Being a Casual Financier

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I’ve spoken before about my perspective on Magic finance, and it boils down to this: I do not want to spend cash on cards. I want to have a trade binder full of things people want to get from me so that when I see a card I want or need, then I can get it from them. sol ring

We use stock market terms all the times in Magic finance. One that I like is use of “frozen” and “liquid” assets. My EDH decks are frozen assets: I am not getting rid of them, short of a dire occurrence. I have got multiple $100+ cards in those decks, and they would make fantastic trade bait. But what could I want more than those?

My trade binder is liquid assets. Everything in there is fungible, though I admit that it is a little bare at the moment. I moved a lot of product for shocklands and I’m just starting to trade those away now that they are at $10-$15, since I do not think they will make it much higher. But when the cupboard is bare, what is a casual trader to do?

Since I despise buying cards and I refuse to buy packs just to crack them, I am limited to these two paths:

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  • Limited events. I love drafting and I enjoy Sealed tournaments as well. Packs are still expensive but there are prizes and skill involved. I may not be going infinite on Magic Online, but I’m a pretty good drafter, mainly because I’ve been doing it for years and years. Drafting is also a way for me to increase my take-home of cards without spending additional money on more packs. I’m not above picking up a $3 card with my 6th pick.
  • Strategic trading. I’m all for planning ahead; I have posted the list of cards I’ve targeted for guaranteed growth down the road. I am not skilled at predicting what will be good in Standard in three months, but I can feel pretty good about forecasting long-term prices on more casual-oriented cards. I made a ton on Darksteel Plate and Asceticism; I got them both for $1 or less in trade all over the place, and within a couple of years, I traded them away for $5.

I’m never going to be a high-volume speculator. I’m married with an infant daughter, and I’m a high school teacher. I simply don’t have the time or spare funds for speculating on cards.

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dark plate

 

Perhaps you’re in the same boat, or perhaps you have the time, energy, and money for
buying and selling lots of cards. Either way, I’m here to help you capitalize on the casual market. There is far lower volatility, but it does require more patience. I’ve traded for 25 Thespian’s Stage since Gatecrash came out, and I’m still snapping them up when I find them in binders. It seems like easy money that these will be $5 lands before long, entirely because they are the best utility land you can be playing in Commander.

My tip for this week is to stay patient on Theros cards. Lots of them are still coming down in price as more and more get opened. If you have to have it right away for a deck, so be it, but remember that feeling of “I MUST HAVE THIS” when it’s worth 50% of the current sticker price in a couple of weeks.

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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Hindsight is 20/20: Pro Tour Theros Review

With Pro Tour Theros only a few days past, it is time to digest the results. We need to figure out what has changed, what to do about it, and what the future may hold.

The breakout of the tournament was clearly Mono-blue (MU) devotion. Before we delve into that though, let’s take a look at what I liked last week:

Advent of the Wurm: While Advent of the Wurm was certainly not a breakout, I would not completely say it is a “miss” either. Of the decks that scored more than 18 points in the Standard portion, There were 14 that were running Advent. Dublin appeared to be a bad town for GW though, so while Advent showed up, it did not gain much value this weekend. At least Chas Andres admitted to buying 20+ copies himself this Monday, so at least I know I’m in good company regarding my expectations of the card’s performance.

Boon Satyr: There were 27 decks in the Top Decks portion that ran some number of this card, so we can say it was more successful than Advent. The price has not moved much to reflect this though. Perhaps in the next few weeks. Prime Speaker Zegana

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Prime Speaker Zegana: Not a single copy in a single deck that scored 18 points or more.

Underworld Cerberus: Same as Zegana. Still like the card. Moving on…

Loxodon Smiter: 19 decks running him, so not too bad. Still, no real price movement.

Bow of Nylea: Three copies in the top decks. At least I didn’t oversell it.

Heliod, God of the Sun: Nnnnnnnnnope.

Ruric Thar & Sire of Insanity: While only one copy of Sire was floating around, Ruric had a decent amount of SB slots, but nowhere near enough to move his price.

Reid Duke: 34th place. I’d consider that an exemplary performance. Good job Reid!

