All posts by Zack Alvarado

I work at Who's on First Sports Cards and write financial articles for; I've been playing MTG for fifteen-years, and have been professionally trading/selling cards for the last five. My favorite Vintage build is Goblin Foodchain; my favorite Legacy build is Aluren Storm; and my favorite Standard build is Naya Zoo.

Monday: Money Ramp with Zack Alvarado

MTG & The Dangers of Third-Party Speculation
Bribery. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.

Following speculative advice, regarding uptrending investment targets in the MTG market, is a very risky practice; one that I advise nobody – but the well seasoned – to rely on. This warning extends beyond basic rule isolation of game theory: there seem to be few of us speculators, and many hype-investors. If you want to make the largest profits possible: do your own homework, and cash-in/cash-out before anybody sees you doing it. These hype-investors rush to accumulate plethoras of cards that speculators are stocking; after we’ve already cleared the bottom level of the market – So what’s the difference between us? That’s simple: I have multiple outlets for reselling my singles, and a friendly reputation as a strong trader/player in my community. I never acquire stock unless I’m confident in my capacity to generate a profit from it within a desired margin of time.

Hype-investors, on the other hand, usually end up jumping onto the caboose of new trends; this is because they’re mimicking our speculative purchasing patterns. Again, why is that bad? And again, that’s simple: let’s assume that I’ve speculated the price of ‘Card X’ is going to increase and decide to buy 200 copies for $0.25; then, after I’ve bought my 200 copies: the price jumps to $.50 and hype-investors acquire 200-500 copies for themselves. As soon as ‘Card X’ hits $0.50, I put mine back into the market, and am bought out – making a 200% ROI. After the excitement dies down, the price of ‘Card X’ will likely drop to $0.35, which is still a near 30% increase from its baseline; however, the hype investors have now lost $0.15 (30%) on each card – and they don’t want to eat a loss – so what do they do?

They take one of two risks, generally: 1, they attempt to buy out the current market; and if successful usually end up with a large stock of stagnant goods, which inflates the price of cards that simply don’t command their retail tags, or 2, they sit on their newly acquired stock, hoping for the market to slowly dry out, and similarly: sit on stagnant goods; taking a long time to profit, if ever. Because most hype-investors take one of these two risks, they harm their fellow investors in the process. And for obvious reasons, this type of financial competition between resellers/investors is bad news for casual players and consumers in general.

People taking the first risk I mentioned will be thwarted by people taking the second risk: if they buy the market out of ‘Card X’ at a rate of $0.35, and raise them all to $0.75, they’ll be making a profit on the initial stock of ‘Card X’ that was purchased for $.50, and also from the newly acquired stock that was purchased for $0.35 – BUT, if they do so and list ‘Card X’ for $0.75, surely whoever took the second risk will list all of theirs at $0.60 – $0.70, shortly after; and it becomes this cat and mouse game of people cashing into others who are seeking to corner the market; and this back and forth consumption of demand based value does nothing but increase the value in false effect: the tangible value of an item increases as the demand, and thus the exchange of it does as well. But the consumption and exchange of trend-cards, which raise their value, occurs mainly between resellers and not end-user players – thus creating a hollow egg of perpetually feigned scarcity. So please, be careful, and assess the market wisely; nobody is going to give you their get-rich-quick tips; this really is a market of micro-econ, and player knowledge – it’s easy to get burned when following the advice of others if you’re unable to confirm their assertions (mine included). This will conclude my fourth installment, thank you all for reading.

Money Ramp Weekly Tip:
[Buy as many Burning-Tree Emissary as possible for $0.50 – people sell ’em left and right]

Until next time,

Zack R Alvarado
Twitter: Rh1zzualo

Monday: Money Ramp with Zack Alvarado

Increasing Sales via Inventory Organization

Strategic pairing can improve both cards' sales appeal.
Strategic pairing can improve both cards’ sales appeal.

Eric Froehlich’s Naya Zoo deck was composed of 83% rare or mythic cards, making his deck a perfect example of how expensive it is to be a tier 1 competitor. Most of the cards he used are expensive from the perspective of most casual players, but not so expensive that they could not afford a few if they really wanted ‘em. It is certainly obvious that most casual players will not be playing decks composed so expensively as Froehlich’s. Despite this fact, many MTG retailers stock their singles space with mythic and chase rares that sell for at least $10 each. The problem here is that this makes the majority of the inventory held by retailers geared toward a minority of the market; it means that there is just no way that they are all going to sell, and that many cards will be left sitting on shelves not producing profit.

So, the question becomes, “How do magic card retailers gear their inventory toward a larger portion of the market? And how do they clear the inventory of mythic and chase rares that they already have?” By giving the average player a reason to buy expensive cards. Casual players will not be filling their decks with high-priced cards. The only expensive cards that these players will be buying are those which work best with more affordable cards. As you may know, pretty much all of the chase rares work extremely well with less expensive cards. The problem is that not everyone else does, and the solution is proper organization of trade/sell binders. For example, a casual player opening a binder is likely to see the first few pages packed with chase rares that he already knows he cannot afford, and, having no reason to buy, flips right past them without even stopping to give them consideration. On the other hand, the casual player may open a binder and see a combo build with cards that he most certainly can afford or may already have.

Let’s say your customer has some Spark Troopers, Cloudshifts, or Duskmantle Guildmages laying around in his extras not really being used; then, he opens your binder and sees a Thragtusk that he doesn’t want to pay for, but instead of being surrounded by other cards that aren’t in his buy range – it’s sitting there, right next to a card he can afford: Cloudshift. Hell, he probably already has a playset. It’s a simple, game changing combo that just fell into his lap. The Thragtusk will immediately become more appealing to the customer, and every other customer who looks at that Thragtusk and realizes the potential power it has if used with a card they already own. It’s the same concept a car salesmen will use when selling an expensive car; but, instead of just being a car – it’s leather upholstery, tinted windows, and all the things that contribute to the desire and/or impulse of owning such a luxurious object.

The MTG salesmen version of leather upholstery and tinted windows are:

In other words – organizing your trade stock in a way that allows customers to realize the potential benefits of chase-rares, in conjunction with easily affordable cards, will increase the appeal of otherwise difficult to sell cards. Instead of letting chase rares sit on shelves, doing nothing other than being drooled at by the occasional customer shuffling by, retailers should be reorganizing their binders and cases in such a fashion that these chase rares become more appealing to customers.

Other good examples of cards that are easily made more appealing are:

So, you get it – now go out there – put the rubber to the road and make some extra cash!
This will conclude my third installment, thank you all for reading.

Money Ramp Weekly Tip: [Pick up tons of Sphinx’s Revelations]

Until next time,

Zack R Alvarado
Twitter: Rh1zzualo

Money Ramp – with Zack Alvarado

Hello everybody and thank you for tuning into this week’s edition of Money Ramp!

January 26th marked the beginning Gatecrash’s pre-release, which began as early as 12 am Saturday (Jan 26th), and went as long as 11 pm Sunday (Jan 27th). Many card prices remained the same before and after the pre-release; some even depreciated and are still trending down (Aurelia’s Fury). However, for power-traders like myself, there was a light at the end of the tunnel during the weekend’s course of price alteration: it was Boros Reckoner!


Listed below are the prices of Boros Reckoner, across multiple retailers, on January 26th:

Star City Games  $4.99
ABU Games  $3.99
TCGplayer (low) $4.24
CCGHouse  $3.98
Hotsauce Games  $4.25
Strike Zone Online  $3.99
Channel Fireball  $3.99

Now, I attended pre-release, but did not play – instead, I bought my sealed guild-box, dropped, and ran the retail booth for my LGS. However, I had the opportunity to walk around our event and observe a few game-states. During the time I spent watching others play, a few cards immediately stuck out to me as cute “win more” cards, such as Biomass Mutation; whereas others stood alone as “win well” cards, such as Aurelia, the Warleader and Boros Reckoner. Since the release of Gatecrash, it’s of no surprise to me that both of these cards have scaled in price, with Boros Reckoner simply soaring!

Listed below are the prices of Boros Reckoner, across multiple retailers, between Jan 28th & Feb 2nd:

Star City Games  $9.99  Jan 30th
ABUgames  $9.99  Feb 1st
TCG Player (low) $9.99  Jan 30th
CCGhouse  $9.98  Feb 1st
Hotsauce  $11.99  Jan 31st
Strike Zone Online  $9.55  Feb 2nd
Channel Fireball $9.99  Jan 30th

 And here is the graph as of 2/8/2013:


As you can logically assume, the experiences players had with Boros Reckoner during pre-release weekend greatly influenced his demand, and thus his price; on the 26th of January, Boros Reckoner’s average price was $4.20; his average price on January 31st was $10.20 – an increase of 243%!

In closing, I presume it’s safe to assert that Boros Reckoner will be a brickhouse in standard-constructed; the demand is there, the price is there, and the power is there – but I feel that he’s found a solid home in the market in the $12-$13 range.

In my previous article, I said that I would be discussing some bad investment practices that our Protrader feature can save you from making; but I’m out of time for this week, so that will be the focus of my third installment. Stay tuned!

Money Ramp Weekly Tip:
[ Keep an eye on Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger ]

Until next time,

Zack R Alvarado
Twitter: Rh1zzualo


Money Ramp

Hello everybody and thank you for tuning into this week’s edition of Money Ramp!

My name is Zack Alvarado, and I will be your host for the present. My first installment on will examine price increases on the current market and discuss what I believe has influenced these changes.  Specifically, I will be discussing Modern format dual-lands and why they’re currently on an unavoidable uptrend.

Pain Lands, such as Temple Garden, are staple picks for land slots in Modern comps (competitive deck builds) that are utilizing multi-colored spell bases:  they provide an efficient mathematical dunamis – in terms of spell-casting and ability-activating potential. Paying 2-life to ensure that a vital 1-drop (such as BoP) can be played on the 1st turn, while simultaneously extending the variability of castable spells on turn two, seems very hard to argue against.

Now, what about Filter Lands from the Lorwyn-block? Five were printed in the Shadowmoor expansion, and five in the Morningtide expansion, but they haven’t received much favor until recently – why? Well firstly and foremostly, they lack a basic land type:  rendering them unfetchable by cards such as Scalding Tarn and Misty Rainforest. But I digress, are 8-12 Pain Lands necessary for efficient mana-fixing? – Especially in conjunction with 4-6 Fetch Lands? – I don’t think so – and neither do some of the currently best players.

Lorzeno Calzolari, who recently reached the top-8 of Grand Prix Bilboa, was asked what changes he would make to his deck after the tournament; he replied by saying, “I swapped a Cascade Bluffs for an Island at the last minute. I wouldn’t change anything else.” (staff). Calzolari wasn’t the only top-8 player at Wizard’s GP Bilboa this weekend to include Filter Lands in his build; 5 of the top 8 decks were utilizing Filter Lands this weekend. Why? Well, perhaps they agree that there is a point where a deck can have too many Pain Lands and Fetch Lands – freeing up a few slots for Filter Lands and the strong mana fixing they provide at the cost of 0 life.

I knew that players would mathematically tune their mana bases for Modern and would realize that Filter Lands have a solid home (in small amounts). A month ago, on Dec 22nd, 2012, I suggested that players invest in their sets of Modern filter lands via Twitter, #mtgfinance:

Let’s look at the increasing prices of Filter Lands at, via – simply because they have the least price flux, as opposed to; and the most stable inventory, as opposed to Now, I use the ProTrader features from MTGPrice to access my data – so your charts won’t go back as far as mine unless you’re a ProTrader as well. However, if you look at the price-spikes after my tweet on December 22nd, and prices at Jan 22nd, 2013:  you’ll understand that the database offers unprecedented reports of the MTG market that can assist traders in predicting uptrending and downtrending volatility.

Here are the price fluxes of Filter Lands between May 19th (the date that Modern format was announced) and Jan 22nd, 2013.

So all in all, it is apparent that these cards have skyrocketed since Modern became ‘a thing’: the 10 Filter Lands have collectively averaged a price increase of $6.25! Their collective average price in May was $7.50!

Stay tuned for my second article to drop next week – I’ll be revealing some premature uptrends and discussing bad investment practices that ProTrader features can save you from making!

Money Ramp Weekly Tip –
[ Keep an eye on the Lorwyn-block Lieges: you’ll be happy you did – or I’ll be happy you didn’t! ]
Until next time,

Zack R Alvarado
Twitter: Rh1zzualo



Johnson, G. (n.d.). Mathemagics: Onslaught Fetchlands. Retrieved January 20th, 2013, from

staff, W. o. (n.d.). Manders is Modern Man of the Moment. Retrieved from Wizards of the Coast: