The latest episode of MAD MAGIC is up!
The latest episode of MAD MAGIC is up!
MTG & The Dangers of Third-Party Speculation
Following speculative advice, regarding uptrending investment targets in the MTG market, is a very risky practice; one that I advise nobody – but the well seasoned – to rely on. This warning extends beyond basic rule isolation of game theory: there seem to be few of us speculators, and many hype-investors. If you want to make the largest profits possible: do your own homework, and cash-in/cash-out before anybody sees you doing it. These hype-investors rush to accumulate plethoras of cards that speculators are stocking; after we’ve already cleared the bottom level of the market – So what’s the difference between us? That’s simple: I have multiple outlets for reselling my singles, and a friendly reputation as a strong trader/player in my community. I never acquire stock unless I’m confident in my capacity to generate a profit from it within a desired margin of time.
Hype-investors, on the other hand, usually end up jumping onto the caboose of new trends; this is because they’re mimicking our speculative purchasing patterns. Again, why is that bad? And again, that’s simple: let’s assume that I’ve speculated the price of ‘Card X’ is going to increase and decide to buy 200 copies for $0.25; then, after I’ve bought my 200 copies: the price jumps to $.50 and hype-investors acquire 200-500 copies for themselves. As soon as ‘Card X’ hits $0.50, I put mine back into the market, and am bought out – making a 200% ROI. After the excitement dies down, the price of ‘Card X’ will likely drop to $0.35, which is still a near 30% increase from its baseline; however, the hype investors have now lost $0.15 (30%) on each card – and they don’t want to eat a loss – so what do they do?
They take one of two risks, generally: 1, they attempt to buy out the current market; and if successful usually end up with a large stock of stagnant goods, which inflates the price of cards that simply don’t command their retail tags, or 2, they sit on their newly acquired stock, hoping for the market to slowly dry out, and similarly: sit on stagnant goods; taking a long time to profit, if ever. Because most hype-investors take one of these two risks, they harm their fellow investors in the process. And for obvious reasons, this type of financial competition between resellers/investors is bad news for casual players and consumers in general.
People taking the first risk I mentioned will be thwarted by people taking the second risk: if they buy the market out of ‘Card X’ at a rate of $0.35, and raise them all to $0.75, they’ll be making a profit on the initial stock of ‘Card X’ that was purchased for $.50, and also from the newly acquired stock that was purchased for $0.35 – BUT, if they do so and list ‘Card X’ for $0.75, surely whoever took the second risk will list all of theirs at $0.60 – $0.70, shortly after; and it becomes this cat and mouse game of people cashing into others who are seeking to corner the market; and this back and forth consumption of demand based value does nothing but increase the value in false effect: the tangible value of an item increases as the demand, and thus the exchange of it does as well. But the consumption and exchange of trend-cards, which raise their value, occurs mainly between resellers and not end-user players – thus creating a hollow egg of perpetually feigned scarcity. So please, be careful, and assess the market wisely; nobody is going to give you their get-rich-quick tips; this really is a market of micro-econ, and player knowledge – it’s easy to get burned when following the advice of others if you’re unable to confirm their assertions (mine included). This will conclude my fourth installment, thank you all for reading.
Money Ramp Weekly Tip:
[Buy as many Burning-Tree Emissary as possible for $0.50 - people sell 'em left and right]
Until next time,
By Andrew Smith
This past weekend a couple hundred of the best Magic: The Gathering players in the world descended on Montreal to compete in Pro Tour Gatecrash. Three days of Standard and booster draft to crown the newest Pro Tour champion. And perhaps more importantly, set the direction of post-Gatecrash Standard. Without a doubt, Standard will continue to evolve in the coming weeks and months, but there are some conclusions we can draw based on the PT results.
Let’s start with what is now obvious: Boros Reckoner is for real. The week after the release I was suggesting the $15 price tag was the ceiling for this card and it continues to skyrocket. Today the average price is nearly $30. I certainly misjudged the number of decks that want this card. It has its place in aggressive decks, midrange decks, and serves as a great anti-aggro card in UWR control decks. Four of the Standard decks in the top 8 ran four copies of Boros Reckoner. Last time I compared him to Deathrite Shaman, but it’s evident that Thragtusk is a better comparison. He’s going to be an important card in Standard for the foreseeable future. Even without Modern or legacy play, Thragtusk has shown us it’s possible to be a $25-30 Standard rare for quite a while.