All in all, I’d say my outlooks were pretty mediocre. This was mostly a miserable event for Selesnya in general. There were a fair bit of GW decks that made 18 points or better, but none that cracked the top eight. From what I have heard, most of them had a bad matchup against the MU decks, which if true would explain the mostly lackluster showing.

I really liked Advent of the Wurm, Boon Satyr, and Loxodon Smiter, which all showed up, but Zegana and Cerberus were nowhere to be found. I did not predict any MU deck pieces or Nykthos, although I’m not beating myself up for missing the blue cards. In my defense, I picked up roughly 20 Nightveil Specters at $.66 awhile back when we learned about devotion, so at least I made a reasonable call on that. Of course, I did not bother to tell any of you about that last week, so it was hardly of help unless you follow me on Twitter and read my tweet when I bought them.

So what were in fact the big gainers of the weekend?

Master of Waves: Master saw the largest jump, going from ~$4 a week or two ago to right around $20 as of Monday the 14th. Not only did MU put three copies into the top 8, which is good news for the cards to begin with, it also managed to win both first and second place. Those types of results will skyrocket a card’s value.

Master of Waves

Where do we go from here with Master? Well, let’s talk about the deck itself first. I suspect the MU deck may follow the path of the spirit deck Finkel played at PT Honolulu in early 2012.  While the deck performed well, putting 2 ½ copies into the top 8, that particular build mostly disappeared following the PT.

Highly synergistic decks such as Spirits or MU can be great in a single-event metagame, but tend to not be sufficiently resilient when the format is ready for them. Contrast Finkel’s spirit deck from that event with Kibler’s winning GR Kessig Wolf Run list, which was a pile of very powerful cards. Kessig Wolf Run decks continued to be a major contender in the Standard metagame for months afterwards. The takeaway here is that I don’t believe MU is capable of thriving through weeks of sustained, dedicated hate.

Having said that, Master of Waves is clearly a very powerful card. It is entirely possible we will see a significant transformation of the deck, which moves towards a more “good cards are good” build, a la typical Jund lists. If that is the case it is highly unlikely he will be capable of maintaining a $20 price tag, but $9-$13 seems like a reasonable place for him to settle. My advice is to sell Master of Waves at this time, and if he reaches ~$12, feel free to pick up a personal playset.

An important thing to remember here is that Master has proven he is the real deal. If MU disappears and Master once more drops below $6, it will be time to start snatching them in trades. We will likely never be too far from seeing him come crashing over the levee on any given weekend.

Thassa, God of the Sea: Thassa was another major winner on the weekend, jumping from ~$11 to a whopping $25 at one point. I was a big fan of her in my Theros review, calling her the best God in the set. I’m pleased to see that she is experiencing big-time success, although I wish she had gotten a little lower so I could have scooped up some copies first.

Unlike Master, I think her prevalence elsewhere in the metagame will end up being more pronounced. While Master has very specific needs (a bunch of U symbols), Thassa just wants you to be capable of producing blue mana by turn three. We already can tell she is solid in control lists, and this weekend has shown she’s viable in more aggressive builds as well.

The result of all of this is that while Thassa’s price is inflated, I doubt she will get as low as $11 anytime in the foreseeable future. I would guess that $15 is her floor for the medium term, with $20 possible if other mythics in the set keep dropping while she continues to see play. Right now her demand will be very high, as supply is still a bit constrained and she just spiked a PT. It is not likely many will be trading theirs away at FNM, so you should be able to capitalize on being one of the only guys in the room with any available. Unless you really need a personal set, ship now and reacquire when she is closer to $15. Nightveil Specter

Nightveil Specter: With what I’m pretty confident is the largest percentage increase, from about $.66 to a whopping $5, Nightveil Specter is easily the largest beneficiary of the weekend. Not much to say here; ship all of your copies now. Even with sustained play, I doubt these are more than $2 in a few weeks.

