Category Archives: Unlocked ProTrader

UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Spikecatcher

ADVERTISEMENT:


By Guo Heng

There is a singular interest we all share in mtgfinance regardless of our motivation for engaging in mtgfinance: catching price spikes before they happen. Today’s article covers the tools we could use to help us stay ahead of price spikes. This article aims to be a summary of the resources available to both beginners and experts alike to keep ahead of price spikes, and indeed most of these tools are used by seasoned financiers. Whether you a beginner or an old guard, I hope you would find a thing or two useful in this guide.

Before I go on, let me share with you how I got into mtgfinance.

Why I Mtgfinance

I started Magic way back during Urza’s Destiny when I was a kid. Back then it was all kitchen table Magic and I was playing with a bunch of hand-me-downs from a cousin and whatever junk cards my neighbour, who had a veritable collection, gave me. The only time I had to fog up cash from my allowance was to buy the first dragon I owned, a Two-Headed Dragon (yup, I had something for dragons since I was a kid) and the occasional booster pack.

My first foray into low-level competitive Magic took place during Mirrodin, when I was a teenager. I was playing FNMs on a weekly basis and I managed to throw together an Affinity deck using my measly savings. It sounds unbelievable today, but back in 2003, it was possible to build the best deck in the format without having to spend a fortune. Those were the days where the most expensive Standard chase rares were $10 – $15, before the advent of mythic rares and $40 staples.

I stopped Magic when I went to college. Unfortunately there was no Magic scene where I was studying. I started again during New Phyrexia, at the height of Caw-Blade’s dominance in the format and Jace, the Mind Sculptor became the first Standard-legal card to hit $100. Knowing that Jace and company were about to rotate out, I begrudgingly waited for Innistrad to come out before investing in a competitive deck. It turned out to be a prescient move as Jace and Stoneforge Mystic ended up getting banned in the summer, a few months before they were slated for rotation.

However, come Innistrad, it was still quite expensive to build a tier one deck. Liliana of the Veil hit $50 briefly when Blue-Black Control and Solar Flare became the tier one decks during the early months of Innistrad Standard, and they both ran multiple copies of Lily. I began grinding PTQs during this time and the only reason I could afford to run Blue-Black Control was the fact that I preordered my Snapcasters and Lilianas, which turned out to be one of the rare few times an impulsive decision save me money.

ADVERTISEMENT:


At the same time I started listening to a fledgling podcast, the first ever to focus specifically on mtgfinance, Brainstorm Brewery. Brainstorm Brewery got me hooked on mtgfinance and introduced to me a lot of important fundamentals in mtgfinance.

When the metagame shifted to Blue-White Delver, I was late to adopt that archetype as Geist of Saint Traft, who was a $15 card during the first few months of Innistrad Standard spiked to $25 after Dark Ascension came out and I was finding it hard to justify spending so much on a new archetype. I ended up playing second tier decks, which compromised my tournament results for a couple of months. I reluctantly pulled the trigger and obtained my playset of Geists when he dropped back to $20 in the summer.

One of the things I’ve learned from my first year of grinding the competitive circuit is that the best way to keep up with the ever-evolving Standard metagame is to apply a bit of mtgfinance prescience in acquiring Standard staples. Unless you have access to a deep wallet or a playgroup with a large card pool, the privilege of playing the best deck every week is going to cost an arm and a leg.

The reason I got into mtgfinance is this: I’m a Spike trying to catch competitive staples before they spike. My primary motivation in mtgfinance is to make sure I can play tier one decks as they emerge, or tune my deck to include the latest tech, without having to spend a fortune doing so. Making a bit of money on the side is the icing on the cake and most of my profits end up subsidizing more Magic.

The best way to catch cards before they spike is to identify undervalued cards. Gone are the days where price adjustment moved at such a glacial pace and you can grab cards at their old price a week after the card saw a breakout performance at a large tournament. Card prices are propagated at a speed much faster than the monthly InQuest price list update these days.

Today, in your quest to catch cards before they spike, there are a few tools you should not leave home without. The following are the resources that help me identify undervalued cards and stay ahead of price spikes:

  • The mtgfinance community
  • Spread
  • The Magic Online metagame

The MTGFinance Community

Keeping a finger on the pulse of the mtgfinance community is the most obvious one and I think most of you readers would already be doing this. Below is my reading list for mtgfinance and go-to resources for mtgfinance discussions.

First off are the financiers to follow on Twitter.

MTGPrice writers:

ADVERTISEMENT:


Other mtgfinance writers:

Listening to Brainstorm Brewery is a great way to keep up to date with the latest in mtgfinance. As a ProTrader, you get early access, so don’t skimp on the opportunity to hear the Brew crew’s pick of the week a day before everyone else finds out!

It is also worth checking out format-specific podcasts if you are interested financially in a particular format but do not have the time to engage in the format as much as you’d like to. I love EDH, and I play EDH when I have the time, but being the Spike I am, Standard always takes precedent as it is a PPTQ format. I am interested in the finances of EDH for two reasons: A) I would like to get my foils before they spike. B) Being the most popular casual format, EDH is an important factor to consider when evaluating a card’s long-term potential. The power of EDH-demand as a price driver should never be underestimated. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is a contemporary example. Recently I have started to listen to The Command Zone and I’ve discovered that a number of cards which I have relegated as unplayable actually commands an interest in EDH.

