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.

Ancestral Recall: Phlipsyde

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Today we’re rerunning a popular article from last year all about flipping collections. Tune in on Wednesday for a full recap of GP Richmond!

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

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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-JikiSphinx’s RevelationsBonfiresCavern 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.

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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:

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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.

Track your collection's value over time, see which cards moved the most, track wishlists, tradelists and more. Sign up at MTGPrice.com - it's free!

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Modern Trajectory

By: Travis Allen

Sandwiched between PT Valencia and the soon-to-be largest constructed GP in history, we’re firmly amidst a Modern frenzy. What’s more, the PTQ season is on the horizon with players and the market alike keenly aware of its approach. Today I’m not going to tell you what Modern cards to buy and which ones to sell. (It’s all of them and none of them.) Next week after Grand Prix Richmond we can chat about that, since it will be another five weeks before another major Modern event. Instead, I’m going to give you a little insight into this corner of the market as a whole in this particular time period.

Modern prices probably feel like they’re going crazy right now. Snapcaster Mage is $35+. Cryptic Command, a Modern Masters rare, is $50. Tarmogoyf is making a move towards $200. The numbers just keep climbing, and a lot of people are irritated about it. It really struck me Sunday when I watched people 1-for-1 Bayous, as in the Revised dual land, for Misty Rainforests. The duals weren’t in NM shape, and the guy trading away them away was probably giving up a little bit of value, but still. Think about that. Bayou and Misty Rainforest may not quite be on even ground, but Misty and Scalding Tarn are actually worth more than half of the duals. 

We learned what was in Jace vs Vraska last week, so between now and early June there are only two non-Standard products whose contents we do not know. The remaining Standard set doesn’t really count because so many of the cards we care about can’t be printed in Journey into Nyx. We aren’t going to see Fetches suddenly appear, or Goyfs, or Liliana of the Veil, or any of that stuff. The only place any of that can go between now and June is the Modern event deck and Conspiracy.

We know absolutely nothing about the event deck right now except that it will be $75. Given Wizard’s track record with these decks, it will be locally-competitive and solid value for its cost. Keep in mind that they would have assembled and priced these things months ago, well before some of these numbers hit the heights they have. It’s possible they will have a street value of twice their MSRP. That sounds like it may crush the value of the cards contained within, but I wouldn’t expect it to be quite that drastic. First of all, it’s only going to have a handful of especially valuable cards in it. Second of all, while they may claim it’s not a limited release, their idea of “plentiful” is different than most consumers. Most of my LGS seem to sell out of the decent event decks every time, and I don’t recall ever seeing one at a Target. That also assumes that the LGS is selling it at MSRP, which plenty won’t.

As per the contents, at this point it’s anyone’s guess. Since the first big Modern-related event to occur after the announcement of the event deck was the unbanning of Bitterblossom, people assumed it would be B/W tokens. Their logic is that WOTC wouldn’t unban BB without releasing more copies into the wild, and it’s a solid tier two strategy that is a little off the radar, fun to play, and could use some reprints. The internet at large sounds as if they’ve basically made up their minds that it’s BW tokens. I am less convinced, but it doesn’t matter all that much anyways. There is likely to only be a single copy of one or two platinum cards, so unless you happen to have gone super deep on one of those, you should remain relatively unharmed.

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Conspiracy is the other big question mark, and it’s one heck of a question mark indeed. It’s the second stand-alone draft set ever as far as I know, with the first having been Modern Masters last summer. When we got the name of that one it was pretty obvious what direction it was going to take in terms of what cards to expect, but Conspiracy is a total black box. The best information we have is the two spoiled cards and the banner art.

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The setting appears to be Ravnica-esque, although the outfits are pretty unique: Wizened goblin/troll, 19th century pirate, victorian assassin, ethereal undead king, and Orzhovy robes. I would say nothing is truly off the table, but I think heavily flavored cards such as Spellskite or Vendilion Clique may not fit, while more generic creatures like Restoration Angel could work. I doubt Wizards is intending for this to be a Modern-relief set though, so don’t expect a slew of reprints.

Those two pieces of product are all that stands between us and the most expensive cards not on the reserved list in Magic’s history. Some seem to think that there is no way Wizard’s will let this PTQ season come and go with the rampant, drastic rise in prices that we’re seeing. It’s their baby format, and they don’t want it to become as inaccessible as Legacy, right? Surely we’ll see reprinted in considerable volume between now and the summer that will keep this all sane.

