Unlocked Pro Trader: Boring Isn’t Bad

Not all of mtg finance is sexy. When people message me asking what to spec on to double their investment and I tell them to buy collections near buylist prices and sell them for retail on TCG Player or eBay to clear a profit, minus fees, materials and labor, they’re disappointed. I make the majority of my money doing the kind of boring mtg finance stuff that only needs one article ever – “buy collections and sell them for more than you paid for them.” “How to replicate having a job that doesn’t pay you health insurance by being your own boss and doing repetitive labor.” It’s not sexy how I make money, but it is steady. However, speccing IS very sexy and that’s why we write lots of articles about it. It’s a fun way to supplement to monotonous grind of processing cards by the tens or hundreds of thousands every week.

There’s a problem – if we concede that speccing is meant to be sexy, unsexy specs aren’t worth our time, right? Au contraire! Unsexy specs are the perfect hybrid of our boring, meat-and-potatoes type of finance and our Jordan Belfort wannabe spec behavior. You should have a sales route in place, like TCG Player, eBay or Twitter if you’re going to out specs, anyway, so why not use it for both? With that in mind, we’re about to look at some unsexy specs that overlap with 60 card casual, something we have no non-anecdotal data about, and try to make pronouncements about the financial future of safe and profoundly reprintable cards. Sound good? Too bad, this is my column and I’m not going to change gears two paragraphs in.

The Impetus

Heliod, Sun-Crowned

This week we’re looking at a deck that is built the 4th most on EDHREC, ahead of Klothys, the commander I covered last week because Heliod is boring and I keep waiting for him to drop. However, as boring as Heliod is as a commander, there is another dimension he’s worth discussing – his work as an inclusion. We’ll get to that later. Let’s look at Heliod as a Commander first.

If I should have seen something coming, I like to discuss it. I should have seen this coming. Years and years of waiting for something to make this pop, I eventually lost faith. This was a $0.40 card while Soul’s Attendant was $2. This is obviously more than twice as good in Commander, so why the lag? For whatever reason, this popped, finally. It’s not done going up, either. I’m not in for cash since we missed the bulk boat, but if you have these in your bulk, yank them. This will buylist for $0.50 to $1 in a year. This is a moderate-to-low reprint risk with a high upside. Wish I could have called this at bulk but I’m telling you now.

There was never a great time to buy Sunmare – if you’d asked me how I liked buying in at $4, I would have probably balked. We missed a double-up. I’m not lamenting having missed this stuff – I don’t understand what makes some casual tribal stuff go up and others not is harder to understand than people just looking at the hits and ignoring the misses would like you to believe. This is an $8 card on Card Kingdom, though, and considering it’s gettable for half that elsewhere and the price trend is quite strong, I’d say you are OK at $5 on these considering CK’s buylist is nearly $4 right now. Buying at $5 cash to flip these to CK in 6 months or a year for $7 store credit doesn’t suck.

This really shrugged off that reprint. The Dragon deck retailing for like $200 probably has something to do with that. This card is absurd in Heliod decks – by “fair card” standards anyway. You still have to attack with a creature, albeit a flying one that has counters for days.

Note to self – it takes a minute, but lifegain stuff recovers from a reprinting better than almost any kind of card.

I didn’t buy any when I called this at $5, so I guess bringing that up doesn’t do much good. This was creeping slowly but it’s accelerating and this isn’t going to get reprinted. This is a card that goes $4, $5, $6, $8, $15 if it goes because of the low supply. I wouldn’t hate getting in at $8 if that’s the case.

The Second Part

Heliod as an inclusion in decks that aren’t necessarily mono-White give us access to other colors, and other combos.

It’s harder to pull off without Heliod in the commande zone, but if you can get them both out on your side of the board, you just gain infinite life. Speaking of infinite, there are infinity printings of Spike Feeder (Stronghold, Battle Royale, Commander 1, FNM, Time Spiral) and two foil printings but I bet they all pop. The FNM foil looks especially good, but I hate buying EDH foils to spec on, so bear that in mind. I mean, that and they’re sold out most places. Be quick or be dead.

There’s a lesson here – not all reprints are created equal. Printing this in a Masters set AND a commander deck sealed Divinity’s fate despite it being a casual beast of a card that used to flirt with $10. This got up to $6 after the Commander 2013 printing but the Modern Masters printing the same year nerfed the price and it hasn’t been able to rise more than a buck or two. Here’s hoping Heliod can get EDH players interested again – they mostly haven’t been. This is an excellent case study in reprints.

I know this is already money, but it’s worth mentioning that it finds Heliod.

Whatever happens with lifegain stuff in the wake of another lifegain commander, what we’re seeing is that every time there is a new one, renewed interest causes a spike, which falls off, but makes the overall trend of the card’s price an upward one. If you don’t sell off in time, you can either hold on until the next spike or just watch the price slowly climb because life gain is always a good investment.

That does it for me this week. Join us next week where I re-examine more things I’m bad at predicting. Until next time!