Category Archives: MTG Growth Stocks

Reserved & Reliable: The Rational MTG Reserved List

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Over the last few years, Reserved List cards have been increasingly targeted by speculators and vendors as inventory worth stocking in pursuit of theoretically easy future gains. The narrative is simple: if they never print these cards again, they have to go up right? Over the last couple of months this process has been increasing in frequency as speculators dig deep and target even the worst of the Reserved List cards. As a result dozens of unplayable RL cards have been spiked, with the ability to hold the new plateaus highly dependent on whether collectors looking to finish sets of Antiquities, Arabian Nights, Legends and The Dark will step in out of fear and attempt to grab cards they needon an accelerated schedule.

Now while it is certainly true that Wizards of the Coast’s commitment to maintaining the Reserved List makes almost anything on the list a safe bet long term, I have been pretty vocal on Twitter with suggestions that there are better targets in abundance for the short and mid term.

Many of the best of the Reserved List targets under $100 have already seen spikes in the last five years, only to experience retraces back towards lower levels within months of popping that have made it difficult for anyone to claim profits on deeper inventory levels. Lion’s Eye Diamond, a 4-of in a relevant Legacy deck, had trouble holding an ambitious new plateau, with the $80 card popping to $180 in the summer of 2016 before falling back to $120 or so since. That’s still a solid gain, but it’s also a best case scenario that the trash RL cards are unlikely to approach.

A safer bet then is to focus on Reserved List cards that enjoy significant demand from Commander, Casual or Eternal formats. These cards may represent lesser % gains vs. $1 North Stars suddenly being posted for $10, but their demand profiles are likely to be much stronger, and their gains in terms of real $ and ability to support deeper inventory are likely to be significantly superior. Overall, I see these targets as good for 10-30% per annum gains over the next eighteen months or so, with further upside if a wave of buyouts happens to target them anew. This still wouldn’t touch the gains on my top specs, but if you just can’t stay away from the Reserved List, at least target something worth playing.

Here are just a few of the top tier Reserved List targets that could still ostensibly sustain another spike:

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Yavimaya Hollow

Yavimaya Hollow

Most of the demand for this card comes from it’s usefulness in Commander as an auto-include utility land for any creature based deck that can support it’s single green cost to regenerate a creature. The card provides a unique effect in Commander, especially for a land, and can keep a key creature alive in the face of a destruction based board sweeper or similar point removal. This card shows up in just over 4000 decks on EDH.Rec, but that number should likely be higher.

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When I first looked at this card in Feb of 2016, there were nearly 100 copies lying around online, with an average price of $10 or so. I bought about twenty copies at the time, but have been going deeper lately at twice the price, as inventory levels are now below 50-60 NM/SP copies across all major platforms. This winter I bought both English and Japanese foils close to $100 USD in Europe and flipped all of them for $200+ and though I was happy with the extent and speed of the returns, I suspect that the buyers may get a similarly attractive exit if they are more patient than I was. There are still small piles of SP copies on SCG and TCG at the time of this write up, and those seem like a good place to go deep. NM copies are already over $33 on TCG, but can be found elsewhere closer to $20 for now. If you want to speculate or need a copy for a deck, there’s just no reason to wait any longer.

Current Price: $20-25
Future Price (12-18 months): $35-40+

Treachery

Treachery

In the mid-game at your kitchen table or Commander session, Treachery isn’t just a reasonably priced Control Magic effect, but the setup for broken combo sequences that leverage the incidental untapping of the lands that you tapped to cast it. Whether you have a powered up Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx or a twice-enchanted Forest to untap, Treachery lets you grab the best creature at the table, often with a positive mana advantage. The card only shows up in 2500 EDH decks at present, but the number should likely be higher, and the land untap effect is unique and provides open ended synergies with future cards that will be printed without considering it’s presence in casual metas. Copies are currently available in the $20-25 range, but inventory levels are less than 20% of what they were when I first tallied them 18 months ago. The are about 35 non-foils available on TCGPlayer.com alone, so you can easily go deep at $25 or less if you are ok to sit on them for a while. Foils are almost certainly a hold if you have any as RL foils are that much more rare and will not cycle back into the market as often as the non-foil versions due to their collectibility. Ultimately, overall demand here is mild compare to some of the other picks, but it’s still miles above most of the RL trash that has popped as of late.