I’ve got news for those folks: it isn’t happening. Even if Modern staple X is in one of these two products, there is not going to be nearly enough supply to moderate its price in any meaningful capacity. And what about the other hundreds of cards that don’t get reprinted in the interim? Even if they put fetches in every box of Cheerios, Cryptic Commands are still going to be $50.

Here’s what I think happened: Wizards underprinted Modern Masters so as to avoid a second Chronicles. I’m happy they didn’t go overboard. It’s in both of our best interest for them not to saturate the market with those cards. Much safer to underprint than overprint. I don’t think that they appropriately modeled demand however, and are finding themselves with their metaphorical pants around their ankles in terms of secondary market prices this year. Consider the original Commander’s Arsenal. They printed what they expected would be a semi-desirable product and ended up publicly apologizing for how expensive the sealed product became. There’s a lot of precedence for Wizards releasing too little, and very little for releasing too much. 

The guys and gals at WOTC aren’t sitting around thinking “look at these silly prices on Tarmogoyf, just wait until they see what we put in Conspiracy!” No, I think they’re hunkering down and preparing for what may internally be considered one of the most poorly handled PTQ seasons in recent memory. “Weathering the storm” is an expression that comes to mind. They’re likely scrambling to let off the pressure as best as they can for next year, probably in the form of Modern Masters 2, but for the time being they’re just hoping cards don’t get as expensive as, well, as they are now.

Prices are going nuts, there’s nothing in the pipeline to stop it, and Wizards can’t react fast enough to fix it. This summer is going to see the most brutal prices in Magic’s history for quite some time.

What’s this mean for all of us? Well, it means nobody should be trading or selling their Modern product right now. Those few extra Kiki-Jiki’s you have lying around? Take them out of your binder, put them aside at home, and wait until June. On the fence about buying that playset of Snapcasters you want? Buy them, and buy them today. If a guy at the store is selling Spellskites for cheap and you have a few extra bucks, don’t feel bad about picking them up just to resell later.

This is truly a bull market, with no letting off ahead of August. The growth is real, the prices are real, and your window to act is closing fast. It won’t be permanent, but in the next five months its going to be one hell of a rising tide.

All of this only matters through the summer though. Once we’re on the other side of this PTQ season it’s going to be a drastic change. The next season will feel far away indeed. We’ll have a plethora of product ahead to increase supply, and more importantly, we’ll be in the timeframe at which point WOTC could have seen what was going on and started putting plans into place to help control the market with reprints. I’ll be very surprised if we don’t see Modern Masters 2 of some sort next year, so holding Modern staples past the PTQ season will be a real minefield. The takeaway here is that you should sell everything except those cards which you wouldn’t be upset about losing value on.

In the meantime though? Go hog wild.

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What’s New is Old Again

Another Pro Tour in the books, another slew of results to digest. The coverage team did a commendable job this time, and the abolishment of the “I think I’m stylish but I still want the world to know I love videogames” blazer and t-shirt combo made sure everyone looked professional. There were still a few holes – the lighting in the coverage booth was dim and and I’m convinced Rashad hasn’t played Magic in several years – but overall, it was a noticeable improvement to previous PT coverage. And a special thank you for keeping Sheldon out of the booth.

You’re going to notice a trend in this article. I’m going to mention frequently that you should be holding copies until the Modern PTQ season, which starts in June. Without getting too far into it, holding 95% of Modern cards between now and then is just a Good Play. There’s very little room for the cards to fall, with plenty of upside between now and the summer. 

The Top 8 was fairly familiar, but not without cause for discussion. First is the seventeen of a possible thirty-two Snapcaster Mages. Deathrite Shaman had been doing a great job keeping Tiago at bay, but now that the graveyard is relatively safe again he’s flashback. Prices have reacted accordingly and Snap is now more than double what he was heading into the weekend. $30 is the real price. There’s a chance we could see him in Jace vs Vraska three months or as a judge promo, but neither of those will have enough supply to really ding his price. There’s even room for upward growth before the end of this PTQ season. I wouldn’t feel bad holding my copies until June, or even later if you aren’t in a rush. Sub-$25 prices aren’t on the horizon until this sees its third or even fourth printing.

