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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Losing and Finding

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A lot of times, MTG Finance focuses on the nitty-gritty of single cards to get or watch or sell, and that’s a very useful set of topics. You’re reading this because that’s what I usually do.

However, there’s other aspects to this game and the finances. Here on MTGPrice, we’ve written about assorted formats, research tools, insurance, accessories, and other ancillary topics. Today, I want to talk about what to do when your unique collection vanishes.

Six years ago, I was at my LGS for the usual FNM experience. During that, I heard about one of the regulars whose five-color Sliver deck had been stolen. It had judge foil fetchlands, the full set of duals, loads of expensive foils, even by prices back then.

I happened to be in the store again the following Sunday, when someone came into the store and tried to sell a hundred cards that included chase foils, lots of Slivers, and a full set of duals. This person wanted something like $100 for the stack of cards, I want to say they wanted a few board games.

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The buyer that day was also a judge who knew that this set of cards had been stolen and got the police to come to the store and confront this seller, as well as the player whose deck was stolen. Reports were made, stories were told, the police had this person there and justice was ready to be served, as a group of angry players watched eagerly for the comeuppance to happen.

The alleged thief walked away with the cards that day.

I cannot put into words how formative this experience was for me. Imagine seeing someone with your stolen deck, something you’ve put countless hours into, with your personal modifications, maybe even some alters, and all the emotion tied up in this deck.

Someone else has it, and you can’t prove it’s yours.

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I can’t claim that every police officer will handle stuff the same way as these two (then four at the end) did. Maybe they are the exception, but they showed me the necessity of good information and some level of unique interaction. We don’t have barcodes or serial numbers on our cards. The whole point of the game is that all the backs are the same, and cards are interchangeable.

The police that day said that there was no way to prove that this stack of a hundred unsleeved cards belonged to the regular customer. I don’t know how many alters would be needed to prove ownership, and is it enough to have a couple of things drawn on three cards? Does your name need to be on these alters?

Depending on who you follow on Twitter, you may or may not be aware of other stories in this vein. Collections lost and stolen. Beloved and elaborate deck boxes, custom decks, all sorts of things have been lost and only some have been found.

Via WoodBornWorks on Etsy

My old pal had a bad ending to their story, but maybe you know someone with a better outcome.

There’s a couple of lessons to be learned from stories like this:

First of all, insurance. We had a writer cover insurance in 2014, I did a few months later, and I know it’s come up a couple of times in MTG Fast Finance’s archives. I strongly urge you to look into renter’s insurance to cover your assets. A modest policy won’t cost much, and requires some organization and documentation. Your results will depend on your local laws and agencies.

Second, documentation. Have a list of the cards in your EDH deck, in your Cube, in your long-term spec binder. Take a day and snap some photos. It’s really easy for your Commander deck to break a few hundred bucks, and some of you might need to have toploaders on every damn card in the deck because of the value. If something happens, you need to be able to say what was lost/stolen, and say so exactly.

Third, spread the word. Both my experience and that of others hinged on Magic players telling each other, and telling the local stores, that a specific collection has been stolen and someone might try to unload it all at once. Twitter, Reddit, Discord, whatever it is, tell as many people as you can and have them tell other people.

Fourth, be vigilant. Go read some stories of people having lots of valuable cards stolen. Here’s a whole other list of links via Reddit. Now that you’ve got a healthy fear, think about what you bring when you go to a GP, when you go to an LGS. Be aware of the risk you’re taking. Your Cube might be the down payment on a house! Even if you didn’t buy it for that much (foil Grim Monolith, for example) you’re taking on a level of risk when other people see what you have. A snatched backpack can set a thief up for a long time, and you can’t count on them being silly. Just a few minutes online will tell these criminals to break up their sales. A GP is a great place to steal a deck, wait two hours, and then circle the vendors, sell a few cards to each, and get away clean.

I want to scare you. I want you to think about what you’d do if you lost part or all of your collection. Most Magic players have a theft or loss story. I’ve had decks stolen, I’ve left decks on tables and never seen them again. I don’t want to relive those experiences, and I definitely don’t want you to go through it, but it requires consideration. Building value also means keeping that value secure.

Cliff has been playing Magic since late 1994, and is currently in the midst of a Cube obsession. Check out his Busted Uncommons cube if you want a great time, or let him know on Twitter (@WordOfCommander) what a chucklehead he is.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Pickups pre-PT Ixalan

The PT starts today. Right now, as a matter of fact! I’m posting this at 6 am PST, two hours before the first draft starts, and I’m stoked. I agree with the people who say that the three hours of broadcast would be better spent showing us different drafts for 2/3 of the time and then maybe the finals of a draft pod. I don’t like watching the draft games, but I’m not in charge.

