Common Cents with Aaron Dettmann

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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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Common Cents with Aaron Dettmann

Last week I talked about how better, more accurate pricing information provides an advantage when trading. This week I’ll talk about another method to utilize to get an advantage while trading.

A resource that has been very useful to me has been the ProTrader Daily Market Updates I get from MTGPrice. This daily email update lets me know which cards are rising (or falling) sharply in price, so I can join in on the buying action before all the stores realize the trend and raise their prices. In addition to a card price change update, the email also includes a card stock inventory update, which keeps track of various stores’ supply of a card. If the inventory supply of a card goes down by a lot, that’s a good indicator that demand is high and the price is likely to increase. This information is especially useful on Pro-Tour and Grand Prix weekends, as there are often brand new decks that employ previously overlooked cards that will rocket up in price.

One example of when I utilized the ProTrader Update was the weekend of Grand Prix San Diego (Modern format) on March 16th. I woke up on Saturday morning, checked my ProTrader Update email from MTGPrice, and saw this information staring back at me from amongst the cards of interest:

Percent Price Change of Ajani Vengeant Image and video hosting by TinyPic

I thought these numbers were interesting, as Ajani Vengeant had jumped up in price by almost three dollars, and risen by 50% of its value overnight. Next, I scrolled down to check on the Inventory Change of the card and saw this:

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Percent Inventory Change of Ajani Vengeant Image and video hosting by TinyPic

This information let me know that the number of cards available to buy on the market had already been halved, and confirmed that demand for Ajani Vengeant had become very strong.

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I was now very intrigued by this card, and clicked on the link to take me to the price graphs on MTGPrice, so I could see the history of what is going on with Ajani Vengeant. When I saw the graph, all the stores had kept their prices the same except for ChannelFireball, who overnight had more than doubled their price by raising it from $5 to $12. They alone were responsible for the increase in price on MTGPrice.com. Now remember, I received all this information on Saturday morning before even the first round of the Grand Prix had been played. Since ChannelFireball had drastically raised their price on Ajani Vengeant, I could deduce that the deck their team planned on playing that day both heavily utilized that card, and that they were very confident in their deck choice. The ChannelFireball team was convinced that they would do well at the Grand Prix, and since the new addition to their deck was Ajani Vengeant, they decided to preemptively raise the price of that card on their website.

Since I now knew that team ChannelFireball was going to play Ajani Vengeant at the Grand Prix, I had inside information to guide my buying decisions. When the ChannelFireball team has a deck that everyone on the team likes and plays, they usually get at least one person into the top 8 of that tournament. I put my trust in the team as well, and started buying up all of the Ajani Vengeants from the websites that still had them at low prices. I bought dozens of copies from stores at $3-$5 (depending on which version I bought), and have now sold most of mine away for $8-$10, a tidy profit of $5 per card, more than doubling the money I put into this investment.

The emails I get from the ProTrader Daily Market Updates are a great tool to keep me ahead of pricing changes on cards. As you can see from the example in this article, sometimes you can even figure out which cards pro players are going to use in their decks before the tournament even starts. Use all the information at your disposal to keep ahead of the change in prices.

Bonus PTQ tip:
I expect a lot of Turbo Fog decks in the online standard PTQ on Sunday; it has a terrific matchup against the current bogeyman of the format, Junk Rites. After Turbo Fog placed 2nd in last Saturday’s PTQ, I faced off against it three times in the PTQ the next day. In addition to that, this past week the best bow-tie-wearing magic player Roberto Gonzalez (9th place at Pro Tour Gatecrash) stated he was pretty sure he was playing Fog in the PTQ, and Todd Anderson wrote an article about the deck and played it in the PTQs himself last weekend. The best ways to beat the deck are with Skullcrack (completely dominates the card Fog) in conjunction with being faster than Turbo Fog can set up its’ defenses, discard (although Turbo Fog does bring in 3-4 Witchbane Orbs), or with Planeswalkers.

Common Cents by Aaron Dettmann

How better pricing information provides an advantage

Knowledge is power, as Sir Francis Bacon once said; in the world of magic finance, that means knowledge is money. Obtaining better information than most of the market means that you can take advantage of price discrepancies between stores, and utilize that knowledge to your advantage when trading, buying, and selling cards. One source that provides great information is this very website, MTGPrice.com; whether it be giving you more accurate pricing information than other individual card store websites, or providing ProTrader Daily Market Updates which clue you in on which cards are spiking in price so you can buy in before everyone sells out.

This week we’ll look at the importance of accurate pricing sources, and next week I’ll finish off this two-part series by discussing the ProTrader Daily Market Updates.

