All posts by James Chillcott

Profiting From New Set Releases on MTGO

By Oko Assassin (@OkoAssassin)

Speculating on Magic the Gathering Online (MTGO) is very different than its paper counterpart, as explained in my overview of the MTGO economics system here. The boom and bust cycle of MTGO is rapid, sometimes occurring within a matter of hours. Additionally, users can short 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.

Background

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.

Closing Thoughts

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.

How To Fix Your Dry Curled Magic: The Gathering Foils

By: Jeremy Lee 

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.

No one wants their fancy foils to be curled unto unplayability.



Here is a solid starting point for most rehydration operations:

  1. Grab an old to-go container or Tupperware tub (any glass or plastic box, preferably something with a see-through lid)
  2. Lightly wet a single paper towel until it’s damp and line the bottom of the box with it
  3. 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  
  4. Set your platform down in the middle of the hydration box, put your card on it, and close the lid
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. 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.
  10. 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!

Understanding MTGO treasure chests

By: Oko Assassin

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: 

  • Play Points
  • 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!    

Future Applications

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. 

Making & Saving Money on Magic Online: Tips & Tricks

by Oko Assassin & James Chillcott

What is Magic Online?

Magic Online (MTGO) is a first generation legacy software platform providing Magic players with digital access to play Magic: The Gathering. Speculation on Magic Online is made possible by the fact that the software provides a digital goods marketplace that allows players and vendors to buy, sell and trade cards and tix (the digital currency of MTGO).  The program is expected to eventually be replaced entirely by the 3rd generation software Magic Arena (which does not provide a marketplace) but the effort required to code older sets into Arena has all but guaranteed that MTGO will be around at least until 2021-2022.

Overview

The MTGO economy is one of significant volatility with prices moving faster than with paper Magic. On Magic Online it is common to observe prices shifting significantly in minutes rather than days, weeks or months. This means that the timeline for MTGO speculation is often defined by very brief windows of opportunity that require you to be carefully tracking fast moving prices, recurring and new card supply outlets and current card usage trends.

By way of example, on February 27 we could have bought 40 copies of Heliod, Sun-Crown for 13.55 tix each, and subsequently sold them for 19.87 tixs on average between March 5-9. Heliod’s price movement can be seen below, courtesy of Goatbots.com. On this play we would make 252 tix from an initial investment of 542 tix, representing a 47% return in about a week. The annualized equivalent of such returns is clearly ridiculous but more commonly MTGO speculation leads to smaller, incremental gains that must be repeated to create real asset growth.

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Finding successful specs like this is as much an art as a science, but it is still well worth establishing a general approach and tips for maximizing our efforts on MTGO.

MTGO vs. Paper MTGFinance

Many MTGO Finance fundamentals are the same on MTGO as in paper MTG Finance, including the importance of supply vs. demand, and the likelihood that fresh tournament results will drive key price changes. Experience with paper speculation therefore provides a definite advantage in the MTGO market, but there are also additional factors to consider on Magic Online to be successful in this unique marketplace.

One major difference is found in which magic formats are prioritized by MTGO users. In 2020, the most important constructed paper magic formats are arguably EDH, Standard, Pioneer and Modern. Online a lot of Standard play has been captured by Magic Arena, while Pioneer, Modern, and Legacy can only be played on MTGO, with Modern being the most popular constructed format on Magic Online at present.  EDH is generally considered to be far better in person than online and so typically does not drive prices on MTGO as it does in paper (at least before the COVID crisis hit).

Unique supply patterns on MTGO can also lead to outsized spikes in card prices vs. paper. Mishra’s Bauble for instance is currently $9 in paper, but over $50 on Magic Online.

Another key difference is the amount of supply in circulation for specific cards. The MTGO economy has a number of unique re-supply points that by and large do not exist in the paper economy. 

Flashback Drafts

One of the most important sources of additional supply on Magic Online is the regular reintroduction of sets via “flashback” or “encore” drafts, which allow MTGO players to draft out-of-print sets, typically for a single week. These drafts push fresh card supply into the market, which tends to crash prices for the included cards, at least in the short term. In early April 2020, for example, Modern Horizons had a flashback draft for a week, which crashed the price of Force of Negation from 90 tix to as low as 40 tickets, which then bounced back to 60 tickets just a few days later as constant demand started to overtake the fresh supply. All this movement took place over a few days – reinforcing the fast pace of MTGO finance. MTGPrice Pro Traders profited hundreds of tickets on this action alone. 

Treasure Chests

Another near constant and shifting source of supply on MTGO are the Treasure Chests, which are extremely complicated and likely warrant their own article. But in short, these chests inject new supply into the MTGO economy for specific cards over time. Chests are distributed as rewards for winning MTGO leagues and tournaments. The cards and prevalence of each card included in treasure chests changes every few months. This article outlines, in painful detail, the contents of Treasure Chests, and online resources by Goatbots calculate the value of treasure chests. We recommend reviewing whether a potential spec is included on a treasure chest list, and at what prevalence, before jumping in.  

