All posts by Travis Allen

Travis Allen has been playing Magic on and off since 1994, and got sucked into the financial side of the game after he started playing competitively during Zendikar. You can find his daily Magic chat on Twitter at @wizardbumpin. He currently resides in upstate NY, where he is a graduate student in applied ontology.

Anticipating the 2013 Fall Banned and Restricted List Update

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By Travis Allen

As Theros nears, it’s almost time for another visit to the Banned and Restricted list. Updates to the Banned and Restricted (B&R) list are responsible for some of the fastest and most severe price changes in Magic finance. It occurs at a very specific time (midnight) on a very specific site (dailymtg) amidst the cacophony of the F5 key being mashed by devoted mages everywhere. The changes have immediate impacts. There’s no need to spend time considering how a card influences a metagame; when a card is unbanned it simply skyrockets in price. Whether it will be any good at all or not is completely irrelevant. Midnight at the B&R corral is entirely a “shoot first and ask questions later” scenario.

Today we’ll look at reasonable candidates for removal from the list, and the consequences of those cards being unbanned. If I don’t reference a card, it’s because I don’t consider the likelihood of it being unbanned at this time enough to warrant discussion.

One last thing – Jace isn’t getting unbanned. Don’t ask about it.

Modern

Wild Nacatl – Wizards originally cited a concern that Nacatl reduces diversity by eventually forcing all green-based aggressive strategies to be quite similar. Well, a great deal has changed since then, and the result is that we have basically no green aggro/zoo at this point.

Wild Nacatl: Duel Decks Ajani vs Nicol Bolas

At this point the soup du jour for getting into the red zone is Robots. There’s been a little RG Aggro that pops up now and then, but it’s a fringe player at best. Wild Nacatl would have the chance to put green-based aggressive decks back on the map again and help temper the significant amount of combo roaming the Modern landscape.

Wild Nacatl will be unique on this list in that she herself will not vary much in price if she is allowed back into Modern. As a common, there isn’t much room for growth. The pack foils and promo will see a slight uptick at best. Additionally, looking back at old Zoo lists before she was banned there appears to be very few rares in those lists that aren’t still seeing solid play, so none of her old cronies are poised to see a huge upswing if she returns.

As best as I can tell, the biggest winner if Wild Nacatl is unbanned is Domri Rade. He’s already showing up in Modern, and Nacatl would cement him as a legitimate contender in the format. Domri is starting to push $25 already, and could easily end up the best Planeswalker in standard. Nacatl pushing him harder in Modern could send him into the $30-$35+ range pretty easily. Unfortunately, as speculators it’s tough to put so much capital into a card with a profit margin of around $5. You’ll want to own a playset, but I wouldn’t go much deeper than that.

Honestly, beyond Domri, I’m not sure what else is a hot pickup if Nacatl is unbanned. I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments of a card I’m overlooking that isn’t already justifying its price tag.

Bitterblossom – I’m no fan of the fae myself, but I recognize that Bitterblossom would unquestionably give rise to a new (old) contender. It’s assuredly a riskier choice than Nacatl, and may end up proving to be too much, but given the relative diversity of Modern right now Wizards may be willing to try adding a little spice. Enabling fae would certainly help reign in the combo decks a bit, just as Nacatl would.

Where is the money to be made with a Bitterblossom unbanning? The non-promo itself is already $15-20, so like Domri, even if it rises in price we’re unlikely to see our investment even double. Obtaining a playset of these if you’re interested in the deck is safe, but hardly lucrative. Vendilion Clique is already obscenely priced, so that’s not particularly a good spec target. Our best bet would be a rare that is seeing no play at all right now, but would be a major player in fae.

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Mistbind Clique
Mistbind Clique

My choice for this role is Mistblind Clique. Due to the champion trigger, she’s unplayable without a critical mass of faeries, but in a Bitterblossom deck, champion may as well be advantageous. As a 4/4 Time Walk that gets even sillier with Restoration Angel, a card that faeries would probably want anyways, Mistbind is fertile ground at only $3. What makes this particularly safe is that it’s been a long time since we’ve seen Mistbind do anything in a real format and she’s still $3, so that appears to be her real floor for the time being, meaning you can’t lose much on an investment. If Bitterblossom gets unbanned, Mistbind could easily break $10, and $20 isn’t inconceivable.

Interesting note: good luck finding foils of this card. As of this writing, TCG has 0, SCG has 1 SP JP, ABU has 1 NM and 1 SP, and eBay has 1 JP.

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Legacy

Earthcraft – I’m not sure this card actually does anything in Legacy, which makes it a great card to remove from the B&R list. I think we are well beyond the point that a 2-3 card combo that requires a basic land would have any meaningful impact in that format. If it’s unbanned it will double or triple in price, but then what? A viable competitive deck will almost undoubtedly fail to materialize, so after an initial jump it will spend months dwindling down. Make sure that if you’re holding any when/if this is unbanned, you sell into the hype immediately.

Memory Jar – Many are aware that this card has the honor of being the only one in Magic history to be emergency banned. However, that was in Urza’s Legacy, and Tolarian Academy was in the set prior. Yes, Memory Jar draws you 7 cards. It also costs 5 mana. Would it be unbelievably broken? Unlikely. It would certainly be riskier than a card like Earthcraft but that doesn’t preclude Wizards from finding out.

Memory Jar itself would be the biggest beneficiary of it being unbanned, easily surpassing $15-$20.

Mind Twist – By the time you’re casting this in a way that makes it better than Hymn, it’s taking your entire hand to do it. Sure your opponent has no cards left, but neither do you, except for maybe a City of Traitors or a Grim Monolith. And that is the best case scenario. Mind Twist is a relatively safe unban, and most Legacy enthusiasts agree.

