Common Cents with Aaron Dettmann

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Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze is playing out this weekend in San Diego. While it’s true the Block format the Pro Tour features this time around isn’t widely played, it can provide a sneak peek into which cards may be good in Standard once the Innistrad block rotates out in a few months. Therefore, even though there might be a dominant deck, the cards found within the deck may not drastically rise since few people play the Block format. However, it will still definitely be worth keeping track of the popular cards, as they may be the key building blocks for Standard in a few months’ time, and may foreshadow which strategies will do well, and which cards may raise in price.

Speaking of looking ahead to future Standard, I would sell all the Standard-legal Reanimator pieces right now, such as Angel of Serenity. Why? Because Scavenging Ooze is going to be reprinted in M14. This legacy staple has a very high power level, and will see high levels of play regardless of how prevalent Reanimator decks appear in the metagame. In legacy, some have said they prefer to play this card instead of Tarmogoyf, because it can get as big as Tarmogoyf – if not bigger – relatively easily, and they like the utility of graveyard hate attached to a major threat. The effectiveness of Scavenging Ooze at removing cards from the graveyard, combined with providing a relatively quick clock, will definitely put a crimp in the plans of what Reanimator decks are trying to do.

Plasm Capture as of May 19, 2013
Plasm Capture as of May 19, 2013

One strong interaction in Standard that hasn’t yet seen widespread play is Plasm Capture into Aetherling (or the more commonly used Sphinx’s Revelation). Aetherling is a stupendous creature; it is virtually impossible to kill, and because of its built in evasion and pump, it ends games very quickly once it has been cast. It does cost a bit of mana to play, but once it enters the battlefield, it has a significant impact on the game. With Plasm Capture being available, it enables the deck to counter a spell on turn four, and then next turn cast Aetherling and leave mana up to flicker Aetherling if needed to make it impervious to any removal spells. With Plasm Capture and Aetherling both only costing around $4, they both have room to grow if this synergy gains traction.

Have fun watching the Pro Tour this weekend. I’m very excited to see which decks and cards will do well.

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Common Cents with Aaron Dettmann

Advent of the Wurm
Advent of the Wurm. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.

Grand Prix Portland is coming up this weekend, which brings Modern cards to the forefront of peoples’ minds again. However, this is an out-of-season format, so if there’s an unexpected deck or card that does well and jumps up in price, I would unload any copies you’ve obtained quickly. People will soon realize that the Modern PTQ season is still over half a year away. That realization will cause the cards’ price to swiftly drop again until the Modern PTQ season approaches, so make sure you have an outlet where you can rapidly sell any card you speculate on for this tournament.

One card that I believe is primed to rise in price due to Grand Prix Portland is Beck // Call. Elves is the brand new deck that is made possible by Beck // Call; a Glimpse of Nature clone. Glimpse of Nature is banned from the Modern format for being too powerful, and is currently at $25. Beck // Call has the same effect as Glimpse of Nature for a miniscule one additional blue mana, and is a bargain at a meager $2. With both the Fetchlands and Shocklands available in the Modern format, the additional color requirement is not much of an issue. The additional mana cost is a little annoying, but Modern is not a super-fast format right now, since Storm and Eggs got banned, and the Elves deck is good at generating extra mana. In addition, Beck // Call can be more powerful than Glimpse of Nature in certain situations: Glimpse of Nature demands a creature spell to be played to satisfy the prerequisite to draw a card, whereas Beck // Call merely needs a creature to enter the battlefield. This difference can become relevant if you want to fetch a Dryad Arbor into play mid-combo, where it will draw you an additional card if you’ve played Beck // Call, whereas with Glimpse of Nature it will have accomplished nothing.

Switching gears over to Standard, I think that token and populate cards have a great opportunity to rise in price. Advent of the Wurm is a terrific card that has already seen some success at last weekend’s SCG Open. With the addition of Advent of the Wurm to the token arsenal, a dedicated token deck might be ready to become a contender; there might finally be enough under-costed token creators to make a potent token themed deck. Token creators such as Call of the Conclave, the angel from an attacking Geist of Saint Traft, and Advent of the Wurm are all prime populate targets.

Because of the abundance of quality token creatures, I would keep my eye on Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice, Scion of Vitu-Ghazi, and perhaps on Growing Ranks as well. Trostani was $15 at one point, and only dropped down to its current price of $5 because there weren’t enough quality targets to populate. With Advent of the Wurm added to that cache, Trostani could easily double in price.

Scion of Vitu-Ghazi is an army all in one card; at worst it’s essentially a Cloudgoat Ranger, which saw lots of play when Lorwyn was in Standard. However, most of the time it will be able to create an additional copy of the best creature on your battlefield, in addition to bringing its 4/4 body and bird token into play. At a measly $1, there is very little risk in trading for this card.

Money Ramp with Zack Alvarado

Trade Habits: Prerelease Buylists

Beck // Call. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.

Though it seemed as if Gatecrash’s prerelease was no more than a few weeks ago, this weekend signaled the launch of Dragon’s Maze prerelease events nationwide. As always, vendors and local gaming stores alike had their hands full while organizing and running these events. A lot of coverage around last weekend’s prerelease consisted of favorite draft picks, and set-constructed evaluations. I’ll spare you the common banter that’s excessively splashed about in the wake of a new set release and get down to the point I care about most: makin’ that cash money via proper trade habit; particularly, arranging profitable buylists as an event organizer.

Preparing for a prerelease, from the perspective of an event organizer, can be stressful; perhaps even overwhelming at times. There are many variables that need to be calculated and allocated properly for an event to run smoothly: availability of products, seating limitations, competent judges, timing between flights, adequate air circulation, etc. So, those are the basic components of running a successful event – but what about a profitable one?

Besides the obvious profits drawn from sales of food, drink, accessories, and entry fees, what are good ways for event organizers to profit during prerelease events? The answer is painfully apparent for those of you who haven’t guessed already: create a buylist for the new set. Consider every large TCG superstore – like CFB, SCG, T&T, ABU – do they not buy new set cards at their prerelease events? Yes, yes they do! However, some of these vendors do not post buylists online prior to set release; I assume this is done to avoid clutter of their postal operations and to allow their employees maximum focus while gearing up for the release.

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Creating a buylist that won’t net you investment loss seems like a simple task, perhaps. I assure you, there is a considerable amount of complexity when deciding what types of offers one should make when designing a buylist. Understand that pre-order prices are speculative and predominately based on consumer demand/impulse, rather than on market saturation, competitive application and non-fiscal consumer availability (barter/trade). There has been no amount of competitive play with these cards to solidify their price tags. Many of these cards will flat-line in price after 2-3 weeks after set release. For instance, look at Duskmantle Seer from Gatecrash – his preorder price on SCG was $19.99 on Feb 1st, but dropped to $5.99 on March 1st – the card lost 70% value in only a month. Even if you had bought the card for $10.00 (50% of the pre-order price), you would still lose $4.00 (-40% ROI) for every copy that you were unable to sell within 4 weeks.

Duskmantle Seer as of May 1st, 2013.
Duskmantle Seer as of May 1st, 2013.

To avoid losses of 40%, one really needs to do their homework. I have a general system for buying cards, it goes as follows:

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Cash Value Payout Calculation
$5-10 50% $ x 0.50 = Payout
$11-15 55% $ x 0.55 = Payout
$16-20 60% $ x 0.60 = Payout
$21-25 65% $ x 0.65 = Payout
$30+ 70% $ x 0.70 = Payout


My system is solid and brings me great turnaround sales every week. However, these are cards that have been played, battle tested so to speak, and because of this their values are respectably steady. When gearing your buylists for prereleases, always remember that most cards flat-line and lose about 20-30% on average in value. Unless you can resell the stock you acquire within 2 weeks of release, make sure to accurately inventory the cards you purchase and set limits for each. Avoid 99% of commons and uncommons, go for the throat first and worry about the scraps later; chasing rares and mythics is where the money is.

Always take the time to familiarize yourself with new cards by looking at the set spoilers online. Do your best to identify the cards that will see play within multiple formats, or redefine a single format – acquire as many of these cards as possible! As for the remaining cards in the set, aim for a playset or two of each. So, now you know what you’re hunting for; it’s time to arrange the pricing. As I said before, the system of buying that I provided does work well, but not with prerelease singles. My rule of thumb is to offer 50% presale price for any card at prerelease. If I speculate that the card is going to rise, I may offer upwards of 70% for certain cards such as Voice of Resurgence. Some losses are hard to foresee (Duskmantle Seer), but limiting the amount you buy of ‘iffy’ cards can really pay off in the long run. I get all of my pricing information from MTGprice.com – as it averages the market cost across multiple vendors to provide the most accurate price. Below is a copy of my buylist for Dragon’s Maze. Feel free to print it out as a cheat sheet/quick reference when buying cards at your LGS, or from friends!

Zack’s Dragon’s Maze Buylist
Aetherling  $   3.00
Advent of the Wurm  $   3.00
Beck // Call  $   1.50
Blood Baron of Vizkopa  $   5.50
Blood Scrivener  $   4.00
Boros Battleshaper  $   0.50
Breaking // Entering  $   1.50
Catch // Release  $   0.50
Council of the Absolute  $   3.50
Deadbridge Chant  $   1.50
Dragonshift  $   0.50
Emmara Tandris  $   0.50
Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch  $   1.50
Flesh // Blood  $   1.00
Gaze of Granite  $   1.50
Lavinia of the Tenth  $   1.50
Legion’s Initiative  $   5.50
Master of Cruelties  $   3.50
Maze’s End  $   0.75
Melek, Izzet Paragon  $   0.75
Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker  $   0.50
Notion Thief  $   2.50
Obzedat’s Aid  $   1.50
Plasm Capture  $   2.50
Pontiff of Blight  $   0.50
Possibility Storm  $   0.50
Progenitor Mimic  $   2.50
Putrefy  $   0.50
Pyrewild Shaman  $   1.00
Ready // Willing  $   0.50
Reap Intellect  $   1.50
Render Silent  $   1.50
Renegade Krasis  $   0.50
Renounce the Guilds  $   0.75
Ral Zarek  $ 15.00
Ruric Thar  $   2.00
Savageborn Hydra  $   3.00
Scion of Vitu-Ghazi  $   0.50
Sin Collector  $   0.25
Sire of Insanity  $   2.00
Skylasher  $   1.50
Tajic, Blade of the Legion  $   1.50
Trait Doctoring  $   0.50
Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts  $   1.00
Varolz, the Scar-Striped  $   3.00
Voice of Resurgence  $ 14.00
Vorel of the Hull Clade  $   1.00
Warleader’s Helix  $   0.50
Zhur-Taa Ancient  $   0.50

I hope this list helps you throughout the week, and especially on Friday when Dragon’s Maze releases.

Weekly Finance Tip:
[Beck/Call is one of DM’s biggest sleepers. I hope you held onto your Modern elves as I advised last month!]

Until next time,

Zack R. Alvarado
zackalvarado@gmail.com
Twitter: Rh1zzualo

Common Cents with Aaron Dettmann

All the cards from Dragon’s Maze have finally been spoiled. The new cards from Dragon’s Maze have enabled several two-card-combos that have significant potential in both the Standard and Modern formats. These cards may not fit into ready-made decks, but they are just waiting for a prospective deckbuilder to find the right fit for them to rise in value.

Beginning with Standard, we now have the Whispering Madness plus Notion Thief combo. When these two cards are played together, they add up to your opponent discarding their hand while you draw an abundance of cards. I think you can usually manage to win after achieving that. Right now Whispering Madness is at the low price of $0.68, so the entry cost to get in on this card is very low.

Whispering Madness as of April 23, 2013.
Whispering Madness as of April 23, 2013.

While it is debatable how tournament worthy this combo is, casual appeal alone should drive this card up to a few dollars at least. Other options besides Whispering Madness that also combine with Notion Thief are Reforge the Soul, if you want to dip into red, and Otherworld Atlas for double the card draw with no downside. These support cards that combo with Notion Thief are all under a dollar right now, so there is very little risk in speculating in these cards. Even if the price doesn’t go up, they should trade very well because of this combo, so you can just flip them into something else you want. If you want to use this combo in Modern, any symmetrical draw effect such as Howling Mine works well.

The next combo is best utilized in Modern, where we can take advantage of Intruder Alarm plus Beck and Call. When Beck was first spoiled, the price of Cloudstone Curio immediately shot up to $10.00. Intruder Alarm has the potential to follow that same rise, as it is not immediately apparent which combo piece the Modern Elves deck wants to use in conjunction with Beck. Intruder Alarm works better at creating massive amounts of mana, while Cloudstone Curio is better at drawing extra cards after Beck has been played. Whichever card (or maybe it will be both) ends up getting played in the Elves deck, I expect it will maintain a high value, as Elves was among the most powerful decks in Modern before Glimpse of Nature became banned.

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The last combo I’ll write about for today is Death’s Shadow plus Varolz, the Scar-Striped, to be used in Modern. With Varolz in play, any Death’s Shadows that are in the graveyard can be scavenged back to grant a permanent +13/+13 to a creature.

Death's Shadow as of April 23, 2013.
Death’s Shadow as of April 23, 2013.

One good aspect of Death’s Shadow is that you have control over whether you want to play it immediately to see it die for its scavenge counters, or to hold onto it to use as a big creature later on, depending on your situation. I could easily see these cards fitting into a Vengevine deck, along with all the other usual suspects.

One last note for now: Staff of Domination was just unbanned in EDH, so don’t forget to adjust your price accordingly when trading! The foil price, especially, has gone up.

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