Grinder Finance – The Big Finance 101

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I read a lot of comments on a lot of articles, threads, facebook posts, etc.  I see a ton of the same questions asked.  In this article I hope to bullet point some frequently asked questions because I think the value of making this decision on your own vastly out weighs asking the general populace (that likely doesn’t have your best interests in mind).

Should I sell this?

Nobody knows enough information about this except you.  When I decide to sell cards I consider some criteria and hopefully by sharing it with you, you can make you own decisions about when to sell.

  • Am I playing this card?
    Just don’t sell stuff you play with.  That doesn’t make any sense.
  • Am I going to play this card in the near future?
    This might seem a little obvious but I’ve seen a lot of people make pretty poor decisions because they don’t consider this.  I was going to FNM with a friend last night who decided to sell his Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hungers because the store was paying a lot for them.  That usually makes a lot of sense until the conversation we had later that night where he says “I think I’m going to build the Eldrazi Ramp deck.”  The action of selling Ulamog is completely contradictory to his idea of building the deck that uses the card.  While I don’t think you should be holding cards you might play, if you’re actively considering a deck I don’t recommend selling the pieces before you make a decision.
  • How long can I afford to hold this?
    Ah yes the ole “hold that card, it will retain value forever” argument.  I see this most commonly with expeditions these days.  People ask if they should hold or sell these insanely expensive and rare lands.  The argument I hear from people is “hold it, it will always go up” and while that’s true, you have to consider how long you are willing to wait to get rid of it.  The price trajectory of expedition has been down as people are still opening Battle for Zendikar and Oath of the Gatewatch.  Unless there is a significant increase in demand, the increase in supply will continue to drag prices down.  Eye of Ugin’s expedition was $180 pre-order during pre-release weekend.  Today you can buy a copy for $110.  If you decided not to sell that weekend, how long do you think it will take to regain that $70?  How many years do you want to hold something?
  • Is there  a reason this card might go up soon?
    This is a pretty simple one.  Is there a Pro Tour, Grand Prix, or StarCity Open that is likely to feature the card I’m looking to sell?  Can you wait until it’s going on?  It’s very unlikely that cards will fall when they get featured on camera but it is extremely likely that they rise.  You want to see what could happen?  Look at the price of Auriok Champion.  It spiked during an SCG Open where it got a lot of camera time.

Should I buy this?

One again, this is another question that is better if you answer yourself rather than ask others for opinions.

  • When will I play the deck that needs this card?
    A lot of players get caught up in “but what if I need this?” syndrome.  I know that’s not a very scientific way of explaining but you know what I’m saying.  This point often comes up most when on the eve of a new set release.  How much do you need to have cards the day the set is released?  I don’t typically so I won’t rush to pre-order them or buy them on release day.  This time I did because I played in SCG Atlanta the weekend of the set release.  I was okay overpaying to make sure I had the best deck I could play that weekend.  The other time this question is important is for Modern.  Do you regularly play Modern?  Are you just building a deck to play the PPTQs during Modern season?  If you don’t play it a lot there isn’t a lot of reason to buy cards too ahead of time.  For this year I would probably look to finish my Modern deck during the release of Shadows over Innistrad.
  • Is there a high chance of reprint in the near future?
    This point is a little subjective.  Inquisition of Kozilek is a card that could have been reprinted.  This kept the price of Inquisition fairly low because people weren’t buying it aggressively because of a feared reprint.  In this case, I would defer to Warren Buffet, and buy when others are fearful.  If Inquisition had a similar loss to Thoughtseize the risk of reprint is less costly than a risk of no reprint.  Thoughtseize lost ~ 75% of it’s value (falling from roughly $100 to $25).  If Inquisition lost 75% of it’s $12 price tag it would be a loss of maybe $9-10.  If you waited until it was announced as not a reprint you were looking at spending an extra $13 as it doubled up in a few hours.  I’d rather over pay by $9 than have to pay twice as much if the card doesn’t get reprinted.  Zendikar fetchlands had similar reactions when it was announced they were not in  Battle for Zendikar.
  • How much are you willing to spend to play Magic?
    Maybe that’s a little vague but that’s basically the question I would ask myself.  How much are you willing to spend on Magic?  If you get to play Standard twice a week for 3 months, what is that worth to you?  If you Standard deck is worth $100 less after that time frame, is it worth the same to you as two video games?  You’re basically paying $100 for 24 tournaments.  That’s the average number of times you can play between set releases.  You definitely can’t go to 24 movies for $100.  Based loosely on current movie prices near me, it would cost $288 to see 24 movies.  Now let’s add another $200 for new cards every set.  You’re looking at probably $300 per set release to keep playing Magic.  Is that something you’re willing to do?  If it’s not, then don’t buy the cards.  You can definitely save a lot more by purchasing cards from the same block (the R/G Eldrazi ramp deck is a great investment now because it won’t largely change until it rotates in April of 2017) and playing a deck for a long time.
  • When did this card last change in price?
    Cards that are spiking or have recently seen price increases are much more likely to become cheaper in the coming days.  There is always a supply and demand curve that becomes sated eventually as people sell copies they don’t need anymore and players stop buying at the higher price.  Generally speaking I would recommend waiting until the Tuesday or Wednesday after a card sees a significant increase to purchase my copies if I need them.  It gives stores a chance to restock and a work day or two for TCGPlayer (or Magic Card Market) to resupply itself from people that weren’t paying attention over the weekend.  I like to refer to the post spike price as the “weekend” price because it almost never stays past then.  Unfortunately this is the price that often gets quoted to players as the new “going rate” and causes more panic purchases.
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7 thoughts on “Grinder Finance – The Big Finance 101”

  1. Thank you, it’s getting pretty old seeing all these threads about ‘should I buy X?’

    Do the research like everyone else.

    1. Lol, agreed. I sold a blood moon over a year ago for 23$, since I wasn’t using it. Since the card has gone up to 40$, some of my friends say I got out too soon. But, in my defense the “worth” of getting rid of it at that time was greater than 40$. I was able to turn the 23$ (which I did not have at the time) into bloodstained mire for 8$ a piece. Now I have a workable playset of fetches for future decks to come. We work with the funds, time, and opportunities that are available to us. At the time, 8$ fetches were still too expensive for me to obtain a playset, the blood moon was able to change that.

      1. Decision-making can be hugely based on your own needs and abilities, that’s something you need to ask yourself. What is “worth” to you. 🙂

  2. Great article! I also had to figure out a lot of things myself, because it seems to be a bit different here in Europe. I got in on Jace right after seeing him on camera in the first tournament Alter Origins when he was about 10 €. I bought 4 copies, sold two of them for 30€ two weeks later, shipped one via pucatrade for 4200 points and kept one for my collection. When he spiked again to 50€, I sold the last copy with the intention of re-buying after rotation.
    and even though, I could have made about 40€ more with this, I was happy with what I got earlier, since it could have gone either way (Hangarback Walker, I am looking at you).
    This was (until now) the only time, I made a call this good… I lost a lot on Decent of the Dragons not too long ago :/

    1. I have a pretty similar story with Jace. I got 4 for $15, sold them for $35 and then rebought them for $45 when I realized it was the real deal. I don’t regret selling at 35 because it was the right call at the time.

  3. Jim I agree with just about everything you said, well done article.

    I think I’ve run the spectrum of the type of player/investor you describe in this article. When I got serious about playing Magic I was that “what if I want to play XYZ deck?” player and I wasted a lot of money on cards I never got play. Now when I spec on cards (or open during a prerelease or draft) I determine if a card fits my style or if it’s more worthwhile to just not play a certain deck and get as much value as I can. It’s always a difficult balance, the one rule I try to go by is the “buy an extra playset” theory of card investing. I think Travis wrote about that a while back. I’ll do that for rares during pre-release sales, cards like Coco and Atarka’s Command. I find it too hard and too expensive to spec on mythics (with exceptions), but for a few new Rare cards released that I really feel have Modern or excessive Standard potential I’ll target 2 playsets at around $16 each. Now instead of buying every fancy new card I’ll try to hit on a few early (I’m probably right 2/3 times nowadays, better than years ago by far) and then wait for the dust to settle on the others. I’ve decided not to spec on cards that I ‘might’ play or don’t fit the deck I’m currently running. And I’m sure you’ll attest to the the fact that knowing your deck is probably more important than jamming $100 of new cards into your deck to see if they work only to realize maybe $20 of those cards was worth it.

    I only share this because I am a grinder and your article is quite dead on. It’s very hard to play Magic affordably, harder to grind through and do well at events, and nearly impossible to WIN back what you’ve invested in a (Standard) deck. Conversely, I have used my personal maturity to help fuel my Magic pursuits and my attempt to save money and continue to play by ” recycling” cards I’ve traded for into newer cards that I ablsolutely need for my current deck.

    Do you have any event accomplishments to share or anything upcoming?

  4. Actually Jim, when you see new set spoilers what DO YOU DO about acquiring the new cards? How do you spec? How do you decide what deck(s) to play? Do you have a spending limit? Do you trade or how do you flip your cards and specs? Don’t know if you’ve already written about this in the past, a refresher probably isn’t bad though.

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