Going Mad – What to Expect When You’re Expecting to Go to Vegas

By: Derek Madlem

For those of you that missed it, the first GPVegas was well…a valuable learning experience. Things quickly grew out of control because nobody had anticipated that level of attendance, and it showed. As the final days drew closer a cap was instituted and players were warned that on-site registration was going to be limited at best. This was the first GP to really push the preregistration game.

Two pairs of restrooms and one concession stand is not what you’re hoping for when you attend a GP…especially when over 4500 people show up.

But they’ve learned a number of lessons this time around…and we’re looking at upwards of 8,500 players cracking Modern Masters 2015 by the fist full.

6x 8,500 = 51,000 packs opened

With 1 in 8 packs containing a mythic rare and 15 mythic rares total you’re looking at roughly 425 copies of each mythic rare without even going into the FOIL copies.

Keep in mind this doesn’t even take into account the numerous side events that will be happening from dawn until dusk for four straight days.

This is not a Magic tournament, this is a Magic convention.


I’m sure many of you are planning to bring a binder, box, or Ziploc bag full of cards with you to Vegas. After all those buffets aren’t going to pay for themselves…but when’s the best time to sell?

Well let’s think it through here. You can expect the FIFTY vendors at GPVegas to roll out their war chests for this event so there’s going to be a metric expletive ton, expletive load, or different expletive load of cash flying at you. There are even a number of vendors with $1,000,000+ buy budgets for this event. I feel pretty safe in guessing that there will be $10-15 million in cards bought by vendors over the four day weekend.

So what’s that mean for you?

Obviously those war chests are not going to be balanced evenly, so a number of the “small timers” are going run out of money fast. $50,000 in cash might get you through an average Grand Prix, but in Vegas that’s going to be gone on day one.

If you haven’t figured this out yet: sell as early as possible.

There are going to be 9,000 people in a city that inhales cash. People aren’t flying to Vegas to play EDH, they’re flying in to be a part of the biggest Magic event in history in a city that provides 24 hour a day amusement of any kind. You also have to keep in mind that many of these people are not collectors or speculators … they’re just people that play Magic and off their extra cards to allow them to keep playing Magic.

From the vendor side of things, there’s a “break even” point for events like this. If they’re buying cards at 50% of retail, then they need to buy at least double their expenses to break even. Once stores buy enough to justify their trip, they’re going to want to switch to “good buys” … which means they’re looking to buy anything CHEAP. 

As that war chest shrinks, vendors are going to be more picky about what they’re buying and they’ll be more prone to push a trade bonus on you to make their cash last a bit longer. I’ll go into trade bonuses in another article, but they’re really not quite all they’re cracked up to be.

The Bad Guys

With the amount of money changing hands on the convention center floor, you can bet that this event has caught the attention of some ill-intentioned individuals.

Common sense will get you pretty far in most cases:

  • Don’t leave your stuff unattended
  • Your friends are terrible stuff attenders
  • Put your bag under your chair during your match

But an event of this size is likely to attract professionals. So you might want to be a little more precautious:

  • Don’t flaunt your “bling”
  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times.

You can be almost certain that numerous people are going to have cards stolen. I would even venture a guess that a non-zero number of people have cards stolen out of their rooms, vehicles, or from their person.

Another threat that we’ve heard so much about over the past year or so is the increasing quality of counterfeits. If these guys will show up to a Starcitygames event in Indianapolis, IN…you can bet they’ll be around at GPVegas. While you probably don’t have to worry much about anything printed after Magic 2015 thanks to those embedded holograms, any of the older cards is on the table as a possibility.

If you’re looking to pick up power, dual lands, or even those Juzam Djinns for your #mtgunderground deck, buy from a vendor you trust or ask your trade partner if you can get a second set of eyes on the card if you’re not sure what to look for. There have been countless articles about how to spot fakes, so I won’t go into that here but it’s important to know that they’re out there.

Modern Masters Buy Prices

There has been a lot of debate and chicken-little antics regarding Modern Masters on Twitter the past few days about what a beating the recently reprinted cards are taking.

Here’s the thing, retail stores ultimately determine and guide the value of cards. There’s a lot of factors that they take into account when determining where to set the bar, including supply and demand; but when the big stores set a buy price on a card, that is more or less drawing a line in the sand. Everyone else can play the “race to the bottom” on TCGPlayer, but ultimately they’re in the business to make money so if they’re going to sell every copy of a card they have in stock at $10, there’s absolutely no reason to sell it for $8. 

When a Channel Fireball level store says “we’re paying $110 for Tarmogoyf” then other stores either starting paying somewhere close to that price or they don’t get many Tarmogoyfs. We’ve seen this time and time again, especially with Starcity’s buylist. Force of Will floated back and forth between $65-80 for months on end, then one day Starcity pulled the trigger and upped their buylist price to $75 and everyone else pretty much fell in line and now Force retails in the $115 range.

With an event like Vegas on the horizon, many stores have been too preoccupied with planning, packing, and preparing to bother wading into the fray to buy Modern Masters cards. They also know that they’ll be in a room with 51,000 freshly acquired cards, so they’ve been tightening up their bank roll in anticipation for this event while gleefully watching the prices plummet.