The financial impact would be very similar to Earthcraft. We’d see prices severely increase ($8-20), but when it fails to put up results, it will slowly tick down. Again, sell into the hype immediately.

Mind’s Desire – This is my favorite card on this list for a few reasons. First of all, the judge promo is phenomenal looking. Second, I simply think the card is cool when viewed through a kitchen table lens. Third, the card is comfortably under $1. If Mind’s Desire is unbanned, $15 each seems easy, as any Desire deck would want four. This card is super cheap to get in on, and has a gigantic upside.

Mind's Desire Judge Promo
Mind’s Desire Judge Promo

Before the comments fill up with people exclaiming this card is buh-roken, consider it relative to Ad Nauseam. Mind’s Desire needs 6 mana, 2 of which are blue, and a healthy storm count. Ad Nauseam needs 5 mana, 2 of which are black. The biggest point in Mind’s Desire’s favor is that a single FoW won’t stop it as it will Ad Nauseam. Given the extra work you have to do in order to cast the card however, that doesn’t seem unreasonable.

Mystical Tutor – This was banned on considerably dubious grounds due to Reanimator, and that deck is hardly crushing Legacy. We have a good idea of what the format looks like with it back, so it’s not a complete unknown in the same way something like Memory Jar would be. The biggest threat with this card is probably Show and Tell. if Mystical Tutor is unbanned, it may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back in regards to getting S&T banned.

Around $4-$5, the upside on this is probably about double. Not only was it in FTV, It was uncommon in both Mirage and 6th Edition, which has a very real impact on the quantity available. I would be picking these up in trades for cheap if possible, but I probably wouldn’t put much cash directly into them.

Tolarian Academy – One of the most feared lands of all time and the frosty harbinger of combo winter. There is little consideration given to why this is banned; a simple “It’s Tolarian Academy” will suffice. However, this article by Carsten Kotter from last year has a great explanation of why the card is probably (mostly) fair. It’s certainly a few levels above Earthcraft, but it’s entirely possible it isn’t a Survival of the Fittest.

Financially? Gaea’s Cradle is ~$130. The sky’s the limit.

Worldgorger DragonWorldgorger sets up an infinite loop with something like Animate Dead, so you get infinite mana and infinite ETB triggers. In order to accomplish this however, you need to get Worldgorger into your graveyard, reanimate it with Animate Dead, and dodge your opponent having counterspells, creature removal, or graveyard removal. At that point, isn’t Griselbrand or Jin-Gitaxis just better?

Like Mind’s Desire, he’s comfortably under $1 which leaves a huge amount of room to grow, regardless of performance. Immediately sell any and all copies into the hype.


I mentioned it briefly before, but this article by Carsten is a great look at the Banned and Restricted list. There are a lot of cards on those lists that we just assume are there for a good reason, but haven’t truly considered in quite some time. It’s a fun read.

  • Stormbreath Dragon is the real deal. Did you notice that Pat Chapin’s article today (premium required) over on SCG had him in nearly every single deck that made red mana?
  • Nimbus Maze has been confirmed to not be in Theros, so sorry if you wasted $40 on a foil playset like I did.
  • There was a post on Reddit about Savageborn Hydra being a decent spec target. I definitely agree. While it’s not guaranteed he jumps while in Standard, the precedent is there to at least double your money by the time he rotates.
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City of Traders: Transparency

By Travis Allen

When I’m learning something new, I always find it extremely helpful to view examples. Seeing a concept or skill in action really helps cement the learning process for me, whether it’s finding a derivative or changing the oil on a motorcycle. So in light of that, today I’ve decided to show you exactly what I am personally holding on to. You’ll see every single card I’ve got stashed away in my “not trading” box. These are cards that for whatever reason I’ve pulled out of trade binders and sale lists and am squirreling away until they rise in price.

This type of transparency will not only act as an example of speculating, but provide total insight into exactly where I’ve chosen to put my Magic dollars. Recently I’ve started posting my shopping carts after I make a purchase on my personal Twitter account over at @wizardbumpin. This is an extension of that visibility. There is no liability when sitting in a lofty throne proclaiming things a worthy purchase, but it’s entirely different to put your money where your mouth is and show people exactly what choices you yourself have made. I hope through my increased visibility I will have to be more accountable to the public, and consequently myself.

Many of these cards were traded for rather than purchased outright. It’s important to diversify, so you’ll see a large number of piles but some are of very few cards. I would like, for instance, more Omniscience, but I just haven’t seen enough in binders to acquire more. It’s also not an entirely exhaustive list, as personal playsets are not shown, extras in decks at the moment, cards I’ve lent out, etc. Let’s hop in!

 

Standard

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We begin with one of my safest holds. I’ve got roughly 60 spare Shocklands across the 10 varieties. These guys have already bottomed out, and it looks like they may start to make their move pretty soon. They’ll all see their day in the sun at $15 or more, and as each one pops into my trade binder they will go.

 

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This is a card I wish I had more of. Zegana has an awesomely powerful effect, and is dirt cheap right now.

 

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Special promos like this plains occasionally creep up, and this one seems to have already started. I recall grabbing them for $1 back around the time they came out, and they’re up to $3 now. If they don’t climb though, I’m not losing much by having a few dollars’ worth of cards hang around.

 

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Temporal Mastery is kind of a miss for me. I picked them up when they were a bit more than they are now, anticipating them seeing play once more before rotation. It’s obvious that opportunity came and went, so now they’re a long hold. Time Walk effects are still pretty awesome, with Time Warp and Time Stretch each being $5. Temporal Mastery has the added benefit of the miracle trigger, which has a non-zero chance of becoming playable in Modern. If that ever happens, it will probably hit $15+.

