Theros Casual Stars

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Theros is here!

It’s felt like a long time coming, but then again, with the sheer number of products Wizards is putting out, and the growth of the game in general, we’re getting more and more Magic product to choose from.

For casual players, Theros is another set full of flavor and themes to build around. I’m going to go over some of the cards I feel will be showing up in assorted Cubes, Commander, and other casual playgroups.

These are cards that will have a certain value for a long time, like Darksteel Plate or Lurking Predators. Some of these will hit the bulk box, others will not dip far in price. I’m here to tell you about their long-term casual appeal.

First of all, anything with Bestow is appealing. Everyone likes getting options and value, and having a creature or an aura is going to see some play. In case you had not noticed, Serra’s Sanctum has gone on a roller coaster ride lately, and as a reserved list card, it will never be printed again. Its price spiked when the enchantment theme was announced but if you need one, grab one now before it happens again.

sanctum

 

Now, onto the specific cards:

Chained to the rocks – Fantastic flavor and an incredible bargain. I know a lot of people have built Boros decks recently, often combining the two Ravnica blocks, and this will fit right in.

Elspeth, Sun’s Champion – I won’t predict how much Standard play this sees, but the ability to get lots and lots of free tokens will be used in many casual decks. Elspeth Tirel is comparable and she’s $10.

Gift of Immortality – Often, a card will gain its casual appeal by being awesome in Limited formats. We open something sweet, it wins games for us, and then we want to build a deck around it at home. This is exactly that sort of card. It’s got some timing issues, but it’s worth noting that this is three mana and can be fetched by Zur the Enchanter decks. (Sigh.)

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Nylea, God of the Hunt
Nylea, God of the Hunt

All five of the Gods – The new card frame makes these and the weapons very desirable foils. I would expect to see people building all sorts of decks to take advantage of these cards. Of special note is cards like Followed Footsteps and Cackling Counterpart which create tokens that are a copy of a creature; these tokens do have a mana cost and aid in your devotion.

Bident of Thassa – I love this Courtly Provocateur or Goblin Diplomats sort of effect. Any time I can make my opponent do something, I’m on board. Giving all your creatures Curiosity is a winner as well.

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Curse of the Swine – This is my pick for the casual card of the set. We’ve had Pongify and Rapid Hybridization for pinpoint removal in the past, and this card is going to see play all over the place. It might even be good enough for significant Standard play, when coupled with Jace, Architect of Thought. Even if it doesn’t get played in tournaments, it’ll go into any casual blue deck and do a lot of work.

Gray Merchant of Asphodel – Zombies are one of the top casual tribes, and this is absolutely going into every zombie deck. For me, I’m really going to love using my Balthor the Defiled to bring this and a stack of other zombies back at once, and draining everyone for a bunch.

Hero’s DownfallMurder saw very little play in Standard, as was the case with Dreadbore. I don’t see this as being much different. However, I can see this being a desirable card to have in most EDH decks and in other formats, where everyone loves options.

Hythonia the Cruel – My all-creature EDH deck is drooling hard, though if you’re playing this, you had better hope no one is playing Chameleon Colossus or other changelings. Do not underestimate the number of all-creature decks out there – demand for this type of card will be higher than you think.

Anger of the Gods – This is a sweeper that will show up in a lot of Cubes. It will be up to the Cube designer whether to play this with or instead of Pyroclasm given that third mana in the cost, but the third point of damage can be worth it.

Hammer of Purphoros – As another Haste enabler, it’s always going to have appeal. The additional ability to turn excess lands into hasty 3/3 tokens is a definite bonus.

Hammer of Purphoros
Hammer of Purphoros

Stormbreath Dragon: Yet another mythic dragon; not nearly as good as Thundermaw Hellkite. That said, even terrible mythic dragons tend to keep at least some price because we love our dragon decks.

Polukranos, World Eater – A 5/5 for four mana with no drawback is a good place to start. The fact that he can get monstrous and stomp chump blockers pushes him over the top. I definitely can’t wait to add him to my Experimental Kraj deck and do it more than once.

Ashen Rider – Ashen Rider immediately overrides Angel of Despair as the reanimator target for many sorts of decks, be they Legacy, Cube, or even Modern. I will say I’m a bit surprised that this isn’t an Angel or Demon for Kaalia of the Vast decks though.

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver – Finally, the mill deck gets a Planeswalker. Oh, wait, they’ve had Jace, Memory Adept for a couple of years now. What we get instead is as grindy as possible, closing out games exactly like Nephalia Drownyard. It’s a bonus that you don’t have to fear Eldrazi triggers reshuffling the library back in, but you’re exiling just three cards a turn. In an EDH deck, you’re looking at 20+ turns. At least at the kitchen table he’s more powerful.

Daxos of Meletis – Lots of words to say what it does, but this sort of ‘play with your opponent’s deck’ effect is always fun, and rare in this color combination too. (See: Praetor’s Grasp)

Medomai the Ageless – Extra turns? Yawn. That’s the last thing UW decks needed more of. Medomai combos end up with someone doing something which triggers this and leads to that and brings back a third thing and then it’s a 20-minute turn where the rest of the table is watching one deck masturbate. Not really fun for anyone. [Well, except maybe for the one doing it…-ed.]

Prophet of KruphixSeedborn Muse #2 in so many decks. Sign me up.

Xenagos, the Reveler – I love this card so much. It does everything I want it to; including having an ultimate that is fun and random and something I would try to do multiple times.

Akroan Horse – It’s got the flavor. Icot’s got the effect. All sorts of casual decks will enjoy this card, not just Zedruu the Greathearted EDH.

Colossus of Akros
Colossus of Akros

Colossus of Akros – What’s not to love about big, trampling and indestructible?

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx – I am nowhere near as high on this card as some others are. It’s certainly no Cabal Coffers, though I understand why the comparison occurs. I’m always leery of ‘win more’ cards and that’s exactly what this is. It doesn’t work with tokens and it’s terrible after the board has been wiped clean.

The Scry lands (RG, BW, UB, UG, RW) – These are the real deal. A Scry 1 is just a peek but it’s so good when it’s free! Powerful cubes with more dedicated and awesome duals won’t take this, but you’d never convince me to leave them out of EDH decks. Best of all, their price is still falling and the set hasn’t even been released yet. I’ll be trading for a lot of these.

I hope your prerelease experience was awesome, and your release day is even better!

 

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Worshiping at The Shrine of Plutus: Financial Overview of Theros

My goal with card reviews is to approach them a bit more holistically. Considering the card, what conditions it needs to be good, and how those factors impact costs is very much in the fish-teaching school, of which I am a big fan. Hopefully this Theros review will illuminate for you my evaluation process so that you can understand how to make informed trade and purchase decisions throughout the life of the set.

Any card I don’t mention is one that either I consider total bulk or I don’t feel that I have anything particularly helpful to add.