Vegas will likely be pretty close to the “bottom” for many of the cards in Modern Masters 2015, you can bet that many of the vendors will be buying up as much Modern as they can get their hands on, reprints included. With fifty vendors in the same room, prices for these cards are going to sort themselves out pretty quickly. While there will be a few “barn burners” blowing out cards at ridiculous prices on Thursday, prices will stabilize by Friday and we’ll know where to expect these cards to land going forward.

History lesson for those that missed it: two years ago we had our first Modern Masters Grand Prix in Las Vegas, Tarmogoyf was hovering around $110 with a reprint coming in that was sure to decimate it’s price. During one of the early rounds of the event when 4,500 players were preoccupied with their matches Starcity sent their agents into the field to buy every single Tarmogoyf in the room from the other vendors at full retail, cementing Goy’s future as a $200 card.

Stores WILL be making moves at this event; some of them will undoubtedly be mistakes, but some will be home runs.

It’s Not Time to Panic

Yeah, Modern Masters prices are going LOW. That’s great, Timmy spent his allowance and drafted Modern Masters so he’s got a Tarmogoyf to sell – good for him. Unfortunately for Timmy, he can’t reinvest his profits in a ton more Modern Masters because that supply is going to quickly run dry.

Here’s the thing about Timmy that you need to keep in mind – Timmy only plays burn, and is generally a complete degenerate. Timmy’s burn deck doesn’t include any copies of Mox Opal, Tarmogoyf, or Vendilion Clique so he sells every copy of those cards he opens. Did I mention that Timmy is an absolute degenerate? Seriously, Timmy’s the kind of guy that finds a stray cat, feeds it, and leaves it out in the yard to get pregnant and litter the yard with kittens because he has no concept of the future.

The thing to keep in mind with Timmy is that he’s going to ship those cards, and he doesn’t really care what he gets for them because he’s got reservations for one at Denny’s tonight and those grand slams aren’t going to pay for themselves.

If you’re not going to Vegas this weekend, it’s going to be a great time to snipe some cheap auctions on eBay as everyone’s attention will be focused on the festivities and the bulk of Magic’s loose money is going to be on the battlefield in Vegas.

Modern Masters strategy in a nutshell: If you see a good price on a card you need – BUY IT. If you’re just trying to time the bottom so you can profit – GOOD LUCK, this is the sort of thing that could be an eight hour window or you could have an entire week, as long as you’re generally buying low you should be in good shape.

Shameless Self Promotion

I’ll be working with Aether Games this weekend in Vegas, come by the booth and “holla at ya boy” if you feel so inclined. I’ll try tweeting out SOME information on how prices are shaking out if I get a chance this weekend, so you can follow me on Twitter @GoingMadlem for that.

Also there’s a slap bet that may or may not be settled between one of the other owners and Aether Games’ own Kyle Lopez (@itsyourboyLOPE)…so I’ll try to announce when that’s going to happen or at least post a video.


6 thoughts on “Going Mad – What to Expect When You’re Expecting to Go to Vegas”

  1. Super amped for the festivities in Vegas and got to know your boy Lopez in San Jose back in January when I was selling off my set of power and other vintage/legacy collection items. Unfortunately deal didn’t work out but
    will def come by the booth at Aether. Hoping to snatch up a tabernacle or chains. Have some pretty unreal pulls from MM2 that I’m looking to package for cash or trade. My cousin will have a piece if power he’s shopping. -Silver Tuna MTG

  2. “Stores WILL be making moves at this event; some of them will undoubtedly be mistakes, but some will be home runs.”

    This is the exact reason that I am trying to snipe cheap MM2015 cards now, rather than during/after GP Vegas. I think that so much cash is going to be flying around these GPs that not many of the cards are going to end up on TCGPlayer or eBay. Supply is coming into the market, but its going to be gobbled up by vendors paying cash… Not listed on TCGPlayer.

    Once people realize that this huge influx of supply is going straight to vendors, they will buyout TCGPlayer and eBay of the remaining “cheap” staples and this will create a snowball effect for everyone that was waiting until after GP Vegas to buy their cards. Too many people are “waiting” and they don’t realize that tons of vendors are “waiting” too.

    I can’t “wait” to hear people complain about how cheap they could have gotten certain cards. “If only I hadn’t waited…”

    “Why did I think a bunch of cards would magically appear on TCGPlayer after GP Vegas? Of course they all got buylisted to vendors! Then the people actually AT GP Vegas saw the moves the vendors were making and bought out TCGPlayer… I guess I’ll go buy my last Goyf from CFB or something…” Some Guy said, still “waiting”… lol.

    1. People underestimated how many people just did a couple drafts and had some big cards to sell quickly. If people can sell on eBay or TCGPlayer for less than they can to a buylist – they will, and that’s giving a lot of “readings” at much lower prices.

      While I’m less bullish than I have been about this set in my initial assessments, I still think people are underestimating demand for these cards.

  3. All I can say is I’ve seen some of your buylist prices on Twitter for AEther and you guys are going hard after a few. I didn’t know Cavern of Souls has crept north of $25. Your Goyf prices is pretty fierce too. I wish I could make it out for the festivities, I really liked the BSB episode where your coworker was a guest too. Where does AEther out all of it’s products now? Still TCG or have you set up a website/brick and mortar yet?

    1. Yeah I saw Kyle’s post with the Goyf and Clique prices… I think we know where AEther feels these prices are headed.

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