Category Archives: Casual Fridays

Fear and Finance

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By: Cliff Daigle

I have extolled my viewpoint as a casual financier before, but to summarize, I don’t like to buy cards. I like to trade for my EDH cards, and I have had a string of a few years where I’ve slowly built up the value of my collection this way. I don’t speculate on cards in the sense that I will go buy a stack of them, but I will trade for them when the price is right. I like to plan ahead, trading for things when they are cheap and trading them away when they aren’t.

I’ve rung the bell for Thespian’s Stage and Prophet of Kruphix over and over. Both of those are buylisting for a lot more right now than they were early on. I should know–as part of selling out some Commander decks, I got $2 for Prophet and $1 for Stage.

Over the past few months, I’ve traded for 50 Prophets and 40 Stages. Non-foils, at least. I’ve got a couple of each in foil but those are in decks and not part of my plan. I’m expecting those cards to grow in the next year, dip a little, and begin a long-term increase in value because they are amazing in casual formats.

But if these are casual cards, what happens if they get the EDH ban?

What about if I had a playset of foil Deathrite Shamans, and now they aren’t Modern-legal? It was going to spike so hard eventually! What if I trade for 20 Birthing Pods, and when Journey into Nyx comes out, Wizards bans that card from Modern too?

Welcome to the fear.

There is always a chance that your plan doesn’t work. This is true in any setting, Magic or not. The unexpected will happen. Your car will break down. You will have an injury. Someone else’s bad day will turn into your bad day.

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There is not much you can do to prevent the unexpected, but managing your fear is a necessary part of financial planning. Your can’t-miss spec…will sometimes miss.

If you’re feeling the cold grip of fear, there are two ways to stay warm:

#1: Diversify

Here at MTGPrice, you’re going to get all sorts of tips and tricks. You don’t have to take all of our advice, it’s up to you. But you should do more than zero in on one card and buy only that card. You want to have a few things lined up, stored away for when their price increases. 

The amount of diversification you do is proportional to the amount of money you’re comfortable spending. There are people with the bankroll to decide on a card, and then spend $50, or $100, or what they want to. My policy was simpler on these two cards: I’d take all that someone wanted to trade.

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I do think there’s a chance that Prophet gets banned in Commander within the next year. It’s not overtly overpowered, as it is a creature, and enables creatures, but in effect, you’ve got multiple Time Warp effects. You get to take a turn every time someone else takes a turn. You get to cast creatures and instants, with all of your mana, on each of your opponents’ turns. While that isn’t much of a strategy in and of itself, it doesn’t take much to get out of hand. Perhaps most obnoxious about the card is the time factor, since one player’s extra turns means that much more time that player has to do things, the more time other spend waiting.

Just imagine you have Prophet out, with a Sprout Swarm in your hand. Everyone is going to want you dead, simply because you’re spending more and more time playing with yourself and building an army.

So if Prophet of Kruphix gets the Commander ban, the long-term prospects take a dive. I wouldn’t try to hold the card past Christmas 2014.

Thespian’s Stage is a card I feel is also dripping with long-term potential, but it’s quite unlikely that it gets banned in EDH. This is my way of managing my risk. I don’t have all my money tied up in Prophet, so if something goes wrong with one of these two, I have other options.

#2: Consideration

This is not an action to take, it’s more of mindset to have. When you choose what cards to buy in on, you do so after some amount of thinking about it. 

That reflection should also be present when you’re worried about those choices.

Remind yourself that seemingly every card that is ever played in Modern is $5. And it could go up higher! Tell yourself that Deadeye Navigator, Kiki-Jiki, Palinchron, and a host of other cards aren’t banned yet in Commander either!

This is also when you make ‘just-in-case’ plans. For instance, I’m going to be content to sell most of my Prophets during the next block, minimizing my risk on the rest. Or if it gets banned before I sell, I’ll be able to look at other cards and feel not-quite-as-bad. Even Primeval Titan is still retaining value, despite not making Constructed waves and getting banned in EDH.

I hope you’re able to stock up on cards with less anxiety, and if you need some tips, I’m a believer on these two cards.

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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Neat Tricks with MTGPrice.com

By: Cliff Daigle

If you’re reading this, then you’re already aware that MTGPrice is the best price tracking site around. We are more than a set of numbers though, and today I’m going to walk you through a half-dozen tricks that will really enhance your experience with MTGPrice.

Trick #1: Price lookup history

If you use MTGPrice on a mobile device, usually while trading, you’ve probably had to look up several cards in a row. It can be quite annoying to have to look up prices a second time, as terms of a trade change. Here’s a tip for making that process faster and easier.

Since we put the price into the title of the page, all you have to do is look at your recent history in your browser. I have an iPhone, so when you go to the Safari history you see the list of cards and their prices in chronological order that you looked them up.

Until we have an official app, this is a really great tool when you’re working with a group of cards at once.

Trick #2: The Slider

For comparing historical trends, our slider is top-notch. We post our graphs in articles all the time, but seeing the drop from pre-order prices to bulk status reinforces how right you were to sell, sell, sell!

Conversely, you can see long-term trends this way. I know that there are lots of cards that have spiked in the past year, but there’s others on a slow upward trend. The really valuable tool is comparing very similar cards, like the Zendikar fetchlands or the Scars fastlands. While the price of the blue fetches is sky-high, it’s only a matter of time until the other fetches catch up.

#2 – Set Prices

If you look up one card, then you can click on the name of the set that the card is in. That gives you a list, sortable by name, price, and buylist price. This is incredibly valuable information, especially if you’re trying to trade for things that are going to sell easily for good money.

We also get that list ready pretty quick when a new set comes out. I use it as a tool for the early weeks of a set when I want to draft for money or make trades for the future.

#3 – Buylist comparisons

When you enter the cards you own into your collection, there’s a tool for getting the instant cash value of your collection. I realize it hurts to see the retail value of your collection, and then see that you’d get 60% of that in cash, but that’s the nature of the market.

Beyond that, when you’re looking at the price of an individual card, you click the ‘sell to’ button to show what different vendors are paying for that card. If there’s one vendor you prefer, you can check on them, or see what the trends are for that buylist price. Has it gone up and down a lot? Is it consistent? This will let you know.

#4 – Time Slider

For both the buylist and the value, our sliders can track the past two years. This is long enough to show a trend, a banning, or other spikes/drops. Two years is helpful for tracking the effect that Standard rotation has on the price of a card.

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Right now, that means Innistrad block, which rotated a year ago. The most striking example of rotation affecting price is Huntmaster of the Fells. Slide its graph all the way out to 106 weeks, and remember when this was a $40 card.

#5 – Prices even though sold out

Finally, an overlooked feature is the ability to see what prices a vendor had for their card before they ran out of stock. We calculate the Fair Trade Price using what is in stock, but it can be very helpful to know what price was so good that they ran out! Sometimes this reflects a run on a card, or someone trying to run up the price by buying out a store’s stock.

When you click the button next to a vendor’s name, you’ll see what price they had. Again, if you like a certain vendor, you can focus there, or you can make a prediction on what they will restock the card at.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of some of our free features. Don’t forget about the lifetime Pro Trader offer! There’s a few spaces left and it is super cheap for all you’ll be getting!

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Bursting the Bubble

In the last few months, Magic: the Gathering card prices, especially for anything seeing play in Modern, have gone up and up and up.

These have not been steady increases over time, these have been spikes over the course of a few days. The examples are many and varied. Zendikar Fetchlands are now worth more than most of their color counterpart original dual lands!

I’m giving serious thought to this being a bubble of unsustainable growth.

Wizards of the Coast, in its shareholder meetings, has referred to Magic’s growth at between 20% and 25% yearly for the past four years. Each of the big fall sets has broken sales records, and while we don’t get specific numbers of packs/boxes sold, we can look at tournament attendance and see how many more people are participating than ever. 

Can this go on? There are individuals who make a living buying and selling Magic cards. These aren’t even commodities of value, these are collectibles that are used in a game. Counterfeiting hasn’t precisely caught up but it’s a real threat. I’m worried that even without this game becoming a public fad, there’s a real chance that we’re reaching saturation.

We have attempts at market manipulation. The subreddit for mtgfinance is cracking down on such behavior. TCGPlayer has long been influenced by a ‘race to the bottom’ price philosophy. In the current state of things, one site moving their price means that lots of others jump in as imitations. You may not agree with Starcity’s prices, but when they increase their sale price, others have followed suit before long.

We have more places to play and more formats to play. We have amazing choices for customizing our accessories and languages to play in. I don’t think that it’s all going to come crashing down, but I’m concerned enough that I feel it’s time to sell some stock. I’m cashing out some of my EDH decks, because some of the cards have gone high enough that I’d rather have the cash, instead of a deck I only play once every few months.

The casual formats have seen increases in value, but it’s Modern that has me most worried.

Wizards has more of an interest in keeping Modern healthy than it does Legacy or Vintage. Modern is a format that will not supplant Standard, but instead, they will work together. When your sweet cards are no longer Standard-legal, you’ll try to make them work in Modern. Wizards has put a lot of effort into this format, making it accessible to a range of strategies, and they use the banlist with an eye towards the health of the format.

What is not healthy for the format is the cost, and that cost has gone up much higher, much faster than I believe they anticipated. I’ve talked about reprints before, and with the recent price explosions, Wizards has to be thinking about reprinting lots of things. Chronicles was too much; Modern Masters was not enough. It’s anyone’s guess how long it will take to get these reprints on the market, but there is a consensus of thought that it will happen eventually.

So I’m selling some of my cards. I am cashing in on some enormous percentages. I have a Gaea’s Cradle that I got in 2011 for $60 in trade. I have a Bitterblossom left over that I got for $20. I have a lot of $10-$20 cards that I got for significantly less, and I’m moving out of them.

I’m not trying to cause a panic. I’m stating my opinion that casual players aren’t going to be able to hang with these decidedly not-casual prices. Just in the past couple of years, the cost associated with building a high-level Cube or foiling out a deck has gone up tremendously as more people chase that same goal.

I’m advocating that if you have put a lot of money (or at least, a lot of energy that has become monetary value) into a set of cards, you should think about how much you could get for it. How often do you play with your all-foil Cube? Would you rather have a new (used) car? Would you prefer to use that money as the security deposit and first month’s rent on a new place to live? Perhaps it’s enough to pay the down payment on a mortgage.

We want you to maximize the return you get on playing Magic. We want you to gain the most value possible.

It’s time to think about what that value can get you.

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The Big Show

By: Cliff Daigle

GP Richmond is this weekend, and in case you hadn’t heard, it’s going to be the biggest Constructed event ever, and possibly the biggest Magic event ever. It’s closing in on the 4500 set this past summer at GP Las Vegas! That’s a ton of people coming to play, and if you’re going to it or some other large event, I’ve got some helpful ideas.

I’m always on a budget. I want to be on a budget for everything that isn’t cards, so I can go forth and buy the card that catches my eye. For instance, that sweet French Foil Angel of Despair, pimping out my Kaalia deck just a little bit more.

When you go to a big event, there’s a few tricks to keeping things at the right price, allowing you more time, money, and energy for playing Magic. Some of these are going to be self-evident, others might be things you haven’t considered. I offer this advice in the hopes that casual and competitive players alike can maximize their enjoyment.

Tip #1: Pack lightly.