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx: Prior to this PT, I think a lot of people were in the same boat as I was on this card. I could tell the card obviously had potential, but I was unsure of whether it was going to be a legitimate role-player or if it would turn into another Crypt of Agadeem. The reason I believe others shared this view was that the price was hovering right around $5, which says to me “we do not think this is bulk/commander yet, but we are unsure if it is good enough to charge $10+.” Well, this weekend settled that.

Nykthos saw reasonable representation in the top 8 with 10 copies, but definitely proved its worth in Makihito’s deck when he was doing things like vomiting an unreal amount of permanents onto the board by turn four. By now we can see that it is obviously capable of doing some very busted things.

Nykthos spiked to $15 and is currently somewhere around the $13 mark. Before you run around buying in at $10 each, remember that Deathrite Shaman has seen significant, sustained, ban-discussion-inducing Modern and Legacy play yet is still only about $13-15. There’s a real ceiling to values of in-print rares. I would sell any additional copies, and consider $5 to be the floor for Nykthos.

Garruk, Caller of Beasts: Garruk only put four copies into the top 8, but Makihito’s GR deck took fourth, which is the highest place for a non-MU list. Garruk was easily the most remarkable card in the deck through the lens of MTG finance. Garruk has been rather quiet since M14, appearing only very occasionally, but is set to capitalize on the power of Nykthos. Garruk may be expensive at six mana, but Nykthos lets you get there quickly by unloading your hand and then he just completely refills for you.

There are still copies available under $15, and I like Garruk that cheap. He never managed to dip below $12, so $15 is not much above what appears to be his floor. I don’t see him reaching Domri levels of play, but $17-22 seems plausible. Garruk was a question mark beforehand, but now that Nykthos is real, Garruk is too. I’d start trading for him this week.

In addition to these cards, there were a lot of others that saw some amount of price movement based on the weekend or cemented themselves as legitimate parts of the metagame. Finally, congratulations to Judge’s Familiar for taking down back-to-back Pro Tour wins as a maindeck four-of.

1117_judgesfamiliar

Standard No More – Innistrad Block Cards That Add Future Value to Your Binder, Part 2 of 2

By: Jared Yost

Last week, I walked through departing Standard staples from Innistrad. This week, we’ll finish up by going through Dark Ascension and Avacyn Restored. Let’s dive in!

Dark Ascension

Drogskol Reaver

Drogskol Reaver

FORMAT – Commander, Casual

Drogskol Reaver was so close to being playable in Standard. A very powerful card, it just cost too much mana in a fast format with Falkenrath Aristocrats, Hellriders, and insectile abberations everywhere.

The good thing about Drogskol Reaver, and other mythic rares from Dark Ascension, is that DKA was an unpopular middle set that was not opened much. All mythic rares from this set should be looked at with a keen eye for future potential gains due to being harder to find than their first-set counterparts in the future.

Drogskol Reaver has a lot of abilities, which makes it appealing to Casual players. Expect slow but steady gains over time as it becomes harder to find.

 

Havengul Lich

Havengul Lich

Format – Modern, Commander

Havengul Lich, similar to Past in Flames, is a combo enabler that is just waiting for the correct card to come along and break it in half.

The Lich appeared in Standard way back when Perilous Myr was a thing. Nowadays he can combo with Necrotic Ooze in Modern, but at the moment  the combo is way too inconsistent and slow compared to Living End, Goryo’s Vengeance, or Scapeshift decks.

If anything, this card will maintain casual appeal because his effect is unique. If he pops up in Modern, it will be time to dump them for better Eternal cards.

 

Huntmaster of the FellsRavager of the Fells

Huntmaster of the Fells

FORMAT – Modern

Huntmaster of the Fells was another Standard powerhouse that now sees sub-$7 prices. At one point he commanded a $30+ price tag. Lately, he has shown the potential to shine again in Modern. He has even popped up in a few Legacy decks here and there, but it will not be Legacy that drives the price of the card.

Don’t expect to see his Standard heydey price again, but a price increase down the road is plausible if he continues to show up in Modern.

 

Mikaeus, the Unhallowed

Mikaeus, the Unhallowed

FORMAT – Modern (a stretch), Commander

Mikaeus can be a good commander in addition to being an instant win combo with Triskelion. Though this alone will not increase his price, being a legendary mythic from an unpopular set can mean that if Mikaeus somehow makes his way into Modern (I know, definitely a stretch, but hey, you never know) his price could really jump.

