PROTRADER: Reflecting on Poor Performers

Almost a month ago I wrote a post in the MTG Price forums advocating that Ghost Quarter – even Innistrad copies – were a buy. At the time there were still hundreds of copies in stock for under a buck and some were as cheap as $0.60. With the success of the Eldrazi deck in Modern, the importance of this card has multiplied fivefold. It’s no coincidence that the price has followed suit.

Ghost Quarter

It’s great to see the buy list curve in blue follow the green curve, indicating dealers are also having a difficult time keeping these in stock. If you’re holding copies, I’d recommend remaining vigilant. I’m not sure if there will be a pullback when Modern season passes. We all know how volatile the Modern format is.

While it was cute to have called this $0.50 uncommon correctly, it doesn’t nearly balance out a couple of hits my portfolio has taken lately. This is what I want to address in this week’s article – some of my disappointing calls, and where I think prices go from here. After all, it’s easy to show off correct picks but one can learn far more from analyzing their own mistakes. Perhaps there are some tidbits we all could benefit from after digging into my misallocated positions.

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14 thoughts on “PROTRADER: Reflecting on Poor Performers”

  1. Hey Sig,
    Like you, I bought into Shocks and Foil Tas. Like you, I’m still waiting….., but lets be practical. When do you think Shocks will be reprinted? I think not for a very long time, (5+ years). Tasigur, the same. I’m tucking these away for now with the mindset of slow and steady growth. Patience, as you know, is key, and if you were willing to dump some cash into these specs, then you’re willing to wait.

    1. Hi jbrown,

      I agree, shocks aren’t likely to be reprinted again for quite a while. Same with Tasigur. But I put the two into different categories. Shock Lands will always be part of the fundamental mana base of Modern (well, besides Tron/Eldrazi…but are those long for this world? hehe). So I am content to wait on Shocks because I know they won’t be outclassed or go out of style.

      With Tasigur, I could genuinely envision a future metagame where this creature isn’t played. Even when he IS played, he’s usually a 1-of. The limited demand, combined with the fact that there are foil promos galore out there, make me less hot on Tasigur. Since these are also pretty expensive, the opportunity cost is greater.

      For full transparency, I buy listed 4 to ABU Games because I got $25ish in credit with their generous 35% bonus. I still have 5 more that I will also move if I can get in the neighborhood of $25 for them. Keep in mind this is basically in-line with eBay buy it now listings. I would rather put this money to work in other areas, such as Old School stuff for example.

      Thanks for the comment, best of luck to us! 🙂

  2. I’m beginning to suspect that the shocks still have enough copies in circulation because people often only need 1-2 of any given one for a deck. Blood Moon does a good job of ensuring that they can’t be played more than that.

    Compare them to the price trends of the man lands and scars lands that get played – those have spiked due to demand, and they are almost always played as 4-of’s.

    1. Are man lands and scars lands really 4-ofs? I remember I used to play 2 Razorverge Thicket in Modern, but never a full set. I believe it’s the age and single printing of the man lands and scars lands that make them so much more expensive. Not necessarily increased play. Based on this hypothesis, shock lands should EVENTUALLY be old enough to get a price jump. But it could take a year more since the player base exploded with INN and RTR blocks. Sets before INN, such as WWK and Scars, are significantly less printed than sets after INN, such as RTR.

      1. Creeping Tar Pit, Celestial Colonnade, Raging Ravine, all four-ofs in their decks. Also, Blackcleave Cliffs in Jund. I mean, you definitely can’t claim 4-of for ALL of the man/fastlands, but it’s definitely a real thing.

      2. Gotcha, I hadn’t realized. Can’t say I’ve seen many lists succeed with 4x Creeping Tar Pit in Modern though, to be honest. Seems like it’s all Tron/Infect/Eldrazi these days, with some CoCo lists smattered throughout.

  3. Good article as always Sig. I enjoy thorough analysis of good and bad calls.

    Not trying to take advantage of your situation but I’m still looking to finish out some play sets (2 maybe 3 of) most of the non foil shock lands. Mainly r/w, b/w, g/r, u/w, u/b, and u/g if you wanted to hedge your cost by unloading some copies let me know we could talk.

    1. I’d be open to selling a couple at TCG Low if you’re interested. I should have a couple stomping ground and Watery Grave. Now that I just bought a few Dual Lands after seeing the Eternal Masters announcement, I’d be open to raising a little cash. Send me a PM in the MTG Price forums and we can chat. 🙂

      Thanks for the comment!

  4. It really is important to look at this side of the speculation game. Thanks for being brave and taking the time to write about it. I almost consider this aspect of MTG Finance like defense, along with selling cards before they get reprinted. Buying cards before they spike is more like offense. It is important to remember both offense and defense if you want to “win” the game.

    I have a “bad” investment I’m currently sitting on… although we are talking cents rather than dollars mostly… Springleaf Drum. For some reason I decided to buy this card at its low point, both printings, for around 50-75 cents each. I figured it wasn’t going to be printed for awhile and could eventually see $2-$3 and I could maybe out them to a buylist for $1.50…

    Am I looking for profits too soon? The card barely hit $1.75 and then dropped back down a bit. I was always looking to buylist this card, but buylist prices didn’t go up much. Do people think Springleaf Drum could hit $3 in the next year or two allowing me to buylist them for $1.50? Or will Springleaf Drum bounce between $1 and $2 until it is reprinted again… dropping back down to 50 cents before I see profits.

