Numbers

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By: Travis Allen

The process of trading, buying, and selling Magic cards clearly revolves around one thing: prices. How much is that card worth in trade? How much would you sell it for? How much can I sell this for if I pick it up in trade? How much should I offer that guy on his collection? So on and so on. Today, I’ll show you some of the websites I use in my daily operations to equip myself with the best knowledge I can. And after all, Knowledge is power.

 

www.mtgprice.com

Starting with the obvious, MTGPrice provides a clear answer for finding the current price of cards. As a price aggregator and not a direct retailer, MTGPrice’s reported numbers will align with true market value far better than single retail sites. By looking across a variety of vendors, the site is able to smooth out occasional absurd prices from individual sites.

MTGPrice also has the unique function of providing price history information, which can be highly valuable at times. Sometimes when trading you are not quite as curious about the value of a card today, as much as you care about what it was and will be. There are times where you can’t remember if a card has been falling or rising recently, and you want to be sure you’re on the right side of that slope. I find this feature particularly useful when looking at considerably older cards whose prices I don’t have a perfect recollection of. Being able to look up something like Ancestral Visions will tell you which direction it’s heading, which makes a big difference when considering whether you should take it to balance out a trade deficit.

vision

 

http://magiccards.info

Built as what amounts to a minimalist-influenced GUI for the assaulting aesthetic of TCGPlayer, I’m a big fan. It is the fastest loading Magic card site I have found, you get a big crisp picture, easy-to-access alternate print history, and the raw volume of TCGPlayer prices without having to slog through their laborious interface.

TCGPlayer’s data is useful, as they track nearly every major online retailer. The most interesting aspect of TCG data is that they recently added the ability for private sellers to function as storefronts. These are going to be your hardcore binder-grinder types that have a massive rotating collection, but don’t want to be bothered creating an actual web presence. With the addition of individual sellers, the prices are going to move much faster than a standard web store, find floors quicker, and occasionally be willing to operate on smaller margins.

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The biggest pitfall of magiccards.info is the less-accessible data on foils, and often even more lacking, promo prices. Finding prices on foils is not too hard, although it’s not immediately visible. Here’s how I do it:

tcgfoil

From what I can tell, the reason promos are so hard to aggregate data on is because stores classify them differently. For example, promos such as Voidslime are sometimes listed as both “Near Mint Foil” – because its foil – and just “Near Mint;” since all copies are foil, they don’t bother being explicit. For many promos, you’ll have to venture elsewhere. 

 

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voidslime

A note on identifying prices from TCGPlayer in general: You’ll notice that unlike something like MTGPrice or SCG, there is a long list of numbers when you check out the prices on TCGPlayer. Those numbers are boiled down into low, mid, and high. It’s common for some people to just jump straight to the mid price and use that as the trade value. While that isn’t an unreasonable approach, it does have the the flaw of being unlikely to adapt to rapid market changes as quickly as the low value does. If a banner mythic such as Purphoros drops $10 in the week after release, the low will move $10 because the invisible hand of the market will push the ambitious to race to the floor of the card. However the lazy and greedy may leave their price at pre-drop prices, resulting in a huge disparity. Check out the FTV Lotus Petal and you’ll see that the gap between the low and the high is pretty narrow, as the price has settled comfortably. The reported gap on Purphoros is $20 though – more than double the low price of the card!

My strategy when divining prices from TCGPlayer data is more heuristic-driven. If I’m ever unsure of a fair value, I’ll pull up the full list of prices and start looking for playsets. At the moment, there is a NM copy of Chandra, Pyromaster available for $24.50. The first price at which there are multiple sellers in a row with multiple copies available is $29.99 though, which I would treat as her fair trade price. (The mid is reported at $33 – buoyed by an absurd $48 high.) (Also keep in mind that while I may identify her fair trade price as $30, it does not necessarily mean that’s how much I plan on trading her away for.)

 

www.starcitygames.com

I find myself wanting to call them the Amazon of Magic, but given that Amazon typically has great prices, I’m unwilling to make this comparison. SCG is undoubtedly the de facto standard as far as single-vendor pricing goes. It’s a very popular resource to use among those that are less dedicated in the financial arts. I personally dislike using SCG during trades for a few reasons:

  • They don’t update prices on out-of-stock items, which can potentially be disastrous for either member of the trade during price spikes (Master of Waves selling out at $7) or difficult to find cards (Foil Grim Monolith was at one point sold out at $69.99, when the card was actually ~$120.) nighthowler-gd

  • SCG weights Standard legality heavily when setting prices. While it’s a perfectly fine business model for them, as they know their customers will pay it, it can lead to some potentially lopsided trades. They currently have Chandra, Pyromaster listed at $40, while she is easily a $30 card everywhere else. However the MM printing of Cryptic Command is $25 on SCG and ~$24 on TCG. If you’re trading away non-Standard cards for Standard, you are going to get thrashed on SCG prices. Of course, if you’re going the other way, you can occasionally make a killing.

  • They’re only a single seller. SCG is not the entire market themselves, and it’s silly to treat them as such. Why rely on one data point that is notorious for being overpriced relative to the market when aggregator sites such as mtgprice.com are available?

Regardless, Starcity does have its uses. I find myself using them most often for promo cards, such as the recent Nighthowler Game Day promo. While you certainly need to take the prices with a grain of salt, at least they give you an idea of whether the card is $3 or $30. They’re also acceptable for finding prices on things like sealed product.

 

www.ebay.com

Ahh, eBay. Everyone’s least favorite way of selling cards. Between 10% fees from eBay, 3% fees from the nigh-unavoidable PayPal, and what seems like more buyers that are out to scam you than not, “minefield” is too kind a comparison. As miserable as eBay can be for selling though, it is at least a useful resource for pricing information. eBay is best suited for things such as very obscure cards like Foil Russian Tidespout Tyrants, promos you can’t find in stock elsewhere, and most importantly, cash values. 

The cash value part is important because eBay is unique in this function. Whenever I’m discussing purchasing cards directly from another player, eBay is my first stop. The “Completed listings” option will show you how much previous auctions have sold (and not sold) for, providing you with valuable information regarding a ceiling for your offer.

It is not uncommon for many cards to have wild discrepancies between trade and sale. Ghost dad sells on eBay for only $2-$3 less than he is on MTGPrice, whereas Horizon Canopy – $39 on MTGPrice – has plenty of completed listings for around $21 a copy. Whenever there is cash involved in a deal, make sure to stop by eBay to identify the card’s cash value.

Midweek cardwatch:

  • Hero’s Downfall is an astounding $15 right now. Off the top of my head, an in-print fall set rare removal spell has never been this expensive, especially with alongside plenty of other sweet spells. I’m dumping mine asap, and I recommend you do the same. The real price for this card is probably between $3-$7.

  • Wizards announced Jace vs Vraska, which will have a copy of Le Chiffre and an MSRP of $20. His price has dropped about $6 since the news, which should be short lived. People apparently didn’t notice that the release date is in May.

    jace

  • Pack Rat is, or will shortly be, $2.

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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Portfolio Management – Pro Tour Reallocation

By: Jared Yost

The Pro Tour is firmly behind us. From this point we are dealing with the aftermath of the event and trying to determine what types of cards will be played most moving forward. Whether or not your speculations worked out this weekend (including whether your cards shipped – there were lots of problems with this happening, and the Twitter universe has made their displeasure known) it is good to plan ahead as a method for managing your Magic portfolio so that you maintain strong value.

Hot Pro Tour Cards to Trade or Sell

Tidebinder MageMaster of WavesNightveil SpecterThassa, God of the Sea

These cards are all hyped right now due to the finals being a mirror match of mono-blue devotion. Over the coming weeks, these cards will most likely decrease in price because players will find answers to the mono-blue strategy, building decks and sideboards accordingly. If you speculated on any of the above cards, you should try to sell or trade them soon.

Other Cards to be Traded or Sold as Needed

Theros:

Nykthos, Shrine to NyxElspeth, Sun's ChampionXenagos, the RevelerBoon Satyr

Return to Ravnica Block:

Blood Baron of VizkopaJace, Architect of ThoughtDetention SphereAsh Zealot

These are all cards that have reached what I believe is the critical price at which to trade or cash them out. They may increase in price down the line if they continue to see a lot of play across multiple deck archetypes, but the upside of selling them now outweighs the cost of waiting for that extra 10% of profit that may never appear.

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx saw a surge over the Pro Tour weekend because it combos really well with Green devotion for very fast mana. I don’t think it can go much higher than $15 because it is a rare (not mythic) legendary land. There is a cap on rare prices these days and Nykthos is pretty close to the ceiling, with $20 being the absolute most it could manage. Profits become more marginal on higher priced cards, so if you have Nykthos I would trade or sell them now because the price ceiling is not far away.

Elspeth, Xenagos, and Boon Satyr made respectable appearances but didn’t really make any waves. I don’t really see them maintaining their current prices so I would feel comfortable trading them into longer term targets that have a better chance of holding value.

Now is also a good time to cash out on Return to Ravnica cards that you might have grabbed in anticipation of heavy play in the upcoming Theros standard. At the top of this list are Jace, Architect of Thought and Blood Baron of Vizkopa. They can easily be sold or buy listed for solid value. It will also be easy to trade these two into other cards that you might need for the future Standard.

Ash Zealot and Detention Sphere have bumped up in price as well and I don’t think they can go much higher. Mono-red will fall out of favor during the upcoming months and Detention Sphere will be appearing twice in the Theros event deck, so it can’t climb much higher than it is now. Trade or sell these cards now before more players complete their playsets and demand dwindles.

Solid Future Portfolio Additions

The cards below I believe are good to pick up whenever you can because having extras will only help you trade better as Theros Standard heads into winter.

domri rade

This is a card I haven’t considered until recently, but I believe that Domri has a lot of value to offer moving forward. Could this be the next $50 Standard mythic? It seems quite possible, as he is played as a three or four-of in many R/G and Naya Standard decks in addition to fringe Modern play. At $25 I am pretty comfortable trading for him, because as long as Domri continues to see heavy play, his price will match that demand.

 

Scavenging Ooze

Scavenging Ooze kind of got cast to the wayside for a bit in the wake of all the mono-blue devotion decks, but this card still made a strong appearance in the decks that did play Green. It is also a popular card in Standard, being played in a least 25% of the decks in the format. It will be a strong Standard role player throughout its life in the format. If you have Scavenging Ooze, hold on to them for now because they will only increase in price as they get harder to find. M14 is going to be scarce by winter.

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Mutavault

Another format staple that has been quietly pervasive. Not only did this show up in the mono-blue devotion deck as a three-of, but many decks played four copies. Like Scavenging Ooze, as M14 becomes harder to find Mutavault will increase in price to match the demand.

 

Thoughtseize

Thoughtseize is another format staple that was lost in the excitement of the weekend. This card is very closely approaching the $15 buy-in point that a lot of people are waiting on. If you look hard enough, you can find copies that are currently hovering close to $16 on some sites. I think that it is very close to the time to start going in big on Thoughtseize. At one point this card was $70 because of the heavy play that it sees in Modern and Legacy. You cannot go wrong picking up Thoughtseize in the near future because like Mutavault and Scavenging Ooze, it only has one direction to go.

 

 Temple of AbandonTemple of DeceitTemple of Mystery

Temple of TriumphTemple of Silence

Similar to Thoughtseize, the time to start picking up the Scry lands is soon approaching. In the wave of all the Devotion madness the dual lands of Theros have been sitting on the sidelines. I believe that the scry lands will start seeing more play moving forward because people are going to try and tweak their Devotion decks to include splash colors. The three-color goodstuff decks will also continue to exist, and will need their color fixing as well.

Pure Speculation

I want to talk about a few “wildcards” and their potential. These cards could be sleeper hits that see a significant price increase if the Standard metagame adopts them as tools that can be used in the new format.

 Skylasher

Skylasher could see a surprising amount of play moving forward, and at $0.30 this makes my speculator senses tingle. Last season, Skylasher was a bit too late to the party to properly deal with Delver of Secrets. At the time it was printed, the Delver decks had fallen out of favor, and instead people were playing powerhouse Flash decks that utilized Sphinx’s Revelation, or Bant Hexproof decks that consisted of creatures with flying, unblockability, trample, or a combination thereof.

Now that mono-blue is back in Standard, Skylasher could come out of the woodwork as a way to deal with the mono-blue devotion decks. I like this spec better than Mistcutter Hydra because even though Mistcutter could also see play, Skylasher has a better chance of increasing in price as Dragon’s Maze wasn’t opened much and Mistcutter Hyrdra will continue to be opened for quite a while longer.

 

Cyclonic Rift

I’ve always liked Cyclonic Rift as a speculation target. At the very least it is a great casual card that will see a lot of play in Commander, as it is one of the best blue sweepers in the format. However, it has been getting a lot of press in Standard recently because of mono-blue. I think that it could have a life outside of this deck as well. It could definitely find a home in future ramp strategies. For example, with a Prophet of Kruphix you can tap out for large spells on your turn and then on your opponents turn cast an overloaded Rift. 

 

Prophet of Kruphix

Speaking of which, Prophet of Kruphix is another great speculation target because it is currently hovering around $1.50 and I don’t think it can go much lower. This is another card that could have Standard applications in addition to being a popular casual card that will see play in Commander for years to come.

 

Arbor Colossus

This is a card that I mentioned in my Theros review, and since then he has appeared in a Top 8 Pro Tour list as a three-of in the Japanese colossal Gruul deck. I get a feeling that we will be seeing much more of this card in the future. A 6/6 by turn 4 or 5 that ramps Nykthos pretty hard is quite threatening. Reach, the capability to destroy a flying creature, and becoming a 9/9 are just icing on the giant cake. I think that this could be one of the better payout speculation targets of my riskier picks moving forward.

 

Blind Obedience

I had to double check myself that this card is really below $2 on a lot of websites. I remember when this card was released it was difficult to find them for less than $7. The effect on this card is really powerful, but previous control shells opted to use other tools that were better at providing incremental advantage. Even though a control player would never play more than 3 of these in a deck, I don’t think that this card could go much lower in price than it currently is. I think there is definitely enough time for this card to see more Standard play and rise in value.

Being a Casual Financier

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:

  • 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.

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.

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

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

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