If not Modern, it will certainly hold casual appeal which will keep the price moving upwards as time goes on. Pick up foils of this one if you can.

 

Moonveil Dragon

Moonveil Dragon

FORMAT – Commander, Casual

See my comments on Balefire Dragon last week. Much of what I said for that card stands true for its Dark Ascension cousin. The only difference is that Moonveil Dragon is technically harder to find than Balefire Dragon, so expect this Dragon to be worth slightly more in the future.

 

Sorin, Lord of Innistrad

Sorin, Lord of Innistrad

FORMAT – Modern, Commander, Casual

Modern has had a BW tokens archetype that has been on the fringe of the format for the last several seasons. Sorin could see a home in that deck, but if Bitterblossom ever gets unbanned you can pretty much forget about Sorin ever earning a spot. Thankfully, I don’t think Wizards plans on unbanning Bitterblossom because they saw the damage the card wreaked upon Standard when Morningtide was legal.

Even if no real Modern support materializes, Sorin is a great casual target that will hold value if only because he is a Planeswalker, and the first BW Planeswalker to exist. BW seems to be another favorite casual color combination, so expect Sorin to hold his price and to increase slowly over the years, especially foils.

 

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

FORMAT – Modern, Legacy, Commander

Thalia seems really underpriced to me right now. Even though she is rotating, in Legacy she is a complete powerhouse, with Death and Taxes really taking advantage of her efficient mana cost paired with a sphere effect that impacts the game in a significant way.

She was a solid player in Standard, but the non-creature sphere effect is better suited to Eternal formats. Thalia is now a key roleplayer in formats where spells are at their best. I expect to see a lot of her in for years to come (more so Legacy than Modern).

If you still have Thalias that have been sitting around for a while not doing anything, I would not be quick to get rid of them. Thalia is definitely in my top five cards to hold onto from the INN block moving forward.

 

Vault of the Archangel

Vault of the Archangel

FORMAT – Commander

Lands with special abilities are generally looked upon favorably by the casual community. They can be used across a variety of decks to provide an extra benefit to a strategy or game plan.

Vault saw a bit of Standard play, but pretty much everyone knew that its effect was too much mana for too little reward in a format with Thragtusk, Restoration Angel, and Geist of Saint Traft.

Moving forward, I expect utility lands from the INN block to creep up in price over the years as players realize they are great additions in Commander decks. Keep foils of these especially, as they will certainly command a premium in the future.

 

Diregraf Captain

Diregraf Captain

FORMAT – Commander, Casual

Zombies are a sweet casual tribe and cards that provide a Lord effect at an efficient mana cost are worth considering for future gains, even if they are uncommon.

Diregraf Captain never saw a lick of Standard play, but he is still hovering around $0.50 even after rotation – pretty great for an uncommon.

As these become harder to find, they will eventually rise in price to meet the casual demand.

 

Lingering Souls

Lingering Souls

FORMAT – Modern, Legacy, Casual

Lingering Souls was a defining card of INN Standard. Thundermaw Hellkite maintained a price tag in the ballpark of $40 due in part to how strong he was against Souls. It is solid card that is very good at what it does – generating efficient advantage with a lot of small flyers for a great rate.

Played in Modern tokens and Jund, and even more so in Legacy Esper decks, Lingering Souls will definitely be a part of multiple formats going forward. I expect Lingering Souls to increase in price over time and maybe even hit the price point of cards like Kitchen Finks, Lightning Helix, and Spell Snare.

 

AVACYN RESTORED

Avacyn, Angel of Hope

Avacyn, Angel of Hope

FORMAT – Commander, Casual

Avacyn never saw a lick of Standard play, and to this day still commands a $16 price tag. The demand of this card is completely driven by casual players, so as the years go on this card will only keep going up in price.

While Avacyn has nowhere to go but up, no one would blame you for cashing out now or trading into better Eternal staples like Snapcaster Mage or Liliana of the Veil.

