City of Traders: RTR Pickups

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By Travis Allen

A few days ago the most recent SCG invitational wrapped up, the winner – my buddy Erik Smith – piloting Jund and UWR in Standard and Legacy respectively. This is a great chance to see how M14 is doing in finding its place in the format. An invitational is the type of event players are definitely going to be testing and brewing new decks for, which is more work than any given SCG open will typically see.

While Jund may have won, the top 8 Standard lists were 8 separate archetypes. That’s a lot of diversity, and a lot of potential different M14 cards. After skimming through the lists and doing some quick napkin math though, it looks like fewer than 10 or so unique cards from M14 showed up, and roughly 5% of the top 8 lists were M14. That is a pretty minor impact, given that it is one of eight legal sets, or about 12.5% of the format. Scavenging Ooze may have made a huge impact in the way things play out, but there were only about 10 copies across the top 8. What this tells me is that nobody has figured out exactly how these cards fit in yet, and, more interestingly, a lot of the power in the set is hard to find with so many other cards out there at the moment.

I have a feeling that in September we’re going to see a large surge of M14 cards in Standard. There won’t be so many other powerful effects and synergies muscling not-quite-good-enough cards out of the way. This will bode very well for the price of several M14 cards. Pay close attention to what cards seem like they’re almost playable, because if they are, there’s a good chance they will see a solid jump in the fall.

One more thought I had regarding this fall is regarding deck viability. Right now we’re working on the assumption that we will see five or ten manlands in Theros. Assuming that is the case, the mana for the new Standard is, quite honestly, going to suck. At least, it will for any deck trying to be aggressive. Imagine a GW beats deck. You get 4 Temple Garden, then uh…4 Stirring Wildwood? That’s hardly aggressive. 4 Guildgates? Assuming we do in fact get manlands, Mono Red is probably going to be the only stable aggressive deck. This means lots of midrangey and control lists. Cards that may be a little too slow right now, like Advent of the Wurm, may become a lot stronger if people aren’t trying to kill you on turn 3 with Burning-Tree Emissarys.

Stepping back from the fall at the moment, this point in Magic’s lifecycle is a very good time to turn our gaze backwards at what will be the older brother of Standard. M14 just became legal and Theros spoilers are on the tongues of young mages everywhere, while Ravnica block languishes as old news. This is good for us though, because cards that will be major players in a new format are typically at their lowest right now. This gives us a lot of potential profit if we can turn our attention away from the exciting new cards for a few minutes.

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These are all cards that caught my eye when browsing the set lists. There’s a lot of room for a lot of growth in here. At least one of these cards will probably grow by 400-700%, so there’s great value in here if you figure out the right card(s). 

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Supreme Verdict
Supreme Verdict was the sweeper of choice at the RTR Block Pro Tour, putting 19 copies into the top 8. That is a lot of dead creatures. It’s also the best and only really good sweeper in the RTR block. It sees play frequently in Standard, with most decks that want at least one likely wanting four between maindeck and sideboard. At any given Standard event I would guess roughly 5-10% and occasionally more of the decks in the room have this card in their 75. In addition to being a staple in Standard, both Modern and Legacy have proven receptive to its presence, where the can’t-be-countered clause has been preferred over the can’t-regenerate clause of the O.G. WOG. Terminus was at the exact same price point at this time in that card’s life, and shortly after rotation it jumped to $10+. Supreme Verdict was a buy-a-box promo, but that was hardly printed in enough numbers to have a serious impact on quantity.

Jace, Architect of Thought
Like Supreme Verdict, this card was all over the Top 8 of the Block Pro Tour. Control mirrors hinged on this card and Sphinx’s Revelation, and Jace simultaneously did a great job of blunting aggressive strategies as well. Jace was a defining card of the PT, and there’s no reason to expect it to behave any differently after rotation. It bottomed out early this summer around $10, and has started to climb back towards $13. This is only the beginning, though. $20 is almost guaranteed again within the next year, and if it shows up as a 4-of in several Top 8 lists of an early Theros event, $30+ is conceivable. There is basically no possible way to lose when picking this card up sub-$15.