Current Price: $20-25
Future Price (12-18 months): $35-40+

Volrath’s Stronghold

Volrath's Stronghold

This EDH utility land boast one of the highest usage patterns of the cards on this list, with over 6000 decks registered using it on EDH.rec. The ability to recursively abuse your best creatures is both unique and unlikely to be bettered in the modern era of Magic design. This card has never had a foil version, so unlike some of the other RL cards, we need only worry about the original copies.

I bought my first pile of these at the same time as Yavimaya Hollow back in the winter of 2016, when the card was commonly available near $20. After a spike that took place through the first half of that year, the card posted up closer to $40, before falling back to the current average price of about $35. It’s worth noting that some MTGPrice vendors have the card under $30 and in Europe your contacts may be able to scavenge some closer to $25. Interestingly, inventory actually seems stronger now than it did 18 months ago, which suggests that the most recent spike pulled copies out of binders as folks who had them laying around sought to take advantage. Given the inventory levels, it would be tough to go deep on this and expect immediate gains. If you were to snag all the copies under $35, that still might set you back $1500-2000, and it could still be months or years before you can yield $10+ (25%+) on your resales. As such, this is more interesting as a card that you snag a copy of for personal use, or keep on your radar as something to pick up whenever you see it underpriced for long term gains. I snagged a NM copy on Ebay for $25 while I was writing this article, and looking for a small pile during the frequent $15 off $75 in purchases sales that are common on that site might be a solid action.

Current Price: $30-35
Future Price (12-18 months): $50+

Sliver Queen

Sliver Queen

Sliver Queen was actually one of the earliest EDH based spikes for the Reserved List, initially popping from $30 to $45 in the summer of 2013. Since then it has been on a slight downill trend with copies commonly available around $40. The card isn’t legal in Modern, so demand is largely dependent on EDH sliver players and casuals. The thing is, Slivers aren’t actually all that popular in Commander circles, with just 800 decks or so registering the card. StarCityGames is currently out of stock on NM copies, but they’ve got just under 30 SP copies priced near $28. MTGDeals has a NM copy posted at $28, so that is a solid option if you’d like to ensure you’ve got one for the future. I don’t think you need to make a move on this card otherwise, but it would be something I would monitor inventory levels on if Slivers showed up in a new Magic set and gave someone the idea to try and corner the market.

Current Price: $30-35
Future Price (12-18 months): $50+

Metalworker

Metalworker

This is another card where age and lack of exposure may be limiting usage in EDH. EDH.rec shows 2800 decks or so registering this powerful ramp creature which should likely be an auto-include in decks such as Breya, Daretti and Arcum. In the spring of 2014 you could snag this card for $12 or so, but by fall of that year it had popped to $30, and then again to $40 in the winter of 2016 during that wave of Reserved List targeting. Since then the card has fallen back closer to $30, with a few copies available on TCG under $25 shipped. There are about 50 copies total on that site, including 20 or so held by ChannelFireball, but the curve from $25 to $40 is relatively steep past the first 10 copies, and the rest of the web is carrying another 50-60 copies with a similar price curve. MTGDeals has a copy posted at $20.49 which looks tasty. I like stashing away copies here and there at those lower price points, awaiting a greedy buyout down the road once speculators tire of targeting the trashier RL cards.

Current Price: $25
Future Price (12-18 months): $35+

Lotus Vale

Lotus Vale

With just 1200 or so decks on EDH.rec, this card flies a bit under the radar, but it’s inventory level is actually fairly low at present, and could be ripe to pop. For years, there weren’t a lot of ways to abuse this land, but with the printing of The Gitrog Monster and Titania, Protector of Argoth and the additional redundancy that Ramnunap Excavator adds to Crucible of Worlds style land recursion, it’s relatively easy for a focused Commander list to negate the downside on Lotus Vale and turn it into a permanent Black Lotus level ramp spell that can’t easily be dealt with.

There are about 20 NM copies available on TCG, mostly clustered around $10-12. Ebay has a similar number on display, and SCG has 12 copies around $12. Demand might be shallow here at present, but I like the unique power potential of the card and the low inventory makes a buyout attractive so I’m good to stash away a handful for the long term.

Current Price: $11
Future Price (12-18 months): $20+

Gaea’s Cradle

Gaea's Cradle

Let’s finish off with a bang shall we? Gaea’s Cradle is one of the most powerful lands available in both Legacy and Commander, and yet there were still fools who would rather spread $250 over dozens of small time Reserved List specs instead of consolidating under the banner of steady & predictable growth? Lunacy.

Cradle has been on a solid uphill trajectory for years, moving from an $80 card in early 2013, to a $250 card with serious upside today. Just a few months ago a major speculator called me crazy for targeting copies of this in Europe for $160, but personally I think it’s crazy to not be targeting your first copy of this card before nearly anything else on the Reserved List. Given enough time I think Gaea’s Cradle hits $500, and the Judge Promo is likely to end up a $1000+ card. The land is amazing in any green deck with creatures, and the fact that shows up in 5800 EDH lists despite it’s price tag reflects just how aware of that the Commander community is.

Inventory is low, with just a handful of NM copies on TCGPlayer posted between $250 and $350. On Ebay, copies can be had for closer to $200, especially if you are willing to risk international shipping options. SCG has no NM or SP copies listed, and wants $180 for their MP copies. Stop messing around and get yourself a Gaea’s Cradle before it’s too late.

Current Price: $220
Future Price (12-18 months): $400+

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. He is also co-host of MTGFastFinance, our weekly MTGFinance podcast.

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MTG Growth Stocks: 5 Magic Cards You Should Be Buying Right Now

By: James Chillcott (@MTGCritic)

In my ongoing series Digging For Dollars, I try to identify Magic: The Gathering cards in the weeks leading up to the release of each new set that may be undervalued versus their true potential. Most of the time, this prognostication falls short of reality, but occasionally we throw up an early flag on a Tasigur or an Ojutai. DFD is a fun exercise aimed at helping the community think outside the box, but given the long-shot nature of the critique, it’s definitely not the best option if we’re looking to lock in a basket of profitable specs for reliable growth.

By contrast, this new series will attempt to call out a more reliable set of opportunities for our readers interested in generating a consistent and profitable return on their MTG finance activities.

In the stock market world, we talk often about blue-chip stocks, the companies that represent the most reliable combination of profits, longevity, and market leadership that signal a safe harbor for investors seeking reliable long-term growth. Companies like Apple, Microsoft, and IBM all fall into this category. The equivalent in the Magic world is cards like Black Lotus, Mishra’s Workshop, and Time Walk: the best cards of all time that are bound to offer modest but reliable annual returns so long as the game continues to grow.

As a relatively young investor with a high risk tolerance, I’m not holding a lot of blue-chip stocks in my stock portfolio. Rather, I tend to focus on growth stocks, or the companies that are growing revenues, earnings, and/or market share the fastest relative to the market at large. These companies tend to be younger and they carry more risk because they haven’t yet proven their long-term value to the market. When they get there, though, they tend to do so in a big way, providing 20- to 100-percent returns in just six to 24 months. Companies such as Tesla, Facebook, and GoPro would be reasonable recent examples of companies that have demonstrated this profile in recent years.

If you’re looking to invest a significant amount of money and kick back for a few years before bothering to check up on the results, blue-chip cards may be for you. If, on the other hand, you want to yield returns above comparable investments in stocks or real estate (with an average of roughly 10-percent annual returns), you may want to consider MTG growth stocks. In past years, cards such as Zendikar fetch lands, Liliana of the Veil, and Snapcaster Mage all represented such opportunities in the Magic community. In identifying cards in this category, we’re generally looking for the following qualities:

  • Multi-format all-star beyond Standard: Playable in at least two or three of Modern/Legacy/Vintage/EDH/casual.
  • Played as a three- or four-of: Multiple copies useful in hand or in play.
  • Played in multiple decks: Often due to being easily splashable and by offering flexible lines of play and a generally high power level.

So what are we hoping to get out of these MTG growth stocks?

Well, typically, I’m looking at this class of cards to provide 25- to 50-percent returns per annum, within a six- to 24-month time horizon. This also implies a focus on raw dollars versus a percentage increase in consideration of the value of our time as measured by the range of our hourly wages (e.g., a 100-percent return on $1 is generally much worse than a 50-percent return on a $30 card when you consider time spent and selling costs).

With all that on the table, here are the five cards I believe you should be buying right now instead of trying to jump on the latest spike:

  1. Jace, Vrynn’s Prodigy (Foil): $50 (Target $80+)

  

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 upsides that offer 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 $35 to $40 or so, and what foils I could find are available around $50, representing a significant discount versus the typical multiplier of two for English foils. Did I mention that there seem to be less than 50 foils available anywhere online and MTG Origins is pretty close to reaching peak supply? I see foil Jace hitting $80 to $100 within the year, and there’s a decent chance this is the next foil Liliana of the Veil. Get if while you can.

Note: In the day it has taken me to write this article, this card is already signalling a strong move upward, with copies under $60 now very rare indeed.

2. Hangarback Walker (Foil): $30 (Target $50-60)

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 last week, having been featured on camera in an innovative Shops/Robots deck. 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 plenty of 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 it 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 to hit $50 to $60 before the end of the year.

3. Kolaghan’s Command (Foil): $18 (Target: $30+)

Initially dismissed as a middling card at first reveal, Kolaghan’s Command quickly caught the attention of Jund and Grixis players in Modern earlier this summer, and is now seen as one of the defining spells in the format and a lynch-pin of decks looking to abuse the extreme flexibility of the card’s four (!) relevant modes. Consider that this card has the ability to perform any two of the following tricks for three mana:

  • Knocking key permission spells out of opponent’s hands.
  • Returning a Jace, Vrynn’s Prodigy from your graveyard.
  • Killing an early attacker.
  • Slowing down Affinity’s explosive starts.

With that kind of power, this spell has quickly risen to become one of the top 15 spells by play rate in Modern. Dragons of Tarkir is almost certainly at peak supply by this point, there are only about 50 to 60 easily available foil copies out there under $20, and heading into Modern season in the spring of 2016, I would find it hard to believe that this hard-to-replace instant won’t top $30 as more and more players gravitate towards the powerful synergies of the Grixis builds.

4. Thoughtseize: $20 (Target: $30+)

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Thoughtseize is quite simply one of the best discard spells of all time, and a key one-mana play in formats all the way back to Legacy. The card ranks at number seven of the most-played spells in Modern (and number 16 in Legacy) with 35 percent of Modern decks playing the card with an average of two copies being played in the main deck. Also of note is the fact that Theros, despite being a high-sales fall set, lacks key eternal-playable lands that will weigh down the non-land rares and mythics. With the gods and other targets from the set likely to take a couple of years to rise, there is very little preventing Thoughtseize from regaining a $30 t o $40 price tag as supply of Theros dries up over the next year.

Note: Foils around $50 are likely also a solid pickup.

5. Evolutionary Leap (Foil): $10 (Target: $25)

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. With a low casting cost, easy splashability, 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 weekend, 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 cards appear on the horizon. At present, there are over 150 copies 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 three- to 12-month window for this one to top $20.

Honorable Mentions

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 two years.

So long as Splinter Twin doesn’t end up banned (and so far signals are good it won’t be), the rare should easily rebound above $20 next year. The one warning ping in the back of my mind is that Modern Masters 2016 might be a thing (25-percent chance?), which would threaten all Modern staples that might be reprinted into the ground. Assuming that doesn’t happen, the fact that the Twin combo just jumped the wall into Legacy bodes well for future demand.

Heading into a landfall-based Battle for Zendikar set, and with the news that we won’t see the ZEN fetch lands until at least February 2016, there is a decent window for the KTK fetch lands to show solid gains this October and November as a supply crunch driven by vendor hoarding meets increasing demand. The best play here was actually picking up Delta and Strand below $12 at peak supply last winter, but Mire and Heath could easily end up pushing $20 or more if the metagame shakes out right. Keep in mind that ZEN fetches in the winter set could knock back the value of fetches across the board, so the window may be brief or even non-existent, depending on how much Standard actually needs the fetches once we’ve seen the new land template at rare.

Closing Window

Tasigur is likely to be a one- or two-of in Modern, Legacy, and even Vintage decks for a long time to come. It’s recently jumped from $25 to $30 to having very few copies available anywhere under $45. As a small set rare already past peak supply, Tasigur should easily hold a $40 to $50 price tag in foil with the potential to top $75 if it ends up in a strong deck in Modern or Legacy that runs three or four copies instead of the usual one or two. That being said, I think the window has mostly closed here for reliable returns.

Full disclosure: I am holding copies of most of the cards on this list.

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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