Category Archives: James Chillcott

Digging for Dollars: Battle for Zendikar

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By: James Chillcott (@MTGCritic)

Battle for Zendikar is a weird set from a historical perspective, and quite likely a heavy piece of foreshadowing for how WOTC intends to market Magic: The Gathering for the foreseeable future. By inserting a truly lottery ticket-like upside to opening packs in the form of Zendikar Expeditions, Wizards of the Coast boosts set sales while keeping the cost of playing Standard lower. If it works out, and all signs point to the fact that it will, we can expect generally cheaper Standard decks paid for by our willingness to roll the dice on fancy foil goodies.

So what does this mean for those of us looking to make some money on BFZ?

Firstly, if you managed to get your hands on a case of BFZ at a reasonable cost, and you have both the time and outlets to crack it and move it while demand still exceeds supply (before mid-October, ideally), you have a decent shot at making most of your money back on the back of a couple of Expeditions lands and a double fistful of key mythics. This could potentially leave you with hundreds of cards to support your Standard and EDH decks at the cost of your valuable time.

Now, if instead you were hoping to find some tasty speculative buys that others are missing, your window of opportunity may have already passed. Many of the best cards in Battle for Zendikar (e.g., Undergrowth Champion) have already been identified, and it’s possible that too many are already priced for success for us to expect much in the way of short-term hidden gems. Remember, however, that you’re really going to see the greatest returns if you skip the armchair theorizing and buckle down to test the decks ahead of the curve. The combination of battle lands and fetch lands means that four- and five-color decks are very real options this fall, and as such, several cards are still being evaluated in an outdated context.

Here, presented in order of likely upside, are my picks for the cards in Battle for Zendikar most likely to reward timely speculation, with all target prices assumed to be possible during 2015 unless otherwise noted:

1. Drana, Liberator of Malakir

When I started writing this article 36 hours ago, this was far and away my best pick for a BFZ mythic about to take off like a rocket ship. Initially, Drana was available on pre-order for around $10, but as more people have started brewing and testing with this flying war machine, the price has started to push up, especially in the last 24 hours or so. The risk is consequently rising, and I believe that Drana needs to make the top eight at Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar to hold a price over $15.

That being said, this could easily turn out to be the Dragonlord Ojutai of BFZ, a powerhouse, must-answer four-of in Abzan Aggro, a Hardened Scales variant, or something entirely new. If it looks like the premier card in a tier-one Standard deck for the next few months, Drana could spike above $25, and make a playset or two a solid way to pay for dinner.  On the other hand, if Drana fails to prove herself early on, look for her to drop below $10 with the rest of the unplayed mythics and open up a more attractive entry point for potential greatness in a different metagame sometime before spring 2017. If you’re looking to get in now, however, move fast. Even as I type these words, copies are drying up and pushing the few remaining copies closer to $20, with not much meat left on the bone.

Now: $15
Target: $30+

2. Oblivion Sower

  

When a mythic is this far up the power curve and gets better in environments with fetch lands and delve cards, it’s worth at least considering getting in on the action. Oblivion Sower was one of the earliest mythics revealed from the set and a promising financial prospect. Then it became clear that the card was included in the associated Duel Deck for the set and we all backed off. The thing is, Polukranos was also a powerful midrange creature with a sweet ability included in a Duel Deck, and he experienced two spikes over $15 despite that fact. There also might be an Eldrazi or dragon (or both!) ramp deck that wants this guy to play mid-game defense and search up the lands to get the really big guys like Atarka and Ulamog onto the playing field. Again, this pretty much needs to be a three- or four-of in a major deck to have a chance at a spike, but you won’t find me surprised if it does.

Now: $5.50
Target: $10+

3. Retreat to Coralhelm (Foil)

  

In case you missed it, this card might be the next big thing in Modern, alongside the dashing Knight of the Reliquary. Ari Lax wrote an article about it yesterday, and essentially what it says is that both of these in play means having as much land and as big a knight as you want. It also allows for all sorts of toolbox shenanigans, including finding unique lands and making cards like Hangarback Walker and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy even more powerful. Knight of the Reliquary has already jumped on the hype, moving from $5 to over $10 in the last couple of weeks. Foils of Retreat to Coralhelm are sold out on Star City Games at $8, and my guess is they will restock above $12. This doesn’t leave much to gain in the short term, but a few years of success could see this card above $20 like foils of Deceiver Exarch.