    I’m really considering just pulling the trigger on a buylist with store credit just to break even. Unless this card hits $2+ it isn’t even really worth shipping a playset to me. $2-$3 is about as low as I’m willing to sell on TCGPlayer and when I do that, I’m trying to sell $8 playsets generally.

    What would you do if you had a stack of Springleaf Drum? Hold? Sell? Trade? I will admit they are great throw-ins for trades but I’m getting sick of looking at them! Does the popularity of Affinity make this card a steady gainer? Or does the sheer number of copies available and a reprint keep this card under $2 for the next few years?

    I’m willing to wait for buylist prices to go up… But they just recently dropped from 50 cents back down to 25 cents… And that is the WRONG direction! Now I’m not even looking at breaking even… I’m looking at a loss if buylist prices don’t go back up.

    1. Springleaf Drum, eh? I suppose you can afford to sit and wait a bit longer, assuming you don’t have $100’s in them. If you’re talking just $50 or something like that, it probably won’t be too painful to wait. There certainly is upside if you wait long enough and it continues to dodge additional reprints, being that it’s played in a Tier 1 Modern deck.

      Next time it pops though, I’d consider trimming your position at breakeven. That’s essentially what I just did on my foil Tasigurs, and I don’t have any regrets!

      Good luck, and thanks for commenting!

  5. Sig, another great article. I believe you touched a critical, critical point in your last sentence: “knowing when to sell for a small loss is arguably even more critical to successful investing”. Regardless of our dimension as investors that speculate, we all have made bad calls and straight on mistakes. Learning from them and cutting the losses is what we should take from these situations. I know I have lost money in the past by selling for a loss but at least I got to reinvest so that I could eventually benefit from my mistakes. Beats sitting on a bunch of cards that put you on a melancholic mood, I’d reckon. Sure, it’s not a clear cut situation each time (as you exposed with your several examples) but, hey, it’s part of the game.

    Thus far, two great lessons from your articles:
    1 – a profit is always a profit
    2 – selling for a loss is sometimes the best decision
    Thank you for this.

    I guess next stop is looking into old school! I’m way out of my league there but who knows? 🙂

    P.S. – Tasigur does have one thing going for him: he’s “unfair” in a way that Wizards likes (i.e. he does his thing in fair decks) so there may be a bright future for him. Let me put it this way: I’d be happy putting my money into him instead of those Eldrazi bombs running around…

    1. Thank you very much for the kind comments! These two mantras you’ve summarized so well above both derive from stuff I’ve learned through investing in the stock market. “No one ever went bankrupt selling stocks for a profit” is something I take to the bank time and again. The name of the game isn’t to sell at the peak – it’s to sell for more than you paid.

      Equally, if an investment is going south and looking to be dead money, knowing when to cut that bet off and invest that money into something with a heartbeat is REALLY important to successful investing. People have a tendency to resist selling. They like watching their winners rise because it’s a feather in their cap, and they like holding their losers because they refuse to take losses and move on.

      I once read the statement “you should always be eager to sell” and in some cases, this directly applies.

      If you want to buy a few foil Tasigurs, just let me know :-). I do agree he’s going to stick around in Modern longer than Eldrazi, but as a 1-of I just can’t get too excited about his upside from here.

      Thanks again!

  6. Hi sigmund, long time no chat.

    I’ve actually recently been buying into the fetchlands expeditions (when I say recently I mean like since the tail end of January). With a little bit of resourcefulness, you can get misty rainforests at $210-220, scalding tarns at about $220-230, and flooded strands at $140-150. I think at these prices its a snap buy, considering that they can go in as 4-ofs in both modern and legacy.

    As for tasigur, I went in together with you on the foils. I think gurmag angler definitely did its damage, and the decks I’ve been playing in legacy have swapped out tasigurs for gurmag anglers bit by bit. I remain hopeful with tasigur, but the printing of gurmag angler really ruined it, that extra point of power makes it a direct trump to an opposing tasigur. I’m not sure where this card can go from here, I’m sitting on multiple foil copies as well, and here the sunk cost fallacy is holding true, it feels painful to sell back to the same online store i bought at (CFB) for less, and in store credit too.

    in light of eternal masters, force of will has dropped to $80 on SCG, now that sets off alarm bells. Considering I’m holding onto a bunch of force of wills, what would be the best play now on this?

    1. First, I have to ask why you were holding so many Forces? It may seem like Monday morning quarterback, but the card isn’t on the reserved list and you have to expect they’d reprint it eventually. Combined with the fact that Legacy play has deteriorated in recent months, I’m not sure what sort of upside you envisioned for Force. Do you mind sharing your hypothesis? Now the best possible scenario for Force is probably if WOTC did announce some sort of new “eternal” format that was Legacy minus reserved list.

      I could see wanting to grip tightly to Tasigur foils, but I suspect it’s going to be a painful, gradual decline for months to come. I’d much rather just bail now, take my modest losses, and move on to something more exciting. Think of it this way: every day you hold your foil tasigurs, you’re choosing to “buy” those instead of some other cards. Is that really where you want to prioritize resources?

      Expeditions should perform fine in the long run as long as every set going forward doesn’t have them. Sadly, that’s a big “if”…

      Thanks for commenting and sharing your thoughts!

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