Lotleth Troll
This card is probably the most mispriced card on this list at the moment. It shows up semi-frequently in Standard, providing a semi-evasive (trample is evasion) regenerating threat that enables graveyard shenanigans. Lotleth Troll is in a good tribe, and he (it?) has shown to be playable in both Modern and Legacy as well. This card may take longer to realize his price potential than others, but I have no doubt that he’ll be well north of $10 eventually. (Disclaimer: this could take a few years.)

Worldspine Wurm
I’m stating right off the bat that Wurm isn’t here because I think he’s part of some absurd combo with the new Garruk, so don’t dismiss me out of hand. Rather, he’s a huge, splashy, powerful creature that EDH and casual players alike are drawn to. Remember that Khalni Hydra is currently $7. He’s not going to be lighting up the tournament scene, but he’s a very safe bet at $1 in trade.

Armada Wurm
I’m currently seeing copies under $3 on TCG Player, which seems crazy to me. Everyone remembers that this is 10 trampling power for 6 mana, right? Even better, half of the card is a token. That means the potential for token abuse is there, but he’s still doesn’t get completely blown out by Ratchet Bomb. This card feels like it’s right on the cusp to me. It may not happen immediately, but I can’t imagine this not becoming a major part of the Standard scene, even temporarily, within the next year.

Gyre Sage
Another member of the dollar-and-change brigade, this seems like it could very easily live at $4-7. If any sort of Simic/BUG evolve/token/hydra list appears, this is probably part of it. I wouldn’t go super deep, but I definitely like it at $1-2.

Aurelia’s Fury
Remember the hype around this card when it was previewed? It was preselling for well over $20, and has now cratered to sub-$3. There hasn’t been a single noteworthy performance of the card since it was released. However, the card is still a Swiss army knife in that there isn’t really anything it doesn’t do. I don’t think we’ll get through the next year without this making at least a brief appearance and accompanying spike.

Master Biomancer
Similar to Aurelia’s Fury, Master Biomancer was preordering for quite a bit, then did nothing upon release. However it took its sweet time dropping in price, and it only semi-recently made it under $5. The slow descent of this card’s value, as well as its current price tag despite no tournament play, is a testament to the demand for it in casual circles. It has the potential to show up in Standard and skyrocket, and even if it doesn’t, you’ll win in the long term with this casual all-star.

Prime Speaker Zegana
Currently under $3, this may prove to be one of the best card drawing spells post-rotation. Sphinx’s Revelation is probably better overall, but a deck with more presence on the battlefield that wants to commit threats while drawing cards is probably going to be more interested in Zegana rather than Revelation. She’s a home run in EDH as well, so her floor can’t be too much lower. I can’t promise she’ll get there, but $15+ seems very plausible.

Scion of Vitu-Ghazi
This card’s trajectory depends heavily on Advent of the Wurm, and to a lesser extent, Armada Wurm. Remember that Cloudgoat Ranger saw a respectable amount of play in Standard back in the Lorwyn era, and for the decks that would want Scion now, it’s better than Cloudgoat would be. Flashing down an Advent at the end of your opponent’s turn and then untapping and slamming this guy is a lot of power very fast. It will never be more than a few dollars, but at $.20, you don’t have much to lose.

Advent of the Wurm
Late in development, this card was a Mythic, and for good reason. A 5/5 trampling flash for four is aggressively costed, and being a token is usually better than not. Currently under/around $4, this guy is slightly riskier. The floor on him is definitely low – under $1. The reason he’s at the price he is regardless of seeing no play in Standard is a product of expectations, which are based partially on Advent’s status as a 4-of in the PT-winning deck, and based partially on the card’s oracle text. I won’t lie, I think it’s possible to lose on this card. However, I think it’s far more likely that this becomes a real contender in Standard, and easily breaks $10.

Plasm Capture
Mana Drain redux, this is currently under $1. This is one of those cards that I think has a reasonable chance of showing up in Standard, but even if it doesn’t, you’ll still down the road as it appreciates simply for being awesome in EDH/casual circles.

