Category Archives: Casual Fridays

Cents and Sensibility

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By: Cliff Daigle

I made it to an FNM a couple of weeks ago, and had a powerful lesson in value.

Here’s my trade partner, telling me he wants to build a Standard dragon deck. I try to steer him into EDH dragons, preferably with Bladewing the Risen, but he’s having none of it.

He takes an assortment of dragons out of my binder and I know none of them are expensive. There’s an M14 Shivan Dragon in the stack! Why did I even put that in a page? How long has that been sitting in there, dead weight in my binder? Bladewing the Risen

He breaks out his smartphone and begins building the trade. $1.20 here, $2.10 there…then he adds the Shivan and says “Whoa. Your side of the trade just went up to $90.”

I tell him to check editions. I could see an Alpha or Beta Shivan being pricey. That’s iconic art and if you played before 1998, Shivan was the finisher of casual decks everywhere. As a teenager, I referred to the Melissa Benson art as “Mr. Happy.”

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He taps his phone a couple of times and squints. “Thirty cents is the mid.” I tell him I’m not surprised and we move forward.

He ends up taking a couple of other things as well, and I get a Nykthos for my trouble.

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This story has two takeaways.

First of all, don’t ever underestimate how the small cards can add up if you’re trading with someone who likes to put every price in. Frankly, I would have just added the Shivan to a trade and called it worthless. That thirty cents; it’s value I never ever ever would have expected. No one is actually buying Shivan Dragons from M14. 30 cents is less than the stamp it takes to mail it. It’s bulk – but I’m getting more than bulk rates in trade.

Second, you want to take every chance you can to turn ten dimes into a dollar. Whenever you can turn ten one-dollar cards into one ten-dollar card, do it. The reason you want to do this is because you’re rarely going to meet people who want all ten of those cards and who will give you retail value for them. Thespian's Stage

If you’re speculating on cards and don’t want to trade your specs away, I get that. I’ve got 23 Thespian’s Stage that I wouldn’t trade for five Temple Gardens. I’d think about it, but I’d probably decline.

But I would much rather have one Nykthos than a Shivan Dragon, a Scourge of Valkas, a Hellkite Tyrant, and some other dragons I can’t recall.

On a related note, I think Nykthos is a solid pickup right now around $10. We have had a taste of how good the devotion decks are now with only Theros available. How much better will those decks be with two more sets? We have a Block Constructed Pro Tour in May and I would guess we will see a lot of devotion there.

Also, I want to call attention to Xenagos and Elspeth: The two new Planeswalker cards are finally coming down in price. I’ve advocated patience with new cards before, and while they see a little play, it’s not enough to justify a high price. If Xenagos gets to $10, I’ll go after him with zeal – I’ve managed to get him into play in EDH and he’s a house. Elspeth has followed a similar trend of creeping downwards, due to low Standard inclusion. She’s another card that is outstanding in any casual format you care to name, as a token maker and as a ‘destroy all big creatures’ condition. It seems that it’s mainly casual demand keeping her price up, but one big tournament and she’ll break $30 again.

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Foreign Exchange

Spoiler alert: I’m going to talk about foreign cards today. I understand that not everyone has a fondness for foreign cards in EDH, Legacy, or any other format. Today, though, I get to talk about one of my favorite ways to make my deck a little more unique.

101  101

I love foreign cards, for a number of reasons. They are rarer, and therefore appeal to the collector part of my nature. They are international, and that appeals to the social aspect. To me, foreign cards of any language are just a little more fun.

From a finance perspective, it’s sometimes very tough to get a good idea of the price of a foreign card. Wizards has printed cards in many languages, but it is difficult to get an accurate read on what the proportions and amounts are. It’s generally accepted that Russian and Korean have less cards printed than other languages, and that scarcity makes it hard to find copies on the secondary market.

There is no hard and fast rule for which languages have which price increase – or decrease – and it’s important to know that many buylists treat foreign cards as LESS valuable. So while you have your sweet foreign card, you won’t be making any profit on buylists.