 

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I was snatching up Vraska at $4-5 wherever I could. If she sees play in Standard, awesome. If not, I wait 6 months after rotation and trade them away for $10.

 

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Scavenging Ooze isn’t done rising yet, and I’m reasonably confident all copies will end up above $20 at some point. The only reason I don’t have more is that it’s tough to buy in at $14 for maybe $6 in profit on each.

 

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Deathrite Shaman and Scavenging Ooze make Angel of Serenity a little less exciting than she was before. I may hold onto her for a little while, but if she still hasn’t made a move by the first of the year, I may just go ahead and toss her in the binder.

 

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I’ve spoken before about Exava with Kalonian Hydra. She’s under $1 right now, so there’s no real reason to trade her yet. I’m hoping for $3-5 each before I let her go.

 

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Plasm Capture is a $.70 Mana Drain. I just ordered 17 more. The worst case scenario is I buylist them for $1 at some point down the road.

 

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Easy casual fodder, and with Standard likely slowing down significantly after rotation, Master Biomancer may have time to shine.

 

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I’m not sure where all of my copies of Griselbrand got to. I think someone is borrowing them. In any case, $10 feels like this guy’s floor. He sees too much play as a combo piece in both Modern and Legacy to not start creeping up.

 

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Armada Wurm is an absolute face crusher, and is only $2-3 to boot. The upside on this guy is so high I’m willing to take the risk that he doesn’t move.

 

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I started picking up Mizzium Mortars when they were under $2. Their ceiling is probably $5, but with Bonfire gone there’s a lot more room for this card to grow.

 

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Blood Baron, despite experiencing relatively minimal Standard play, has absolutely refused to drop in price. That means there is another factor here keeping him afloat, likely casual demand. I don’t feel like I can really lose much holding onto him to see if he does more post rotation.

 

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A lonely Progenitor Mimic, he’s in the same camp as Master Biomancer.

 

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Rakdos’s Return has seen a reasonable amount of Standard play so far, and a slower format bodes very well for this card.

 

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Loxodon Smiter is another card I wish I had a lot more of. He can currently be had for under $4. Meanwhile, he’s seeing heavy play in Standard right now, was absolutely everywhere in the Block PT, shows up occasionally in Modern, and even splashes into Legacy occasionally. I’m tempted to go buy a few. Hundred.

 

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Omniscience is another one I’ve mentioned in a past article. I believe $20 is very possible, so I’m waiting for a while to get there. I don’t think it will take too long.

 

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I have all of these Niv-Mizzets because I was grabbing them for $1. I figure I’ll wait and see if he goes anywhere, and if not, I should be able to at least buylist them without loss eventually.

 

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Jace, like Loxodon Smiter, was absolutely everywhere in the Block Pro Tour. It’s hard to imagine him not cresting $20 at some point.

 

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My verdict is that this will behave just like Jace and Loxodon Smiter.

 

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At $1 in trade, I like Gyre Sage. It’s a nifty card that could pretty easily be $4.

 

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I like Scion simply because of how cheap it is. I just picked up 25 at $.37 each. Someone on camera is going to cast Advent of the Wurm at end of turn, untap, then cast Scion, and they will make me some money when they do it.

 

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Lotleth Troll has seen play in all three formats, and he’s $1. It’s basically impossible to lose, so why not?

 

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Detention Sphere has a lot going for it in Theros. First of all, it’s a more powerful Oblivion Ring. Second, it’s an enchantment, which means we may be able to get paid for it. Third, it’s great against Tokens, which may be rather relevant in the coming Standard. Fourth, it deals with Indestructible Gods. Fifth, it…

 

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Deadbridge Chant is basically comparable to drawing a card every turn (ala Staff of Nin, which saw standard play), but occasionally comes with big mana savings. You can also adjust your odds with Scavenging Ooze. Could easily break $10, but even if it doesn’t, a few dollars seems possible.

 

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While Duskmantle wasn’t $1 when I grabbed him, they were still pretty cheap. It’s hard to imagine him going through all of Theros without seeing play. There are also a lot more ways to punish your opponents drawing cards/having hands in Modern, so it’s possible his break may come there instead.

 

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Similar to Vraska, Gideon is a cheap Planeswalker that could see play in Standard, and even if he doesn’t, will jump down the road due to casual demand.

 

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Another member of the $1 “why not” brigade. Bonus points for possibly being better than Griselbrand in a Through the Breach deck that doesn’t run Fury of the Horde.

 

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I don’t think I need to say anything about Deathrite that hasn’t already been said.

 

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Trostrani was a solid pickup before the Block PT when she was $3 or less. After that she doubled so I’m less aggressive about trading for her, but $10-15 is still totally viable. I’ll probably put them in my binder a week or two after rotation.

 

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I’m pretty sure I paid $.25 to $.50 each for these foil Lay of the Lands. If they see no play, it cost me a few dollars. If they do, each one is worth $4.

 

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I grab these as throw-ins where possible, since they’re unique cards that someone will be willing to pay several dollars apiece for at some point in the future.

 

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Ah, Havengul Lich. I was vacuuming these up for $3-4 when I was hoping they would spike in Standard. Like Temporal Mastery that door never opened, but I have faith (perhaps misplaced) that he will one day be $10+. Regardless of how long that takes, I will feel like a genius (unjustifiably) when it finally happens.

 

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Vorel and Renegade Krasis travel together. At less than $0.50 each, they’re fertile ground. Casual players love lords and counters, which these two have in spades. I don’t need to see much of a jump to realize a profit here, and if any form of Zvi’s BUG list shows up, they’ll likely be a part of it.