Now: $10-12
Target: $20 (long term hold)

4. Woodland Wanderer

If I had to point at the rare creature from BFZ that most benefits from a Standard format that can support four-color decks with ease, this would be it. Easy to cast as a 6/6 with pseudo-evasion that plays excellent defense, this guy makes Siege Rhino stay home and shrugs off burn spells. My testing in both Bring to Light and four-color Hardened Scales brews says he’s an unremarkable but always welcome role player that multiple decks may run as a four-of. That means he’s got a shot to be one of the few rares in the set to gain value rather than lose it.

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Now: $4
Target: $8+

5. Emeria Sheppard (+foils)

You might need to hold onto these for a while to yield a decent return, but I’m finding it very hard to believe that a card this busted should be $1 in a world where I can use reanimation spells to put it into play and fetch lands to abuse it. First we need a reanimation spell worth casting, but still. At the very least, foils are solid long-term holds for Commander, especially if peak supply knocks them down into the $5 range. For now, I’m picking up 20 of these for $20 and adding them to the spec closet.

Now: $1 ($8 foil)
Target: $3-4 ($15+ foil)

6. Painful Truths

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If we end up in a Standard format full of three- to five-color decks that all want to cast Siege Rhino, then I have a feeling this card will end up in high demand. Anytime you can cast it for full value and aren’t facing aggro pressure, you’ll be happy to have it, but it goes without saying that aggro often dominates this early in the season, so you may be able to snag a few copies around $1 before it finds a time to shine. Dig Through Time, Treasure Cruise, and Abzan Charm all rotate this spring, which would leave this card sitting pretty for a modest spike.

Now: $1.50
Target: $5

7. Bring to Light (foils)

There is in fact little doubt in my mind that a Bring to Light deck will make top eight of a major tournament this fall. The card is at minimum a way to play up to eight Siege Rhino, which is insane, and a deep toolbox besides. Still, Siege Rhino is arguably the best fall rare in Standard, has been all year, and still has trouble holding $4. As such, what I’m really wondering is whether Bring to Light is going to end up in Modern in some sort of value or combo deck. My gut says yes, and I’m looking to snag some copies under $15 at peak supply to follow through.

Side note: Siege Rhino foils, up as high as $20 on Modern play last winter, are now back around $8. This is a definite buy, folks, though you could risk waiting until rotation to get an even better deal.

Now: $16?
Target: $30+

Honorable Mentions:

  • Felidar Sovereign dropped from $10 to $1 on the reprint, but should easily recover to $3 or $4 in a few years. Seems like safe fuel for a future buylist order if you don’t have anywhere better to stash some cash.
  • Blight Herder isn’t a $1 card either. It’s seven power and eight toughness for five mana in any situation where your opponents are using delve, and the three little guys give you the option to ramp to eight mana the next turn or cast something for three right away, effectively making the 4/5 body cost two. That’s also four bodies to sacrifice to a Nantuko Husk, Bone Splinter fuel, and all sorts of things to be doing in EDH or Cube. If it finds a Standard home, it goes to $3 or $4 right away, and otherwise, it finds the same price point within a few years.
  • Part the Waterveil is a Time Walk variant and a mythic. Sometimes it makes a hasty creature you can attack with twice in its wake. It’s currently $2.50 and will almost certainly top $5 to $6 by 2018.
  • Crumble to Dust foils clearly have Modern applications and are currently around $7, with a solid shot of falling toward $5. It’s only an uncommon, but this could be a future $10 to $15 sideboard card in foil.
  • Bad puns aside, Void Winnower shuts down Siege Rhino, Dragonlord Dromoka, Dig Through Time, Treasure Cruise, Gideon, Jace, and well, half the format. It also has at least half of an evasion ability and can’t be blocked by tokens. What it doesn’t have is a graveyard recursion spell to help it make a splash. After all, if you’re going to nine mana, you might as well go to ten and cast Ulamog. As such, I suspect you are going to get a chance to nab this card below $4 pretty soon, and that might be a decent long-term hold if someone figures out how to put him to work.

Cards You Should Be Selling

  1. Expedition Lands

Be honest with yourself. You’re not going to be getting full playsets of these. They’re too expensive to play with, and the market has already fully priced these out to a level that is unlikely to be sustainable heading into peak supply in late October. In the long term, returns on the fetch lands especially may be reasonable, but cards this expensive are far less liquid than regular staples and you may find some sweet deals around the holiday season when folks are dumping them to pay for Christmas gifts. There’s also the fact that their rarity may be more like two per case rather than one per case, which if true, means they are twice as common as we thought. Sell into the hype and buy yourself something nice.