Hand-in-hand with Snap is Cryptic Command, which saw nine copies across four decks in the Top 8, or 28% saturation. Cryptic reacted similarly, with very few copies left under $45. The next time someone complains that Modern Masters didn’t do anything, feel free to point out that this would be more than Force of Will if not for that printing. Cryptic, like Snapcaster, has found a new home at $45+. Some finance types are doubling down, buying large quantities at $40 in anticipation of what PTQs will do to the price. If you don’t own any right now, I wouldn’t hesitate to grab them, and feel free to trade aggressively for spares as well.

Meanwhile, I’m not sure what the more amusing Sideboard Spike® of the event was – Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir from $7 to $20+ as a 1-of, or 2-of Porphyry Nodes, from $.30 to $8.

Birthing Pod had a strong showing but remains rather obstinate at about $10. I don’t think this has finished growing yet. We don’t have to worry either, as its performance wasn’t oppressive enough to warrant banning. I’m holding my copies for the PTQ season, but I’ll get out then regardless.

The three Razorverge Thickets in Jacob’s list are a good sign, and at ~$3, these are gold in trade. Gavony Township was a 2 or 3-of in every Pod list and is right around $1 right now. You may even be able to get them for free in trade. The ceiling on this isn’t too high, but I could see this buylisting this for $1.50-$3 later this year. Mostly, Pod was reasonably stock.

Affinity did what Affinity does. Mox Opal is now $50. June will be time to sell those unless you’re trying to cast droids yourself. It shouldn’t be able to climb much higher than that with basically only one deck in Modern casting it, and the Legacy demand isn’t great either. We’ll see a reprint before this thing goes much higher. Inkmoth Nexus continues to grow, weighing in at over $10 today. The price memory on this is definitely lower than that. It could easily climb to $15+ in the coming months, but it’s fair game for every non-expansion set. Holding this is akin to a (slow) game of chicken. 

As one would guess, Storm made the Top 8, although amazingly not at the hands of Finkel. He was playing it though, as was Kai Budde. Don’t gloss over this: the two best Magic players in the world were playing Storm. My guess is that Deathrite wasn’t actually too problematic for the deck, but a high percentage of Thoughtseize and Liliana decks was. With those two cards considerably less represented than they have been in the past, as well as a heavy presence of Wild Nacatl, often a prey of grapes, Storm was much more viable this weekend. I have no reason to doubt that Storm won’t be a meaningful percentage of the Modern metagame in the future. The internet agrees with me: Pyromancer Ascension has tripled to $9, and Box of Failures worldwide rejoiced to find their Past in Flames were now $5. These two I would actually sell right now if you have them. If Storm comes anywhere close to taking over the format Wizards will not hesitate to axe a few more rituals, and in the meantime there won’t be enough demand to sustain the post-PT highs. Sell them now, be happy with your profits, and have a plan to beat piles of goblins at your next PTQ.

One of the more unique decks of the Top 8 was Dickmann’s Tarmo-Twin. His revolutionary innovation of “take a good deck and shove Tarmogoyf into it” served him well all weekend. This list reminds me of the Twin Blade lists from the twilight days of Jace and Stoneforge, where your plan was to beat your opponent in the face with creatures, and while they attempted to deal with that you were always threatening to kill them at the end of their turn. Tarmogoyf’s reign as the best blue creature continues, and his price follows. Even Modern Masters copies are $150 these days, with Future Sight a solid $10 to $20 ahead of that. At this rate I don’t think $200 is out of the question this summer. A full 20% of the 18+ point decks played him, and every list had the full four copies. Combined with his continued Legacy performances, Goyf is not going to slow down anytime soon. If there was a banner card for how badly we need Modern Masters 2, this is it.

Remand was all over the place, in 62.5% of the Top 8 and 20.7% of the 18 pointers. I tweeted a few days ago that this is the card I most need to own for play purposes, but least want to for finance reasons. As the illustrious @plfeudo pointed out recently, JvV is prime for a Remand reprint. This will put a pretty serious damper on its price, since Duel Decks are always bountiful. Conspiracy will be hot on JvV’s heels as another avenue. It’s a bit risky, but I think the right call here is holding off if you don’t own any, and shipping if you do. I wouldn’t blame you if you disagreed though. Remand was confirmed as reprinted in JvV a few hours after I submitted this to go live. Their new ceiling will be around $8-12. Sell yours aggressively now.  This will also crush the price of Reaper of the Wilds in Standard for anyone that was thinking about going down that route.