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Modern

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I snatched up Jin-Gitaxis back when he was under $2. Since then Griselbrand was printed so Jin-Gitaxis is less of a premium reanimation target than he was, but he’s still climbed to $5 in the interim. Once he’s firmly in the $7+ range, I’ll probably move him to the binder.

 

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Regular readers of my article (all three of you) will remember me talking about Horizon Canopy a few weeks back. I ended up with a foil playset for myself, and these spares left over. If I bring a binder to GP Detroit, they will be in it.

 

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Liliana of the Veil is poised to be more expensive in 6 months than she is now. Her price is driven almost exclusively by Modern and Legacy. She may see a dip right after rotation before she hikes it back up again, and if she does, I encourage you to trade aggressively. I will be.

 

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Both Arcbound Ravager and Kiki-Jiki I was picking up for good numbers in trade a few months ago when they were a tad lower. I’m not too worried much about them being reprinted prior to the Modern PTQ season, so I’m just letting them hang out until then.

 

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Goryo’s Vengeance was a favorite of mine a year ago, but now that we have Deathrite and Ooze, I’ve had to step away. Through the Breach is the next cheaty card in Modern, and it feels like it’s hovering right on the edge of popping. Goryo’s went from $3 to $11, and I don’t doubt this would see similar movement. The only thing we’re missing is some form of reasonable fast mana, a way to cheat on splice costs, or something else I haven’t thought of.

 

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Glittering Wish showed up in what may actually have been only a single MTGO event last season, but it immediately jumped from chump change to $2+ after a bit of chatter. It’s the single legal Wish in Modern, and will only get better as more gold cards are printed.

 

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I started grabbing Pod where I could as SOM rotated, as I could see it having appeal long-term. The fact that many were reluctant to trade them only confirmed my suspicions. Frankly, I’m surprised this card is still only $5. I would expect $10-$13 really at any point between now and the PTQ season.

 

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Spellskite broke $10 last season, and it’s only been seeing more play since. It would be difficult to reprint due to the Phyrexian mana, and even if it was, it would be in some form of supplementary product, so it wouldn’t be in large volume. Recently I came across some data that says Spellskite is the second most played card in Modern! (http://www.mtggoldfish.com/format-staples/modern) I haven’t been buying above $6, but I snap them up below that.

 

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I grabbed Shadows right before the spike. I’m in no rush to get rid of them, so once the PTQ season rolls around I’ll ship them to someone desperate.

 

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GSZ is an old pickup, back from before it was banned in Modern. I really liked it at that time, too. I suppose I should probably move this to the trade binder. With the recent printing of it in FTV 20, we are a long ways off from seeing any more action on this card.

 

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Should Bitterblossom ever become unbanned in Modern, or even another real faerie enabler be printed, I expect Mistbind to be very popular. It’s basically a Time Walk stapled to a 4/4, and it plays exceptionally well with Restoration Angel. I’m not sure how a deck wins after getting Cliqued, then Resto bouncing Clique.

 

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Ancestral Visions were obtained before an early Modern Banned/Restricted list update, when I was expecting it to be unbanned. Here we are some two years later, and I still have them. On the one hand, if it was unbanned, I’d make some money. On the other hand, it would be legal in Modern, which if Gerry T is to be believed, would be miserable for everyone involved. I’m not sure what I prefer here.

 

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Whoops. I’d move these to the trade binder, but what’s even the point?

 

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Moving along.

 

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I picked these up before they showed up as an FNM promo, and I was pretty excited about it. They were the chase uncommon for an underdrafted set, and were seeing play in every single format. Path to Exile was a $5 uncommon, so why couldn’t this be? To be honest, I’m still not sure why it never climbed much higher. At this point the demand is low, so I may as well sit on them to see if the price goes up.

 

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The SOM Fastlands, along with Birthing Pod, were cards I was grabbing as much of as possible after rotation. They were dirt cheap and had been showing up in Modern. They’ve all ticked up a bit since then, particularly Blackcleave Cliffs. Eventually these are going to pop, and I’ll be quite happy when they do.

 

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I’ve discussed these a few times, but the short version is that with the move of the Modern PTQ season, I’ll likely be selling them after the first of the year.

 

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I can probably move these to the trade binder at this point; I don’t think they’re going anywhere.

 

Legacy

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It’s a land that makes a lot of mana and it’s on the reserved list. I haven’t been hunting them, but when I come across them in a collection, I’ll set them aside.

 

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Honestly, I should have sold these when they last spiked, but I was out of town at the time. Now I have to wait again.

 

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I’ll be covering Mind’s Desire probably next week, when I talk about Banned/Restricted changes.

 

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Like Mind’s Desire, I’ll speak to these next week.

 

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Also a B&R card.

 

  • Serra’s Sanctum has quietly been sneaking up since the Legend change, and is now $40. I hope you grabbed yours already.
  • Thassa feels like the strongest card in Theros as of 9/2/13. An enchantment that had Scry 1 on every upkeep would be fair at 1U, so you’re basically paying 1 mana for the entire rest of the card. Preorders are $17 which is a pricy gambit, but I’m watching this like a hawk.
  • Ensnaring Bridge is quietly one of the best cards in Modern right now. I’m not sure how much it could really peak with three printings, but it may not have finished climbing yet.
  • Foil Nimbus Maze is all but gone from TCGPlayer, SCG, and eBay.
  • As soon as I saw Magma Jet as a probable reprint, I grabbed 6 Fifth Dawn foils at $5.50 each. I now don’t see any available at less than $10, and if it starts out seeing play in the new Standard, it could go as high as $15.