Lastly, there are the forums. There are two mtgfinance-dedicated subreddits as of writing. The older one, r/mtgfinance is a compendium of articles and the newer one, r/mtgmarketwatch discusses individual cards.

And of course, the ProTrader private forums. If you have yet to check it out, the ProTrader forums is where you could find robust discussions about the latest card trends, the latest financially relevant developments in metagame and tips to help you get cards on the cheap. More importantly, you can find most of us MTGPrice writers actively engaging in the ProTrader forums discussions.

Spread

A card’s spread provides us with a metric to evaluate a card’s future price trajectory in an objective, unbiased manner.  Spread is the percentage difference between a card’s fair trade price and its best buylist price. Spread is an indicator of market demand for a card: if stores are increasing their buylist price while the retail price of a card remains the same, it tells us that:

  1. The demand for the card is increasing.
  2. The card’s current retail price would not likely hold as vendors adjust their retail price to complement their increased buylist price.

Jared Yost wrote a good article on spread a while back and I would definitely recommend reading his article to a more detailed explanation on spread.

A card’s spread could help inform us about likely trajectory of a card. For example, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon‘s surprisingly low spread is a good indicator that we would unlikely see his price tank in the short-term, as Jared elaborated in his Fate Reforged spread review.

Of course, don’t make your decisions based on spread alone. There could be a multitude of factors affecting a card’s spread. Spread is an objective metric to help you decide if a card is undervalued or not on top of your subjective evaluation. For example, Sarkhan Unbroken has a ridiculously low spread of 26% as of writing. His fair trade price is $16.49 while his best buylist price is $12.21!

One of the convenience of using MTGPrice to check the price of singles is the ability to view the buylist price of major vendors in a single page. Upon closer inspection we can see that there is only one vendor who is buying Sarkhan Unbroken at $12.21 (though they are buying 20 copies) and that particular vendor only ramped up their buylist price today. Could it be due to Andrew Cuneo’s spicy Temur ramp list which debut yesterday at the Standard Super League? I would not pick-up my Sarkhan Unbroken yet, unless I see other stores follow suit. If other vendors start ramping up their buylist price for Sarkhan, and if I start seeing Cuneo’s Temur list pop up on Magic Online daily events, or this weekend’s StarCityGames, I would start securing my own copies of Sarkhan Unbroken (disclaimer: I don’t have any Sarkhans yet as I’ve been picking up the blue Dragonlords rather than planeswalkers prior to the overall price spike for Dragon of Tarkir).

Speaking of tournaments, the next resource I use to help inform my mtgfinance pick-ups is the Magic Online metagame. Before I go on to discuss using the Magic Online metagame as a tool to help you identify potential breakout cards, I would like to make a little note about using Magic Online trends to make paper decisions.

Magic Online Trends as Precursors to Paper Trends

Magic Online trends are potent precursors to paper trends during the first few weeks following a set’s release. Magic Online is a testing ground for grinders and pros so when there is increased demand for a particular card, there is good chance the demand would translate into paper Magic soon, when the deck breaks out in large paper tournaments.

Master of Waves started spiking on Magic Online a few days prior to Pro Tour Theros even though it saw no play in the StarCityGames Open during the first weekend of Theros‘ release. The only explanation I could come up with was that the price hike on Magic Online before the Pro Tour was driven by Pro Tour players testing Mono-Blue Devotion, which turned out to be the breakout deck of the Pro Tour. Likewise, Dragonlord Ojutai was the most expensive Dragons of Tarkir card on Magic Online for weeks, but paper Dragonlord Ojutai only overtook the price of Narset Transcendent this week on paper. It should have done so a while back as Narset was barely seeing play while multiple copies of Dragonlord Ojutai were played in both Esper Dragons and Ojutai Bant, two tier one decks in the current Standard metagame.

The weakness of using Magic Online trends as a predictor for paper trends is that Magic Online trends are driven primarily by competitive demand. And it works best only during the first few weeks following a set’s release, before the set’s supply on Magic Online gets bloated by Magic Online’s never-ending drafts.

I could be wrong, and Magic Online price movements could still be a reliable predictor even when the set is relatively mature. But I would need to look more into that, and in the mean time, I would err on the cautious side and only use Magic Online price trends only during the first weeks of a set’s Standard lifespan.

What I am interested in Magic Online however, is the metagame.

The Magic Online Metagame as a Precursor to the Paper Metagame

There are not many good things to be said about Magic Online, but one of them is that Magic Online allows us to peer slightly into the future of the evolving competitive metagame, courtesy of being the testing and practice ground for grinders and pros. The Magic Online impact on the evolution of the Standard metagame was so prevalent that Wizards restricted the publication of Magic Online daily event results to only one daily event per day in their efforts to slow down the rate at which Standard was getting solved. A few years back, we used to be able to see the results of every daily event that took place and there were (and still are) multiple daily events per day.

