Category Archives: Unlocked ProTrader

UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Modern Masters 2015 Early Movements

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We’re just a week away now from Grand Prix Vegas and the Modern Masters 2015 onslaught that comes with it. I know I’m looking forward to it, and I’m not alone. We have a house rented in the city, and I’m looking forward to meeting both old friends and new ones while enjoying a great week in Vegas.

Of course, there’s another reason we’re there, one that isn’t a party. That would be Modern Masters 2015, and it’s looking to be a vitally important weekend financially. Much has been said already about the expected value of the set: complaints about it not being high enough or about it being too unevenly distributed. All may have some merit, but they’re also irrelevant at this point. As someone approaching this from a MTG finance angle, your goal should not be to discuss what should have been, but rather what is. And what “is,” means a set with some value at the top end and a pretty drastic dropoff after that.

 

Where Will Prices Go?

The million (or something) dollar question. I’ve been aksed this more times than I can count over the past month, and I’ve given a pretty consistent answer to it: I don’t know.

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I realize as an “expert” in this field that’s not the answer people want to hear, but it’s being honest. When there’s no real precedent for this set given the much-smaller print run of the original Modern Masters, it would be incredibly disingenuous of me to tell you a month ago what Tarmogoyf will cost in six months. I don’t have any information to form an educated opinion, and I would rather say nothing at all than provide misinformation based on nothing but me wanting to hear myself talk about it.

My stance from the start was that we needed some empirical data before we could draw any conclusions, and that meant waiting, no matter how unfun that was.

Well, we’re finally starting to see some data, and so I think it’s time to begin analyzing it.

The Numbers

There’s this misconception that the first Modern Masters didn’t lower prices, or actually raised them, because, “Tarmogoyf, Cryptic Command, and Vendilion Clique!”

While didn’t-lower-prices complaint did hold true for those few cards, it’s far from true across the board.

Stonehewer Giant

Stonehewer Giant is just now starting to recover from Modern Masters, and it’s not the only card in this boat. So, before I go any further, let’s be clear about that. The vast majority of cards in Modern Masters 2015 are going to get rekt (I use words like that to sound cool. Bad idea? Okay, no more).

That’s not to say every casual or EDH card in the new set is going to tank and never recover. Doubling Season, for instance, has recovered very well from its printing in Modern Masters. But Modern Masters 2015 is going to depress them for a long time to come. That means something like Tezzeret the Seeker or—perhaps the best example—Creakwood Liege is going to tank and take a long time to recover.

Creakwood Liege

I expect Liege to tank down to  below $5 and sit there for a few years to come. This is all something we can determine just from comparing to the first set, and with the larger print run of Modern Masters 2015, this effect is going to be even more pronounced.

So that handles what will happen to the low-end, and that’s information we have access to and can easily extrapolate from. But it’s the high-end that everyone wants to know about, and it’s the high-end we’re just now beginning to see some data for.

The ‘Goyf Level

Tarmogoyf 2

Take a look at that Tarmogoyf chart. We’re seeing it predictably slide down. Compare to this chart from the Future Sight Tarmogoyf when the original Modern Masters came out on June 7, 2013.

Tarmogoyf 1

You can see there that the original Tarmogoyf not only didn’t drop, it actually rose in between the announcement of the set and its release. Viewed in that lens—a price increase despite a reprint incoming—it’s really not surprising that ‘Goyf spiked after the first GP Vegas.

Magic was growing very quickly around that time, and that growth makes sense. While Magic isn’t shrinking in 2015, it’s not experiencing the growth that it was then, either. Throw in a larger print run and the fact we’re seeing a price drop this time around, it makes a lot more sense for Tarmogoyf to fall lower in the coming months.

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How low? I think that’s still to be determined, and what we see the price of the newest printing do in the next month is going to determine it. While I do expect a drop, I’m not quite sure I expect $100 ‘Goyfs, and I have a few reasons why.

The first is the recent news that there won’t be a second print run of Modern Masters 2015. Wizards got a lot of heat over the print run of the first Modern Masters not being large enough since it didn’t drop prices as much as people would have hoped, but people have to remember WOTC’s goals here.

The goal isn’t necessarily to make Tarmogoyf a $20 card, or even a $50 card—it’s to make it more available. While it’s easy to conflate availability with price, it’s not the same. Yes, there may be enough demand that Tarmogoyf stays around $200, but there’s also the chance that a player might pull one from a booster pack. The median price on TCGPlayer may not move much, but that possibility counts for quite a bit.

People are going to always spend money on some sort of Magic product, and over the next few months that money will be on Modern Masters 2015. The whole, “You know what goes good with a Tarmogoyf? Three more!” makes sense, of course, but it’s always used to explain why the prices are still unreasonable. But looking at it in the context of completing a playset, someone spending their typical monthly “budget” of Magic money won’t be spending much more than they usually would, but when they open a Tarmogoyf the cost of completing a playset is no longer $800, it’s now $600. That chance of opening a ‘Goyf is something that wasn’t available to players before, even if the prices are the same.

That’s the difference between “availability” and price, and the goal of Modern Masters 2015 is to make Modern more available, not necessarily cheaper, even though there is obviously plenty of overlap.

So when we talk about the lack of a second print run, it means this opportunity is going to be available for a shorter window of time for most players, and there won’t be enough time for supply to really flood the market. That’s a recipe for some short-term price dips but long-term stagnation or even growth, especially combined with this second factor.

That factor is the apparent lack of movement from some of the cards. Sure, we’re seeing some drops from the original printings as we expected, but the versions in Modern Masters 2015 aren’t starting anywhere near as low as we may have guessed. Fulminator Mage, for instance, has always felt odd as a $30 card, and it made a lot of sense when the new version opened at $20 in preorders.

But it didn’t stay there. Those cheap copies went fast, and the next wave of preorders came at $30. It’s settled around $25, lower than the original printing but not anywhere near as low as we might have expected. This is a trend spotted in several places in the new set. Of course, this price will likely continue to dip once copies actually hit the market, but given the single print run, this dip may not be as much as expected.

Conclusions

I was reticent to offer opinions before we had any data, but now that we do, I’m starting to form some suspicions about where we’re headed.

To summarize:

  • Low-end cards, commons/uncommons, and casual-demand cards like Creakwood Liege are going to tank, and they’re going to stay tanked for at least 12 to 18 months.
  • High-end rares like Noble Hierarch and Cryptic Command will end up being down 25 to 40 percent. This means $30 to $35 Noble Hierarchs and $35 to $40 Cryptic Commands. This is, of course, still just educated guesswork on my part, but it’s a start to some theories that will be refined in the coming weeks.
  • The mythics will drop, yes, but not drastically. The most frequently played Modern ones like Tarmogoyf and Clique will hold up best, but as a whole, we’re looking at just 15- to 25-percent drops here. This will make these cards more affordable, but I really wouldn’t be surprised to look back at this set when Modern Masters 2017 comes out and see the prices right back where they started.

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

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!

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Left Behind

By: Travis Allen

Over the last two weeks, we’ve looked at the complete Modern Masters 2015 spoiler. We explored lots of individual cards, what this printing means for their price outlook, and the texture of the set overall. I wanted to make sure we all had as much insight as possible into what was hitting the streets, so that when it does, we’ll all be ready.

 

One thing I didn’t cover yet that is quite important, like yin to yang, is not what’s in the set, but what’s not in the set. The absence of some cards will have just as dramatic an impact on the market as the inclusion of others will. After all, when Emrakul, the Aeons Torn was spoiled, prices didn’t crash overnight. Yet once the full spoiler hit and Inkmoth Nexus was nowhere to be found, it more than doubled in hours. Keeping tabs on what’s in the pipeline and not standing in the way when the reprint bus barrels down the street is a good way to make sure you don’t lose money, but if you want to make money, you need to be paying attention to what’s not showing up on time.

Today, we’re looking for the gaps and the omissions. Our goal is to understand some of the reasons some of these cards may not have made it in, where they may show up next, and what all of this means for prices over the next six months.

Serum Visions 

Visions is perhaps the most egregious offender in this roundup, with public discussion regarding its curious absence more prevalent than any other card. As a $10 common played in roughly one-fourth of all Modern decks, what could possibly be a better option for a reprint? Many, myself included, thought it was coming all the way back in September when the art for Omenspeaker was revealed independent of the rules text. When the Theros block, which even contained scry, came and went without Visions, we were all a bit confused. Expectations shifted, placing Visions in MM2015. It all felt a bit like I imagine a doomsday cult must feel when the day of rapture comes and goes without even thunderstorms. People mill aimlessly, dazed, lost. Where are the Visions?

My guess is that Wizards got  caught with its pants down on this one. About a year ago, Visions was about $6—expensive, but not yet out of control. A year prior to that, it was between $2 and $3, which is true of many commons and no cause for concern. It sounds as if R&D may have considered Visions briefly for MM2015, but after deciding scry wasn’t making it in the set, chose instead to print it as a summer FNM promo. They hoped that the FNM promo would be enough to keep the price in check, not realizing that the card was destined to gain another $4 to $7 by the time MM2015 was on shelves. Unfortunately, FNM promos almost never do much to prices. Supply is low and alternate art often drives those with existing copies to acquire the promo. The new artwork for Visions is dramatic, and the result is that many that already own playsets of the Fifth Dawn copies will want a new set anyway.

Wizards is now stuck. Visions is badly in need of a larger reprint and there’s nowhere for it to go. It missed Elspeth versus Kiora, it missed MM2015, it’s terrible in Commander, and no expansion sets will have scry anytime soon.

At this point, my thinking is that there are two potential lines for Visions to take. The first is that Wizards is going to make scry evergreen, as has been done with hexproof. It’s not a terribly complicated mechanic, and it provides an additional knob with which to balance spells. If this comes to pass, it could show up in any Standard-legal set. Is any of this likely? I can’t say that it is, but it’s one possible avenue.

The second possibility is that Wizards may shoehorn it into Zendikar versus Eldrazi or this spring’s planeswalker Duel Deck. Either would be an appropriate place to include it. We saw Remand included in Jace versus Vraska last spring, which was no different.

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There exists an opinion that the absence of Visions indicates a banning on the horizon. There are a variety of reasons I don’t believe that to be the case. Rather than detail them all, suffice to say that it’s possible, yet I’m not operating as if it will come true.

Unless scry becomes evergreen and is printed in Origins, none of the reprint avenues will do much to dramatically reduce the price. Showing up in a Duel Deck will take a notch out of it, sure, but not down to $3 or $5 levels. Mostly, it seems like Serum Visions is slated for continued growth, with $15 or $20 possible this summer. I’m not saying it will rise that high, but with no extra copies on the horizon and a mild panic regarding its absence, it’s not outside the realm of possibility. I’m happy to take these in trade in the short term. Pick them up now, ride any gains we see through the Modern PreTQ season, and ship them if they ever hit $15. Keep a personal set, and see just how high a modern-border common can go.

Goblin Guide

As a contender for “card your opponent hates you most for casting on turn one,” Goblin Guide has been a tool of sadists in Modern since the birth of the format. With the recent “what the hell were they thinking” printing of Eidolon of the Great Revel, Guide has only gotten stronger. It spiked dramatically last summer, and lately has been hanging around in the $20 range. It’s possible that part of the reason it didn’t hang around closer to $30 was because people expected it to show up in MM2015. Now that it hasn’t, what’s the play?

My guidance is to stay away. When Visions didn’t appear in the full spoiler, everyone was left asking, “Well then, just where the heck are they going to put it?” and, “Why is Travis using so many fake quotations?” With Goblin Guide, though, it’s just been, “Oh, I guess it’s in Battle for Zendikar.” Guide can show up in theoretically any expansion set, so long as it’s balanced around its presence. With no keywords and a name that doesn’t tie it to a specific plane, it’s the closest thing Magic has to a free agent. Knowing this, if we own speculative copies, we’re going to be biting our fingernails about whether Goblin Guide is going to show up every single time a spoiler season starts. This isn’t a position I’d like to be in. Even if they don’t reprint Guide this year and it ends up at $40, we can’t feel bad about staying away. Remember, be process-oriented.

Aven Mindcensor

While Serum Visions is the most obvious missing common in Modern Masters 2015, I find Aven Mindcensor to be the most glaring omission in the silver slot. Mindcensor has been running around Modern and Legacy for years now with a peak price of $15 for nearly all of last year. That price has since come down to around $10, but without any extra copies entering the market, we may see that number climb back towards or even north of its previous peak.

Magic 2015 brought with it Hushwing Gryff, another 2W 2/1 flash flyer with hateful text. At first blush, it seems that Aven Mindcensor may be primed to take over that slot this summer in Origins. After all, like Goblin Guide, there’s no keywords or flavor on the card that would prevent its inclusion in a core set or other expansion.

And yet, I’m highly suspect of the theory that we see it in either Origins or Battle for Zendikar. Why? Well, part of the reason Mindcensor is so popular is that it hoses fetch land activations. When someone cracks a Scalding Tarn, you flash down Mindcensor in response, and then they can only look at the top four to find an island or a mountain. No luck? Too bad. It’s a way for hatebear style decks to restrict an opponent’s resources while simultaneously applying pressure.

My concern is just how powerful this effect can be. Modern is a faster format, where losing your third or fourth land doesn’t necessarily lock you out of the game. There’s plenty of powerful ways to answer Mindcensor, such as Electrolyze or Forked Bolt. It’s dead against some opponents, and a format like Modern typically punishes dead cards much harder than Standard does.

Mindcensor in Standard would be much stronger. Games go longer and average spell costs are much higher. Stopping someone’s fifth or sixth land in Modern is often irrelevant, but in Standard, it’s still possibly a completely backbreaking play. It effectively becomes an instant-speed Stone Rain for 2W that also leaves behind a 2/1 flyer.

So long as fetch lands are in Standard, I don’t think we’ll see Mindcensor. The effect is simply much stronger in Standard than Modern as long as fetches are running around, and it’s strong in exactly the way Wizards doesn’t want it to be. Perhaps next spring, when Khans and the fetches rotate out, we’ll see Mindcensor show up. Until then, assuming Wizards doesn’t want it in Standard, it’s in the same boat that Serum Visions is: the two Duel Deck releases and maybe Commander product. If that’s the case, the short-term outlook for Mindcensor is quite rosy.

Inkmoth Nexus

This would have been great to talk about if it didn’t spike within 24 hours of the full spoiler dropping. As is: sell extras, stay away.

Blood Moon

The land denial strategy of choice in Modern, Blood Moon has a whopping five printings in the wild, and still clocks in at $30 today. Advocates of format accessibility (AFAs) were desperately hoping to see some full moon action in MM2015, but alas, we’ve seen no such exposure. There’s little debate regarding this one, either. While BMing is satisfying, it’s simply not an appropriate thing to do at your card store every Friday night. Very few would consider this a reasonable card to print in Standard, so we’re exclusively looking at supplementary product for more copies. Once again, that leaves us with a short list: upcoming Duel Decks and Commander product. Blood Moon would be a rather odd inclusion in the DD series, and putting it in a product aimed at EDH players is sure to piss off a huge swath of kitchen-table players that just want to be able to cast their spells.

bm

We’ve seen consistent and unchecked growth on Blood Moon so far, and at this point I see no reason for it to abate. No more copies are on the horizon, avenues for reprint won’t bring many to the market anyways, and this card’s price ceiling is at least $10 away. I’m expecting $40 before the end of the year, possibly higher. Trade accordingly.

What Else?

The list of cards not in MM2015 is of course much longer than the list of cards above. I’ve captured several high-profile cards here, but I’m sure there are many more out there that stand to gain. Infect commons like Vines of Vastwood and Might of Old Krosa come to mind. What others have you noticed and think are ripe opportunities?

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: I Believe You Have My Staples

Milton Office Space - Excuse me I Believe you have my mana crypt

By: Jason Alt

Look, I’m not going to insult your intelligence by publishing an article the thrust of which is, “Hur, pay attention to stuff.” Well, I mean, I might do that, but I want to let you know up front that although that may end up being the thrust of this article, it’s not the only point I want to make. You probably understand you need to pay attention to stuff, so I hope I can tell you what and why without making you feel like a dummy.

 

Why bring it up at all? Because I think an important part of being a good financier is paying attention to stuff you couldn’t give a hot $#^@ about.  I don’t expect you to care about or play every format. I couldn’t possibly care less about Standard as a format if next week I had to play in a tournament where the prize for first place was, “We don’t kill your family.” That’s a weird prize to offer, but Standard is a weird and stupid format and if you like it, that’s cool and most Magic players agree with you, but just know that you’re wrong.

There are lots of formats I don’t actually care about, and you probably don’t care about. Five-Color. Pauper. Type 4. Momir Vig with paper cards. But you can bet that if there were money to be made in those formats, I’d be advising you to read everything you could about them. And why not? This is about learning what we need to learn to start stacking that scrilla. Super high piles. You remember that pile of cocaine on Tony Montana’s desk in Scarface? That movie was awesome. What was I talking about? Right, scrilla. Specifically, where the scrilla resides.

Let Others Care For You

I keep getting more and more messages, tweets, emails, and LinkedIn link requests each week from people who tell me they love the financial information in this article, like they’re surprised. You actually don’t have to care about EDH to make money off of price movements or stocking your binder with just the right bait. It’s almost magical that way. There are already a ton of people who care about EDH, and they care a lot. Good!

Make no mistake, I’m one of the people who cares about EDH, but I promise you that even if I didn’t, I’d still leverage this community to stay ahead of price movements and stock up. The best way to leverage them is to see what they’re talking about. How to do that? Why not go where they hang out and talk EDH? Let’s talk about a few resources.

squanderedresources

Tapped Out

Tapped Out is a great, great site. It does a good job of policing the community by making it a difficult process to sign up for an account. Also, the EDH community may have a high nerd saturation, but it has a very low troll saturation, so an EDH-focused website is bound to be pretty troll-free. In fact, the people on Tapped Out are usually the opposite, going out of their way to help people focus.

Take a look at this post. The author created a decklist and it’s pretty decent. Scroll down and you will see helpful community contributors suggesting cards that should be in the deck. You are likely to see cards you didn’t know existed, and that’s okay. What you do when you see a card like that matters, though.

Someone on this page suggested the card Nomad Mythmaker for the deck. Click on the highlighted name to be taken to this page, where you get some info about the card, including its TCGplayer price data and the threads where the card is discussed. Mythmaker is almost exclusively discussed in the context of Bruna, the Light Alabaster and Uril, the Miststalker decks. That means the card is a bit narrow. Still, it’s old, underprinted, and is a very, very good card for this role. Tapped Out also has a very cool tab system that gives a lot of great info.

Untitled

You can check the price on TCGplayer and Cardhoarder, see how many people are interested in the card (the ratio of haves to wants is telling) and there is a very ugly but useful price graph. Mythmaker doesn’t look like a great candidate for investment, but we’ve only looked at one card.

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Look at this info. As many people as have Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger want him. His price is climbing steadily, he’ll be tough to reprint, and he just dodged a reprint in Modern Masters 2015.

Really explore the page for each card. There are combos for the card listed on the right side of the page, and you can click on the other cards in the combo to bring up their pages. This is a rabbit hole of cards you may or may not know that can teach you a lot about which cards in EDH are staples and which are narrow inclusions in specific decks. Tapped Out gives us a metric no other site gives us because we can look at the trade demand tab and see more people want the card or more people want rid of the card.

Compare Mythmaker to Vorinclex. You don’t need to learn all about EDH to be able to see that a popular format staple will have demand proportionate to or above supply rather than below (like in the case of Mythmaker). What do we expect that ratio to look like for a card like Mana Crypt? Can you guess?

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3 have, 11 want. While this information is not exactly quantifiable, it’s a qualitative look at the cards EDH players are looking for and that’s not a terrible metric even though it’s a little loose. I wouldn’t rank cards based on this ratio or anything, but I would take notice of it. The higher the proportion of wants to haves, usually the more decks it goes in. Isn’t that what we’re looking for?

One More

I don’t want to inundate you with a ton of new websites you may have never visited before, so I will cover a few more resources next week to give you a chance to play around with Tapped Out. Yes, I’m teaching you to fish. Deal with it.

oldmanofthesea

One resource is one you’ve heard of and are probably avoiding like the plague: it’s Reddit. Okay. Yes, I know. Reddit is gross. A lot of the people on Reddit are on Reddit because if they went outside, an angry mob would chase them with torches and pitchforks, so they stay inside and poop on other people’s enthusiasm instead. I’m not saying Redditors all kill puppies when they’re adolescents, I’m just saying that I can’t watch all of them 24/7 and dogs go missing every day.

Once you choke back your initial revulsion, the EDH subreddit is actually a great resource. I know, right? If you’d have told me two years ago that I’d find most of the readers in the EDH subreddit delightful and helpful and wouldn’t like spending much time with the readers of the more competitive subreddits, I would likely have distracted you for long enough for the orderlies to come restrain you and take you to the facility where I was having you involuntarily committed. They probably wouldn’t lobotomize you even though I’d suggest it, because I’m not a doctor and they don’t really do that anymore, but they would at least strap you in for some time to think about that nutty thing you said. Well, belt me into a straight jacket and call me Napoleon Bonaparte, because I love r/EDH.

You know what they do periodically that I love? They do stuff like this and anyone who wants to can read it. No one even asks them to, they just get bored and say, “Hey, why don’t we make a list of cards that will be more expensive in a few months than they are right now?” because they are pathologically helpful that way.

Read through the page I just linked. Not every card is going to be a good investment, but that’s not the entire point. It will help familiarize you with a class of cards that have broad utility and perhaps identify niches that named cards fill but other cards also fill, perhaps better. /u/TCV2 couldn’t make his case for Library of Leng without discussing the more popular Reliquary Tower, which led to someone else bringing up Venser’s Journal. Hey, while we’re talking about VJ, did you know this?

Untitled

More than two years of steady growth entirely predicated on EDH utility, but a very suspicious two-times multiplier in the foil price. That bears looking into. In a few seconds, we identified a foil card that has growth potential and will weather a reprint much better than the non-foil.  Actually, that’s not even accurate. Someone else identified the card for us. I still get these shipped to me as bulk rares, by the way. This card is useful in a lot of decks and can be considered an EDH staple, but the foil hasn’t gotten the memo.

Novelty is king in r/EDH, however. A similar post earlier in the week, titled “EDH auto-include cards?” rubbed people the wrong way and it was under-posted-in. Still, there is decent advice in there, and I got to talk about how much I like Trading Post. If you have a problem with that, then I guess you don’t like Karn either, because Trading Post is practically a colorless planeswalker.

That’s a reminder: try to identify when someone is talking up a pet card versus when someone is identifying an actual format staple. Trading Post may be super sick in EDH, and its printing in the Commander 2014 deck series bears that out, but no one told the price of the foil copies of the card.

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That’s oogly.

What’s a “Staple” Anyway?

Just like in any other format, a staple in EDH is a card that is played in multiple deck archetypes and is included in certain decks on principle. Sol Ring, Command Tower, Rhystic Study: these cards are obvious to everyone, even people who don’t care about the format at all. However, there are other staples of the format that are harder to identify and need to be rooted out a bit before they become clear.

If you ask a mono-black player to name the three most iconic and important “staple” cards in her deck, pretty much no matter which deck, she’s likely to say something like, “Probably Demonic Tutor, Sol Ring, and Mana Vault,” or a similar list. A card almost none of them is going to say but a lot of them are bound to include but not give a second thought to?

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Look at that growth. That’s EDH doing its thing and doing it very well. A reprint can pull this card’s pants down, but the foil has a nice, healthy four-times multiplier. You know what’s even sexier than that? The spread on the foil.

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It’s miniscule. This is behaving like an EDH staple, yet no one is going to identify this as an EDH staple even if you ask them to list staples. You’re going to have to go looking a little bit harder to root some of these cards out.

zodiacpig

Luckily, I have given you a few tools to play around with until next week, and when I come back at you, I will hit you with a few more. I’m going to do my best to write that article before I head to Las Vegas, because I have a feeling I’ll be a bit distracted when I get there.

Between the data screaming at us at the top of its lungs the way some of these price graphs are screaming at us and EDH players politely listing the cards they think you should research, this can be easy at times. It’s not as easy as identifying good Standard investment candidates, but then if it were that easy, everyone else would be all over it. This takes a little digging, it takes some knowledge of the format, and it takes some finesse.  Luckily, this series is going to tell you just about all I know about this and bring you all along for a ride on the money train. I’ll be back next week with some more sources for you to consider. You won’t want to miss it.

As always, leave me something in the comments section and let’s try to get ahead of the next one.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: PucaPro

In just a few days, it will have been four months since I started using PucaTrade.  Since then, I have more or less optimized my cube (which was no small task), gotten rid of a lot of junk I didn’t want weighing down my collection, and have spent zero dollars on Magic, aside from shipping, I suppose. It’s hard for me to overstate just how much use I have gotten out of this service in such a short time. If you’re not on board yet, you’re making a serious misplay.

This isn’t going to be a basics-of-PucaTrade style article. There have been plenty of those written, and the site is easy enough to use without me explaining it. Instead, I’ll be discussing some more specific strategies for using the platform to your advantage, as well as anticipating the best ways to adapt to several known updates that are already in the works.

 

PucaSavings

If you only see my summary on the site, then it looks like I haven’t done too well using PucaTrade:

“You have sent 200 cards with a total value of $903.68 and you have received 115 cards from other members with a total value of $699.31.”‘

Of course, that doesn’t tell the whole story.

PucaPoints

Now things are looking much better. In my opinion, there is little point to being on PucaTrade if you aren’t able to request cards at a moment’s notice. For this reason, I never like to dip below 10,000 points, and in practice, I haven’t been under 20,000 points often at all.

In many ways, PucaTrade has become my primary way to attain cards, and I don’t want to miss out on good opportunities because I’ve spent all my points. If you’re a player needing to build decks at a moment’s notice, keeping a healthy supply of PucaPoints on hand is a great way to get the cards you need.

Another great benefit here is that I’ve shipped many cards that I expected were going down in value. In my article last week, many of the “sales” I discussed in anticipation of Modern Masters 2015 were, in fact, PucaTrade sends. If I had been trading these out at my LGS or a big event, I would have needed to find cards to receive in return, many of which would be less than ideal and not much better than what I was trading out. With PucaTrade, I was able to lock in value while I could, and have been storing that value for use at a later time. It’s glorious.

The Rhino in the Room

Of course, I’m well aware that letting this currency sit without gaining interest is inefficient. I could pick up over 50 Siege Rhinos with my current bankroll, and unless it gets included in a Duel Deck or something (what a gross thought), by the fall, I will almost certainly have made a hefty profit in either PucaPoints or cash—my choice. I am certainly picking up a dozen copies of a card here and a playset of a fringe spec there, but I still like to keep a good amount of points on hand. Besides, liquidating a huge pile of the same card through PucaTrade is not exactly easy, and things have to line up a lot better to make a profit buylisting.

The thing is, despite using PucaTrade as my primary MTG bankroll for the last few months, I have another reason to accrue points, and it relates to PucaTrade’s IndieGoGo campaign from a couple month’s back. Here’s the relevant section:

pucatradegoal1

I’ve been a #mtgdad for almost a year now, and I’ve learned two things about it during that time:

  1. Even with a supportive wife, getting out to play Magic is about ten times harder than it was pre-baby, and nowhere close to as attractive as kicking it at home with my son after a long day at work.
  2. Drafting on Magic Online isn’t much better, given that I have to dedicate two to three hours and there’s no guarantee that the baby’s mood won’t change like sixteen times during that period. I’ve lost more than one game due to fussy-baby-caused misclicks or timeouts.

This means that I haven’t been playing nearly enough Magic in the last several months, and I don’t see my situation changing anytime soon. I continue to insist that Draft is the epitome of Fine Gaming™ (like fine arts, fine wines, fine cheeses, etc.), but because MTGO offers no way to play meaningful Limited games quickly, I think I’m going to have start looking into Constructed if I want to play more Magic within my current constraints.

I’ve messed with Standard, Block Constructed, and Pauper on MTGO in the past, but have not enjoyed them enough to do more than dabble and then taper off. What really catches my attention is Vintage. 

Conveniently, MTG Goldfish’s metagame page lists the exact online prices for the top decks in the format. Ignoring Dredge and Workshop—because when I say I’m interested in Vintage, what I really mean is that I’m interested in playing Ancestral Recall and Time WalkI can see that I will need roughly 700 tickets. This isn’t so bad when you consider these same decks are listing  at around $15,000 in paper!

Still, this means that I’ve got some catch-up to do if I want to be on top of a Vintage deck when these PucaTrade updates go live. I’m also looking into the Facebook group dedicated for PucaPoint/ticket exchanges that Douglas Johnson mentioned in his article last week, as this was not a group of which I was previously aware. Maybe I won’t have to wait for PucaTrade’s updates, after all.

In my first article for MTGPrice, I pointed out that once you have a decent collection of cards together, you have a very liquid asset that you can use for any of your MTG needs, making playing for free—or at least not spending additional money—quite attainable for the average player. In this case, my goal is to play Vintage without spending any additional money (again, disregarding stamps and envelopes), and I’m sure I can do it. One of the greatest benefits to PucaTrade, especially once MTGO trading is added, is that you can turn your collection into anything you want it to be.

Perfect for Those Cards

I’ve touched on this before, but I feel like it’s important to point it out again because it’s such a crucial aspect to PucaTrade. I have speculated on many a card that has panned out, but only just.

For example, I’m pretty deep on Steam Vents, but unfortunately, got most of my copies for $8 each (in store credit) before the Dragon’s Maze reprint was announced. I traded for plenty more copies at $6 or $7, but I generally don’t like the idea of selling them for less than $8.

Currently, the best buylist price is at $7.40, but the retail price is closer to $13. The eBay average is $8, which means I would be losing money after fees. Without PucaTrade, this would just be a spec I had to sit on and hope would eventually pan out a little better, or occasionally find someone at my LGS who wanted to trade for a set. Instead, I’m shipping these out for more than 1300 points each at a slow but steady rate, storing that value for other speculation targets, cards for my collection, or eventual online Vintage.

Dealing with a card’s spread (the difference between buylist prices and retail prices) is one of the biggest obstacles to profit for a non-store-owning financier, but PucaTrade gives a new and very important out for specs that are mild successes or even failures. Previously, the choice was largely between selling at a loss or continuing to hold and hoping for further increases, but with PucaTrade allowing you to get what essentially amounts to the card’s full value in store credit, a whole new world opens up for outing these types of specs.

Know the News

Following along with PucaTrade’s blog is a great way to keep up with what updates are coming up. You also get great MTG market theory, like this gem from a recent update:

PucaTrade has taught me that Magic is fundamentally a game of excess supply.  Whether you participate in a draft or buy a booster box to crack open, Magic cards enter your collection as random assortments that you may or may not want.

Part two of this article discusses PucaTrade’s approach to solving one of the service’s biggest problems: the difficulty of sending out popular cards, especially from Standard-legal sets. I won’t rehash it, but basically, they’re testing a “dibs” system this summer. It’s definitely worth a read.

By knowing that the dibs system is coming, you may decide that you are more comfortable committing some capital to Standard cards. Or maybe the fact that it may prove temporary will make you want to move into cards that not everyone will be looking to send. When I see an announcement that MTGO trading is coming up soon, that will give me a little extra time to have the points ready to get those Vintage cards I’m coveting. Paying attention can help you be ahead of the curve in many ways.

Closing Up Shop

I’m really proud of the section header above, because I’m using it both to indicate that we’re approaching the end of this article, and also to reference a frequent criticism I hear about PucaTrade. That’s efficiency right there, folks.

Invariably, any time someone writes an article about PucaTrade, someone will comment saying something like, “I would never put my cards into something like this. They could just pull the plug any day and then everyone would just lose all their points. This is obviously a scam.”

Look, I’m all about being risk-averse. And you’re right, PucaTrade could close down. But considering more than one million trades have been completed and there’s apparently more users active than ever, I don’t imagine a world where PucaTrade will close down, at least any time soon. Frankly, the service has already proven more reliable and personally valuable to me than MTGO, and now I’m on record as being willing to put in several hundred tickets towards a Vintage deck on that unreliable, bug-ridden joke of a client. If you have any kind of collection at all on Magic Online, any criticism of PucaTrade as a risky proposition is willful obfuscation of your true concerns, whatever they may be.

If you want to use all the tools in the financier’s toolkit, you’ve already taken the right step by signing up as a ProTrader here at MTGPrice. We can provide the data and the community you need to make the correct decisions in your Magic finance pursuits.

But if you haven’t signed up for PucaTrade yet, you are missing out on what is in my opinion the finest medium for exchanging Magic cards for other Magic cards that is available. That’s just my opinion, though. You should check it out for yourself to know for sure.

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