Edit: I originally forgot to include all of my sealed product, so here it is at a glance:

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City of Traders: Innistrad Rotation

By Travis Allen

As we approach Theros spoilers (Wizard’s PAX party is this coming weekend, where last year we saw the return of the shocks and Dreadbore, among others), it’s a good time to pay attention to what is on the way out. Rotation will not only be the starter pistol for Ravnica rares to take off on price surges, but is also a chance to grab up Innistrad cards for what may be the lowest they will be in years. I’m going to browse all of Innistrad block and M13 for anything that jumps out at me.

Sanguine Bond Jan 2012 - Aug 2013
Sanguine Bond. Jan 2012 – Aug 2013.

Army of the Damned – This is a casual card that is absolutely dripping with flavor. It’s highly unlikely to do much in any real format, but ongoing casual and EDH demand may cause a rise here down the road. I don’t see it spiking in two months, but this may pull a Sanguine Bond and quietly end up at $7 or $8.

Avacyn, Angel of Hope – Knight Exemplar is a $3 card despite having been printed three times and seeing zero competitive play. Indestructible is a casual fan favorite. That same demographic of players also love Angels. That is why Avacyn is currently nearly $15. She will be over $20 within probably a few months, and should live between $20 and $30 for years. This isn’t exactly a spec target, but if you wanted any, now would be the time to acquire. Foils are nearly $50, and will only stand to gain as well.

Bonfire of the Damned – I don’t like Bonfire long term. It’s seen virtually no play elsewhere, and isn’t particularly cool. I’m not sure the card will ever be worth more than it is right now.

Bruna, Light of Alabaster – While having done nothing in Standard, it’s still an angel that plays well with Auras. This card is barely $1, and it would basically be impossible to lose money on her. Not many angels are less than $1. She also has the marginal chance of showing up in Modern if any auras make her particularly vicious. Exalted with Sovereigns of Alara used to be a thing, and Eldrazi Conscription still exists.

Descendants’ Path – While nothing ever came of this in Standard, it has a non-zero chance to break into Modern at some point. Casting free spells is awesome, especially if they have “Eldrazi” written on them somewhere. Imagine when they return if we get a Llanowar Elf that is colorless, taps for colorless, and is an Eldrazi?

Even if it isn’t an eldritch horror that breaks it, it’s not hard to imagine humans or, hell, even Minotaurs doing it. At 50 cents, Descendants’ Path seems very safe, even if it may not pop for a while.

Garruk Relentless – Few Planeswalkers are worth less than $6, which is right around where Garruk is today. Garruk is also the only transforming Planeswalker that exists and will likely stay that way for years. Additionally, he’s a strong card that even shows up in Modern from time to time. I expect foils of this guy to be particularly fertile ground, as I’ve seen a lot of people collecting foil flip cards for the sole reason that they’re foil flip cards.

Geist of St. Traft – The ghost is a massive force in Modern and Legacy.  I can’t see this card’s floor being any less than $15, if it even gets that low. Get in now if you need them, and if they fall two or three dollars, be happy with that rather than having not bought them and seeing them jump by $15.

Gisela, Blade of Goldnight – This card is $5 and has not seen a lick of play in Standard. Like Bruna, being an angel is enough to be worth money, and will assuredly tick up in price steadily for a while after falling out of Standard.

Griselbrand – $10 and the reanimator/breacher of choice in every format that type of degeneracy is permitted. Like many others on this list, he is at his floor until he gets Griselbanned.

Havengul Lich – I got in on this guy way back when and he’s done nothing but take up space since, but I’m still a firm believer. Havengul Lich has a powerful, unique ability that would be the engine of a combo deck. He’s a popular creature type, he’s in great combo colors, and he’s a mythic from a middle set that was fairly unpopular. I don’t see how this guy ISN’T over $10 at some point in the future. How far that future is, though, I am unsure of.

Innistrad lands – I’m mentioning these to tell you that they are not pickups. They are completely irrelevant in every format except for Standard, and you won’t need them until they’re legal there again. If you can get a good price for yours now I’d ditch them. Other than that, stick the 40 in a plastic sleeve somewhere to dig out again in 4 years.

Huntmaster of the Fells – This is another card that has so far been very relevant in Standard, but I dislike long term. He sees a little bit of play in Modern Jund, but I don’t believe that this is the four drop Jund wants. Sure, he does some things, but I can’t imagine this is the highest impact 4-drop Jund could be running. I may be proven wrong here, but I’m ok with the chance of that.

Liliana of the Veil – I’m reasonably confident this card isn’t going much lower. Liliana has seen play in Standard, but she has seen far more action in Modern and Legacy (T1 dark ritual lol) in the last two years, and typically as a 4-of. Jace has shown us what the ceiling looks like for Planeswalkers, and it’s a lot higher than $40. I’m not saying she’ll hit $150, but I could see her cresting $60 or $70 without a reprint. I’m putting my money where my mouth is on this one; I have a few spare that I pulled off my sale list because I believe she has room to grow.

Liliana of the Veil. Jan 2012 - Aug 2013
Liliana of the Veil. Jan 2012 – Aug 2013

Mikaeus, the Unhallowed – When was the last time you saw a black EDH deck that didn’t run Mikaeus? He’s also an immediate win off of Tooth and Nail with Triskelion, if that ever becomes a Thing. He’s not necessarily a spec target, but a “if you need any grab them.”

Omniscience – I’m a big fan of this card, and not just because I’ve had tournament success with it. It’s a huge splashy card that casual players are drawn to, and it’s obscenely powerful to cheat into play. Resolving this is frequently going to be a win in Modern and Legacy, and being a critical combo piece, will likely be a 4-of. We’ve got a core set Mythic that has eternal demand, casual demand, and EDH demand. Looks like a winner to me.

Past in Flames – Its $1. If you don’t have 4, grab 4.

Primal Surge – At under $1, this is another one that seems safe. You can sock this away in a box with your Havengul Liches and not feel bad having spent $10 on a bunch. Either casual play drives it up to a few bucks each in a year, or some funky Modern combo appears that involves you dumping your entire deck into play using this card. Either way, it’s low risk and low opportunity cost.

Restoration Angel – I did a double take when I saw this was down to $5. Wasn’t this card like 20 bucks recently? While not particularly relevant in Legacy, she’s good beats in Modern, and again, an angel. Not only is she also a natural combo piece for Kiki-Jiki, but the right 3-drop with a fantastic ETB could really do work with her.

Sigarda, Host of Herons – See Bruna and Gisela.

Snapcaster Mage – Believe it or not, I’m not too bullish on this guy. $20 is a hefty tag for a rare in one of the most opened sets in Magic history. He’ll be leaving Standard and has seen very little action in Legacy. He’s obviously good for sure, and has seen a lot of play in Modern, but when that’s the only format he’s really doing work in, how much can he be worth? I wouldn’t sell your set, but I’m not sure I’d be in a rush to snap (heh) him up either. If he dips and then starts to rise again, it will be a slow rise, so you won’t miss a good buy-in window.

Temporal Mastery – This card does say Time Walk, right? Temporal Mastery sees some amount of play in Legacy, but has yet to break into Modern. I don’t think the support for this exists there yet, but I believe it will at some point, and when it does, this will be a 4-of. I wouldn’t call it a spec target, because it could take quite some time to get there, but if you’ve already got them, I don’t think I’d be looking to get rid of them.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben – Thalia is doing a ton of work in Modern and Legacy right now as an absolute nightmare for control/combo decks that doubles as a reasonable threat. $3 for her seems pretty low to me. $7-$8 feels a lot more appropriate. It may not happen overnight, but I like her a lot over the next year.

Cards of the week:

  • I talked about Chandra, Pyromaster a few weeks ago when she was a cool $10. She’s jumped a few bucks since then, and has been consistently showing up in Top 8s. I wouldn’t be surprised to see hear near $20 in the next three months.
  • Glimpse the Unthinkable is getting chatted up a lot around Twitter/articles lately. The card slowly climbed from $12 to $20 over the last few years purely on casual demand. It wasn’t printed in Modern Masters or the Ravnica block, which were the two most likely places to see Glimpse again. This feels like it may be another Horizon Canopy, or close to it.
  • It took a few extra weeks, but Kor Spiritdancer jumped from $2.50 to $7.50. Keen Sense saw a jump as well, although less pronounced.
Glimpse the Unthinkable. Jan 2012 - Aug 2013
Glimpse the Unthinkable. Jan 2012 – Aug 2013
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City of Traders: Phlipsyde

By Travis Allen

A week or two ago I asked on Twitter if people wanted to hear about flipping collections, and the answer was a resounding “yes.” Today I’ll talk about some of the larger collections I’ve purchased, and then discuss some strategies to keep in mind if you choose to do it yourself.

Collection #1 – This remains the largest collection by volume and retail that I’ve purchased so far. I had picked up a few small collections for between $50 and $300 before this, but this purchase dwarfed those. This list is hardly exhaustive, but it had, if memory serves me: two beta dual lands, ~25 revised duals, a nearly-complete set of Legends, a partial set of Antiquities including a Candelabra of Tawnos, about 10 or 11 full sets including Urza’s block, a full set of Zendikar fetchlands, a handful of Onslaught fetchlands, and boxes and binders alike that were filled with random cards from Beta to Zendikar, which by volume were mostly garbage but certainly had plenty of good cardboard scattered throughout. It took the better part of two weekends to pull everything of value out, and another two or three months to break even on the sales process.

Retail value: ~$13,000
I paid: $3,500

Collection #2 – While this wasn’t as many cards as collection #1, nor was it as varied in its inventory, it was solid value throughout. I actually ended up paying more for this than I did #1, even though it was technically worth less. (They can’t always be home runs.) This seller had done his homework, and actually sent a list of basically every single rare in the collection with their average eBay prices. The reason I paid more for less on this collection is simply that the seller was far more educated about what he had. He recognized he wouldn’t be getting full retail, but expected a reasonable rate of return. Included were: 33 Revised duals, 31 Zendikar fetches, 22 Onslaught fetches, 4 FoW, 4 Thoughtseize, 4 Cryptic Command, 2 JTMS, 5 SFM…the list just goes on with hundreds of $3-$50 cards.

Retail value: ~$9,500
I paid: $5,000

Collection #3 – This is the smallest “large” collection I’ve bought. Unlike the previous two, this is a player that had gotten out of the game recently, so there was a good chunk of Standard cards. In this case, he had everything listed through DeckBox, so I was able to see a complete list of what was coming, as well as their TCG values. He obviously had that information as well, so it was mostly a matter of finding a number that we both agreed on. The most valuable card here was a single Unlimited Underground Sea. Beyond that, there wasn’t anything particularly stellar, just Good Cards. 6 Onslaught fetches, a Taiga, a set of Liliana of the Veil, a few Eldrazi, some Kiki-Jiki, Sphinx’s Revelations, Bonfires, Cavern of Souls, etc.

Retail Value: ~$4,900 TCG Player low
I paid: $2,200

Now that you’re tired of reading about what I’ve done, let’s talk about how to do it yourself.