Whenever a new deck or a novel twist to an existing archetype finishes in the money (3-1 or 4-0) multiple times in Magic Online daily events, there is a good chance we could see it in an upcoming StarCityGames Open or Grand Prix. Larry Swasey took down a Magic Online PTQ with Jeskai Midrange before Mitchell Manders used the same deck to win Grand Prix Bilbao a week later and brought widespread attention to the archetype.

Keeping a close eye on the Magic Online metagame helps you identify emergent archetypes before they debut on paper. That may not translate into finding undervalued cards all the time, as new archetypes using different combinations of old cards would not drive prices.

However, sometimes you may stumble upon the next big thing before it becomes common knowledge. Right now, the most popular deck in the Modern daily events is Grixis Delver. The Modern metagame is not exactly at the forefront of the Magic community right now as the current PPTQ season is Standard and we do not have a major Modern event until Grand Prix Charlotte in mid-June. Grimes’ Delver runs three Tasigur, the Golden Fang. Tasigur is trending down at the moment. I have just completed my playsets of Tasigur last week. But I will be picking up more Tasigurs when Fate Reforged hits peak supply in late May, a month before we switch to the Modern PPTQs. The banana-king may return a profit sooner than I initially expected.


 

Track your collection's value over time, see which cards moved the most, track wishlists, tradelists and more. Sign up at MTGPrice.com - it's free!

ADVERTISEMENT:


Please follow and like us:

UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Why I Love Casual Magic, and Why You Should, Too

Tell me, what do you consider the best spec right now?

Is it Rattleclaw Mystic? After all, the little thing could go nuts if Birds of Paradise isn’t reprinted.

Is it Abrupt Decay? It’s safe from Modern Masters 2015 and could easily go to $20 by this time next summer thanks to incoming product.

What about Flooded Strand or Polluted Delta? Both are great fetch lands, and will be around forever. Staying with Khans of Tarkir, what about Siege Rhino? Surely it’s bottomed.

All of those are good answers, and all of those are varying degrees of good specs. But they’re not the answer I came up with.

My money is on Phenax, God of Deception. Or Kruphix, God of Horizons.

kruphixgodofhorizons

ADVERTISEMENT:


In a Magic world full of Spikes, it’s Johnny that holds my heart.

The Table… You Know Which One

The mythical kitchen table. The place where epic battles are fought and technically terrible games of Magic are played. The place where no one cares about the latest tournament results or that Ulamog costs a million mana, because they will cast him, darn it.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re on the spikier side. By that, I mean you’ve played Friday Night Magic. You may have even played in a larger tournament, or at least watched the coverage of one. You know the value of your cards and you keep them carefully sleeved.

But the truth is, we are the minority. The majority of players who spend money on this game are more interested in the cards their buddy is playing against them at home than they are in what LSV is sleeving up at the latest major event. People come into my store all the time who have never played outside of their homes. They have no interest in showing up to a tournament—all they want to do is crush their friend’s angel deck at home.

But don’t make the mistake of equating “casual” with “cheap,” because that’s just not the case. In fact, I sell more cards to these “casuals” than I ever do to tournament players.

It’s no surprise, then, that I say I love casual Magic. And so should you.

Casual What?

Before we any further, what exactly defines a “casual” card?

There is no hard-and-fast answer to this question, to be honest. A lot of times people conflate “Commander card” with “casual card.” And while the reality is very different and so are the market ramifications, the truth is they behave similarly pricewise. They’re dirt-cheap when they’re in Standard and typically grow from there, following the opposite path of most newly printed cards. So while I’m not calling them the same thing in theory, the truth is there’s not much difference in reality, at least when it comes to our strategy on them. That said, I’ll let Jason’s series fill you in on the Commander targets, and I’ll take care of the casuals.

Keep in mind everything can be a “casual” card, from the gods I mentioned earlier (I like all of these in the long-term, but especially the two I mentioned since they’re from small sets and are cheap right now) to the random lifegain cards that pop up from time to time. But I’ve done what I can do present at least some general guidelines.

Mill

Archive Trap is nearly $5 and still rising, while Glimpse the Unthinkable is the poster child here at $25. Hell, even Memory Sluice, a random trash common, is 50 cents. These cards are played in zero competitive decks, but still hold their value.

The reason? People love their mill, man. It’s a terrible strategy, but it never goes away. I (gently) tried to explain to a player at FNM last week who tried to convince me that playing one copy of Mind Sculpt in his Magic 2015 flashback Sealed deck was a good idea because, hey, you could mill their good cards!

It doesn’t make sense, but whatever. Just roll with it, and grab those Increasing Confusions as throw-ins or out of bulk piles while you still can. The card has languished for the last two years but has shown a little growth this year, and history tells us it will be $4 to $5 eventually. Obviously you’re looking at a long-term mover here, but it costs you nothing to hoard some of these and forget about them in the spec box.

Angels/Dragons

Without a doubt, these are the two biggest tribes when it comes to casual players. I’ve had people come in and literally say, “I want to buy every angel you have.” In fact, his buddy was with him and then said, “I want all your dragons.” If I didn’t see these two guys with my own eyes, I would never have believed this type of person existed.