The darlings of the tournament Blue Moon and Summer Bloom each had their own effect on the markets. Main deck Blood Moon was an excellent call, and now sits at nearly $15 as a result. Aside from the hilariously overbought Teferi, nothing else in the deck was really an unknown quantity.

Summer Bloom, on the other hand, did a bunch of financial work this weekend. After a strong showing on Friday, Matthias Hunt drove Amulet of Vigor upwards from a dollar and change to where its now settled at around $6. He didn’t have a hot day two so the card didn’t stay over $10, but I think $4 is the new floor here. It’s not the first time this card has spiked hard, and people may see Bloom as the new Eggs, with a slow rise in demand as PTQ season approaches. Primeval Titan is now also around $20 after proving that a six mana 6/6 is good enough in Modern. Without a reprint I think he could slowly keep creeping upwards towards $30. As long as they keep printing sweet lands he keeps getting more and more attractive. 

One card that didn’t react much from Bloom’s success that I think should? Gemstone Mine. Aside from being one of the best broken-combo-enabling lands in the format, it’s shown up in SCG Legacy events eight times already just this year. There aren’t that many copies around, and $5-$6 for a land this powerful is incorrect. $10 is completely plausible before the PTQ season is over, and if its well represented prices closer to $20 aren’t unreasonable. I’ll be looking to trade for these in every binder I see them in.

Pulling back a bit from the Top 8, what are some of the larger trends across the eighteen pointers? Spellskite was in a whopping 42% of lists. He’s about $13 right now but I’m guessing that rises to $20 this summer. Nearly every person playing Modern needs copies, and we have exactly one printing.

Vendilion Clique, by virtue of being blue, is now firmly $55. There really isn’t any ceiling in sight for this flock of faeries. They have similar availability to Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant, whose prices are considerably higher. And as with these two, Clique does quite well in Legacy. What can we expect here? Well without a reprint, I don’t think it’s impossible these will be close to $100 this PTQ season. At the very least, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them catch up to Dark Confidant.

Aaron Forsythe did a little digging himself, and the results are fairly interesting. There were a whopping eighty-seven copies of Anger of the Gods. People were scared of Wild Nacatl alright. That is a butt-ton of angry gods. This isn’t especially actionable, but it will help flesh out our expectation of the format’s progression.

Kitchen Finks were nearly as represented, but this issue is much more complex. @Chosler88 pointed out a few weeks ago that it’s a great pickup, as Modern Masters cards aren’t incapable of rising, and it looks fantastic in a world of Wild Nacatls. On the flip side of that, if Anger of the Gods is absolutely everywhere Finks looks a lot worse. $4 is pretty cheap, but the splash damage may harm their potential. I think our perspective ceiling is around $7 or $8 right now, but that is susceptible to change. I don’t think I’m a buyer but I’m happy to grab them in trade. One thing to consider: a huge percentage of people in the room are going to be either casting Wild Nacatl, Kitchen Finks, or Anger of the Gods. 

Forsythe also reported 55 copies of Splinter Twin. Twin has broken $15, but that still feels a little underpriced. I think $25 is closer to this guy’s real price, especially with the other half of the combo being a nickel.

Zoo was 10% of the 18+ field, which sounds about right. Nacatl showed up in various forms of Zoo, but never without our good buddy Goyf. The more aggressive flavors of Zoo and RG aggro were better represented than I would have guessed, and Goblin Guide has hiked it up to $12. I could see him continuing on to $15, and from there you’re in a position where reprints are quite possible and would be a bit of a beating on the price. Selling in June is the safe play here.

As expected, Geist of Saint Traft showed up in the Domain Zoo lists alongside a flurry of burn and Snapcaster Mage. Turn three Geist, turn four double Tribal Flames is just savage. Geist is $25 up from $15 just two weeks ago, and could easily float towards $30 by June. Hold now, sell later.

There were a few things I found were considerably under-represented compared to what I was expecting. For one, only a single 18+ had a copy of Gifts Ungiven. That’s wild, especially since Gifts is one of the best combo-enablers in the format with Unburial Rites. It also costs four and is in blue, which are conveniently hallmarks of Cryptic Command. Imagine playing a fair deck sitting across the table from four untapped lands that make blue. Do you attempt to add pressure and hate against the combo right into Cryptic mana, or do you hold your threats and end up facing down Iona, Griselbrand or Elesh Norn?

