Bolas’s Citadel is in 105k decks on EDHREC, and 12% of all black decks, marking it as a super staple of the format. As a WPN wide distribution promo this version of Bolas’s Citadel has plenty of copies lingering in the secondary market, which is doing a great job of keeping it’s price in check . The old border treatment is very interesting when paired with a colored casting cost artifact and the mystical art of the citadel looks good in the frame. Add in the classic foil WoTC swoosh and you’ve got a solid version of one of the most powerful black cards in the format.
Providing ramp in multi color EDH decks and the ability to trigger Landfall or abuse CIP effects on your lands, the gorgeous new borderless bounce lands from Double Masters 2022 are super cheap at $2 or less per foil copy and a great edition to any Commander collection with full sets running for just $15.
MSCHF x Secret Lair Swords to Plowshares – $16
Despite Swords to Plowshares being the 3rd most popular EDH card of the last 2 years according to EDHREC, it hasn’t received that many premium versions that really draw the eye. The MSCHF x Secret Lair may push the definition of budget given a 5x multiplier vs. regular copies, but it is very unlikely to catch a reprint and should age well as copies steadily drain out of the resale market. If you’re playing white in Commander, you are playing this card, so you’ll never be without a place to rock this unique treatment as your deck collection grows.
Arcane Signet Dan Frazier x Secret Lair: $18
There have been plenty of Arcane Signets printed over the last few years, and there will be plenty more in years to come, but the Dan Frazier x Secret Lair version stands head and shoulders above the rest. During the inventory rush when this drop arrived in vendor hands months ago copies could be had for $10-14, but this retro art style by the artist who handled the P9 Moxen is still a solid deal at $18 for the regular version and even $30 for the foil etched. As the second most played card in the format this will be a coveted collectible for years to come.
Secret Lair Blasphemous Act Borderless: $15
The most played sweeper in Commander is easily Blasphemous Act with the card appearing in 30% of all red decks. By far the coolest version of this perennial red staple is the Secret Lair borderless version featuring a homage to horror exploitation films of the 1970s. With massive eye appeal and ultra low chance of reprint, this sexy sweeper wil draw comments at every table you wipe with it.
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Speculating on Magic the Gathering Online (MTGO) is very different than its paper counterpart, as explained in my overview of the MTGO economics systemhere. The boom and bust cycle of MTGO is rapid, sometimes occurring within a matter of hours. Additionally, users canshort MTGO positions, an opportunity that is fairly unique outside of the stock market. This article discusses the release of new expansion sets on MTGO and how users can profit from repeatable trends that occur during a new set’s lifecycle.
There are several ways MTGO users can profit from new sets being released, which are predictable and repeatable. Some provide a quick gain, while others take a longer buy-and-hold approach. This article will dive into each of these methods, which include:
· Pre-Release: Short any reprints
· Day 1-4: Purchase hyped, constructed playable cards
· Day 2: Short garbage cards
· Day 4-7: Short hyped cards
· Day 7-30: Buy cards with proven tournament results
· Day 30-120: Purchase cheap constructed playable cards
Pre-Release: Short Reprints
When a magic card is reprinted, the supply increases and the price falls, sometimes dramatically. This is a fairly simple economic concept that most magic players have experienced in paper over the years and the same phenomenon applies to MTGO. This is especially impactful on commons and uncommons, for example, see the dramatic drop that occurred when Mishra’s Bauble was reprinted in Double Masters.
An easy profit can be made by shorting cards that are reprinted. The first way is by shorting reprinted cards within the first 10-30 minutes after a reprint is announced. This will generate a quick gain, but you have to be very fast to take advantage of this approach. The easier way to profit is by shorting any valuable reprinted cards a day or two before the set release and then covering the short-sale 3-7 days after the new set release.
Day 1-4: Purchase Hyped, Constructed Playable Cards
Each time a new set releases, there are a small number of cards that are highly playable in constructed formats and naturally these cards tend to be the driving economic force on MTGO. As these new format staples are discovered, demand is always greater than the initial supply, creating a price spike for these new hyped cards. Tournaments occur on MTGO each weekend, so any card that is being played competitively is needed immediately, within a few short days after set release. MTGO tournaments attract only the most competitive players, many of whom have the motivation and means to procure these cards at any cost.