If you’re going to a mega-event, the chances are that you’ll be there all day. You’re going to be hauling your backpack/duffel/luggage around for hours on end, so don’t overload yourself. Keep the binders and decks to a minimum. Unless you’ve planned to meet up with seven other people, leave the Cube at home. Bring three EDH decks, tops.

I’d also suggest that you make sure the things you need to play are easily accessible. Separate compartments, top-level organization, whatever method you use. Don’t be that person who sits down and then needs five minutes of digging to find your deck box for this event.

Tip #2: Bring your meals and drinks.

At GP Sacramento, the food inside the venue was around $8 for a sandwich and $4 for a bottle of water that is sold in packs of 36 at grocery stores. Large sodas, heavy on the ice, were $6.

Maybe you’re interested in losing an hour or two of side events and trading to leave the event and find a meal. Maybe you want to get away and take a break. Get a soft sided lunchbag, add a couple sandwiches, and go to town.

Preparing food and drink ahead of time is going to save you a lot of money and a lot of time. At a big event, every place within walking distance will have packs of players filling the lines and increasing wait times.

Tip #3: Security

Wall of Denial

It’s been said before and it bears repeating: you will have ZERO recourse if your cards are stolen. Unless you mark your cards with your name, Magic cards are less traceable than cash.

Everyone knows that Modern prices are going up across the board. It used to be that only Legacy and Vintage players had high-value cards, but pimped-out Commander decks have all sorts of goodies too.

Thieves know when they see a good target. When you play that foil Gaea’s Cradle, or flash a binder full of fetchlands, the mark is set upon you. Don’t engage in multiple trades at once. Don’t trade while playing a game. Don’t just hang your bag off the back of your seat.

It is cheap enough to look into renter’s insurance, especially through your auto insurance company. It’ll probably be less than $50/month, and you’ll need to update your card inventory regularly, but this is the only form of protection available.

Also: your car is not protection. There are many cautionary tales on various forums, Reddit and Twitter about thieves who broke into cars just for the cards. When one Modern deck can be worth $1000 or more, understand that a lot of people get very unscrupulous.

Tip #4: Pre-register

On-site registration is being phased out for GP-size events, but signing up ahead of time is a worthy option for many GP Trials and PTQs. You’re going to be doing a lot of waiting during events. Spare yourself the line at the beginning of the day.

Related to that is filling out your deck registration sheet ahead of time. It’s printable, available all over, and an easy way to prevent game losses due to sloppy paperwork.

Tip #5: Plan out your side events

I’ve never made Day 2 of a Grand Prix. I’ve made the Top 8 of a PTQ exactly once. So I’ve had a lot of chances to play in side events.  Organizers will usually publish the schedules ahead of time. You will be able to plan out how many sealed events, drafts, or other constructed events will be available to you.

The scheduled side events are always notable for the prizes, and the formats. This is where you can randomly win a Commander’s Arsenal, or black Comic-Con planeswalkers, or uncut sheets.

There are also occasions where it’s just good value. Channelfireball has done this at the last two Limited GPs, running a ‘second chance GP’ sealed for $20. It’s hard to argue with a good price.

I am addicted to any event where $10 drafting is available. I will rare draft like a fiend at these, no matter the deck or format. It doesn’t matter to me if the prize is packs or a free draft, it’s the most fun way to open packs.

Tip #6: Buylisting

I always browse the buylists of vendors before big events. I will be interested in unloading old cards, or accessories, or picking up/dropping off orders.

At this weekend’s GP, prices are going to move a lot. This may be a time for you to cash out, or perhaps you want to listen to Travis and actually pick up more Modern pieces.

I’m not good enough with this format to tell you what to do, but seeing all these prices go up, it’s hard for me to look at my EDH decks and not think about selling some pieces.

At a minimum, think about buylisting things you open in drafts and the like. If you do several drafts in a row, you can make back most of the cash you spent, or choose store credit and snag that sweet foreign foil you’ve had your eye on.

I hope these tips help you enjoy your GP, be it Richmond or anywhere!

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