Gifts Ungiven is a powerful enabler that’s even breaking through to Legacy. $4 is just too cheap for a card that does this much. The Modern Masters printing is going to keep this from hitting $30, but $10+ seems so viable. It didn’t have a hot performance this time around, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of it either.

Other cards that basically didn’t appear? Vengevine. Bloodghast. Life from the Loam. Raven’s Crime. Seismic Assault. Demigod of Revenge. Lotleth Troll. Windbrisk Heights. Restore Balance.

A lot of people – myself included – were anticipating some hot graveyard action with Deathrite’s departure. Instead, we just got a ton of UWx and Wild Nacatls. I’m not entirely sure why that is. Perhaps nobody stumbled across a list they liked? Just because nobody broke it this time, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen. There’s definitely a deck in there somewhere, and we just haven’t seen it yet. Vengevine and Bloodghast are already $20 and $13 respectively without any results. Don’t sleep on your chance to pick copies up before they really do make a splash. 

Unlike graveyard strategies, Faeries did make a go of it. They only put up two eighteen or betters though. In spite of the fervor that ensued at Bitterblossom’s unbanning, many were doubtful that they were capable of keeping up in a more powerful format. Those naysayers appear to have been right. At this point, I would sell all of your fae and Bitterblossoms while there’s still reasonable demand. Even if Faeries do manage to do slightly better than we’ve seen so far, it’s highly unlikely it will be enough to sustain these prices.

Whew! That is a lot of results to chew through, and we really only scratched the surface. With GP Richmond on the horizon, we’ll get to see how the field adjusts in light of the Pro Tour. One thing I can’t help but notice is how relatively familiar the successful decks looked this time around. That doesn’t tell me the format is solved, it just means that nobody has found some of the more wilder combinations. In the meantime, I’ll do my best to keep you all apprised of the spicy stuff I see coming through the pipeline.

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Affordable Luxury

Part of the allure of Magic is the wide array of choices a player has when selecting a deck. However you want to win, it can happen. Whether you want to grind people to dust under the heel of attrition, ramp into gigantic threats, flip their library into their graveyard, or attack with a million billion faeries, the choice is yours. This choice leads to a sense of customization and individualization. When you first put together a legacy deck, it’s “a Metalworker deck.” After you play it for awhile and change a few cards based on what you think works and what doesn’t work, it becomes “my Metalworker deck.” Tailoring our weapons to ourselves makes us feel more in touch with the game and the process. We take ownership of cards and decklists, and treat them as a mark of our ingenuity, cleverness, and innovation.

It makes sense that players will go to any length to make a deck appear special, typically by adding unique visual flair and increasing the dollar value of the components. Conspicuous consumption is a very real thing, and Magic is no stranger to it. In the pursuit of luxury, many players will choose the “stock” option of trying to foil as many cards as possible. Some will shoot for foreign non-foil, perhaps of a specific language. Some want art alters. Others choose to spend ludicrous amounts of money to go with Japanese foils. There are many paths to take in making a deck yours.

Some of these paths are very expensive. Japanese foils regularly fetch anywhere from four to one hundred times more than an English non-foil. Even English Standard staples in foil get rather expensive. How does a player that wants a nifty looking deck that feels like “theirs” do so without breaking the bank, especially in a way that won’t devalue the hell out of their collection every year?

Back to Basics

Nearly everyone agrees that Unhinged lands look awesome. They’re all John Avon, how could they not? But they’re expensive. Islands are nearly $10 these days for a nonfoil. Foil Unhinged Islands are around $70, and the others aren’t much cheaper. For true absurdity, there are Guru Islands, which currently clock in around $200. Zendikar basics are certainly fetching, but everyone and their mother has nonfoils, and the foils aren’t cheap. Acquiring a few foil Zendikar lands for your Legacy deck isn’t too tough, but if you want to play Standard you’re going to need about twenty of each basic. At an easy $10 a pop, that is a pricey set of basic lands. 

Instead of going with the same lands everyone else has/wants, head off the beaten path. First, choose old border or new border. I personally prefer old border, as I feel that the foils are more brilliant, but new border gives you far more artwork options. Next, choose an art. There are lots of basics with awesome artwork throughout Magic’s history. Finally, start acquiring!

A single foil basic isn’t as noteworthy as a single foil Unhinged land, but doesn’t underestimate how good it looks when all your basics match. And perhaps most attractively, a random foil basic is going to be around $1. Don’t worry about trying to find all one hundred or so at once either. Pick out your five, and list them in any of your Have/Wants lists if you do online trading. Browse the foil basics at your LGS. (All stores have a box or binder of these.) Every time you place an order online for other cards, check to see if they have any of your basics in stock. (If the site doesn’t specifically list collector’s number, make sure you email them first to ask about exactly which one it is they have in stock. Some will just list “8th Edition Foil Island” without mentioning which of the four it is.) Slowly you’ll fill up on them, and before you know it you’ve got a huge stockpile of all matching lands that are yours and yours alone.

Uncommon Aesthetic

Foils rares and mythics are splashy, but they’re often expensive. Even the bulkiest of bulk rares are usually a dollar or two foil, and as they become playable prices rise quickly. It’s even worse when you consider foiling something like Thragtusk, which you know very well is going to rotate in a year. Instead, focus on the workhorse half of your deck – the commons and uncommons. Frostburn Weird

Foil Hero’s Downfall? Twenty bucks. Foil Doom Blade? Under $4. Cloudfin Raptor is a $2 foil. Elvish Mystic is kind of pricey at the moment, but Devour Flesh is a buck. Ultimate Price and Gray Merchants are only a few dollars as well.

Not all commons and uncommons are going to be throw-in cheap, as Elvish Mystic, Dissolve, or the Ravnica charms will attest to. But plenty are quite inexpensive, and a good way to add additional shiny to your deck without breaking the bank. The best time to grab these is just as a set releases, preferably during prerelease season. My strategy? Once the full spoiler is up, I peruse all the commons and uncommons that look remotely playable, and order foil sets of each for around $2.

Heritage

Another thing to watch for is reprints and older editions of cards. Sometimes people won’t even realize a card is a reprint. Remember Ray of Revelation from Innistrad? How many of you knew that was a reprint? I’m sure some, but not all. It was originally printed in Judgment, which conveniently enough, had foils. I loved rocking my originals. They were unique, looked great, and I was the only person in the room with them. 

There are plenty of other ways to end up with different editions of cards than everyone else in the room as well. Edge of Autumn could pretty easily end up in Standard. If it does, do you want to be casting the plain Jane M15 edition, or the awesomely-bordered Future Sight foil that is currently $.60?

Occasionally there are nifty Gateway promos that don’t tend to permeate through American soil very quickly, but are still quite inexpensive. (The Plague Myr promo isn’t actually $17, it’s just some donk on Amazon asking that much.) There are piles of reprinted commons and uncommons, and while previous-edition rares may not differ in price too much from their new copies, they can still look quite different. Simple utility cards like Pithing Needle and Ratchet Bomb have alternate artworks, and there are some rares that have a swath of options when it comes to appearance.

Permanence

Think about what it’s like to have Sphinx’s Revelation in your deck. It sits in your hand for most of the game, obscured from all eyes but your own. When you finally do cast it, you just tap all your lands, flash the card quick, say “Sphinx’s for five” and toss it in the bin. Did your opponent even notice that it’s foil? Compare to Domri Rade. You slam that thing down on turn two, and it sits there, gleaming for the whole world to see for the whole game.

A foil Domri may not be especially cheaper than a foil Sphinx’s, but you’re getting more bang for your buck in the “look at how ostentatious I am” factor. In general, I much prefer to foil permanents over spells. They spend more time in play and are far more visible than something that moves straight to the grumper on cast. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t foil spells – I’ve got plenty of them in my personal binder – but if you have to choose between trading for a foil Revelation or a foil Jace AoT, think about which one you and your opponents are going to spend more time looking at.

Altered States

There are cards that exist in this state where there really is no good option for making it flashy. Take Duplicant. The foil on this thing is $35, and for the longest time was close to $50. Have you ever actually seen a pack foil Duplicant before? Nobody has. Even if they were holding it in their hands. The foiling process on it was so bad you could barely tell. It is unnoticeable in binder sleeves. Who the hell wants to spend $50 on a foil nobody knows is foil?