But we need look no further than Dragons of Tarkir to the proof of this. Dragons from all over have gone crazy this year, from Scion of the Ur-Dragon to seemingly-random stuff like Utvara Hellkite and Scourge of Valkas. If it’s a dragon, it rose in price this year, and that’s not an accident, nor is it a coincidence that Wizards always includes one or two of these in each set.

There’s a big dropoff after that, but vampires and hydras have also done well historically. Captivating Vampire is $7 despite being in an Intro Deck.

captivatingvampire

There’s one other tribe I have to mention: the little green men. It’s not at all surprising that Wizards stuffed the mono-green Commander deck last year full of elves like Immaculate Magistrate and Imperious Perfect. Even the thrice-printed Elvish Promenade is worth a few bucks. People like their elves.

Lords/Tribal Cards

As much as I wish I was talking about Lord of Atlantis, I’m only doing so in the general sense.

People like to build linear decks at the kitchen table, and often that means tribal. I’m no different: I have a sweet Tribal Treefolk deck that I bust out for 60-card casual rarely, and I love my $4 Dauntless Dourbarks and $8 Timber Protectors.

The reason cards like Timber Protector and Elvish Champion ($4 despite numerous printings) and the aforementioned Captivating Vampire speak to this phenomenon. I’m not saying stock up on Rageblood Shaman (remember when people thought this was a good idea? Ew), but I am saying that stuff like Sliver Hivelord and Sliver Hive are good bets to steadily rise long-term. And I’m absolutely in love with Haven of the Spirit Dragon once it settles down a bit in Standard and falls to $2 or so.

Okay… but Why?

I’ve named a lot of good casual specs so far in this article, but the more important question is… why? What makes them better than speculating on a Standard or Modern card? After all, when those go, they tend to go big.

A few reasons.

Safety

Like I said before, these are almost always cheap at some point. They offer a super low buy-in point, and as such if they go nowhere or are reprinted into oblivion, you’re not losing much. On the other hand, they typically represent very steady gains every year. I know people refer to original duals as the “blue chip stocks” of Magic, but solid casual specs fill that role just as well while also having the advantage of starting out as penny stocks.

Predictability

Casual cards aren’t subject to the whims of the tournament crowd. We’ve all made lots of solid spec calls on competitive cards that never panned out for whatever reason (yes, this is where you remind me of my 94 Splinterfrights). Rattleclaw Mystic, for instance, could be a great spec heading into rotation. On the other hand, if Birds of Paradise is reprinted in Magic: Origins, then the Mystic isn’t going anywhere.

Casual cards don’t behave like that. Haven of the Spirit Dragon isn’t going to be made obsolete any time soon. And even if something similar and maybe better did come along, people are likely just to play both. After all, they can play as many cards as they want in their decks, so why stop at 60 if you have more sweet cards?

Ease of acquisition

As I spoke to above, these cards are not hard to find. Tournament players literally give away these cards or leave them on draft tables. If you want to be the guy grabbing all the Increasing Confusions at your store, no one is going to stop you. You can get these as throw-ins all day long, and no one will care.

And this even works with the obvious ones. I was all over Chromatic Lantern the minute it was printed, and despite it being such an obvious call at $2 people still threw these at me all day long. As we know, Lantern is at an all-time high of nearly $7 and is showing no signs of slowing. And I have a giant stack of these acquired solely through trades. This is not a humble brag: it’s proof of concept. Even when these things seem “obvious” to those of who care about finance, the truth is most players just don’t care.

Buylist Value

This may be a bit more anecdotal, but some of my best experiences buylisting cards comes when those cards are casual ones. Outside of the flavor-of-the-week Standard card, dealers usually have plenty of stock of something. They don’t need another Siege Rhino from you right now, no matter how busted the card is.

But they may need those Timber Protectors or Chromatic Lanterns. After all, the most common way for dealers to buy cards is from players at tournaments, which by default usually means tournament players. Those same players who threw all the Lanterns at me years ago and who don’t have any now.

To get the cards the casual players want to buy from them, stores often pay more on casual staples than they do random competitive cards. This is my experience and is not based on any empirical data, but it’s also how I operate when I buy cards. I have much more confidence in paying a good price for an Asceticism ($7 retail) than I do for a $7 Standard card that may or may not sell and may or may not stay $7 for long.

Keep It Casual

I love casual Magic. You should, too. And before I go, I have a few casual cards I haven’t yet called attention to.

  • Akroma’s Memorial. The Magic 2013 version is at an all-time high of $12, and this was a $20 card before the reprint. It’s going to get there again.
  • Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker is on a tear, and is almost $9. Again, we have what was a $20 card before a reprint. This has seen a lot of growth already this year so it’s not quite as attractive, but this is going to continue to climb.
  • Door of Destinies is at an all-time high of $3.50, and this will continue to climb back toward the $8 it was before the reprint.
  • Rise of the Dark Realms sits at $4.50 after some momentum, and as a mythic this one should rise at a faster clip than the others.
  • Gilded Lotus is also at an all-time high of $6.50 (noticing a theme of “casual reprints in core sets?”) and will be $10 within in a year.
  • Looking further ahead, Darksteel Forge has three printings and hasn’t shown much momentum this year, but it fits the exact same mold as Gilded Lotus, and Darksteel versions of this used to be $12.
  • Dragon Tempest and Dragonlord’s Servant are both on their way to bottoming out, and once they hit near-bulk status they become very good long-term players.
  • Adaptive Automaton is showing some steady progress over the past three months, and is likely due for a correction upward within the next year.

That’s a lot of picks, and truth be told I could go on. But then again, I love casual Magic.

 

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

Please follow and like us:

UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Safety Deposit Boxes of Khans of Tarkir

By: Travis Allen

After Modern Masters hit the streets not quite two years ago, I started acquiring Modern cards as much as possible. Anything that wasn’t printed in MM was fair game, especially anything with keywords. Spellskite? Scoop ‘em up. Snapcasters. Fast lands. Goryo’s Vengeance. Various other cards that I don’t recall at this point. Suffice to say, I spent well over a year trading for as much Modern product as I could. With the format growing in popularity and the big reprint vehicle in the rear-view mirror, I wanted as much of my stock as possible to be Modern staples. And that’s what I did for months and months.

Not that long ago, my consideration of that format as an iron-clad storage chest for Magic value began to wane. Modern Masters 2015 had been announced, and the number of places reprints were popping up was beginning to outnumber the amount of cards needing reprints. We’re now firmly amidst a sea of reprint avenues, each representing a potential hemorrhaging of value. I’ve been forced to stop stockpiling generic Modern staples and instead have been driven to find greener pastures in which to park my Magic value.

Standard card prices rise quickly and fall off almost as fast. Changes occur on a weekly basis. The entire market is far more nimble and lean than Modern or Legacy. And while nothing is as safe and effortless as plenty of Modern cards are, there’s definite money to be made. I can’t park a few hundred bucks in Spellskites anymore, but as long as I’m paying attention, I can probably make more money. The trick is not to chase weekly tides. Rather, I want to look at long cycles, and get in while they’re at their floors. Today we’re going to talk about Khans of Tarkir, a set that is rapidly approaching its local value floor, and where to put your MTG funbux for the next six months.

AAA Stocks

If you read my article last week all about rotations and pricing trends, you would know that Khan’s price peak should be some time in mid to late October, and that its floor should be between July and August. As good financiers who pay attention to the details though, we may notice that Khans is a little different than other sets . Whereas most fall sets are drafted through the spring, KTK is not. Once Dragons of Tarkir hit the market, KTK packs left the drafting economy. Is this enough to impact the price behavior?

Let’s do some homework and find out. After all, perhaps the most important skill to cultivate in this field is doing your homework. In order to make wise decisions, you need to ask questions, and you need information to answer those questions. And no, bugging myself or Corbin or whomever on Twitter doesn’t count as doing your homework. Check price graphs. Find cards that are similar and note their behaviors. Look back through older sets for comparisons. Without all of this effort, you’re not doing anything other than making wild guesses.

Alright, aside aside, we know the last time a set behaved in this fashion was Innistrad back in 2011. Once Avacyn Restored hit, Innistrad and Dark Ascension dropped out of the draft. Here’s INN’s price graph.

INN

Looks like the price floor is right where we expected it to be; between July and August. Excellent. Right now we’re six to twelve weeks from hitting the floor. How much further of a drop are we talking? Well, between today’s date in 2011 and the absolute floor that summer, Innistrad dropped about 18%. So we haven’t completely bottomed out yet, but we’re close. What we want to be doing now is identifying which cards we think will do the best through the fall rotation, and begin moving in on those. Starting now gives us a chance to decide our best course of action early, and time to start acquiring. Unless our plan is to just dump hundreds of dollars all at once on August 1, starting to trade today is a wise decision.

Today I’m going to start with Khans, and touch on Fate Reforged another week.

People have forgotten about Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker by now, given Stormbreath Dragon and a general preponderance of dragons in Standard. It may feel surprising today, but there was a time when Sarkhan was being compared favorably to Stormbreath, and he had a price tag to match.

Capture

While I’m not holding my breath for $50 again anytime soon, I do think that $8 is much lower than he can and should be. Admit it, you probably thought he was $10 or $12, right? We’ve collectively forgotten about him, and subsequently didn’t realize how cheap he’s gotten. His power level is undeniable though. He’s a five mana hasty 4/4 indestructible flyer—immune to cards like Ultimate Price, mind you—that can alternatively come down and nuke a tapped Ojutai. He’s a premier planeswalker from Khans, and when the index jumps 80 percent this fall, he’s going to be a big part of it. At the very least, we should see a price of $10 to $12, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him climb above $15 at some point in October. There’s few safer bets in KTK than Sarkhan.

Take everything I said about Sarkhan and apply it to Sorin, Solemn Visitor, only slightly less so. His price spiked less hard at release, only cresting $30, and he hasn’t fallen as far, with a current price tag of $10, but he’s still a powerful planeswalker that is trading well below his future value. What makes Sorin particularly good is that while Sarkhan is mostly sitting on the sidelines right now, Sorin is still getting in game wins here and there in various stripes of Abzan decks. We know beyond a doubt that Sorin is strong enough for a high-powered Standard format such as this, and when we suddenly lose half the available cards, his relative power level will spike. There are plenty of decks in the format where your opponent casting a Sorin and activating the first ability it is essentially game over. We even see Sorin pop up in Modern decks occasionally, which is a testament to his strength. I can’t get enough Sorins right now.

I’m struggling to reconcile Siege Rhino’s price with everything I know about Magic finance. We have a premier-level threat in two formats—Standard and Modern—and I can currently buy multiple playsets on TCGplayer for $4.25 a copy? What? Yes, it’s a fall set rare, and that means there is no shortage of copies on the market. But so what? Abrupt Decay was a fall set rare and was $10 while in Standard. In fact, it was in the same set as Deathrite Shaman, which was also at least $10. Oh, and both of those were also in the same set as shock lands.

My point is that while fall set rares tend to be suppressed, especially when good lands are in the set, I don’t believe that it’s enough to stop tier-one grade-S staples from hitting high prices. Nearly every year I’m impressed by how valuable some rare manages to be despite being a fall set rare. This year around that card is going to be Siege Rhino. I expect it will at least double to $10, and I think $15 is within the realm of possibility. We’re talking about what is arguably the best card in Standard and is also a full playset in one of the best Modern decks in the format. In fact, my goal between now and July is to sell some excess stock I have and buy up Rhinos in anticipation of this fall.

I was lukewarm on See the Unwritten when Khans was spoiled, but I didn’t know the next set was Battle for Zendikar, either. After BFZ was spoiled at PAX, Unwritten jumped from around $2 to around $6. It’s since pulled back towards $4, which is great for us: the lower the buy-in, the better. As soon as the first Eldrazi is spoiled, Unwritten is going to jump towards at least $8 as people get hyped to flip gigantic otherworldly monsters into play. Let me be clear here: Eldrazi don’t even need to be legal yet for this to double in price. At $3 or $4 in trade, this is a spec that will be profitable on hype alone.

If it’s actually good, we’ll see prices well into the double digits. See the Unwritten is a popular card across several demographics and formats, such as kitchen-table Magic and EDH, so any Standard demand whatsoever is going to push the price very hard. I’m in for seventy copies or so right now and I’ll be looking to expand that investment through trade binders this summer.

We’ve all come to take Sylvan Caryatid for granted. It’s been so long at this point it feels like a permanent fixture. She’s (they?) are on her way out though, and we’ll need something in her stead. Enter Rattleclaw Mystic. There’s really no other comparable mana fixer in Standard right now. It’s possible we get Birds of Paradise, which would be awesome, but I’m not holding my breath.

As a buy-a-box promo, we already know that Rattleclaw Mystic is slated to be a serious Standard contender, just as Sylvan Caryatid was. It plays extremely well with the Deathmist Raptor/Den Protector synergy that is likely to be the backbone of many Standard decks over the coming months, allowing them to splash into red or blue. Battle for Zendikar will have all sorts of cool things to ramp into. What’s not to like here?

Notable Exclusions

While Wingmate Roc performed admirably earlier in the season, I’m not particularly excited about it this fall. Our embarrassment of riches in the DTK dragons is my primary reason for doubting the return of the bird. With so many powerful flying threats such as Ojutai and Atarka, it’s going to be tough to find a reason to play a card like Roc. Does this mean the card has no future whatsoever and is total bulk? No, absolutely not. It could very well come to transpire that Roc ends up being a relevant component of the metagame this fall and hits $10 again. I’m not writing this article to look for “maybes” though. While you could do worse than Roc, I’d much rather put my Magic dollars into what I feel are basically home runs, such as Siege Rhino and Sarkhan.

I’ve been hemming and hawing over what to do with Dig Through Time while writing this article, and I finally realized that my indecision is exactly my issue with the card. Could DTT hit $15? Aaaabsolutely. No question. Is it a 100 percent slam dunk the way I consider these other cards to be? Not at all. It’s banned in Modern, which cuts a big chunk of potential demand out from under it. It sees some light play in Legacy, but rarely as a full playset. Browsing the EDH stats over at MTGS, Dig Through Time isn’t even a top-50 blue card in the format.

Perhaps my biggest concern with Dig Through Time is that it’s already a $6 card. That’s a tough number to make profit on when we’re talking about a rare rather than a mythic. When Siege Rhinos are $4, Dig Through Times at $6 are simply less appealing to me.

I fully understand if some of you out there want to go deep because you expect DTT to hit $15 this fall. It’s definitely a possibility. It’s the strongest blue card draw spell we’ve seen in ages, and it’s clearly eternal playable. It comes down to a matter of opportunity cost. For every Dig Through Time you buy, it’s one-and-a-half fewer Siege Rhinos available to you. At the end of the day, I’m more comfortable with Rhinos than Digs, though I can respect those of you that opt to pick up copies.

What do you think about the opportunities out of Khans?

Please follow and like us:

UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Planeswalker Finance, April 2015

By: Danny Brown

If you’ve been around MTG finance for long, you’ve often heard that trading into Reserved List cards is a great way to lock in and grow value over time. Indeed, picking up dual lands, Force of Will, Wasteland, and other eternal staples has proven time and again to be a great way to hold value, if not make a profit.

But there’s two problems with this strategy:

  1. Finding these types of cards in trade binders is tough.
  2. Not everyone has the value needed to trade for big cards like this.

And let’s be real, for every Old Man of the Sea, there’s a Sorrow’s Path, and despite being on the Reserved List, you should not pick up Sorrow’s Path. I know, these are the kinds of hot takes that keep you coming back to MTGPrice every week.

sorrowspath

Okay, so what is a new or budget-minded or just-plain-cheap mage to do? Very few people are going to trade their Legacy staples for your Sylvan Caryatids and Coursers of Kruphix, but they’re still losing value every day all the same. Maybe you can flip them into Dragonlord Silumgars and Atarka’s Commands, but those have a shelf life of their own, meaning you’re just going to be playing this same game next year.

Fetch lands are the obvious answer, but everybody touches on that fact, and just saying the same thing doesn’t make for a very interesting or informative article. And even still, it’s been shown that reprinting major lands in Standard drops their prices in a big way, so it’s not like you can just hold on to fetches forever.

So where do we look?

It’s In the Title

Look, you already know I’m talking about planeswalkers today, so I’ll quit pretending that I’m leading up to some major revelation.

Planeswalkers, you may be aware, are a casual favorite, from kitchen-table to Commander to Cube. There aren’t very many of them (only 59 by my count!), which makes them special compared to just about every other card type in the game. When they are good in eternal formats, they tend to get pretty darn expensive.

jtmsBut even when they’re universally despised, they still hold a minimum amount of value. Even Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded is around $3, and nobody wants that card for any format. (True story: I will always live in shame that I lost in the finals of Avacyn Restored Game Day to a Craterhoof BehemothUnburial Rites deck featuring Lingering Souls and, yes, Tibalt. So I guess somebody wanted it for a tournament, shockingly.)

There are distinct categories of planeswalkers, and we’ll be grouping all 59 of them today, for posterity.

Standard Planeswalkers

Okay, this one’s easy. If you’re looking to lock in value, don’t trade for Standard planeswalkers. They are almost always fringe-playable in Standard at the least, and that helps buoy their values until rotation. The floor price almost always comes just after they rotate, so I wouldn’t mess with Standard planeswalkers until then (unless you need them to actually, like, play Standard).

There are 16 planeswalkers currently in Standard, which is kind of crazy when you consider that’s more than a quarter of all planeswalkers ever printed. There’s 10 that I believe will be available for between $4 and $5 after rotation, and significantly, never go down from there.

  1. Ajani Steadfast
  2. Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
  3. Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
  4. Chandra, Pyromaster
  5. Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
  6. Jace, the Living Guildpact
  7. Kiora, the Crashing Wave
  8. Liliana Vess
  9. Sorin, Solemn Visitor
  10. Xenagos, the Reveler

Only Jace, the Living Guildpact might go below $4 of these—that guy may indeed end up being buddies with Tibalt. All these others are trade targets at $5, in my opinion. They’ll hold that $5 in perpetuity, and many of them will gain value over time. (We’ll look at past examples of this effect later in this article).

There’s an exception to buying planeswalkers while in Standard, and that’s that there’s almost always a planeswalker that hits it big leading up to and through rotation. We saw it with Jace, Architect of Thought a couple years ago, then both Xenagos, the Reveler and Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver last year. The potentials in current Standard for this type of growth are:

  1. Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
  2. Sarkhan Unbroken
  3. Narset Transcendant
  4. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
  5. (Sorin, Solemn Visitor)

Sorin is parenthetical because I mentioned him above, but with a current price of around $10, he could fit in this boat. Really, though, all of these cards are a little more expensive than Jace, Xenagos, or Ashiok, and I just don’t feel like any is a great buy right now. At around $8, Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker comes closest, but I’d like to see it around $6 before I pull any triggers. It’s not like the card has been blowing up the tournament scene in the last year.

Ugin is interesting, as Karn Liberated‘s history is going to impact the Spirit Dragon’s trajectory in a big way. I don’t believe we will ever see Ugin below $15, and that will likely not be until rotation. Being from a small, middle set means the supply is particularly low, so I would not be surprised to see this outstrip Karn within a few years.

Finally, Garruk Apex Predator and Nissa, Worldwaker will probably not drop to the $5 point where I expect most other current Standard planeswalkers to end up. Any price under $10 for these two cards is probably a good acquisition rate, as these are powerful, evocative, popular, and in low supply. Like the last few core sets, M15 wasn’t overwhelmingly popular.

Eternally Competitive

Very few planeswalkers make it in Modern, and even fewer make it in Legacy. When they do, the price usually reflects it, although to varying degrees.

