Five things Owen taught me in one match

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By: Cliff Daigle

At GP Sacramento last week, being 4-1 and having made several mistakes along the way, I sat down across from Owen Turtenwald, a former Player of the Year with several GP wins to his name. I tried not to be intimidated, but instead, I wanted to see what hints and tips I could glean from someone who makes a living playing this game. He didn’t disappoint.

We sat down, shuffled, presented. I gave my benediction of “May you draw mana in the appropriate ratio” (a phrase I stole from an old friend named Brian Smith) and he said “Good luck.” The gentleman next to me said, “That’s a great thing to say, to hope for good mana.” I said that I hate losing to lucky topdecks.

Owen said “It’s about sportsmanship. There’s no reason to be a bad sport.” And you know? He’s right.

Financial Lesson #1: Don’t be a jerk.

Tymaret, the Murder King

I’ve sort of been a jerk in the past in terms of trades. I’m a touch pushy, I’m constantly asking for trades, and right now, I’m dismissive of most things in binders. Mainly because they are of no interest to me or I know they are out of my price range. The point is, I can spare a moment and be more polite about things. It could only make things better.

In game one, turn two, he plays Stymied Hope to counter my turn two play of Tymaret, the Murder King. I said, “Has that been good for you today?” He smiled and said, “It’s been okay.”

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Why on earth am I asking this guy if that card has been good? He countered my play and scryed, he’s maindecking it, he’s gotten full value – from me! – and I actually have to ask if the card has been worth playing? I recognize that there are situations where it would not be optimal. I imagine that if he’d had better choices, he would have been playing them. But all that said…it was there and it was very effective.

Financial Lesson #2: Believe the pros!

This applies all over the place. Owen Turtenwald doesn’t need to justify a card’s inclusion in the maindeck. Other financiers don’t need to justify themselves to me or to anyone. Heck, I don’t need to justify myself to anyone else. All I can do is listen to them or show others what I do, and let the rest of the world make up their own mind.

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I get aggressive and bring his life down while trading creatures. Our boards clear, he plays a Keepsake Gorgon and I do the same. He goes monstrous on his and points to my Gorgon, to which I reply, “That’s an invalid target.” He blinks and looks at the text again, where it says “destroy target non-Gorgon creature.” He nods and looks at his hand again before passing the turn.

Financial Lesson #3: Don’t Panic!

Polis Crusher

I’ve never made a mistake with the aplomb he just showed me. I have a bad habit of cursing my fate to the heavens and questioning why Polis Crusher is the only Monstrous card that has an ability which triggers on damage being dealt. It’s my fault for not reading the card.
This applies in the financial realm as well. You’re going to be wrong about a card. You may well be wrong about large quantities of a card. When you’re wrong, accept that, figure out why you were wrong, and apply that lesson in the future. I try to do that, as I did with Primeval Bounty and the rest of M14.

So he’s got a monstrous Gorgon, while mine isn’t. We each play some creatures and rebuild the board. I need to get aggressive again, so I attack with my gorgon with monstrous mana open and with a Coordinated Assault in my hand. He makes some blocks, his gorgon blocking mine, and I monstrous to kill something else because it was a threat. Know what I didn’t do? Play the Coordinated Assault!

Financial Lesson #4: Think about your plan, especially if you want to change it.

Maybe you change your mind on a speculation. Maybe you’d resolved to hold for two years but find yourself waffling after just one. Maybe something happens and you decide to go all-in on one card.

Whichever avenue you take, be aware of why you’re changing your plan. Nothing is set in stone, but recognize if you’re making a mistake, acting hastily, or being irrational. It’s very easy to be irrational in the current Magic market, with a different card spiking every other day, simply because people think it MIGHT be good in the next set.

I attack Owen down to five and bring back the Murder King with lethal on the board. He calmly plays a Gray Merchant, casts Pharika’s Cure on Tymaret, and is comfortable at 11 now. He ends up taking that game.

So I’m following my plan of adding a third color and changing my lands and cards, going bigger: twelve cards in, twelve cards out. I stack up my deck and shuffle, then present. He does the same. When I look at my opening seven, there’s cards I know I sideboarded out. Oh hell.

