Category Archives: Jason Alt

UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Legen—Wait For It…

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By: Jason Alt

ldi5c

Yes, I want to talk about legendary creatures. As is our custom here in this column, I want to look at EDH-specific cards and their financial futures. EDH impact is unique and has a few quirks and legendary creatures are obviously going to be highly impacted by EDH.

But to what extent? And how do we differentiate the impact of EDH from the impact of other formats? Understanding this effect is going to help us know what to do in the future when we see cards that look like they’ll be EDH-only cards. Believe me, they’re easy to spot. Legendary creatures with unique abilities look amazing when a set is being spoiled. People mentally build around them right off the bat and make plans to acquire the cards as soon as possible when the set comes out. People can’t wait to build around that hot new commander. So how do we know when to preorder or target during the first week and how do we know when to, well…

Wait for it?

 

Loaded

Some sets just look… you know. Just ridiculous. M15 was a set like that, Dragons of Tarkir was another. Sometimes they clearly want to let EDH players know they’re aware we exist and they want to pander to us. If you look at M15, there are a ton of cards that look really saucy for EDH.

You kiddin’ me?

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Wow. Daretti says hello.

This cycle is nuts!

I love to Polymorph!

They can’t all be gems

Bruna, anyone?

Hnnnnnnng.

Seriously?

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YES.

They know Goblin Welder is a card, right?

Look at all these sweet EDH cards! This set is stacked. Stacked, I tells ya!

So When Did I Go In For Cash On This Stuff?

I mean, not yet. It was a relatively recent set, but let’s look at the price graphs on some of these cards now that we’re past peak supply.

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Remember when we had high hopes and thought this card would maintain a price of an entire dollar? The hubris. The hubris.

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The foil isn’t exactly blowing my mind, either. Look at the buylist price… it’s going down. Dealers get less and less confident in this card the farther we get from the release.

Kurkesh isn’t exactly a staple, though, is he? How about a card that people are excited to use as a commander?

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Yisan is a better card that’s not in much better shape. Huh. Clearly things would be better if these cards were mythic rares rather than regular rares—that much is obvious. Are there any EDH-focused non-mythics in M15 that are better price-wise that we can compare these to? Yep.

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What’s going on here? While Sliver Hive is colorless and can therefore technically go in any color deck, it’s also pretty narrow. It goes in sliver decks and really nowhere else. You can’t even use it as an Urza’s Factory since you need to have a sliver out to power it. One factor? This card is obvious to everyone that it will be a solid pickup. You don’t need to know anything about how to build a slivers deck to know that this goes in it. Just read it.

The same person who can look at Crucible of the Spirit Dragon and say, “Dragon players’re gonna love thems a big old bunch of this card,” (they didn’t) can correctly surmise that Sliver Hive is a solid pickup. Everyone is going to be all-in on speculating here because it’s so juicy.

Another factor is that this is EDH-strong but not EDH-specific. This means it can go in four-of formats as well. Casual players will snap these up a set at a time to jam in their sliver decks. There was even talk of a sliver deck in Standard. It never materialized, which is too bad, since if it didn’t happen when M15 came out, it will likely never happen. That’s a shame. Still, there was a lot of attention given to this card.

What about some other cards that may be closer to Sliver Hive than they are to Kurkesh?

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Someone is really trying to make something happen here. Artificial spikes notwithstanding, there is real, organic demand here obscured by some mild dickery.  This is a card that will end up in casual as well as EDH decks, and can be jammed as more than just a one-of. A picture is starting to develop here.

Applicability

If a card has any cross-format applicability with a casual format other than EDH as well as with EDH, we’ve seen there is a mild bump. If there is applicability with a competitive format, there is a larger bump, but all that really serves to do is obscure our data. However, it is still worth exploring a bit.

Tasigur is a very good EDH commander.

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However, he’s also a very good card in formats like Modern and Standard and this new format where people play using their hands to try and prevent their opponents from throwing a ball through a metal ring and—nope, no, that’s definitely basketball I was thinking of, and this card sucks in basketball. He’d get picked after me and I show up to play pickup hoops wearing jean shorts and a Rush T-shirt. Still, he’s good at just about everything that doesn’t require a 30-inch vertical.