Vendor Differences

Wizards of the Coast doesn’t sell singles directly on MTGO. Rather, they sell either tix (in game currency roughly equivalent to the USD) or booster packs. The vendors on MTGO operate within the marketplace via bot software that shifts buy and sell prices based on the # of transactions for a given card per period of time. These bots profit on the back of margins linked to card popularity and frequency of transactions. There are no discounted booster boxes online, and while pack prices vary dramatically online vendors are not known for buying and cracking sealed boosters to replenish their stock. As such, if players are holding key cards in their collection and those cards have not seen fresh supply for a while on MTGO, the prices will naturally trend upward. 

Unique Promos

For example, MTGO has its own unique promos, some of which are priced at a premium due to scarcity, while others have a massive supply that crushes their price. Take a look at the massively circulated promo for Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, which is priced at only .05 tickets online! In contrast, extended art UMA Karn Liberated are priced at 80 tickets, an 800 percent premium over normal copies, entirely due to the # of copies that entered the platform during the related distribution period and how many players had access to them during that period.  

Digital to Paper Redemption Programs

At this point Magic Online still supports a popular redemption program that allows players and vendors to collect entire sets of Magic cards in either non-foil or foil and redeem them through the MTGO store to receive a sealed paper set of the same cards. There is currently a $25 redemption handling fee per set redeemed  + $2.99 US domestic shipping fee for each order, regardless of the number of sets redeemed. Whenever a set is redeemed in this way, the digital assets involved are effectively taken out of circulation, while additional inventory is added to the paper market. Traditionally this has led to a couple of important trends: paper vendors resupplying key Standard staples more reliably than through booster box cracking via the acquisition of sealed sets AND the gradual collapse of MTGO singles prices once sets rotate out of the redemption window. 

Key Strategies

Given the complexity of the additional factors to consider on Magic Online there are a handful of tried and true strategies worth considering when looking to identify key specs or figuring out when to time the addition of important cards to your collection.

The most important strategies currently include: 

  • Timely identification of emerging new deck technology in popular metagames and targeting of the most supply constrained cards in those decks based on pro/stream content and daily event results. (Daily tournament results for MTGO can be found over here: https://magic.wizards.com/en/content/deck-lists-magic-online-products-game-info).
  • Buying up the most popular staples from flashback draft sets during the busiest first weekend of that draft period and selling them within a few days or weeks as the demand begins to again overtake supply
  • Buying popular cards that are taken out of (or have had their drop rates significantly reduced) Treasure Chests and selling those that are added at high rates that may overwhelm their true demand
  • Leveraging the ebb and flow of player collections being sold off to bots for tix to fuel the drafting of a new set
  • Targeting freshly important cards to buy/sell based on meta and singular card price shifts resulting from on new Banned & Restricted announcements
  • Tracking the rise and fall of Treasure Chest values can lead to small but strongly compounding returns over short periods of time that can ratchet up your collection value 
  • “Shorting” Magic Online cards by renting them from a rental service, selling them into a price spike, and returning copies bought at a lower price later on

Tracking Card Prices

MTGGoldfish.com and Goatbots.com both have daily and weekly price trackers for MTGO. Checking these websites regularly provides valuable insights into the market overall, whether any particular format, deck or card is going up or down, along with highlighting which cards are leading the price movements each day. Here is where you can find this data on both websites: 

MTGGoldfish shows weekly and daily movement for each major format, based on Cardhoarder pricing. Make sure you have online prices selected in the top right-hand corner of the site.

Goatbots shows the weekly, monthly, and six-month data for that format. You can also see the total cost and most expensive cards for each format.

Best Practices

To maximize your chances at success, here are seven rules that are applicable to most of what you might get up to on MTGO:

