All posts by Jason Alt

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

Unlocked Pro Trader: New Feature, Who Dis?

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Readers!

EDHREC has a feature that I just noticed and I think it will be useful. Look, it’s either this or we dig into how useful the new Purphoros will be at making cards go up and it’s just not built that much. I like it – having a Sneak Attack on a stick seems good to me. I also think we’re at a weird limbo point where we’re about out of cards to talk about from the most recent set and the next set isn’t out yet. That’s usually where I struggle for article topics and do my best work. Let’s get into it, shall we?

At the top of the Top 100 cards page on EDHREC, I noticed something new. Have you spotted it? Here’s some help.

Since EDHREC has limited the data to the past 2 years, it’s been a little easier to see what is trending. A lot of the “noise” from monolithic, historical decks like Oloro is gone and the signal is clearer. Yes, we’d like a bird’s eye view of EDH as a whole, but since my deal is I want to see trends before they become rules, having less data to parse is better for me. It’s better for us, really, since you’re reading this and I presume wants to use my method to make some money. Since we can see the Top 100 cards of the Week, Month and Past 2 years, let’s do that. Remember that card list comparison tool I used? Well, you’re going to get to see it again.

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Click the “layout” button on the right side of the screen to change to text and copy the lists into the list tool. Do this along with me if you want – there will be things you can click on that I won’t click on that might be interesting for you. Here are the results.

There are only 2 cards that have been in the top 100 only the last week, 1 card in the top 100 the last month but not the last 2 years or the last week and 14 cards not in the top 100 since before the last month.

Seedborn Muse and Idyllic Tutor are in the top 100 the last week.

Muse seems to be recovering from its last printing in C19 and I think it could flirt with $10 again, something Legions copies are doing already. Reprint risk is high, but I like this as a pick-up and it’s trending this week specifically.

The reprint obviously hurt the price of this card but the original art is still worth 4 times as much as the new art, so that’s something. I think at $3 or $4, Idyllic Tutor is a good pickup as well. I’m pretty bullish on both, and I’m glad I could cut through the noise and see that these cards are popular this week.

The card in the Top 100 this month but not this week or the last 2 years is Bedevil. That seems like it points to a decline in the popularity of Kroxa lately, which makes sense. People were building Kroxa more two weeks ago than they are now. I don’t like Bedevil at its current price per se, but it’s worth bringing up anyway.

The list that is in the top 100 the last 2 years but not the last month or week bears a look.

Explosive Vegetation
Return to Dust
Fact or Fiction
Wrath of God
Avenger of Zendikar
Crackling Doom
Preordain
Zendikar Resurgent
Conflux
Harmonize
Blood Artist
Gilded Lotus
Propaganda
Vindicate

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Of those, Blood Artist is pretty surprising given the popularity of Korvold decks. Avenger of Zendikar shows that there hasn’t been a landfall commander in more than a month, which jives. Crackling Doom shows that Ser Gwyn decks are falling off but that Mardu cards are popular when there is an interesting deck to put them in. There was a Mardu commander deck recently but nothing super good in the last month. Some of these cards are kind of interesting. For these to get left out, there have to have been cards that replaced them. Let’s look at the cards that were just in the last month and week.

Arcane Signet
Ashiok
Despark
Dockside Extortionist
Dream Render
Faeburrow Elder
Generous Gift
Growth Spiral
Guardian Project
Narset’s Reversal
Reality Shift
Talisman of Conviction
Talisman of Creativity
Talisman of Hierarchy
Time Wipe

These are cards that are new and have bumped older cards out of the Top 100. These all make sense to an extent. I don’t know that there’s much money to be made here, but one or two of these deserve some coverage.

Every card in War of the Spark is currently worth $3. Uncommon walkers, good removal, mythics – it doesn’t matter. I don’t expect that to hold the farther we get from the box printing, which makes me wonder which cards will pull away from the pack. We have data to look at.

Dovin’s Veto
Despark
Ashiok, Dream Render
Time Wipe
Bolas’s Citadel
Narset, Parter of Veils
Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
Narset’s Reversal
Casualties of War
Jace, Wielder of Mysteries
Deathsprout
Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God
Finale of Devastation
Cruel Celebrant
Teferi, Time Raveler
Evolution Sage
Spark Double
Ral, Storm Conduit
Domri, Anarch of Bolas
Ajani, the Greathearted
Liliana, Dreadhorde General
Vivien, Champion of the Wilds
Tamiyo, Collector of Tales
Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord
Nissa, Who Shakes the World

Here is the top 25 cards in War of the Spark, sorted by EDH play. Dovin’s Veto at #1 is kind of surprising, honestly. Despark, Time Wipe, Citadel, Reversal and Casualties are all cards to watch. With 5 cards from War of the Spark in the Top 100 this week, we are liable to see some moves. Foil Dovin’s Veto? Despark? I’m not sure, but barring a reprint, the risk of which I think is pretty low, I like Narset’s Reversal a lot, as well as Despark, Time Wipe and Casualties of War. Cards from War of the Spark are going to climb and with all of the Planeswalkers, sealed boxes of War of the Spark could end up pretty insane since there are a lot of cards that could end up going up.

That does it for me this week. Join me next week where I’ll be looking for a few more data sets to analyze and talking about Throne of Eldraine cards that are already making a big splash. Until next time!

MTGPrice helps keep you at the top of your game with our daily card price index, fast movers lists, weekly articles by the best MTGFinance minds in the business, the MTGFastFinance podcast co-hosted by James Chillcott & Travis Allen, as well as the Pro Trader Discord channels, where all the action goes down. Find out more.

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Unlocked Pro Trader: Why DId It Have TO Be Foils?

Readers!

Many of you know I’m not a huge fan of foils when I give spec advice because I think they’re harder to move than people imagine, have a higher buy-in price and there are fewer copies so fewer people can take advantage of my advice. I also consider buying foils as a way to mitigate reprint risk to be kind of intellectually lazy and I tend to avoid calling foils as a rule unless I have a very specific card I really like, such as Arcane Denial or Dramatic Reversal. However, today I’m going to get into some foils and we’re all probably going to make money so it’s probably fine if everyone but me feels good about that. Let’s talk about why I want to talk about foils at all, first. 

A new set came out and when that happens, I look at the new commanders as they start to get popular and try to predict what’s going to go up as a result of those cards getting bought and adopted. The longer after the release weekend we get, the less and less meat there is left on the bone. That’s fine because there is still some time, but I think we’ve had even more time to address something that’s readily becoming very obvious and we still haven’t.

Korvold Isn’t Like Other Decks

When you look at the decks per week snapshot, basically every week the number 1 deck of the week is Korvold, no matter what else happened that week. We got sort of numb to seeing it at that number one spot, and sort of ignored the numbers at the bottom that showed just how much more Korvold was being built. Luckily I take a screenshot most weeks.

December 3rd, 2019. 101 decks
January 28th, 135 decks
February 4th, 142 decks

Watch Kenrith, Golos, Windgrace and Chulane fall way off in real time. As the weeks go on, the number of Korvold decks built every week actually increases. Korvold is unstoppable. Since it wasn’t obvious what a juggernaut Korvold is by looking at him in first place every week, let’s look at some other measures.

Number one this month with 20% more decks built than #2. Want to know where he ranks in the past 2 years?

20th. Korvold is the 20th most-built commander of the last two years and it’s only been out since October of 2019. Korvold is a beast and maybe we take another look at the cards in the deck, specifically some foils. We’ve probably missed a few boats but I’m sure there are plenty more.

SPECS!

Wait, did you just skip to this part because I labeled it “specs!” because that’s not cool.

I’m just kidding, I don’t care. I’m as excited to tell you about this as you are to hear about it.

My aversion to foils has bitten me a bit here. See that sharp incline? That started back in October, the month they printed the Brawl decks. I’m no astrophysicist but I think it’s possible the two events are related. Players went and did what I’m talking about doing months later. The news isn’t all bad – these are gettable under $10 and you should scoop every sub-$10 copy you can find, so that’s neat. Also, cards with more than one printing won’t be as sensitive to a change in demand but will still have upward velocity. Again, not an astrophysicist, but I think we’ll know upward velocity when we see it.

Victimize foils from Conspiracy flirted with $10 a few times before the rug got yanked out from under it by a reprint nerfed the price back in 2016 and then Korvold seemed to make it hit $8 before it tanked again last year. I think with new decks like Erebos and Kroxa and the continued demand from Korvold, we could see this hit $8 again.

This hit $7 a few times even after it was printed at foil in Masters 25. I think this is an $8 card in the near future given its ubiquity.

There isn’t a ton else, so I want to reserve the rest of this space to talk about why these weren’t discussed months ago.

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One reason I tend to avoid foils is that the prices move much faster, both up and down. I know how to do Mtg Finance stuff well enough that I could stay abreast of those changes but given how slowly I list stuff for sale, I don’t like dramatic price swings. I like cards that are cheap and then I buy them and then they go up, and then I don’t list them and then they go down a little and I go “man, should have sold those” and then they go back up and I still don’t sell them and I don’t ever sell them and would you like to buy some copies of Curse of Opulence because I feel silly trying to sell them on Twitter.

In order to know which foils to buy from the Korvold deck, we would have had to have known back in October that Korvold would crack the Top 20 of all time on EDHREC (we don’t display data older than 2 years by default to keep things fresh so a bunch of Oloro decks don’t block out all of the signal from new cards). Anyone who says “You claim to be good at EDH but didn’t see Korvold would be that popular?” also said the same thing about Vannifar, so let’s maintain perspective here. If you had that feeling about Korvold and you recognize that feeling next time it comes around and want to try and capitalize, here’s what to look for.

What To Expect When You’re Expecting (A Deck To Be The Next Korvold)

Recent foils are just as capable of jumping dramatically as older foils. Take a look at Mayhem Devil, a cards that’s basically only in Korvold decks.

Mayhem Devil came out in War of the Spark, 5 months before the Brawl decks. Here’s the trajectory of the foil.

Smooth, steady, organic. I’m sure people notice this but it didn’t trip any “email me when a card dectuples in a day” google alerts or anything so for the most part, this was just a thing that happened because all of us can’t watch all cards all the time.

We would have had to have correctly predicted Korvold could sustain this level of play to justify buying a foil that’s only in one EDH deck, and I didn’t have that kind of trust. I will admit situations like this are a big weakness in the method I use which requires a lot of patience and data, but I was patient and didn’t buy a ton of foil Bounding Krasis, another card that seemed as sure to hit at the time as foil Mayhem Devil.

I don’t mind ignoring really volatile cards that are difficult to predict before we know which decks are really dominant. No one predicted Vannifar would be built less than Lavinia and Nikya, not even me, so if we can take guessing and bias out of the equation, our hit rate really improves. We miss a few Mayhem Devils but we miss a lot more Bounding Krasis and that itself is a win.

That does it for me this week. I’ll be back next week to talk about cards that haven’t already gone up, which has sort of been my niche for a long time. I hope you’ll join me and I hope you didn’t bulk out any foils Deathreap Rituals or Pawn of Ulamogs. Until next time!

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Betting Against the Market: How to Short-Sell in the MTGO Economy

by Anonymous

Editor’s note: The current state of the Magic the Gathering Online (MTGO) economy is truly unique in the world of video gaming. Fundamentally unchanged for over a decade, interacting with this aged software is almost certainly jarring for players coming from modern gaming platforms like Hearthstone, Gwent or Magic: Arena. One of the more glaring oddities is the ability to actually buy and sell cards on the platform from other parties that are not Hasbro owned or controlled. Perhaps even more odd is the continuing dominance of the platform’s digital marketplace by 3rd party bots that use price adjustment algorithms and a narrow spread to mine player sales and purchases for real world money. Tickets are still a relatively high value in-game currency worth over .9 USD most days, and they are relatively easy to buy and sell outside the platform via real world transactions with other players or bot owners. In addition, the lack of major formats older than Standard on Arena has ensured, at least for the short to mid term, that players looking to compete digitally in Pioneer, Modern, Legacy or Vintage must do so in this parallel platform. From 2012 to 2015 I managed a portfolio of MTGO card assets worth over $10K with excellent results. News on the coming of Arena crashed the market toward the end of that period, prompting me to exit, but left me with unanswered questions about what might have been. One of those questions was “could there be a way to “short” Magic cards on MTGO. With the advent of MTGO card lending services, we now have our answer. Read on, for details, as an experienced operator explains how it’s done.

The Magic the Gathering Online (MTGO) economy is a rollercoaster of price action unique to digital Magic. Unlike paper cards, buying and selling on MTGO only takes a few seconds, which promotes a very fluid economy. The difference between purchasing and selling a card (the “spread”) on MTGO is also relatively small, typically in the range of 5-30%, depending on the demand profile of the card. Factors affecting the spread include player demand, price, and the length of time since the last printing of the card. All of this means that players can and often do buy and sell cards frequently to switch between decks, unlike in paper eternal formats, where a greater portion of player’s collections are hidden outside the market in closets and under beds.  

MTGO players are fickle creatures. Most MTGO cards are fairly reasonably priced, but when a card begins to see a significant amount of play, its price can skyrocket quickly. This is especially true when a card becomes the centerpiece of a hot new deck that did well in recent tournament results. This is because competitive play is the primary driver of the MTGO economy, with Pioneer leading the way, followed by Modern/Standard, Legacy, and to a much lesser extent Vintage and Pauper. 

High prices for multi-format staples like Teferi, the Time Reveler are fairly stable, but cards that have a massive price jump overnight are often followed by a dramatic plunge back to reality. As a result windows of opportunity open and close constantly, sometimes multiple times per day!

If you ever look at the daily/weekly price movers on MTG Goldfish, this phenomenon becomes quickly apparent. While this has always been true, the launch of Pioneer has reinvigorated the MTGO economy, which in combination with shorter periods and higher fees for redeeming full sets of MTGO cards into physical form, has contributed to a fast moving realm of speculation and risk. 

The MTGO Short Sell

The process of profiting from falling prices is called “Short Selling”, and is a method more traditionally employed by options traders in the global stock markets. The concept is relatively simple: an investor borrows a stock, sells the stock immediately (the “short”), and at a later time the investor buys the stock at the new market rate (“cover”) to return it to the original lender. Profit is made for the investor if the short – the original sale price – is higher than the price paid to cover – to buy the stock back. 

One important thing to note about short selling is that it is inherently more dangerous than a traditional approach of betting on a price increase. This is because when short-selling, an investor’s potential loss is unlimited, instead of being limited by the gap between your purchase price and $0! Think about it. If you buy an investment for $25, the most you can lose is $25, i.e. your initial investment. However, with “naked short”, you’re loss is a potentially (though not practically) infinite increase to the price of the investment. So if a MTGO card goes from $25 to $100, you could lose $75, or 300%!

Short sales are also well suited to MTGO because historically MTGO prices have fallen/stagnated, rather than enjoying significant long term gains as in most first world markets. It is unclear whether Pioneer on MTGO will change this, but personally I doubt it. It’s more likely just a short reprieve until Pioneer is eventually ported to MTG Arena, resulting in a new MTGO crash and playing the short game is a solid way to be mostly out the door before the crowd.

Spotting an Opportunity for a Short Sale

To effectively leverage a short sale on MTGO you must first find an overvalued card. Ideally you actually want to find a grossly overvalued card. A card that will slowly trend downward overtime is not enough – because each day you hold a short-sale you are losing money in fees. More on fees later. There are several key indicators that help identify grossly overvalued cards. 

Price Spike: Look for cards that have experienced a massive price increase in the last week or two, typically at least 100% for expensive mythics, or 200% or more for rares. Also look for cards that started at a reasonable price. Generally speaking, the more dramatic the increase, the better.

Critical Price Threshold: I’ve found that cards that cost around 1-4 tickets prior to a price spike start to see heavy resistance and begin to retrace when they approach 10-15 tickets.  Similarly, I find that previously 20 ticket cards begin to retrace after reaching 40-50 tickets. These thresholds are important as you consider your entry point into a short position, though strong statistical data is not easily found to frame our action.

Comparison to Similar Cards: Each set on MTGO is different. Some sets are drafted much less than others, and some cards have multiple reprints/promo’s, while others do not. As you evaluate a potential opportunity, examine closely how the price of your prospect compares to other cards from the same set. Specifically try to compare price trends to other cards that see similar amount of competitive play, share the same rarity, and have similar number of reprints.

Play Patterns: If a card price increased rapidly because it’s in a freshly hot deck, two things can happen that create a short sale opportunity. First, the card could fall out of favor – either due to a shift in the meta or because the deck was cool or fun (often promoted by streamers), but is not particularly good at winning. After all MTGO is a competitive environment and novelty tends to wear out very quickly on the platform that requires 10 ticket entry to each competitive league. Second, and probably more common, the price simply becomes unsustainably high compared to other similarly situated cards. Even good cards often become overpriced due to FOMO in the short term and sometimes supply just runs out of fresh demand to feed.

Risk/reward: This will be unique for every card, but try to consider the risk and range of potential gains/losses for each transaction. Only enter a short for transactions that you are confident have significant potential gains with limited downside risk. This is about the “feel” of the trade, and is mostly voodoo built on top of solid heuristics.

Recent Banning: If you are available when a new ban list is posted, you can often quickly flip banned cards for a quick profit. This requires immediate action, as bots will often cut off their buylists for banned cards within minutes.

Timing of a Short Sale

When executing a short sale, you must be sure to time your actions carefully. There is a brief period when MTGO cards have begun to level off, but bot vendors still offering solid if not generous sell prices. Get the best sale price possible by leveraging multiple vendors. I recommend comparing Cardhoarder and Goatbots to get your best sale price most of the time. These bot companies are both rock solid and between the two you’ll often get close to the best prices around and significantly close the buy/sell spread. Additionally check MTGO Traders HotBuyList, which generally has the best buylist around, but may only be looking for certain very sought-after cards at any given time.  

Finding the peak price is often more art than science. I recommend you look back at old price trends to get a feel for spotting a change in the weather. I’ve analyzed a few of my own trades below, but examples are abundant on MTG Goldfish

Logistics and Opportunity Costs

To execute a short sale, you must first sign up for a MTGO rental account. This is the innovation that forms the central pillar of shorting on MTGO and the “borrowing” portion of the short sale, so you can sell, and subsequently cover (buy) the card you are speculating on. There are multiple vendors in the MTGO card rental space, but the one that seems to work best for short sales is Cardhoarder.  You can sign up for an account here. There is typically a multi-week wait to sign up for a rental accounts, so do keep that in mind.

When you create your loan account, you must determine what level of ticket allowance you’d like access to at any given time. The cost of your service will depend on how many tickets you select – specifically Cardhoarder charges 3% of your loan value per week. This means that each ticket of loan value costs $.03/week, or $3/week for 100 tickets.  You are charged for your maximum ticket allowance regardless of whether you use your allocation.  

I started with 500 tickets, and plan to move to 1,000 ticket plan soon. If you are just getting started, I would recommend starting small and working up higher as you become more confident in your results. Another way to approximate a short on cards is by selling a card you already own as part of your personal collection, and eventually buying them back later once the price drops, thereby lowering the cost of your personal collection. I often do this for the expensive staples in my collection – especially around set rotation, but obviously this method is limited based on your collection size.

Short Sale Case Studies

So, to summarize, here’s what we’re going to do: we will rent cards, sell them high, and then look to buy them low as soon as possible and return them to the rental service. Our profits will be the gap between those two prices minus time spent and rental fees paid. Got it? Let’s look at some examples:

A screenshot of a social media post

Description automatically generated
  • Price Spike: Large and dramatic.
  • Hit Critical Price Threshold: Yes, reached 10-15 ticket threshold.
  • Comparison: At the time of the price spice, of Aether Revolt rares only Walking Ballista, which sees significantly more play, was worth anything close to 10 tickets.
  • Play Patterns: Relegated to sideboards in small numbers, not essential to any strategy.
  • Risk/reward: Low risk, high reward. It was unlikely that this would become a 15-20 ticket card, limiting the risk, while it was very likely that the price would return to a normal (1-5 ticket) level soon.  
  • Outcome: Position closed, 12 tickets net profit after .91 tickets in fees on 4 copies, 5 day hold. Shorted at 10.33 tickets, covered at 7.09 tickets. I was a little early on exiting this position. For future similar transactions, I would now short 8-16 copies, spread out over 2-4 days, to accelerate the returns.
A close up of a map

Description automatically generated
  • Price Spike: Large growth, but not a true spike as it occurred overtime.
  • Hit Critical Price Threshold: Yes, reached 40-50 ticket threshold for mythic.
  • Comparison: Cavalier of Thorns is the best comparison, which is a 4x card in prominent standard and pioneer decks, and yet at it’s height couldn’t break 50 tickets. Another is Vivien, Arkbow Ranger, which saw play in dominant Pioneer Nykthos builds and reached a high of 80 tickets, before settling into a price of around 25 tickets.  
  • Play Patterns: In contract, Chandra barely sees play and is never more than 1-2 copies. Chandra’s high mana cost means this is unlikely to change. It is notable that Chandra sees more play in older magic formats compared to both Cavalier of Thorns and Vivien.
  • Risk/reward: Low. This seemed like a slam dunk with little down side. Even if Chandra got to 80 tickets like Vivien, such as gain would likely be short lived. 
  • Outcome: Position closed, 68 tickets net profit after 15.36 tickets in fees on 4 copies, 19 day hold. Shorted at 44.50 tickets, covered at 22.65 tickets. 
A screenshot of a cell phone screen with text

Description automatically generated
  • Price Spike: Large and dramatic.
  • Hit Critical Price Threshold: No. 
  • Comparison: When this spikes, this was by far the most expensive mythic and card from Battle for Zendikar, and it was near an all-time high for the card.
  • Play Patterns: Ulamog is prevalent in multiple decks, in multiple formats. It always has been, especially in Tron builds, and in Legacy Cloud Post decks. But this spike was driven by Green Ramp in Pioneer – which only ran 2 copies and spiked this card because it was the flavor of the day. Additionally, the number of copies in ramp was unlikely to increase due to the 10 casting cost which even Tron can struggle to reach.
  • Risk/reward: Moderate. This could have become a 50 ticket card if ramp strategies took over Pioneer, or if Aetherworks Marvel decks became more prevalent because they run 4x copies of Ulamog. 
  • Outcome: Position closed, 20 tickets profit, 10 day hold on 2 copies. Shorted at 18 tickets, covered at 8 tickets. No fees, because the cards was from my personal collection.
A screen shot of a person

Description automatically generated
  • Price Spike: While the price increase was more gradual than others due to genuine demand, I’d still categorize this as a price spike.
  • Price Threshold: No, this is an old uncommon, so it’s pretty unique. 
  • Comparison: The best comparison is Exploration and Gaea’s Cradle, which are rares in the same set and cost between 14-20 tickets due to seeing play as 4x in various decks. Both have a cheap 2-3 ticket online promo available, which shows that people desire the old cards online and that they have limited availability. Additionally, this is the highest the card has been priced in recent memory. 
  • Play Patterns: Carpet of Flowers is typically a 1-2 of in the sideboard of legacy decks. While legacy can drive prices, this price spike drove the card to double its previous high of 12 tickets.
  • Risk/reward: Legacy/old cards can get crazy expensive. But with a 1 of card like this one, I believe the risk was fairly limited.
  • Outcome: This transaction was mostly a bust. Position closed, 12 tickets net profit after 15.65 tickets in fees on 8 copies, 1 month hold. Shorted at 15.81 tickets, covered at 12.35 tickets. 

Conclusion 

Rental programs like Cardhoarder provide an interesting opportunity to short digital MTGO cards for a potential profit. I’ve had some success with this endeavor so far and will continue to update MTGPrice members on my recent activity in constantly always active discord in the MTGO channel.

Update: Nathaniel from CardHoarder reached out with the following position on short selling via their card rental service:

“I can’t speak to ManaTraders, but utilizing our loan service as a means to short sell is a violation of our terms of service – part of the legal contract you sign when you get an account. We’ve never taken action against anyone for it, and if people do it here or there, we tend to let most things slide. But, if you’re actively doing it every time cards are banned, which is pretty much the only time you can have a “no risk trade” (barring a few other possibilities), then we’d probably take action against it. It’s not just it being a zero sum game, which it is – anything you’re making on it, we’re losing – but it’s really about using the stock in a way that hurts every other customer we have – either by artificially changing prices, or holding stock that could go elsewhere for someone to play with (not to mention the risk that you can’t afford to return the cards on a losing trade).

I will also note that you can just as easily lose money as make it doing shorting (assuming it is just speculation, rather than reacting to a ban) – it is extremely risky, and essentially uses the loan service to front money without collateral on a spec, which is not the nature of what these agreements are.”


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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!

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