2. The Planeswalkers

Kiora is underwhelming in testing so far and Ob Nixilis is looking like a one- or two-of in a few decks, so I expect both of these cards to drop from current levels down towards $10 to $12. A reprint in the spring Clash Pack could further maul their value. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar looks like the real deal, but seeing as how he’s already closing in on $40, I’m happy to be unloading my prerelease copy into the hype looking to snag him later under $25 as necessary. Of course, if you’re planning on playing a full set next week, you might as well hang on to him, since he may win you enough games to pay for the difference.

3. Ruinous Path

It’s worth noting that Hero’s Downfall spiked to over $10 at one point, but the lack of instant speed really hurts in a format that is already missing good instant-speed removal on the early part of the curve. Even still, I’m betting against this holding $8 and recommend you trade out for better targets before the price starts to tumble.

4. Undergrowth Champion

This guy is looking pretty solid in my testing, but he’s not going to be a multi-deck role player. Get out immediately, and nab a playset once peak supply knocks this back closer to $10.

Magic Origins Update

In Digging for Dollars: Magic Origins, I called out the following specs as undervalued cards with some chance of financial success (shown with original and current pricing):

  1. Nissa, Vastwood Seer: $26 to $20 (-25%)
  2. Erebos’s Titan: $8.40 to $2  (-76%)
  3. Abbot of Keral Keep (Foil):  $13 to $20 (+53%)
  4. Evolutionary Leap (Foil):  $15 to $8 (-53%)
  5. Harbinger of the Tides (Foil):  $18 to $8 (-56%)
  6. Demonic Pact:  $3.75 to $3 (-20%)
  7. Animist’s Awakening: $10 to $6 (-40%)

So far, the only solid win from the list is Abbot of Keral Keep foils. I correctly identified that the card was Modern-playable and likely to rise on demonstrative play. As it turns out, the card is seeing play in both Grixis and Temur decks in Modern, including the innovative Temur Prowess deck recently played to a solid finish by Patrick Chapin. That being said, the card is still readily available around $18, which is a bit higher than my earlier entry point of $12 to $15, but still a very solid pickup. I’d recommend moving in on the card at this price if you haven’t already, as I still predict a future price over $30 on further Modern play.

Nissa is seeing play, but rarely as a four-of, and Jace has stolen a lot of her value, so she’s shaved a few dollars off instead of spiking. Of the other potential Standard winners, Erebos’s Titan and Demonic Pact have found fresh lows, and so far don’t seem to be showing up in any lists for this fall. That being said, they still have one more rotation cycle to come to the forefront, so lay your chips where your heart leads you. Erebos’s Titan especially works well with ingest and delve, so maybe there’s something there to be found.

The good news, however, is that Evolutionary Leap has yet to find a steady home in Modern and foils are down to $8, which is an entry point I find compelling. The card is too rich of a value engine with tokens and toolbox creatures to stay low forever, so I’m moving in on some more copies. Likewise, I’m a bit mystified as to how Harbinger of the Tides foils are down to $8 with it being a three- or four-of in Modern Merfolk, especially with that deck doing so well lately. Regardless, I’m down for a few more sets at that price.

The results of DFD: Origins, then, provide further proof that buying a full portfolio of long-shot lists like this is nearly always a bad strategy. Cards like Demonic Pact and Erebo’s Titan too often hinge on the emergence of a specific linear deck, whereas flexible and powerful cards like Snapcaster Mage and Abrupt Decay offer up multi-format appeal that can be tucked into a myriad of decks.

Huge Miss of the Last Set

   

Along with the rest of the MTG finance community, I completely missed the power inherent in a Merfolk Looter with a flexible upside when first exposed. Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy has since emerged as a viable player in both Modern and Legacy, as well as one of the top five cards in Standard. I recently called Jace foils out as a top buy, and indeed they have spiked to over $80 since then, earning me some solid profits on the copies I managed to nab before the spike.

So there you have it. Anything I missed that you’re on top of? Logic to kill one of the specs? Have at it. I’m not sensitive.

James Chillcott is the CEO of ShelfLife.net, The Future of Collecting, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.

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Is Magic: Origins the next Innistrad?

By: James Chillcott (@MTGCritic)

This weekend most of you are already in the pocket on pre-release hype and debates surrounding Battle for Zendikar. The initial response to the new set has been tepid to say the least, and many players are debating whether this is a set they want to invest in given the heavy reliance on the Expedition lands to hold up the sets’ EV (Expected Value).

Meanwhile, in the background, our final core set ever is quietly setting up to possibly become the most desirable sealed product in recent memory.

Take it from someone with a lot of sealed product in the closet: sealed is not really where you want to be. For every SDCC set or Modern Masters booster box I’ve made money on, I’ve got a couple of FTV: 20 sets or boxes of Return to Ravnica just hanging out waiting on an increase. Overall, sealed can only be expected to appreciate 5-10% per annum, with Fat Packs and select foreign booster boxes being your best bets for better results.

That being said, every few years or so a set beats expectations, usually on the back of some very good cards that show up in deck after deck in multiple formats. (You can read about my recent survey of Booster Boxes vs Fat Packs over here.)

Sets that have settled at over $200 per box since 2009, include all of the following (with approximate prices and annual returns as of May/15):

  • Innistrad: $225 (40%/yr)
  • New Phyrexia: $350 (70%/yr)
  • Scar of Mirrodin: $200 (26%/yr)
  • Rise of the Eldrazi: $600 (110%/yr)
  • Worldwake: $700 (115%/yr)
  • Zendikar: $550 (85%/yr)

So what do these figures tell us? Well, for one, they suggest that holding boxes of good sets heading into the last major player population explosion in Magic (2010-2013) and the advent of Modern as a dominant new format was a pretty sweet deal. It also highlights that holding core sets was almost never a good idea, with most 4-6 year old core sets still languishing below $150 with the rest of the dregs. It’s also worth noting that since 2011, only Innistrad has been worth stashing away extra boxes of, and even then, they haven’t been super liquid according to the peers I’ve spoken to.

We should also have a look at what factors made the above boxes so valuable. One of the strongest predictors of when a booster box will beat the odds seems to be how many of its’ cards make it into the Top 200 Modern/Legacy playables list as format staples.

Let’s take a look at the sets since 2009 and how many staples they can boast, placed alongside Magic: Origins:

OriginsInnistradNew PhyrexiaSOMROEWorldwakeZendikar
Jace, Vrynn's Prodigy
Liliana of the VeilKarn LiberatedMox OpalEmrakul, the Aeons TornJace, the Mind SculptorScalding Tarn
Hangarback WalkerSnapcaster MageSpellskiteWurmcoil EngineLinvala, Keeper of SilenceStoneforge Mystic
Misty Rainforest
Liliana, Heretical HealerGeist of Saint TraftBatterskullBlackcleave CliffsVengevine
Creeping Tar PitVerdant Catacombs
Abbot of Keral KeepOlivia VoldarenElesh Norn, Grand CenobiteDarkslick ShoresSplinter TwinCelestial Collonade
Arid Mesa
Day's UndoingSulfur FallsGitaxian ProbeInquisition of KozilekRaging RavineMarsh Flats
Goblin PiledriverStony SilenceAmulet of VigorGoblin Guide
Evolutionary LeapGavony TownshipStirring WildwoodIona, Shield of Emeria
Harbinger of the TidesDeath's ShadowPyromancer's Ascension
Dark PetitionValakut, the Molten Pinnacle
Spell Pierce

This table demonstrates that Magic: Origins holds more staples and potential Modern/Legacy staples than almost any high value set other than Zendikar, Worldwake and Innistrad, all sets that must be considered the pinnacle of modern set valuations. Of the cards listed as notable in Origins for the purposes of increasing box value, Jace, Walker, Abbot, Day’s Undoing, Harbinger of Tides and Dark Petition have all already seen relevant play in Modern, Legacy and/or Vintage. Liliana, Piledriver, and Evolutionary Leap still need to find homes, but their power levels are such that I feel confidant that at least two of the three will get there within the next few years as relevant partner cards are printed to drive them.

Clearly, I’m not the only one who sees long term value in Magic: Origins either. Just take a look at the foil premiums (with 2x being average for most cards) being commanded by the cards on my list:

Card NameReg PriceFoil PriceMultiplier
Jace, Vrynn's Prodigy$45$902.0
Hangarback Walker$18$402.2
Liliana, Heretical Healer$17$452.6
Abbot of Keral Keep$7$243.4
Day's Undoing$5$275.4
Goblin Piledriver$4$133.3
Evolutionary Leap$3$103.3
Harbinger of the Tides$2$105.0
Dark Petition$1$77.0

Let’s take a deeper look at each of the cards that are mostly likely to drive value for Magic: Origins.

  1. Jace, Vrynn’s Prodigy

  

  • Regular Price: $45
  • Foil Price (Multiplier): $90 (2x)

In my Magic: Origins, Digging for Dollars article, I dismissed the youngest Jace as an overpriced card that needed to find a deck in a hurry to hold its price, but boy did it prove its value! Apparently, a Merfolk Looter with upside that offers sweet synergies with fetch lands, sorcery-speed spells, and graveyard creature recursion is good enough all the way back to Legacy.

Remember, this is an iconic, mythic planeswalker from a summer set with limited sales, often played as a two- to four-of, viable in Standard, Modern, Legacy, and EDH/casual. The non-foils are going for $45+ or so on strong Standard play, and foils have recently spiked from $45 to nearly $90, which still represents just a 2x multiplier. Shortly before it spiked, I called foil Jace to hit $80 to $100 within the year and here we are. I also called it the next foil Liliana of the Veil, a card that still commands about $230 despite the printing of a Pro Tour promo version last year. If Jace finds a permanent home in Modern and Legacy by the time Origins goes out of print, the odds of boxes gaining faster than normal could skyrocket on the back of a potential $150-200 mythic foil.

2. Hangarback Walker

  • Regular Price: $18
  • Foil Price (Multiplier): $40 (2.2x)

Here’s another tier-one card that almost everyone missed on the first pass. Hangarback has already demonstrated value as a multi-copy slot in a variety of Standard decks from UR Artifacts to Abzan to Jeskai and is likely to be a staple heading into the fall metagame. More importantly, it showed up in top decks all the way back to Vintage at Eternal Weekend several weeks back, having been featured on camera in an innovative Shops/Robots deck. Sam Black was rocking it this week as part of a Jeskai Trinket Mage deck in Modern. (Not that you care, but I’m also testing it with Bitterblossom, Lingering Souls, Evolutionary Leap, and Siege Rhino in Modern, and I suspect it will find at least a few homes in Modern within the year.)

As a colorless creature with a flexible mana cost, resiliancy to non-exiling kill spells, synergy with +1/+1 counters, artifacts, sacrifice effects, and creature buffs, Hangarback Walker now looks like the very definition of a card set up to be a long-term multi-format staple. And as a rare from a Magic Origins, a low-supply summer set, chances are good that foils can beat average returns and grow in a big way as more and more decks are uncovered that want to use it. Also in it’s favor is the fact that, like Snapcaster Mage, the card is powerful without being utterly broken, making deflation through banning(s) a low-risk scenario. There are very few foil Hangarback Walkers left available online at $30, and supply is dwindling. I fully expect this card (in foil) to hit $50 to $60 within the year.

3. Liliana, Heretical Healer

    

  • Regular Price: $17
  • Foil Price (Multiplier): $45 (2.6x)

Liliana, Heretical Healer was originally though by many to be the strongest of the Origins planeswalkers, but despite the early hype, hasn’t really found a home in Standard, let alone Modern. For her to hold long term value she will need to find a Modern home in something grindy that leverages Collected Company or some other creature engine to immediately flip her for full value. The card isn’t powerful enough to see play in Legacy or Vintage, but the option to run this as an EDH general may prop up the foil multiplier. For now I consider this a long shot to add value to the set overall, but I’m certainly doing my best to make it work in a few different Aristocrats style decks.

4. Abbot of Keral Keep

  • Regular Price: $7
  • Foil Price (Multiplier): $24 (3.4x)

Here we have another underestimated card, now headed straight to stardom. Patrick Chapin has been championing the card as a 4-of auto-include in both Temur Prowess and Grixis Control in Modern, and in any deck where the casting cost is low enough to take advantage, the ability to nab an extra card once with Abbot and again with Snapcaster Mage is looking tempting indeed. Abbot of Keral Keep has also been doing reasonably well as a Red Deck Wins staple in Standard, but it’s the Modern play that has pushed its’ foil up to the $24 price point it currently occupies, just a month after I was telling everyone to nab them near $10.

5. Harbinger of the Tides

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  • Regular Price: $2
  • Foil Price (Multiplier): $10 (5.0x)

This is a four-of in Modern Merfolk, a deck that recently won a Modern GP. As yet another Magic Origins rare that will see Modern play and has some degree of casual appeal, this has a decent shot of doubling up within the next couple of years so long as Merfolk stays viable as a Tier 1 deck. At $2, regular copies are almost impossible to go wrong with right now as the water tribe has plenty of casual appeal as well.

6.Day’s Undoing

  • Regular Price: $4
  • Foil Price (Multiplier): $27 (5.4x)

So here we have a “fixed” version of the Power 9 stalwart Timetwister. The fix supposedly resides in the fact that you don’t get to do anything with this the turn it goes off, putting your opponent squarely in the driver’s seat. For it to be broken, it needs to find a home in either a) a deck so aggressive it could care less about blowing a turn to fill up it’s hand or b) a combo deck that intends to ignore whatever the opponent does with all their extra cards. Due to the low casting cost I have some faith that this card will get there, but so far, despite rumblings about use in Modern Affinity decks, the foil multiplier seems to be running well ahead of performance. That being said if this one ever goes off, it can only help the cause for Origins.

7. Evolutionary Leap

  • Regular Price: $3
  • Foil Price (Multiplier): $10 (3.3x)

Evolutionary Leap is one of the more unproven picks on this list, but I see a card whose true potential is still under the radar. The low casting cost, easy splash-ability, and the ability to contribute to both combo and grindy value strategies seems to balance well against its lack of immediate board impact. At the GP Charlotte Modern tournament last month, Chris VanMeter started off 6-0 with his G/B Elves combo deck before fading from contention. The deck was running four copies of Leap and amply demonstrated the ability for this card to lead to big plays. (As I mentioned above, I’m currently testing the card as a way to trade tokens for reliably powerful creatures like Siege Rhino in Modern, but I have confidence that a better player will find even more exciting reasons to be running this subtle enchantment as new partner cards appear on the horizon. At present copies are available online around $10 or $11, so the entry point on foils is attractive if you agree that this is a future pillar in at least one good Modern or Legacy deck. I’m targeting a six to eighteen month window for foils to top $20 (longer than the last time I discussed it).

8. Goblin Piledriver

  • Regular Price: $4
  • Foil Price (Multiplier): $13 (3.3x)

If you’ve never been on the other end of a beating from this gibbering red weapon, let me set your head straight. Goblins are one of the most printed tribes in the history of the game and sooner or later a Goblins deck will break back into Tier 1 status in Modern and the price of this card ablaze. It can’t be hit by Electrolyze or blocked by Snapcaster Mage and it can do seven damage out of nowhere. Prior to the reprint the card was holding a higher price tier, so don’t be surprised when it slides back up while you aren’t looking.

9. Dark Petition

  • Regular Price: $1
  • Foil Price (Multiplier): $7 (7.0x)

Never underestimate a card that can be cast as Dark Ritual and Demonic Tutor (both broken) at the same time, in any deck that can afford to cast it. Already ANT, Storm and Battle of Wits decks are putting the card to use, and it won’t be that long before it wins something big and jumps. $1 for regular copies is simply scandalous and even $7 foils are a joke if the play pattern expands. I’d get in on some of these now as a long shot spec.

Tempering Expectations

So will Magic: Origins booster boxes, currently available for around $88, end up over $400 by 2018? In short, I doubt it. Despite the plethora of playable Modern and Eternal cards in the set, and the lower print run as a summer core set it would be tough to reach such heights. I am however targeting $200 in the same timeframe, and perhaps $80+ on Fat Packs.

The reality is that a big part of the gains on the 2009-2011 sets probably came from the confluence of impacts from player growth in the early part of the decade and the advent of Modern as a new format that suddenly demanded cards from the older sets.

It’s very telling that no set since Innistrad is worth more than $150 by the box, as it’s a strong sign that real supply has outpaced demand for the last few years. The shortening of the Standard play cycle from 24 months to 18 months may also represent that WoTC is trying to squeeze more money out of the existing players in the face of weakening player growth, which is not a great environment for sealed growth. All of this could create some very real drag against the set.

That being said, Magic: Origins has at least twice as many long term rare or mythic playables vs. sets like Theros and Return to Ravnica, and the foil multipliers are already running well ahead of the averages. With so many great cards in a summer set that’s still being underestimated, if you’re considering a box of Battle for Zendikar this week, you may want to consider stashing away some cheap boxes or Fat Packs of Origins instead. If you can get your hands on Russian, Korean or Japanese boxes at good prices instead, all the better to leverage the future value of insane foil multipliers. Either way, I’m willing to bet that Origins beats BFZ down the road.

(Full disclosure: I am holding copies of at least some of the cards on this list. I am not in on booster boxes yet, but intend to be before the end of the year.)

James Chillcott is the CEO of ShelfLife.net, The Future of Collecting, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.

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MTGFinance: What We’re Buying & Selling This Week (Sep13/15)

By James Chillcott (@MTGCritic)

One of the most common misconceptions about folks involved in MTGFinance is that we are constantly manipulating the market and feeding players misinformation to help fuel achievement of our personal goals.

It has occurred to us at MTGPrice that though we dole out a good deal of advice, most of you ultimately have very little insight into when and why our writing team actually puts our money where our collective mouths are pointing. To correct this we’re running this weekly series breaking down what we’ve been buying and selling each week and why. These lists are meant to be both complete and transparent, leaving off only cards we bought for personal use and/or without hope of profit. We’ll also try to provide some insight into our thinking behind the specs, and whether we are aiming for a short (<1 month), mid (1-12 month), or long (1 year+) term flip. Here’s what we we’ve been up to this week:

Buying Period: Sep 1st – 7th, 2015

Note: All cards NM unless otherwise noted. All sell prices are net of fees unless noted.

James Chillcott (@MTGCritic)

BOUGHT

  • 10x Abbot of Keral Keep (Foil) @ $14/per: Short to Mid
  • 1x Abbot of Keral Keep (Korean Foil) @ $35: Short to Mid
  • 6x Monastery Mentor @ $14/per: Mid to Long
  • 4x Dark Petition (Foil) @ $5/per: Short to Mid
  • 1x Kabira Evangel (Foil) @ $3: Short to Mid

BOUGHT (Pucatrade)

  • 4x Evolutionary Leap (Foil) @ 1250 points: Mid to Long
  • 2x Monastery Mentor @ 1644 points: Mid to Long

SOLD

  • 12x See the Unwritten @ $7.00/per (Cost: $3/per): Bought Winter ’15

Abbot of Keral Keep is making waves in Modern, most recently on the back of Patrick Chapin’s Temur Prowess performance at GP Oklahoma this weekend. Patrick isn’t likely to make Top 8 at this point, but either way, the power of the card has been firmly established and I’m happy to be in on a pile more of these as I watch them dry up and head for $30+. Note that this is yet another of the cards on my MTG Origins list of Modern/Eternal playable rares and mythics that is breaking out. Expect an article on this topic shortly.

Monastery Mentor is a Legacy and Vintage playable card with an absurd power level that hasn’t quite found it’s deck in Modern. Once it does, I fully expect the card to top $30 as a small set mythic that was supplanted by Dragons of Tarkir on shelves only 6 weeks after it debuted. As such I continue to acquire cards below $16 where I can.

Dark Petition is yet another Magic Origins rare that is making waves in both Modern and Legacy as a storm oriented tutor that can find missing combo pieces and provide the mana to keep rolling into a finale.

I mopped up one of the only foil copies of Kabira Evangel I could find after Corbin and others called it out last week as the ally most likely to pop on hype for allies in Modern.

On the sales side, I’m holding on to a lot of Modern inventory until next spring, so my sales will be mostly opportunistic this fall. That being said I’m still managing to sell sets of See the Unwritten without much issue, though the price has slid a bit as folks race to the bottom on their stashed sets. I’m well into the black on this card so I’m holding back a few sets to sell into performance hype on the assumption that this thing puts some Eldrazi or Dragons in play on camera this fall.

Travis Allen

BOUGHT

  • 70x Wheel of Fate @ $2.50
  • 9x Foil Wheel of Fate @ $6.75
  • 19x Restore Balance @ $2.00
  • 20x Foil Restore Balance @ $5.00

Travis says:

“These “free” spells are the only ones that have yet to be broken in Modern. Two others are banned, and the last one is Living End. All three legal ‘free’ spells in Modern suddenly get much better with the printing of Bring to Light in Battle for Zendikar. With the foils having displayed arbitrage opportunities in the past, and availability so low across the board, I’m confident that eventually we’ll see a strong spike out of one or both.”

Ross Lennon

BOUGHT

  • 76 TCGPlayer point cards (2016 expirations!) for $60 shipped, in negotiations for 18 more (hopefully at $15 shipped).

Ross says:

“TCGPlayer point cards are awarded at TCGPlayer tournament series events. They are transferable (unlike SCG points), and can therefore be sold. They have a 2 year shelf life (to keep them from devaluing over time), and can be applied to byes at events, swag like deckboxes, and entry into the end of year 50k event. At events like 5ks (where the byes are available), they commonly sell for $2 a point, but people don’t plan ahead, so you can often get them on eBay for less than $1 per.  I have enough points to enter the 50k as well as get two byes and a sleep-in special, although I may also just sell them for 1.5/pt at the next 5k. “

Jim Casale

BOUGHT

  • 4x Greenwarden of Murasa @ $4.50/per

SOLD

  • 4x Promo Serum Visions @ $10/per
  • 3x Cavern of Souls  @ $40/per
  • 4x Aether Vial @ $35 (Bought at $25)

PUCATRADE (SOLD)

  • 1x Serum Visions @ 1255 pts
  • 2x Wurm Token (Odyssey) @ 236 pts
  • 1x Elemental Token (DGM) @ 420 pts

Jim says:

“I’m going to be playing a See the Unwritten deck day one of the new Standard so I want to get in to Greenwarden on the cheap.

I’m selling Serum Visions because with Scry being evergreen,  we will be in perpetual “it could be in the next set” mode and any significant reprint kills the price. The tokens were acquired in a small collection so I’m happy to get a few bucks for them. Cavern of Souls also seems primed for a reprint, so I’m happy to unload them with gains. Aether Vial was just a solid flip for profit that I’m not planning on using in any decks.

Really, I’m just trying to line my wallet and Pucatrade account with points to spend in December. [Editor: IMHO] there’s not really a lot of cards worth buying right now.”

So there you have it. Now what were you guys buying and selling this week and why?

James Chillcott is the CEO of ShelfLife.net, The Future of Collecting, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.

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MTGFinance: What We’re Buying & Selling This Week (Sep9/15)

By James Chillcott (@MTGCritic)

One of the most common misconceptions about folks involved in MTGFinance is that we are constantly manipulating the market and feeding players misinformation to help fuel achievement of our personal goals.

It has occurred to us at MTGPrice that though we dole out a good deal of advice, most of you ultimately have very little insight into when and why our writing team actually puts our money where our collective mouths are pointing. As such running this weekly series breaking down what we’ve been buying and selling each week and why. These lists are meant to be both complete and transparent, leaving off only cards we bought for personal use without hope of profit. We’ll also try to provide some insight into our thinking behind the specs, and whether we are aiming for a short (<1 month), mid (1-12 month), or long (1 year+) term flip. Here’s what we we’ve been up to this week:

Buying Period: Sep 1st – 7th, 2015

Note: All cards NM unless otherwise noted. All sell prices are net of fees unless noted.

James Chillcott (@MTGCritic)

BOUGHT

  • 3x Monastery Mentor @ $13

SOLD

  • 28x See the Unwritten @ $7.50/per (Cost: $3/per)

Monastery Mentor is a Legacy and Vintage playable card with an absurd power level that hasn’t quite found it’s deck in Modern. Once it does, I fully expect the card to top $30 as a small set mythic that was supplanted by Dragons of Tarkir on shelves only 6 weeks after it debuted. I’ll be acquiring more copies under $16 accordingly.

See the Unwritten was already seeing play in versions of Green/Red dragons in Standard when it spiked off late summer Battle for Zendikar Eldrazi hype. I’ve been selling through a variety of channels, and the price has been sliding but I’m still coming out up over $10/set on average, with additional upside on my remaining 20+ copies if the card finds a deck in the new standard or an obvious search target appears.

Douglas Johnson (@roseofthorns)

BOUGHT (Pucatrade)

  • 15x Spawnsire of Ulamog via Pucatrade at 329 points each

SOLD

  • 3x Shaman of Forgotten Ways at $6/per

Douglas says:

“At only $3, I really like Spawnsire of Ulamog as a pickup. It has dodged being reprinted so far, it makes a lot of mana dorks, and the last activated ability is perfect for both Timmys and Johnnys to get excited about. The annihilator 1 is pretty irrelevant, but who cares? We’re casting every Eldrazi ever. Spawnsire gets a whole lot of new tools with this set, and I don’t think he needs to see competitive or EDH play to get up to $6 or $7 on casual demand alone. SCG is out of stock on NM copies at the moment, but has plenty of SP/MP. eBay is practically dried up of non-foil copies, and there are still quite a few on TCGplayer. Maybe this doesn’t pick up until casual players start cracking packs and building decks, but this is a card I’m very bullish on. You don’t see me pick out spec targets very often, but this is one of them.”

So there you have it. Now what were you guys buying and selling this week and why?

James Chillcott is the CEO of ShelfLife.net, The Future of Collecting, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.

Please follow and like us: