UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Losing and Finding

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A lot of times, MTG Finance focuses on the nitty-gritty of single cards to get or watch or sell, and that’s a very useful set of topics. You’re reading this because that’s what I usually do.

However, there’s other aspects to this game and the finances. Here on MTGPrice, we’ve written about assorted formats, research tools, insurance, accessories, and other ancillary topics. Today, I want to talk about what to do when your unique collection vanishes.

Six years ago, I was at my LGS for the usual FNM experience. During that, I heard about one of the regulars whose five-color Sliver deck had been stolen. It had judge foil fetchlands, the full set of duals, loads of expensive foils, even by prices back then.

I happened to be in the store again the following Sunday, when someone came into the store and tried to sell a hundred cards that included chase foils, lots of Slivers, and a full set of duals. This person wanted something like $100 for the stack of cards, I want to say they wanted a few board games.

The buyer that day was also a judge who knew that this set of cards had been stolen and got the police to come to the store and confront this seller, as well as the player whose deck was stolen. Reports were made, stories were told, the police had this person there and justice was ready to be served, as a group of angry players watched eagerly for the comeuppance to happen.

The alleged thief walked away with the cards that day.

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I cannot put into words how formative this experience was for me. Imagine seeing someone with your stolen deck, something you’ve put countless hours into, with your personal modifications, maybe even some alters, and all the emotion tied up in this deck.

Someone else has it, and you can’t prove it’s yours.

I can’t claim that every police officer will handle stuff the same way as these two (then four at the end) did. Maybe they are the exception, but they showed me the necessity of good information and some level of unique interaction. We don’t have barcodes or serial numbers on our cards. The whole point of the game is that all the backs are the same, and cards are interchangeable.

The police that day said that there was no way to prove that this stack of a hundred unsleeved cards belonged to the regular customer. I don’t know how many alters would be needed to prove ownership, and is it enough to have a couple of things drawn on three cards? Does your name need to be on these alters?

Depending on who you follow on Twitter, you may or may not be aware of other stories in this vein. Collections lost and stolen. Beloved and elaborate deck boxes, custom decks, all sorts of things have been lost and only some have been found.

Via WoodBornWorks on Etsy

My old pal had a bad ending to their story, but maybe you know someone with a better outcome.

There’s a couple of lessons to be learned from stories like this:

First of all, insurance. We had a writer cover insurance in 2014, I did a few months later, and I know it’s come up a couple of times in MTG Fast Finance’s archives. I strongly urge you to look into renter’s insurance to cover your assets. A modest policy won’t cost much, and requires some organization and documentation. Your results will depend on your local laws and agencies.

Second, documentation. Have a list of the cards in your EDH deck, in your Cube, in your long-term spec binder. Take a day and snap some photos. It’s really easy for your Commander deck to break a few hundred bucks, and some of you might need to have toploaders on every damn card in the deck because of the value. If something happens, you need to be able to say what was lost/stolen, and say so exactly.

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Third, spread the word. Both my experience and that of others hinged on Magic players telling each other, and telling the local stores, that a specific collection has been stolen and someone might try to unload it all at once. Twitter, Reddit, Discord, whatever it is, tell as many people as you can and have them tell other people.

Fourth, be vigilant. Go read some stories of people having lots of valuable cards stolen. Here’s a whole other list of links via Reddit. Now that you’ve got a healthy fear, think about what you bring when you go to a GP, when you go to an LGS. Be aware of the risk you’re taking. Your Cube might be the down payment on a house! Even if you didn’t buy it for that much (foil Grim Monolith, for example) you’re taking on a level of risk when other people see what you have. A snatched backpack can set a thief up for a long time, and you can’t count on them being silly. Just a few minutes online will tell these criminals to break up their sales. A GP is a great place to steal a deck, wait two hours, and then circle the vendors, sell a few cards to each, and get away clean.

I want to scare you. I want you to think about what you’d do if you lost part or all of your collection. Most Magic players have a theft or loss story. I’ve had decks stolen, I’ve left decks on tables and never seen them again. I don’t want to relive those experiences, and I definitely don’t want you to go through it, but it requires consideration. Building value also means keeping that value secure.