In trade, though, everything is fair game. Be greedy, but be aware of a real danger in overpricing your foreign foil: if you ask for too much of a premium, then you risk scaring them off to the easier trade of a regular English version of that card. Be realistic, be upfront, and be willing to haggle. Plus, you’re working from a small sample size–if there has been such a transaction, be aware of it and be ready to show it to others during trading. Polluted Delta

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I’ve been through this recently. Earlier this year, a trader on deckbox reported that he had a Russian foil Doubling Season from the original Ravnica block.  We went back and forth on the value for a few days, and eventually settled on $80.  From there, the rest of the trade was easy.

When someone expresses interest in your card, the best thing to do is agree on an approximate value right away. Given that it’s also a complete luxury item, be prepared for a condition discussion that you may not encounter with run-of-the-mill nonfoil English cards.

eBay is not as helpful as vendors in this case. Vendors rarely want to leave money on the table, so the number they list a card at is often going to be on the higher end. At GP Oakland, I saw a foil Japanese Polluted Delta with an asking price of $2200. I can’t say for sure, but if you went to them and offered less in cash on the spot, you’d probably get it.

Finding foreign foils is a treasure hunt in and of itself. It’s not always easy to find foreign foils, even online. I’ve been on the hunt for a foil French Murder for a while, and as yet, have had no luck. Magiccardmarket.eu is the best resource that I’ve found, but because it’s a Eurozone site, they charge Americans and other continents extra for shipping. Big events can be helpful in locating this type of merchandise, but it’s still going to be hit-or-miss in terms of the traders and their stock.

Perhaps that’s the rub and the appeal of foreign foils to me. It’s hard to find them, so when I see one in a binder or case, I totally want to jump right on it. The thrill of the hunt can be worth more than the eventual possession.

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Replacement Effects

When you’re looking at new cards, the immediate impulse is often “Holy crap that would be amazing in my Standard/Modern/Legacy/EDH/Cube list, it works so great with this and that!” I’m sympathetic to this, since I have nine EDH decks, and that means every new card has a potential home.

However, Magic is a game of rules. EDH has a hard rule about 99 cards in the main deck, and only the bravest of souls play Constructed formats with more than 60 cards. For every new card that gets added to a deck, something has to come out. There lies the problem.

I have a very bad habit: I trade for cards that I think will be good in a deck before I think about what has to come out of that deck. This process of “making room” has several complications.

Quantity Conundrum

Conundrum Sphinx

In Commander or Cube, seems easy on the surface. You need one. Unless…you need several. Command Tower and its new cousin, Opal Palace, are something that can really go into any Commander deck.  Very few people can say they have only one EDH deck; we tend to have multiples. There are certainly exceptions to ‘staples,’ but you need to have a reason not to play something as universally good as Solemn Simulacrum in every single deck.

Alternatively in Constructed formats, you’re almost always forced to trade for a playset because it’s better to have that option. You want to be able to slot in the full four if needed. And even if a deck doesn’t play four copies of a specific card this weekend, it very well may next.

The Agony of Choice

In competitive decks, adding a card is often a matter of playing the “which is better?” game, with the loser being removed from your deck. There’s a certain amount of figuring out what to add or subtract for synergy as well. Depending on your deck, you’ll find out in the course of playing if a card needs to stay or go.

In the casual formats, a lot of people like to make changes merely for the sake of making changes. That is valid and can be a lot of fun, but you wind up making changes constantly. One thing that I do, and I know others do, is keep a separate box/binder for cards that are no longer in decks, because I might go back to that card down the road.

Metagaming

This is something I’m terrible at, and I refer you to others more experienced. Suffice to say that if there is some hot new card you want to be the guy running it the first week, but by the time everyone adapts to it, you may need to be off it in order to stay ahead of the curve.

Strategic Planning

I have a small binder full of cards that I traded for to put into EDH decks but never found their way there. I just wasn’t able to find something to take out in favor of the new cards! Primeval Bounty

Such wasted effort in a trade is something I want to avoid. I’ve learned that in Commander at least, it’s possible to plan ahead. Before I trade too hard for a new card, I sit down and look at the deck I want to put that card into. I have to decide what I would take out in favor of that new card – and if I can’t make that decision, then I’m not trading for that card.

