Fear and Finance

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By: Cliff Daigle

I have extolled my viewpoint as a casual financier before, but to summarize, I don’t like to buy cards. I like to trade for my EDH cards, and I have had a string of a few years where I’ve slowly built up the value of my collection this way. I don’t speculate on cards in the sense that I will go buy a stack of them, but I will trade for them when the price is right. I like to plan ahead, trading for things when they are cheap and trading them away when they aren’t.

I’ve rung the bell for Thespian’s Stage and Prophet of Kruphix over and over. Both of those are buylisting for a lot more right now than they were early on. I should know–as part of selling out some Commander decks, I got $2 for Prophet and $1 for Stage.

Over the past few months, I’ve traded for 50 Prophets and 40 Stages. Non-foils, at least. I’ve got a couple of each in foil but those are in decks and not part of my plan. I’m expecting those cards to grow in the next year, dip a little, and begin a long-term increase in value because they are amazing in casual formats.

But if these are casual cards, what happens if they get the EDH ban?

What about if I had a playset of foil Deathrite Shamans, and now they aren’t Modern-legal? It was going to spike so hard eventually! What if I trade for 20 Birthing Pods, and when Journey into Nyx comes out, Wizards bans that card from Modern too?

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Welcome to the fear.

There is always a chance that your plan doesn’t work. This is true in any setting, Magic or not. The unexpected will happen. Your car will break down. You will have an injury. Someone else’s bad day will turn into your bad day.

There is not much you can do to prevent the unexpected, but managing your fear is a necessary part of financial planning. Your can’t-miss spec…will sometimes miss.

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If you’re feeling the cold grip of fear, there are two ways to stay warm:

#1: Diversify

Here at MTGPrice, you’re going to get all sorts of tips and tricks. You don’t have to take all of our advice, it’s up to you. But you should do more than zero in on one card and buy only that card. You want to have a few things lined up, stored away for when their price increases. 

The amount of diversification you do is proportional to the amount of money you’re comfortable spending. There are people with the bankroll to decide on a card, and then spend $50, or $100, or what they want to. My policy was simpler on these two cards: I’d take all that someone wanted to trade.

I do think there’s a chance that Prophet gets banned in Commander within the next year. It’s not overtly overpowered, as it is a creature, and enables creatures, but in effect, you’ve got multiple Time Warp effects. You get to take a turn every time someone else takes a turn. You get to cast creatures and instants, with all of your mana, on each of your opponents’ turns. While that isn’t much of a strategy in and of itself, it doesn’t take much to get out of hand. Perhaps most obnoxious about the card is the time factor, since one player’s extra turns means that much more time that player has to do things, the more time other spend waiting.

Just imagine you have Prophet out, with a Sprout Swarm in your hand. Everyone is going to want you dead, simply because you’re spending more and more time playing with yourself and building an army.

So if Prophet of Kruphix gets the Commander ban, the long-term prospects take a dive. I wouldn’t try to hold the card past Christmas 2014.

Thespian’s Stage is a card I feel is also dripping with long-term potential, but it’s quite unlikely that it gets banned in EDH. This is my way of managing my risk. I don’t have all my money tied up in Prophet, so if something goes wrong with one of these two, I have other options.

#2: Consideration

This is not an action to take, it’s more of mindset to have. When you choose what cards to buy in on, you do so after some amount of thinking about it. 

That reflection should also be present when you’re worried about those choices.

Remind yourself that seemingly every card that is ever played in Modern is $5. And it could go up higher! Tell yourself that Deadeye Navigator, Kiki-Jiki, Palinchron, and a host of other cards aren’t banned yet in Commander either!

This is also when you make ‘just-in-case’ plans. For instance, I’m going to be content to sell most of my Prophets during the next block, minimizing my risk on the rest. Or if it gets banned before I sell, I’ll be able to look at other cards and feel not-quite-as-bad. Even Primeval Titan is still retaining value, despite not making Constructed waves and getting banned in EDH.

I hope you’re able to stock up on cards with less anxiety, and if you need some tips, I’m a believer on these two cards.

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Magic Online and You: An Intro

By: Camden Clark

Many people have little understanding of how important Magic Online is to MTG finance.

They are really missing out. If you fail to take full advantage of Magic Online, you too are missing on some valuable opportunities.

Think about it: Magic Online is where all the pros play. Moreover, it is the de facto deck testing platform for anyone heading into a competitive event. These are people who will pay any sum to have an opportunity to test a deck or just play high-level Magic. This means that there are huge speculation opportunities on Magic Online, as well as having one of the best platforms to determine the progression of cards in paper.

Let’s go over some basics of how the Magic Online economy works.

Event Tickets are the currency of Magic Online. They are used to purchase cards from bots and enter into events. Each one is worth a little less than a dollar, but you can buy them for a dollar from the Wizards store on Magic Online. However, almost everything can and should be purchased outside of the Wizards store by trading with bots or other players.

Bots are what drive Magic Online’s economy. They provide the liquidity for players who want to buy cards. They make their money through occasionally absurd buy/sell margins (especially on eternal cards). They automatically perform buy and sell orders and are basically an automatic cash cow for whoever is running the bot. More on this later.

Most things are cheaper to buy from a bot than buy from Wizard’s store. The most notable example of this is booster packs. Boosters get into the system as rewards from constructed events and draft events, and are used to enter into drafts. Rarely does a current draft set booster pack cost the official four tickets from a bot. Usually, they are at least twenty cents to a dollar cheaper.

Typically, Magic Online card prices are significantly cheaper than their paper counterparts, with a few exceptions (most notably Force of Will).

So how do you get started with utilizing Magic Online?

Magic Online is unforgiving to mistakes. It is quite easy to buy a seemingly perfect speculation opportunity but make some serious mistakes and lose money. That being said, let’s go over some pitfalls first:

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Investing in cards with high buy/sell margins

This is a major pitfall of online investment.

Many eternal stapes have extreme margins between the buy and sell prices on the bots. This is because of their low volume. Bots trade standard staples at an exponentially higher rate, thus holding eternal staples is a liability.

Let’s say you purchase a Legacy staple at fifty tickets (essentially dollars). However, the buyback price on the bots is currently thirty-five tickets. That means the sell price would have to go up at least fifteen tickets to be profitable. Those are huge margins that could leave you with significant deficits. Moreover, these cards don’t move in price very quickly. Your money could be tied in a fifty dollar spec for months. That’s not good value.

This is why, in general, I don’t recommend investing in Legacy yet online, especially with the looming Vintage Masters set.

Buying event tickets from the store

This is a small issue, but can be important if you are moving a large volume of event tickets. If you are inside the United States, last time I checked, you pay a dollar per event ticket with no tax at the Wizards store inside Magic Online. This is subject to being changed, of course. For many who aren’t in the US, there can be insane upcharges with tax. Thus, it’s almost a necessity to purchase event tickets outside of the Wizards store.

There are many places to buy event tickets. A quick google search will give you the best ones (I don’t want to endorse one over another-you be the judge). You can often get event tickets for $.97-$.99 per ticket. That’s not too good to be true, that’s just the going rate.

Under this section, I might as well put some general tips when starting out on Magic Online. Don’t open any product you get when starting. Sell your booster pack; you can typically get about two to three event tickets for it.

Don’t play cube unless you want to throw money away.

Getting screwed by the bots

It is very easy to let yourself lose a ton of value by dealing with bots. You will always round up the amount you are paying for cards up to the next event ticket (you cannot have a decimal of event tickets on Magic Online). However, the bot will save your credit. Obviously, this requires trust on your part that the bot will correctly log the amount of credit you have and stay online. I would recommend keeping a word document of the bots you have credit with and searching those for your cards first. That’s a mistake I made.

Make sure to shop around for the best prices of cards. It is certainly possible to pay a dollar or more than you would at a different bot. I have also paid up to five dollars less than the going rate because of an error in bot maintenance. Be mindful of the going rate (MTGOTraders is a ceiling, look for prices above this).

To be honest, the best way to make money directly from Magic Online is to maintain your own bot. That is a topic that goes far beyond the scope of this article. Stay tuned for that.

Those were some pitfalls. It will be confusing at first, and you may make some mistakes.

The key question is: how does this translate into paper investment?

All of the best players play on Magic Online. They test their decks here. They play with other high level grinders here. Where else can you face this kind of competition virtually twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week?

An invaluable gauge for where prices will be is the Magic Online tournaments called Daily Events. Although the name implies they are “daily”, there are Standard tournaments that fire several times a day, with Modern having about half as many of these tournaments.

You can pick up on the latest technology by looking at the tournaments results that are posted every week on dailymtg. Being cognizant of this will vastly improve your ability to make good decisions.

Another useful feature of Magic Online is being able to see good inventory data.

One of the greatest features of Pro Trader here on MTGPrice is the inventory data from retailers. It allows you to see when certain cards are experiencing a buyout and to move in on those cards.

However, Magic Online is a good supplement to this data.

Once you get a “feel” for how much stock major bots have in cards, it is quite easy to see when that stock is being depleted or is simply too low.

This provides you with a barometer of which cards are going to see price swings in paper too.

It’s difficult to quantify, unfortunately. There is nothing like MTGPrice for MTGO, so it’s mostly up to you to gain the understanding and utilize it.

This is constantly what I’m talking about in my articles. There aren’t any silver bullets for MTG finance, you have to use your intuition as a player to make money.

That is the essence of why you should be on Magic Online. You need to be a part of the culture of Magic in order to be effective in investing in it. Would you invest in a company where you knew nothing about the product it sold?

No.

The same goes for Magic. If you are playing in the same events that the pros are, you will develop your sense as a player and investor. The difference is that the people you are playing with aren’t looking to make money, they want to get better at the game. If you are looking for opportunity while playing Magic Online, it will begin to present itself.

I can go over hundreds of cards that might see drastic increases in price. Is that the most helpful thing to you? Does that help you become a better investor?

Not for the long term.

If I spent this article telling you my picks for the next months, it may help you for the next few months.

How about five years?

You can only become a better investor by investing a bit of yourself, especially when your money is going into a game. In our hearts, we are all still players.

So load up Magic Online. Take it for a spin. It’s mediocre (read: shitty) technology, but it’s the platform that Wizards has made for competitive players to test decks. If you’re not on there, you are missing out.

Standard Snapshot: 3/26/14

By: Travis Allen

Last week I got everyone real angry about Legacy. I failed to clarify one particular point though, which I’ll start with today. When I implied that Legacy was going to fade away I wasn’t explicit about what that meant. It doesn’t mean nobody will play the format anymore. I expect it to eventually end up as Vintage is today – enjoyed by a core group of dedicated players, occasionally responsible for odd cards being hilariously expensive, but overall not something most players concern themselves with. People will still have their pet decks and Legacy events will continue to fire at local stores and Grand Prix side events. But there will come a day when SCG no longer runs it as a major event at opens and you can no longer win Pro Tour invites playing the format. That is the eventual fate of Legacy, not a total abolishment from the minds of mortals.

Anyways, on to today’s topic. We haven’t talked Standard in a while, and GP Cincinnati just occurred, which seems like a good reason to take a look at the format. Where is the money to be made? What should we stay away from? What do we sell? Is everyone sick of Pack Rat yet? (The last one is easy: yes.) 

Kyle Boggemes took down the whole event with a soup du jour Esper control list. The first thing that jumps out at me is the full twelve Scrylands. If you haven’t figured it out yet, these are powerful lands that are going to be relevant for their full course in Standard. What’s most interesting is how resilient the prices have been on the Theros lands. Typically we see the current fall-set lands get quite low. The Innistrad checklands behaved this way as well. These seem to have kept their prices a little better than I anticipated, with the exception of Temple of Mystery. Their floor will be between May and June, so whatever they fall to, that’s as low as they’re going to be.

The Born of the Gods temples are still doing quite well too, especially Temple of Enlightenment, clocking in at nearly $9. UW was clearly going to be the best Scryland from the outset and the price reflects that. The BOG scrylands should fare better than their Theros counterparts overall, and the Journey lands will be in a position to sit at the top of the financial pile. More on this at the bottom of the article

Three Elspeths is also worth noting, and she’s been prevalent in many of these lists. Her price continues to be a stubborn $20, which is impressive for a fall Planeswalker. If she gets below $15, I’d start trading hard for her. We will definitely continue to see her after rotation.

If you haven’t moved your Desecration Demons, Nightveil Specters, Underworld Connections, or Pack Rats, get on that soon. Their peak has come and gone.

A playset of Herald of Torment showed up in the Top 8, which is good news for his long-term prospects. He’s still about a dollar, and could pretty easily climb to $3+, maybe even $7-$10 depending on how things shake out. I haven’t bought any myself, but if I could get twelve or more copies for $1 each shipped, I would. We’ll still have Bile Blight, Hero’s Downfall and Thoughtseize after rotation, which basically guarantees he’ll always have a shot at being good. I’ve been wondering if you could actually build a Hero of Iroas deck with Fabled Hero, Agent of the Fates, Herald of Torment, and Nighthowler. It’s probably an FNM deck, but it sure sounds fun.

As I warned, Pain Seer is down to under $1 at this point. She’s a pretty low-risk pickup, but I like her less than I like Herald. She’s just so much more conditional than Herald is.

Naya Auras made the Top 8 as well, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot there we can work with. Most of the deck is rotating soon. I do see a whole lot of Scrylands though.

In the Top 16, Adam Jansen showed up with three copies of Ashiok. I still am a fan, and while Ashiok hasn’t been tearing up the tournament scene, at least s/he’s putting up occasional results. As a $7 pickup, you can’t really go wrong. I’d be surprised if s/he didn’t end up north of $10 at some point this fall for at least a slim period of time. 

Ari Lax was the darling of Cincinnati, piloting a GB “dredge” deck. He had some hot cards for sure. I was about to start listing the cool creatures he was playing but then I realized it was basically just all of them. I don’t think we’ll see Jarad make any moves, as the Duel Deck made sure that even if he’s playable there will be plenty of stock to go around. If you don’t have your Nighthowler promos yet, grab them now. The card is definitely powerful enough, and the full art version is leagues better than the pack foils.

What may be the most interesting card here is Satyr Wayfinder. While he isn’t going to be a $4 common, this list is proof that he is definitely capable of helping enable an archetype. Be on the watch for more graveyard-friendly cards and strategies in Journey and M15. Whip of Erebos will be around this September as well. The seeds are sown for a graveyard deck. The question is whether or not Wizards will make it rain.

While Cincinnati certainly drew the biggest Standard crowd this weekend, there was in fact an SCG open as well. I see Courser of Kruphix in third place, and I notice his price is nearly $10. This guy is definitely legit. Expect to see plenty of him next year as well. He’s a Born of the Gods rare, which is good for his longer-term prospects. $10 is a tough point of entry, but if he slips this summer, jump on that.

Cliff has talked about it before, but I want to refresh your memories here. I recommend you read his article, as it’s digestible and useful. The tl;dr is that the draft format means that we are going to open way more Theros than either of the other two sets, and less Journey than either of the other two. This means Theros cards are the weakest in terms of speculation value, BOG cards will be acceptable, and Journey cards will be ripe for unexpected spikes. It’s tough for me to recommend going deep on any almost anything in Theros, but I think BOG should have a low enough print run that it’s safe to expect movement. Journey will be your best bet, but we aren’t quite there yet.

I’m not saying that it’s impossible for Theros cards to spike, just that there will be less of them, they’ll be harder to identify, and they may not go as high as you’d like.

The Japanese Market

By: JT Neal

First things first, let me introduce myself. I’ve played Magic on and off since Ice Age, albeit only very seriously since Innistrad. I’m an American (Atlantan, to be specific) and I’ve lived in western Japan for the last six years of my life. The first five of those years were mostly spent in rural Shiga, a lovely prefecture with historical castles, Japan’s largest lake… and dismayingly few shops that run Magic events*.

Then, in 2012, I moved to Osaka. Japan’s second-largest city, Osaka is the seat of western Japanese cuisine, comedy and commerce. It also boasts the Nipponbashi district, second only to Tokyo’s Akihabara as a geek mecca. With one move roughly two hours west, I’d gone from Magical famine to feast. Of course, this bounty presented a new threat to my wallet; enter my budding interest in Magic finance.

bigmagic1

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a new hand at this, and I’m very grateful to be able to share my discoveries in an unfamiliar market with you all here on MTG Price. The Japanese Magic scene is vibrant and worthy of attention, and I think we can all stand to gain by learning a little more about foreign markets. I’d like to start off by going over a few things that might surprise a visitor or new expatriate stepping in to the Japanese scene for the first time. (As a note, all US dollar figures I’ve given are based on the current exchange rate as I write this, of 101.72 yen to the dollar.)

