All posts by Jason Alt

Jason is the hardest working MTG Finance writer in the business. With a column appearing on Gathering Magic in addition to MTG Price, he is also a member of the Brainstorm Brewery finance podcast and a writer and administrator for Brainstorm Brewery's content website. Follow him on twitter @JasonEAlt

Unlocked Pro Trader: Sparking Creativity

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Readers,

I don’t want to do a deep dive on all the implications of a specific commander this early, mostly because we can wait a bit, but there are a few two-card combos emerging and it’s best to be apprised of them so you’re not left in the dust when cards start selling from your TCG Player store or someone else swipes the cheap copies from your LGS. The ship may have sailed on some of these questionable beauties but you can snag some others so let’s get to it.

The New Card


The Old Card(s)

Lashy boy went up before, notably when they printed Laboratory Maniac and also when people thought you could donate it to opponents with Zedruu. I don’t think it’s any better here than it was with Laboratory Maniac, but what do I know? The card’s going up regardless. In fact, “the card’s going up regardless” shall be my catchphrase for the rest of this article.

Speaking of which, I have another spicy pick for you AND as an added bonus, the voice in my head now has a stereotypical Italian accent. Badda BING.

Eyy, why are you out heah buying Leveluh when $0.50 per copy can buy you some nice gabbagool? OK, I’m done with that bit, writing it out phonetically is a pain and I’m not sure which Italian slang is OK to write. Look, this is a pretty dumb spec and this is not a good combo, nor a new combo. But, hey…

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And even though I think that may be the end of the Jace shenanigans I have taken note of, there are other cards poised to make things happen.

The New Card

Activated abilities of artifacts your opponents control can’t be activated. 

[+1]: Until your next turn, up to one target noncreature artifact becomes an artifact creature with power and toughness each equal to its converted mana cost. 

[-2]: You may choose an artifact card you own from outside the game or in exile, reveal that card and add it to your hand. 

This is a pretty formidable card. I expect its price to be $1 for every pixel in the picture on Mythic Spoiler.

The New Card

This was going to shake off its Battlebond printing anyway, but the combo with Karn is irresistable. They can’t use activated abilities of… their cards. It’s pretty boss. If you hate your opponents playing Magic, you’ll love this.

The card has mostly popped already but there are still a few reasonable copies out there, especially with the Battlebond printing tanking the price for a bit. Even if you don’t think people want to be about this Chinese Fingertrap life,

New Card

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Fblthp is totally lost and while he might appear to be a Blue Norin the Wary, I think he has some utility people latched onto right away that Norin players don’t get to experiment with.

The Old Card

Jeleva players immediately latched onto this combo which is strange because I didn’t think anyone playing Jeleva in 2019 wanted to innovate anymore. However, just in a deck with Flippleblips as your commander, you can order your entire library and draw two cards provided you don’t have any other creatures. Quelle Combo. Staff went up on the basis of Narset hype and it’s still a nutso card with a decent foil multiplier and you should put copies of it into your life. Even if you don’t think there are enough Jeleva players to move the needle or lunatics who will build around fibblips, guess what?

One more, nerds.

The New Card



This is a card, huh? I nicknamed it “Bad Nauseam” but it will probably have an impact on a few formats. People are talking about cards that gain life and draw cards as a way to go infinite off the top without having to play a bunch of bad, 0-mana cards in a 100 card deck. I think there’s another combo worth looking at.

If you weren’t buying $5 Tops when Eternal Masters was at its peak, I feel bad for you, son. I got 99 missed specs but Top ain’t one. Recovering nicely, the only real question was whether it would go up on its own or whether some event would happen to give it a nudge. I guess we have our answer.

That does it for me this week! Next week I hope to have a few commanders in the set to write about because if I have to write about Atraxa, I’ll probably need a beer or three to get through the article. Until then, keep your eye on two-card combos and remember to buy double. Until next time!

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Brainstorm Brewery #332 Judge Call

http://traffic.libsyn.com/brainstormbrewery/Brainstorm_Brewery_332_Judge_Call.mp3

DJ (@Rose0fThorns) is missing but Jason (@jasonEalt) and Corbin (@CHosler88) brought in another special guest; Judge, Finance Adviser, and Creator Brain to talk about Possibility Storm, Judging, and MTG Finance Central.

Make sure to check us out on Youtube because everything is better with video. https://www.youtube.com/user/BrainstormBrewery

Need to contact us? Hit up BrainstormBrew@gmail.com

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The Best Time to Sell is Never

Readers,

I met someone recently through a non-Magic social circle who admitted they used to boost boxes of 7th edition from Toys R Us and sell the singles on eBay. They knew nothing about Magic except that foil Birds of Paradise and Wrath of God must be good cards because they were the most expensive back in the day. If they looked now, they might be shocked at how much the price of some of those cards have gone up. Also, I hope they’re sad because if you steal Magic cards, I hope you fall into a wood chipper.

Have you looked at what 7th Edition foils are doing? It’s not surprising and it’s still kind of shocking somehow.

7th Edition foils are fantastic. Despite 7th Edition being white-bordered, the decision was made for the foils to have a black border, which is great. The art was a little weird and stylistically didn’t match a ton of the cards before or after but the cards themselves look sharp and dark and clean and the old border with the foiling looks pretty good. People try to collect an entire set of 7th Edition foil which is pretty tough to do but is a fairly attainable goal compared to some of the others out there.

Today I want to line up price data with EDHREC inclusion data to see if there’s anything in particular that leaps out. With any 7th Edition foil under the sun popping off lately, we could be at a tipping point and if our money is finite, we may be able to identify cards from the ones that aren’t expensive already which ones have the most upside given EDH inclusion. If we don’t find anything, I wasted your time and I’ll pull some picks out of the aether, but I’m pretty sure we’ll find something. Luckily, EDHREC couldn’t be easier to read for a scenario like this.

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Sorted with the most used card at the top, you can see how many decks each card is in. I wish there were a way to flip it so the price displayed is the 7th edition foil price and not just whichever version is cheapest on TCG Player but that’s something that would need to be coded and our coder is hard at work on way more important stuff than that. For now, I’ll have to just do this manually.

Right from up top, it’s unlikely anything in the first 3 rows is going to be underpriced. Multi-format staples like Llanowar Elves, Rares I recognize from the 10 most expensive cards like Birds and Howling Mine, cards not available in foil often like Goblin Matron – there isn’t much here we should even bother checking. Eyeballing this, I’m going to look at Greed, Fervor, Spellbook and Memory Lapse.

Greed is $55 with a $30 buylist which is a big spread, Fervor is $18 with a $10 buylist which is a bigger spread but also a lower one, Spellbook is $45 with a $30 buylist and Memory Lapse is $11 with a $5 buylist. I think Fervor and Memory Lapse are sticking out a bit off the top. Their appeal is mostly limited to EDH which explains why they didn’t stick out much before, but if the entire set pops, cards that are played at all in EDH will rise to the top above cards like Reckless Embermage that aren’t used at all.

Memory Lapse’s price is attenuated a bit by the Judge foil and Eternal Masters foil. With other foils available, 7th Edition foils will mostly be important for completionists looking for a whole set since people who want it for EDH have other options. Still, EDH inclusion is a novel way to parse this data and we still may find some gems.

Fervor also has another foil printing, Core set 2013, which means its appeal is mostly due to its value as a piece of a full set of 7th foils. However, it’s within a buck or so of Kjeldoran Royal Guard which has as many foil printings and is a fairly useless card. I think Fervor could see an uptick on the basis of utility since it’s cheaper than worse rares that are played less in EDH.

The next grouping could have more gems since they’re less obvious outside of EDH the way a lot of the top EDH cards aren’t given how good they are in other formats.

This batch has even more cards that are useful outside of EDH. I’m going to look up Telepathy, Sisay’s Ring, Intrepid Hero and Arcane Laboratory.

Telepathy is $40 with a $25 buylist, Sisay’s Ring is $16 with a $10 buylist, Intrepid Hero is $21 with a $15 buylist and Arcane Laboratory is $50 with a $27 buylist which reflects a real lack of confidence in that $50.

Ring seems like it should see less play than it does – it strikes me as Manalith tier but you can’t argue with the price tag. I found one of these at an LGS with a 1999 price tag on it and was more than happy to liberate it from its mispriced prison but you don’t find these that often anymore. I think its EDH usage is overstated and people have replaced it in their decks but maybe not their lists online, but I could be wrong.

Telepathy has a million foil printings which makes me think for 7th foils to be expensive, the number of printings doesn’t matter if the card is good and 7th is the “best” version.

It’s not really that surprising that Arcane Lab is $50, honestly.

Intrepid Hero is about what Fervor costs and I kind of don’t hate either card at the price. I think if we find a real hidden gem, though, it will be a tier lower. Between 1600 and 850 decks, we’ll find cards that are specific to one or two decks and they might not all be that expensive.

Goblin War Drums, Blanchwood Armor, Mana Breach and Early Harvest probably deserve a look, and Tainted Aether and Darkest Hour are getting thrown in for good measure.

War Drums are $11/$5, Armor is $4.70/$2.50, Breach is $40/$20, Harvest is $22/$17 (low spread…), Aether is $60/$51, Hour is $51/$30.

I think Blanchwood Armor is a steal at that price. There are other foil versions and other foil versions with that art and it’s merely an uncommon but as far as useful 7th edition foils go, I think this has the best ranking to price ratio of cards we’ve seen.

Harvest also seems really juicy. The low spread makes me think it’s poised to go up and while it gets used less in general than some of the other $22 cards like Fervor, it is more useful in a smaller number of decks meaning you just need to convince a few lunatics to foil their decks with 7th cards? I don’t know under what circumstances these cards would go up independently of each other but they clearly are and if all we did was look at spread we could probably make a few educated guesses about future price increases irrespective of EDH use.

Shivan Dragon is in 800 decks and anything used less than Shivan Dragon likely can’t credit EDH with any price increases in the future. Let’s go down the list one last time and look for low spread cards and call this an article.

Tainted Aether is worth looking at, and I think it’s a card that actually should get more EDH play than it does, but I also know my capacity to make that happen is limited.

Per our data, Aladdin’s Ring has 0 spread, so that’s worth looking at up close. It turns out that the buylist price is correct but it sold out everywhere except CK where it’s $45. If only we had checked sooner.

Earthquake has the same buylist price as Telepathy but is $10 cheaper retail and even though there are a jillion foil quakes, there’s only one 7th.

Feroz’s Ban also has 0 spread but I can’t find it at $20 anywhere and it’s like moved up to $30 now.

Can we conclude anything? I think Fervor, Early Harvest and Blanchwood Armor are good buys right now given their low spread and high EDH demand but I don’t think we should bother doing this goofy method for any other sets. Next week we will have some PAX East spoilers to digest and on that note, let’s call it an article. Until next time!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: The New Spread

Readers!

This week I want to talk about a new way to potentially gauge upside of Magical cards that could make it easier to figure out what’s going to go up in the future. 

A lot of cards are easy to see coming because a major event spikes them hard, but what’s more difficult to do is to see the slow, incremental growth of some cards coming. They have a small buy-in window because they grow over time rather than spiking suddenly, meaning after a card spikes you won’t find cheap, mispriced copies at certain LGSs that are slow on the uptake. These misses feel like the worst because you say “I ALWAYS knew that card was good and one day I check the price and BAM, it’s $10!” which isn’t even true. The card grew steadily, you just didn’t check the price of it for 2 years. 

It’s tough to check every graph of every printing of every card. We like data scrapers because they make the nice graphs for us and identify cards with the highest percentage growth and we can read a handy chart. The problem is, I don’t want to identify a card that grew this week when it’s already too late to buy copies. I want to find those cards that haven’t really gone up as much as they’re going to yet. 

TCG Player is the first to know on those increases sometimes since it’s the first place people think to buy cards out but sometimes TCG Player is slow to show a change. There are some reasons for that, one being that cheap cards tend to be slow to update on TCG Player if people buy every copy but the damaged ones or the ones that are under $2 and therefore under the mandatory minimum. Since TCG Player is the last place I want to buy lots of copies, both for the “a million sellers” reason and the “Look, I just tipped off the entire market about this card and now there’s no chance to buy more copies” reason, I want to find other places that will tell me when it’s time to buy something on TCG Player. Luckily, EDHREC provided me with a new technique. 

The New Spread

Spread is a term used by mtg financiers to refer to the percentage difference between a buylist price and a retail price. A card with a high spread means that you lose a lot of money buylisting, a low spread means the buylist is paying practically retail, a negative spread means you can arbitrage the card to a buylist. I am going to use the term “spread” to refer to something else. I’m doing it as a joke. I am writing this paragraph to preempt any “well ackshually, spread is…” comments because, I don’t know, maybe they’re warranted? I don’t even know anymore. All I know is I saw a thing on EDHREC and thought “That’s a pretty big spread” and then I thought “That’s not how we use the word ‘spread’ in mtg finance” and then I thought “it is today” and now you’re caught up. Here’s the thing I saw.

See it yet? I can zoom in some more.

Some of you got it, I bet. So we’re all on the same page, let’s highlight it.

That’s quite a, for lack of a better word, spread. Card Kingdom is charging basically double for Animar. Since TCG Player is respected and the price is calculated based on what the card is actually selling for and multiple people can underbid each other until the price settles lower, TCG Player will of course be cheaper. Besides, Card Kingdom are a bunch of chiselers and they use their high buylist to justify overcharging for singles. Besides, is that TCG Player price even accurate?

It’s clear EDHREC doesn’t scrape the prices every day, but it’s close since the price hasn’t moved profoundly, yet.

Card Kingdom charges more, but rarely double. In fact…

Sometimes they charge less.

Is it possible that we could identify some cards that Card Kingdom is inclined to charge more for due to demand they have seen? Could they predict the future? I don’t know, but what I do know is that one person in charge of decisions can be wrong and multiple vendors all in equilibrium are usually more accurate (read this, it’s fascinating). However, one person making all of the decisions about prices for a whole website change the price with the flip of a switch. Things can be slow to shift on TCG Player. The status quo is that TCG Player is the best model, but the status quo doesn’t make us any money, radical changes do. Besides, if we don’t trust Card Kingdom 100% (we shouldn’t) we can actually use them as a metric for which prices to check ourselves rather than a reason to make plays. Maybe CK is nuts. Maybe they’re onto something. But if we use those cases with a big difference between the prices as a technique for identifying price graphs to look at, we can identify some of those “When did this hit $10?” cards without looking exhaustively at every price or checking prices every month.

Here’s how I plan to use this technique.

  1. Identify large gaps between prices
  2. Verify TCG Player and Card Kindgom prices are accurate
  3. Check the graph on MTG Price

All of these steps can be done in under 30 seconds and will help you pick out cards that need a second look. Animar was reprinted in Masters 25 and therefore going to go back up in price and if Card Kingdom raised their price a little prematurely, I expect TCG Player to catch up and Animar could be a good buy. Let’s look at the MTG Price graph of a card with a high “new spread” and see if the graph tells us anything.


Swing and a miss. The price on CK this week is down to $11.99 and TCG Player is up to $9.99. Not much of a difference. This is why we check.

Pay dirt already! Razaketh is $16 on CK and you can buy 3 copies from a guy on TCG Player Near Mint for $10. Razaketh is in 5,682 decks on EDHREC and it’s the kind of card a spikey player would use meaning people who want this effect are less likely to try and find a budget alternative or forgo it. I think this is a card that needs a look for sure. I think this is underpriced on TCG Player.

One weakness I can see with this system is that the difference between smaller prices, even if it’s a large percentage, is not a lot for cheap cards. However, we’re not going to spend much time actively hunting for these spreads, but rather when we see them, we’ll know to investigate.

Verified cheaper on Card Kingdom. Nevermind what the gap is, if a market with multiple sellers is sustaining a higher price, you take a look. This has already mostly popped due to Teysa Karlov and that recency makes me think this could be a trap, but when it’s cheaper on CK, you at least take a look. If this happens to you, see what the top commanders are. If one is very recent, the card may have already gone way up, a fact a look at the graph can confirm.

Are these close because Card Kingdom usually charges a buck or two more on stuff or are they far away because one number is twice as large as the other? One way to drill down more would be to look at the foil prices. Data for Krenko was inconclusive due to CK being sold out for awhile, but Higure, the Still Wind is a $40 foil on CK and a $30 foil on TCG Player. It just moved due to Yuriko, but it was worth looking up.

I think this technique will serve all of us well moving forward. The advantages are that is quickly identifies cards that need more scrutiny before anything profound enough to trigger anything automated happen. The price will not have moved much yet, if at all, but the big gap is worth looking at since their prices are pretty close on most cards.

That does it for me this week. Join me next week where we’ll hopefully have some spoilers or something. Until next time!

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