All posts by Travis Allen

Travis Allen has been playing Magic on and off since 1994, and got sucked into the financial side of the game after he started playing competitively during Zendikar. You can find his daily Magic chat on Twitter at @wizardbumpin. He currently resides in upstate NY, where he is a graduate student in applied ontology.

City of Traders: Phlipsyde

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By Travis Allen

A week or two ago I asked on Twitter if people wanted to hear about flipping collections, and the answer was a resounding “yes.” Today I’ll talk about some of the larger collections I’ve purchased, and then discuss some strategies to keep in mind if you choose to do it yourself.

Collection #1 – This remains the largest collection by volume and retail that I’ve purchased so far. I had picked up a few small collections for between $50 and $300 before this, but this purchase dwarfed those. This list is hardly exhaustive, but it had, if memory serves me: two beta dual lands, ~25 revised duals, a nearly-complete set of Legends, a partial set of Antiquities including a Candelabra of Tawnos, about 10 or 11 full sets including Urza’s block, a full set of Zendikar fetchlands, a handful of Onslaught fetchlands, and boxes and binders alike that were filled with random cards from Beta to Zendikar, which by volume were mostly garbage but certainly had plenty of good cardboard scattered throughout. It took the better part of two weekends to pull everything of value out, and another two or three months to break even on the sales process.

Retail value: ~$13,000
I paid: $3,500

Collection #2 – While this wasn’t as many cards as collection #1, nor was it as varied in its inventory, it was solid value throughout. I actually ended up paying more for this than I did #1, even though it was technically worth less. (They can’t always be home runs.) This seller had done his homework, and actually sent a list of basically every single rare in the collection with their average eBay prices. The reason I paid more for less on this collection is simply that the seller was far more educated about what he had. He recognized he wouldn’t be getting full retail, but expected a reasonable rate of return. Included were: 33 Revised duals, 31 Zendikar fetches, 22 Onslaught fetches, 4 FoW, 4 Thoughtseize, 4 Cryptic Command, 2 JTMS, 5 SFM…the list just goes on with hundreds of $3-$50 cards.

Retail value: ~$9,500
I paid: $5,000

Collection #3 – This is the smallest “large” collection I’ve bought. Unlike the previous two, this is a player that had gotten out of the game recently, so there was a good chunk of Standard cards. In this case, he had everything listed through DeckBox, so I was able to see a complete list of what was coming, as well as their TCG values. He obviously had that information as well, so it was mostly a matter of finding a number that we both agreed on. The most valuable card here was a single Unlimited Underground Sea. Beyond that, there wasn’t anything particularly stellar, just Good Cards. 6 Onslaught fetches, a Taiga, a set of Liliana of the Veil, a few Eldrazi, some Kiki-Jiki, Sphinx’s Revelations, Bonfires, Cavern of Souls, etc.

Retail Value: ~$4,900 TCG Player low
I paid: $2,200

Now that you’re tired of reading about what I’ve done, let’s talk about how to do it yourself.

Where to find collections – There are essentially two types of sellers. The first, and typically most lucrative, is the obvious one: craigslist. I have a tab open to a craigslist search for “Magic” that is always there when I turn on my computer, and I keep an eye on it every day. There is going to be a lot of chaff on craigslist, so patience is required. There was over a year between my purchases of collection #1 and #2. They simply don’t show up that often, and as time progresses, we are going to see it less and less as those stockpiled Magic cards end up in the hands of people like you and I, who then hoard and distribute cards amongst the community. You will, however, see plenty of this:

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craigslist__collection

For the low price of $150, you can have over 1,000 garbage Ice Age, Homelands and Revised commons. Craigslist is really just going to come down to being patient and finding the right lot.

Other options are garage/estate sales, which I’ve found to be pretty unreliable. Typically you’re talking shoeboxes in size. Keep an eye out for these when you’re strolling yard sales with your girlfriend, but don’t expect it to be reliable.