– There’s a surprising amount of English product available. Stores stock English booster packs, and many carry English versions of products such as Commander decks as well. As far as single cards are concerned, most shops that specialize in Magic will have any given card (with the exception of very new or very old sets) available in both English and Japanese.

Between high availability and a relatively older player base, card language is rarely an issue among Japanese players. I know Japanese players who strongly prefer to use English cards, fellow expats who strongly prefer Japanese cards and everyone in between. It’s easy to forget all about the language barrier once you start playing.

buylist

For the most part, stores charge more or less the same amount for non-foils in either language, though very new English cards and older Japanese cards may cost a touch more due to supply issues. For foils, though, all bets are off – if you visit, you’ll probably find that last Japanese foil Stoneforge Mystic you’ve been hunting for, but don’t expect to get a deal on it.

– Many shops explicitly prohibit trading on the premeses. The store where I usually play doesn’t, but trade binders are still a relatively uncommon sight there. There’s plenty of trading going on at Grands Prix and the like, but at least in Osaka, few cards change hands under store roofs. There’s cold comfort in the fact that buylist prices are often pretty competitive. They have to be, because…

– In urban Japan, game stores are typically found close together. If you don’t like the prices or selection at one store, the next may be as far as one city block or as close as another floor in the same building. Some stores handle this competition well, by aiming to have the lowest prices, or stock the fullest discount case, or host the most events. Unfortunately, some deal with it rather poorly; one Osaka branch of a major store has banned all cell phone use, and I’ve seen the staff harass customers for carrying shopping lists.

– And then there’s the elephant in the room: Singles in Japan tend to cost a good bit more than you’re probably used to. Individual packs for in-print sets cost around 300 yen, which is on par with retail price in the United States. Single rares and mythics, however, generally retail for about 120 to 150% more on this side of the Pacific.

This is a fairly consistent rule of thumb, but of course there are outliers. If you’re in Osaka and you need a True-Name Nemesis in your hands today, you’ll spend anywhere from 7000 to a whopping 10000 yen ($69-$99) for the privilege, depending on the store. Tokyo-based tokyomtg.com can hook you up for 5,500($53).

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On the other hand, while card price fluctuations in Japan tend to match worldwide patterns, they often take some time to catch up to spikes in the United States. For whatever reason (and I’m open to theories), I have noticed this tendency is particularly strong with eternal-playable lands. Zendikar fetchlands, Wasteland, Rishadan Port, even Serra’s Sanctum; all of these afforded at least a week’s time to act after spiking Stateside.

Single prices do look a little more familiar if you browse Yahoo Auctions ((http://auctions.yahoo.co.jp/)), though there you run the same risks you’d run with eBay. Yahoo Auctions can be particularly intimidating to international shoppers, or those without much Japanese ability; if there’s interest I would be happy to provide a quick-and-dirty guide in a future column.

– Legacy is alive and well in Japan. My usual shop in Osaka runs at least two Legacy tournaments every week (it was four until recently, when they replaced two of them with Modern); another nearby spot runs Legacy events alongside their Standard FNM. There are several non-sanctioned Legacy events organized by members of the local community, too, like the popular Known Magician’s Clan ((http://mtgkmc.wix.com/kmc-invitational)). There’s growing interest in Modern among players, but for the most part the events aren’t there yet. I expect that to change as we draw closer to the Modern Grand Prix in nearby Kobe this coming August, though. Standard is, unsurprisingly, very popular as well, and Vintage events pop up from time to time.

I hope this has been at least a little informative or interesting. What would you like to know about the Japanese Magic scene? Please don’t hesitate to contact me here, or on Twitter @JohnnyToNowhere, with any questions/comments/complaints/foreign Gifts Ungiven foils you may have. Thank you for reading!

* Respect due to Dragon Tale ((http://www.dragontale.jp)) in Kusatsu, Shiga

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