 

Craterhoof Behemoth

Craterhoof Behemoth

FORMAT – Modern, Legacy, Commander, Casual

Craterhoof Behemoth has such an impact on the board that if it is not answered immediately it is probably game over.

That is why it sometimes shows up in Modern and Legacy Elf builds – they have the resources to generate enough mana and bodies that plopping this into play is often enough to kill on the spot. Additionally, Craterhoof will always have Commander appeal because it is capable of putting out so much damage so quickly.

I expect Craterhoof to retain a pretty good price in the future moving forward due to these factors.

 

Entreat the Angels

Entreat the Angels

FORMAT – Modern, Legacy, Commander

Entreat the Angels is the premier finisher in the Legacy miracles deck, putting in good work alongside of Terminus and Sensei’s Divining Top, which manipulates the top of the deck to cast powerful miracle spells for cheap as needed.

Modern may not see too much Entreat the Angels due to Sensei’s Divining Top being banned, but it will have appeal in Legacy for a long time. Even without Legacy, Entreat is a Commander powerhouse. The price will grow to reflect that over time.

 

Gisela, Blade of Goldnight

Gisela, Blade of Goldnight

FORMAT – Commander, Casual

See Avacyn, Angel of Hope for a detailed explanation.

Gisela has a very unique effect amongst R/W Angels and I expect it to remain a casual all-star for years to come. Hold for the long term. Players love to jam cards like this into their Angels or Kaalia Commander decks.

 

Griselbrand

Griselbrand

FORMAT – Modern, Legacy

Griselbrand is all over the tournament scene, popping up in both Modern and Legacy in top tier decks that abuse his Yawgmoth’s Bargain draw ability. Clearly too powerful for Commander; like Emrakul we unfortunately cannot count on that format to add demand.

Expect him to hover around $12 for a while and then slowly creep up to $30 as long as he remains a great card in Eternal formats.

 

Primal Surge

Primal Surge

FORMAT – Commander, Casual

Primal Surge is the Timmiest sorcery that I’ve ever seen. I expect future players down the road to recognize this as well, pick them up, and build Commander decks based around it.

A mythic rare from an a popular Casual set with an ability this powerful cannot stay at such a low price forever. I expect this card to always trade decently.

 

Sigarda, Host of Herons

Sigarda, Host of Herons

FORMAT – Modern, Legacy, Commander, Casual

Sigarda has bottomed out at $4. She cannot go any lower – a mythic rare angel from a third set that has an incredible combination of abilities at an efficient mana cost.

Even though it was outshined in Standard by the combination of Thraggy and Resto Angel, I expect this card to pop up in Modern, and even possibly Legacy tables from time to time as the metagame shifts.

When she isn’t appearing in tournament lists, she will remain a fan favorite for years to come along with her sisters Avacyn and Gisela.

 

Alchemist's Refuge

Alchemist’s Refuge

FORMAT – Commander, Casual

See Vault of the Archangel.

Alchemist’s Refuge is another unique land that has a lot of utility for Commander. I expect it to slowly rise over time as people include them in nearly every G/U/x Commander deck. Alchemist’s Refuge provides the deck with additional power in a land slot, similar to High Market or Miren.

 

Cathars' Crusade

Cathars’ Crusade

FORMAT – Commander

Strictly a Commander card, I can see this being compared to Doubling Season and Parallel Lives. It will never command the price that Doubling Season does and is not the same as Parallel Lives, but does provide incremental advantage over the course of the game like the two other enchantments.

In the future, I expect this card’s price to go up based on the popularity of the Ghave infinite-counter combo in Commander. It also helps make Avenger of Zendikar even nuttier, not that it needed the help.

 

Cavern of Souls

Cavern of Souls

FORMAT – Modern, Legacy, Commander, Casual (ALL OF THEM)

Cavern of Souls is up there with Snapcaster, Liliana, Geist, and Thalia. An all-star of a card that rocks in any format it is legal in.

This was not only a Standard powerhouse, but made waves in Modern and Legacy in tribal based strategies and I expect that trend to continue for years to come. Cavern is like Thalia; it is currently the lowest price that it will ever be, so if you still have these hold onto them.