Where to find collections – There are essentially two types of sellers. The first, and typically most lucrative, is the obvious one: craigslist. I have a tab open to a craigslist search for “Magic” that is always there when I turn on my computer, and I keep an eye on it every day. There is going to be a lot of chaff on craigslist, so patience is required. There was over a year between my purchases of collection #1 and #2. They simply don’t show up that often, and as time progresses, we are going to see it less and less as those stockpiled Magic cards end up in the hands of people like you and I, who then hoard and distribute cards amongst the community. You will, however, see plenty of this:

craigslist__collection

For the low price of $150, you can have over 1,000 garbage Ice Age, Homelands and Revised commons. Craigslist is really just going to come down to being patient and finding the right lot.

Other options are garage/estate sales, which I’ve found to be pretty unreliable. Typically you’re talking shoeboxes in size. Keep an eye out for these when you’re strolling yard sales with your girlfriend, but don’t expect it to be reliable.

Coworkers/muggle peers are also a potential source. You really want to find people that are about 40-45 years old right now, as that would have made them 20-25 when Alpha came out, which is the perfect age for disposable income on nerd crap like this. You might not want to be asking your three-piece suit boss if they have Magic cards, but I’ll leave the discovery process here up to your discretion.

The second seller is the knowledgeable type. These are people that have been playing somewhat recently, and have decided to get out of the game for whatever reason. They are much better at accurately valuing their collection, so you won’t be getting duals for $5 apiece here. It doesn’t mean you can’t get a good rate, it just means that there is going to be a lot less of a game where you try and feel out the seller’s knowledge and expectations. In my experience, these transactions are faster, more straightforward, and more numbers-oriented. Both of you know the score, and you’re just trying to find a price you’re both comfortable with.

How to Evaluate Inventory – You can typically get a good feel for what is in the collection quickly, so long as it isn’t completely massive. I like to start with the binders, as those are where you’re most likely to find concentrated value. I also like to check out any decks they may have built, and if the boxes of cards are sorted at all, I at least try to look at lands, artifacts, and blue spells. If it’s sorted by set, I’ll look for Urza block, Mirage, any Legends/Antiquities, Mirrodin block, Future Sight block, etc. Be prepared for most large collections to be overwhelmingly Revised/Ice Age/Homelands/Fallen Empires. When flipping through boxes, feel free to just skip over these sections entirely. You should still go through the painstaking process of looking at each card once you get the boxes home, but when deciding whether to buy the cards, don’t waste both their time and yours looking through what may as well be kindling.

On large collections (over a few thousand cards,) I’ll bring a small notepad to keep track of what I’m seeing. Once the collection is of sufficient size, you aren’t going to be able to make a reasonable offer off the top of your head, nor will you likely have that much cash in your pocket anyways. Writing down quantity of duals/fetches, a rough idea of how many >$5 cards you saw, etc. will help you remember what you’re dealing with when you get home.

Questions to ask – There are a number of questions you want to ask the seller. Their answers will help you understand what you’re looking at as well as what to expect in negotiations. It also helps to make small talk with people while you’re rifling through their property inside their house. Being personable and friendly will make them much more likely to be flexible on price. As a side note, avoid divulging too many details regarding your experience in purchasing collections. If they get the impression you’ve done this quite a bit, they may perceive you as a bit of a shyster rather than an earnest individual that just wants some Magic cards.

  • “Has anyone else looked at the collection?’’  Here you’re gauging interest. They may lie, so take what they say with a grain of salt. If they tell you they’ve had 8 or 9 emails about it though, they probably aren’t exaggerating by much. It’s not uncommon for lots listed too cheaply to be sold within hours of being listed.
  • “Has anyone bought any singles out of the collection?”  You want to see if someone stripped the good cards and ran. If they say that yes, that someone bought just a few cards, then that is very likely where the duals and forces went.
  • “When did you start playing?”  Get a feel for when the collection may have started. This tells you what to look for. If it’s after 2002 for instance, you know duals are less likely. You want to hear 1993, or sometime after 1996.
  • “When did you stop playing?”  This will tell you the latest set you can expect to find, as well as how aware of Magic pricing they are. If they played up until Alara block, they’re going to be a lot more aware of how much the cards may be worth, while someone that quit during Torment days has had the boxes collecting dust for years and years.
  • “Why did you stop playing?”  This is most salient when they quit recently. If their friends left the game and interested petered out, they likely aren’t in a rush to move the cards. However if something occurred in their life and they need funds quickly, this works in your favor. Someone who really needs $2,000 for car repairs doesn’t have time to shop their collection around. Waving ducats around has a good way of getting things done.

How to decide how much to offer – There are several factors at work when considering what type of numbers to offer.