I call a judge and ask if I can sideboard. It’s no longer a game loss, thankfully, but I’d like to go back to 40 cards. Unfortunately, I’ve presented my deck and that’s my deck for this game. I was too busy replacing the counterspell, the Gorgons, the Merchant, everything. I got sloppy and careless and ended up playing a 52-card deck with 23 land, losing after drawing eleven of them.

Financial Lesson #5: Pay attention!

Primeval Bounty

So much is going on, with spikes and articles and counterfeits, that it’s easy to get distracted. It’s possible that while I’m at my day job, cards are going crazy in value. I have to prioritize, though, and focus on what’s important.

Things are no longer under the radar. In fact, we have access to a ridiculous amount of information. If you’re following several hundred people on Twitter, you won’t catch everything being said. Perhaps you should make a new account just for Magic-related tweets (including mine, @WordOfCommander) and assign your interests to different usernames.

I’d like to thank Owen for also telling me that I could still make Day 2 as a 4-2. I dropped after that round, mainly because I wanted to get some EDH games in, but also because I could feel that I was tired and making silly, sloppy mistakes. If we end up playing again, Mr. Turtenwald, you may well win but at least this time I will have more cogent questions and reasonable plays.

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Let the Bodies Hit the Floor

By: Travis Allen

Born of the Gods is nearly upon us, and all of you should know by now not to trade for cards during their prerelease period. It has been repeated a hundred times before, with greater elucidation than you will find here today. The tl;dr is that 98% of cards will lose value over time, so even if you get lucky and connect on the 2% that rises, you’ll probably lose way more money gambling on the rest of them.

In the process of X-0ing all your local release events, you’re going to end up with a bunch of singles. You’ll jam them in your binder ready to pawn them off on some amateur trader who thinks that Chromanticore will definitely see play (he’s quite certain.) But what exactly should you be taking in return? If you’ve read my recent article, you’ll know that I’m pretty down on a lot of Standard cards at the moment. If your trade partner doesn’t have any sweet, sweet Modern staples to trade for, then what should you take? You’re standing there with binder credit in hand, flipping through pages, wondering which two dollar cards you should be picking out. Let’s take a look some Standard cards that have probably gotten pretty comfy in binder sleeves that owners may be willing to ship away for very reasonable rates. Our goal here is to identify cheap Standard cards that are going to be in a lot of binders, that while rather uninspiring right now, have solid middle or long-term prospects that you can trade inflated BOG product for.

 

Angel of Serenity

Serenity is now available for under $4 from some vendors, which is kind of amazing given what things looked like seven months ago.

serenity

She hasn’t gotten any less powerful though, and making your opponent scoop up their Master of Waves or Desecration Demons is still just as good as when she was doing it last season. She’s even got a shot to see some solid play in Standard again before rotation, and if that doesn’t pan out she’s still an angel with an awesome effect. Angels are quite possibly the most popular casual tribe out there. A constructed-grade angel is going to be a great gainer long-term. If she shows up again in Standard you’ve got a winner, and if she doesn’t, as an angel there’s no doubt of a slow trend upwards over time.

 

Aurelia, the Warleader

Aurelia, the Warleader
Basically what I said above. Less likely to see play in Standard, but still an Angel with a cool ability at rock-bottom prices.

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Chromatic Lantern

Chromatic Lantern
A $2-$3 card without any play in Standard whatsoever, Lantern is as low as it can be. You won’t lose money taking them, and a year from now they could make it to $5.

 

Crypt Ghast

Crypt Ghast
Cards that double mana are popular with the casual crowd and the EDH crowd. (Those are separate groups, by the way.) For $2, he’s a safe bet. He can’t get any lower, and with the extort keyword, his reprint options are considerably limited.

 

Darksteel Forge

dark forge

Forge used to be a bazillion bucks. It’s not anymore, but it could definitely work it’s way up there again. An easy choice at a dollar or two.

 

Deadbridge Chant

Deadbridge Chant
Chant hasn’t changed price in about six months, but that just means it won’t be going any lower. As a mythic from a relatively unpopular set, there’s plenty of possible upward growth. Even if it doesn’t start to climb, you probably won’t have any trouble trading away copies a year or two from now for $2. There’s basically no risk here, and while it may not be the best place to put your Magic money, if there’s only one guy in the room taking your Pain Seers for $12 you’ve gotta get something.

 

Galerider Sliver

Galerider Sliver
$1 for a strict upgrade over the previous iteration. Slivers didn’t do much of anything this time through Standard, but they were never for us anyways. After how little people cared for them, I’m guessing it will be quite some time before we see them again. As a core set rare, Galerider could easily be $4 in a year or two. With how well the Modern can support a 5-color manabase for a tribal deck, Slivers have a non-zero chance of showing up there in a semi-competitive fashion. The ability to give your entire team evasion for one mana is pretty great in an aggro deck.

 

Master Biomancer

Master Biomancer
He will never not be several dollars, and could easily climb to double digits within two years. He’s hanging right around $5 right now, and I bet you could get them for $3 or $4 in trade. Plus, Biomancer is probably the coolest creature to pair with Master of Waves. (A man can dream.)

 

Necropolis Regent

Necropolis Regent
A mythic vampire with a big body and a tasty ability that reads well to new or casual players. She’s also under a $1. There’s no way this doesn’t grow, even if only to $2.

 

Plasm Capture

Plasm Capture
I’m still a big fan long term. Mana Drain is no joke. Two for a dollar is the best rate you’ll see on this for a long, long time. If you don’t believe me that it’s popular, did you know foils are $4? That’s a good sign for long-term growth.

 

Prophet of Kruphix

Prophet of Kruphix
Currently $2. Seedborn Muse is $10 and has been printed three times. Prophet has the bonus of potentially showing up in Standard too!

 

Savageborn Hydra

Savageborn Hydra
I bet you did not know this card is $3. That’s ok; most won’t. Hydras have historically been pretty popular, and Savageborn is in the upper half when it comes to power level. It could easily double within a year or so, and will probably be $10 in about two. You’ll be glad you had 15 or 20 sitting around at that point.

 

Sylvan Primordial

Sylvan Primordial
There’s no way this doesn’t start rising after rotation and not stop until its reprinted. If your EDH deck makes green mana, you’re probably casting this. At under $1, this is one of the safest choices on this list.

 

Worldspine Wurm

Worldspine Wurm
A humongous trampling creature that leaves behind three humongous trampling creatures when it dies. At $2, I don’t see this ever being cheaper. Stash it and be happy it’s $8 in a year or two.

Join me next week when I do my Born of the Gods full financial set review!

Spiking Cards – Round 2

By: Jared Yost

The first round of spikes happened last month, and this month they just keep coming. Gee, the spikes for Magic cards aren’t slowing down anytime soon are they? Let’s break down last week’s spikes and see if the gains are for real, or if the hype train has derailed yet another card.

 

Summoner's Egg

Summoner’s Egg

Usual suspect Travis Woo is the primary driver of this spike. You don’t have to take my word for it, he actually tweeted about it:
png;base6477c2b0946823f6c8

If you saw this tweet on Jan 7th, you might have been able to buy in early enough. Trying to sell into the next wave of buyers that think it can break higher than $4 in paper is another story.

If you missed out on this spike you are now asking yourself – is Summoner’s Egg the next Show and Tell in Modern? Let me answer that for you – No! It hasn’t even put up any real results! Through the Breach and Goryo’s Vengeance are a million times better than this card, and even they aren’t more than $10 and $12 respectively. Summoner’s Egg isn’t even in the same league as these cards. Sell any Eggs if you got ‘em; this price won’t be lasting long.

 

Fist of Suns

Fist of Suns

Huh, interesting that two Fifth Dawn rares spiked – just goes to show you how rare old sets are compared to recent print runs.

With less unbridled enthusiasm than Woo, the creator of the Fist of Suns deck Jan van der Vegt, who was championing the deck during Day 1 and ultimately finished 44th place, had this to say:
png;base64b8110c37b347367b

The freaking creator of the deck told people that it wasn’t any good, and it still went from $2 to $10! What the actual…. well, I am honestly lost for words here.

All I know is that the snowball to avalanche effect is the perfect metaphor for speculating in MTG these days. All it takes is one tweet or Reddit post to make a few deckbuilders salivate and start buying, then others check MTGStocks and see that the price is going up, and then these others decide to start heavily buying in. You wind up with a crazy price that in no way reflects the actual merits of the card.

 

Norin the Wary

Norin the Wary

Is this a joke? I’m happy to say it is indeed not. From the Magic Online classifieds to paper binders everywhere, Norin is now a $3 card. Why you ask? Take a look at this. Keen players noticed that this deck snuck 3x Norin into the build because gaininglife, dealing damage, and pumping up your Champion of the Parish once every player’s turn is not too shabby. You can tutor him up with Ranger of Eos, get a bunch of Myrs from Genesis Chamber, and draw some cards with extra mana from Mentor of the Meek. I think we’re starting to see the beginning of a new archetype emerge in Modern. Soul Sisters has always been a deck, and this is just a new twist on that strategy.

His only issue is his Legendary status, which means that you can only have one cautious little Norin out at a time. Despite this I believe that this price has staying power, unlike those silly Fifth Dawn cards above. As of Friday, there were plenty available on TCGPlayer for $2.50. This price fairly represents his potential to make the deck a contender in the future. Keep an eye out on Norin, and if you like the deck I suggest you pick him up before the next potential spike that could occur closer to Modern season.

 

Cabal Therapy

Cabal Therapy

How is Cabal Therapy, a card that already has seena reprint twice (albeit rarer than most reprints,) an $18 uncommon? Well, I guess there are a few factors behind this gold rush – it has Flashback, which is a mechanic that is hard to reprint (plus we just had a set with Flashback,) the card name is very flavor-specific, and Judgment is a fairly rare set. These factors combined, plus the hype that drew attention to it Friday the 10th, made a lot of players anxious to quickly finish their Legacy decks.

I wouldn’t bet on Cabal Therapy keeping this new price – Wizards has shown they have no problem reprinting this card, and I bet in the future it could be in another supplementary product. Avoid buying into this. Sell or trade any extra copies you have at this point.

Market Theory – Analyzing These Spiking Card Trends

Over the past few months, cards good in theory yet without results have been spiking out of nowhere. I’m hardly a pot to call a kettle black, but come on people – you know who you are. This is just getting out of hand. More and more speculators are crawling out of the woodwork to make their fortunes on unrealized potential. I’ll let you in on a secret – I don’t really make that much on speculating.

Speculating on Magic in the way that most individual players engage is just like a person engaging with the stock market. What most people don’t know is that most individual investors underperform the market. Also, people seem to think very highly of themselves even if they aren’t getting a decent return from their investments. They even did studies on hedge fund managers, people whose entire job it is to make money from money. Guess what – not even these geniuses and brainiacs could outsmart the market, and their returns for the most part were “indistinguishable from zero”. That’s right, they worked their entire career and their gains were so close to nothing that they didn’t even register as a blip on the radar in the grand scheme of things. These are the so-called experts.

What does this all mean for you, reader? Well, it means that all of us need some self-awareness as to why we make the purchasing decisions we do. Maybe there is some emotional investment involved, where we pick up cards that scream cool to us, and convince ourselves that they won’t be going down. Maybe there are some people notice how few copies of a specific card are in circulation and see dollar signs. Maybe there is a secret consortium of card vendors out there, colluding with each other like OPEC to keep that oil money coming in… well, most likely not this reason.

Anyways, what this means is that in the long run you won’t be making much money from your Magic speculating. And that’s OK. Nobody really does, not even the market whiz kids. What you should be looking to capitalize on with your Magic acquisitions is a steady percentage increase from year to year by making smart buying decisions and timing the market correctly – something that takes a little bit of experience and knowledge to fully understand. Once you have the fundamentals down your pickups will start to reflect this experience and keep your binder full of relevant, relatively well-priced cards.

If I was to sum up the current frenzy of Magic speculating in one word, it would be “insanity.” Cards without a lot of results shouldn’t be jumping this high or this quickly. I’m not sure what can be done about this problem moving forward, though I think awareness about your place in the market as an individual speculator is as good a starting point as any. Sure, some of you probably made some decent money from a few of the cards I mentioned above – possibly even all of them. Remember though, in the long run the odds are against 99.9% of us. Players already complain quite frequently about the high price of cards, and adding fuel to the fire by buying up copies of cards that are only good in theory aren’t helping. I have a feeling that a lot of people will be burned by these spikes, and not just from the cards I mentioned above. There are plenty of examples that I didn’t showcase today (such as many of the cards related to a Nekusar.) Buyer beware, buy cards with care.

Reprints That Will Happen

By: Cliff Daigle

I know we are all abuzz about the Born of the Gods spoilers, but today I want to address two topics that came up last week: counterfeits and reprints.

Reddit and Twitter and all plenty of other folks were up in arms about the Chinese company making very high quality fakes for not much money. These were Power 9 cards, fetchlands, duals, and all sorts of old and new cards that would fool anyone while inside a sleeve. There are indications that these have been trickling onto the market already, especially via eBay.

For a casual player, I recognize that the impact is minor. We tend to get cards and then keep them indefinitely. Our powered cubes, our foiled decks: these are the reason cards get scarce. It doesn’t matter much to me when cards go up in value, because it’s in a deck and is likely going to stay there.

The danger comes when we want to sell out or extract some increased value. More than once in my life, I’ve sold cards to pay for needed things, like a new transmission or student loan payments. Counterfeits threaten that value, and while Wizards is taking a step with the foil stamp soon to be added in Magic 2015, this is not the last we’ve heard of this problem.

Clone

To those of you who want to buy a set of power and all ten duals for pennies just so that you can have official-looking cards without the official price: shut up. You don’t understand the impact of what you are saying. A flood of indistinguishable counterfeits would be deadly, since no one would buy boosters to get cards for Standard when the counterfeits can be had for next to nothing.

In happier news, we are getting Modern Event Decks soon. No word yet on what’s in them, but we know the MSRP is going to be $75. We are all still guessing at what will be included, which colors and type of strategy, but Zendikar fetchlands have been a very popular guess, even if we don’t know how many of each will be in the deck.

It’s notable that Wizards is doing a single event deck. The Standard ones have all come in pairs, and frequently had a problem where one deck was more valuable than the other. This led to a glut of the lesser decks on shelves, and stores didn’t want to reorder both in order to get the in-demand one. They’ve announced that they will reprint this deck to meet demand, so there’s a chance that everyone who wants one can get one. (Just a chance!)

This first event deck will be a bit tentative as Wizards figures out what they are doing. However, you should expect more of these to come down the pipeline, as they seek to reprint cards and increase the availability of certain Modern staples.

Reprints have changed in a lot of ways since the early days of Magic. No longer do we have black border (original printing) vs. white border (core set reprint). Foil-only printings are a thing, as well as being able to buy a product and know for sure what cards it contains.

Most interestingly, reprinting a card these days doesn’t automatically cause the value of the older card to tank. This was not always the case.

In the past, there was a set called Chronicles. This set was designed to increase the number of certain cards in circulation. This was 1996, and Wizards had a lot of growing pains left to do. The secondary market was ill-formed and not well-connected. We all got our prices from Scrye or InQuest.

Chronicles destroyed the prices of many cards, but it’s worth mentioning that at this time, price and supply wasn’t centralized and shared online as it is now. It also needs to be noted that the summer of Fourth Edition/Chronicles/Ice Age is when Wizards finally got their logistics in line. Stores would get all they asked for, without needing to inflate their order.

We have had more than a few reprints lately. Some have caused prices of originals to tank. Many more have seen the new ones be cheap, while the original stays near its pre-reprinting price.

Tarmogoyf

Example #1: Tarmogoyf

This and Dark Confidant were the banner reprints from Modern Masters, and their price hasn’t really budged. I know MMA was a limited run, but I really wish we could compare the quantities sold of MMA to Future Sight to Ravnica.

Darksteel Forge

Example #2: Darksteel Forge

Now it gets interesting. The Planechase reprint didn’t hurt the value much. Being in Magic 2014 took half its value away…but note the gap between the two older versions and the M14 version. Is it worth a few bucks to have a different set symbol and different flavor text?

Akroma's Memorial

Example #3: Akroma’s Memorial

As one of the most unfair casual cards out there, the original was pushing $10 before it was reprinted in M12. The new one bottomed out right afterwards, around $3. But lo and behold, both the Future Sight and the M13 copies are around $8 now.

thoughtseize

Example #4: Thoughtseize (Lorwyn)

Look at the graph for this card for 108 weeks. Last January it saw a big rise, reaching $80 before the reprint news. It’s back to $40, while the Theros version is just $15. The big question is how that price will change over time. We are about to embark on Born of the Gods, but Theros packs will be opened until summertime. Magic Online redemption is going to be a factor, but how much with the price changes and event entry/prize tweaks?

 

With these examples in mind, let’s look at some likely reprints and if we should be afraid of the impact on value.

Graven Cairns

Filterlands – These will get printed again. I’m not sure when, but they are from an underbought pair of sets, especially the enemy ones of Eventide. They see a little Modern play, but they are probably the best lands in casual decks for their ability to give double of a color – we dearly love big splashy spells. I’d see these taking a dip at reprinting but not by much. Grab them when you can.

Arid Mesa

Zendikar fetches – At reprinting, they will lose 20% or so of their value. There’s too many Modern players who would be snapping these up to keep the Zendikar lands down for long. The casual appeal of these is also very high–we all have shocklands to fetch now! An easy call to say the price will stay stable/rise. I do not think that there will be enough Modern Event decks to meet everyone’s demand, so if these lands are in that box, the originals will at least hold their value.

Windswept Heath

Onslaught fetches – I’d call these the safest of all the cards on this list. A reprint won’t hurt the prices of the originals very much, because the old frame will keep them as a more unique version. If these were printed in a Standard-legal set, I’d expect the demand to be very high at first, as Modern players added them to decks left and right.

Lurking Predators

Lurking Predators – If this gets reprinted, the price will tank. It’s a fun card, but the supply will be far greater than the demand. Get only what your EDH decks need.

Gauntlet of Power

Gauntlet of Power – Wouldn’t this be a fun addition in Theros block? Gauntlet of Power would make devotion better and easier! If reprinted, I think a lot of the price would depend on the art used. I really like the Time Spiral art. Expect this to hit $5 if reprinted, so be cautious.

Darksteel Plate

Darksteel plate – I was really surprised that this wasn’t in any of the Commander 2013 decks. It is a great EDH card and that’s the only place it sees play. If it gets a reprint I’d expect the value to plummet and then very slowly rise again over time. Not a safe investment.

Vedalken Orrery

Vedalken Orrery – If you don’t want to mess with lands, this is up your alley. Do everything at instant speed! This is another card which won’t get affected by a reprint, because people are going to play the heck out of these. Another fairly stable card.

Riptide Laboratory

Tribal lands – I mean the Onslaught ones, à la Riptide Laboratory (Look at the spread between the foil and the nonfoil!) or Unholy Grotto. If reprinted these would tank and not climb for a while. The tribal decks have theirs already, and so a new round of these lands would be lots of extra supply. Be wary.

Wurmcoil Engine

Wurmcoil Engine – even as the prerelease promo, this has an impressive price. Only Emrakul does better price-wise as a promo. This card is probably one of the best colorless creatures ever, making it an awesome fit into most casual decks. It shows up in some modern Tron lists too. I doubt this would get printed again in standard, but in a duel deck, it’ll fetch $10 pretty easily. These are a good bet to keep most of their value.

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

The Eldrazi (Ulamog, Kozilek, Emrakul) – Amongst the most mana-intensive creatures ever, these are in demand for multiple reasons. Rise was a VERY popular set, fun to draft and packed with value. Inquisition of Kozilek is a $7.50 uncommon, simply as a budget alternative to Thoughtseize. The three giants are nearly immune to having a reprint hurt their value, as seen by the have extra copies of Emrakul (prerelease promo) and Ulamog (FTV:Legends) floating around. EDH players love the immunity to mill strategies, as well as huge monsters, so I would call these a fairly safe bet to keep most of their value if reprinted.

One last tidbit today: for you Nekusar, the Mindrazer players. If you like Wheel of Fortune, don’t forget to add discard effects too, including the classic combo of Megrim and Memory Jar. In fact, the new Waste Not is going to positively sing in those decks. Enjoy!

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