Divining the Gods

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By: Cliff Daigle

Journey into Nyx will have five more Gods, in color pairs that haven’t gotten their indestructible legendary enchantment creature yet.

Having seen what the first five multicolored gods can do, I feel this is a good time to take a guess on what their counterparts will do in the next set.

The five Gods in Born of the Gods have the following abilities: UW draws cards, UB mills, RG grants size and haste to one creature, RB makes them sacrifice or take damage, and GW ramps. Those seem like abilities natural to that color pair, so I’m taking a guess based on what the other five pairs are traditionally good at.

There is value to be gained in planning ahead here, because if we can anticipate what pairs well with those gods, we will be able to sell into the hype when those cards spike. For example, see this graph for Trostani, paying attention to the spike right around when Karametra’s card was spoiled. Trostani’s price has only come down slightly since.

Capture

These are not going to be long term targets. I am planning on selling or trading most of these right when the hype is at its highest. These are not the only cards that might spike, but I’m looking for ones I can pick up relatively cheap in trade, and then sell when their price goes up.

Let’s start off with a standard combo I might actually sleeve up:

R/W: Iroas

Spec: Aurelia, the Warleader

Backup: Assemble the Legion

Aurelia plus the Boros god is a combo I can’t wait to play, and it doesn’t matter what the god’s static ability is. Aurelia does 80% of the work for devotion, and the only thing better than attacking with an indestructible creature is doing it twice in a row. Aurelia has that magic fourth toughness, meaning Bile Blight or Lightning Strike won’t cut it. I suspect that Iroas will cost four, but if it’s at five because of an awesome ability it creates a sweet five-into-six mana curve.

My guess is that this God will grant a bonus to attacking creatures, à la Orcish Oriflamme. Iroas has been called the God of victory, though, so there may be some kind of bonus when you destroy somebody else’s creature, or something with fighting.

G/U: Kruphix

Spec: Prophet of Kruphix

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Backup: Prime Speaker Zegana

Before Born of the Gods was spoiled, I was telling you to pick up Prophet at two dollars. It’s gone up nearly 50% since then. I’m still on board for picking it up around three dollars.

I devoutly hope Kruphix will do something with +1/+1 counters, like double the counters on target creature at the beginning of combat. It’s more likely to do something tricky, like tap or untap a permanent at the beginning of each upkeep something along those lines.

Prime Speaker is not the combo you wanted to be. Because its ability checks as it comes into play and the god’s devotion checks only after the permanent is in play, Zegana will not draw cards from the god’s power. That’s not going to stop people from wanting to try the cards together, though, and you should be ready to move a few of them when there is demand.

R/U: Keranos

Spec: Ral Zarek

Backup: Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius 

This color combination likes spells, but we haven’t seen much to give us a frame of reference. Ideally, it would be cheap and give a bonus to spells. If it cost 1UR and made all instants and sorceries cost 1 less, that might be too good in Modern Storm. We haven’t had many copy effects; maybe this one will be three mana to copy any instant or sorcery.

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I would really like to see something amazing, like having it deal damage to a creature or player.

I suspect that this card will be a bit more control-oriented, and in a slower deck Ral and Niv-Mizzet might be quite the thing. History tells us that spell-centric decks (outside of Delver) aren’t usually good enough in Standard, and so this is the speculation I’m least enthusiastic about.

G/B: Pharika

Spec: Lotleth Troll

Backup: Vraska the Unseen

We don’t know much of what she will do. It’s likely that there will be interactions with the graveyard, my guess is that we will see something that brings back creatures from the graveyard to the hand. It’s a reasonable combination of these colors, and not an overpowered effect. Pharika might also do something that echoes being the god of gorgons, perhaps destroying anything that blocks one of your creatures.

Lotleth is heavily dependent on which ability Pharika has, because pitching cards to the troll and bringing them back is an insane loop. It’s a very cheap pick up right now so you’re unlikely to lose. This card would be a lot better if Detention Sphere were not seeing heavy playing in most Azorius builds. With the addition of the G/B scryland and Pharika, people are going to want to build those decks and take advantage of Vraska, as well as Abrupt Decay, a card I like to go up a lot over time. Be prepared.