This trend has become even more prevalent as draft grinders have increasingly migrated to MTG Arena starting in April, 2020, when drafting against real opponents became possible for the first time. This is important because drafting is the primary way new supply enters the MTGO economy, with Treasure Chests to an important secondary source.
Cross-format play is the gold standard for any speculation that can drive amazing returns. While this seems obvious, identifying these cards early this can be more difficult than it seems. A recent example of this is Skyclave Apparition, which was initially available on MTGO for 1 tix, but quickly jumped to 10 tix, and then 20 tix, once it became clear this card was seeing 3-4x play in nearly all constructive formats. Most cards will not be quite so regal, so often a card will only see play in a specific format or two.
Modern is the most popular constructed format on MTGO, and thus it will often drive the most exceptional returns using this approach. In particular look for mythics that will be played as 4x in an existing archetype or are essential to a new combo, such as Heliod, Sun-Crowned/Walking Ballista. Players love new tech and will pay a premium to try it out. Scourge of the Skyclaves is a great example of a card seeing 4x play that slotted into an existing archetype.
Standard is also relevant for the few weeks of set release too, despite it being fairly irrelevant normally on MTGO. Wizard of the Coast’s new F.I.R.E. design philosophy has led to many new cards being absurdly broken, leading to new cards dominating the standard format, followed quickly by subsequent bans. This dominance leads to significant price increases on MTGO. A great example of this phenomenon was Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast, which increased dramatically in price as it caught on in Standard before Agent of Treachery was banned. Eventually Lukka began seeing play in Pioneer as well, but that did not fuel this initial demand.
An unusually high number of cards from Zendikar Rising fit this template – with Scourge of the Skyclaves, Omnath, Locus of Creation, modal double-faced mythic lands, all increasing greatly in price during the first week of the set release. More recently during the (non-standard legal) set release of Commander Legends Hullbreacher spiked up to 120 tix due to seeing play in both Legacy and Vintage.
In summary, a large profit can be made during the first 1-4 days of a set release by identifying what will be the new hot thing by following hype and results on Twitter, CFB/SCG articles, podcasts, and hype. This approach comes with a significant risk too because most MTGO cards fall in price following set release, so recognizing the difference is key to success.
Day 2: Short Garbage Cards
Many cards are expensive upon set release simply because they are in short supply. Strong profits can be made by shorting garbage mythics and rares as soon as they become available – in hopes that their price will plummet after a few days of drafting leads to a glut of supply. I define a garbage card to be a card with limited constructed value.
This approach requires magic experience and strong analysis. Some cards can be easily written off, but then take off like a rocketship after getting discovered. For example, Omnath, Locus of Creation started at 10 tix, but it quickly became the new hot tech in standard, causing this card to jump to 70 tickets in a few short days. In contrast, Sea Gate Stormcaller had a lot of hype, but fell from 25 tix to 5 tix in just a few days. Speculators should short cards that lack potential or are overhyped, while avoiding cards with significant potential.
Day 4-7: Short Hyped Cards
The same cards that can be profitable to buy in the first few days after a set release can similarly be profitable to short once more supply enters the market and/or demand decreases after the first weekend tournaments. Going back to the Omnath, Locus of Creation example, this card peaked at 70 tix three days after set release. Over the next 6 days Omnath fell to 22 tickets. Similarly, Teferi Master of Time fell from 50 tix three days after set release to 28 tix only three days later. This trend is fairly cyclical and reliable. Profit from it by shorting at the peak hype pricing and covering a few days later for a gain.
Day 7-30: Buy cards with proven tournament results
After the first week, price movements pivots to being defined by cards that have proven themselves during weekend tournaments, and to a lesser extend, the daily 5-0 lists, and preliminaries.
There are many recent examples of this including Mazemind Tome (.04 to 4 tix), Skyclave Apparition (9 to 20 tix), Fiend Artisan (13 to 25 tix), Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast (3 to 25 tix), among many others. Each of these increases occurred not because of speculation, rather because these cards were proving themselves in tournaments. Most cards fall in price during the first 30 days because of the massive amount of new supply coming into the market from drafting, so these cards are an exception to the general trend. During this time period aim to only invest in cards like those listed above that were under-estimated at first but have been proving themselves in weekend tournaments.