  • The obvious place to start is how much you peg the collection at. I try to keep my estimate at just the cards I’ve seen. I’ve brought home one in the past where I looked at one 500 card box, saw some good stuff, and made an offer based on that box. When I got home, it turned out that almost every good card was in that single box.
  • The knowledge level of the seller is important. If it’s someone clearing out their attic, chances are they’ll just be happy to have it gone and end up with enough to go buy dinner. If it’s someone like the individual in the second example above, you aren’t getting away at 10% of retail. Lowball too much, and you’ll offend them.
  • Whatever price they listed at will help you understand their expectations. Whoever was selling the cards in that craigslist picture above obviously way overvalues his cards, and even if that whole picture is worth maybe $5, that’s only about 4% of his listed price. There’s no way someone is taking 10% of their listed price. If there isn’t a price listed, that’s good for you. It means they don’t know what’s fair or they’re open to offers.
  • Sellers typically assign value much more evenly across the collection than is accurate. What this means is that many will assume 5,000 Ice Age cards will be worth a lot more than a shoebox full of revised duals. While this is a pain for buying large, low-value collections, it works both ways. If during examination the inventory seems like it’s mostly garbage with just a handful of notable cards, or even just a single outlier (something like a foil MM Brainstorm), tell them that it’s all a little too rich for your blood, but ask if you can buy just a few singles that you’d love to have for yourself. There’s a good chance they’ll be fine with this, and you’ll be shocked how little people assign to individual cards. Think $2 a card. I typically avoid doing this unless the collection really is just nothing but Homelands commons, and they are expecting way more than is reasonable.
  • My goal when buying a collection is 30% of retail. That gives you a very comfortable profit margin for making your money back, as you could sell at 70-80% of market and still do well. 30% is fantastic though, so don’t expect this every time. I’ve gone up to about 60% on smaller buys. Your ceiling here is dictated by what exactly you’re buying. Keep in mind what types of sales you’ll be making to recoup your costs. If it’s just piles and piles of $3-5 cards, you’re going to have to put a lot of envelopes in the mail to make that back. That’s a large investment of time, risk as a seller, and shipping costs. However, if it’s basically just a playset of Onslaught fetches and odds and ends, it’s a lot easier to pay a higher percentage because you can move more money in less transactions, they’ll sell faster, and you can get way closer to retail on a Polluted Delta than you can a foil 7th ed Mana Short.
  • The size of the collection also dictates what percentage you can buy at. Basically, the larger the collection, the less competition you have. If the seller wants $400 for $1,000 worth of cards, there will be plenty of people willing to make that buy. However, someone asking $4,000 for $20,000 worth of cards, while a better price overall, will generate a lot less demand. There simply are not going to be many individuals with the knowledge and capital to make a purchase like that. These very large collections are my favorite. There’s less competition, you can get a great rate, and it’s hard for anyone to turn down a few thousand dollars in cash, regardless of how much their cards are actually worth.
  • When making an offer, especially via email, I typically like to outline some of things I’m taking into consideration. I may explain that a large majority of the cards they own are from a time period that saw huge print runs, and subsequently they’re not even worth the paper they’re printed on. I may note the wear of the cards if that is a factor, or perhaps point out that while they may have seen certain numbers on eBay, there’s a sizeable loss of profit on those numbers when considering eBay fees, PayPal fees, shipping, etc. Overall, people are going to be more receptive to “Here’s the number I can offer, and this is why” compared to “$600 lmk.”
  • I touched on this briefly, but their need for expediency is good news for you. If it’s someone that simply decided they’re done and is in no real rush to sell, it will tough to get a great price. An individual in a situation where they need cash quick is a lot more likely to wheel and deal.
  • When you’re buying someone out entirely, you sometimes get “bonus” stuff. Dice are very common, as are an assortment of deck boxes. I picked up about 40 of those giant oversized cards in a collection at one point. Old Scrye pewter life counters are easily worth over $50. This type of stuff is typically considered throw-in, but enough of it can add some real value to the deal.

What to do when you get it all home – This is easily the most fun part; the discovery process. I try not to look at every single card when I’m evaluating the collection just so that there’s an element of surprise when I get home and open it all up. The best way to approach this is to systematically go through and touch every single card so that you don’t miss anything. As you go through, pull out every single card that catches your eye and every single rare you spot. All of them. I can’t stress this enough. Nothing is worse than going through 20,000 cards, getting to the end, realizing you were pulling out cards later on that you weren’t at the start, and having to do it all again. If some of the stuff you pull out isn’t worth the effort of selling it, it’s very easy to dump it back into a card box. Once you get everything out, start by setting aside everything you want to keep for yourself. Then begin looking up prices of everything you aren’t sure is worth selling. Any commons and uncommons that aren’t worth it can go back into the boxes. Set any bulk rares aside. The reason for this is that when it eventually comes time to deal with getting rid of the leftover chaff, having all the rares separated makes it easy for you to figure out how many there are for reselling or bulking out.

Making your money back – My preferred way of accomplishing this is not eBay, but rather going through established communities. I personally use MTGS, Twitter, and another community forum. Others prefer MOTL and various other sites. If your city has a general MTG Facebook page, that’s a great resource as well.

Buylisting the cards is an option. You will definitely get better rates of return on selling directly to individuals, but it takes a hell of a lot more time than just sending a few hundred cards to whatever vendor and getting a check. This decision is personal preference. I haven’t opted for this, but I can see the appeal.

When planning to sell to individuals, I begin by alphabetizing everything I’m selling and then setting them aside in their own box. Don’t mix the cards up into your trade collection; it’s too difficult to keep track of them if you do. Once everything is in order, I like to create a Google spreadsheet document. It’s accessible from any internet connection, has editing capabilities on the fly, you can share the link as read-only to let people browse at their own leisure, and it makes for easy importing into Excel if necessary. As you sell cards, you need to be absolutely diligent in making sure the list online matches what you have on hand. Once you start getting discrepancies, you begin agreeing to sell cards to people that you don’t actually have, and that is not something you want to be doing. Building a positive reputation is hugely important, as it enables people to feel comfortable sending you several hundred dollars at a time for cards that are sight unseen. For this reason, I would recommend picking one website with reference tracking and sticking with that until you build a solid reputation.

Getting rid of the leftovers – Unless you live in Montana or one of those states where the cattle outnumbers the humans, space becomes a concern, especially once you end up with more than a few thousand spare cards. I’ve had success moving smaller batches around 2,000-5,000 cards on craigslist by being very straightforward with the lot. I put right in the listing that there are no duals/forces, and that it’s a kitchen table collection for a kitchen table price. This gets a little harder to do the larger the pile gets though, as disposable income for kitchen table magic is not very large for any one individual. As you can see, I still have yet to solve this problem entirely myself…

boxes

Whew, I had a lot more to say about this than I realized I did. If you decide to tackle this process yourself, I wish you the best of luck. Just don’t do it where I live.

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