The recent Commander’s Arsenal edition is bad too, just in a different way. Not only is the art a bit muddy, it’s got that God-awful foiling process that looks like a Yu-Gi-Oh card and warps like nobody’s business. What’s an EDH deck to do?

Art alter! Alters are all over the Magic community, and they’re a great way to make expensive-to-foil cards look exciting without spending obscene amounts of cash. Whether it’s a card like Duplicant, which has an expensive foil that looks like garbage, Brainstorm, which has an absurdly expensive foil, or Force of Will, which simply doesn’t exist in any other fashion, alters are a flexible answer. The best part of alters is that not only are your choices practically infinite, you can even do it yourself if you’re willing to learn and enjoy a challenging creative endeavor. I’m absolutely not an artist, but I gave my Duplicant a whack a few years ago. It is by no means a remarkable piece, but simple cartoon-quality artwork with flat colors and bold lines is pretty easy to replicate on your own. Painting outside the border is quite accessible as well, and with very little skill you can create something that is one-of-a-kind with very little natural talent or skill. I included images of two of my attempts here, not because I think they’re particularly good, but because I want you to see that you can create something halfway-decent with literally zero artistic ability.

regrowth                duplicant

Even if you’re scared to pick up a paintbrush, there is a no shortage of willing artists out there ready for your commission. While Eric Klug produces some phenomenal work, he is by no means the only person putting out quality pieces. Check out this art alter thread over on MTGS to see what’s possible. It’s downright amazing what some of these individuals manage to create on a small piece of cardboard.

If commissioning a stranger isn’t a strategy you feel comfortable with, you can even try taking advantage of a good friend’s generosity. Most of us know someone who is an artist, whether it’s a close friend that knows Magic or just a girlfriend’s sister with a sketchbook. Artists typically love to art, and if you put some cards in front of them and say “would you please paint a fart coming out of this wizard’s butt” they may very well say yes with no expectation of reimbursement. The quality of your results will vary wildly, but if they’re doing it because they’re a nice person that is happy to create art others will see and appreciate, you can’t complain. Of course, if they do a decent job I’m sure an arrangement can be reached. Offering to take a friend out for dinner if he does your playset of Wild Nacatls as power rangers may be satisfactory all around. I’m not encouraging you to screw your artistic friends over, just explaining that it can certainly be worth trying to find out if there’s an arrangement that works for both of you.

On the Surface

Many of us carry playmats. Card store tables are often dirty, grimy, sticky, or even jagged. Nobody wants to slide their cards around on that, even in sleeves. The choice an average player has in playmats is sort of astounding. There are playmats from Grand Prixs, PTQ top 8s, judge mats, SCG IQs, and TCGPlayer events to name a few. This isn’t even counting the dizzying array of official and semi-official mats that companies like Ultra Pro offer. What do all of these mats have in common? They nearly all use MTG or other fantasy-grade artwork. 

Solid color playmats can be had for $10. Carrying over from the “abuse your friendships for cheap card alters” idea, consider pestering a friend to do a custom image for you on a solid mat. It doesn’t have to be extravagant to catch the eye. Let your imagination run wild. Tell them you want dinosaurs playing Magic. Ask for Tarmogoyf eating an ice cream cone. Maybe even give the artist free reign to draw absolutely anything they want. You may end up with something that you absolutely love and never would have thought of on your own.

Alternatively, there are sites out there now that let you print your own playmats for quite reasonable prices. Given that Ultra Pro mats can fetch upwards of $30, ~$25 for a custom printed mat is a steal. Print your dog’s dumb face on the mat. Use goofy art that has literally nothing to do with Magic. (Make sure you have permission!) Go with a “texture” type of print, so it looks like you’re playing on top of a metal crate from Half-Life. Design a grid with outlines for deck zone, red zone, etc with visual accents. For less than a typical “dragon with glowing eyes” or “chick with a big sword and bigger hooters” mat, you can have something truly unique.

These are just some ideas on how to look good playing Magic without breaking the bank on Korean Foil Mana Leaks. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has found little tips on where to save a few bucks when making your game presence special. Please share any you have in the tips, so we can all be a little flashier in our own way. Meanwhile, this weekend is Modern Pro Tour Valencia. Keep an eye out Friday morning for hot info off the floor. Then we’ll digest the results next Wednesday.

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