Progenitor Mimic
This, like Master Biomancer, took a slow winding path to sub-$5, and even then only recently sunk that low. I put this in the same camp as Master Biomancer in terms of future value, as well. It’s completely capable of becoming awesome in Standard, and even if it doesn’t, you’ll still do just fine in the long term.

Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch
Every year, a red four-drop skyrockets in price. Hero of Oxid Ridge started the trend, and since then, we’ve seen Falkenrath Aristocrat and Hellrider do the same. Right now, the best candidates for this are Exava and Ogre Battledriver. Exava was in the intro deck, so she’s capped at a few dollars, but so was Wolfir Silverheart, and he hit $9.

Deadbridge Chant
Currently about $2, this has seen a reasonable amount of fringe play in Standard since release. If the format moves more towards midrange and control once Theros releases, as I expect it to, this card’s stock only rises. It generates fantastic value in an attrition mirror, and is typically better than just “draw a card” due to it occasionally being a huge mana advantage as well as enabling graveyard shenanigans. It’s also an enchantment, which we may be very interested in down the road. This card could easily be $5 or so if not more while in Standard, and even if it goes nowhere this coming season, I think $1.50 or so is probably the floor, so it’s quite safe to get in on.

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The Singular Art of Patience

By Cliff Daigle

Welcome back, dear reader.

If you have read other things I’ve said then you’re aware of my driving principle when it comes to acquiring cards for casual decks: Patience.

If you have ever bought something online, you’re aware of the value of patience. Next-day shipping from a retail website might be $25, while mere First-Class mail is $5 or less. To be patient, for just a couple of days to a week, in this case is worth a cool $20.

I’ve been in positions where I could not bring myself to be patient. I once had to have some Goblins in a couple of days because I wanted a Krenko deck to be ready for FNM. The shipping costs of my cards were more than the cards themselves were worth. But in that case, it was worth it to me not to wait.

Retail stores work the same way. Sure, you can often get a lower price for an item online, but when you measure the cost difference against the time difference, sometimes you just take it home that day.

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Magic: The Gathering cards are similar. I’ve said before that prices all drop over time, but that’s only on average. Sometimes, waiting on a card to go down is a bad play, because the price goes up. Just look at Voice of Resurgence:

Voice of Resurgence. May 3 2013 - Jul 25 2013.
Voice of Resurgence. May 3 2013 – Jul 25 2013.

The Voice’s price has climbed steadily, and is the chase Mythic. Right now, preordering it at $20 looks like a steal. But note that the price has hit a peak and is creeping downwards. Patience past the initial craze has already paid off some.

Now, let’s look at Ral Zarek:

Ral Zarek. May 3 2013 - Jul 25 2013.
Ral Zarek. May 3 2013 – Jul 25 2013.

If you waited a week after release, he cost you $30. If you waited a month, he cost you $15. If you wait longer, he’ll probably go under $10. Patience is usually the better financial plan, if you can stomach the wait.

When you’re trading, patience is a key virtue as well. I love trading, the knowledge that both of us can get what we want and be happy with the exchange. Unfortunately, there are times where someone is belligerent, telling me what I have to do. If they have a rare foil, I’m not above giving more than I originally wanted, but if we are talking Standard cards, then I’m likely to walk away.

An example of this is dealing with speculators. You might be someone who traded for a bunch of a certain card because you were sure it was going to go up. I’ve dealt with people who act like their card has already gone up or down to an expected price, and that was irritating until I realized I could just walk away. (Excerpt from the conversation: “Your Sphinx’s Revelation is not going to be worth my two Deathrite Shamans after rotation.” “Rotation for these two cards is 18 months away!” “I know, that’s my point.”)

Let me be clear: I’m all for speculation. I like the gamble, the idea that we can predict these things. But dealing with unpleasant people is generally not worth it.

Patience, in the casual realm, is also about managing your needs and expectations. It’s not always useful to go after a card in foil just because it’s in a deck. (Full disclosure: I chase foreign foils more than I should for my EDH decks. I try not to overpay, but the craving to own the sweet rare foil is strong. Gogo Foil Russian Doubling Season! (сезон удвоения foil))

Nor is it necessary to chase a foreign foil simply because it has worth. Keep in mind that Wizards wants to support all formats, not just Standard and Modern. The more people that play, whatever the format, the more cards they sell.

This is why reprints will require patience. It seems a safe bet that almost everything not on the Reserved List will get printed again. I couldn’t say when, but especially for Modern-legal cards, nothing is safe. The use of Modern Masters, as well as preconstructed decks like the Commander or Planechase sets, shows us that Wizards knows that people want these older, rarer, more expensive cards.

The Onslaught fetchlands, Thoughtseize, the Shadowmoor filter lands, even Force of Will…these will all get printed again. Perhaps not in Standard-legal sets, but there will be more.

Just be patient.

City of Traders: San Diego Comically-Expensive Con

By Travis Allen

This past weekend was the San Diego Comic Con, or #SDCC. We were treated to a wealth of information about Theros, FTV:20, as well as the new Commander product, and that means there’s a lot to digest. What I find most exciting about these events is the opportunity to read between the lines. The information revealed is the first level, which everyone has access to. The utilization of this information to make educated guesses about the future is far less simple though, and rewards those who develop their critical thinking to derive actionable knowledge.

We’ll begin with the most exciting item of the weekend financially: the black planeswalker promos. Hype around these exclusives was big going into the weekend, and presales on eBay were a solid $250. Then on Saturday afternoon, a post on MTGS reported that a mistake had occurred at the Wizards booth, and the entire inventory was already burned through. No more were available for the remainder of the con, and subsequently, there would be no copies available on the Hasbro toy shop website as originally announced. This news quickly made the rounds on Twitter, and the preorders on eBay jumped by $50 within hours. Within 48 hours, presales had climbed by a total of $200, reaching $450 and above. As I write this Monday afternoon, there is exactly one available for less than $500. The fact that they were supposedly going to be available online after the con had helped suppress their value, as people weren’t sure exactly how large the print run was, and many assumed they’d be able to pick up a set or two Monday morning. Running out on Saturday afternoon proved just how scarce these really were, which sent people into frenzy.

One aspect of these that is really going to help push the price is that Wizards has absolutely no compulsion to print more. The cards are available in function in M14, so casual players and grinders alike have easy access to tournament-viable copies. That means these promos are purely collection-grade material, which is made even more obvious by their display-worthy packaging that is even more ostentatious than the Commander’s Arsenal box. The absolutely only thing that may help prevent them from reaching astronomical values is that not all the planeswalkers themselves are really that amazing from a gameplay standpoint, but in a highly limited printing like this, that will barely matter. $500 seems very plausible for these over the next few months, and many are anticipating $1,000 or more in the longer term. This is dependent on whether we see any other special printings like this in the future, but if we don’t see any foil black-on-black walkers again for some time, then $1,000 really isn’t impossible.

One last word on these – I would guess it’s quite possible that upwards of 70% or even more will not be opened. They’ll be stashed in closets to appreciate in value. (That’s what I’m doing with mine.) Very, very few will be opened, and even fewer will appear in trade binders. Remember the comic book Jace? He’s currently $180, and there was no showy packaging to keep him sealed in. Value any SDCC walkers in the wild appropriately.

jace_book_promo

The next largest finance news was the partial spoiling of From the Vault: Twenty.  We mostly saw casual cards, with one gigantic exception: Jace, the Mind Sculptor, who catapulted FTV:20 preorders to over $450 each on eBay. The news of Jace being reprinted was a huge shock to everybody that paid absolutely no attention to anything. For the last few months I’ve been telling anyone that will listen that his appearance as a promo in some fashion was imminent. Even though I’m to understand this announcement tanked his price on MTGO pretty hard, the good news for current owners of cardboard copies is that theirs will barely be affected, if at all. Every FTV release, people fear the original printing of the banner card will suffer greatly in price. There is not a single time this fear has come to bear. The FTV print run is simply too small to have any serious impact on the quantity of the card in question. If anything, the original card value will remain constant while the FTV copy just ends up being worth more. I don’t expect any drop in price of the WWK JTMS, foil or not. The only affect this will really have on the WWK JTMS price is that it makes it a bit tougher for him to see another drastic rise.

How do we feel about this FTV at $450? Because we have precedent, the best way to gain insight is to compare directly to past FTV sets. Currently, the most expensive FTV on SCG is Exiled at $200. The rest of the FTV sets are retailing for $80-$180. While $200 is obviously a fair bit north of the $35 MSRP, it’s barely double the roughly $100-$125 market value it carried around the time of its release.  Historically, it appears that sealed FTV sets maintain the market value reached at release, but are unlikely to even double that number years later. As respectable Bayesians, we need to understand there is only a small chance FTV 20 will deviate from this pattern. The single outstanding factor is that JTMS is bigger game than any other single FTV card in the past. Remember though, if Jace alone ends up selling for $250-300, $150-$200 is a pretty comfortable margin for the other 19 cards to occupy.

“But Travis,” you exclaim, breath ragged, clutching your edge-worn My Little Pony playmat close to your threadbare videogame-t-shirt-adorned tumescent bulk, “foil Jace is $1,000! How could this not be over $800? Also do you have any bacon?” The answer is that FTV foils and pack foils are clearly different objects in the eyes of players. Because there are no non-foil FTV cards, their unconditional shiny nature is less remarkable. Pack foils are special though, as there is very clearly a ‘worse’ version of the card in existence. The easiest way to see this in practice this is to look up Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. The FTV copy is around $15-$20. The pack foil is $50. Aside from the different (worse) foiling process of FTV, the cards are basically identical in all but price. The players have spoken, and the small set symbol that adorns the type line is apparently worth quite a bit of money.

I don’t think you have much to lose at $400-$500 for the set, but I think the upside is relatively small given the cost to play ball. I would expect much greater returns on your money from other avenues. It’s worth mentioning that this is all dependent on Jace being the only big fish in this pond. Should Mana Drain or Force of Will appear, which while unlikely is certainly possible, then the numbers would change very quickly.

Next on the docket is the announcement that a new batch of five Commander decks, with 15 brand-new cards between them, will be released in November of this year. The original five sold for MSRP longer than many unique MTG products often do, but ultimately they as well doubled in price. It’s possible that Wizards will issue a larger run this time than last, as these are designed to be a more casual and accessible product than Modern Masters and its ilk, but given their track record with every other sealed product that wasn’t a major set release, I doubt it. These seem ultra-safe at MSRP, with easy upside.

Lastly, and most complexly, is the Theros information. I’m going to address this point-by-point.

  • Theros will not be a multicolor set, but it will have a few multicolor cards. The first thing this says to me is that we will not be seeing filter lands this fall, which I had previously assigned a high probability. I also peg the possibility of Onslaught Fetchlands in Theros at 5% or less. (There are several reasons for this, but the simplest is that I don’t think Wizards wants fetches and shocks in standard. Once they both exist in the same format, a considerable amount of match time is spent just on making land drops, which is obnoxious from a tournament logistic standpoint.) The likely exclusion of Filters and Fetches from Theros leaves me wondering when we’ll see them next. Either the Filters or the Onslaught Fetches seem likely in the fall of 2014, but that means whichever is not has at least 2 years before we see it in any meaningful quantity.

The immediate impact of all of this is that Filters are safer over the next few months than they were a week ago. They’ll probably see a solid rise around Modern season, especially ones that make red mana for Kiki-Jiki or blue for Cryptic Command. (Cascade Bluffs being the real winner.) Beyond that, the only thing that could really hamper their price in the next 12 months other than presence in the fall 2014 set is inclusion in a second modern product. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a second Modern Masters, but I’m not sure it will be as early as 2014. My position on them has changed from sell to soft hold/buy.

  • The block is enchantment-matters. Upon hearing this, the first thing we need to do is scan gatherer for all cards that say “enchantment” or “aura.” My initial scan tells me that both Sundering Growth and Abrupt Decay especially rise in stock. Abrupt Decay functioning as removal for both creatures and enchantments has the potential to be very relevant. I didn’t see a lot else that jumped out at me yet, but I haven’t had a chance to do a full sweep of M14 and RTR to look for possible hidden synergies. It will be important to watch how enchantments in Theros function, as that has the opportunity to change how we value current enchantments-matter cards. Whenever I’m examining cards in light of this type of information, I try to keep Knight of the Reliquary in mind while browsing spoilers. It’s a perfect example of how a card can go from underwhelming to absurd overnight.
  • There will be one future-shifted card in Theros. There’s already been quite a good bit of speculation on this item. The three front-runners I’ve seen mentioned so far are River of Tears, Daybreak Coronet, and Arcanum Wings. At first I really liked the idea of Daybreak Coronet, but then I realized allowing this in standard next to Ethereal Armor seems very dangerous after having just printed Gladecover Scout and Witchstalker. Aura Swap, on the other hand, seems very plausible, and provides a gateway for expensive auras to potentially be playable. What about River of Tears? Well,
  • The land cycle is one players have been asking for. I don’t know about you, but I have never heard someone talk about wanting the River of Tears cycle, or any of the future-shifted land cycle for that matter. None of them are bad per se, but they hardly have the allure of Fetches or Shocks. I’m sure there are people out there that would love to see River of Tears return, but I question whether it’s enough demand that they would announce the land cycle is one players have been hoping for. Keep in mind too that only one card is future-shifted, so it wouldn’t be the whole Future Sight cycle – no Horizon Canopy next to Grove of the Burnwillows.

I’ve been pondering what lands it is they are giving us since the announcement. Players definitely want Onslaught Fetches so that is certainly a possibility, but I will be genuinely surprised if they go that route. Beyond that, what else have players been asking for? Definitely different blends of tri-color lands, but those would hardly be in character for a set that isn’t focused on multicolor.

In fact, the answer sprang to me as I was working through this paragraph – enemy manlands. It’s definitely something people have been wanting for quite some time, and it doesn’t clash with any expectations about Theros. Furthermore, Encroaching Wastes and Burning Earth could both be safety valves in M14 to prevent manlands from getting out of control. As of writing this, I’m quite confident we’ll be seeing enemy manlands appear in Theros.

  • There is a new card type that has something to do with Gods, and it looks like they’re still creatures. I admit that I have little insight into how this could matter from a financial perspective at this point. The only thing that really comes to mind is that the introduction of a new supertype, e.g. Tribal, only increases Tarmogoyf’s stock. Although given that Gods are unlikely to be low casting cost, I would anticipate this interaction to come up rarely at best.
  • There is a new mythic legendary hydra with a cool name (Polukranos, World Eater) and a seemingly-reasonable casting cost (2GG). This to me is another piece of persuasive evidence that Evolve, as well as anything else that interacts with +1/+1 counters is going to be more relevant than we may have originally anticipated. Let’s examine the pieces of the puzzle:
  • Hydras are central to Greek mythology, which is the central theme of Theros. I have no doubt we’ll see more good hydras before the block is finished.
  • Kalonian Hydra exists, and is very clearly the most pushed hydra we’ve seen so far, with Savageborn Hydra also a higher power level than we’re used to on these types of creatures.
  • M14 contains a greater quantity of hydras than we are used to seeing.
  • If you asked someone to guess what color(s) hydras make the most sense in for Magic without prior knowledge of any other Hydra, Green and Blue would probably be their most likely guesses.
  • Speaking of those colors, Evolve is a Blue & Green mechanic that cares a lot about +1/+1 counters. You know what else cares a lot about +1/+1 counters? Hydras.

That is a lot of evidence. As savvy investors, it’s vitally important to recognize early signs to capitalize on potential growth. With all this in mind, two cards seem very capable of being breakouts: Renegade Krasis and Vorel of the Hull Clade.

Renegade Krasis.full

Renegade Krasis is fantastic with a card like Kalonian Hydra, and hydras in general. With Renegade Krasis in play, casting Kalonian Hydra would evolve the Krasis, which will then put another counter on the Hydra, as well as any other Hydras or Evolve creatures you currently control. That is a lot of sweet, sweet value. Hydras can also often come into play with variable amounts of +1/+1 counters depending on how much mana was spent to cast them,  which means you can use them to evolve your team at different points on the curve.

Vorel of the Hull Clade.full

Vorel of the Hull Clade is similar in his application. Not only does he really like bodies evolving so that he can double their counters, he is really into hydras, which are just bonkers with his ability. Imagine untapping with both Kalonian Hydra and Vorel in play. The hydra swings as at least a 4/4, doubling to become an 8/8. Vorel can then double him up to 16/16 on the hydra’s first rumble into the red zone.

Both Renegade Krasis and Vorel of the Hull Clade are under $1 at the moment. They are exceptionally easy to pick up in trades, and both could easily jump past $10 if things shake out in their favor.

Whew! That is a lot to digest from a single weekend. If we’ve learned anything over the last several days, it’s that you may be able to have your entire cross-country travel expense to SDCC next year covered courtesy of Wizards and whatever promo they have at their booth.

The case for singles in M14

By Cliff Daigle

So now that Magic 2014 is out, what’s a casual player to do?

Here is a tip that I’ve learned through hard experience: In most cases, buying a box to open the packs is a terrible idea.

There are reasons to buy lots of packs, mainly the fun of opening 36 or more at a time, but financially, they aren’t a winner. If you want to buy a box, throw the loose packs onto your bed and roll around in them, and revel in what *could* be in those packs, then by all means do so. I may or may not have done similar things.

Just don’t kid yourself about the value and the money you spent.

There’s ample anecdotal evidence to suggest that you often don’t get a playset of a certain uncommon in your 36 packs, much less multiples of a certain money rare. And while most boxes have a foil rare or mythic, it’s not always true. I’ve opened such foil-rare-less boxes.

We have another issue present, when you buy loose packs from Amazon or a store that doesn’t store packs in the booster display: box mapping. By calculating a print run, you can open just a few packs in a box, take the money cards, and sell the packs you know contain chaff. It’s real and it’s effective. I haven’t done it, but the math is there and the YouTube videos are certainly convincing. Look up the user MTGBoxMapper if you really want to see why you shouldn’t buy loose packs.

Here are the exceptions to my policy of ‘no packs’: Sealed and Draft events. In this case, you’re paying not just for the packs, but for the tournament and the chance to win more. I like these formats more than Standard, but they are more expensive. I recognize that a lot of cards are not money cards, yet they are very good in Limited formats. I don’t mind paying for the experience of playing, especially because Standard isn’t always fun for me.

My wife and I have indulged in two-person drafting as well. We buy six packs, shuffle up the cards, and engage in a two-person draft, usually with the Solomon style but sometimes wegoWinston. We can usually get two drafts out of the same six packs, but again, we are buying the experience, not the value of the cards.

Everyone has a story of some amazing pack they opened. At the Magic 2013 Celebration, one of my prize packs had a Thundermaw Hellkite and a foil Jace, Memory Adept. But I’ve also opened an awful lot of bulk rares, so I try not to let the outliers affect my perception.

Make no mistake: Opening a pack of Magic: the Gathering cards is a gamble in strict financial terms. You’re scratching a ticket/pulling off the packaging in hopes of something more valuable than the cost of the ticket/pack.

The emotional thrill of opening packs is exactly the thrill you get from roulette or slot machines or anything that casinos make a mint off of. I know a guy who is addicted to buying $8 packs of Worldwake, because once in a while, he opens a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and it only cost him $8! What an amazingly lucky guy!

Except I know that for every post he makes on Facebook showing his $150 card that cost him $8, he’s bought at least 30 other packs that cost him $240, and the other cards he’s opened don’t come close to the $90 gap.

If you have to have certain cards, get them as singles. Don’t buy the packs and hope to get lucky. Be discerning, and target only what you need. Trade for it if you can, but don’t gamble your cash on packs.

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