I’m also on the watch for decks that are going to be played, and what cards are ripe for a spike. There’s a few factors at play, but it’ll come down to camera time, frequency of play, number in a deck, and final performance. Making the Top 8 will be good, but winning will be better.

With all this in mind, here’s the cards I’ve been picking up this week. I haven’t laid any big bets, but I’ve picked these up in trades and sniped a couple of auctions.

Ruin Raider – I suspect that black aggro will be in play this weekend, even if it doesn’t put up a huge finish or a big slice of the metagame. There’s a lot of flavors of aggressive decks, and this is a creature that allows a deck to catch up on cards, especially if Fumigate is all over the place. This is a card that rewards players for attacking, which is all an aggressive deck wants to do anyway. Plus, it’s relatively cheap at $1-$2, depending on fees. It’s also got two years to get good, so even if it doesn’t see play this weekend, it’s got good potential.

Bomat Courier – If aggressive decks are as prevalent as I suspect, then this is a card with room to grow. It’s got about 11 months before it rotates out of Standard, and that’s going to bode well for this card. It went up to $3 when Ramunap Red first premiered, and now it’s down in the $1.50 range. This is more of a ‘sell into the spike’ sort of card, it’s not for long-term holding.

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Fatal Push – This has quickly become one of the top removal spells in Modern and Legacy, dealing with a wide range of problems for one mana. It’s also very widely played in Standard, and I don’t see this as something that’s going to drop anytime soon. Nonfoils are about $9, foils are $30, and the FNM promo can be had for $10. I am a big fan of grabbing the foils at $30, as $50 seems in play within a year or two, and it would be unusual for it to be reprinted too soon in a Masters set of some sort. (Note I did not say impossible!) Supply is at maximum, and you should acquire accordingly.

Rogue Refiner & Blossoming Defense – I think this is going to be a big weekend for these two uncommons. They aren’t exactly cheap now, but after the PT, you’ll be able to buylist these for a little more than you can today. Both are efficient at their mana cost, and Rogue Refiner is a great pick to bump to above a dollar.

Bristling Hydra – I wish energy wasn’t as good as it is, but this is one of the cards that has room to grow. It’s been slowly growing in price to get to its current $2.50, and one more big tournament showing might be enough to solidify its status, considering that this is one of the cards common to both the Sultai and the Temur builds of energy decks.

Glint-Sleeve Siphoner – I really want this to be good, as it’s a way to convert energy into a more tangible advantage in a long game. It’s $2.50 now, and just like the Hydra, I think it’s due for a weekend where it breaks $4 or $5.

Rampaging FerocidonIxalan is probably not going to have a huge weekend, considering the spikes that have already grown to impressive numbers. This is a $3 card, as a four-of in a lot of Ramunap builds, and it takes away one of the big advantages of Approach of the Second Sun decks: the 7 life gained is often just enough of a cushion to get there. I think this is a good candidate to break $5 if the Red deck runs rampant.

Dread Wanderer – If mass removal is all over the place, I like this as a recursive answer alongside some Vehicles and some Scrapheap Scroungers. Being able to reload effectively after a big Fumigate is a real test for some of these decks, and while you need to dump your hand, Hazoret the Fervent wants you to do that anyway. This is at a very low price, can be had for $1, and is ripe for the picking and ripe for a bump.

Chart a Course – I don’t think this is going to be big on the PT, but it’s got a foil price that is about 10x the nonfoil. Two mana to draw two is amazing, especially if you dropped a Delver turn two in Modern or Legacy. It’s a two-of in Vintage Delver, even! Standard decks looking to abuse the graveyard with God-Pharaoh’s Gift love casting this turn two as well. I’m snagging the foils whenever I can get them around $5, and I’m prepared to be patient.

Carnage Tyrant – This is due to drop. There’s no deck playing this as a four-of, though the biggest deck, Temur Energy, is playing one main and one in the board. The big dino has been slowly declining from its initial spike to $30, and is already sub-$20. I think it’ll get to $15, though I highly doubt it’ll go down to $10. Once we are done opening Ixalan packs, I’ll have to see if I pick some up for a spike about October 2018.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: What did we miss?

We are two weeks from Pro Tour Ixalan, and that’s going to offer some very interesting price changes. At least, that’s my hope. I really want something to dethrone Temur Energy, but the deck is consistent and powerful. Silver bullets are few and far between in Magic.

Before we get to the PT, though, I want to take a moment and acknowledge some lessons that we’ve all had to learn in terms of the prices of Ixalan cards. There’s a handful of cards that preordered for low prices and have spiked, hard, into two or three times the value.

What should we have learned from these cards? Why didn’t we see this coming? How can we apply these ideas to future sets?

 

Vraska’s Contempt ($4 preorder, now up to $10) – First of all, let me quote myself, from about a month ago:

Vraska’s Contempt is good, but at four mana, it might be too much. Hero’s Downfall was super powerful, and the Contempt will see play as an answer to the indestructible/recurring Gods, but oh it stings. I don’t think Contempt will be a four-of, and that’ll keep the price reasonable.

What I predicted was true in terms of the numbers: Very few decks have the full four as part of the 75, and they are tending to start with three in the main. What I was wrong about was the popularity of control decks, even though there were a lot of Approach of the Second Sun decks running around. I simply underestimated the prevalence of control, a theme we will return to.

I have to admit, this one hurts the most. I knew that The Scarab God and Hazoret the Fervent are two cards helping define this format, and this card deals with both at instant speed. I should have seen this as a more expensive card. I made money off of Hero’s Downfall being positioned well!

Legion’s Landing ($2 up to $6) – It kills me that I could have gotten these for $2 and buylist them right now for $4. It stings, because I looked at this card and said, “It wins long games but it’s hard for a token for five mana to be worth it.”

I missed out on the confluence of casual demand for lands that make tokens, and Anointed Procession decks in Standard. I knew that Procession was a strategy, and had a lot of enablers, but I didn’t give enough credit. It’s not like this card spiked all the way to $10 or $15, but it does have enough interest to be worth a lot more than its preorder price.

Hostage Taker ($5 to $15) – When a rare is preordering for a few bucks, my thought is often “Well, we are going to open a lot of these packs and that price should hold.” For most rares, that’s true. For this Pirate, though, I just overlooked the smell of pure value. How amazingly powerful it is to remove a creature by playing a creature of your own. This card allows you to get even more value by getting the creature for myself! It requires an answer immediately or it’ll get to cast the stolen card! It’s also a fantastic answer to the two Gods mentioned before, especially if you get to steal it!

I thought of this as a Cast Out/Oblivion Ring sort of card, which was a gross understatement of the card’s power. Mea culpa.

Search for Azcanta ($4.50 to $14) – Remember how I said I underestimated control decks? Here’s the other card I just whiffed on. It’s a terrifying way to fuel the control player’s hand, but there’s layers on top of that.

The card is only two mana to get going. Legion’s Landing is the same way, being cheap to come down and flip relatively quickly. That’s important, because these legendary enchantments are low-impact when they come down. The card also is a form of ramp spell, because about turn four or five it’s going to become an extra land. This means Fumigate or Approach happens a turn earlier, a payoff that’s worth striving for.

I truly underestimated how well it plays with Approach, digging you to the win a lot sooner, and also how you can have a Search for Azcanta in play and choose not to flip it!

Deathgorge Scavenger ($2 to $6): We are really short on effective ways to deal with stuff in the graveyard in Standard, and that’s a big part of why The Scarab God is tearing up the format. Until this dinosaur came along, we needed to exile creatures immediately, because the graveyard was a pretty safe space, difficult to interact with. Answers like Scarab Feast or Sentinel Totem are too focused, but this creature gives you an immediate effect, and a bonus couple of life, depending on what you wanted to exile.

I didn’t give proper credit to the dire need that decks and for an efficient and effective way to interact with the graveyard, perhaps it had just been so long since I saw one printed. This also fits nicely into one of the more popular decks in the format, the Energy lists.

Hopefully, now that I’ve looked at why I missed on these, I’ll be able to keep an eye on things that will play very nicely with Approach of the Second Sun, or deals with indestructible/recursive threats effectively. I’ll also be keeping an eye out for stuff that plays well with the legendary enchantments. For instance, how good is Thought Scour in combination with Approach and Search?

 

Cliff has been playing since Christmas 1994 and the gift of three booster packs in a stocking. Since then, he’s spent a lot of money on cards and made even more, with the goal of always being able to trade for cards instead of buying them. Follow him on Twitter @WordOfCommander or tune in every Friday here at MTGPrice.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Prospects of Ixalan

Every set, I like to identify some cards that are going to be awesome in casual formats (unformatted kitchen table, Cube, Commander, etc.) or nonrotating formats and I want to keep an eye on their prices. Ideally, I’ll pick a price and the cards I want will drop below the price I want to pay, so I can get them at that price.

For example: Thespian’s Stage

There were two times, early on in this card’s lifespan, that you could trade for this at a dollar or so, and buy it for fifty cents or so. And I did, as often as I could. I ended up with a stack of them, which I buylisted for $2 each at a GP and had a great time.

If you want a more recent example of this philosophy, how about the foils of Thought-Knot Seer?

My number for that was $20, and I picked up a few at that price, and now I’m trading it away at $35, though I recognize that $40-$50 is in play, considering how popular Eldrazi are in Modern.

With those growths in mind, what looks good in Ixalan at what price?

Settle the Wreckage ($5.50 currently) – This mega-Path to Exile is going to be casual gold, but only if I can get it at the right price. It’s spiked a bit in recent days as an answer for threats like Hazoret the Fervent or The Scarab God, and it can take down Carnage Tyrant too. Where I really love this card is in Commander, because so many people don’t play a lot of basics. This is also a backbreaking spell to cast against Bogles, but that deck is too niche for precious sideboard slots in Modern.

Notice that right now, the foil is only a couple bucks more than the nonfoil. Traditionally, this indicates that Standard demand is very high, and the casual demand hasn’t caught up yet. I’m in on foils at $3-$4, and the plain versions around a dollar, maybe two. A lot will depend on price memory for this card, if too many people remember it as a $5 card then the price won’t have a chance to fall.

Vanquisher’s Banner ($2) – The foils here are about $6, and that feels right for now. The nonfoil is a very huge reprint risk, but considering that we just got the tribal Commander sets, I think it’s safe for a while. Foils are usually safer, but there’s no guarantees. I can tell you that I’d generally prefer to see this than Door of Destinies in my hand, because getting the constant flow of cards is supremely valuable. I’m hoping for this to drop to $1/$3, and I’m optimistic, considering that this was nearly $5 on release.

Primal Amulet ($2) – A couple of special notes about this card: First, it’s got a foil multiplier of five, which tells us that the casual demand for this card is very high. It makes sense, though, because we love doubling our awesome spells when playing at our kitchen table. This has much higher long-term potential than a recent favorite of mine, Pyromancer’s Goggles, because it’s a land and there’s no color restrictions.

The second note about this card is that we have ten rare transform cards, and this is flying in the face of something we were told before: that adding flip cards to a set is logistically problematic. I’ve thought for some time that transforming foils are among the safest investments in Magic finance, because they are hard to reprint in regular sets, but here we are, with a sprinkling of transform. This is something I want to be aware of going forward, as it’s one more sign that nothing is safe, except the Reserved List.

The Amulet is already a $10 foil, and I’d like that to come down a dollar or two. The nonfoil is hopefully going lower, but I’m content to pick these up at $2 in trade.

On a related note, Dowsing Dagger is at a similar price point, and trending downward a bit more steeply. I’m really hoping this is a $6 foil in the next month or two.

Boneyard Parley ($1) – I’m always an advocate for bulk mythics, but the foil being $5 caught my eye. I don’t think this is a good card, but my goodness, this is a sweet card. For seven mana, late in a Commander game, you’re getting the best card in any graveyard, and potentially the best two or three, depending on what you need and who’s choosing the piles.

River’s Rebuke (50 cents) – Cyclonic Rift is going to get banned eventually in Commander, I suspect. I don’t have any evidence or special insight into the Rules Committee, I just despise the card and what it does to gameplay. I’m stocking up on these foils at $2-$3, because the multiplier tells me it’s more popular than the usual foil version of the card. This is a powerful effect, but more fair since it’s just one person being targeted and this is a sorcery. I am looking forward to having a stack of these when we’re done with Ixalan.

Here, have two more that are from recent sets and have the appeal I’m looking for: foils of Eldrazi Displacer at about $10, and foils of Lifecrafter’s Bestiary at around $5. You don’t need me to tell you that these are good cards, but if you want to get some value that’s due to pop, there you go.

Cliff is an avid Cuber and Commander player, and also has a crusade against a few other cards that ruin Commander games. Feel free to drop a message to him and ask for a Cube list, and read his articles every Friday here on MTGPrice.

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