Know What You’re Talking About

I was on Facebook earlier this week.

Yes, I know; Facebook is terrible. Everyone’s parents are on Facebook and they’re reported to potentially lose 80% of their users and Zuckerberg just sold 3.2 Billion in Facebook stock; it’s a cesspool. I get it. It’s useful to join Facebook groups to engage with brands you like and find sales and trades and it’s fun to see who from High School got fat and went to jail. It’s also (sometimes) instructive to see what people are saying about cards. Some people think that they have to set the record straight when people are wrong about cards, but it’s really more useful just to sit back and see what different groups are saying.

This set is bad. I don’t think I’m shocking anyone with that proclamation. Not every set can be good, that’s an impossible standard. But no set should be this bad. There are literally 3 cards I care about and one of them I only want to get copies of because I can virtually guarantee it’s overpriced by 300% and I want to trade it out for cards that will retain value. I’ll give you a hint- it’s blue and black and it rhymes with “Den Hacks”.

Given that the set is bad, people are doing something very curious, which is to try and find nice things to say about bad cards they would normally skip. I actually think that’s a great practice, because people who play mostly standard tend to ignore about 90% of every set and focus on the 10 cards that are going to get played in Standard and they tend to miss the stuff with the most financial potential. I happened upon a conversation one day in a Facebook group that was discussing a new card that was just spoiled.

One succinct, one-word review proclaimed “EDH” as if to say “Boom. Nailed it. Moving on.” That would be a pretty good way to handle not spending too much time on a card that was clearly not going to see play in Standard. There was just one problem.

This isn’t really that great in EDH.

Card Analysis is Hard

Even pros get it wrong sometimes, but Standard players are generally about 95% accurate with their gut reactions to cards. Bad stuff is usually very obviously bad, limited-only stuff is generally pretty obvious as well. Good stuff can be even more obvious, and though some cards are initially under or over-rated, Standard players are usually pretty close. They know what they want to play in those formats and it’s easy to identify.

With more people getting involved in MTGFinance, it seems like every set there are fewer and fewer opportunities to make money pre-ordering cards from Standard. Sphinx’s Revalation was embarrassingly-low as was Angel of Serenity. I ordered Thragtusks for $5 apiece from eBay. Five. Actual. Dollars. Price corrections happen much faster because people are on top of it more and more each set. 50 copies of Pain Seer at $2 sold in minutes and the price was corrected very quickly. I am not convinced Pain Seer should be more than $2, but the people buying it at $10 a copy disagree.

With it getting tougher to make money by analyzing the cards from competitive formats it is even more important to learn how to analyze the cards from other formats. The person who gave Astral Cornucopia a dismissive “EDH” as if the card were a waiter who reached for his salad plate before he’d finished picking at it probably won’t lose any actual money by not correctly evaluating the card (and I likely won’t lose any if I’m super wrong and Cornucopia is just what people need to go from 9 mana on turn 6 to 13 mana on turn 7, thus winning all of the EDHs forever) he’s probably going to lose out on a lot of money eventually by failing to correctly evaluate EDH cards. If you see a card that is worse than Darksteel Ingot at 3 mana and worse than Gilded Lotus at 6 mana and say “EDH players will want this”, you should probably play a game of EDH, ever.

You Should All Play a Game of EDH, Ever

I’m serious. I was a very late adopter of EDH but I’ve seen the value in how playing it has allowed me to access an entirely new customer base. EDH players are way better to trade with than people who only play competitive formats. After weekends at SCG Opens where some competitive player would look through three of my binders and say “I’m pretty much only looking for Snapcaster and Boros Reckoner” I thought I would quit trading altogether. What I found when I traded with EDH players was that the amount of stuff they were looking for was way higher and they had no reservations about coming off of competitive cards. Having an EDH deck to play a few games will not only introduce you to those players, it may demonstrate the power level of certain cards you may be able to hook them up with to improve their decks.

EDH isn’t a joke. It’s not a fad. It’s not something to deride or dismiss. It’s a completely new card game that uses the same cards you already have and if you don’t know anything about it as a financier, you’re doing it WRONG.

Build an EDH deck. You probably have a dozen of each Commander 2013 deck, right? Bust one open. Jam some better cards in there. Evasive Maneuvers seems fun given you can generate infinite mana with the general Derevi, a Deadeye Navigator and a Gilded Lotus (or an Astral Cornucopia at X=3…maybe I was wrong about that card. No I wasn’t). Power Hungry is begging for you to jam a Parallel Lives and a Doubling Season in there and go to token town. It would take you 20 minutes and $20 to make a serviceable EDH deck with stuff you have in binders and boxes and you can trade for the rest. Once you play a few games, you’ll know right away what is good in EDH. You may have been playing since 1996, but you’re about to get humbled when you have to ask someone to hand you a Black Market or a Mana Equilibrium so you can read it.

Then, One Day, You’ll Get it

You’ll learn that you can never buy too many copies of Sol Ring at $2 or Gilded Lotus at $3. You’ll learn that Japanese foil EDH generals aren’t quite as liquid as you thought, but your group can’t get enough copies of Food Chain and Pattern of Rebirth. You’ll learn why it was a good idea to snap foil Sylvan Primordial for $1 the first week the set was out but not buy foil Chromatic Lantern yet. No article can teach you how to truly evaluate cards in EDH as well as playing a few games, building a few decks, meeting a few people who come to your shop every week but whom you’ve never met because they don’t play FNM.

You’ll also learn that there are different kinds of EDH groups, and while competitive players will not play a card like Astral Cornucopia, casual EDH players might. When games go a million turns, playing this for 15 to tap it for 5 may be what they want to do. That won’t drive the price up that high and won’t make this card suddenly a good investment, but it will let you know which kinds of EDH players might want this off of you. But how will you ever meet them if you don’t play with them?

Just like someone who plays Standard will recognize the immediate impact of cards like Brimaz, someone with a few EDH  decks and some experience is going to correctly identify the sheer, awesome power of a card like Prophet of Kruphix or Progenitor Mimic and they are going to recognize that although a card like Astral Cornucopia looks durdly and mana-intensive, that isn’t a bad thing to every group . They’ll know that by having an understanding of the format, some experience playing and some decks built so they will know what their own specific needs are.

Also, once you’re building EDH decks and picking up cards to build with in the future or trade to your group, you’ll pay more attention to prices. I’ve made way more money picking up underpriced Vigors from competitive players who only cared about the ten cards that get played in Standard from each set than I have trafficking in Huntmasters and other cards with thin margins due to a low spread. I’ve had 10 copies of Thespian’s Stage disappear out of my EDH deck stock box in one night and had 10 sit unsold for weeks on TCG Player despite being the cheapest listing. You won’t have to ask twitter why Kami of the Crescent Moon and Wheel and Deal and Forced Fruition are quintupling in price because you will have seen the power of those cards in a Nekusar deck demonstrated and you will have stocked up before the big spikes.

Rather than handing out a few fish, this week I wanted to teach you to fish and in this case, learning to fish involves playing Magic. It’s not even going to feel like work.

Finance Quick Hits

  • Nekusar isn’t done making stuff spike. Any card that makes people draw extra cards and hasn’t been reprinted is a good target.
  • For the love of Heliod, didn’t anyone read Pain Seer?
  • Bitterblossom getting bought weeks in advance of the B&R announcement is a new trend. Don’t expect to be able to have a full shopping cart at 11:59 like you used to. I really don’t expect this (or anything) to be unbanned next week and I expect the price to tank back to where it was.