Case in point: Primeval Bounty. In light of examining why the price of this card never fell as far as I thought it should, I decided not to trade for all three copies I planned on needing initially. I settled for one that I tried in three different decks, and came away unimpressed.

So when the next big thing hits (we aren’t that far from Born of the Gods spoilers,) be realistic about what you can use. You’ll save yourself some time and effort if you do.

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The Value of Being Social

By: Cliff Daigle

If you follow me on Twitter (and if you’re not, you should be: @WordOfCommander) then last week you saw this tweet in your timeline:


That’s two foil Forests, three foil Mountains, seven foil Swamps, a full-art alter of Sol Ring, and a full-art alter of Solemn Simulacrum, all of which are signed by the entire EDH Rules Committee. Damia, Sage of Stone

I got these by participating in the Merry Grixis Gift Exchange held on the mtgcommander.net forums. Last year, as part of this Secret Santa exchange, I sent some signed cards and a custom foil Damia, Sage of Stone to another member. The exchanges were thrilling and generous – one member received an entire Zombie Horde deck!

The foil lands were given to every participant in the gift exchange. After all the gifts were given, we voted on whose was most awesome. I tied with another member, and lost the coin flip. He got the Sol Ring, the Solemn, and a Command Tower with the same treatment. If only I had voted for myself!

I’m bringing this up because Magic is more than a game, more than a competition, more than a way to make money. It’s a powerful tool for social interaction, especially in casual formats. When drafting a high-power cube and faced with a third pick choice of Stoneforge Mystic, Timetwister, or Lightning Bolt, you’re likely both welcomed and encouraged to have a conversation about what else the pack may have contained.

I’ve moved several times in my adult life. Every time I do, I know that I’m going to head to the local game shop (or shops) and find people to play with. I don’t need to feel awkward or unsure, I simply need to look around and I’ll find people to play Commander with, or draft with, or trade with. This is an instant pool of people for me to find new friends who have common interests.

Your quest for success in the realm of Magic finance doesn’t have to be a solo one. The relationships you foster with other people and other groups can have a strong effect on your performance and your enjoyment. Timetwister

I was once famous for hosting eight to thirteen people in my apartment after an FNM, for Cube or EDH or poker or whatever game we’d fallen in love with. Of course not everyone can or wants to invite others into their home, but it has certainly been a rewarding experience for me.

Online, there’s a few ways you can interact with people. Keep in mind that given the shroud of anonymity, a lot of folks are often less than helpful or outright mean. Learn to sort through the negativity.

Forums: I’m a member of several, such as MTGCommander, Deckbox, and MTGSalvation. Generally, the less people who interact on a forum, the friendlier it will be. Small communities are frequently more welcoming. I should disclose that I’ve been banned and suspended from MTGSalvation in the past, because their policy is very strict when it comes to foil proxies (which are technically counterfeits). I’m not a member of Quiet Speculation’s boards, since they require a paid account, but many people I follow on Twitter have mentioned that it is a very useful forum. Evil Presence

Reddit: The r/MagicTCG subreddit and its cousin, r/MTGFinance, are both places where anyone can interact with anyone. This is a Sword of Good and Bad. There tends to be a lot of negativity, especially when it comes to predictions. There’s also an interesting ‘hive mind’ effect in play, where a group picks a viewpoint and defends it vigorously, attacking any disagreement.

Twitter: I wouldn’t try to steal Jason’s “Who to Follow” series on GatheringMagic, or Travis’ recent foray into Twitter’s applications, but I will say that you’ll be surprised how many people will answer questions on Twitter. It’s a higher number than you think. Not just Magic finance people either–a lot of Wizards employees work hard to interact with the community. On Twitter you can also interject yourself into a conversation or try to arrange for a gaming session pretty easily.

Being social carries a value far beyond that of cards you pick up in contests. Being connected to other people in large and small ways not only increases your enjoyment of the game, but also gives you a pool of people to buy, sell, and trade with. I would encourage you to develop these connections, and be open to the resulting fun.

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