Coworkers/muggle peers are also a potential source. You really want to find people that are about 40-45 years old right now, as that would have made them 20-25 when Alpha came out, which is the perfect age for disposable income on nerd crap like this. You might not want to be asking your three-piece suit boss if they have Magic cards, but I’ll leave the discovery process here up to your discretion.

The second seller is the knowledgeable type. These are people that have been playing somewhat recently, and have decided to get out of the game for whatever reason. They are much better at accurately valuing their collection, so you won’t be getting duals for $5 apiece here. It doesn’t mean you can’t get a good rate, it just means that there is going to be a lot less of a game where you try and feel out the seller’s knowledge and expectations. In my experience, these transactions are faster, more straightforward, and more numbers-oriented. Both of you know the score, and you’re just trying to find a price you’re both comfortable with.

How to Evaluate Inventory – You can typically get a good feel for what is in the collection quickly, so long as it isn’t completely massive. I like to start with the binders, as those are where you’re most likely to find concentrated value. I also like to check out any decks they may have built, and if the boxes of cards are sorted at all, I at least try to look at lands, artifacts, and blue spells. If it’s sorted by set, I’ll look for Urza block, Mirage, any Legends/Antiquities, Mirrodin block, Future Sight block, etc. Be prepared for most large collections to be overwhelmingly Revised/Ice Age/Homelands/Fallen Empires. When flipping through boxes, feel free to just skip over these sections entirely. You should still go through the painstaking process of looking at each card once you get the boxes home, but when deciding whether to buy the cards, don’t waste both their time and yours looking through what may as well be kindling.

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On large collections (over a few thousand cards,) I’ll bring a small notepad to keep track of what I’m seeing. Once the collection is of sufficient size, you aren’t going to be able to make a reasonable offer off the top of your head, nor will you likely have that much cash in your pocket anyways. Writing down quantity of duals/fetches, a rough idea of how many >$5 cards you saw, etc. will help you remember what you’re dealing with when you get home.

Questions to ask – There are a number of questions you want to ask the seller. Their answers will help you understand what you’re looking at as well as what to expect in negotiations. It also helps to make small talk with people while you’re rifling through their property inside their house. Being personable and friendly will make them much more likely to be flexible on price. As a side note, avoid divulging too many details regarding your experience in purchasing collections. If they get the impression you’ve done this quite a bit, they may perceive you as a bit of a shyster rather than an earnest individual that just wants some Magic cards.

  • “Has anyone else looked at the collection?’’  Here you’re gauging interest. They may lie, so take what they say with a grain of salt. If they tell you they’ve had 8 or 9 emails about it though, they probably aren’t exaggerating by much. It’s not uncommon for lots listed too cheaply to be sold within hours of being listed.
  • “Has anyone bought any singles out of the collection?”  You want to see if someone stripped the good cards and ran. If they say that yes, that someone bought just a few cards, then that is very likely where the duals and forces went.
  • “When did you start playing?”  Get a feel for when the collection may have started. This tells you what to look for. If it’s after 2002 for instance, you know duals are less likely. You want to hear 1993, or sometime after 1996.
  • “When did you stop playing?”  This will tell you the latest set you can expect to find, as well as how aware of Magic pricing they are. If they played up until Alara block, they’re going to be a lot more aware of how much the cards may be worth, while someone that quit during Torment days has had the boxes collecting dust for years and years.
  • “Why did you stop playing?”  This is most salient when they quit recently. If their friends left the game and interested petered out, they likely aren’t in a rush to move the cards. However if something occurred in their life and they need funds quickly, this works in your favor. Someone who really needs $2,000 for car repairs doesn’t have time to shop their collection around. Waving ducats around has a good way of getting things done.

How to decide how much to offer – There are several factors at work when considering what type of numbers to offer.