 

Chained to the Rocks

Chained to the Rocks: Chained to the Rocks is poised to be one of the strongest removal spells in the format, especially with how good decks with Sacred Foundry look at the moment. I see it available for about $2.50 on TCG Player as of 9/23/13, which likely is fairly close to its floor. Mizzium Mortars never really sunk below $2 retail, and I think Chained compares pretty well. The ceiling on this card isn’t particularly high though. While it’s quite a powerful effect, you still need to have actual Mountains (and a good deal of them) to use it, not just lands that tap for red, such as Clifftop Retreat. I can’t imagine this breaking $5 for longer than a week or two, if ever. The best strategy regarding this card will simply be picking them up in trade for $1-$2 and trading them away at $3-$4.

 

Elspeth, Sun's Champion

Elspeth, Sun’s Champion: Between Garruk, Caller of Beasts and this new Elspeth, Wizards is obviously not messing around with six mana Planeswalkers anymore. Elspeth is indisputably powerful. The question here will not be “is she strong enough,” but rather “is she strong enough for her cost relative to other options.” I feel like of any six mana Planeswalker, she has the best chance to be a major force in Standard. Not only does she protect herself when she comes down, she does an excellent job of it, and quite possibly the result of two back-to-back +1s is that you have more creatures than your opponent. In conjunction with her pseudo-wrath ability, you have a Planeswalker that can stabilize on turn 6 with either ability and then start driving towards a pretty quick victory immediately after.

Her applicability is not even necessarily restricted to control. Similar to Garruk, Primal Hunter, she may also play well as a strong alternative threat in a midrange strategy. Admittedly, unlike Primal Hunter, she doesn’t draw you cards. She does however present a different vector than simply slamming other efficient creatures. While her path to victory does include the red zone (unlike, say, Jace, Memory Adept), she keeps churning attackers out turn after turn. On the whole her path to victory isn’t as much of a deviation from a creature strategy as you may want it to be, but the sheer strength of her abilities may be able to overcome that for a midrange deck.

Elspeth is still in that Planeswalker honeymoon period of $30+. Given her high mana cost, I anticipate it may take a little longer before she starts showing up in decklists. I’m guessing she may pull a Gideon Jura though, where people are lukewarm at first, playing only one copy, but then adding more and more. I’ll be keeping a close watch on her price and quantity of appearances in T8 decklists. If she shows up as a one-of in the maindeck of a winning list and the author talks about how great she was, expect positive movement. Like most Planeswalkers, if she dips below $15 it is time to start seriously considering picking her up in trade.

 

Fabled Hero

Fabled Hero – Aside from having possibly the best flavor text in the set, Fabled Hero is another “dies to Doom Blade” face smasher. He doesn’t protect himself, but as long as you have one more guy than they have removal spell, he kills real quick. I expect he’ll see light to moderate play, depending on how good the heroic support is. If the format ever reaches a point where spot removal is weak, even if only for a single weekend, his stock rises significantly.

I would expect his price to typically hang out in the $1-$3 range on any given weekend, but spiking an event could jump him to $6+ pretty easily. If Brave the Elements targeted, then we’d be in another ballpark. Even still, I think this is the type of card that can oscillate pretty easily. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him dip, jump, dip, and jump again all within his journey through Standard.

 

Gift of Immortality

Gift of Immortality: Intro deck rare. I love the card, but do not buy into this with the intent of profit.

 

Heliod, God of the Sun

Heliod, God of the Sun: Heliod reads to me as the second weakest of the five gods. Vigilance is one of the weaker combat keywords, compared to Trample/Flying/Haste. Low white curves do tend to be heavy on mana symbols though (think Precinct Captain,) so Heliod may be able to spend a reasonable amount of time as powerful threat. His activated ability also provides aggressive white decks an outlet for mana late in the game. Two power on tokens is also a lot larger than one. A lot. As in, the first time someone starts cranking those out against you, you’re going to be amazed at how much more effective they are than you expected them to be.

The gods are a little tricky financially. They’re almost-sorta a new card type, and subsequently I don’t feel like I have a good gauge for how their casual support is going to be. If I had to take a guess (which I suppose I do since I’m writing this article), it’s that the gods in general will be more popular with the casual crowd than the average decent mythic. I feel like the floor on Heliod – and all the gods – is probably around $5-7. Their upside is easily over $20, but there will have to be tournament results to support that. I wouldn’t expect to see that anytime soon, so feel free to ditch any copies you picked up at the prerelease.

My opinion on the gods, and other cards in general of which I’m not confident in my predictions, is to ship them early and wait until I understand them better. There’s always another card to make money on, so staying away from an unknown quantity is perfectly acceptable.

 

Soldier of the Pantheon

Soldier of the Pantheon: Boy, Savannah Lions has come a long way, huh? Remember that we just came out of Ravnica, so “Protection from multicolored” reads a little better now than it will in a year. It will still probably be in discussion for any Modern white weenie deck, so if you can find Craig Wescoe, you know you’ve got a buyer. Other than that, your white one drop has to see heavy, sustained play (think Champion of the Parish) to maintain a $4+ price tag.

 

Artisan of Forms

Artisan of Forms: Artisan seems very weak to me. These days, a ton of the value in good creatures is their ETB effect, which Artisan doesn’t get you. You also have to do a lot of work to even get the clone effect. Bulk rare; trade away accordingly.

 

Bident of Thassa

Bident of Thassa: Release promo. Bulk.

 

Curse of the Swine

Curse of the Swine: Bulk, unless they reprint Aether Flash.

 

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Master of Waves

Master of Waves: I have a lot of trouble seeing Master accomplish much. Blue token makers are fairly rare, but creatures that die when their Master dies just seem miserable. Given the current state of blue, what permanents do you have in play that give you a healthy amount of devotion that are not already putting the game away for you?

 

Prognostic Sphinx

Prognostic Sphinx: THE TEEF will never be a four-of. I’d say $2 at his absolute best.

 

Thassa, God of the Sea

Thassa, God of the Sea: I believe Thassa is quietly the best god in the set. Purphorous and even Erebos are getting a lot of chatter, but most Thassa discussion has been less high-energy. However, I believe this is due in part to people underestimating the power of scrying every upkeep. In discussions with other players, the common opinion seems to be that the fair yet still playable cost for an enchantment that was just the upkeep scry would be 1U. That effectively means you’re getting the entire rest of the card for one colorless mana. Not competing with Jace or Supreme Verdict on the mana curve is also a great position to be in. When you finally do get Jace down, all it takes is UU somewhere to suddenly be within range of closing the game out fast. Notice that Thassa is capable of making herself unblockable.

Of all the gods, Thassa is the one I’m most interested in financially. If she ever does get below $10, I’ll start grabbing as many in trades as possible. I think it will take time for the format to begin including her, so there will hopefully be a window where she’s under-priced.

 

Agent of the Fates

Agent of the Fates: This card seems fantastic to me. The base stats of 3 power for 1BB is respectable, if not exciting. Adding deathtouch gives you a creature that is almost always relevant in combat. Then you tack on the Heroic ability and the power level of this card becomes worth discussing. The very first time you target Agent with a spell, you have immediately gotten a Cruel Edict for free, which is worth two mana. Even if they respond with removal, they’re down two cards (creature + removal) for your two cards (Agent + targeted spell.) Nobody says you have to play this on turn three, either. Running him out on turn four allows you to retain priority once he resolves, immediately giving you one mana to target with. Not to mention what happens if they actually don’t have the removal spell, which will certainly happen a reasonable amount of time.

Agent of the Fates loves Warriors’ Lesson, which is already good enough to see play on its own merits. How about Hidden Strings? Tap your best guy, untap my Agent (heroic!), cipher onto Agent, deal three, cast Hidden Strings, Tap your whatever and untap my Agent (heroic!)

Agent of the Fates is $2 on TCG Player while I write this, which is almost low enough for me to just start buying copies. If he gets under $1, he will be a major trade target, and under $.50 I’ll start in with cash.

 

Erebos, God of the Dead

Erebos, God of the Dead: Erebos has been the second most popular god so far, and I’m pretty sure that is due entirely to people not realizing how high of a cost his draw is. Two life is not an insignificant amount of life to pay to draw a single extra card. Yes, it’s repeatable, but the toll adds up fast. The ability is strongest late in the game, when both players are already limping. I don’t think the ability worthless, but I get the impression people read the words “draw a card” and ignored everything to the left of the colon. On top of that, his static anti-lifegain clause goes from “highly disruptive” to “niche ability” with Thragtusk rotating.

Erebos seems poised to see a pretty heavy drop off in demand. I’d get out now and not look back.

 

Hero's Demise

Hero’s Downfall: Domri Rade is going to find himself on the business end of a minotaur hoof frequently in the coming months. Hero’s Downfall will be a major factor in the forthcoming Standard landscape. Murder was always “almost,” and adding ‘Planeswalker’ to the card text will definitely push it over the edge. That said, I don’t see much of a reason for this to deviate from the Mizzium Mortars/Dreadbore path. I expect it to spend a very stable life hovering in the $2-$5 range. Your profit here will be trading for them at $2 and then trading them away at $4. If black ends up being the best color in Standard, the top end here may be as high as $6 or $7. (There is also no chance I call this anything other than Murderbore for the next two years.)

 

Nighthowler

Nighthowler: Possibly playable card that I doubt will ever crest a dollar. I bring it up because it’s the Game Day Top 8 promo, and it looks super sweet. The promo will likely hold value better than it’s playability would have you believe because of this.

 

Throughtseize

Thoughtseize: There’s really not too much to say here. Thoughtseize is and will be a Standard, Modern and Legacy staple. Expect Snapcaster-esque prices for the next two years.

 

Whip of Erebos

Whip of Erebos: Cool card that’s in an intro deck. If it hits the Standard scene, don’t look to profit on this, but rather the other cards it will be dragging out of graveyards. And yes, it does work as well with Obzedat as you’d like it to.

 

Anger of the Gods

Anger of the Gods: Possibly a better Slagstorm depending on what you’re in the market for, and an effect we have been desperately in need of. (Take that, you lousy Burning-Tree Emissary decks.) This has bonus points for being impactful in Modern. I see no reason to expect much price behavior different from Murderbore.

 

Firedrinker Satyr

Firedrinker Satyr: Maybe it’s because I’m not a Jackal Pup kind of guy, but I really don’t care for this much at all. I’d ship these fast and avoid down the road. People tend to remember old cards, or new cards similar to old cards, a little too fondly in vastly different formats than when they were originally good. Remember when Nantuko Shade was like $8 preorder or something?

 

Hammer of Purphoros

Hammer of Purphoros: Solid looking card, but falls into the Koth trap of mostly being only good in really heavy red decks. Even if the card is fantastic, how many Hammer of Purphoros decks can there really be? I wouldn’t take the risk of trying to make money here; there’s better places to put your gaming bux.

 

Purphoros, God of the Forge

Purphoros, God of the Forge: I will say right now that I am less enthralled with Purphoros than many others are. One thing that I can’t look past is that he feels like the type of card that typically has one “right” deck at any given time. He may be phenomenal in that deck, but an all-star in a single deck in a single format is going to have a very real price ceiling. I don’t doubt that he’s very powerful, but $25 will be a very difficult price tag to maintain amidst a lot of other very competitive-looking mythics such as all three Planeswalkers, Stormbreath Dragon, and Thassa.

For what it’s worth, I also don’t think he’s the top-end of a very aggressive deck. Aggressive red decks want their four drop to be capable of ending the game on the spot: Hero of Oxid Ridge, Hellrider, Falkenrath Aristocrat, etc. Even if you resolve him on turn four and he’s instantly a creature, he still can’t attack right away. Purphoros seems more at home in a big red/Boros style list, where you can continue making creature drops after he resolves. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him alongside Boros Reckoner and Stormbreath Dragon in the near future.

In any case, I’d be trading these away ASAP. The odds that he loses a lot of value are far greater than he gains any. If he slips towards $10, feel free to start grabbing them, because someone will probably give him a breakout performance at some point.

 

Stormbreath Dragon

Stormbreath Dragon: This card is the real deal. Compare to Thundermaw Hellkite: both are flying hasty five drop dragons. We lose one point of power and toughness, which is for sure not irrelevant. Protection from White is going to be better than tapping all fliers in many situations, especially because it dodges Azorius Charm, Chained to the Rocks, Detention Sphere, and many fliers for the rest of the game instead of just once (nice Angel of Serenity. You’re still dead.) In fact, looking through every creature in the format with flying, there are close to zero that are nonwhite. Shadowborn Demon, I guess?

Last but certainly not least is the monstrous ability. Without monstrous, Stormbreath is already doing a very good Thundermaw impression. Once we add monstrous, our dragon is looking very threatening. Seven mana may seem like a lot, but with cards like Xenagos and Satyr Hedonist capable of providing small mana bumps, and plenty of other reasons to want to be capable of generating large amounts of mana (Polukranos, Ember Swallower, Fleecemane, etc), we may find ourselves with a very frightening dragon more often than not. The extra damage from the cards in our opponent’s hand isn’t even particularly important most of the time. Just turning him into a 7/7 is absurd enough.

As I see it, Stormbreath is poised to step in and assume Thundermaw’s role without missing a beat. Preorders have jumped from $15 to $25, and I don’t think that’s an unreasonable number for him to hang around at. Thundermaw hit $50 for a period, and if Stormbreath comes out of the gate terrorizing heros, I would expect no different. At this point he’s too expensive to buy into to spec on, but if you want a set, I wouldn’t hesitate to trade for him. I doubt you stand to lose much, and his upside is very high. If he dips below $15 again, I’d start snatching them wherever possible.

 

Boon Satyr

Boon Satyr: I want to cast this card strictly so that I can say “you’ve been boondoggled” when I kill someone with him. Even though there’s a lot of chatter about Boon Saibot, he’s still only $2 right now. Keep in mind that Loxodon Smiter has seen significant play in Standard and has even broken into Modern yet is still currently only about $4. There’s a real limit to how expensive an in-print rare can be. It will be tough for Boon Satyr to maintain a price over $4-$5 while he’s in the current set even if he’s seeing excessive Standard play. However, if he is consistently putting up results over the next year or is prevalent at the Theros Block Pro Tour, look to start snatching them up next summer when he’ll be at a low.

 

Nylea, God of the Hunt

Nylea, God of the Hunt: Nylea is widely considered to be the weakest of the gods. I’m not entirely convinced that is true, but she certainly has an uphill climb to prove otherwise. On the one hand green decks that will want trample are likely to be strong devotion enablers, and she’s a solid beater herself. The activated ability feels very weak to me however. She’s $9 right now, and I expect that to start slipping very quickly. I’d say $4 is her absolute floor though, so if she gets that low don’t be afraid to grab a few sets. Even if she never gets there in Standard, it’s likely the gods will always maintain solid casual demand.

 

Polukranos, World Eater

Polukranos, World Eater: Polukranos is a powerful card that is going to be responsible for a lot of dead 2/2s and 3/3s. He’s in the Duel Deck though, so his price has a firm ceiling. While I’m seeing copies under $5, I’d guess is floor is around $2.50. If he slips under $3, there’s a lot of room for potential profit there with little downside. I also wouldn’t hesitate to trade for a set now for personal use, as again there isn’t that much to lose.

 

Sylvan Caryatid

Sylvan Caryatid: Caryatid is the Buy-A-Box promo. Without even having to read a single piece of card text, let’s take a quick look at past BaBs:

M14: Ratchet Bomb (Standard Playable)
Dragon’s Maze: Render Silent (Unknown, but not yet)
Gatecrash: Nightveil Specter (Block Playable, possibly Standard)
Return to Ravnica: Supreme Verdict (Standard Playable)
M13: Cathedral of War (No Considerable Play)
Avacyn Restored: Silverblade Paladin (Standard Playable)
Dark Ascension: Gravecrawler (Standard Playable)
Innistrad: Devil’s Play (Standard Playable)
M12: Chandra’s Phoenix (Standard Playable)
New Phyrexia: Surgical Extraction (Standard Playable)
Mirrodin Besieged: Mirran Crusader (Standard Playable)
Scars of Mirrodin: Memoricide (Standard Playable)
M11: Birds of Paradise (Standard Playable)
Rise of Eldrazi: Guul Draz Assassin (No Considerable Play)
Worldwake: Celestial Colonnade (Standard Playable)
Zendikar: Day of Judgment (Standard Playable)
M10: Honor of the Pure (Standard Playable)

This list of every BaB promo shows that Wizards has a great track record for making the card relevant in Standard. I have no reason to suspect Caryatid will behave otherwise. As a two drop mana dork, my biggest concerns about this card are Supreme Verdict and Anger of the Gods. Your mana dorks are frequently at their best on turn one, which obviously isn’t an option here. It’s possible you may not even be able to tap this for mana once before your opponent wraths it away. Having said that, the extra cost buys you some real versatility relative to Birds of Paradise.

A lot of people expect Caryatid to be a major part of the standard landscape, and I agree. She (?) is currently right around $5, which sounds a tad high. Like Daniel Boone, I expect there will be money to be made on Caryatid next summer.

 

Ashen Rider

Ashen Rider: Probably won’t be too expensive, but foils will command a premium. If it ends up being a 4-of in Obzedat’s Aid/Erebos’ Whip type decks, the price could quintuple very quickly though.

 

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver: Many players I’ve spoken to are not wild about Ashiok, but I am quite confident Ashiok will be a part of the Standard landscape. On turn three, Ashiok ticks up to five, making Ashiok a tough kill. If your opponent doesn’t remove Ashiok, you simply untap, let Ashiok do Ashiok’s thing, and use your mana to protect Ashiok. Being able to steal creatures out of midrange decks will be quite helpful in wars of value and attrition, while threatening to obliterate a control player’s resources is a real threat indeed. Ashiok will be at Ashiok’s worst against highly aggressive decks, but that is not uncommon for Planeswalkers. I’ll let more tournament-minded players speak in-depth about Ashiok’s strength, but suffice to say I am on board.

Ashiok is still rather pricey at ~$18. I anticipate Ashiok cratering pretty quickly, as it may take time for Ashiok to find Ashiok’s way into lists. Once the number is below $10, I will gladly start picking up Ashiok in trade.

 

Daxos of Meletis

Daxos of Meletis: If a single thing on this card was missing, I’d be proclaiming it bulk. As is though, Daxos seems to have a lot of intriguing puzzle pieces. The can’t-be-blocked clause means it may be a lot easier to get through than we realize. Suiting up in a single Ethereal Armor makes Daxos a nightmare to block profitably, if at all. The life gain will be very relevant against plenty of opponents, especially if you’re sometimes gaining four or five life. Finally, being able to cast off-color cards may occasionally be supremely powerful – UW casting Murderbore will be fantastic. At $2, I’m not interested. If Daxos slips below $.50 though, I’ll definitely consider acquiring aggressively depending on if he’s appeared in any results. When a card ends up below $.50, the risk is just so low and the profit potential so high.

 

Fleecemane Lion

Fleecemane Lion: This could end up being the most overpriced card in the set. We already have something better than Watchwolf at the moment (Call of the Conclave) and nobody is playing it. The monstrosity clause is almost surely better than the state of being a token, but is it by any meaningful amount? Decks that play Watchwolf want to put guys into play and attack with creatures like Stormbreath Dragon, not spend their turn five mana to do one extra damage in a format full of good edict effects. There will be games where the monstrosity wins the game, but plenty more where you’ll wish you had just played Scavenging Ooze instead. I sold mine at the prerelease; I recommend you do the same.

 

Medomai, the Ageless

Medomai the Ageless: Nifty card that is almost surely unplayable in Standard. Foils will be worth a bunch for EDH.

 

Polis Crusher

Polis Crusher: Potentially great card but he’s in an intro deck. It’s possible someone will manage to make money on him, but it won’t be me.

 

Reaper of the Wilds

Reaper of the Wilds: This is my card seems to have a great deal of financial potential. There were only two other creatures in RtR that had three activated abilities: Deathrite Shaman and Lotleth Troll. I hope I don’t need to explain Deathrite, and I don’t believe we’ve seen the last of Lotleth either.

A 4/5 for four is not a thrilling rate of return, but it’s only a single point of power away from the now-industry standard 5/5 for four model (Deadbridge Goliath, Polukranos.) Getting to scry every time a creature dies means that as you remove opposing bodies, Reaper helps keep the flow of removal and threats going. Your first Doom Blade helps find the second one.

The ability to gain deathtouch keeps him relevant in combat throughout the game, and conditional hexproof turns spot removal into a losing proposition. I don’t think this card will necessarily be a major player in Standard for two years, but I do think it will see enough play to warrant a several dollar price tag at some point. Like Daxos, if this slips under $.50, consider me a buyer.

 

Underworld Cerberus

Underworld Cerberus: Cerberus is one of those cards that has a lot of disconnected moving parts that makes him tremendously difficult to properly evaluate. Cards like this are notorious for being misunderstood early on because of their complexity, only to shoot up in playability (and price) once people realize just how powerful they are.

Woofy is the only mythic rare in the set that has a real chance of seeing a considerable and sustained rise from his prerelease price, and the only mythic I’ll be trading for at FNM this week. I’m not sure exactly if he’s good enough, but I know his ceiling is higher than his floor is low.

 

Xenagos, the Reveler

Xenagos, the Reveler: My initial reaction to this card was quite poor. He read like a four mana satyr generator. As spoiler season marched on though, I began to see potential. His +1 ability is inconsequential in many decks – but not all. I’ve read several reviews that seem to focus on him as a ramp enabler, but I believe this is only a surface-level application, and ultimately not what Wizards had in mind, at least for his initial purpose. Rather than ramping into huge fatties that would otherwise be tough to cast, we want to find a way to squeeze usefulness out of an additional two to four mana a turn. You know what loves a few extra mana? Monstrosity.

Xenagos won’t even be the best GR Planeswalker in Standard, but he’s not as bad as I expected early on. His success will hinge largely on the playability of monstrous and monstrous-esque creatures. Expect Xenagos, Polukranos and Stormbreath Dragon to be best buds this fall. A safe price to trade in at will be $12 or so. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him follow Chandra’s price curve.

 

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx: You need at least three devotion to break even on tapping this land, which is not a trivial hurdle. I can’t imagine this having much of an impact in standard. Even if it does make it into Standard, what are the odds it shows up in more than one list? Due to EDH, I see this as a $1-2/$10 nonfoil/foil split. Even if EDH drives up the nonfoil price, it will take years to happen. Get rid of all yours, pick up a foil one for EDH, and don’t look back.

The Scry Lands: I wrote all about this last week. Tl;dr: buy under $3, which is where they will be shortly.

In summary, the cards I recommend you pay most attention to, in no particular order:

1. Underworld Cerberus
2. Agent of the Fates
3. Reaper of the Wilds
4. Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

Theros Review Through the Lens of Standard

This week I delve deeply into Theros and identify all target cards in the set that Standard players should look out for in the coming months. I have researched the entire set and have provided my commentary on what cards I believe will see Standard play or become more valuable in the future.

I have divided my analysis of each card into four categories. These categories indicate what I think are the best strategies to pursue when determining if you want to speculate on a card in Theros. They are:

  • ACTIVE PICKUP – About two weeks after the set’s release, the crazy preorder and release prices will die down. At that point, try to acquire more than just a playset. These cards have a lot of room to grow.

  • PASSIVE PICKUP – Pick these up if you feel you will need it for your Standard deck in the short term, but otherwise wait for event results to start rolling in before you invest in more than a playset.

  • HOLD OFF – Wait one-and-a-half to two months and then buy in at the target price. These cards may eventually see heavy play in Standard, but the price is too high to take the risk right now.

  • BULK BUY – These are the Sanguine Bonds and Darksteel Plates of Theros. If you are interested in more formats than Standard or are comfortable with long-term investments, these have strong potential. If you are only a Standard player however, I do not recommend Bulk Buy cards because it may take months or even years for the card to produce returns.

My analysis for each card I’ve identified in Theros is listed by color, lands, and artifacts. I have provided my reasoning for each pick to justify why I believe the target price to buy is a good opportunity versus buying in at the current price.

 

White

Chained to the Rocks

Because this is a cheap Swords to Plowshares that better resembles Journey to Nowhere, it can certainly be Standard playable. However, right now there are many other removal options that do not have a potentially devastating drawback (not having a Mountain as a mana source). Pass on this card for now. If it reaches bulk status, pick them up cheap in case it gets played later in it’s Standard life.

Current Price: $2
Target Price to Buy-In: $1
Final Verdict: HOLD OFF

 

Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

Elspeth is a popular Planeswalker, but this six mana incarnation is going to be a tough sell at $35. It might see Standard play in a control shell but never more than as a two of. Once she drops to $10 or less, then would be a good time to get in because Planeswalkers always have casual appeal. If you are a Standard only player though, avoid Elspeth for the time being unless you absolutely need it for a deck.

Current Price: $35
Target Price to Buy-In: $8-$10
Final Verdict: HOLD OFF

 

Fabled Hero

The new incarnation of Silverblade Paladin leaves a lot to be desired. Playing it in an aggro deck is wrong, because you will have to play less creatures in order to fit spells to target this guy… at which point you leave yourself wide open for a two-for-one. Pass on this card; it will reach bulk status. Then you can pickup a playset in case the day comes in which he is better.

Current Price: $1
Target Price to Buy-In: BULK to $1
Final Verdict: HOLD OFF

 

Heliod, God of the Sun

I could see Heliod being the centerpiece of a deck due to many good white weenie cards that can turn on devotion easily. Though I do not think he will maintain the release price of $10, once he drops to half or less it will be a good time to pick up a playset for future brews.

Current Price: $10
Target Price to Buy-In: $3-$4
Final Verdict: HOLD OFF

 

Soldier of the Pantheon

Soldier of the Pantheon

This is a great card that will see play in Standard, most likely alongside Heliod or even in other W/X aggro builds. Picking him up for $3.50 does not seem right to me, but once he goes down to $2 or even $1 I would definitely pick him up because he will see play at some point in Standard.

Current Price: $3.50
Target Price to Buy-In: $1-$2
Final Verdict: PASSIVE PICKUP

 

Spear of Heliod

A Glorious Anthem with an upside seems good at first glance, but realize that it takes a lot of mana to get going with this thing. For $2 I won’t be buying in, but for bulk status you cannot go wrong because the effect is powerful and just needs a synergistic deck to get working.

Current Price: $2
Target Price to Buy-In: BULK
Final Verdict: HOLD OFF

 

Blue

Bident of Thassa

Since this card is starting in bulk, it can really only go up from here if it sees even a smidgen of Standard play. I would not pick this up actively, maybe as a trade throw in, but grab at least a play set at bulk since you can’t really go wrong.

Current Price: BULK
Target Price to Buy-In: BULK
Final Verdict: BULK BUY

 

Curse of the Swine

Curse of the Swine

Because of the flavor of this card, I never see it going below a dollar. Many people are trying to get the card just for its casual appeal, so buying at $1 you will not lose any money. However, it probably won’t see Standard play so do not buy for that purpose if you thinking of this card as a speculation target.

Current Price: $1
Target Price to Buy-In: $1
Final Verdict: PASSIVE PICKUP

 

Master of the Waves

Terrible in Standard, however this card will hold casual appeal once it rotates out. If you are a Standard player, stay far away, but if you play Standard as well as casual, buying in at $2 (which is bulk for mythic rares) seems like the right call for Master of Waves.

Current Price: $6
Target Price to Buy-In: $2
Final Verdict: BULK BUY

 

Swan Song

May be played in Standard, but I doubt it. Giving your opponent a Wind Drake seems bad in a format that is not combo based. Wait to buy in on this one because while Swan Song will likely be played in more combo-heavy formats (Modern, Legacy,) there is plenty of time for the price to drop first.

Current Price: $3.50
Target Price to Buy-In: $1-$2
Final Verdict: HOLD OFF

 

Thassa, God of the Sea

Thassa seems very overpriced to me at this point. Scrying for one every upkeep is useful, but not $16 useful. I recommend waiting until she submerges to a more reasonable $7-$8, because while she’s too expensive now, there’s certainly a chance she could find a home in Standard control decks.

Current Price: $16
Target Price to Buy-In: $7-$8
Final Verdict: HOLD OFF

 

Black

Agent of the Fates

Agent can be very effective if played in the right deck, but for now the support does not exist to make him strong enough. Don’t be afraid to buy in at bulk prices, but avoid picking up at retail.

Current Price:$2
Target Price to Buy-In: BULK
Final Verdict: HOLD OFF

 

Erebos, God of the Dead

Erebos is a great card that will have a deck built around him. However, like most cards in Theros, as more packs are opened the price of Erebos will decrease because he only fits into one or two archetypes. Wait to pickup.

Current Price: $11.50
Target Price to Buy-In: $5-$6
Final Verdict: HOLD OFF

 

Hero's Downfall

Hero’s Downfall

If I had to, I would still feel comfortable buying in at $4. This will be the premium removal at Rare moving forward. It is even better than Dreadbore and complements Doomblade nicely. It might see a price reduction to $2-$3 if black does not see a resurgence in play, though I doubt it since Thoughtseize is also coming back. Wait to see if it drops, but if there’s upward movement grab your play set before it gets expensive.

Current Price: $4
Target Price to Buy-In: $3-$4
Final Verdict: PASSIVE PICKUP

 

Thoughtseize

Thoughtseize is a definite staple in the new Standard, we can all agree on that. However, when is the correct time to buy? I usually find that waiting 1.5 to 2 months after a set’s release to be the optimum time to buy the more expensive format staples. They will be reasonably priced at this point and are guaranteed to go up in price as they get older in Standard. I predict Thoughtseize will go no lower than $15, so this is the sweet spot to pick this up. If you have to bite the bullet and buy now, go ahead but I highly recommend waiting if you can.

Current Price: $23
Target Price to Buy-In: $15-$17
Final Verdict: PASSIVE PICKUP

 

Red

Anger of the Gods

Anger of the Gods

I like this sweeper as a complement to Mizzium Mortars. What I don’t like is the RR casting cost, which unfortunately does not count toward Devotion. I also don’t see this taking the same path as Slagstorm, which was a staple in the Mono Red Standard deck when Mirrodin Besieged was Standard legal and commanded a price to match that (being $8-$10 at its peak). It also does not hit players and get that extra damage in like Slagstorm when you most need it. However, despite all its faults, there is potential which is why I recommend picking up a play set. At the very worst, this will see Modern play and still retain its $3 price tag. If it goes deeper, then profits can certainly be made.

Current Price: $3
Target Price to Buy-In: $2
Final Verdict: ACTIVE PICKUP

 

Hammer of the Purphoros

I like the Hammer because it makes your deck faster and your Devotion better. Unfortunately, 3 mana is one mana too much for this card. I foresee it hitting bulk pretty soon, which will be a good time to pick them up. Even though it will hit bulk, it could definitely go up a lot if it is one the key synergies in a future Standard deck.

Current Price: $1.30
Target Price to Buy-In: BULK
Final Verdict: HOLD OFF

 

Magma Jet

This is a great uncommon that will see play in Standard throughout its entire life in the format. Pick these up now and trade for them at every opportunity; they will always hold value.

Current Price: $.95
Target Price to Buy-In: $.95
Final Verdict: ACTIVE PICKUP

 

Purphoros, God of the Forge

Purphoros is in my opinion the strongest god in the set. His mini-Pandemonium ability is fantastic and gives value to all of your one and two drops after turn four, making your draws that much better later in the game. However, I see him as a wax-and-wane type card that will fall in and out of favor as aggro and control battle for the top spot in Standard. In the lulls, when Purphoros goes down pick them up for $14-$16 and you will not be disappointed. He will go up again because his impact is that strong.

Current Price: $22
Target Price to Buy-In: $14-$16
Final Verdict: PASSIVE PICKUP

 

Stormbreath Dragon

See Thundermaw Hellkite. This card will drop to about half of it’s preorder price, and then afterwards the sky is the limit. Well, not really – there is one big difference between the two, and that is the Hellkite was in a core set. Core sets aren’t opened nearly as much as the fall set, so $20 is probably the max for this card if it sees any significant amount of Standard play. Try to get in at the low point two months from now and then see gains as it goes up throughout his Standard life unless you have to buy them to complete your Standard deck.

Current Price: $25
Target Price to Buy-In: $8-$10
Final Verdict: PASSIVE PICKUP

 

Green

Arbor Colossus

Did you know this card is only 5 mana for a 6/6 with reach, and then an UPSIDE? Hard to believe that a card like this can be outclassed in Standard, but there you have it. The power of creatures has certainly risen significantly over the years. I do see how this might see Standard play since you can play him as a 6/6 by turn four with acceleration, and then make him a 9/9 by turn five that may also bring down an opposing flier. There are a lot of small upsides to this card that in the big picture could add up to great value. I wouldn’t actively pick these up, but I could see them increasing down the road if someone plays the card as “tech”. Even if it doesn’t hit, just out them for bulk and get your money back.

Current Price: BULK
Target Price to Buy-In: BULK
Final Verdict: HOLD OFF

 

Boon Satyr

Boon Satyr

Boon Satyr is an interesting card. It reminds me of Wolfir Avenger, which saw Standard play. However this guy is a rare, so has the chance of reaching much higher prices than Wolfir Avenger did. I can see him being played and if the deck puts up results you can expect Boon Satyr to increase in price accordingly.

Current Price: $2
Target Price to Buy-In: $1-$2
Final Verdict: ACTIVE PICKUP

 

Bow of Nylea

Similar to Arbor Colossus, this card has an insane amount of abilities for a decent mana cost. I think that this card could definitely see Standard play, but paying more than $2 for the bow at this point seems a bit much. Pick them up for $2 or less in a month or so. Remember the bow is in a preconstructed deck.

Current Price: $2.50
Target Price to Buy-In: $1-$2
Final Verdict: BULK BUY

 

Mistcutter Hydra

Green really is getting all the crazy cards with multiple abilities this set. Here is another card with all sorts of things going on that has the potential to see play. Without trample, I like Mistcutter Hydra a little less than Arbor Colossus or Bow of Nylea. Hydras are a popular casual card, so if you pick up this up at bulk it could be a good investment some ways down the road. If you are only a Standard player though, I would avoid this card as a speculation target.

Current Price: $3
Target Price to Buy-In: BULK to $2
Final Verdict: HOLD OFF

 

Nemesis of Mortals

This uncommon is very powerful. It is a mini-Ghoultree that takes two turns to make big, but comes out initially at a decent mana cost. It could see Standard play at some point, so I would actively try to get a play set. After that point pick them up in trades whenever you can.

Current Price: $.10
Target Price to Buy-In: $.10
Final Verdict: ACTIVE PICKUP

 

Nylea, God of the Hunt

The green god feels like it will have the least impact on Standard, since her abilities are somewhat tame compared to the other gods. However, it will be a big hit with the casual crowd, so picking them up at $4 in a few months is a solid play.

Current Price: $9
Target Price to Buy-In: $4-$5
Final Verdict: HOLD OFF

 

Polukranos, World Eater

Polukranos, World Eater

This is the mythic hydra of the set, and it does a good job of filling that role. It is already being brewed into the next version of Jund for standard, so I would actively try to pick them up if you are looking to build midrange Jund. At the least, it will be popular casual card that will keep from being a dollar bin mythic. Paying $4 for these is completely acceptable if you need them for Standard.

Current Price: $4
Target Price to Buy-In: $2-$3
Final Verdict: ACTIVE PICKUP

 

Sylvan Caryatid:

After Elvish Mystic, this is the next best mana ramp. Expect to see a ton of this card in Standard over the next several months as every three color green deck needs to play four of these in order to maintain mana base consistency. If you are planning on playing three colors in the new Standard, get your play set ASAP.

Current Price: $5
Target Price to Buy-In: $2-$3
Final Verdict: ACTIVE PICKUP

 

Multicolor

Anax and Cymede

Anax and Cymede could be good in an aggro build that supports the ability, but unfortunately not as more than two or three copies. Because they are legendary, EDH fans will like the card, so it will never be exactly bulk. The duel deck will also keep the price down, so I wouldn’t be actively trying to pick these up even though it will probably see Standard play.

Current Price: $1
Target Price to Buy-In: BULK to $1
Final Verdict: HOLD OFF

 

Chronicler of Heroes:

Another really great uncommon from the set. Whoever heard of G/W creatures drawing cards when they come into play? Unfortunately, it needs a specific strategy built around it in order to be good, so it could turn out to be a dud. Getting them at bulk uncommon prices though ($0.05) seems good because the potential is there.

Current Price: $.2
Target Price to Buy-In: BULK
Final Verdict: HOLD OFF

 

Daxos of Meletis

Might see play in Standard; the ability is really great in control mirror matches. However, he is not very useful against most decks and will probably end up as bulk. Try and pick up foils of this card, though, as he will be an amazing commander in EDH. Avoid as a spec target if you are only a Standard player.

Current Price: $2
Target Price to Buy-In: BULK to $1
Final Verdict: HOLD OFF

 

Fleecemane Lion

This card is deceptive. Yes, I remember how good Watchwolf was back in the day, but these days Watchwolf is simply outclassed. The monstrous upgrade is simply too much mana at five to come online at any important stage of the game. I foresee these quickly dropping as people realize the cat isn’t as good as it seems at first glance. That said, Fleemane Lion will definitely be a casual crowd favorite for years to come, so wait for the opportunity to buy in at low prices.

Current Price: $8
Target Price to Buy-In: $2-$3
Final Verdict: HOLD OFF

 

Polis Crusher

I could see Polis Crusher as a good sideboard card against certain archetypes, but honestly he is a worse Ghor-Clan Rampager. Pick up at bulk in case it comes online as good tech against certain match-ups but otherwise avoid.

Current Price: $.75
Target Price to Buy-In: BULK
Final Verdict: HOLD OFF

 

Reaper of the Wilds

Another card that seems really great at first glance but I believe will ultimately turn out to be underwhelming. Sure, being able to Scry 1 for every creature that dies can be pretty powerful, but doesn’t actually get you there. Deathtouch isn’t important on a 4/5, but on-demand hexproof makes this gal unexpectedly resilient. Definitely pick them up at bulk in a few months because Reaper could see Standard play eventually.

Current Price: $2
Target Price to Buy-In: BULK to $1
Final Verdict: HOLD OFF

 

Underworld Cerberus

Underworld Cerberus

This card is interesting. I want to believe Cerberus will follow the same trajectory as Master of Cruelties, but this guy is a 6/6 that will probably be unblockable most of the game in B/R, which are colors that do not see that ability very often. It also will be quite good in midrange Jund because it is pretty much unkillable outside of sweepers like Supreme Verdict. No wrath effects in Theros have everyone scratching their heads but it only makes cards like this even more insane. My strategy is to see how this plays out in the first few months in Standard. If you plan on playing it, pick up your play set now for $20 because it will most likely be a good deal in the long run. If you want to speculate on this card, wait for the results to come in before you decide. If it doesn’t put up amazing results, wait until it hits $2-$3 and then pick them up.

Current Price: $5
Target Price to Buy-In: $2-$3
Final Verdict: PASSIVE PICKUP

 

Xenagos, the Reveler

I anticipate Xenagos being played in Standard, but I see him taking the same path as Garruk Relentless. Starting out high at $20, slowly dropping to the mid teens and then eventually petering out at $7-$8. Wait until more Theros packs are opened if you want to play him in Standard; $15 will be comfortable to buy in at if you want to play Xenagos in Standard. If you are purely speculating, wait until January and then Xenagos will be much more affordable.

Current Price: $25
Target Price to Buy-In: $8-$10
Final Verdict: PASSIVE PICKUP

 

Lands/Artifacts

Temple of Triumph

The Scrylands

My prediction for all of the Scrylands is that people will be underwhelmed with them (as they should, really the lands should be uncommons,) but as time goes on in Standard all premium real estate will go up in value. Rare or higher lands (real estate as I refer to them) for the most part are the safest investment in Standard (and also other formats) because Standard players know that eventually they will have to play them, if not this year than certainly the year after that. They may go down to a measly $1-$2 in the beginning, but remember when Seachrome Coast was $20? Darkslick Shores $25? I certainly do, and it is a good lesson to learn – get your rare, dual colored lands early or pay the price later. Or in this case, make profits later. If you need any of these lands, picking them up for $4 now and getting your play set will still be fine in the long run. If you can wait, or if you want extras to trade later, pick up the scry lands when they bottom out around $1-$2 and hold onto them until they ultimately rise.

Current Price: $4
Target Price to Buy-In: $1-$2
Final Verdict: ACTIVE PICKUP

 

Colossus of Akros

The Colossus is the last card I want to mention. Even though this card seems like a complete dud, and most likely won’t see Standard play, don’t be so quick to get rid of yours. Huge fat fatties seem to have a thing for increasing exponentially in price over time. Remember It That Betrays? I didn’t either, until I saw that it is $7.50 at most stores online… and that card never saw a lick of Standard play. It That Betrays’ price completely hinges on casual players, and I think Colossus of Akros will follow the same path, as it is a very Timmy card that appeals to casuals and EDH players. Don’t actively pick these up, but rather get them as trade throw-ins or at bulk prices because eventually (maybe years down the road) I see these guys rising to an absurd price for a generally bad card.

Current Price: $.50
Target Price to Buy-In: BULK
Final Verdict: BULK BUY

 

Conclusion

As you can see, most of the cards will drop in price and I recommend waiting to pick them up at their lower prices unless you absolutely need them for a Standard deck. If you feel that any of the cards I have evaluated should be reassessed I encourage you to leave a comment and explain your reasoning. In addition, if you feel that I have missed any important cards for the upcoming Standard environment you should likewise feel free to comment and let me know.

Tools of the Trade

By Jason Alt

EDITOR’S NOTE – Check out the MTGPrice.com “Free Money” Arbitrage Tool after reading the article!

Confession time- I’ve never really written a finance article.

I came to that realization very recently and it floored me. How is that possible? I’ve been writing articles for Quiet Speculation for almost two years and Gathering Magic for over a year, but I’ve never really written a finance article.

I’m also the cohost of what basically amounts to the only M:tG Finance Podcast in existence and have been doing that for over a year, but when you actually take a look at the work I produce, I’ve never written what I would consider an article about finance. Bear in mind, this occurred to me after I accepted an offer to write a finance article. Make no mistake, I’m comfortable writing articles and M:tG finance is absolutely my wheelhouse. I was just worried that I wouldn’t know what to write about.

I asked Ryan Bushard, who, for those who don’t know is my podcast co-host, an accomplished writer in his own right, and a close friend, “What do people want out of a finance article?” He didn’t think about it for more than a few seconds before he said “People want to know the easiest way to make more money.” I waited for him to elaborate, and when he didn’t, I realized that it was distinctly possible that, truly, that’s all there is to it.  That may sound like an oversimplification, but isn’t it the truth? And if you don’t know how to make money, telling other people how to do so is an impossible task, no matter how simplistic it sounds.

Readers, I do this for a living. I write articles, I podcast and I engage in the business of M:tG Finance. I don’t have another job right now. I’m not sure I want one. Today I restocked the case I rent at my LGS, traded with some friends at another shop, wrote a newsletter and spent some time answering questions on reddit and in the QS forums. I got a lot done, but it’s not exactly what anyone would call “hard work,” but I still put in a full day. Since I don’t have another job, it’s necessary for me to have a lot of revenue streams going at once.

“What about those of us who don’t have as much time to devote to this?”

I’m glad I pretended that you asked that, because those of you who feel that having another job puts you at a disadvantage are actually not as disadvantaged as you may think. You have the luxury of engaging in M:tG Finance for fun. And let’s not kid ourselves- it is fun. Correctly guessing a card’s going to go up and being ready with a binder page full of them, dumping your copies of a card right before it tanks, having your good idea validated feels great. Best of all, I have a few passive revenue streams in place and you can do the exact same things, devoting a few mere hours a week to it and reaping the benefits. I’m going to teach you techniques I’ve had to learn out of necessity and who you how you can apply those to your own situation to meet your financial goals.

My hope for this column is to show you the “tools” I use on an everyday basis to make this children’s card game do some serious work for me. I’m going to avoid talking about individual cards and there is a good reason for that. It’s not because I’m afraid to be proven wrong- Listeners of the podcast and readers of my weekly columns will know that I do quite a bit of naming individual cards each week and absolutely love it if I am wrong about a card but can learn from it. No, the reason I am going to avoid it is because I want to focus on teaching you techniques so you don’t have to wait for my article each week. When the Banned and Restricted list updates, you won’t need me, you’ll know what to do. If you identify something that seems incorrect in the market, you’ll know what to do. If you see an opportunity for arbitrage, you’ll pounce.

Folks, I don’t need to tell you that we live in an age of Marvels. That device in your pocket that you use for sexting and playing Candy Crush has a more powerful processor than all of the combined processing power in the first manned craft that landed on the moon. M:tG Finance is an up-to-the-minute game, and the internet brings us unprecedented access to cards, to data and to information. The place you connect to the internet is the primary place you’ll be engaging in M:tG Finance, but it doesn’t have to be the only place.

Over the coming weeks I aim to teach you about the ins and outs of all the revenue streams I have established, define some commonly-used (and sometimes commonly-misused) words in the financier’s vocabulary so that everyone is on the same page and to teach you to recognize when there is financial opportunity and pounce before someone else does. I realize that was a pretty long preamble, but I feel like it’s important for you to know what to expect out of me each week.

Since I have your full attention, I would like to start out by defining a term I used earlier and talking a little bit about what it means, how it can work for you, and how you can utilize the software developed by MTGPrice to identify the opportunity for it and cash in before anyone else notices.

The term is arbitrage.

Ar-bi-trage  noun  \ˈär-bə-ˌträzh\

business : the practice of buying something (such as foreign money, gold, etc.) in one place and selling it almost immediately in another place where it is worth more.

Markets are getting more efficient, that is to say they are getting better at correcting by themselves, correcting faster and avoiding discrepancies. However, anyone who has ever been to a Grand Prix or even a large PTQ knows that the more dealers there are, the more chance of mistake, discrepancy or inefficiency there is. Since the price of Magic cards changes by the minute, unless every card priced by every dealer is re-priced every minute, also, prices are going to be wrong at some point. That sounds obvious, and before you pat yourself on the back too much, think about how often you try to exploit that. Is it something you look for? When was the last time you took advantage of a mistake or discrepancy to make money?

When you really sit down and think about it, it seems like it would be very difficult to pull off. The biggest, most obvious discrepancy is the difference in price between the major online retail sites. Some sites sell cards for much more than others, but you could hardly buy cards from a cheaper site and then sell them at the price commanded by the more expensive site. You’re not in a position to do so. You have to play to your outs, and your outs as an individual are limited. Likely you will sell on eBay or TCG Player, you’ll sell to a buylist, you’ll sell at a retail location if you can or you’ll out on Puca Trade or MOTL or something like that.  However, a large enough discrepancy can be noticed and exploited immediately.

The lower in price a card is, the less significant the dealer’s margins are. 40% on a Mox Jet is significant. 40% on a Merfolk of the Pearl Trident is not. If a dealer wants people to sell to their buylist, they’ll pay close to 50-60% of a card’s value in most cases. Sometimes they will pay more than that, and that is where you have arbitrage opportunity. If an established retail price is a certain value, and a dealer decides to pay, let’s say 70% because he wants them in stock, you’ll often be able to find that card for 50-60% of the established value provided the value is a little inflated or the card is underutilized. At the time of writing, but perhaps not the time of publication, there are several cards that have a negative spread. Spread is the difference between the lowest sale price and the highest buy price; the lower, the better. A negative spread indicates an arbitrage opportunity.  The highest buy price is actually higher than the lowest sale price. The best thing about a trusted buylist source is that they will honor the price they were asking when you complete your order and commit the cards to them, even if the market corrects in the mean time. That means you can scoop $0.25 copies of a card and ship them to a buylist who will pay you $0.45. You make twenty cents per copy, which doesn’t sound great. However, that is twenty cents per copy on as many as you can buy quickly and have bought from you, and it is mere seconds of work. What if you only made $10. Was it not worth doing if it took under a minute? I discover and exploit an arbitrage opportunity on a weekly basis, and often I was going to send cards to that buylist anyway.

It’s even easier at a Grand Prix where one dealer is paying a certain high price on a card in order to get them in stock, blissfully unaware that another dealer is selling them for less than that in an attempt to draw customers to his booth. You can make actual money walking copies of a card from one booth to another.

I need to wrap this up. Now that I’ve established who I am and talked a bit about the concept of arbitrage, I hope to return in a week or two where I can discuss how to identify opportunities for arbitrage as well as how to cash in on them quickly before the market corrects or the buylist lowers. I hope you’ll join me.

MAGIC: THE GATHERING BLOG, ARTICLES, AND COMMUNITY

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