  1. Be right, not original: As with most MTGFinance original ideas are only worth chasing if you are truly ahead of the curve. Most of the time you will be best off ignoring 3 of every 4 specs you consider in favor of going deeper on the surest play. Likewise, don’t feel pressure to be constantly in play. If you have recouped your capital and are sitting on tix waiting for a great opportunity, feel free to take your time to find the next move. If you only handle 4 transactions per year, but they’re all at 25%+ returns, you’re doing great so long as you keep your research time to a minimum.
  2. Scarcity + Popularity = Profit: Try to focus on single printing mythics, staple rares, or very cheap rares that need some help from future circumstances to take off. Wide distribution promos, cards with multiple printings, commons and uncommons are all much harder to make money on due to outsized supply. If you target rares over mythics, stick to multiformat staples like Thoughtseize or Ice-Fang Coatl and those that are so extremely cheap that they represent solid growth potential if/when their moment in the spotlight appears.
  3. NO FOMO: This principle may be obvious, but it deserves reiteration. Chasing a rocketing spec you are late to address is usually not worth it. Avoid embracing FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) at all costs. If a card has jumped by 100 percent, you likely missed the boat, and safer moves are likely just around the corner.
  4. Short Term > Long Term: the MTGO economy and meta changes too quickly to prioritize long term moves. Do not buy anything for a multi-month time horizon, except perhaps for very cheap speculative picks (that are naturally lower priorities regardless).
  5. Don’t Blink: To help stay on top of the speed of the MTGO market, we recommend exporting the notable parts of your MTGO collection and tracking them through Cardhoarder’s Cardkeeper Tool.  You don’t need to trade daily, but you should at least be checking in on current vs. target prices a couple of times a day if you have active specs worth tracking. Minimize your time spent on these actions by minimizing how many prices you need to track. Details on this tool are below.
  6. Save time, buy in bulk: Where possible you generally want to be buying 12-20 copies of a card when possible. Buying a larger quantity of each spec is essential to min/maxing your time spent and returns. Getting a few tix from one card won’t dramatically affect your bottom line, but if you own 20 copies, your profits can quickly pile up. Just remember that buying more than 4 copies of each spec per transaction can be a challenge because MTGO pricing through bots is dynamic. This means that for every 4 copies of a card purchase, the price of that card will typically go up. These price increases can be nominal especially for high supply cards, but sometimes price increases can be large, which can seriously eat into potential profits. Buying a large quantity at one time will end up costing you a little more, but this is preferable to devoting your attention to the same spec over multiple hours/days. To mitigate the effect of dynamic pricing consider splitting your transaction between different bot chains. Pro Traders generally recommend Cardhoarder, MTGO Traders, and Goatbots as the strongest bot chains on Magic Online, but sometimes searching for card prices in the marketplace can locate even better prices.
  7. Bots or Not: When buying or selling larger quantities of cards, there’s no question that the automated bots in the MTGO marketplace are your best option. That said, those bots operate on the back of a natural spread in their buy/sell price, where for instance, they may be paying 20 tix for a card they sell for 25. As such, if you are selling lesser quantities, or the card you are selling is especially hot at the moment, and/or it typically sells in playsets, you may get more out of your specs by selling direct to players via posted ads in the marketplace within MTGO or via private sale over social media. Work those angles to max returns!

Tracking Your Specs

Cardhoarder offers a free Card Keeper Tool that allows users to track your specs all in one place. To leverage this tool, follow these simple steps: 

  1. Within MTGO, go to the collection tab, and under your trade binders right click on “Full Trade List”. 
  2. Select export and save the file to your desktop.
  3. Visit cardhoarder.com/card-keeper, select the “Import Collection” from the top menu bar.
  4. Select “choose file” and import the “Full Trade List.dek” file you downloaded during step #1.
  5. Select process file.

As you buy new specs, repeat this process to keep your collection up to date. Prices on this website have a slight delay, so use this to evaluate your broad portfolio rather than specific cards. You can view the value of your entire collection in the top right corner of the Card Keeper Tool.  You will also likely want to cross-reference pricing at Goatbots.com and other vendor sites in case they are offering better prices on either the buy or sell side.

We also recommend you track your MTGO buying and selling in an old fashion spreadsheet to accurately track your buy-in price, timeline, and profits over time. For current specs, we track the card name, set, buy-in date, number of copies, price per copy, and total cost. For completed (sold) specs, we add the sell price per unit, sell date, and total profit or loss.

A Limited Future

While MTGO investment and collection maximization may be a solid play in the near to mid term, we must keep in mind that eventually Hasbro/WoTC is very likely to try and move the majority of players over to the Magic Arena platform within the next few years. With the launch of live 8-person drafts on Arena for the Ikoria release, one major draw to the MTGO platform has just been eliminated. This makes Pioneer, Modern, Legacy, Vintage, EDH and flashback drafts the remaining major draws to the MTGO platform. Given the time/money that WoTC needs to commit to backfill all of the missing sets on Magic Arena and support the older formats, there’s a pretty good chance that the Magic Online economy will still be afloat into 2022 at least. That said, you will be much better off planning your MTGO activities in the very short term, with plans of actions that last hours to no more than a month. Staying liquid and being able to unload tix for cash within a short period of time is important to securing your eventual exit from what is very likely a dying platform. 

Wrap Up

Now you have what you need to dive into the fascinating world of the MTGO economy. If you are looking to take your action to the next level you can sign up today to become an MTGPrice Pro Trader, join our bustling Discord and get daily updates on the latest in both paper and digital collection growth and speculation.