Another card making big moves out of the PT: Falkenrath Aristocrat. Only one deck in the top 8 played the big hasty vampire, but it was the deck that won it all. And that matters, a lot. Falkenrath has already seen a 25% increase since taking down the PT.
If you can find someone trying to trade theirs off, this is a pretty safe investment. She reached $25 on some stores prior to Gatecrash when B/R Zombies was a tier 1 deck. No good reason to expect anything different this time.
My speculation choices for this week are Abrupt Decay and Crypt Ghast. Abrupt Decay has settled in around $7 right now, but it’s getting more Standard play than ever before. Obviously, Boros Reckoner has a lot to do with that. Decay is one of the best cards to take out the Reckoner. It is also seeing an increasing amount of play in Modern and Legacy. Crypt Ghast, on the other hand, was key to Conley Woods mono-black control deck that had a winning record in Standard at the PT. While it didn’t dominate, there are a lot of people out there that love playing mono-black. Currently the average price is just over $3, but can be picked up on eBay for about a buck. If nothing else this is one card to move from your junk boxes to your trade binders.
One of the most essential parts of being a successful floor trader is knowing how to manage your inventory. This is especially important if you are a small scale grinder, since your smaller inventory is more exposed to large value swings of a few singles. There is nothing worse than your entire trade stock depreciating 10% or more due to lazy inventory management. I want to focus on the importance of paying attention to the behaviors and preferences of players and what’s “in season”.
When I talk about season, I’m referencing the Pro Tour Qualifier Season (PTQ). The format for the qualifiers has a huge impact on price outlooks. Intuitively, it seems obvious that a highly played format will lead to higher demand of cards in that format (especially staples). Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of months, you are aware of the rapid and sharp growth Modern cards have seen. Almost any card that saw play, even briefly, increased in price. Let’s apply this information to something that happened very recently.
The recently released Gatecrash is a game changer. It has been a while since a set had this much impact on Standard. A fresh format is always popular with players, but this format has proven to be particularly aggressive. The talk of the week has been Boros Reckoner.
This guy preordered for $3.99! He is reported to be the real deal. But let’s discuss the price. $25 for a Standard rare from an in-print set makes me skeptical at first. This guy is no Snapcaster Mage. If we look at precedents, the only other cards to hold that price point have been Cavern of Souls, Snapcaster Mage, and Thragtusk (until recently). But my opinion on this card is that the $25 price point is most likely sustainable for the next month. Pro Tour Gatecrash is coming up on February 15th and the format is Standard. If he sees a strong showing at the Pro Tour I can see him sustaining that price for a longer period. This guy is good in a wide variety of decks, and the way the format looks now, he is going to be delivering the beats. Overall, there is no reason to not benefit from the hype at this point; just take your money and walk away. We’re probably seeing Boros Reckoner’s peak anyway. But don’t feel that you need to be rushed to move your Boros Reckoners.
As the PTQ season comes to an end, prices should start to come down slowly to what they were pre-bubble (cards like Wilt-Leaf Liege, Thoughtseize, Tarmogoyf, Venser). It’s important to remember that Modern Masters is coming out this summer, and everything before Alara Reborn is fair game. This can be an enormous opportunity to make (and lose) a lot of money.
First, I recommend liquidating anything that has a chance of being in Modern Masters, before the end of the PTQ season. I would not want to own cards like Thoughtseize, Tarmogoyf, or Vendilion Clique. It’s going to be a while until prices get this crazy again.
Now is the time you should be focusing on picking up Modern cards. Between the end of the PTQ season and Modern Masters is when prices are likely to be at their lowest; Modern Masters will significantly increase the demand for Modern cards. Making the format more accessible draws more players in, which means they are going to need more Modern cards when Modern PTQ season rolls around again. Targeting cards that are guaranteed to not be printed in Modern Masters is a relatively safe investment. If Modern Masters causes significant price drops to the cards that were reprinted, I would be targeting those very aggressively. I will be paying attention and keeping you guys updated in my articles on when is the best time to pick up certain Modern cards – so stay tuned!