One experience I personally had with highly variable pricing between a store’s website and the actual worth of a card was with the card Emrakul, the Aeons Torn foil. Multiple people have asked how much I valued mine while trading, and I had always replied $50, since I had looked up the price on Starcitygames.com (SCG), and that was the relative price guide we were using. However, about a month ago I looked up the price again and realized SCG had that price posted while they were out of stock on the item. Curious as to what price eBay was selling them for, I looked over there and was surprised to discover that the cheapest listing was priced at $75. This difference in price was especially astounding because eBay usually has much cheaper prices than SCG. What’s more, the price has risen even more since then. As of this writing (March 27th), virtually all the stores are sold out of the foil Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Out of all the stores that MTGPrice.com provides pricing data for, the only places that have copies of that card in stock are TCGplayer and eBay. There are a mere three copies of a foil Emrakul, the Aeons Torn on TCGplayer ranging in price from $89-$100, and a lone, single copy on eBay priced at $90 (SCG is still out of stock, but has risen their price up to $60).

Now, I feel very lucky that none of my trading partners took me up on my $50 offer for my card; I was using poor pricing info, which caused me to undervalue my card. The lesson here is to be wary of prices when a store is out of stock of an item. Many stores don’t update their prices when they don’t have any copies of that card to sell. Using the Fair Trade Price found on MTGprice avoids this problem, since they compile their price using many different stores and only use prices from stores that have the item in stock.

Next week, I’ll conclude this two-part series, and discuss how ProTrader Daily Market Updates can let you know which cards are rising in price before all the stores adjust their prices accordingly.

Monday: Money Ramp with Zack Alvarado

Scents of the Trade: Part 2

Last week I began writing the first part of this mini-trilogy which focuses on avoiding bad trade habits; my second installment in the series for MTGPrice.com focuses on the market of foil singles. If you’re truly hungry, like I am, you’ll take the time to sniff out your local market’s needs and cater to your peer players, make yourself part of the store, and make yourself well known. Your local market as a whole is comprised from a pool of other players whose needs and wants can vary drastically from each other; so how does one effectively assess the cards that are desirable within their MTG scene? There are a few approaches to doing so that I will further discuss.

High Market. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.
High Market. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.

Segmenting your market into different customer bases is quite simple once you understand how to do so. Begin by determining the largest demand within your store, and cater solely to that. This focus can range from promotional cards, to Elder Dragon Highlander (EDH) foils, to format staples for Vintage, Legacy, Modern, and Standard (the most common approach). Whatever the largest demand is at your LGS, find it and use it to your advantage.

A niche that I’ve strongly profited from lately is the EDH foil market – not many players stock these cards, but just about every other player with an EDH deck wants something that I have in a binder. Foils, in general, are a bad niche to invest in – I would advise weekend traders and players to stray from acquiring a robust binder of foiled cards. Certain cards, however, are extremely profitable when compared to their non foiled counterparts, as well as other foils on the market. Below is a list of foiled EDH cards that I have traded or sold within the past few months, as well as their normal and foil prices, rounded to the nearest dollar, for the sake of contrast.

Name

 Normal

 Foil $ Diff

% Diff

Vindicate  $    28.00  $    93.00  $    65.00

332%

Jhoira of the Ghitu  $      6.50  $    32.00  $    25.50

492%

Rishadan Port  $    40.00  $  240.00  $  200.00

600%

Karmic Guide  $      8.50  $    80.00  $    71.50

941%

High Market  $      6.00  $    61.00  $    55.00

1,017%

Reya Dawnbringer (invasion)  $      5.00  $    60.00  $    55.00

1,200%

Rhystic Study  $      1.25  $    23.00  $    21.75

1,840%

Merchant Scroll  $      1.50  $    28.00  $    26.50

1,867%

Teneb, the Harvester  $      1.00  $    23.00  $    22.00

2,300%

Goblin Matron (7th)  $      1.00  $  112.00  $  111.00

11,200%

There are many more foil cards that are heavily sought within the EDH market, and most are safe areas of investment. While money can be made in Modern and Standard foils, profit margins are small and detrimental volatility is high. To briefly illustrate this point, let’s examine some of the most sought after cards from the new set, Gatecrash. When Aurelia, the Warleader hit the market nearly 2 months ago on Feb. 1st, the foil price was $49.99 on Starcitygames; today, the cost for a foil Aurelia from SCG is only $34.99 – a loss of 30%. Similarly, when Gideon, Champion of Justice was released on Feb. 1st, the foil cost $69.99 through SCG, but now only costs $21.99 from the same site – a staggering loss of nearly 70%!

Cornering a portion of your local market is difficult without acquisition power; so, if you lack enough capital to obtain a stockpile of niche foil singles, a different approach may be better suited. An easy way to turn your extra cards into money is by simply asking other players what they are looking for. I know this sounds elementary, and it is; but chances are you actually have a card that somebody else wants to buy or trade for, and you have to inquire to find out. In the event that another player is looking for a card you don’t own, ask them what they value the card at; then go trade for it, and come back to cash out!

That’s all for now, make sure to check back next week for my final installment in this series: why not to trade eternal format staples for standard cards.

 

Weekly Finance Tip:

[Hang onto your Windbrisk Heights, Rise of the Hobgoblins and Modern Elf cards – I expect all of these to steadily increase by a near 20% within the next month or two]

Until next time,

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

P.S. Franny, this one’s for you brooo!

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