Can we try and parse out how much of his peak price and hell, even his current plateaud price is due to EDH alone? I have an idea.

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Subtract from Tasigur’s current price of roughly $6 Shu Yun‘s current price of about one-half of one dollar and you start to see what’s going on. Shu Yun is pretty good in EDH himself and he is a Tiny Leader to boot. Even Tasigur can’t say he’s a Tiny Leader (an effect I won’t even speculate about because I don’t fully understand how Tiny Leaders affects prices because I am part of the group known as “everyone”), so Shu Yun has some things going for him that Tasigur does not. EDH has kept this above bulk while Tasigur enjoyed a brief stint at $10.

And Shu Yun is certainly above bulk. He’s nearly worth 50 percent more than Dragonscale General. Thanks for the boost, EDH!

Let’s work on coming to a conclusion or two before we look at some more factors.

What we are seeing here is that non-mythic legendary creatures that are basically EDH-only cards in the post-mythic era are really suffering. They’re having a hard time gaining any traction despite being really cool cards and despite EDH growing at a phenomenal rate and Wizards supporting the format directly by printing cards with that format in mind and including those cards not only in regular sets but also in the special supplementary product they have created just for that format. Wizards is doing a lot to support EDH.

Why are the cards suffering? Simple. EDH would have to be growing at a rate that is four times the rate that Standard is growing, basically. I realize that’s a gross oversimplification, but looking at it qualitatively rather than quantitatively, it’s not far from the truth. EDH just doesn’t consume cardboard the way Standard does. Unfortunately for EDH speculators, Standard is where non-Magic players usually join. FNM is at the front of the funnel and our format is a tributary. EDH is overwhelming for someone who has never played Magic before, anyway. So large growth has to occur on the Standard side before it gets to the EDH side, and that growth will exacerbate the problem we’re having with non-mythic, EDH-specific cards being worth essentially bulk as players bust packs at an unprecedented rate trying to get the cards they need for FNM.

Things are stacked against cards like Kurkesh. It’s narrow. It’s mono-colored, meaning it goes in just red decks. Not only that, it can’t go in all red decks since it’s very specific to artifact decks given its ability. It was from a recent set. It’s non-mythic in the post-mythic era. People bought a lot of M15: more than any core set ever. By the time you get all the way down the list to “Kurkesh is very good at what it does” it doesn’t matter anymore. The balance is weighted so heavily against the card that it scarcely matters.

Other Formats Matter. Sometimes

So far we’ve only looked at non-mythic rares. I did that deliberately, because being mythic is a huge boost to a card’s potential. Not only that, other format applicability is going to profoundly affect mythics compared to non-mythic rares. If you have a card that has some competitive applicability, say in Modern where it was featured in a Woo brew, that would be huge for the card’s price potential. Man, what if the card were a phenomenal EDH general, too? Like… bannably good. What if a card were playable in Modern, was mythic, and was such a good commander that people complain about the card warping their local metagame?

How much would a killer card like that go for? $5? $10? Even if most of the play it saw was in EDH, a smattering of cross-format applicability is bound to make the card expensive. Can you think of any cards like that?

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Mother$&%#@!

A dollar. A dollar and change, but still a damn dollar. It’s trending down in price as we pass peak saturation of supply. Dealers aren’t very excited, either, and you can see the demand from dealers (the blue line. I haven’t mentioned that the blue line is buylist price for like… the entire time I’ve written for this site. I really hope most of you got that from context) actually diverging from the retail price. That augurs poorly, usually.

When was the best time to sell Narset? Right the hell away, it turns out. When is the best time to buy? Not yet, that’s when.

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Even the foil isn’t wowing me right now, although we’re looking at a healthy 10-times multiplier, which all but confirms that the EDH community is very, very aware of Narset.

So what do we do if most legendary creatures that are EDH-only won’t have the advantages Narset has like being mythic, featured in a Woo brew, and being a once-in-a-block busted commander like Nekusar or Rafiq?

What do we do if an EDH-focused legendary creature card with a lot of advantages isn’t getting there and worse ones certainly won’t?

Wait For It

That wasn’t just a pun in the title. I think when a legendary creature comes out, you’re almost always going to have to wait if it’s an EDH card. Sometimes a very long time.

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Too soon.

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No, not yet.

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Not yet.

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Eh, look at that spread getting BIGGER. Yuck.

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Think we may be onto something…

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Woah. Look at that growth. People who bought at rotation and sat on these did okay. EDH obviously loves this guy and he’s a sweet commander, but goblins players use him, too. What’s our multiplier look like?

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Only double?! So we’re just beginning to see the real growth. The foil is about to diverge from the non-foil and dealers seem to agree.

So How Do We Hit the Next Krenko?

  • Identify the Krenko.

The next Krenko is going to be a powerful general with a cool ability. Relevant tribal affiliation never hurts. The card will be mostly overlooked by competitive players.

  • Buy at rotation.

Krenko hit its lowest point a year after its release, when it rotated out of Standard. This is about what we expect. He’s a sicko commander, and when Purphoros was spoiled in late August 2013, we saw some price movement in Krenko’s price. Growth has been nice and organic. Buying at rotation was the best time to guarantee we’d buy at the cheapest he’d ever be. Lots of Spikes dump their cards at rotation and we want to be there with our wallets out. Buy at the blue line, not the green one if you can.

  • Wait for it.

You will wait a few years. Magic 2013 was released in July of 2012. It’s not yet July of 2015. The next Krenko could get spoiled in Battle for Zendikar and we’d have a long wait.

What Do We Not Want to Do?

  • Don’t preorder like 90 percent of the time.

Sure, maybe you could have gotten a cheap(er) Dragonlord Dromoka, but it wasn’t EDH that made that price go up and you’re better off just waiting for EDH-only stuff to tank. People will be impatient initially and pay whatever price and then they will wait until they get around to building the deck.

Legendary creatures look really sexy on spoiler sheets, but I think I’ve made the case that they are a trap almost all of the time and the play is to sit on them. We’ll figure out what the next Krenko is together, and as soon as we identify that card, well, we’ll know what to do. We’ll wait for it.

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Is It Safe? Part 2

By: Jason Alt

For a brief second, I found myself wishing this series dealt with MODO at all because “Part 2: Electric Reprint Boogaloo” would be a sweet title. If you’re not laughing, you’re just mad you didn’t think of it, and envy is a stinky cologne, readers.

Electronic reprints are relevant to the discussion, but online EDH is so irrelevant it’s not funny. It’s played, technically, but there’s not much money in speculating on such an underplayed and volatile medium, so let’s stick to what we know.

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Is it Safe? Part 1

Marathon-Man
This is still better than triple Khans draft

We all want safe investments, don’t we? This week, with a spoiler that purports to contain most (but not all, because… reasons) of the mythics from Modern Masters 2015 circulating and not knowing enough information to comment on it, I decided to talk about something else. Besides, the rares will impact EDH finance more than the mythic rares in MM15, and we don’t have much information on those beyond the same spoiler claiming the Commands cycle will be in the set, likely at rare. Sure, that will impact EDH, but we don’t know much beyond that.

Speaking of the cycle of Commands, it made me laugh to see someone on Reddit question why Wizards would bother to reprint the whole cycle of commands in Modern Masters when only one, maybe two of them even see play in Modern. It’s really funny to me that people don’t seem to remember that Modern Masters printed a lot of cards that were great in EDH and had little to no applicability in Modern. What did those people think when they saw Stonehewer Giant in the first Modern Masters? Did they say, “Well, obviously Ardarkar Valkyrie is a Modern staple”? It’s silly, but it just goes to show that people do a good idea of ignoring the stuff they don’t care about.

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Treasure From Trash

I know the title doesn’t really matter in articles, but I’m proud of this one. Shut up, I get to be happy about the little things in life. Seriously, don’t ruin this for me. Magic players are cynical and too-cool-for-school and I’m not going to let negativity mess this one up. I’m genuinely proud of this title.

What does the title have to do with anything? Well, basically I want to talk about trash and how to pick it. But this is very specific trash. I mean, specific to the point that “Treasure From Trash” is a better title for the article than something like “One Man’s Trash” because we’re talking about most people’s trash, especially finance people.

Now, we’re taught to use every part of the buffalo in MTG Finance, so how could we be possibly considering anything “trash”? I sold empty Revised deckboxes on eBay. Literally. The empty box that used to have cards and a rules insert. I didn’t include the rules insert. People will buy anything. Is this going to be an article about the finance of empty booster pack wrappers or something like that? No, calm down.

rabblerouser

I was really excited about this title because for like one second I thought the card Scrap Mastery was called Trash from Treasure but I was wrong. Trash for Treasure is a card, but it’s a card that you should buy to jam in the deck with Scrap Mastery. So while I didn’t get everything I wanted here, I’ll live. But if the fantasy didn’t line up with reality quite the way I wanted, why bring this up at all? Well, Scrap Mastery is a card in the Built From Scratch precon and I want to talk about those precons specifically. This is going to be fun. Let’s talk trash, but first, we can talk treasure.

What’s the Treasure?

Treasure is a card that is worth more than you paid for it. If you buy a card for a certain amount and sell it for more, you win. You found treasure. This is why I love to buy collections: collections are full of treasure. Ideally, I can pay the bulk rate on a collection and pay individually for every card they pick out. Those are my favorite. I pay below buylist on the big cards and then dig through the bulk and see what in there is worth more than half a cent. Even if I have to pay buylist on the big stuff, they usually miss a few things and the bulk is always worth picking. People who make sure they provide you with a spreadsheet of every single bulk rare and how much it is at TCGplayer mid have shipped me “bulk” that had foil Dazes and Cabal Therapys. Treasure hunting in unpicked bulk is the best.

But underpaying due to those circumstances isn’t the only way to find treasure. You can also find cards that are just mispriced in stores. You can find cards in a box that you forgot you had. Yes, I bury treasure constantly and I’m always stoked to find it. But another way to get treasure is to pay MSRP and have MSRP be too cheap.

What’s a good example of this? We all know one, and maybe this is the one you thought of.

Sweet, sweet Mind Seize. You gave us Nekusar, you gave us Jeleva, and you gave us True-Name Nemesis, which was a very, very saucy way to get some value from MSRP.  This isn’t the earliest example of this phenomenon, obviously. My first real foray into MTG finance was at the expense of the too-cheap MSRP assigned to another preconstructed deck.

Awwwww, yiss.

Remember the $12 deck with the $25 Umezawa’s Jitte inside? I bought so many of these decks that I was able to build a Vintage deck (minus the power) just from the value. But these didn’t just contain a Jitte, they also had a Patron of the Nezumi and a foil basic land. The rest of the cards had value, but not much. So many Rat’s Nests were popped that the market was awash with the common and uncommon rats. Besides, if you weren’t selling on eBay back then, and I wasn’t since I was just a Spike/college student, you had no real chance to make any money off of the rest of the “chaff” in the decks. You pulled out the Jitte and the foil basic and tossed the rest of the trash in a box.

By the time Mind Seize came around, people had mechanisms in place for selling cards at retail prices and the idea was more widely-accepted. TCGplayer, PucaTrade and CardShark, in additon to eBay, were all outs for average players to get some value back and for financiers to really benefit from getting a large volume of cards at buylist prices. This outlet was pretty bad for the non-treasure in Mind Seize decks, and that turned out to be about 98 cards.

What Became of the Trash?

If you’re like me, you bought some Mind Seizes and flipped the Nemeses (Nemeses is the correct plural form—just ask this guy:)…

nemeses

…and pocketed the rest of the trash. Too lazy to immediately list a bunch of sub-$1 cards to try and recoup on my investment, I sat on the chaff from the Mind Seize decks.  That is, until I really thought about what I was doing.

Take a look at what I actually considered “trash.”

There are actual cards here! First off, Sol Ring is a card! It took a lot of printings for Sol Ring to stay below $5, and the threat of an impending reprint in every future Commander deck is attenuating its growth as much as anything else.

Decree of Pain is my favorite wrath. It’s expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Besides, EDH is a format full of expensive spells, and drawing half of your deck pantsing a tokens player seems fine to me.

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Look at this. This was a $6 card before the reprinting. Sure, Commander’s Arsenal hurt its upside as much as Commander 2014 did, but this is a solid card and if it’s essentially free. How upset are we?

Even the new cards were money initially.

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However, being lazy and sitting on these cards wasn’t going to work out in the long term. Even the best cards in these decks went down eventually.

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Nekusar was a deck archetype in and of itself but its price tailed down in the short term even before its reprinting was announced. We are still quite a ways away from seeing some of these prices head upward. What can we expect?

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Years after its printing, we’re seeing steady growth in the better commanders from the first Commander sets. Now, those are much more rare and people have had a lot longer to realize they want these cards. Also, the loose copies have largely been concentrated in the hands of few dealers buying aggressively. Still, even though Nekusar got a foil printing, it’s not like he’s the only target.

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True, a lot of these cards are depreciating right now as more and more of the sets were printed and supply just completely overwhelmed demand. However, it’s pretty likely we could see a recovery, especially since EDH as a format is growing. We’re not risking a lot by buying in now, or even a bit later as the cards continue to depreciate. But how do we do even better financially than buying in now?

Be the Garbage Disposal

Once I realized that there was actual value left over in the chaff from busting a bunch of copies of Mind Seize, I thought about the other people busting them. I knew guys locally who had beat me to Walmart and Target when they restocked and had snagged quite a few on their own. I decided to offer them cash for the 98 cards that were not True-Name Nemesis or Baleful Strix. They were happy to get a non-trivial amount of cash on top of the nearly $20 profit they made snagging Nemesis and I was glad to buy cards they undervalued for cheap.

It wasn’t just about dumping the stuff while I could, either. There was no hurry to sell stuff like Sol Ring and Command Tower because while reprints hurt these cards and will continue to do so, there is something to be said for having copies on hand to trade to players.

Buying a ton of chaff is a very inexpensive way to stock a trade binder full of Rings, Towers, Cruel Ultimatums, Eyes of Doom, and a dozen other saucy cards. Players appreciated having access to those cards the first few weeks because the average player wasn’t as eager to stake out Walmart and Target as the average financier, so a lot of them didn’t ever see a Mind Seize in the wild. Since True-Name Nemesis is pretty underwhelming in EDH, the players were more interested in the other cards in those decks. Guess who had them because he bought that chaff cheap? Dis guy.

Future Plans

So how likely are we to see another Mind Seize in the future? I’d say pretty likely, considering we had a similar situation surrounding another card: Containment Priest. Check out the deck it came in.

Once again, we have some value here and we have a card that was worth more than MSRP. You better believe I snagged a bunch of cheap copies of Skullclamp, Masterwork of Ingenuity, and every other saucy card in the deck. Can we expect that from the next Commander offering?

I really think so. With WOTC not really printing cards in Standard with Legacy in mind, if they want to shake up Legacy at all, they are using Commander product as a way to introduce cards to the format, make sure the decks sell well, and generally build hype. It’s working! Everyone is super jazzed for the EDH decks when they come out because the spoilers always reveal spicy cards that are desirable outside of EDH.

Put yourself in a position to snap up a ton of that “chaff” next time around. It will take a bit for the prices to normalize, and some of them may even correct upward. In the meantime, you stocked your binder for almost nothing, got a ton of stuff to turn into cash or Puca Points, and best of all, you didn’t have to be the one to pay MSRP on that sealed product, driving around at midnight to find a Walmart that hadn’t been hit up yet or stalking the guy who restocks the shelves. Let someone else find all those sealed decks for you, then convince him you’re doing him a favor.

Say what you want about trash—sometimes it’s pretty nutritious.

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