Casuals also love this card because it stops Counterspells, one of the most-hated mechanics at the kitchen table.

 

Champion of Lambholt

Champion of Lambholt

FORMAT – Commander, Casual

A unique effect on a green creature that makes your guys unblockable? Sign me up. This can quickly become a game ending card in Commander, so I expect it to retain some value just based on that.

Champion of Lambholt allows players to alpha strike fairly easily in Commander. She’ll be cast pretty often out of 100-card decks, and eventually she will see a price that matches her play.

 

Conjurer's Closet

Conjurer’s Closet

FORMAT – Commander, Casual

This artifact allows you to eek out incremental advantage from all the great ETB effects printed over the recent years. While not being very thrilling in 60-card constructed formats, it can be really good in Commander with all of the ETB triggers on creatures these days.

This is not a card that I predict will be a stellar gainer, but it can be pasted into almost any decklist and provide an advantage. Foils of this will be worth a fair bit over time.

 

Deadeye Navigator

Deadeye Navigator

FORMAT – Commander

Deadeye Navigator is basically the best blue creature in Commander. Even though his foil version was printed in the Avacyn intro decks, over time I expect both foils and nonfoils to increase in price as long as he is not banned in Commander.

This card is an amazing Commander all star and due to that demand it will keep the card above bulk status for years to come. Even though currently he hasn’t broken $1, I think that as he becomes harder to find the price will start going up.

 

Exquisite Blood

Exquisite Blood

FORMAT – Casual

This card will derive its price from Casual and nothing more. It combos with Sanguine Bond, which is cool, but it is a wonky trick that requires a lot of investment to get going. Despite that, Casual players will still try to make it happen. Sanguine Bond at one point was $7, so this enchantment could easily see that price too. Only time will tell, but I know for sure that they will never be bulk.

 

Restoration Angel

Restoration Angel

FORMAT – Modern, Commander

Though not in Standard anymore, Restoration Angel is still played in Modern in Pod lists, and occasionally UW variants.

In addition to Modern demand, she will maintain casual appeal over time and will be included in a lot of Commander decks, so I think this will keep her price above bulk. My advice on this card at this point is to hold onto them and expect slow future growth based on Modern.

 

Terminus

Terminus

FORMAT – Modern, Legacy, Commander

See Entreat the Angels. These two cards pretty much go hand in hand. If you are casting one, you’re probably casting the other.

In addition to seeing play at the tournament tables, Terminus will see a ton of play across casual and Commander as well, so this will help keep the price well above bulk. Without a reprint I expect Terminus to slowly tick up over time as it is comparable to Hallowed Burial. The current price is pretty low, but reaching $7 again is completely within reason as they become tougher to find.

 

Blood Artist

Blood Artist

FORMAT – Casual

Blood Artist is similar to Diregraf Captain. Casuals love this uncommon because it has a unique ability that is priced at an efficient mana cost. Casuals will want 4x of them for decks that they will build and this will keep Blood Artist’s price fairly high for an uncommon over the years.

They will always trade well, so keep any extras that you have so that at some point in the future you can trade them into other cards that you need.

 

CONCLUSION

Top five cards you should hold onto for future gains:

1. Snapcaster Mage
2. Liliana of the Veil
3. Cavern of Souls
4. Geist of Saint Traft
5. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

I will also leave you with five sleepers I believe will see a significant increase:

1. Griselbrand
2. Deadeye Navigator
3. Sigarda, Host of Herons
4. Terminus
5. Past in Flames

If I missed any cards in this analysis, feel free to leave a comment and let know.

 

Don’t say “Free Money” – Caveats for Arbitrage

 1-In which skepticism is admired

What I think all of us here at MTGPrice.com learned is that you should never emphasize that an aspect of MtG Finance is easy, because people lose their minds. “If it were that easy, everyone would do it!” was the overall thrust of the responses I got to my first article wherein I talked about the principles of the technique and gave a few examples. People were skeptical, which is fine- everyone should be skeptical, especially when something sounds too good to be true. A few of you asked me some follow-up questions to get a better feel for what I was talking about, and that’s cool. A few of you pointed out a few things that make an arbitrage opportunity seem better than it is, and I promised to write a follow-up article about caveats, this article, and that’s also fine. A few of you called me a liar, and even that’s fine. I got a good laugh out of it, especially considering this isn’t exactly a revolutionary technique I’m claiming to have invented.

