All posts by David Sharman

The Watchtower 03/30/20 – Changing Tack

With a lot of the world now in lockdown, game shops are closed and nobody’s playing paper Magic (other than over webcam etc). Tournaments have moved online – Channel Fireball are running Arena tournaments 24/7 and Team Lotus Box have started their own tournament series across Arena and Magic Online, amongst others doing similar things. Very few people are buying paper Magic cards right now, and have instead turned to playing on MTGO to get their (albeit virtual) cardboard fix, which in turn is having an effect on the MTGO economy. I’m sure that a large number of people reading this won’t be involved in the online side of Magic finance yet, but I think this is a great opportunity to take a look into it.

Ice-Fang Coatl

Price today: $23
Possible price: $50

Variants of the Bant Snowblade deck are taking up a large proportion of the Modern metagame at the moment – some playing more Uro and taking the midrange route, and others going for a more controlling Stoneforge and Cryptic Command build. No matter how it’s built, however, all the decks are playing four Ice-Fang Coatl. Turns out that an Ambush Viper that flies AND cantrips is pretty good – who knew?

Besides the fact that Ice-Fang is a staple in these decks, I’m singling it out because of the price movement on it recently. Having been on the rise since December, the card spiked up to a touch above 50 tix (MTGO tickets, roughly equal to dollars) online a couple of weeks ago, and has since retraced down to around 23 tix. I would say that this is a reasonable floor, but this Wednesday (04/01) the Vintage Cube is being replaced with Modern Horizons draft. This will be run as both a phantom and non-phantom event, so not as much ‘real’ product will be opened – but it will still provide downwards pressure on a lot of Modern Horizons cards.

My advice would be to keep an eye on the price of Ice-Fang and other Modern Horizons cards come Wednesday (Urza, Astrolabe etc.), and look out for downwards movement. Towards next Wednesday, when MH draft rotates off MTGO, I suspect we’ll see prices recover and Ice-Fang could be headed back towards 50 tix in no short order.

Jace, Wielder of Mysteries

Price today: $11
Possible price: $18

Over in Pioneer, Dimir Inverter is still topping the virtual tables again and again. Having dodged a ban earlier this month (yes, believe it or not that was in March), the deck has been proving its power since and putting up top finishes in multiple online tournaments.

Jace, Wielder of Mysteries is a keystone of the deck, and saw a nice run up to 18 tix after the deck survived another round of bans. Since then we’ve seen it retrace back to 11, but with more and more online play occurring I expect to see it turn around again for a steady gain over the next few weeks. WAR isn’t being drafted any more so the only fresh supply is coming from Treasure Chests, and I think now is a reasonable time to be picking these up.

Another thing to note is that this is a popular card in EDH, and because of the current lockdown EDH is seeing an uptick in play on MTGO. I wouldn’t be surprised to see EDH play have some impact on card prices online, so it’s worth keeping an eye on cheap staples.

Theros Beyond Death Scrylands

Price today: $0.08
Possible price: $0.50

Finally, let’s look at Standard to round off today’s picks. Although Magic Arena is where most Standard play happens, it’s not absent from MTGO, and it still moves prices. The Scrylands from Theros and M20 are staples in pretty much all the Standard decks that play more than one colour, and all of the Theros ones are under 0.1 tix at the moment. The most expensive is Temple of Enlightenment at 0.08 tix, and the cheapest are at 0.03 tix.

If we take a look at the Temples from Core Set 2020, they were all similarly low for a couple of months after the set release, but since then climbed and generally stayed over 0.5 tix. Some have briefly flirted with 1.5 tix or so, but I expect to see the same pattern from the THB Scrylands over the coming months too. Supply will drop off, and prices will climb to around 0.5 tix or more – so if you pick a bunch of these up now you should be in for a tidy profit down the road.

Picks like this normally aren’t worth it in paper unless you can buy a large quantity at once and can then sell them to a buylist when the card has made enough gains, but with buying and selling online it’s a bit different. There are no shipping costs, no waiting times and no fees to pay, which makes it a lot easier to make money on cheaper cards and smaller gains like this.

That’s all for this week; next week I might do more MTGO picks or find something else to write about instead…we’ll see. Til next time, stay indoors and stay safe!

David Sharman (@accidentprune on Twitter) has been playing Magic since 2013, dabbling in almost all formats but with a main focus on Modern, EDH and Pioneer. Based in the UK and a new writer for MTGPrice in 2020, he’s an active MTG finance speculator specialising in cross-border arbitrage.

The Watchtower 03/24/20 – A Definitive Guide to Arbitrage

It’s a surreal world we’re living in at the moment, and it’s affecting every aspect of peoples’ lives. Although it might not be at the forefront of a lot of peoples’ minds right now, that does include Magic – Wizards has just announced the suspension of all in-store play until at least 10th May, which means that LGSs are going to suffer hard and paper card sales are going to plummet. Not many people are buying cards right now, and so with that in mind, instead of my usual picks today this is going to be an article on cross-border arbitrage (I mentioned a few weeks ago that I would be doing this at some point in the near future).

I’m based in the UK, and with that comes pricing on cards that is generally a bit different (and often lower) to that in the US, so with the right setup there can be a lot of money to be made between the two markets.

Pricing Differences

In general, card prices in the EU tend to be lower than in the US. This is painting with a fairly broad stroke, and doesn’t apply to all categories of card, but the best arbitrage opportunities tend to arise amongst EDH cards. EDH (or Commander, if you’re that way inclined) is hugely popular in the States, but much less so this side of the pond. That means that card prices over here run lower and stock levels run higher, especially at the release of a new set. I highly recommend reading Jason Alt’s articles, especially around set releases and paying attention to the potential EDH all-stars from each new set; they can often be had on Cardmarket in bricks of 50+ cards on preorder or at release, and can be a great opportunity for 100%+ gains, outing either to buylist or selling on TCGPlayer.

Setting Up With A Partner

As well as talking about differences in card pricing and availability, I’m going to devote a large portion of this article to discussing the actual mechanics of setting up an arbitrage partnership between the EU and the US.

The first step to take when thinking about delving into arbitrage is setting up a relationship with someone on the other side of the pond. The main reason to do this is because the primary TCG platform in the EU is Magic Cardmarket (MKM), which doesn’t allow shipping to addresses outside of Europe. That means that you’re going to need an address within Europe to ship to, which can then forward your cards to you overseas.

The simplest way to do this is if you have friends or relatives based in Europe that are happy to collect your mail and forward it on to you in bulk – however, this option isn’t available to most people, and it can be very useful for the forwarder to have a reasonable knowledge of Magic – I’ll come onto this in a bit.

If you’re an MTGPrice Protrader member, then another way to set this up is by connecting with one of our EU members via the Discord. This can go both ways too; if you’re in the EU then selling your cards in the US can be very profitable, so you could set up a symbiotic relationship where the EU partner receives orders for the US partner, and then can send over their own cards with the package for the US partner to sell in the States.

The Mechanics

Once you’ve got a partnership set up, you need to figure out the practicalities of actually moving the cardboard halfway round the world. I think the best thing here is for me to run you through my setup and how I handle everything, so here goes.

  1. Agree on a compensation system. Before you start anything, it’s a good idea to make sure that both parties are going to be benefiting from this relationship. This could be in the form of the US party selling cards overseas for the EU party, or a fixed/percentage fee per package sent across, or something else – it’s up to you.
  2. Set up an MKM account. It’s best for the US partner to set up an account on Cardmarket, using the EU partner’s address – for my partners I’ll normally have them put “John Smith, c/o  David Sharman” followed by my address, so I know what the mail is and who it’s for before I open it.
  3. Set up a shared spreadsheet. I have a separate spreadsheet for each of my arbitrage partners to keep track of what they’re ordered, from whom and any additional info needed. My partner lists what they’ve ordered, I mark it as arrived and note any issues with it. If need be I can upload pictures to deal with any card condition issues or other order problems (this is where it’s useful for your partner to be familiar with Magic cards). This is the kind of template I use:
  1. Buy some cards! Now you’re set up and ready for the US party to start ordering cards to the EU address.
  2. Catalogue the cards. The EU party will ideally keep on top of incoming mail, mark cards off the spreadsheet as they arrive, and store them safely until it’s time to forward them on.
  3. Forward the cards onto the US party. The frequency of the mail forwarding is up to the individuals, but my recommendation is not to do this too often, as postage costs will stack up quickly and eat into the arbitrage profits. I normally send using a tracked & signed for service, which costs between £8 and £20 depending on parcel size – prices will vary depending on the country you’re sending from.


Speaking of buylists, another way to take advantage of arbitrage gaps without needing an overseas partner is via buylists – this is for the EU and rest-of-world readers. Something that I do from time to time is send in buylists from the UK to Card Kingdom in the US. Card Kingdom generally has the best buylist prices around, and so every so often I’ll pull together a fairly large buylist to send to them (although other buylists can also be good). To make it worth the postage this will usually be a $300-400+ package, usually including specs that I have a large quantity of and don’t want to spend the time selling individually. It can also be a useful outlet for stalled specs that I can break even or take a small loss on, so that I can funnel that money into cards that are going to move faster.

When it comes to choosing between cash and store credit, I will mostly opt for the cash payment. This is because I do the bulk of my spending in the EU where prices are lower – however I have in the past taken store credit to spend on specific cards that are well priced on Card Kingdom compared to other sources.


Finally, I want to briefly talk about arbitrage opportunities going in the other direction – from US to EU. These generally take the form of specialty sealed product, because Wizards don’t seem to like countries outside the US having easy access to special and supplemental sets. This has most recently been relevant with all the Secret Lair Drops that Wizards have been releasing, which have come with exorbitant shipping and customs charges to ship overseas. This has deterred many overseas players from picking the sets up when they only want a couple of cards from them, which in turn has created great opportunity for me to pick up sealed sets and sell on the singles. Example: I paid around £150 for a set of the five Constellation SLDs, and turned the singles around for close to £350.

Another example of a good product to ship the other way is the San Diego Comic Con sets, which are only available in the US. I’ve had partners ship me various different SDCC sets and flipped them in the UK for a good margin, due to the lack of supply outside the US.

I think that covers most bases here, and I hope it has all made sense, but if anyone has any questions then feel free to hit me up on Twitter or in the Protrader Discord. See you next week, stay safe, and stay home.

David Sharman (@accidentprune on Twitter) has been playing Magic since 2013, dabbling in almost all formats but with a main focus on Modern, EDH and Pioneer. Based in the UK and a new writer for MTGPrice in 2020, he’s an active MTG finance speculator specialising in cross-border arbitrage.

The Watchtower 03/16/20 – Mystery Booster Bonanza

Mystery Booster: Retail Edition finally launched last Friday, and with it came the replacement of the playtest cards with one of a possible 121 foil cards (cards not found in the non-foil slots). Since then, prices have been crashing hard – especially on foil reprints of older cards with single foil printings. Today we’ll be taking a look at what to buy in on now that prices are down, and what the likely trajectory is for some of the most popular cards.

Mana Crypt

Price today: $135
Possible Price: $200

I’m going to kick things off with one that may seem obvious, but that I think definitely needs reiterating nonetheless. After its reprint in Eternal Masters, Mana Crypt tumbled down to a (relatively) low price of around $60, but did it stay there? Oh no. Over the next two years it climbed its way back up well over $200, and that kind of organic growth is due to player demand.

This is a card that’s currently being played in nearly 27k decks listed on EDHREC, and there will be many many more unlisted beyond that. I don’t need to tell you that it’s obviously ridiculously powerful in EDH, being an absolute staple in cEDH decks and a huge boost to the power level of any other decks too. Perhaps almost as importantly, despite the prowess of the card I don’t think that this is something that the EDH Rules Committee will ever be able to ban, due to its high price tag combined with the vast number of players using it. Banning it would put thousands of players hundreds of dollars out of pocket, and that doesn’t seem like something they’d be up for doing.

Prices for the Mystery Booster edition of Mana Crypt start at $135 on TCGPlayer (compared to the $180 price tag that the Eternal Masters version is commanding) but ramp up quickly, and supply isn’t as deep. Given that these cards are nigh on identical in terms of aesthetics, I fully expect to see the MB versions climb to meet the EMA price, and then for all copies to keep going past $200 within 12-18 months. I’m sure we’ll be seeing another reprint of Mana Crypt somewhere down the line, but wouldn’t expect it for another 2 years minimum so you’ll have plenty of time to get out – and in the meantime it’ll help you ruin friendships at the EDH table.

Selvala, Heart of the Wilds

Price today: $28
Possible price: $50

Here’s another Mythic with a big price discrepancy between its (single) original printing and the Mystery Booster edition. I’m sensing a theme. Although not quite as ubiquitous in EDH as Mana Crypt, this is still a popular card. 555 decks registered on EDHREC using Selvala as a commander, with a further 4k playing her in the 99 makes for moderate demand, but there’s no mistaking the power level here either.

With just the one other printing in Conspiracy: Take the Crown, Selvala is another card that’s had a very organic growth pattern due to player demand, and a high price tag to follow. That’s also partly due to the size of the Conspiracy 2 print run compared to, say, a Standard set, but the demand is also real.

The $23 price discrepancy between the CN2 and MB versions here means that more players are likely to seize this opportunity to pick up copies for their decks, and I’m going to end up sounding like a broken record but I think this will be safe from a reprint for another couple of years, so I don’t think it’ll have a hard time pushing $50 again before then.

Alhammarret’s Archive

Price today: $5
Possible price: $10

This is a relatively small-ball pick compared to my other two cards this week, but the fact of the matter is that Mystery Booster versions of Alhammarret’s Archive start at $5 on TCGPlayer, whereas the Origins printing starts at $10. That’s some pretty simple stonks right there if you ask me. Really though, this is a pretty popular card in EDH, at around 7.6k decks listed playing it, and a bunch of these can currently be had at $5. Give it 12 months and I think we’ll see the Mystery Booster copies up close to $10.

I’m following the same logic all the way through here, and if I’m honest I think this can be applied to a large proportion of the cards reprinted in Mystery Boosters. You can DIY too; look for the most popular cards with the highest price discrepancies (ideally with few or single previous printings), and you should be onto a winner.

On a final, more sombre note, COVID-19 is a real threat to the global population at the moment. I’m not here to give you expert advice, but to tell you to pay attention to what the experts are saying and stay safe. If that means self-isolation or quarantine, then maybe you’ll have to forgo FNM for a while in favour of MTGO or Arena. You should also consider this when sending or receiving cards in the mail – COVID-19 can remain active on cardboard for up to 24 hours and plastic for up to 72 hours. At the very least, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling cards you’re sending or receiving. Stay safe, and I’ll see you next week.

David Sharman (@accidentprune on Twitter) has been playing Magic since 2013, dabbling in almost all formats but with a main focus on Modern, EDH and Pioneer. Based in the UK and a new writer for MTGPrice in 2020, he’s an active MTG finance speculator specialising in cross-border arbitrage.

The Watchtower 03/10/20 – Banned and Restricted (and Suspended?)

Brawl: Golos, Tireless Pilgrim is banned.

Finally, the scourge of Golos has been ousted from Brawl. Finally, we can be free to brew inconsistent and janky Brawl decks without being beaten down by the five colour tyranny! Finally we can enjoy our Wednesdays again!

Just kidding, I’m afraid I’m not here to talk about Brawl. Once Upon a Time has been banned from Modern and Underworld Breach has been banned from Legacy – both perhaps relatively unsurprising but there were a lot of potential directions that Wizards could have taken with this announcement.

It was fairly clear since the printing of both these newly banned cards that their days were numbered, and certainly in Modern a LOT of decks were utilising Once Upon a Time. There’s also the notable lack of any bans in Pioneer – so how is all this going to shake things up?

Jace, Wielder of Mysteries (Stained Glass Foil)

Price today: $40
Possible Price: $70

Despite many people (myself included) being fairly certain that Dig Through Time was going to be banned in Pioneer, it didn’t happen. Dimir Inverter has solidly been the best deck in the format for a few weeks now, but Wizards chose not to do anything on the grounds that its non-mirror-match win percentage was only around 49%, also citing that there was “tremendous diversity” across the top decks at the three Players Tours.

This lack of a ban means that Inverter is probably going to remain the top dog for a while, and so prices of the cards in that deck are going to climb again (after the instability amongst ban fears). Jace, Wielder of Mysteries is always a four-of in the deck, providing card advantage whilst getting you closer to milling your deck out, as well as being a win-con in and of itself. Now that we’ve had the original printing, the JPN alt art and the stained glass Secret Lair versions of this card there are a fair few flying around, but supply is quite low on the stained glass copies.

Starting at $40 on TCGPlayer, there are only 22 vendors with copies and the price tag climbs with every listing. Whilst I still think that Dig Through Time’s days are numbered in Pioneer, for the time being I think that Jace is a good pick-up for a shorter hold time (say 6 months perhaps), to get to $60-70. He’s also backed up with considerable EDH demand (over 10k decks listed on EDHREC), and we know that EDH players love their foils.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that supply on the JPN alt art foils is practically non-existent, so a quick flip could easily be available on those versions too.

Arclight Phoenix

Price today: $6
Possible price: $15

Arclight Phoenix is a card that has proven itself across Standard, Modern, Legacy and Pioneer since it was printed in Guilds of Ravnica, but has since fallen far from its peak. Once a $30 card, the Modern Phoenix deck took a tumble when Faithless Looting was banned, and has popped up here and there since then but not put up many consistent results.

However, I don’t think that it would take much to get the deck going again, either in Modern or Pioneer. There are still plenty of free/cheap spells in Modern and Treasure Cruise is still legal in Pioneer, and with the Pioneer metagame shifting away from Lotus Breach it means that there will be fewer Damping Spheres hanging around in sideboards to slow Phoenix down.

I think that $6 is almost certainly the floor for this card, and if (or when) the deck gets going again they will be snapped up in playsets and disappear quickly. It might be a slightly longer hold on these but Wizards won’t just stop printing cheap cantrips any time soon, so think about grabbing these at their floor and waiting.

Ox of Agonas (EA Foil)

Price today: $20
Possible price: $40

I talked a little bit about Modern Dredge in an article back in January, and here we are again. Dredge is still doing what Dredge does, and quietly putting up solid finishes in both paper and online tournaments every week. Dredge pilots tend to stick with the deck through thick and thin, making the likelihood for them to pimp out their decks all that much higher.

So onto the Ox: when it was previewed for THB it seemed like a pretty clear cut to make it into Dredge, and lo and behold it’s always showing up as a 2-of in the deck. Turns out ‘draw 3’ (read: Dredge a million) stapled to a 5/3 is pretty good!

I was quite surprised when I went over to TCGPlayer to have a look at EA foil Oxes (Oxen, probably?), to find that the lowest NM foil is at $20 and there are only 41 listings total. The price ramps up to $30 before long, and $40 isn’t too far off either. There aren’t going to be many more of these entering the market now and it seems all too reasonable for Dredge players to be picking these up for their decks, so I can see these drying up and making $40 inside 12 months.

David Sharman (@accidentprune on Twitter) has been playing Magic since 2013, dabbling in almost all formats but with a main focus on Modern, EDH and Pioneer. Based in the UK and a new writer for MTGPrice in 2020, he’s an active MTG finance speculator specialising in cross-border arbitrage.