star City Games has just 2 near mint copies in stock at $16.79. With no reprint on the horizon, she’s only going to continue her gradual climb upward.
  • If I had to make my guess, there’s some Old School driven interest in Stasis. Even if I’m wrong, the card is surprisingly quite low in stock at Star City Games despite its many printings. They are completely sold out of copies from Revised and Fourth Edition. Beyond those sets they have just a couple across Fifth Edition, Alpha, Beta, and Unlimited. And Unlimited copies are hitting all time highs recently, selling at $11.99 at SCG. That’s quite high for a rare that sees no play in most other formats!
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13 thoughts on “PROTRADER: A Cautious Reaction to SCG Indy”

  1. If I had to guess Stasis interest might be a secondary effect of the Black Vise unban in Legacy. There are lots of people who want this to work. Unfortunately you can’t always get what you want.

    1. That’s what I was going to say. Stasis being sold out in revised, 4th, etc is an effect of black vise being unbanned.

  2. Another great write-up Sig,
    Not surprised about the Atarka spike, but $17 is just stupid. Keep an eye on Ojutai’s Command too, saw a lot of play in 2 or 3 different decks.

    1. Thanks jbrown! I will be watching the Commands closely – especially those that haven’t jumped in price yet. I’ve noticed Dromoka’s Command has steadily climbed since Derek wrote about it a month or so ago. The Event Deck reprint hurt potential upside, but there’s still some growth there with copies remaining so cheap. I’m looking to see into a Pro Tour spike if one exists…along with any other Standard cards I may still be sitting on.

  3. Ojutai’s command will be held back a little by the buy a box promo and it’s 4 mana and unplayable in Modern or Legacy. Atarka’s Command is probably spiking hard because speculators (such as myself) have been targeting this card for a while. At worst it’s a Skull Crack, with Prowess cards like Swift Spear and Abbot it’s even better. Saw DeMars swing with Swiftspear and Abbot and no blocks were made and he double Atarka’s Commanded for an extra 14 damage (double Prowess triggers (4 damage), double +1/+1 to team (4 damage), and double 3 to player (6 damage). Of note (and unfortunately for my recent foil Exquisite Firecraft investment) DeMars ran 0 Exquisite Firecraft in his 75, though I don’t fully understand his sideboard choices. So back to Atarka’s Command, it’s been bought up for it’s Modern and potential Legacy playability since release and this cemented it in Standard. Plus u can trigger a ton of additional landfall with the 4th ability (well 2 unforseen landfall triggers could equal a ton). Is $17 a lot, hell yes…but I’m not surprised cause speculators have been buying cheap and it hasn’t been on Standard players’ radars at all.

    1. Regarding DeMar’s sideboard, I assume the Hangarbacks and Thunderbreaks are the question marks, since the rest is fairly standard red aggro tools. They’re simply good in almost any post-board matchup. In aggro mirrors you tend to win by going just a bit bigger and slower. Midrangy type decks will be bringing in more removal and/or sweepers as well; Thunderbreak punishes the former and often out-sizes the latter, and Hangarback offers some resiliency against both.

  4. Sig, this article was open for all to read and glad it was cause I miss your writing. But I have a different issue…did I miss where the mtgprice finance writers talked about the banning of Dig Through Time??? My friends told me Friday night and I was LIVID. Twice now Wizards has banned and ruined my UR Delver deck cause a bunch of Legacy cry babies don’t want to adapt to the powerful delve cards. So my first question, why did I not see a thing about this extremely impactful Legacy banning anywhere on the site? Or what writers talked about it cause I missed it???

    Next, my opinion on what this means is that Wizards has black-balled powerful blue cards and we may never see another blue card impact Legacy or Modern. Dig doesn’t show up as a 4 of in any deck except Omnitell. You know what omnitell can’t beat? UR delver, Grixis delver, Grixis Control, and sometimes burn cause of Pyroblast and pressure. Red cards are what became good cause of Dig, but Wizards is overreacting yet again and banning it in Legacy. White has Thalia and now Vryn Wingware…is a 10 casting cost Dig good? Maybe, but you sure aren’t casting a second one.

    I literally have gone off the rails with this one and am taking a large hit on foil Digs. Luckily the price hasn’t plummeted yet and I was able to sell some locally but at a 50% loss. Objectively, what is your opinion on the banning and how do you A. Think it impacts the future of Legacy? and B. Impacts the future of mtg finance/investing? I wonder if Deathrite was printed now if it would get the Legacy ban hammer or cause he isn’t blue we would still be allowed to play him. Would Delver get banned if he was printed today??

    I started playing Legacy cause it was supposed to be an open format where you could do broken things. I’m personally disgusted and can’t objectively evaluate how I should continue to go about with magic finance and investing. I’ve started to sell off some of better specs like Magus of the Moon, foil Tasigur, Abrupt Decay cause I’m tired of worrying about reprints and now bannings. You can turn 2 Taz in Modern easily, how long until he gets banned cause of his delve ability? But Wizards allows a stupid $100+ Tarmogoyf stay around because it’s a Green card?? We’ve discussed investing in Reserved List cards in the past, but A LOT of players such as myself and literally half the people I know got into Legacy because of the original UR delver and could continue to play very similar decks cause of Dig. But a lot of us are locked out of playing our decks and even more importantly non-Legacy players I’ve spoken to are less eager to enter the format due to the Cruise and Dig bannings so there’s no reason to invest in Reserve List cards if no one wants to play them or if there isn’t a growth in player base. It’s a lot cheaper to build a UR delver variant than RUG delver, or BUG delver cause of Goyf and the mana base…much easier to afford Pyromancers, Swiftspears, Digs/Cruises, Pyroblast, etc.

    So if Modern cards are reprintable and the pushed eternal format, and Legacy is being made harder to enter by banning new cards that are readily available but change/warp the format IS INVESTING IN MAGIC DEAD?? Have we hit the precipice and peak of magic investing? BFZ is determined to be a dead financial investment. Unopened booster boxes since the start of RTR block have NOT increased in value and some have gone down. The FTV series and Duel Decks devalue cards and unopened products aren’t gaining price over time any more. The Clash Packs and Event Decks contain value but crush the non-foil versions of cards and they aren’t good sealed product investments.You said getting in on Jace at $60 isn’t worth it if he only goes up to $75…well isn’t that the same as getting in on Revised lands and 95% of the reserved list at this point? Gotta get in at a high price and hope to still make money? If you buy an Underground Sea at $300 and it goes up to $330 that’s a 10% increase, but Jace going from $60-75 is a 25% increase and you could buy 5 times the Jaces that you could Seas.

    What happens if Top gets banned and there’s no control decks in Legacy? I could go on for forever about how stupid the banning of Dig is and it will actually back fire and make the Legacy format Less diverse and it greatly inhibits the growth of Legacy. Thoughts???

    1. This is a very emotionally charged and passionate comment. I want to respond with diligence, but I’m afraid my schedule this week won’t allow for that. So I’ll share a couple really quick thoughts and I propose we open this up for much broader discussion.

      1. The way you are feeling about Legacy is precisely how I felt about Modern a year ago when they banned Birthing Pod. That ban nuked my Modern deck. I tried picking up Amulet Bloom, but when people started clamoring for Bloom’s banning, I quickly sold out of the deck to avoid more financial loss from losing a deck.

      2. Dig Through Time was a problem in Legacy, in my opinion. Delve cards in general are all dangerously powerful in a format with fetch lands and infinite cantrips. But being able to pitch delve cards to Force of Will and play in any blue shell becomes the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It’s why Dig and Cruise are banned but Tasigur is not. If Dig was Green, to your point, would it be banned? Probably not. Being a creature means Tasigur should be more safe, as well.

      3. Investing in MTG is not dead, but I believe it’s evolving. Standard print runs are gigantic right now so I avoid Standard speculation except for the very quick flips. Modern is rife with reprints and risk of bannings to keep the Pro Tour fresh each year. Legacy has its own struggles, as you’ve indicated. So what do you invest in? While I DO maintain a Legacy deck, I have the majority of my funds in Old School / Vintage staples. A couple Moxen, a Bazaar, my set of Juzams, etc. These won’t be banned or reprinted, nor will they be outclassed. If you want to go even safer, invest in highly graded Alpha cards. Even the most random of rares have shown reasonable appreciation over the last couple years. Will you make millions on easy double ups? No. But will you suddenly lose money due to a WOTC decision? Not unless that decision is to kill the game.

      That’s all for now. Hope it’s helpful, but I encourage you to engage in dialogue with others for broader set of opinions. Thanks for the comment!

      Sig

  5. Thanks for your response Sig. Yeah I was pretty fired up, I tried to keep my language clean. The Pod banning seemed lame to me as well and that banning has kept me from jumping into Modern. I understand your investing in original and high end cards, I just don’t see much upside to them for the cost…too much to invest for too little a return. I think MTG finance has become stock day trading when it used to be a bit more 401K ish. You can’t just stash away unopened booster boxes. You can’t sit on new broken cards cause they risk getting reprinted or banned. So what is magic finance evolving in to? Cause right now it seems like gambling on the next 1 or 2 drop that might be modern and legacy playable or flip the hot Standard card(s). Anyways, always appreciate your work and responses. Hope you have a good week.

    1. Not sure if you’ll see this, but I’ll just mention that I don’t think the really old cards are dead money. Any NM Alpha Uncommon can now be buy listed for $5. That definitely was NOT the case 2 years ago. I suspect there are even some NM Alpha Uncommons on TCG Player right now in the $5 range. Buying here seems like a can’t-lose scenario, as these won’t be getting any cheaper. Will you double your money overnight? No, but if that’s what you’re after than you absolutely need to think of MTG finance as stock day trading. If you want the 401k feel, buy some power or NM Alpha rares. Those won’t be nearly as volatile and I bet you their upward trend continues, as it has for the last bunch of years.

      Happy to continue the dialogue!! 🙂

    2. Magic finance has changed, but as someone who’s been into it for 10+ years I can tell you that it will keep doing that and quite frequently too. You get different tools, resources, changes to the game, etc. you’ll have to adept to stay on top and yes, sometimes you’ll get screwed along the way, we’ve all faced that. Try to learn from it, change your methods and keep going.

      Good luck!

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