 W/B: Athreos

Target: Obzedat, Ghost Council

Back up: Whip of Erebos

A lot is going to depend on how much this god costs to cast. If it is four, then the Ghost Council is going to blow up. There’s already a combo with the Council and the Whip, and it seems like Athreos will fit right in.

My prediction on this god’s ability is that it is a reprint of Sanguine Bond, only better in multiplayer. I think it will cost five though, and that will make it slightly more awkward to cast on a curve. An ability of “Whenever you gain life, each opponent loses that much life” would be very strong in casual and constructed alike. Another strong contender for Athreos’ ability would be Syphon Soul on upkeep, very straightforward and again, scaling well in casual play.

I do not think that Blood Baron will go up significantly, regardless of Athreos’ ability or cost. It’s already fairly high-priced, mainly because of the set is in.

There you have it, a set of three-month targets. I’m looking forward to seeing what these Gods do, and seeing how close I was to the finished product.

Happy Trading!

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Looking Back (And Forward) On the Pro Tour

By: Camden Clark

As most of you know, the Pro Tour was last week.

I, unfortunately, missed a lot of the coverage. It was kind of a busy weekend for me.

However, what I did see, I was kind of disappointed by. Most notable was the lack of Magic finance possibilities. The day three coverage (which I did watch) had almost no new archetypes, with the same pillars of the format being represented, especially in the finals.

There were the typical cards that everyone hyped around for a few hours/days on Twitter and other media outlets.

One teachable moment that featured this kind of progression is the Amulet of Vigor spike.

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There were very few people playing the Amulet of Vigor deck. However, I believe it was featured on camera. Considering there were about 20,000 people watching, this one was bound to get some buzz. There was a lot of talk on Twitter. Promptly, speculators bought out a ton of copies on TCGPlayer.

I really never want to get caught up in this kind of frenzy.

A card like Amulet of Vigor is extremely narrow. What other decks do you honestly ever see Amulet of Vigor being played? Very few.

Very quickly, players realized that this deck wasn’t putting up real results and weren’t hot on buying a copy.

That got awkward quickly for the people who bought out copies of today’s Nivmagus Elemental (Now with less playability!).

In contrast, there were cards that started a slow climb and weren’t instant buyouts. Cards like Past in Flames and Pyromancer Ascension saw HUGE upticks. Let’s take a closer look.

These ones had little buzz until very late, when we saw them go up by huge margins as people started to take note of the standings that storm was placing.

But how do you discern what are good opportunities and vacuous hype?

It’s a matter of artificial and real demand.

Artificial demand is generated by speculators who jump on a card to make a profit. They only want the card to be able to turn it around and sell it quickly. There are TONS of cards in history that have seen increases after artificial demand from speculators grab up copies raising the price extremely high.

The trouble is, who are you going to sell to?

Card shops rarely increase their buylist prices on narrow cards after a buyout for this reason.

Because there are merely speculators buying out these cards, there is no way for you to liquidate. After the hype dies down, the prices go back down and you are stuck with a junk-ish card that sees little to no play.

This exact scenario happened with Amulet of Vigor. 

There was a mass buyout and tons of people bought into the hope that there might be a high-placing deck to generate real demand. Rarely does this happen with a narrow card like this.

When there was no real demand, the price tapered off and the hype was gone.

Cards with real demand are what you really want to target. These cards have REAL players who are not simply looking to buy in to sell-they want to play with the cards they are buying. This means they will buy AND hold on to the cards, rather than buying to sell.

Therefore, you have opportunities to get out of your positions and make money.

There is virtually no ceiling on cards with real demand like Past in Flames. There is such a huge ability for these kind of cards to simply skyrocket as PTQ players will pay any cost to play a deck that placed well a pro tour.

How do you identify cards that can generate real demand?

It comes from your sense as a player.

The knowledge that you gain from being a magic player is not discarded in the world of Magic finance. In fact, it is the most overlooked skill of speculators.

I went over in my last article about what to do during the Pro Tour. If you were paying close attention to what people were playing, you would have noticed the LARGE group of players that were placing with Storm decks. You would have been able to make the call on buying those storm staples and making a profit on them.

It’s all about being in tune with your skills as a Magic player and applying those to making (or saving) money.

When I speak of real demand, it’s also encyclical. Many PTQ grinders or simply ones who want to play in their local PTQ either don’t have the foresight or can’t capitalize on it to see what their needs are going to be in the future.

But you can and should see beyond this.

I don’t think Wizards will change the format at the next B&R announcement. You should take this format as it is. Even if there is a B&R announcement when Journey into Nix comes out, you will still be set if you run with format staples to invest in. 

The Pro Tour provided the foundation for this new format. Pro players will look back to THIS point to analyze what cards and decks are good, opposed to which aren’t. Moreover, this is a guidepost to the format staples that you should be looking at.

This is the breaking point for Modern. Before, very few people would play this format. However, with PTQ season approaching, more and more people are going to want to play these powerful decks. They will want to bling them out. That is REAL demand.

The best opportunities in modern are going to be long term. This is the starting point. This is where you enter into the market and make the decisions to invest in the cards that have a VERY low chance of going down.

That’s investing that we can all get behind.

What format staples are examples of this?

Restoration Angel

I feel like I’m beating a dead horse on this one. It’s too low. It won’t go any lower. Even if it stays the same price, it’s easy to liquidate and is an extremely popular card. It has playability in the UWR Twin deck, Kiki-Pod, and a few other decks. You can move in on this one now.

Cryptic Command 

At the bottom of my previous article I staunchly defended that Modern staples have little ceiling. I will still defend this, and now with a little proof.

Take a look at that increase going into the Pro Tour. There might be a quick price decrease as the hype from the pro tour dies down. That’s when you want to move in on this card. I still think 50 dollars is a conservative estimate; this could see 60 dollars.

I’m serious: Modern is here to stay. Wizards is putting too much effort in this format for it to fail. It’s time to ride the ride with WOTC.

Snapcaster Mage

The price of this card is bonkers right now. It’s worth talking about though.

I didn’t pick this card last week, and I’m not sure why. In hindsight, this is one of the best possible picks. It’s a pillar of the format and widely playable. Look for the hype to die back down and buy in. This card will never go down because it sees legacy play.

Birthing Pod

It’s not too late for this one – the prices have stayed relatively the same. I don’t really know why, and I think it has something to do with the real demand being absent. This seems like so much of a no brainer to speculators that they fail to invest in it. This card isn’t getting any lower, you should definitely be in the market to pick these up.

Splinter Twin

Splinter Twin isn’t going away. There were 12 copies in the top 8 of the Pro Tour. I’m a buyer under 20, it’s hilariously cheap.

Even though these are my main picks, there are tons of other opportunities. You have to do your own analysis and determine what YOU think as a player are the hot new cards. I can’t tell you what all the best cards are and see into the future, but we can have a chat on Twitter. I love talking about Magic; if you have any questions, feel free to hit me up.

So long for now, and good luck going into Modern season in the next few months.

What’s New is Old Again

Another Pro Tour in the books, another slew of results to digest. The coverage team did a commendable job this time, and the abolishment of the “I think I’m stylish but I still want the world to know I love videogames” blazer and t-shirt combo made sure everyone looked professional. There were still a few holes – the lighting in the coverage booth was dim and and I’m convinced Rashad hasn’t played Magic in several years – but overall, it was a noticeable improvement to previous PT coverage. And a special thank you for keeping Sheldon out of the booth.

You’re going to notice a trend in this article. I’m going to mention frequently that you should be holding copies until the Modern PTQ season, which starts in June. Without getting too far into it, holding 95% of Modern cards between now and then is just a Good Play. There’s very little room for the cards to fall, with plenty of upside between now and the summer. 

The Top 8 was fairly familiar, but not without cause for discussion. First is the seventeen of a possible thirty-two Snapcaster Mages. Deathrite Shaman had been doing a great job keeping Tiago at bay, but now that the graveyard is relatively safe again he’s flashback. Prices have reacted accordingly and Snap is now more than double what he was heading into the weekend. $30 is the real price. There’s a chance we could see him in Jace vs Vraska three months or as a judge promo, but neither of those will have enough supply to really ding his price. There’s even room for upward growth before the end of this PTQ season. I wouldn’t feel bad holding my copies until June, or even later if you aren’t in a rush. Sub-$25 prices aren’t on the horizon until this sees its third or even fourth printing.

Hand-in-hand with Snap is Cryptic Command, which saw nine copies across four decks in the Top 8, or 28% saturation. Cryptic reacted similarly, with very few copies left under $45. The next time someone complains that Modern Masters didn’t do anything, feel free to point out that this would be more than Force of Will if not for that printing. Cryptic, like Snapcaster, has found a new home at $45+. Some finance types are doubling down, buying large quantities at $40 in anticipation of what PTQs will do to the price. If you don’t own any right now, I wouldn’t hesitate to grab them, and feel free to trade aggressively for spares as well.

Meanwhile, I’m not sure what the more amusing Sideboard Spike® of the event was – Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir from $7 to $20+ as a 1-of, or 2-of Porphyry Nodes, from $.30 to $8.

Birthing Pod had a strong showing but remains rather obstinate at about $10. I don’t think this has finished growing yet. We don’t have to worry either, as its performance wasn’t oppressive enough to warrant banning. I’m holding my copies for the PTQ season, but I’ll get out then regardless.

The three Razorverge Thickets in Jacob’s list are a good sign, and at ~$3, these are gold in trade. Gavony Township was a 2 or 3-of in every Pod list and is right around $1 right now. You may even be able to get them for free in trade. The ceiling on this isn’t too high, but I could see this buylisting this for $1.50-$3 later this year. Mostly, Pod was reasonably stock.

Affinity did what Affinity does. Mox Opal is now $50. June will be time to sell those unless you’re trying to cast droids yourself. It shouldn’t be able to climb much higher than that with basically only one deck in Modern casting it, and the Legacy demand isn’t great either. We’ll see a reprint before this thing goes much higher. Inkmoth Nexus continues to grow, weighing in at over $10 today. The price memory on this is definitely lower than that. It could easily climb to $15+ in the coming months, but it’s fair game for every non-expansion set. Holding this is akin to a (slow) game of chicken. 

As one would guess, Storm made the Top 8, although amazingly not at the hands of Finkel. He was playing it though, as was Kai Budde. Don’t gloss over this: the two best Magic players in the world were playing Storm. My guess is that Deathrite wasn’t actually too problematic for the deck, but a high percentage of Thoughtseize and Liliana decks was. With those two cards considerably less represented than they have been in the past, as well as a heavy presence of Wild Nacatl, often a prey of grapes, Storm was much more viable this weekend. I have no reason to doubt that Storm won’t be a meaningful percentage of the Modern metagame in the future. The internet agrees with me: Pyromancer Ascension has tripled to $9, and Box of Failures worldwide rejoiced to find their Past in Flames were now $5. These two I would actually sell right now if you have them. If Storm comes anywhere close to taking over the format Wizards will not hesitate to axe a few more rituals, and in the meantime there won’t be enough demand to sustain the post-PT highs. Sell them now, be happy with your profits, and have a plan to beat piles of goblins at your next PTQ.

One of the more unique decks of the Top 8 was Dickmann’s Tarmo-Twin. His revolutionary innovation of “take a good deck and shove Tarmogoyf into it” served him well all weekend. This list reminds me of the Twin Blade lists from the twilight days of Jace and Stoneforge, where your plan was to beat your opponent in the face with creatures, and while they attempted to deal with that you were always threatening to kill them at the end of their turn. Tarmogoyf’s reign as the best blue creature continues, and his price follows. Even Modern Masters copies are $150 these days, with Future Sight a solid $10 to $20 ahead of that. At this rate I don’t think $200 is out of the question this summer. A full 20% of the 18+ point decks played him, and every list had the full four copies. Combined with his continued Legacy performances, Goyf is not going to slow down anytime soon. If there was a banner card for how badly we need Modern Masters 2, this is it.

Remand was all over the place, in 62.5% of the Top 8 and 20.7% of the 18 pointers. I tweeted a few days ago that this is the card I most need to own for play purposes, but least want to for finance reasons. As the illustrious @plfeudo pointed out recently, JvV is prime for a Remand reprint. This will put a pretty serious damper on its price, since Duel Decks are always bountiful. Conspiracy will be hot on JvV’s heels as another avenue. It’s a bit risky, but I think the right call here is holding off if you don’t own any, and shipping if you do. I wouldn’t blame you if you disagreed though. Remand was confirmed as reprinted in JvV a few hours after I submitted this to go live. Their new ceiling will be around $8-12. Sell yours aggressively now.  This will also crush the price of Reaper of the Wilds in Standard for anyone that was thinking about going down that route.

The darlings of the tournament Blue Moon and Summer Bloom each had their own effect on the markets. Main deck Blood Moon was an excellent call, and now sits at nearly $15 as a result. Aside from the hilariously overbought Teferi, nothing else in the deck was really an unknown quantity.

Summer Bloom, on the other hand, did a bunch of financial work this weekend. After a strong showing on Friday, Matthias Hunt drove Amulet of Vigor upwards from a dollar and change to where its now settled at around $6. He didn’t have a hot day two so the card didn’t stay over $10, but I think $4 is the new floor here. It’s not the first time this card has spiked hard, and people may see Bloom as the new Eggs, with a slow rise in demand as PTQ season approaches. Primeval Titan is now also around $20 after proving that a six mana 6/6 is good enough in Modern. Without a reprint I think he could slowly keep creeping upwards towards $30. As long as they keep printing sweet lands he keeps getting more and more attractive. 

One card that didn’t react much from Bloom’s success that I think should? Gemstone Mine. Aside from being one of the best broken-combo-enabling lands in the format, it’s shown up in SCG Legacy events eight times already just this year. There aren’t that many copies around, and $5-$6 for a land this powerful is incorrect. $10 is completely plausible before the PTQ season is over, and if its well represented prices closer to $20 aren’t unreasonable. I’ll be looking to trade for these in every binder I see them in.

Pulling back a bit from the Top 8, what are some of the larger trends across the eighteen pointers? Spellskite was in a whopping 42% of lists. He’s about $13 right now but I’m guessing that rises to $20 this summer. Nearly every person playing Modern needs copies, and we have exactly one printing.

Vendilion Clique, by virtue of being blue, is now firmly $55. There really isn’t any ceiling in sight for this flock of faeries. They have similar availability to Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant, whose prices are considerably higher. And as with these two, Clique does quite well in Legacy. What can we expect here? Well without a reprint, I don’t think it’s impossible these will be close to $100 this PTQ season. At the very least, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them catch up to Dark Confidant.

Aaron Forsythe did a little digging himself, and the results are fairly interesting. There were a whopping eighty-seven copies of Anger of the Gods. People were scared of Wild Nacatl alright. That is a butt-ton of angry gods. This isn’t especially actionable, but it will help flesh out our expectation of the format’s progression.

Kitchen Finks were nearly as represented, but this issue is much more complex. @Chosler88 pointed out a few weeks ago that it’s a great pickup, as Modern Masters cards aren’t incapable of rising, and it looks fantastic in a world of Wild Nacatls. On the flip side of that, if Anger of the Gods is absolutely everywhere Finks looks a lot worse. $4 is pretty cheap, but the splash damage may harm their potential. I think our perspective ceiling is around $7 or $8 right now, but that is susceptible to change. I don’t think I’m a buyer but I’m happy to grab them in trade. One thing to consider: a huge percentage of people in the room are going to be either casting Wild Nacatl, Kitchen Finks, or Anger of the Gods. 

Forsythe also reported 55 copies of Splinter Twin. Twin has broken $15, but that still feels a little underpriced. I think $25 is closer to this guy’s real price, especially with the other half of the combo being a nickel.

Zoo was 10% of the 18+ field, which sounds about right. Nacatl showed up in various forms of Zoo, but never without our good buddy Goyf. The more aggressive flavors of Zoo and RG aggro were better represented than I would have guessed, and Goblin Guide has hiked it up to $12. I could see him continuing on to $15, and from there you’re in a position where reprints are quite possible and would be a bit of a beating on the price. Selling in June is the safe play here.

As expected, Geist of Saint Traft showed up in the Domain Zoo lists alongside a flurry of burn and Snapcaster Mage. Turn three Geist, turn four double Tribal Flames is just savage. Geist is $25 up from $15 just two weeks ago, and could easily float towards $30 by June. Hold now, sell later.

There were a few things I found were considerably under-represented compared to what I was expecting. For one, only a single 18+ had a copy of Gifts Ungiven. That’s wild, especially since Gifts is one of the best combo-enablers in the format with Unburial Rites. It also costs four and is in blue, which are conveniently hallmarks of Cryptic Command. Imagine playing a fair deck sitting across the table from four untapped lands that make blue. Do you attempt to add pressure and hate against the combo right into Cryptic mana, or do you hold your threats and end up facing down Iona, Griselbrand or Elesh Norn?

Gifts Ungiven is a powerful enabler that’s even breaking through to Legacy. $4 is just too cheap for a card that does this much. The Modern Masters printing is going to keep this from hitting $30, but $10+ seems so viable. It didn’t have a hot performance this time around, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of it either.

Other cards that basically didn’t appear? Vengevine. Bloodghast. Life from the Loam. Raven’s Crime. Seismic Assault. Demigod of Revenge. Lotleth Troll. Windbrisk Heights. Restore Balance.

A lot of people – myself included – were anticipating some hot graveyard action with Deathrite’s departure. Instead, we just got a ton of UWx and Wild Nacatls. I’m not entirely sure why that is. Perhaps nobody stumbled across a list they liked? Just because nobody broke it this time, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen. There’s definitely a deck in there somewhere, and we just haven’t seen it yet. Vengevine and Bloodghast are already $20 and $13 respectively without any results. Don’t sleep on your chance to pick copies up before they really do make a splash. 

Unlike graveyard strategies, Faeries did make a go of it. They only put up two eighteen or betters though. In spite of the fervor that ensued at Bitterblossom’s unbanning, many were doubtful that they were capable of keeping up in a more powerful format. Those naysayers appear to have been right. At this point, I would sell all of your fae and Bitterblossoms while there’s still reasonable demand. Even if Faeries do manage to do slightly better than we’ve seen so far, it’s highly unlikely it will be enough to sustain these prices.

Whew! That is a lot of results to chew through, and we really only scratched the surface. With GP Richmond on the horizon, we’ll get to see how the field adjusts in light of the Pro Tour. One thing I can’t help but notice is how relatively familiar the successful decks looked this time around. That doesn’t tell me the format is solved, it just means that nobody has found some of the more wilder combinations. In the meantime, I’ll do my best to keep you all apprised of the spicy stuff I see coming through the pipeline.

Four Pillars

By: Jared Yost

Hi all! This week I’m going to skip pro tour coverage (since my articles have to be reviewed a few days in advance of my publication date) and instead focus my article on a topic that I’m sure interests all of you – how do I decide if a card warrants my attention from a financial perspective? This article is going to be a change of pace from my usual format of rattling off individual trending cards that also include minor explanations about what you should do once a card spikes. I am purposely not going to name a single individual card to supplement my reasonings. I don’t want this piece to be a rehash of what I’ve done previously. If I list cards as examples it could influence you in ways that I may not have intended depending on the example. Instead, I am going to give you high level strategies for deciding which cards you should be trying to buy or trade for.

Strategy 1 – Pick a Format and Stick with It

I wouldn’t say that I’m a card price “expert” by any means, but at this point I would say that I have a firm grasp on the concepts that can predict card prices across all of the constructed formats. This is from months of trial and error per format, each time refocusing my efforts on another format to understand the ebbs and flows. Scavenging Ooze

Everyone starts somewhere. I’m sure you have a particular favorite format that you follow extensively and might even be competitive within. That format for me was Legacy. Unfortunately, the constraints of my current position have bound me in terms of actually being able to attend and keep up with Legacy tournaments, however, before I got into the financial side of things I was an avid Legacy player. It was all I ever thought about. The format didn’t bring me as much success as Standard could have (fewer 50+ person tournaments hosted), but I do have a Top 8 to a tournament that I participated in several years back that was hosted in Philadelphia on a college campus that was not DCI sanctioned. In a nutshell, I enjoy following Legacy activity and have a keen interest in the format from that perspective.

Even though my format of choice was Legacy, in retrospect I still feel that it helped my learning curve just as much as starting with Standard would have when I decided to seriously look into Magic finance. Legacy cards have always been expensive. If you are a serious Legacy player, you know that format staples need to be picked up as fast as you can afford them. Sure, the format is occasionally shaken up by new sets, but the core strategies of the format never change. Fast mana is good. A fast lockdown is good. Cards that deal with 95% of the threats in the format are good. And so on. Being able to find a card with these types of effects at a fair price for the card’s general rarity is what you should be looking to do with Legacy.

I had a budget, and needed to stick with that budget in order to finish Legacy decks I was working on. Thus, I learned an important rule of Magic finance – always trade overpriced cards in newer formats like Standard into more stable formats. I would sometimes get pricey mythics and rares that I would receive in drafts and trade them in for store credit. Once I had enough store credit, I would then get another high price Legacy staple. This greatly supplemented my own funds and over time I created a pretty decent Legacy collection. I have seen my Legacy collection, which I haven’t added that many cards to since my heyday, gradually grow into more value than what I paid for it when I first started playing Legacy. The Standard rotation exists where cards will drop in value, but Legacy never rotates.

For those who know Standard well, they knew much more about capitalizing on the rotation than I did when I first delved into card prices. I eventually learned how to approach Standard rotation, yet starting with Legacy wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I still learned plenty from Legacy prices. Once I grasped the concepts of Legacy finance, it was pretty easy to transfer those lessons to faster changing formats like Standard. If Standard is your starting point, you will have a nice transition to slower formats because you know that once you find something good you can be sure that it will gain value over time.

Trying to capitalize on Magic finance for every format at the beginning won’t work well for you. Once you become very specialized in one area, you can easily shift many of the lessons learned to another and then add the new observations to your existing knowledge. The first step however is getting familiar with the tournament schedule for your format if it is relevant.

Strategy 2 – Know the Rotation and Season Schedule

Cards that interest me can be completely different depending on what time of year you talk to me. Depending on how Wizards schedules their year, you want to make sure that you are interested in cards ahead of schedule before a lot of other players are thinking about the upcoming format or set release. 

Kataki, War's Wage

The most obvious example is that three sets rotate out of Standard at once every fall, four if you include the previous core set. What’s hard is knowing what to do in these situations other than dump rotating staples. You need to think ahead a little bit in terms of what types of decks people will be playing once fan favorites are gone. My strategy in this case is to focus on aggro decks, which are the easiest to pilot in an unknown format due to their more simplistic game plan. I find cards that won’t rotate that fit the profile “cause a lot of damage at a low mana cost” and try to pick them up in anticipation for the first few months of the new Standard season.

In terms of seasons, players will generally not be looking for Modern cards if we are months away from Modern season. Picking up Modern staples during the offseason is a good strategy because you will be able to pick them up at pre-spike prices and ensure you aren’t overpaying for cards during the season that could dip in price once the Modern season is over until next year again.

Of course, at set rotations and during seasons you also want to make sure you follow any Pro Tour coverage that accompanies them.

Strategy 3 – Follow the Pros

Though certainly not possible for everyone, if you have the chance you should watch Pro Tour coverage at the beginning of the seasons so that you know which cards the pros are playing the most. You have to be decisive if you are willing to do this. You have to analyze a lot of results within a short time frame if you want to be able to pick up undervalued cards before they spike. Due to the live streaming matches and the fast paced buying on the internet, hot cards are selling out in a matter of hours. If you have access to Starcity premium, you could try seeing which cards are trending from the various authors discussing their strategy before major tournament weekends.

Trust me, this one takes practice. I get the feeling that pros throw around a lot of misleading information in their articles, especially free ones – they may talk a lot about a deck or their testing with a deck but then play a completely different deck during the tournament. Your best bet is watching live coverage, you can’t hide what is public knowledge at that point. Twitter is also great in this regard. You can keep tabs on trending accounts that don’t have a stake in the success of an individual player or team.

Strategy 4 – Determine the Number of Decks a Card is Played In

Once you know the nature of the format pretty well, the set rotation schedule, the year’s seasons, and what the pros are doing, what next? Well, it’s really just a numbers game. Do the numbers for the card add up in my head? Karakas

This strategy is much harder to apply in a format like Standard rather than Legacy, which has a vast library of past and recent tournament results that reveal which cards see play across the most number of decks. In Standard the prices almost always reflect the amount of play the card receives, so no card appears undervalued. Once a card is found to be good in a strategy, or several strategies, the price has already spiked – unless it is a card from the most recent block or set in Standard. These are usually undervalued until rotation, so using what you know from Strategy 2 can help with formulating a plan with this strategy.

Unfortunately with this strategy, card demand these days can sometimes be driven purely by hype and not results. If I see that a card is spiking currently and that it only has one deck that is played in, or even no results outside of an MTGO daily that somebody streamed, I feel much better about missing out on getting them at their pre-spike price. These spikes tend to have a way of settling back down. However, there are two reasons why the card may retain the new price even for several months:

1. Because of the long price memory of players.

2. When a spike happens far enough in advance of a format, we need to wait to see if the hype can hold. (This is true particularly for the upcoming Modern season). The card will retain its price until this time.

In general, if a card is played in two or more decks that have Top 8’s under their belt and there are three to four copies per deck, that really grabs my interest. It will also grab my interest if a lot of hype is being generated about it during a Pro Tour and the deck is performing well within the tournament. I will then check the card’s price and if the price looks good enough for the card’s general rarity and the format I am looking at it would be wise of me to pick up a few copies before others discover how much the card is played.

I have been successful with this strategy from a Modern and Legacy perspective (easy for me to branch out to Modern due to Legacy experience, no rotation makes it easier) but with Standard this strategy is sometimes not as effective.

Why These Strategies?

If I was to describe the four pillars of Magic finance that I use to help guide my card evaluations, I would say these are it. These are the pillars of my financial knowledge that I use to help guide me in decisions I make every day regarding the status of card prices and where they are going.

These strategies aren’t hard and fast by any means, there are always exceptions to any rule. I’ve found that many of the mistakes I’ve made, however, are from directly not following the strategies.

Getting cards because I think they’re cool or will be good in Standard without researching the format. Bad idea.

Getting cards as soon as they come out without taking into regard rotations and schedules. Oh boy…

Getting cards before checking how much actual play they see or have seen in the past. Nope.

Well, you get the picture.

The fact of the matter is, Magic finance is hard. Really hard. I’ve been trying my hand at this for a year and half and I feel like I’m just starting to make headway. It takes a lot of trial and error in order to become even remotely proficient at this. Hopefully my lessons learned, if you will, can reduce your learning curve and make you better at this too.

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