Category Archives: Casual Fridays

What is Patience Worth?

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By: Cliff Daigle

With Born of the Gods spoilers on the horizon, I’d like to take a look back at some of the cards that have slowly gone down in price, and point out that I am a big advocate of patience.

For those of you who don’t want to re-read something, the short version is that if you can wait on acquiring a card, the price will almost always go down, especially for cards that have very high initial prices. As a primarily casual player, I’m more than happy to be patient on picking up cards for decks or cubes at 50% (or less) of the price than the card debuts for.

As always, if you require a card immediately, it’ll usually cost you more. There’s a different art required for determining when a card will go up, and that’s something we will discuss soon.

Let’s start with the poster children for initially high prices that almost always go down over time: Planeswalkers.

Capture

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Elspeth, Sun’s Champion: Look at this graph. She was over $40 at the beginning! I personally opened two early on and sold them each for $25 to buylists. She shows up occasionally as a one-or-two-of in some control lists, and while she’s fantastic at that, she doesn’t see enough play to keep her over $20 in the long term.

Where she does see play is all over the place in casual formats, and this being her third incarnation, I imagine there are some all-Elspeth decks running around. (Chandra and Jace have her beat at four each.) She’s consistently good in token decks, board-wipe decks, etc. I like her long-term chances. I doubt she’s hit bottom yet though, and I’m going to wait till she does before picking up what I need. 

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Xenagos, the Reveler

Xenagos, the Reveler: Once $30, now pushing $10, he looked like he’d slide right into G/R Domri decks with an endless stream of tokens and mana acceleration. Again, though, he’s seeing just a smidgeon of play and has fallen faster than Elspeth, since he’s best in a creature-heavy deck. Where he’s really going to shine is in casual decks that love creatures. His ability is an upgrade over Gaea’s Cradle! You can abuse/re-use Cradle easier, but this level of mana ability is a rare and wonderful thing.

Xenagos is pretty affordable at this point, and I think we’ve found his floor. It’s difficult to have a planeswalker stay cheap. Tibalt is the exception–even Chandra Ablaze has found her price climbing upwards.

Master of Waves: An interesting case. He was not very expensive, and then the blue devotion deck blew up, and now he’s creeping back downward. I really like it as a pickup in the $10 range, since I believe that the devotion deck will get some fun tools with Born of the Gods and Journey into Nyx.

As an aside, I don’t believe that devotion decks will be big in a year. I think there will be another mutlicolor block, since that seems to be the pattern set. Return to Alara? Nonetheless, I’m looking to pick up devotion cards now at a low point, waiting for it to blow up again.

Thoughtseize: Wow. This was a $70 card! The new printing was around $30 at release, and now is $15 or less. There is HEAVY speculation that this price will go up in Modern PTQ season, but I’m not convinced. The printing of this at rare means that there are swarms of copies out there, not to mention the Modern players who already have their playset.

I’m always going to preach the long game. There’s money to be made in short-term transactions, but an approach to most cards, especially at the beginning, should be “Sell now, buy later.”

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Resolving to be a Better Trader

By: Cliff Daigle

Happy New Year!

It’s that time of year when we look forward to the 12 months ahead and resolve to do something better than we have been. I can’t help you quit a vice or do more or less of the habit in question, but I can help you with a new perspective on trading.

If you’re visiting this site and reading this, you probably enjoy trading Magic cards. At worst, you might view it as a necessary evil, a way to exchange what you don’t want for things you do want. Perhaps you even make a living off your trading skills.

If you enjoy the process of trading as much as I do, you might be astounded to learn that there are a lot of players who view the process with anxiety and trepidation. I’m here to help you understand some of the concerns and share some tips on how to minimize those fears.

Special thanks to my wife, who reached into her past to recall when trading was unpleasant, and shared some ideas on how to make it easier for all.

Fear #1: Social intimidation/pressure

Even the innocuous question of “Did you bring things to trade?” is loaded with presumptions. You’re assuming that someone knows to bring such cards, that they are at least a little organized, and that there are other cards they desire to trade for. Not everyone is ready for that level of interaction outside of the structure of a game of Magic.

There’s a significant number of Magic players who lack social skills. They see Magic as a competition, a way to show that they are better than someone else. Trying to trade with that viewpoint is difficult and dangerous. You’re not going to have much success when you go into every trade scheming how to ‘win’ the trade, especially if you are the type to brag about it afterwards.

A glaring example of poor social skills is when you’re being impatient with someone. Don’t be the person who is trying to hurry up a new player. It’s good that you know what the price is on a card–allow them the courtesy of checking for themselves and thinking about the trade. Don’t subject them to you repeating what the price is over and over in an attempt to hurry up to the next trade.

Similarly, sometimes people just don’t want to trade away a certain card. It will have sentimental value, or they just want to keep it. If you keep nagging at someone to give it up in trade, you’re being awful.

How to change this: Remember that trading is a quest for both people to come away happy. Making both sides feel like they won is a skill, and one that will lead to more trading opportunities. Don’t pressure people into starting, continuing, or finishing trades.

Fear #2: Fear of getting ripped off

You don’t have to be new to trading to know that evil people are out there, trying to overvalue their own cards and undervaluing yours. This is one of the prime reasons new players don’t do much trading: they don’t know what things are worth and they are afraid of having someone exploit the knowledge gap. “What do you value this at?” sounds an awful lot like “Are you aware of the recent change in the worth of this card?”

MTGPrice and other financial websites, and I include Twitter in this viewpoint, actually encourage a knowledge gap. Spikes in cards over a weekend can be exploited, via buying cards from stores that didn’t update their prices or trading from people who didn’t get the news that Jace, Architect of Thought went up $15 in the past twelve hours.

jaot

Barely any anxiety at all is needed for someone to perceive even reputable traders as a sack of barely-contained evil. If you’re asking every person at FNM to see their trade binder, someone who is anxious will see that as searching for the weakest link. You’re simply trying to take a peek at everything people have to offer, but to someone who has been burned before, it appears greedy.

How to change this:  First of all, know that you can’t always calm someone’s fears. You won’t know for sure what’s going on in your head, so all you can do is set an example. Demonstrate what you use for pricing. Let people observe you as you trade with others. If you’re polite and personable, checking prices and making offers, then it soothes the fears of many. But if someone doesn’t want to trade, let it go. Don’t get persistent, and don’t be belligerent.

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Fear #3: Organization

I wish there was a centralized way to poll Magic players. I would really like to ask about their card storage. It seems like 10% or more of players I meet do their trades out of an 800-count card box, with no sleeves, and not organized by color or set or anything. I enjoy riffling through the cards, I do, but I can’t help myself sometimes when I see unsleeved foils or older cards, and I will say something like “You’re doing these cards a disservice!” or “I will give you some spare sleeves.” [I’ve had to purchase sleeves for someone it upset me so. -ed]

What I’m really saying to them is that their method isn’t good enough, and by extension, I am a better person/player/trader for keeping my cards sorted in pages. That’s not what I want to say, but that’s how it can come across when I’m dismissive of their system. Even when I’m trying to help by pointing out how damaging it can be to keep unsleeved cards in a box, I’m telling them what to do.

How to change this: Let people keep their cards how they wish. Be respectful if you feel compelled to point out when they are damaging cards. Understand that they may not wish your advice, especially if they’ve been doing it this way for a while. Newer players may be more receptive, or they may not want to hear your lectures.

Fear #4: Establishing prices to trade at

Invoke Prejudice

Now, I know some of you are thinking, “Why would anyone use a site besides MTGPrice for establishing fair trade values? You can see versions and history and foils!”

Well, the truth is that not everyone knows how awesome we are. Take the time to share with them. TCGplayer has the unfortunate characteristic of a “race to the bottom” and that can skew the TCG mid. I like the aggregation of MTGPrice and I use it regularly. But if a more apprehensive trader prefers TCG or Starcity, consider using what they prefer–and remember that you can always walk away if things get imbalanced.

How to fix this: Keep in mind that for new players, there’s often a sentimental attachment to certain cards. Be respectful of their habits, and talk about why you like using MTGPrice more than some other site. For brand-new and very fearful traders, consider throwing in some extra cards or give them a touch more value. A little extra now is worth it to create another member of the community.

I hope your new year is full of value and correct speculation!

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The Problem With Experience

By: Cliff Daigle

I should check prices a lot more than I do.

I suffer from a problem of price memory: I know what a card was worth at a certain point, and I am not always diligent in checking prices in the moment. In this, I am not alone. It’s about more than being on top of whatever the latest price is. It’s about recognizing that because a card had a particular price for a while, I remember it as being that price…even when it’s not.

As someone who’s been playing Magic for years upon years, sometimes I’m really taken aback by what some prices have gotten to. Hymn to Tourach

I sold 100 copies of Hymn to Tourach to assorted buylists last year, and I can only laugh when I see Fallen Empires packs selling for more than a dollar. I understand that Hymn is a card that is relatively rare and quite powerful, but I have vivid memories of Fallen Empires being a set that was vastly overprinted and incredibly worthless. Why else would I have had so many of them from so long ago? Thank goodness I never throw out old cards, and thank goodness my wife keeps everything organized.

Such price memories are from more than 15 years ago, but they still shape my interactions. I have a similar mental block on dual lands: I have trouble seeing that any are more than $40, because for a long time, they were that much or less.

I’ve traded for cards at a certain price because I felt sure that’s what they were worth. After all, that’s how much they had been for the longest time! But when I get home and review my trades, I get annoyed to find out how wrong I was.

I’m a cautionary tale. When you don’t check prices during a trad, it can come across as very egotistical, even belligerent. More than once I’ve assigned a value to a card, only to have that card be MUCH higher than I remembered. At best, that makes me look like a fool who can’t remember basic financial info. At worst, I appear to be some sort of slimy shark, undervaluing the contents of someone else’s binder.

We’re creatures of habit, and those habits can cause us problems. I try hard to make sure that I check prices in a trade, for my benefit and theirs. I’ve learned to qualify statements about price: “I looked a while ago and it was $5. I’m not sure if it is still that price.” Foil

This sort of memory applies to prices, and it applies to card evaluation as well. In many cases new cards do not compare favorably to old ones, and that may lead us to make mistakes regarding value. I did this with Primeval Bounty, and I still evaluate every counterspell in light of, well, Counterspell. (or Dismiss! Man, I am glad I never have to play against Dismiss, but sad that I won’t ever get to play that in Standard again.)

I have learned through experience that most of the time, my memory of prices is on the low side. I forget that Magic has grown at an incredible rate, to the point that for years, each big fall set was the best-selling set in Magic’s history. That’s amazing for a game twenty years old. I don’t account for the sheer number who get introduced to this game and dive right in, building Standard and Modern and EDH and Cubes and snapping up all sorts of older cards.

My point is that when you’re trading without checking prices, you feel in control until you turn around and find out that your Urza’s Legacy copies of Rancor are significantly more pricey than any of the newer printings. If you’ve recently reviewed and memorized price points, work from memory. If you’re like me and have a difficult time keeping it all straight, bookmark mtgprice.com on your phone and let us keep you informed.

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Creature Feature

By: Cliff Daigle

It’s no secret that creatures are a primary resource in Magic. They are the easiest way to deal damage to your opponent and are the primary source of interaction. Can you stop your opponent’s creatures? Can they stop yours?

In the past twenty years of printing dudes, Wizards has given us a remarkable range of abilities for creatures, so much so that it’s possible to craft decks that consist entirely of creatures. It’s more likely to happen in casual formats, but it’s possible even in Standard. I have two EDH decks (Animar, Soul of Elements and Adun Oakenshield) that are creature-based, and it’s time I evaluate why these are powerful strategies.

Reason #1: You Always Have Something to Cast

Blightsteel Colossus

There’s very few creatures that are strictly reactive. Mystic Snake and Plaxmanta are two that come to mind, but for the most part, creatures are reacted to, not reactions themselves. If they leave your creature alone you’ll gain enormous advantages just from attacking and blocking. The effect is amplified when it’s a utility creature, providing significant advantage above and beyond simply swinging in.

We have a tendency in EDH and other formats to include a lot of reactive cards that will be good in certain circumstances. I personally love to have Delirium in hand, just in case someone wants to get cute with Hamletback Goliath or a Blightsteel Colossus. Unfortunately, that’s frequently a dead card in hand and you’re stuck waiting for that perfect moment. Playing a deck with a critical mass of creatures ensures that you’re never waiting pointlessly, since you’ll almost always have something you could be doing.

Reason #2: Repeated Effects

The easiest way to get an effect over and over again is to put it on a creature. Usually it’s a tap ability, and it’ll be more powerful than an enchantment’s ability, because creatures are easier to kill than enchantments. Case in point: Arcanis the Omnipotent. Even his weaker little brother, Archivist, is good for card advantage over time.

These effects don’t need to be tap abilities; they can be continuous in nature too. Ruric Thar punishes other players’ spells. Sire of Insanity is a backbreaker. Fumiko the Lowblood is a very easy way to mess with everyone else’s plans, forcing all sorts of attacks that might not be to your opponents’ advantage.

Reason #3: Synergy Visara the Dreadful

Creatures, especially ones who share a tribe, are prone to having effects that synergize very well. Whenever someone asks me what their first EDH deck should be, I answer Krenko, Mob Boss. His ability is powerful and straightforward, and when you add Goblin Chieftain or another haste enabler, he gets out of hand fast!

My new favorite combination is something old and something new: Hythonia the Cruel and Visara the Dreadful. They play nicely together, being point removal and a mass destruction effect together.

 

Reason #4: A touch of Something Else

Perhaps the best part of having an all-creature deck is adding a few noncreature spells. My Adun deck has five, one of which is the poster child for a bulk rare being so amazing in casual formats that its price just keeps creeping upward: Lurking Predators. (The other four noncreature spells? Green Sun’s Zenith, Garruk, Caller of Beasts, Domri Rade, and Xenagos, the Reveler.) With Lurking Predators in play, every one of my opponents’ spells is going to give me a creature roughly ⅔ of the time.

Capture

It’s not hard to build a deck where a resolved Primal Surge wins you the game with an enormous attack. That actually gets boring. Genesis Wave is much the same way, but I’ll never fault someone who wants to go big mana, throw a Wave for 10-15 mana, and then get the Wave back with the Eternal Witness they flipped.

Reason #5: Cheaper

It’s not universally true, but building a creature-based deck will often cost you less money. Chasing certain spells can add up very fast, but the utility of the creatures you add to a deck will lower the financial strain. There aren’t many creatures that get added to almost every deck, but there are plenty spells that many of decks demand.

The reason why I bring up these types of casual decks is because they are a type of deck that is very frequently built in EDH, and other casual formats. This type of deck requires certain types of cards, and we can expect Wizards to continue printing cards to enable these strategies. (Hythonia the Cruel, Garruk, Caller of Beasts, etc.) Such cards will probably not demand a high price tag, as seen in Genesis Wave, Primal Surge or Dread Cacodemon.

Keep this in mind as we start to move into the new year and the spoiler season for Born of the Gods. If a card is only good with a lot of creatures, that’s not a bug, that’s a design feature.

This week’s tip: Shocklands. People seem to be stocked up, and rotation won’t make these dip much. I would advise you to get out if you can get around $10 in trade for any of them, unless you’re buying them at $5 and going to hold onto them for years. Their post-rotation rise will be a crawl, since RtR block was the best-selling ever which means there’s a lot of shock stock out there. Personally, I’ve traded away more than 40 in the past month, moving into Theros cards and Modern.

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