Another thing that I think we all learned is that years of the internet have made people foam at the mouth when they see the word “free”. “Nothing’s free! WARGARBL!” was the general thrust of the responses the launch of the “Free Money” arbitrage tool got. I recognized that it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Many people on the internet did not. They saw a side ad that said “A schoolteacher figured out this easy trick to get free money from card websites. Card sites hate us! Click this link to get your free money or at least make your penis 3 inches longer XxVIAGRAxX!!!!!111eleven” Again, it’s cool that you’re skeptical. Is the problem here that people think I made the concept up? Did I make it sound like it’s too easy? I’d apologize for that, but, well, it kind of is really easy. It’s just harder than you might think.

2-In which caveats are discussed

 The Aribtrage Tool on this site is just that; a “tool.” A Screwdriver is also a tool. Your fingers are poorly-suited for screwing pieces of wood together so the tool helps leverage the power of the wedge and the inclined plane and all sorts of wonderful simple machines to help you in your task. You don’t just hold the Screwdriver in your hand and say “It’s assemblin’ time!” and wait for a fully-formed Ikea coffee table to appear in your rumpus room. You’re going to have to apply some torque to some metal. The Screwdriver isn’t garbage because of this limitation- what it did was save you lots of time. Similarly, the Arbitrage tool is saving you time by not making you check lists of every card for sale everywhere and check them against every buylist. You are, however, going to have to verify that there is indeed a genuine arbitrage opportunity there, but the time you saved will be invaluable, especially to those of you with a half-assembled coffee table in your living room.

The first caveat, therefore, is to verify that there was no electronic mistake. Verify that there are copies for sale at the target price. Verify that the buylist in question is buying copies at the target price. This will take a non-zero amount of time. This is not an issue because it is on the order of seconds and minutes, not weeks and months. A lot of “false positives” only take a cursory glance to rule out. Is the card sold out and that’s why the price is wrong? Did someone miss a decimal point? Either someone missed a decimal point today, or Brassclaw Orcs is a big mover now that someone has them for sale for $20.00, making the average price $17 and change and making me laugh. Remember, you’re not going to be able to retire because you found an arbitrage opportunity where a dealer is paying $400.00 for a card you can buy for a nickel. You’re going to make a percentage on each copy, but enough of a percentage that it’s worth doing. Huge discrepancies are the first to check because those are most likely to be mistakes that don’t lead to an arbitrage opportunity and it’s best to rule them out first. Also, big discrepancies pay the best, so why not make sure you have those on lock right off the bat?

Another important caveat is to have a sense of which buylists are inclined to not honor the price if it takes you some time to get this deal together. If a site is overpaying on Hammer of Purphoros today and you can buy them cheaper on eBay, I’d leave it alone. They want them NOW. Generally, if you commit to sell them at that price and complete the buylist “checkout” procedure, they’ll honor the price as long as you get the cards to them in a timely manner. This is good news if you’re sitting on X copies of Hammer of Purphoros and they want X- it’s less ideal if you can buy them and have to wait for them to show up. Hammer’s a new card, its price is volatile and the waiting for the copies to come in is a great way to get burned. A few rules of thumb should help you.

  • Older is generally better. The buy prices are tied to restocking due to the card being sold out rather than there being a run on the card and the price will be ignored by many and honored for longer
  • Rare is generally better. Again with the Hammer of Purphoros example. How many different people have enough loose copies to fill that order in a day or two? Now imagine a store wants to buy an Italian Mana Drain or a JSS foil Volcanic Hammer. Not too many people are sitting on those so you have a chance to find a cheap copy online and ship it – your window is a little bigger.
  • Don’t forget to check eBay if you see a good candidate card! Try a search with a few misspellings- hard-to-find auctions receive fewer or no bids and are a great opportunity to buy for cheap.

Finally, make sure you’re not going to end up holding the bag. If this price discrepancy is most likely caused by acute, short-term demand that is not going to be sustained, you likely won’t have time to flip your copies unless you’re sitting on them already or find them at an LGS. The “Older is better” point is crucial because older cards are less likely to spike due to short-term demand and you’ll find people eager to sell out. This gives you time to find cheap copies online and ship them out- this isn’t something you can do when a dealer is paying $3.50 on Burning Earth due to an emergency and you can buy copies cheaper than that on Cardshark. That’s a scenario where you likely end up with a lot of copies of Burning Earth to try and break even with because someone else shipped them faster. Don’t forget, dealers don’t want infinite copies of everything- they will almost always state how many copies they want, and when they have that many, the price goes way down.

Once you do this a few times, you’ll get a decent feel for which opportunities are good ones and which are bad. You will also get a feel for which dealers are more likely to be slow to update their list and therefore less likely to drop the buy price while you’re still waiting for the copies to show up. Online discussion forums are filled with feedback from people who ship to buylists and you’ll quickly get a feel for which sites you want to be shipping to. Quiet Speculation and MTGSalvation both have good discussion forums and Quiet Speculation in particular has an entire section devoted to reviews of dealers you should either sell to or avoid. What I can say is that there are a few sites who are slow to update, almost always honor their buy prices and frequently pay the best (overpay, since we’re talking about arbitrage, here). You’ll ferret those out right away.

Armed with these instructions, you’re now ready to go try and scoop some “free” money. It’s not really free- you have to buy cards up front, hope the buy price is the same when you get the cards, do some leg work and a lot of research. It’s also easy, not that time consuming and a good way to spend your time at the computer or killing time on your phone. Account for the breakage associated with shipping costs by placing decent-sized orders (sites that undersell for one card will have other cheap stuff to mitigate the shipping costs, sites that overpay tend to pay well on other stuff, too), don’t wait too long to get stuff in or ship it out, watch out for stores that don’t pay in a timely manner or honor their buylist prices, and learn how to use the tools we’ve provided. I know you’ll have some fun, and if you have any questions about the process, let me know. I’m here to help.

3- In Which Tips Are Given

  • Master of Waves is really making waves at the PT. Regardless of whether the card is actually good, you’ll want to watch what it does this weekend. If there is hype, you’ll want to sell into it, and scooping any copies under $7 right now if you can find them is a good way to be prepared. The consensus is that there is low downside to buying in under $7.
  • You’ll want to watch all of the PT Dublin coverage. A lot of aggro cards spiked as a result of the two SCG Opens of the new season of legality. Pro players in Dublin are more likely to make control cards spike, so stay glued to coverage. Ashiok could spike, Elspeth could move, Detention Sphere could leap up. Also, all of those cards could really take a big hit if they don’t perform. We saw the aggro spikes already- watch Dublin coverage for everything else.
  • Speaking of Dublin coverage, any aggro-type cards that are moving upward already will really benefit from success at the PT. Did you buy Advent of the Wurm? This could be the first chance it has to see real upward movement, and a huge spike could make it a good weekend to sell. Monday morning everyone will be trying to build PT decks. Be ahead of them.
  • What was the deal with Beetleback Chief this week? Generally an unexplained spike like that is something to ignore unless you can figure out why the card spiked. In this case it seemed like there was nothing to back it up and the card is back down already. Sell into the insane hype in cases like this. People who bought Chief at $2 or $3 thinking they were smart are going to lose money, here. People who had copies lying around and sold to those people are laughing all the way to the bank. Remember- sell into hype, don’t buy into it. If you were able to buy chief at $0.50 you may be ok because price memory should see the new price stabilize a bit higher.

All this talk of Beetleback Chief leads nicely into a discussion about the “Greater Fool Theorum” which would be a great discussion for another day.

Were you hoping I’d cover something I omitted? Hit me up on Twitter @JasonEAlt or message altjason17@gmail.com and I’ll be all over it.

MAGIC: THE GATHERING BLOG, ARTICLES, AND COMMUNITY

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