Cliff has been playing Magic since late 1994, and is currently in the midst of a Cube obsession. Check out his Busted Uncommons cube if you want a great time, or let him know on Twitter (@WordOfCommander) what a chucklehead he is.

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Unlocked Pro Trader: What I Learned By Acting Like A Desk Jockey

So, I do stuff.

I write articles, I podcast, I perform in and host comedy shows, I’m a content manager for a website you may have heard me shill for and I have the most difficult and important job of all according to Oprah Winfrey – I’m a mother a Dad. Most of these things pay me money so that I can afford to stay home and not have to be a real adult. The result is that my “real adult job” skills have atrophied slightly. I was never much of a desk jockey to begin with since I mostly worked in laboratory settings but it’s safe to say that the last 5 years being an indoor cat have made things feel a little rusty. Today I decided to see if I could make myself enter a bunch of data into excel. I filled out 200 fields and wrote one formula and that was about the most I could manage without blasting a few fat rails of Adderall. Also, if you don’t have an Adderall perscription, don’t do fat rails of Adderall, it’s illegal. Also, if you do have an Adderall perscription, don’t do fat rails of Adderall, you’re not supposed to take it that way. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I slaved to get this data done and it took way longer than it should have and now I get to analyze it finally, which is the fun part. I found some stuff. You know, the good stuff. $tuff.

What Did You Say You Were Going To Do Last Week?

I don’t remember.

What? I don’t. If you remember, tell me. Otherwise, let’s both refresh our memories. Basically, I thought about foil multipliers on the Top 100 EDHREC staples and whether we’d see any trends emerge if we calculated them for each card. Would artifacts in general have the highest? Would we see any trends within colors? I didn’t really find what I expected to find. What I found instead were much more specific findings (I found findings? Gross; nice prose, idiot.) that I think can be either extrapolated to predict things in the future (we like when this happens) and there are some discrepancies that we can exploit immediately (this is less valuable but we like it more when this happens despite it being less valuable. Go figure.) First up, let’s link the data.

 

It’s a google doc. I hope that’s acceptable.

I expected to find some trends in the prices based on color or some other classification, but there are way too many variables. Number of printings, what kind of set the printings were in, foil printings to non-foil printings ratio, whether the foil was a promo or a set inclusion; just about everything was a factor and it’s impossible to make any macro conclusions. On a micro level, though, we can kind of see a few things emerge that we may be able to work with. While I can’t say “Green cards will have higher foil mutlipliers than Red cards” or anything categorically like I was hoping, being forced to drill down into specifics means I am looking more at individual cards and individual sets rather than colors or card types. Here’s what I found.

The Top 100 Is Popular Everywhere

These are the Top 100 cards used in EDH but, not all that surprisingly, not many of the cards are EDH-specific. Sure, there are format-specific staples like Rhytic Study and Chromatic Lantern and Commander’s Sphere but there are also a lot of cards like Brainstorm and Swords to Plowshares that are just good cards and get play in the formats where they’re legal.

Cards that are popular outside of EDH get extra chances to get foils. That’s why out of the (why 4?) tutor cycle of Vampiric, Mystical, Enlightened and Worldly Tutor, Worldly doesn’t have a foil version because it’s only played in EDH, really whereas the others see enough Legacy and Vintage play to justify their inclusion there.

In fact, besides Worldly Tutor, there are only two other cards in the Top 100 EDH cards (per EDHREC, but who else is even tracking that?) that don’t have foil versions – Commander’s Sphere and Propaganda. I’m not sure what they can do for Propaganda, but Sphere can surely be jammed somewhere, even if it’s just a judge foil. “Just” a judge foil. I think Teferi’s Protection is a good choice for that sort of thing as well, meaning Sphere might end up in Limbo. It’s a good mana rock and it’s fairly ubiquitous, so finding a way to get us a foil would be ideal. I’d like to see another Commander’s Arsenal, but with only 3 of the format’s true staples left without foils, it’s probably not something that needs to be done right away. They did Commander’s Anthology instead and that worked out OK for everyone.

Creatures Seem Less “Safe”

A lot of things run the risk of reprinting, but not all reprints are created equal. A reprint in some sort of  product with foils can bring down the foil multiplier a bit, but other things can obliterate it. When Rhystic Study ended up in Commander’s Arsenal, the Commander’s Arsenal version ended up about $10 cheaper than the set foil version and the multiplier is at 2.1. It’s not terrible but it’s not great, either. Being a common certainly hurts the ability to be super crazy and not being also a Legacy and Vintage card like Brainstorm (foil multiplier of 18.2) hurts it since only EDH players are using Rhystic Study. But while 2.1 doesn’t seem astronomical, check out the two cards I highlighted in red because they have a multiplier of 0.9. That means the cheapest foil version (I went with the cheapest foil version for the calculations) is cheaper than the non-foil. This is a combination of a lack of desirability of the foil and the glut of copies on the market. Those two cards? Avenger of Zendikar and Sun Titan. Can you guess what links those two cards?

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That’s right. These duel decks farted out so many copies that the foil is actually cheaper than the non-foil for these two cards. That’s not to say they’re cheap – Avenger still goes for $6 for the duel deck version and $7 for the non-foil somehow. A few other duel deck cards like Elspeth Sun’s Champion are at a 1.0 multiplier. Not every card can be the marquee card of a duel deck but the ones that are see their foil prices crushed, at least for that version. It has a deleterious effect on the prices of the other foil versions but not to the extent that they’re all sub-1.0. Still, it’s something to watch out for. Spells seem like a safer bet since creatures, and I guess walkers, can end up in products like this. With Explorers of Ixalan coming out, it’s hard to predict what sort of product they’ll invent to give us reprints. Is Eternal Witness at risk of a reprint in a deck like this in foil? Not likely, but who knows what’s next?

Speaking of Green Creatures

Holy Mackerel were there strong metrics for Green creatures. I kind of expected big things from Green since it’s the best EDH color but I didn’t expect parity with Blue. This is where using multiplier as a metric can get kind of sticky so we’re just looking at numbers, we’re not drawing a ton of conclusions. Green has a lot of “I have been in every EDH set and a ton of products so I’m like $0.25 but I only have one foil printing that’s like $20” creatures like Wood Elves and that makes the multiplier a little ridiculous. Still, it’s worth knowing that cards that have been printed a ton can still be valuable if there weren’t a lot of foil printings. Wood Elves has more than one foil printing, curiously enough, but they’re all pretty valuable. Green creatures and Blue spells topped our list, not surprisingly. Also not surprisingly, the three Mono-Red cards in the Top 100 (Vandalblast, Chaos Warp and Blasphemous Act) all had one foil printing only and had multipliers of around 3, which is pretty low. I was hoping to learn some things about color groupings but this mostly just reinforced what we expected to find going in.

What I Found That Could Be Money

For whatever reason, Orzhov is not getting any respect. There were 5 Orzhov cards in the Top 10, which is an over-representation, really. No other guild really represented like that, and not surprisingly, they were good removal plus  Orzhov Signet. Anguished Unmaking is a great removal spell that Wizards had enough faith in to make a full art promo version of and the multiplier is 2.0. Utter End is similar. Even Mortify has $2 full art Player Rewards promos running around. These all seem too cheap and with as much as these cards get played coupled with the popularity of commanders like Edgar Markov and Wizards recent willingness to give us great Orzhov, Esper and Mardu commanders, the demand for these cards will only grow. You’re not getting cross-format demand for them, but they have sub-4.0 multipliers on 1st-class removal and they’re in popular colors. The Anguished Unmaking and Utter End promos and the Mortify promo are all buys as far as I am concerned. While the foil mutliplier data didn’t tell us as much as I had maybe hoped, it did help isolate some odd cards like this.

One more thing I will mention is this card.

This has a healthy 6.0 multiplier. I checked Star City for some of my prices for two reasons. One is that they have a lot in stock and don’t tend to list foils of good cards for really cheap and then run out of stock, meaning their numbers were more robust than most stores. Another reason is that when they sell out of stock, they leave the price it was when it sold out, meaning we know that this was very recently $8. It’s got a great trajectory and it’s hard to reprint. I like it less than I did last year but I feel the same way about my marriage so I can live with buying in now.

Foil Mulitiplier Can Be Like Spread

The lower it is, the more I like it as a buy (though not always, and less often with foil multiplier). Some of the cards are not a great buy because of where they were reprinted, but something like Elspeth, Sun’s Champion seems pretty strong to me. There are a ton of copies, but with a 1.0 multiplier, the foil is the cheapest copy available and has more upside since foils tend to grow exponentially (when the multiplier isn’t 1.0, anyway) if the growth is organic. Organic demand should theoretically push all copies at the same rate meaning the price will grow at the same time for foil and non-foil and therefore the foils have more upside. A lot of the cards with multipliers below 2.0 were in duel or Planeswalker decks as the marquee card and with those in every Walmart in North America, copies abound. Still, they are foils and people buying the best version and people buying the cheapest version are vying for the same copies in this instance only, which is curious. I think they have a good shot at recovering and being exposed to some upside. Not as much as regular foils, mind you, but with a lower upside exponent comes lower risk. I like Venser, the Sojourner, Utter End, Sylvan Library, Phyrexian Metamorph and Gilded Lotus of all the cards with multipliers below 2.0. The odds of another reprinting in foil seem very low and the odds of the cards growing in price because they’re the best at what they do is very high.

I didn’t find out as much as I wanted to by doing this exercise but since I spent all day on it, I figured at least publishing my findings was better than just not giving you an article. Besides, I found some stuff I like, and I linked the google doc with my numbers so you can read through and look for yourself. Do you  see anything in the tea leaves? Leave (heh) it in the comments and we’ll talk about it next week. Until then!

 

PROTRADER: The Watchtower 11/6/17

By: Travis Allen
@wizardbumpin


Don’t miss this week’s installment of the MTG Fast Finance podcast, an on-topic, no-nonsense tour through the week’s most important changes in the Magic economy. And if you enjoy playing Magic, make sure to visit https://scry.land to find PPTQs, SCG Opens, and more events on an interactive map with worldwide coverage. Find Magic near you today.


With Pro Tour Ixalan, Wizards decided to try something different. Rather than have the Pro Tour two weeks after set release, they moved it back to five or six weeks after. On the surface it’s a reasonable idea. Pro Tours tend to “solve” a format, or at least move it much closer to that point than it has been up to that point. Having the PT so close to the set’s release means that the format ends up solved quickly. Pushing the PT out more than a month means that players get awhile to explore before the pros show up and streamline things. Overall, the goal is that a format has more of a natural evolution to it.

That is not what happened. Instead, the first weekend that Ixalan was legal, people showed up to the SCG Open with basically the same decks that top 8’d the Pro Tour. Turns out that energy is not only a parasitic mechanic, similar to infect, and most of the Kamigawa block, but it’s also more powerful than anything else people are doing much of in Standard. Between that and Hazoret, that was like 75% of the room or something. Rather than having the Pro Tour reshape and evolve Standard in the middle of the season, it just further solidified the format as is.

How little the Pro Tour had an impact is obvious early Monday morning. Browsing MTGPrice, or any other resource, finds only a single card with a price change worth noting (Angel of Invention). Nothing else really moved. Normally after a Pro Tour three or four cards have spiked. Nope. We saw no cards perform in a new way, so prices just didn’t budge. Oh well. Guess it’s back to EDH and maybe Modern until, uh, February?

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Pro-Trader Ixalan: MTGFinance Live Blog (Day 2)

So what did we learn on Day 1 of Pro Tour Ixalan?

So far, the weekend looks pretty quiet on the financial front. None of the major teams seem to have broken this format, showing up with a deck that was capable of dominating the meta across the board. Rather we have seen a smattering of rogue decks rolling forward shoulder to shoulder with the established staple decks of this season: Temur/4C Energy and Ramunap Red.

As a refresher, here is what people brought into the tournament:

From the perspective of Standard management, this result has to be seen as problematic for Wizards of the Coast as the various energy decks combined for almost 50% of the metagame. Clearly the energy mechanic provides too much bonus value when stapled to otherwise normally costed cards and printed in enough depth to support multiple configurations. Because many of the cards in those decks are in common or uncommon, and have been known quantities for a while now, there hasn’t been much in the way of fresh action from the financial angle. It’s tough to make money on Attune With Aether but at least this format has been a bit cheaper than some previous seasons.

The Amonkhet block has provided the backbone of a couple of additional shells, including Ramunap Red (still good) and the constantly evolving God-Pharoah’s Gift decks. The decks heavy on cards from the block make up about 35% of the field. Angel of Invention was a mythic card from the Gift decks that also showed up in B/W tokens and put in some work on camera Friday, but has yet to show any price momentum. This seems correct unless multiple decks running the card push into Top 8 and/or win the tourney.

Thus far, the only truly interesting new shell this weekend was found in the hands of Wilson Hunter, who brought a mono-white vampire aggro deck that helped him get to 7-1 on Day 1. Financially, Legion’s Landing, Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle and Metallic Mimic are likely the cards to watch here. Landing is already close to $5, so you’d be preying for $10+ to justify targeting play sets. Metallic Mimic is closer to $10 already, and feels like a definite sell almost regardless of what happens with this deck. Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle is currently under $1, so that might be the right move if Wilson makes Top 8.

Vraska, Relic Seeker Setting up for $30?
One of the only cards to generate notable price movement Friday was Vraska, Relic Seeker. Closer to the release of Ixalan it was widely assumed that Vraska, as a six-mana planeswalker, would likely be relegated to the role of a single copy late game plan in some mid-range decks. Instead, we’ve seen versions of Abzan Tokens running a robust three copies in the main, occasionally leaning on the anti-enchantment capabilities of the pirate captain to clear out problematic God-Pharoah’s Gifts and Anointed Processions. In combination with one main/one sideboard demand from Sultai Energy, this has lead to an overnight 15-20% increase on the card, now sitting just over $20. Look for a potential jump toward $30 if the card features prominently in the latter half of the weekend as online inventory is already looking low as speculators wonder whether Vraska might be the next Gideon, Ally of Zendikar or Elspeth, Sun’s Champion.

Hazoret the Fervent

Hazoret, the Fervent continues to show up in both Ramunap Red and the BR Aggro decks that make for a combined 25% of the tournament. The card can currently still be found for $16-18 and might be more deserving of a push to $30 than Vraska. Inventory seems stable so far, but if the Day 1 undefeated Yam Wing Chun pushes deep into Day 2 on the deck, then consider paying closer attention.

Heading into the five final rounds of Standard this afternoon, our financial radar should be tuned to whether the smattering of fresh decks have converted into Day 2 runs at a higher % than the more established decks and whether the rebel decks push deep and challenge for Top 8.

Follow along with us this afternoon as we keep pace with the pros to help you guys make and save some money.

Round 12 (Standard)

We get to see Matignon (Jeskai Approach) and Maynard (UW Gift) going at it, but this is not a good matchup for Maynard, as Matignon counters both God-Pharaoh’s Gift and Refurbish every time over two games.

Baral, Chief of Compliance is a spicy addition to the control deck, doing everything you’d want early and late. Search for Azcanta looks great in this matchup too, but Baral has already enabled Storm in Modern. It would take a bit more play, or a lot more camera time, for the wizard to spike.

We are told that four Settle the Wreckage are in Matignon’s deck, and at only $5, that is tempting to deal with both Hazoret and The Scarab God.

Maynard has a couple of Hostile Desert in the deck, as a way to get use out of the lands shoveled into his yard, but I doubt it’ll get any traction this weekend.

The side match between PVDDR and Turtenwald highlight some variations in energy lists, notably a black splash for Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, a card that can really run away with a game.

Round 13 (Standard)

Matignon is back on camera and the deck performs flawlessly, casting Approach on successive turns to look unstoppable.

The sideboarded games are another matter, and just a couple of Spell Pierces and Negates are good enough to get Mike Sigrist the match win. Notably, Matignon got Search down turn two in the game he won and didn’t see it either of the other games.

If Search gets down to $10 when we are done with Ixalan drafting, it’ll be a solid pick to bump up to $15 or $20 at this point next year. The casual demand for the card is leeching a lot of supply.

The secondary match is the delightful mono-White Vampires list, and a second deck using Angel of Invention might be enough to move this card.

Shaheen Sorani on a deck tech sings the praises of Supreme Will and Censor, and also has two Hour of Devastation, a sweeper not seeing much play currently. The one-of Field of Ruin is a bold choice!

Day 2 Metagame Breakdown!


The breakdown shows how badly the Vampires deck and the UW Approach deck surprised the field. Five players are on the white deck and they all made Day 2! Mr. Fein, your spike is calling!

Round 14 (Standard)

This is Matignon’s third round straight on camera, and he’s against Seth Manfield this time, playing a Sultai build of the energy deck.

On Friday, I highlighted Glint-Sleeve Siphoner as a card I loved going into the weekend, and it’s nice to see it providing a steady stream of cards for the 11th ranked player.

Settle the Wreckage looks terrible here, as those extra basics become fuel for Walking Ballista and Manfield takes the opener. Not a lot of decks are set up to use the extra mana, but this cashes in big. If this is all that we see from that card, then it won’t bump above its current $5-$6.

Winding Constrictor and Longtusk Cub win game two for Manfield, who didn’t even need the Blossoming Defense in hand.

Lots of these decks are running Nissa, Steward of Elements as a sideboard card, and the amount of camera time she’s getting will likely bump her to above $10 by next weekend.

 

Deck Tech: Patrick Chapin’s RW Approach

Only 3 Approach of the Second Sun

4 Gideon of the Trials
4 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
3 Fumigate
2 Sweltering Suns
2 Ixalan’s Binding
3 Settle the Wreckage
2 Treasure Map
3 Sunbird’s Invocation

“The Innovator” showed up with the instant-win combo of Sunbird’s Invocation and Approach of the Second Sun. As he pointed out, if the Invocation is out and you cast Approach, then reveal a second Approach, the one you cast first will win you the game.

The rest is removal, and if the Vampires deck takes off, Sweltering Suns seems extremely well positioned to see a lot of play and spike in price.

Round 15

Owen Turtenwald (Temur Energy) vs. Pascal Maynard (UW Gift)

Angel of Invention is putting on a clinic, and if Maynard gets the Top 8 berth then the Angel might jump over $10 soon. Game one to the man who picked the foil Goyf at the GP Vegas 2015 Top 8 draft.

Game two, Maynard hits Replenish on turn four and cheats the Gift into play, but can’t force the game to go long, and Turtenwald runs rampant.

Game three is extremely swingy, and some extremely difficult decisions from each player. God-Pharaoh’s Gift is a very powerful strategy that doesn’t play four of its namesake card. It’s not even legendary, but if it was a four-of then it would have potential financially.

Wilson Hunter is one round away from making Mavren Fein a $5 card. It’ll be hard to buy in the $1 range now and turn it around for a profit, so your play is to take all the bulk copies you have handy and dump them in trades or buylists when they spike. The profit you’re going to get otherwise just isn’t worth it.

Round 16

Kentaro Yamamoto is on Ramunap Red, and he’s playing Owen Turtenwald. This is one of the defining matchups of current Standard, and it’s exciting to watch, even if not terribly financially relevant.

Yamamoto wins in three games, and the only card of interest was a Harsh Mentor showing up from Yamamoto which didn’t do much damage. The card seems good against the Cub/Hydra/Virtuoso abilities in Temur though. It’s rather niche, but it’s got potential if that’s widely adopted as sideboard tech.

The last feature match has Reid Duke with Temur energy (again!) against Samuel Ihlenfeldt who’s playing a Mardu Vehicles build, and after a billion Rogue Refiners today, it’s sort of nice to see Toolcraft Exemplar again!

Ihlenfeldt has some Dusk // Dawn action and it is a super solid card in this deck, so if he makes top 8 that’s got strong takeoff potential as an answer to much of the Temur deck. He also uses the Dawn side to return two Walking Ballista to his hand, and that ends up winning him the match.

Clearly Dusk // Dawn is the financial winner from his deck, and at $1.50 it’s got a lot of room to grow. Let’s see if he makes top 8, and get ready to sell into the hype if it lands!

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