Gyre Sage – This lady is seeing play in a Naya deck alongside Boros Reckoner and friends. Saito has also been talking about her. She is sold out on a lot of websites at $2 and should be $4-6 relatively soon. Great trade target this weekend.
Domri Rade – Another card in the Naya deck. He is currently $25. If this guy sees play in the Pro Tour, expect him to hit 40-50 for a few weeks. Being a mythic from a set that hasn’t been opened a lot has it’s advantageous.
Obzedat, Ghost Council – This card is popping up in some Esper lists. Again, a strong showing at the Pro Tour can lead to a significant spike.
Loxodon Smiter – This pachyderm has the most upside. Being only $2-3 he has a lot of room to grow. Another 4-of in the Naya deck.
Boros Cards (Ash Zealot, Champion of the Parish, Stromkirk, Hellrider) – Boros is becoming one of the most popular decks. The window to pick these up is getting smaller. These cards should be fairly liquid within the next few weeks.
Remember to pay attention the Pro Tour results and coverage. Stay ahead of the curve. Thanks for reading!
Check out the new regular feature MAD MAGIC presented by Alex Kessler!
After the pro-tour this weekend, we will be in the thick of Modern season. With Bloodbraid Elf and Seething Song being banned, people are looking for the next best deck, and are buying accordingly. There have already been several Modern cards that have skyrocketed (sometimes inexplicably) in price, so I’ll identify some other cards that have the potential to do the same.
First, let’s look at some of the Modern cards that have shot up in price in the past month.
I’ll start off with the great puzzler of them all: Marrow-Gnawer. This card has risen from a mere $5 to being worth almost $15 virtually overnight. What can I say; I guess Ogre Slumlord was the card that put Marrow-Gnawer over the top. Or maybe Marrow-Gnawer was underpriced all along and has enough casual appeal to sustain this new price tag. Whatever the reason, I was happy to ditch my copies for $11 to get out while the price was still high.
Now for cards that are commonly played in Modern decks:
Cryptic Command has gone up 59% in a month; from around $22 in January to its current $35 price tag. This card is used most notably in Scapeshift decks, but can also be found in Splinter Twin and in a variety of control decks. Its necessity in Scapeshift, combined with its utility in other decks, explains its price increase.
$7) have all increased because of the new W/U/R American Midrange deck that won back-to-back online PTQs a few weeks ago. This deck has continued to place fairly well in the subsequent PTQs, so expect these cards to maintain their value.
Karn Liberated has been the big winner so far, as its price has nearly tripled when it gained $24 jumping from $15 to its current price of $39. The Tron deck plays a full four copies of Karn Liberated, and it is the centerpiece of that deck. Many people are expecting this deck to become a big player now that its worst match, Storm, has been eliminated from the metagame. Karn had been slowly creeping up in price, but really took off after the bannings were announced in Modern. People being keen to play this deck also help explain why Oblivion Stone and Grove of the Burnwillows have seen modest price increases as well.
Now for the cards I suggest you invest in:
Birthing Pod, like Karn Liberated, is also the centerpiece of a deck (two decks, actually: Kiki-Pod and Melira-pod), and they also play the full four copies of Birthing Pod. Now granted, Birthing Pod has seen print in an Event Deck, but the fact remains that people who want to play this deck must obtain four copies of the card. The increased availability from being printed in an Event Deck is offset by the fact that the card was originally printed in the 3rd set of a block, so not as many packs were opened of New Phyrexia compared to the 1st and 2nd sets in drafts. Birthing Pod, at its current price of under $4, is a steal.
Splinter Twin is another sub-$5 card that is the focus of a tier-1 deck. Twin decks also play four copies of the card, which increases the demand for it. Splinter Twin has already seen a modest increase of a dollar, but I feel the true price ascent is yet to come.
As cards across the board for Modern are going up in price, I find it hard to believe that Birthing Pod and Splinter Twin won’t soon follow suit.
The last card I was going to write about was Spellskite; unfortunately, this article comes a little late to the party on that card. Between last week, when I planned what I was going to write about, and this week, Spellskite has increased by $5: from $4 last week to now over $9. This is more of a utility card, but it is so universally found across many different decks that it was primed for a price increase. Most Twin and Pod decks play a copy or two of Spellskite in the maindeck, with extras in the board. In addition to that, Spellskite is also among the most valuable sideboard tools at combating not only Twin decks, but also Burn decks as well. Since it is colorless, any deck that wants the attributes Spellskite provides can play it without hesitation. Because of both its effectiveness, usefulness in a variety of situations, and the fact that any deck can play it, I figured that Spellskite was due to rise in price.
Hopefully this article gives you some food for thought as the rest of the Modern season plays out.
If you haven’t yet noticed, Wizards of the Coast wants you to play Modern. They’ve dedicated a PTQ season for it. There is a special limited release product of Modern-format staples due out this year. It’s a regular format for Grand Prix and Pro Tours alike.
The reasoning is simple: people want a non-rotating format they can afford.
Legacy players spend years perfecting their play with one deck without worrying about it being illegal in just a few months. But the barrier to entry is extremely high. Competitive decks can cost thousands of dollars, amounts most players just can’t afford.
Modern is supposed to be the cure, with relatively inexpensive cards that can be purchased without the threat of rotation. Bannings have been commonplace thus far, making it certainly less stable than Legacy.
This emphasis on Modern has caused prices to skyrocket. And nowhere is this more noticeable than in the price of the manabases. Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash have offered us reprints of the shocklands, but as those prices drop, fetchlands – their partners in crime – continue to increase with no end in sight.
At the end of October 2012, prices of the “blue fetches” from Zendikar, Misty Rainforest and Scalding Tarn, increased dramatically. Mid-October the average price was $15; by the end of the month it had risen to $30. Currently, the average price for a Misty Rainforest is above $35.
The other Modern-legal fetches are catching up. Verdant Catacombs climbed to just under $30 this week. Arid Mesa and Marsh Flats are over $25. For players hoping to build a Modern deck, the savings on shocklands from the most recent block is more than overshadowed by these increases.
It’s important to note that the release of Modern Masters this summer will only serve to continue to drive up these prices. The announcement for Modern Masters stated that cards printed originally in Eight Edition through Alara Reborn would be eligible to be reprinted in this special set.
As players get their hands on high priced staples like Tarmogoyf, they are certainly going to start building new Modern decks. Unfortunately, Zendikar falls outside of this timeframe. It would appear that, barring a new set that returns us to Zendikar or a Modern Masters 2, no increase in supply will be available to offset the increase in demand that is surely coming our way.
I’m Alasdair, one of the developers of MTGPrice.com. I wanted to give people a quick update of where we expect to be in a month or so since we have so many features planned.
1. Our primary goal is to keep everything running, so bugfixes take top priority. Sorting in the collection view is currently broken and there are a few missing cards in sets we support and we also are missing several foil prices from a few vendors (notably foil Thragtusk). I’ll be working all weekend to get our bug count as close to zero as possible.
2. The “buy list prices” feature is working out very well – these are the prices at the bottom of a car results page. For example, ABU Games is willing to pay $23.27 for a Karn Liberated today. I’d like to add another vendor and generally clean this feature up. This should go out around Tuesday.
3. We’re adding more vendors! Amazon should also be up by Tuesday and I’d like to see Troll and Toad up by Friday 15th February. After that point, we want to go international and add mtgcardmarket.eu and some other european sites and have a toggle between euro’s and dollars. This is complex and we may need to make some changes to the way we display the graphs to ensure there isn’t information overload.
4. ProTrader is getting some new features, starting with an update to the emails we send out. Our emails will include 3-day and weekly price and inventory changes as well as daily. We’re also going to build an “arbitrage tool” to show all cards where the buylist price of a vendor (the amount they will pay cash to buy a card at) is higher than the price someone is selling the card at elsewhere. If you can get a good deal on shipping, this is essentially free money. Additionally, we’ll add buylist prices to the ProTrader Money Board and send out emails when stores increase their inventory levels significantly. Finally, we will add per-store and aggregate inventory graphs to the card pages for ProTraders.
5. The collection tracking tool is very simple right now. We’re planning on adding a stack of features, the first of which will be better management tools like changing the quantity of a card, adding a filter and import/export. We’ll also have “for trade” lists and wishlists with very basic alerts to tell you if a card on your wishlist is available at the price you want. We have plans for a much bigger suite of tools but realistically this is as far as we’ll get this month.
6. Huge infrastructure updates. We’d like to start doing full scans of prices on an hourly basis instead of daily to ensure the prices we show are always up to date. We also plan on having a toggle for the graphs to show hourly price changes/ daily/ weekly and have the ability to look at only a sub-set of all the data. The default view will be 6 months worth of daily prices.
Doing hourly scans is going to be costly. We’re buying a pair of dedicated servers to handle the load (and to provide a backup in case one breaks) and we’re making significant improvements in scanning speed to avoid harming the sites we fetch prices from. For the most part, the sites will see little difference as we will only download updated prices instead of all prices as we do now.
Because of the cost involved, we’ve decided to make hourly graphs available only to ProTraders but everyone will have access to the latest prices. For 95% of users, this is all that they care about – moment-by-moment price changes only really matter to speculators and active traders. You will only need to be a ProTrader if you care about how much a card was 4 hours ago rather than 1 day ago.
Getting all of the above done in a month is going to be tough but we think it’s doable. Our ultimate goal is to get to the point where we can hire another developer to build features, something we’d like to have in place by May of this year.
We love feedback! Please let us know if you have any suggestions or comments or bug reports at the following url: http://mtgprice.uservoice.com/
Gatecrash is upon us, which of course means a huge demand for the newest cards that could impact standard and eternal formats alike. It is also the time to either learn a bit of patience or be handsomely rewarded for gambling. In general, demand is higher than it will ever be and supply is at its lowest. If you can find the right card that everyone else is passing over, you may be able to make some worthwhile investments. But it is a big gamble knowing that most cards are going to drop.
With players scrambling to get the cards they need, speculators are buying up lots of stock of the cards they think may become big players in the upcoming standard season. Let’s look at Boros Reckoner. This Gatecrash rare started around $4 for preorders, inching up to $5 just a week ago. Rumors of Boros aggro replacing the current B/R builds began to spread and this card doubled in price as February hit. SCG increased their price to a cool $14.99 on Monday.
This price point isn’t going to be sustainable. If you bought in, you’ve likely already sold them for a tidy profit. If not, you should. Compare Boros Reckoner to Deathrite Shaman. The same price on
SCG and only $3 more on average. Deathrite is a staple in modern, legacy, and sees play in Standard. Boros Reckoner helped Boros Aggro top 8 SCG Atlanta, but almost definitely not see play in any eternal format. There is no reason to believe a deep cut in price isn’t coming. If you are a player and you need those Reckoners for next week’s FNM, realize you are paying a premium for your impatience.
Even with an impressive performance week one, cards can come crashing down very quickly. Ask my friend the Lotleth Troll. He was a 4-of in two decks in the top 8 of SCG Cincinnati the weekend of Return to Ravnica’s release. He was selling for as high as $12 that weekend and one of the hardest cards to acquire. Three months later and that very same $12 would buy you a playset of Lotleth Trolls. When it comes to buying cards, patience is obviously a virtue. It’s worth repeating: demand will never be higher; supply will never be lower.
However, if you are looking to make a few speculative buys from Gatecrash, there may still be money cards out there. Keep in mind cards like Rhox Faithmender that spent five months in the bulk rare box, before becoming a $5 card. Speculation is all about predicting the market. Once the card starts to go up, it probably too late. Spark Trooper is currently positioned to increase in the short term. He’s around $3 today. With aggressive decks doing well in early Gatecrash Standard, this card seems like a backbreaker in the mirror or versus any other aggressive deck. A twelve point life swing is certainly worth 4-mana. This is one to keep an eye on.
Our goal at MTGPrice.com is to have every single card available in our database. We took another step towards this today by adding all three portal sets to the prices we track. You can find the prices for Imperial Recruiter, Imperial Seal and other cards below: