Unlocked Pro Trader: Obviously Bad is Still Obvious

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I don’t know what “Shotgun bullets” are but this came up when I googled “Obviously Bad”

I’ve been really overthinking things, I think.

When I assess new cards and their impact on the format, there are a lot of factors I take into consideration.

  1. How many decks currently run cards like this?
  2. Does this create a new archetype?
  3. Does this prop up an existing archetype?
  4. If it creates a new archetype, how much do we expect that to get played?
  5. If it supports an existing archetype, do we expect the new support to make more people play the existing archetype?
  6. If so, how much? Do we expect it to see enough new play to expose the cards played in that deck to upside?
  7. Is there enough demand in the format to expose in-print, non-mythics to upside?
  8. Could this get played in multiple different commanders’ decks and would the combined influence be enough to push the prices up?

There is a lot of thought that goes into each and every pick. Sometimes I’m wrong because a lot of factors have to come together for a pick to pan out.  If we misjudge demand, misjudge how a deck will get built (Remember all of those Clerics we bought when Ayli was spoiled? People say they want a Cleric lord, but when they get one, they leave us all high and dry. Never again!) or misjudge how much room we have in an existing deck for new cards, we can end up losing out. But we’re taking risks when we speculate on Magic cards, right? This is supposed to be hard and if it were easy to hit on 100% of our specs, everyone would be doing it!

It’s Not 2014 Anymore

The sad truth is that really, you CAN hit on 100% of your specs these days. If someone says the name of a card on their YouTube video, there’s a run on it. The card disappears. It seems to matter less to people whether a card is good or not because you’re not always necessarily selling to players, you’re selling into a feeding frenzy that starts when someone realizes “Oh man, you know what would go great in a kitty cat deck? White Sun’s Zenith! I mean, I assume, I haven’t actually seen any cards from the cat deck so I don’t know if there are any cards that grant a power and toughness bonus to cats (there is exactly 1, it’s a reprint and it costs 7 mana)” and ends when you sell all of the White Sun’s Zeniths I told you not to buy and call me an idiot on Twitter.

There are 4 foil copies of White Sun’s Zenith left on TCG Player, so obviously someone made some money. Even if they aren’t selling at $12 (they aren’t) there are few enough that whoever wants a foil copy basically has to pay $12 (unless they buy the SP copy from Star City for $3.50). What choice do they have? TCG Player is the site that determines the price of a card, and when all 3 copies under $50 sell, what other choice do we have for determining what the new price is? I’m not even really sure who I’m upset at here, because I bet some doofus pays $12 for Cape Fear’s LP copy before someone buys SCG’s copy for $3.50.  You want to know what else is great?

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Zenith got reprinted because of course it did and the people who gambled on it before the lists were announced with the “Well, it can’t go down from bulk, what do I have to lose?” attitude I had in 2010 when I was terrible at this are holding the bag right now (they’re holding something else, really, but I’m trying to maintain a modicum of decorum right now). 1st level thinking is “I bet kitty cat card is good with kitty cats!” and 1st level thinking leaves you with cards you can’t move for $0.34. Second level thinking tells you “I bet kitty cat card is good in kitty cat deck AND foils can’t be reprinted, and if you bought foils, I’m sure you think I’m an idiot for calling you intellectually lazy because is it lazy two play 2 dimensional chess and buy foils that can’t get blown out by a reprint? IS IT?

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m getting worn out. I’m telling people not to buy bad cards and I’m putting a ton of work into figuring out whether a card is actually bad. Despite being in the cat deck, White Sun’s Zenith doesn’t really play well with the rest of the deck, except for Mirri, and the deck as is doesn’t really give you any bonuses to cats. You have to do a complete overhaul to make White Sun’s Zenith worth it, which is fine. Oh, also, you have to be a complete lunatic to buy a kitty cat precon and then build it a token build that isn’t supported by like 95 cards in the precon you bought and also start foiling it out. Do people buy EDH foils? Sure, obviously, or the foil multiplier would be like 1x but if you want to buy and sell more than like 4 copies of a card, you need to have enough demand to take those copies off of your hands and you can’t rely on a lot of doofuses to come along and buy you out at $8 so they can try and list them at $12 (at least historically, you couldn’t, I’m not so sure that’s not a legit tactic anymore). So either you buy 4 foil White Sun’s Zenith for like a buck each and then turn around and sell them for $6 later and you make $14 after fees, or you weren’t really right. I know it’s not easy to nail a spec. I only buy in deeply if I have a very, very good feeling about a spec (I’m talking Dictate of Erebos at $0.50 good feeling) and I buy in deep enough that I don’t waste it if I was right. If I had $14 for every time I nailed a spec, I’d have to start speccing on Yu Gi Oh, too or I wouldn’t be able to make my car payment every month. So all of that made me call people who bought mediocre cards with high reprint risk in foil to eliminate the reprint risk “lazy” because I don’t think you’re telling anyone anything useful if you’re advocating making $14. After all, I’m the tortured genius over here playing 3D chess. You know why I don’t care about that anymore? There’s no money in 3D chess.

Buy Everything

It barely matters at this point. There are so many greater fools ready to snatch up your cards, and so many people ready to build EDH decks that even if a combo is bad and only 2% of players will be bad enough to include it, that’s still thousands of people, way more than enough to soak up the supply.

Remember when I said bad interactions wouldn’t matter so don’t buy terrible cards part of terrible combos?

Here’s the TCG data for Bounty Hunter, a card that combines with the worst commander (Mathas) from the worst deck (the Vampires deck) to form a two card combination that could best be described as “the tap ability on Avatar of Woe.” Is that combo good? Of course not. Am I wrong for telling people not to buy Bounty Hunter because it was part of a terrible combo and it wouldn’t matter since no one wants to play bad cards part of bad combos? I guess so!

You know what caption goes here

So I’m not going to tell you not to buy bad cards from bad combos. The price goes up because there are enough actors in the market now that everything that gets breathed on will go up. You probably won’t have any trouble selling foil Turntimber Rangers in a week to the thousands of people lined up to build Turntimber combo in EDH and Modern because everyone knows EDH players love to foil their decks out. Buy as many foil Ranger as you can, you know why?

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I straight jacked this image from /u/magictheblathering on reddit. Do I owe him money or something?

Wow, infinite wolves. Is it good? I don’t know! Who cares? I said Wanderwine Prophets was a bad combo, or at least it wasn’t any better than Sage of Hours plus Ezuri and people lined up 5 deep to tell me I was wrong. No one who isn’t holding onto a bunch of bad cards from a bad combo is ever going to thank me for steering them away from danger, so why pee on people’s parades? If I’m right, no one cares and if I’m wrong, everyone brings it up two years later in an unrelated debate. Even though Conspiracy and Xenograft have been around for literal years and no one ever built this combo with those cards, I have a good feeling about this combo’s ability to make Turntimber Ranger’s price go through the roof, because Magic players weren’t playing 2D chess in 2011 and didn’t know a good thing when they saw Xenograft get printed (In the same Standard format as Turntimber Ranger) but they’re way smarter now. Buy the foily Rangers.

I Mean, Or Don’t

This brings us to the main topic of discussion this week, how to handle the stuff that’s inevitably going to be affected by the Planeswalkers becoming Legendary permanents. I’ve been a real pessimist since the start of Commander 2017 spoiler season.

Months ago, a bunch of Ixalan cards leaked and people have been speculating that the Planeswalker rules change would be retroactive to older Planeswalkers and months ago speculators bought cards like Captain Sisay and Empress Galina. This happened months ago. We were in Vegas for the GP when this happened. You’ll have to pardon my surprise when all of those cards came into focus again and players started talking about all of this like it was new, and the cards all went up again, based on the exact same information.

I’ve seen cards go up again based on the same thing happening again, but I’m not used to seeing it happen again based on the same information months later. I was taken aback. Naturally the internet exploded with people talking about this stuff like it was new.

K.

Captain Sisay is already at the helm of her own deck that people have been playing for like a decade in EDH and now players are already talking about slotting her into Atraxa. Doesn’t this make you want to build Sisay? Before you could grab Gaea’s Cradle or Genesis with Sisay’s ability, but now you can grab AJANI, MENTOR OF HEROES. I mean, if I’m actually being fair, you can grab Karn which is non-trivial, especially if you can use Cradle to play it right away, but for the most part, Sisay just got access to a bunch of bad planeswalkers and 4 good ones and Sisay is likely relegated to the 99 of Atraxa rather than her own deck which gained limited upside. But I’m not making judgments about whether things are good anymore, so here are some cards that everyone else thinks are good and therefore are going to sell out and if I say they’re bad cards that won’t get played in bad decks, I’ll be proven wrong, doubly so if I don’t think the foils are a good place to stash money. It’s perfectly reasonable for a person with a $4,000 foil Atraxa deck to play Yomiji, Who Bars the Way because EDH players don’t care about playing the best cards in their decks, only the most expensive versions.

Is this card getting played in Sisay and Atraxa decks? I really tend to doubt it, but it scarcely matters because all of the $5 foils are gone 24 hours after the announcement (which came months after people already knew this information but didn’t really act on it).

Saffron Olive called this card a “Sol Ring for Planeswalkers” on Twitter today, 24 hours after I called it “A situational Temple of the False God,” Jim Casale called it “Worse than the Ancient Tomb I’m already not playing” and I did a Twitter poll where 2/3 of respondants said they wouldn’t play this in anything other than Reki, the History of Kamigawa because why would you want a land that sometimes lets you pay 2 life for 2 colorless but can’t tap for 1 colorless in a 4 color Atraxa deck? I screwed up. While I was too busy wasting a whole day figuring out that this card was bad and even the Reki players in my EDHREC Slack group wouldn’t play this card, everyone was scooping these for a buck and listing them for $12 on eBay. If you listened to me, you missed out on the chance to make money on just a real piece of dog$%&* of a bulk rare that people who don’t play any EDH are excited about. It’s a Sol Ring for Planeswalkers, guys. I steered you wrong.

Is there anything that hasn’t popped that could go up, still? Probably.

Thalia’s Lancers

The promo foil of this hurts the foil’s upside, slightly, but you can now use this to tutor for Planeswalkers, something you couldn’t do before. I liked this card when it couldn’t do that so I can’t pretend I don’t like it now just because the non-foil has a 0% chance of going up.

Myojin of Cleansing Fire

If people build more Sisay decks like they swear they’re going to, this is a shoo-in inclusion in those decks. It’s not a Planeswalker which means being able to use Sisay to get this isn’t new, but couple the new Sisay decks that are going to be built with the face that there is a card called Kindred Boon that can put Divinity counters on permanents and you have two chances for this card to go up. I’m not saying this card is good, I’m saying it’s like a $6 foil right now and it probably goes up if I tell you not to buy it.

Myojin of Life’s Web

Ditto on foils of this card, which were already on their way up. $13ish is a high buy-in price but this had upside before and has even more now if people build Sisay.

Every Pirate

With the spoiling of a new Grixis Pirate Lord, every Ramirez DiPetro and Skeleton Ship deck gets access to red cards, something I’m not sure it wants or needs but is getting. Every pirate card is popping off right now, so if there is a card with the creature type pirate, but it. Kukemasa Pirates, Rishadan Brigand, Mistform Ultimus – buy them.

 

I honestly need your feedback. Do you want me to keep trying to figure out of cards or combos are bad? Do you want me to do what I had been doing for years and being cautious and waiting to see if something had legs before advocating it? Or do you want me to be fast so you can buy the obvious specs everyone else is going to buy before they’re all gone? Maybe you don’t need help with obvious, but it’s clear I’m not doing anyone any favors by spending all day determining a card is bad and won’t get played only for it to sell out anyway. Tell me what you want from me and from this series in the comments section.

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7 thoughts on “Unlocked Pro Trader: Obviously Bad is Still Obvious”

  1. If you’re taking input, I’d prefer you stick with your tried and true “wait to see if it has legs first” writing methodology. I’m not really a fan of the “bigger fool” mode of speculating. It’s too fickle.

    – @nappiestNate

    1. I am taking input. I like the series I have been writing so far and I like the idea of farming EDH sustainably rather than clearcutting and strip mining it. I think I’ll stick with how I’ve been writing so far, but this article was fun to write because I got to vent a lot of frustration that’s been building up. Thanks for the input for sure.

  2. Would much rather see you focus on the tried and true method though if you see something that’s really obvious and you know people will buy into it let us know as well.

  3. So – I’m really curious how many people are sitting with 10+copies of really bad cards that they can’t move. There’s no way – even with really smart people making money on really solid decisions – that all of these people who are buying these cards are making a lot of money from selling Untaidakes’. I bought 1 several months ago for $.36 when I got into the format thinking I would build a legendary themed deck (along with Sisay at 4 and Reki at 1.33) and quickly realized I wasn’t going to play these cards. I wrote that off as beginner’s losses (I’ve made a many mistakes along the way). I should probably sell the 1 copy of each I have but I am very limited on time. You have to move at superhuman speed if you’re going to make money from these kinds of plays. Aint nobody got time for that shit. Seriously.

    An interesting conundrum I see with EDH and MTG finance moving forward is the speed of the product releases across all formats. We are being inundated with so much product that Wizards is single-handedly proving the substitution theory like nobody’s business. It seems like every card can be substituted for another card of a similar design, and that increases likelyhood of older cards being useful in EDH again, while simultaneously crushing prices for other cards that are still useless and now less rare. So they are messing with demand in a big way by increasing the supply (always in motion is the future.) The efficient frontier of the market is where we should operate, not where there are tons of copies of a bad card without matching demand.

    At some point the demand bubble will burst for these cards – it is coming and I really don’t want to be the guy holding all these bad 30 cent cards – lord knows I already have enough as it is.

    I think ultimately Jason, you and the School of Alt fanbase will win out because you’ve selected cards for deeper reasons and are playing for the longer term. Your Dictate of Erebos is a great example. I think you should start thinking on the time vs money axis more and more in your calculations -which is I think what you were trying to vent at in the WSZ example – who wants to do all that work for 14 dollars’ return. It should be an efficiency of money/return game rather than clear % return (aka margins.)

    Low margins and high turnover is where the big box stores are, and it is certainly not where you want to be as a 1 man show, especially if you are the Ryan Seacrest of EDH. I know I have plenty of other things to do too. This is the complete opposite of DJ’s strategies for picking bulk. If that works for him at his stage of his career that is one thing, and so I think everyone who dabbles in that sort of buying/selling behavior should be 100% cognizant of their time v. money analysis.

    Point is, if you can’t execute the high turnover you’re stuck with the cards and a lot of risk. I don’t believe there’s such a thing as High Margin, High Turnover in the long run (macroeconomically speaking.) That’s called a bubble, and it’s a great way to get mana burned.

    TL:DR
    Optimize your time spent for returns
    Think in the long run/strategic gains
    Don’t get burned by short term risks or playing on the bubble unless that’s the space in which you live.
    Are you a hedge fund manager, or a day trader?
    Don’t buy bad cards – aint nobody got time for that shit.

  4. “A prophet is never welcome in his own land.”

    Jason,

    I follow you on BSB, here, and on Gathering Magic. (ugh, this feels stalkerish now) I don’t choose to do this because I want to get rich quick. I follow you because analysis meeting experience has a better chance of creating profit than does throwing money after literally anything created by the hype train. EDH finance is the sub-prime mortgages of 05 right now.

    All of your examples that were given show the visible side of hype: the buying, the spike. What we don’t see and what I think happens is that most of the money people sunk (pirate joke) into bad specs will not be realized. People will piss and moan that, “EDH used to be where the money is at!” and people will have their financial dick knocked into the dirt. The only thing worse than cheap bad cards/combos is expensive bad cards/combos. When bad cards that spike barely move from the spiked price, morons who bought them with the mentality of, “I buyz the cardz in edh cuz i like$ gettin phat stax!” will be left hold worthless cardboard. Will they sometimes find a gold nugget? sure. But just like the lottery, their are very few winners and tons of losers. Time will drive out the lazy speculator who has bad cardboard not moving from his binder. I believe in 6 months, the EDH market will move closer to ‘normal’.

    Do your content your way! If you’re brave enough to do stand up as the Mayor of Flavortown, guzzling donkey sauce, then you can handle the moronic whining of neckbeards.

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