  1. Ajani Vengeant
  2. Dack Fayden
  3. Elspeth, Knight-Errant
  4. Jace, the Mind Sculptor
  5. Karn Liberated
  6. Liliana of the Veil

It’s a very short list. Elspeth and Ajani both are between $10 and $20, but both have multiple printings to help satisfy demand. The other four or are all $25 or more, with Jace and Liliana pushing up toward $100. Dack gets most of his demand from short supply and Vintage playability, but it’s such a powerhouse in that format that it seems reasonable to add it here.

Still, though, with so few planeswalkers being good enough—and I highly doubt any in Standard will join this list expect perhaps Ugin—the next section is where things get really interesting.

“Bad” Casual Planeswalkers

I’m going to divide the rest of the 59 planeswalkers we haven’t discussed into two groups: “bad” planeswalkers and “good” planeswalkers. I’m basing this on what’s popular in Commander, Cube, and other casual formats, as well as just how frequently I see a card played anywhere. Yes, this is fairly subjective. Deal with it. Fair Trade Prices are as of April 27, 2015, and are listed next to each card.

  1. Ajani, Caller of the Pride $5.48
  2. Chandra Ablaze $8.45
  3. Chandra Nalaar $4.40
  4. Chandra, the Firebrand $4.03
  5. Gideon, Champion of Justice $4.79
  6. Jace, Memory Adept $5.24
  7. Liliana of the Dark Realms $6.39
  8. Nahiri, the Lithomancer $4.76
  9. Nissa Revane $13.28
  10. Sarkhan the Mad $8.38
  11. Sarkhan Vol $10.73
  12. Sorin Markov $14.58
  13. Teferi, Temporal Archmage $5.40
  14. Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded $2.91
  15. Vraska the Unseen $3.33

You can certainly argue that some of these deserve to be on the “good” list, but I don’t think there’s much argument that this list closely approximates “the 15 worst planeswalkers ever printed,” give or take one or two that’s still in Standard (with the exception of Jace, Memory Adept, which just doesn’t see a lot of play because it’s too good in small-deck formats and not good enough in big-deck ones).

Note that only two of these planeswalkers are under $4 and only four are between $4 and $5. Many are over $10, some in the face of reprints. The average price of these “bad” planeswalkers is $6.81.

“Good” Casual Planeswalkers

Here are the planeswalkers most often seen in Cube, Commander, and other casual formats, plus ones that were powerhouses in their Standard formats, are liked as characters, or just otherwise popular or powerful. This is everything not mentioned in this article so far:

  1. Ajani Goldmane $10.30
  2. Daretti, Scrap Savant $4.22
  3. Domri Rade $7.08
  4. Elspeth Tirel $12.99
  5. Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury $6.94
  6. Garruk Relentless $3.51
  7. Garruk Wildspeaker $9.23
  8. Garruk, Caller of Beasts $6.19
  9. Garruk, Primal Hunter $7.57
  10. Gideon Jura $4.35
  11. Jace Beleren $9.53
  12. Jace, Architect of Thought $2.82
  13. Koth of the Hammer $6.83
  14. Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker $10.25
  15. Ral Zarek $7.09
  16. Sorin, Lord of Innistrad $6.51
  17. Tamiyo, the Moon Sage $19.71
  18. Tezzeret the Seeker $15.91
  19. Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas $14.91
  20. Venser, the Sojourner $8.31

Here we have an average price of $8.71, just about $2 over what the “bad” planeswalkers are worth. Pulling the average down are Daretti, Scrap Savant (who Douglas Johnson called out in a recent article) and Jace, Architect of Thought, which is at a shockingly-low $2.82. Yes, this saw a Duel Deck printing, but so did several of the cards on the above list, and they didn’t ever go this low. Jace’s Duel Deck art also has the distinction of being hideous, so you would think the RTR versions would be worth a bit more.

Check out the charts for some of the above cards. Except for the ones that just rotated out of Standard, many have been increasing over the last year. Tamiyo went from $12 to $19. Koth went from $4 to $6. Nicol Bolas went from $4 to $10.

As a general rule that holds true so, so often, planeswalkers go up over time. They almost never go down, except when they rotate from Standard. Even reprints don’t devastate their prices in the same way they devastate other reprinted cards. In many ways, planeswalkers are some of the safest cheap investments you can make.

Besides Jace AOT, Garruk Relentless just seems too low. Sure, it’s not big and flashy for Commander, but it’s fantastic in Cube, only has one printing, and is the only double-sided planeswalker ever printed. For all I know, that last point could actually be a point against it, but double-faced cards really did end up going over very well (and will be back in Magic: Origins).

And the best thing about picking up rotating planeswalkers? Whether they end up in the “good” camp or the “bad” camp, they all tend to go up over time. Isn’t that awesome?

Recurring Nightmare

I’m going to revisit this topic periodically, perhaps every few months, but at least once or twice a year. Planeswalkers perform like nothing else in MTG finance, and that makes them worth a close look on a regular basis.

Have comments? Want to harangue me for calling your favorite planeswalker bad? Or do you want to point out the next hot planeswalker spec? If you have things to say, you know what to do.

Please follow and like us: