Tag Archives: Magic prices

The Science of Magic: Is Modern Pay-to-Win?

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Editor’s Note: Say a welcome to Ardon, who is bringing some much-needed hard data to answer some of the more difficult questions we face in the game. I think you’ll like this piece, so enjoy! – Corbin


One of the great appeals of Magic is that it tests our skills. But powerful cards cost more money, which leads to some awkward tension: did we win because we outmaneuvered our opponents, or did we simply outspend them? Are we becoming better players, or just more invested? The idea of “pay-to-win” is Magic’s biggest elephant creature token in the room. I’m a graduate student, so I thought, why not collect data? I found evidence that money influences results, but not in the way I expected. As a result, I think we should pay less attention to win percentage, and focus instead on consistency.

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Uncommonly Valuable

When you’re sitting there, sifting through those bulk collections that I know (almost) all of you are buying throughout the year, one of the key types of cards that you should be looking for are uncommons. Yes, commons are important too in these bulk searches for treasure, however the uncommons are going to be what surprises you most in terms of value when you go to cash out your findings to the highest paying buylist.

My goal today is twofold. First, I’m going to quickly review what the most valuable uncommons are that you should be looking for when sifting through the bulk of bought collections. Most of these cards will be obvious, but I’m betting that some of them might be a surprise.

Then, I’m going to take this a step further and point out which foils you should also be looking for. Foils, as you’ll find, are quite an interesting market, and the amount of a play a foil receives in Modern, Commander, Legacy, or even Vintage could drastically alter the price. Many of the uncommon foils that I’ve found are actually are individual buylist line items despite their rare use, and you want to make sure that they aren’t being accidentally thrown in with the rest of bulk foils. Albeit, not that many collections will have a large amount of foils, especially foils that are from older sets, however foil picking shouldn’t be discounted either. Now is as good a time as ever for checking to see which uncommon foils are demanding the highest buylist and eBay prices in the market.

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With that out of the way, let’s review the nonfoil uncommons that are valuable to see if there might be any surprises in there.

Figure 1 – Most Valuable Recent Set Nonfoil Uncommons $2 or More eBay Sorted By Highest Buylist

 

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No suprise that Aether Vial, Top, and Duel Deck Demonic Tutor are at the top of the list. Essential staples in their respective formats, they carry the highest eBay price and buylist prices. Arbitrage is particularly close on Aether Vial – I could see this one jumping in price in the near future, especially with the next wave of Modern tournaments coming up early next year.

Shardless Agent, Enlightened Tutor, and Cabal Coffers are all great uncommons with a ton of casual appeal. Shardless Sultai seems to come in and out of favor in Legacy, so there is demand there for the Agent but I think that is mainly coming from casual players. Enlightened Tutor and Cabal Coffers are still $10 even with reprints, which bodes well for their futures. I expect we’ll see reprints of these cards soon enough, but even with a reprint I could see them do a Ghostly Prison and still stubbornly maintain a price above $5 due to the “discovery” effect where newer players who just started playing the game see their power and move to pick them up for Commander.

Mishra’s Bauble still surprises me – where is this played again? If anyone picks up a collection with Coldsnap, look for these guys among the bulk. Sterling Grove is another uncommon that is valuable to vendors especially since the Daxos deck, though lacking green, could sway players to start creating enchantment based decks with green in them since Magic’s history is full of great green cards that support enchantments.

Mother of Runes has a high eBay but low buylist price, which indicates to me that the eBay price is going to start going down. Mom’s should be traded to players looking for them, as buylist is fine for this uncommon but you will get more bang for you buck if you move them over a medium like Pucatrade.

Ancient Ziggurat, Footsteps of the Goryo, and Guttural Response are the final uncommons I would like to mention. These uncommons are surprisingly valuable due casual and Modern appeal. Footseps and Response have their niche in Modern, while Ancient Ziggurat has a huge casual appeal and is an uncommon with only one nonfoil printing.

All in all, I don’t think you guys will find this uncommon list that surprising. Let’s move on to the foils, which are certainly more interesting.

Figure 2 – Most Valuable Recent Set Foil Uncommons $4 or More eBay Sorted by Highest Buylist

 

Right away, I’m sure you noticed that this list is waaaay longer than the previous list. Suffice to say, there are plenty of foil uncommons that have gained value over the years. We see that Goblin Matron is currently commanding the highest buylist price – even with Top being sold at $110 eBay, Matron still eeks it out by a margin of $6. Bare in mind, this is one vendor who is offering the noted buylist price, so for other vendors the buy on Matron could very well be lower. Still though, it shows that the demand for foils is a totally different market than nonfoils since Matron didn’t even show up on the nonfoil list!

So, apparently foil Choke is being sold at $80 on eBay! This is crazy to me, as it is a purely sideboard card that will almost certainly be reprinted at a future date. This indicates to me that unless you’re playing a totally Russian foiled Merfolk, maybe you should consider moving this foil…

Foil prices drastically reduce from there, where most are $30 each or lower on eBay. The obvious outliter here is 9th Ed. Urza’s Mine, but the eBay data is skewed since the buylist is only $25.

Aven Mindcensor is still a sought-after foil, being present in both Legacy and Modern in D&T and Hatebears builds. With only one printing in Future Sight, I don’t see this foil dropping until a reprint in a Modern Masters type set.

     

As we move down the list, we start seeing strange foils such as Boil, Crypt Rats, Serra Advocate, Reprisal, Mistveil Plains, and Breath of Life pop up. Did you guys even know these cards existed? Well, if you have foil copies then someone out there is looking for them, and finding stuff like this in collections is always a treat.

Some interesting eBay foil prices include Izzet Staticaster, Sustainer of the Realm, Blood Artist, and Victimize. All of these on eBay are being sold at a fairly high price for a foil uncommon yet buylists are quite low compared to eBay prices. This tells me that players are seeking them, but stores aren’t – probably because they are very hard to move. Cards like these should probably be sold at eBay or TCG since even after fees you are going to get more for them than you would just outing to a buylist. Something to keep in mind in case you come across a few of these types of uncommon foils.

Final Thoughts

I’ll be using these lists in the future when looking through collections, to try and maximize the amount I can get out of them. I hope you guys find the lists useful as well, since there are plenty of eye popping numbers in the data especially concerning uncommon foils.

Let me know if I missed any uncommons from recent sets, nonfoil or foil, that you have your eyes on for value moving forward. I used the MTGPrice ProTrader data collection methods to aggregate this data, so if you become a ProTrader you too can get easy, current access to this data at your fingertips.

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Thinking About Future Stars of Standard

I’m writing this article mostly because I just saw Dig Through Time’s price and noticed that one of most powerful card selection spells in Standard reached its bottom in terms of price.

Screen Shot 2015-08-29 at 12.32.58 PM

Besides Standard, the card has burst onto the eternal scene and completely changed Legacy (it was already way too good for Modern, and along with Treasure Cruise quickly received the ban hammer). There has even been talk that this card should be banned in Legacy, right along with Treasure Cruise, because it just makes blue decks way too good – especially combo oriented decks like Omni-Tell, where if you have your combo countered initially you can just use all the trashed pieces in your graveyard to dig for another Show and Tell and Omniscience and still win even through an absurd amount of counter magic or hand disruption. For control decks, it makes them even more oppressive because they can also keep going through their deck until they again find a way to lock down whatever you’re trying to do again and again.

Now, Standard obviously can’t abuse Dig and Treasure Cruise like eternal formats. Even if they became more oppressive in the environment, because of the changes to the block structure Khans and Fate Reforged are going to rotate out earlier than they would previously (they rotate once the next large set after Battle for Zendikar is released). This means that there will be a smaller window for profit once we get into the accelerated Standard rotation window if cards like Dig become great. Picking cards before release should also become more profitable (or costly) depending on how good you are at it. For Magic Origins, many of the writers for MTGPrice were able to identify the vast majority of undervalued cards going into the set release so I highly recommend you follow authors like Derek Madlem, James Chillcott, and Travis Allen (if you have premium) so that you are better able to see which cards are undervalued. This way, you can make more informed decisions when it comes time to preorder if you like to add risk to your portfolio.

Besides preordering though, another way to profit on Standard cards is to pick up staples in the current block at undervalued prices before as rotation approaches. Of course, the counterpoint to this is to pick up undervalued casual or eternal cards in the rotating block, but here I would like to focus on cards in the current block that I feel have reached a bottom and have room to grow as Battle for Zendikar is released.

Dig Through Time

My strongest pick for value, both in terms of card selection and the current market price of the card, I would suggest that if you are a Standard player to finish your playset in the near future and if you want to speculate on the new Standard to pick up as many copies as you are comfortable holding. I think that this card is at least doubling up once rotation happens, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it headed to $15 or higher for a short period.

Languish

Another card that has reached a low point, this seems to be the direction that Wizards is taking Wrath of God cards. I believe that Standard players are going to be attracted to using it because a four mana board wipe that kills basically everything is the hotness. I especially think it will be a good pickup because Abzan is already an established boogeyman of the format and everyone will be playing aggro decks during the release of Battle for Zendikar to punish the slower decks. Well, this is an aggro punisher if I ever saw one!

I admit though, as Standard goes on I think that Languish will get worse and worse because I’m expecting some super large Eldrazi to come out of the next two sets (I mean, we might even see something bigger than Emrakul!) and Languish isn’t even coming close to killing them. I think the play here is to pick up copies now, and then get rid of extras once a spike happens because I don’t think it has a chance of a second spike during its Standard life.

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Siege Rhino, Dromoka’s Command

  

The lynchpin of the current Abzan strategies, these cards were hit hard by the Clash Pack printing but should rebound nicely as rotation happens in the fall. We’re not going to see $10 Rhinos or $9 Dromoka Commands again but they each should go back up to at least $6, since I believe that many players are going to want tools to fight against Burn and super fast decks as the new Standard is being figured out. Also, both are applicable to Modern and should be buoyed financially if even they don’t experience a major spike in Standard. If you are looking for long term value, I think that since Siege Rhino and Dromoka’s Command were reprinted that both are good places to park some dollars in expectation of future gains, since they both have dropped in price considerably and have eternal application.

Dragon Whisperer

I’ve always ascribed to the philosophy that aggro tends to dominate Standard during the time of rotation, and this is a two-drop mythic rare that could fit nicely into a newly envisioned mono-red aggro deck. Another interesting possibility is its inclusion in a midrange deck which is able to take advantage of the Formidable ability, so you can generate 4/4 Dragons as the game goes on. Either way, for $2 you won’t be losing much if this doesn’t make a splash and have everything to gain if it does. On the plus side, Dragons of Tarkir will actually be Standard legal longer than Khans and Fate Reforged, so there is actually another rotation where this will be legal to see a spike. So you actually get two chances with this card to see a spike!

Whisperwood Elemental

Well, you know what they say, it’s always the quiet ones you need to watch out for… looks like both Whisper cards have hit their bottoms, and both being mythic rares means that if they spike then the price is going to go up higher and faster than their rare equivalents.

Whisperwood being green means that he’ll be better able to fit into ramp strategies, which I think players are going to experiment with once we get some large and imposing Eldrazis to work with in Standard. Whisperwood can keep generating 2/2’s as blockers to keep you alive until you get some Eldrazi online. Seems like a great card to me and I have big expectations for this guy.

Rattleclaw Mystic

I’ve been hyping the Rattleclaw Mystic money train for a while, and I’ve picked up plenty of excess copies of this guy in anticipation of a decent performance in Standard since this is predicted to be the best mana ramp creature we’re going to get. Going with what we’ve seen from Sylvan Caryatid, I expect Rattleclaw to start going up in price some time in October.

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Caryatid went from $5 to $15 in October, so going with Rattleclaw’s current price of $2 I expect it to be at least $6 by the time October hits.

Final Mention – Fetchlands

   

Wait a second, you say. How could these things possibl0y go even higher than they are now? Didn’t Polluted Delta and Flooded Strand recently see a significant appreciation in their price?

Despite both of these questions being valid concerns, fetchlands are in a league of their own when it comes to price and will be especially important to Standard since Landfall is being reintroduced in the coming-back-to-Zendikar block again.

I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Khans fetchlands go over $20 retail in their Standard life, with the most heavily played ones reaching $30 or more. We also have to consider that Modern will be driving demand in addition to Standard, since we just saw a spike of the original Zendikar fetchlands because of Maro letting us know that we have an “exciting” new type of dual land coming out shortly… mhmm, I think I’ll keep my excitement in check until I see those original Zendikar fetchlands reprinted again, mkay?

While the fetches have been trending up nicely over the summer, especially the blue ones, I still think they have room to grow before they rotate from Standard. I wouldn’t expect to get killer deals on these things near or after rotation – remember, everyone is going to be looking to pick them up at rotation so retailers aren’t going to be budging on prices much. While the best time to purchase fetchlands is behind us, I still think it is a good idea to complete unfinished playsets before Standard and Modern hype start bringing the Khans fetchlands to lofty new price highs.

That’s all I’ve got for this week! Which cards are you guys looking at in Standard that have reached their bottoms for some nice fall gains? I know I only covered non-rotating cards, so is there anything from Theros that you think is even more important to keep an eye on than Khans/Dragons/Origins?

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A Guide to the 2015 World Championship

Twenty-four of the best players in the world. One giant event attended by thousands, with those both deeply involved with Magic and completely unexposed to the game in attendance. Tens of thousands of dollars on the line. Plus, this little trophy and title they all want to have.

It’s the 2015 Magic World Championship.

Okay, my coverage writing may have slipped through a little bit there, but the World Championship is an important event both in the realm of the professional Magic world but also the financial side of things. There’s a lot happening at this event, so I want to walk through it today with the information you’ll need to plan your weekend around this tournament.

Coverage of the event starts at noon today (Thursday, August 27), and will continue throughout the weekend. There are a lot of events planned at PAX, and while some are more financially relevant than others, they all matter quite a bit in terms of the future of Magic.

Let’s Start with Thursday

Modern Masters 2015 draft will be fun to watch, and the hype of the event will really kick off in full force once the afternoon brings along the Modern rounds. The pros haven’t had a crack at Modern in a pro-level format since Magic Origins hit, and with the impact we’re already seeing from the set at the Grand Prix level (as well as completely shaking up Standard), it wouldn’t be a surprise to see new tech break out here. Most of the pros I talked to about the format at Worlds expect it to be very important to metagame, so we may well see something unexpected break out that the field isn’t prepared for. Reid Duke showed as much in 2012 when he showed up with Bogles and put it on the map.

There are a few things to digest financially here. First, much like the Blue-Red Ensoul Artifact deck we saw at Pro Tour Magic Origins, just because the pros choose a deck for a format doesn’t mean it’s going to have staying power. The Thopter deck broke out at one event and put up insane win percentages over the weekend, but it has failed to duplicate that same success since. I wouldn’t be surprised to see something similar happen at Worlds.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t make money here. Whatever the pros do end up playing will undoubtedly drive prices in the short term, since so many eyes will be trained to the event nonstop (mine included). The opportunity here will be to move early on what sees success on camera, especially if it’s unexpected, and you may be able to make some short-term gains.

Then comes the long-term aspect of it, which frankly is what I’m more interested in. I’m not necessarily looking for the success of a single deck like Bogles or Infect or Storm or whatever the field may not be prepared for. Instead, I’m looking to see what cards are played across the field or what cards from Magic Origins have staying power. We’ve seen a lot of Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy around Magic lately, but the true test will be if he sees widespread play across the field at Worlds. The same goes for Hangarback Walker, which has made waves but hasn’t been a mainstay in Modern yet.

He moonlighted as Master of Wallets in late 2013.
He moonlighted as Master of Wallets in late 2013.

Speaking of waves, I’d love to see someone sleeve up Merfolk and do well, but I’m not necessarily expecting it. The linear and draw-dependent nature of the deck isn’t something pros usually favor, especially at such a high-level event, but hey, I can hope!

Friday Standard

Like with Thursday, Friday’s exciting action doesn’t start until the afternoon. And like with Modern, Standard is all about metagaming. With just 24 players showing up to this event, it’s much more important to play something good against what you expect your opponents to play than it is to find the best deck for a Grand Prix.

Hangarback

I expect Modern to be the big driver in prices this weekend, but I do want to highlight a few things in Standard. For starters, with Standard Rotation so close on the horizon (and some more pieces of that future being revealed this weekend), I doubt we see much Standard price movement, if any at all.

But there are still a few things to watch for.

  • What decks survive the best at rotation? Look for decks that have a core made up of Magic Origins or Khans of Tarkir cards rather than the usual Courser of Kruphix/Devotion/Thoughtseize varieties. Spotting these (which I plan to elaborate on next week, with results), will tell us a lot about what the post-rotation format could look like.
  • What planeswalkers make an appearance? We’ve seen a lot of Jace in Standard, with a side helping of Nissa. Will this be the weekend another planeswalker breaks out?
  • Hangarback Walker has proven itself the terror of the format, and the next question is: is it beatable? Will players bring answers to Hangarback, or will they opt to simply play it themselves? Standard has proven itself to be quite adaptable over the last 12 months, and we’ll see if it can handle one more boogeyman before rotation.
  • If it can, the next step is to look at whether those answers survive rotation. If they do, I would say the future of Hangarback Walker is to slowly trend down in price. But if they don’t, or everyone just jams Walkers themselves, we could easily see this thing make a run to $25 or $30 immediately following Battle for Zendikar‘s release.

Sunday Standard

More Standard follows in the final rounds of the tournament, and this will be the day that we may finally see some Standard price movement, thanks to being the format the championship hangs on.

Dig

Other Stuff to Watch

PAX Prime is a crazy event, both for attendees and other games, not to mention Magic itself. The World Championship is a huge event and an important one, but that’s not all we have to watch this weekend:

  • The biggest news will drop Saturday night, at 7:30 Pacific, or 10:30 Eastern time. This is the Battle for Zendikar preview show, and we’re going to see spoilers galore at this one. This is key to watch to find out if anything spoiled creates hype and therefore movement on anything else. Obviously, the cards we see previewed here are likely to be overpriced on their spoiling, so look for how they affect other cards instead.
  • Besides the preview show, there’s also a Felicia Day/Wil Wheaton/LoadingReadyRun-filled event with lots of cards and fun. As viewers, this isn’t super relevant for us, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some more news come out of this.
  • There’s also what I consider the elephant in the room, and one that has successfully hidden so far. When first announcing the move to PAX, Director of Organized Play Helene Bergeot wrote this: “A major moment for the global Magic community is going to take place at PAX Prime, and moving the 2015 World Championship to PAX Prime is just one part of this global experience.” Considering everything we’ve talked about so far isn’t exactly new, I’m unsure if this is a harbinger of bigger news to come that is being slow-rolled, or if it’s just a general blanket statement about the event.

Either way, it’s going to be fun. And I’m looking forward to watching. We’ll have complete spoiler coverage here on MTGPrice, so make sure you keep a tab open over here while you’re watching Twitch.

 

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter


Addendum: One more thing before I go. I try not to promote myself often, but I’ve added a few things recently I want to mention. I produce a lot of articles weekly, with two regularl columns plus coverage writing, but what I haven’t done before is move much into the video realm. That changes now, and over the past few weeks I’ve gotten heavily into streaming at www.twitch.tv/chosler88, and I’m also producing at least two videos a week for my YouTube channel as well. If you’re interested in following along with either of these, feel free to follow/subscribe/share. Thanks, everyone!

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