Day 30-120: Purchase cheap cards with potential
Cards can get really affordable on MTGO, even very good cards. This is especially true for rares, but can also be true of mythics. An example I often think of is the Throne of Eldraine (ELD) land cycle, which hit a low of .10 tix per land about one month after the set’s release. The ELD lands were clearly good – with a lot of long term potential. Yet they could be bought 10 for 1 tix. That’s crazy! At this moment, the cheapest castle is .3 tix, while the most expensive is 3 tix. This means if you would have bought 100 copies of every castle, it would have cost 50 tix and the net return would be 300 tix for Castle Locthwain alone.
While many desirable cards won’t be this cheap, over the last year you could have gotten great deals on staples that were destined to succeed. For example, at some point between 30-120 days after a new set release you could have gotten Shark Typhoon, Bonecrusher Giant, or Murderous Rider for 1 tix. Or for 2.5 tix you could have gotten Klothys, God of Destiny or Lurrus of the Dream-Den.
Identifying these opportunities requires skill and experience, but hundreds of tickets can be made if you’re able to identify undervalued cards that are likely to increase in price once supply is cut off.
MTGO speculation is defined by identifying and exploiting patterns and data. This framework aims to provide several patterns that apply generally to each new set release. Think of them as guidelines rather than hard and fast rules and for the greatest results, research, research, research.
One of the most frustrating things for Magic: The Gathering fans in recent years has been the frequent printing of foil Magic cards that seem especially prone to curling beyond the point where they could feasibly be tabled, especially for competitive play.
The hyper popular set Commander Legends is a fantastic Magic set, full of staples both new and returning. It’s full of EDH staples and the new etched foils for the commanders look great in my opinion. However, there is a common complaint about the quality of certain CMR foils, specifically the standard foiling on regular and extended art cards. The major problem is that CMR foils can become dry and curl, especially if you live in a low humidity climate, home or place of business, turning your new cards into the shape of Pringles. Fortunately there is a technique you can use to revive your curled foils that takes only a few minutes of effort and a little patience.
To uncurl most foil Magic cards you’ll need to raise the moisture of the card which you can do in a homemade “hydration chamber”. The technique is straightforward: create a small space with high humidity to rehydrate the card, remove it, then flatten it overnight to reshape it.
Do keep in mind that foils placed in a higher humidity than they were manufactured will tend to curl in the opposite direction to those which are moved to a dry environment. Cards in this condition require a different technique to dry them out (and is a topic for another article). You can tell which technique you need by the way the card is curling: if the sides of the card curl away from you when you’re looking at the front of the card it needs to be hydrated, not dried out.
It’s important to note that while I’ve used this technique successfully on two dozen cards, you will have to experiment a bit to find the right timing for your environment. Start with cheap common foils from the same set/box and work your way up to the more valuable cards from the same set/box as you perfect your process.
Here is a solid starting point for most rehydration operations:
Grab an old to-go container or Tupperware tub (any glass or plastic box, preferably something with a see-through lid)
Lightly wet a single paper towel until it’s damp and line the bottom of the box with it
You’ll need to make or find a platform for your card – I use the plastic top off a pencil case. The only requirements are that the platform is flat, waterproof, and preferably has a lip around the sides so the card can’t slide off
Set your platform down in the middle of the hydration box, put your card on it, and close the lid
Wait 30 minutes and check on the card. If it’s in a halfway curled/uncurled state (ideally it will look a little wavy) that’s the sweet spot I’ve found. If it’s still curled give it another 30 min
Be mindful that your lid isn’t dripping water on the card – it shouldn’t be so humid that water is condensing and dripping from the top. Once you’ve used the hydration chamber a few times (or opened and closed it a lot) you might need to rewet the paper towel
Depending on how dried out the card was it’s hard to give exact times, but I’ve never had to wait more than 60 min. Your climate may differ and take more or less time. Note that It won’t look “perfect” in it’s rehydrated state, it will look wobbly but the flattening comes later. If you overhydrate the card and it starts to curl towards you – the opposite of what you were trying to achieve – don’t panic. Even in that state you should be able to leave it out for a while until it loses enough moisture to proceed to the next step
Once you’ve gotten it to a state that’s somewhat flat and wavy, leave it out for about 10 minutes so it can acclimate a bit to your air (definitely let it “dry” if the surface of the card looks damp) then slide it in a sleeve and press it under a heavy book overnight
Note: If you notice that your cards begin to curl the other way, you’ve gone too far, and will need to dehydrate the cards instead, a process we will cover in a future article.
Note 2: If you find yourself needing to hydrate a lot of cards – or that you need to do it frequently – you should consider investing in some humidity control packets used for cigar humidors. These last a few months each, cost less than $20, and can be found online. Same approach applies to the steps above, but replacing the towel for the humidity control packet and waiting a day or two instead of an hour
Here’s a quick video of what my hydration chamber looks like:
After this method and a night under a heavy book your foil should be as flat as the day it was printed! Now get it into another sleeve and into a perfect fit sleeve, penny sleeve and a hard plastic toploader so it stays that way.
Major thanks to fellow ProTrader Alexis who suggested this technique!
Studying MTGO Treasure Chests (TCs) is essential to understanding the overall Magic Online economy. Beyond drafting, TCs are the primary method of inserting new supply into MTGO. For non-drafting sets, like Commander and Jumpstart, TCs are often the only mechanism that WOTC uses to distribute new cards into the MTGO economy because these products are not available for direct purchase on MTGO.
While TCs are important, understanding them is easier said than done. The contents of TCs are quite complicated and change periodically, every 1-3 months. This article aims to empower you to understand current and future versions of the TCs, their likely impact on MTGO, and how you can fund your play and/or profit from future TC updates!
Treasure Chest Origins
TCs were implemented in 2016. At that time, and for many years after, TCs were viewed as a product that would ultimately destroy MTGO. As background, I encourage readers to check out this 2018 CFB analysis of TCs dramatic impact on MTGO. Prior to TCs, the MTGO economy was more like the paper magic market, where out-of-print assets reliably increased in value over time until reprinted. After TCs, the MTGO economy started to collapse because of the new influx of supply combined with negative perceptions leading to a shrinking player base, especially after the launch of MTG Arena spooked folks into thinking MTGO was doomed.
Fast forward to today and the MTGO economy has rebounded to some extent. The current value of a playset of every single MTGO card is $26,575 as of July 2020, which is similar to 2016 when TCs were first implemented. As recently as June 2019 this figure was less than $15,000. This recent stabilization is driven by several factors, including COVID-19 driving demand for digital products, the creation of Pioneer as a new format not yet available on Arena, and the continuing popularity of other eternal formats that are also exclusive to MTGO in digital. Predictions of doom and gloom for MTGO seem to be behind us, for now.
Treasure Chests Contents
The current contents of TCs are located here, and are updated every 1-3 months. Overall, TCs contain:
A random Modern Legal Rare or Mythic
“Curated” cards, which are selected for inclusion on a rotating basis
Jumpstart and Commander 2020 cards
Avatars (which are financially irrelevant)
Play Points: Roughly half of the value of TCs is derived from Play Points. The exact percentage can be found here on Goatbots Expected Value (EV) Calculator. Due to this, the only way to profitably open up TCs is through needing Play Points to enter MTGO events, which means vendors are unwilling to crack TCs to access the cards inside. As a result, the TC market is relatively inefficient, with the EV often becoming higher than costs of chests, sometimes by a large margin.
Random Modern Rare or Mythic: In most TCs, one random Rare or Mythic from a Modern format legal set will be included. Specifically, you have 68% odds of getting at least one random Rare or Mythic, and 12.0% chance of getting two. Rares are twice as likely as Mythics. Often this slot translates into a random card you have never heard of and is worth nothing. But sometimes you will hit a Force of Negation worth a stack of tickets! The odds of hitting any specific rare is .013%, meaning you would have to open 7,692 TCs to get a specific rare on average. It is easier to get any given Mythic at .030% (or 3,333 TCs), because Mythics have such a smaller card pool. These numbers are subject to change overtime as new sets are added and the formula evolves. Overall, this slot slowly injects a consistent supply of Modern legal Rares and Mythics into the MTGO economy, even if those cards are not on the curated card list.
“Curated” Cards: In one quarter of TCs, you will get a card from a hand-selected list that is typically valuable. Specifically, you have around 24% odds of getting at least one curated card, and 1% chance of getting two. The current list of curated cards is available here, along with details of the most recent TC changes. Each curated item has a specific drop rate associated with it. The higher the drop rate, the more likely an item is to show up. Drop rates currently range from 1-50.
To determine the likelihood of any specific curated cards, you must divide the specific drop rate by the combined drop rate of all curated items (the denominator), which is currently 4,278, then multiply by the likelihood of getting this specific drop (25%). As a mathematical formula it looks like this: =1/((6/4,278)*0.25).
For cards with a drop rate of 6, you will have to open 2,852 TCs on average to get a copy. For a drop rate of 12, this decreases to 1,426. For a 50 drop rate, it is 342 TCs.
Overall, I recommend always checking whether a card is included in the curated TCs list – and at what drop rate – prior to speculating or purchasing any MTGO card.
New! Jumpstart and Commander 2020
TCs are the only method of inserting most non-draftable MTGO products into the online economy. For better or worse, players cannot buy a Commander deck in the MTGO store. To ensure there is enough supply of these specialty products Wizards recently added a new slot in the TCs specifically dedicated to Commander 2020 (C20) and Jumpstart (JMP) cards.
This slot was created following a failed effort to leverage the curated slot for this purpose, without success. Prior to this change, a full set of JMP was valued at over 500 tickets and C20 at over 600 tickets. This change created a huge influx of new supply and only two short weeks later, the prices on either set had plummeted to under 200 tickets. I expect future Commander and other specialty products to use this slot as well.
In TCs you have a 35% chance of getting a JMP/C20 card. The current card list and drop rate for this slot is available here. Similar to the curated slot, to determine the likelihood of any specific curated cards, you must divide the specific drop rate by the combined drop rate of all C20/JMP items (the denominator), which is currently 1,146, then multiply by the likelihood of getting this specific drop (35%). As a mathematical formula it looks like this: =1/((6/1146)*0.35).
If a C20/JMP card has a drop rate of 6, you will have to open 545 TCs on average to get a copy. For a drop rate of 12, this would decrease to 272. This is a roughly 10x increase in new supply compared to the old TC formulation for JMP & C20.
Treasure Chest Updates Impact on MTGO Economy
Updates to the TCs curated list can quickly and dramatically move the MTGO economy. I have already discussed how the value of entire sets dropped by 66% over only two weeks due to a TC update with JMP/C20. This price movement was driven by additional supply of a low supply set entering the market.
The reverse also occurs. Take for example when the Power Nine from Vintage Masters was removed from the TCs. Here you can see the iconic Black Lotus more than double in price as soon as the changes were announced. The price eventually retraced as speculators sold out, but for those who timed it right, profit was made.
Overall, any card included on the curated card list, C20/JMP, or to a lesser extent any modern era Rare/Mythic will slowly have new supply enter the MTGO economy. If the new supply is not too great, or the demand is enough to overcome the new supply, this is not a problem. That said cards included on the curated card list, especially at a drop rate of 12 or higher, will often see their price decrease slowly over time. I recommend steering clear of speculating on any card that has a drop rate of 12 or higher unless the factors truly warrant it and you are acting on a very short timeline.
How Many Treasure Chests Get Opened?
Only WOTC truly knows. Yet some recent Jumpstart data gives some indications. Without going into all the math, it seemed as though at least 40,000 TCs were opened in this single week based on JMP TC drop rates at the time. That’s a lot of TCs!
Goatbots, a major vendor who was in the past position to know, recently estimated that 10,000 chests were being opened daily during this time period. Although this was a blockbuster time-period for TCs, causing an abnormal amount to be opened, this new data highlights the large volume of new cards that must be pumped into the MTGO economy each week!
Understanding how TCs work and their impact on the MTGO economy will make you better at buying and selling cards on MTGO. At a bare minimum, you should check whether a card is included in the TC curated list before speculating on any card moving forward. Though we have covered the fundamentals here, you should also regularly review the curated card list to better understand this key factor in the movement of the MTGO economy.
To make a quick profit, consider monitoring for TC updates and acting on fresh changes. Specifically, you should sell cards that become much more common in TCs curated list and buy cards that become less common. It takes some experience to know exactly what changes to look out for. To be successful, you must act quickly! Price changes based on TC updates start happening within minutes and the latest solid entry point is typically one hour or less from the TC change announcement. MTGO signals their upcoming TC updates weeks in advance for those watching closely enough, but they never say the specific time/date. Sometimes you can find hints on this MTGO website, but the best way to stay in the loop is to join the MTG Price Pro Trader Discord, which explodes into chatter as soon as TC updates are posted.
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