  • The obvious place to start is how much you peg the collection at. I try to keep my estimate at just the cards I’ve seen. I’ve brought home one in the past where I looked at one 500 card box, saw some good stuff, and made an offer based on that box. When I got home, it turned out that almost every good card was in that single box.
  • The knowledge level of the seller is important. If it’s someone clearing out their attic, chances are they’ll just be happy to have it gone and end up with enough to go buy dinner. If it’s someone like the individual in the second example above, you aren’t getting away at 10% of retail. Lowball too much, and you’ll offend them.
  • Whatever price they listed at will help you understand their expectations. Whoever was selling the cards in that craigslist picture above obviously way overvalues his cards, and even if that whole picture is worth maybe $5, that’s only about 4% of his listed price. There’s no way someone is taking 10% of their listed price. If there isn’t a price listed, that’s good for you. It means they don’t know what’s fair or they’re open to offers.
  • Sellers typically assign value much more evenly across the collection than is accurate. What this means is that many will assume 5,000 Ice Age cards will be worth a lot more than a shoebox full of revised duals. While this is a pain for buying large, low-value collections, it works both ways. If during examination the inventory seems like it’s mostly garbage with just a handful of notable cards, or even just a single outlier (something like a foil MM Brainstorm), tell them that it’s all a little too rich for your blood, but ask if you can buy just a few singles that you’d love to have for yourself. There’s a good chance they’ll be fine with this, and you’ll be shocked how little people assign to individual cards. Think $2 a card. I typically avoid doing this unless the collection really is just nothing but Homelands commons, and they are expecting way more than is reasonable.
  • My goal when buying a collection is 30% of retail. That gives you a very comfortable profit margin for making your money back, as you could sell at 70-80% of market and still do well. 30% is fantastic though, so don’t expect this every time. I’ve gone up to about 60% on smaller buys. Your ceiling here is dictated by what exactly you’re buying. Keep in mind what types of sales you’ll be making to recoup your costs. If it’s just piles and piles of $3-5 cards, you’re going to have to put a lot of envelopes in the mail to make that back. That’s a large investment of time, risk as a seller, and shipping costs. However, if it’s basically just a playset of Onslaught fetches and odds and ends, it’s a lot easier to pay a higher percentage because you can move more money in less transactions, they’ll sell faster, and you can get way closer to retail on a Polluted Delta than you can a foil 7th ed Mana Short.
  • The size of the collection also dictates what percentage you can buy at. Basically, the larger the collection, the less competition you have. If the seller wants $400 for $1,000 worth of cards, there will be plenty of people willing to make that buy. However, someone asking $4,000 for $20,000 worth of cards, while a better price overall, will generate a lot less demand. There simply are not going to be many individuals with the knowledge and capital to make a purchase like that. These very large collections are my favorite. There’s less competition, you can get a great rate, and it’s hard for anyone to turn down a few thousand dollars in cash, regardless of how much their cards are actually worth.
  • When making an offer, especially via email, I typically like to outline some of things I’m taking into consideration. I may explain that a large majority of the cards they own are from a time period that saw huge print runs, and subsequently they’re not even worth the paper they’re printed on. I may note the wear of the cards if that is a factor, or perhaps point out that while they may have seen certain numbers on eBay, there’s a sizeable loss of profit on those numbers when considering eBay fees, PayPal fees, shipping, etc. Overall, people are going to be more receptive to “Here’s the number I can offer, and this is why” compared to “$600 lmk.”
  • I touched on this briefly, but their need for expediency is good news for you. If it’s someone that simply decided they’re done and is in no real rush to sell, it will tough to get a great price. An individual in a situation where they need cash quick is a lot more likely to wheel and deal.
  • When you’re buying someone out entirely, you sometimes get “bonus” stuff. Dice are very common, as are an assortment of deck boxes. I picked up about 40 of those giant oversized cards in a collection at one point. Old Scrye pewter life counters are easily worth over $50. This type of stuff is typically considered throw-in, but enough of it can add some real value to the deal.

What to do when you get it all home – This is easily the most fun part; the discovery process. I try not to look at every single card when I’m evaluating the collection just so that there’s an element of surprise when I get home and open it all up. The best way to approach this is to systematically go through and touch every single card so that you don’t miss anything. As you go through, pull out every single card that catches your eye and every single rare you spot. All of them. I can’t stress this enough. Nothing is worse than going through 20,000 cards, getting to the end, realizing you were pulling out cards later on that you weren’t at the start, and having to do it all again. If some of the stuff you pull out isn’t worth the effort of selling it, it’s very easy to dump it back into a card box. Once you get everything out, start by setting aside everything you want to keep for yourself. Then begin looking up prices of everything you aren’t sure is worth selling. Any commons and uncommons that aren’t worth it can go back into the boxes. Set any bulk rares aside. The reason for this is that when it eventually comes time to deal with getting rid of the leftover chaff, having all the rares separated makes it easy for you to figure out how many there are for reselling or bulking out.

Making your money back – My preferred way of accomplishing this is not eBay, but rather going through established communities. I personally use MTGS, Twitter, and another community forum. Others prefer MOTL and various other sites. If your city has a general MTG Facebook page, that’s a great resource as well.

Buylisting the cards is an option. You will definitely get better rates of return on selling directly to individuals, but it takes a hell of a lot more time than just sending a few hundred cards to whatever vendor and getting a check. This decision is personal preference. I haven’t opted for this, but I can see the appeal.

When planning to sell to individuals, I begin by alphabetizing everything I’m selling and then setting them aside in their own box. Don’t mix the cards up into your trade collection; it’s too difficult to keep track of them if you do. Once everything is in order, I like to create a Google spreadsheet document. It’s accessible from any internet connection, has editing capabilities on the fly, you can share the link as read-only to let people browse at their own leisure, and it makes for easy importing into Excel if necessary. As you sell cards, you need to be absolutely diligent in making sure the list online matches what you have on hand. Once you start getting discrepancies, you begin agreeing to sell cards to people that you don’t actually have, and that is not something you want to be doing. Building a positive reputation is hugely important, as it enables people to feel comfortable sending you several hundred dollars at a time for cards that are sight unseen. For this reason, I would recommend picking one website with reference tracking and sticking with that until you build a solid reputation.

Getting rid of the leftovers – Unless you live in Montana or one of those states where the cattle outnumbers the humans, space becomes a concern, especially once you end up with more than a few thousand spare cards. I’ve had success moving smaller batches around 2,000-5,000 cards on craigslist by being very straightforward with the lot. I put right in the listing that there are no duals/forces, and that it’s a kitchen table collection for a kitchen table price. This gets a little harder to do the larger the pile gets though, as disposable income for kitchen table magic is not very large for any one individual. As you can see, I still have yet to solve this problem entirely myself…

boxes

Whew, I had a lot more to say about this than I realized I did. If you decide to tackle this process yourself, I wish you the best of luck. Just don’t do it where I live.

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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City of Traders: Understanding Kalonian Hydra

By Travis Allen

As of Monday evening while I’m writing this, Kalonian Hydra is about $22-$23. It has seem some amount of play so far in Standard this summer, most notably in Zvi’s GW Elves deck piloted by Hall of Fame elect Huey Jensen to a Top 8 performance at an SCG open. The card, unlike Voice of Resurgence, has not exploded onto the competitive Magic scene. Rather it has quietly slotted itself into a few face-beating decks as a 4-of, providing a brutally effective if not particularly graceful means of achieving victory. Despite the quiet reception, I believe there is potentially something brewing here.

Let’s begin our look forward by examining past Core sets. Look at these cards and see if something stands out to you:

When Baneslayer Angel was revealed in M10, the collective community gasped. Wizards brought creatures to the party, and they rolled deep. Never before had a creature been so clearly pushed. Keywords and abilities abound; it quickly made good on its promise of power, bringing with it an unheard of $50 price tag in Standard that many would herald as the umpteenth death of Magic. It remained a huge factor in tournament Magic right up until the next summer, when it was promptly outclassed.

In M11, rather than a single wrecking ball of a creature, Wizards bequeathed unto us five. Each had their own day in the sun, but the clear winner was Primeval Titan. Valakut had been decent prior, but having a 6/6 trample the deck could accelerate into that conveniently represented death on two separate fronts pushed the deck to the front of the Standard landscape until Valakut rotated along with the rest of the Zendikar block. Primeval Titan, as Baneslayer Angel before him, carried a $50 price tag for considerable periods of time.

M12 ran the Titan cycle back, and while the second printing suppressed the prices a bit, the titans continued to be a massive force in standard, with Primeval Titan being a 4-of in a Pro Tour winning deck, fetching and fueling massive Kessig Wolf Runs.

Three years after Baneslayer Angel dominated creature matchups, her scaly counterpart arrived hot on the heels of Lingering Souls to make sure Standard wasn’t ruled by dinky 1/1 spirit tokens. Thundermaw Hellkite didn’t need a litany of abilities, opting rather for succinct prose: Flying, Haste, Tap your flyers. Functioning both as a gruesome top end for aggressive/midrange strategies and a fast clock for UWR control decks, Thundermaw Hellkite has spent most of his tenure in Standard terrorizing Top 8s. His pedigree is such that he has even broken through to Modern, a true testament of efficacy for a 5-drop creature. Thundermaw Hellkite, like his predecessors before him, enjoyed a $50 price tag for a non-negligible period of time.

Baneslayer Angel, Primeval Titan, and Thundermaw Hellkite all hit $50 during their respective outings, and even when they weren’t floating that high, they still had no trouble holding $25-45. Additionally, there was no subtlety here. Nothing here slipped in under the radar and then saw success due to a particular metagame. These cards were the metagame. Nobody saw the spoilers for these cards and thought, “hmm, I wonder if this is good enough.”  These creatures were not the piano wire or silenced pistol, but rather nail-studded baseball bats and limb-tearing desert eagles. “Red Zone” may as well have been written across the card in Sharpie.

We’ve established that past core sets have shown us large, Mythic, blunt creatures of destruction that have all seen significant play and commanded $40-50 price tags for extended periods of time. I have no reason to expect this year to be any different. The question then, is this:

3 by 3

Which of these is our sledgehammer?

There are arguments for each, but let me explain why I don’t think it is either Archangel of Thune or Chandra, Pyromaster.

While I think Chandra’s power is so far unexplored, I don’t think she’s quite the format-warping artillery strike past creatures have been.  She is more of a role-player rather than meta-maker. She is also a Planeswalker, not a creature. While I doubt our defining spell in the core set will forever be a creature, I don’t think we’ve left that territory quite yet. Nor does Chandra appear as heavy-handed as specters of Standard past.

Archangel of Thune is a candidate more worthy of consideration. First of all, she’s a creature. Second of all, that ability is pretty awe-inspiring. It doesn’t take long to imagine a scenario where Archangel gets dropped into a board full of dorks, you trigger lifegain once or twice, and suddenly you’ve got a legitimate army. The biggest reason I don’t expect this to have the lasting power of Kalonian Hydra is because of these two cards:

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Sublime Archangel vs Angelic Destiny

Sublime Archangel is the real damning evidence here. It’s another top end angel that pays you heavily for having a board full of guys. While Sublime Archangel wasn’t cheap – pushing $30 during her peak, and comfortably $15-$20 for quite some time – she saw mostly fringe play and kitchen tables, while it was Thundermaw that was ruling the skies in Pro Tours. There’s room for other pricey Mythics in core sets beyond the $50 battlecruiser, as Sublime Archangel and Angelic Destiny before her have shown us. I get the impression Archangel of Thune will receive her accolades early, working in concert with Sorin and similarly lifegainy cards in a grey deck. She may still pop up from time to time over the next year, but I’m pretty sure she’ll be taking a back seat to the rapidly multiplying heads of Kalonian Hydra.

Kalonian Hydra has a lot in common with past Florisian best-in-formats. He is eminently castable, capable of winning the game on his own, and there is no subtlety to his strength. While he doesn’t have an immediate impact on the board in the way of Primeval Titan or Thundermaw Hellkite, Baneslayer Angel did not either. And while he may not do as much immediately, with the exception of Primeval Titan fetching mountains or a huge Kessig Wolf Run, Kalonian Hydra kills the opponent faster than any single prior pillar. Taking all this into consideration, I feel there is a good chance Kalonian Hydra is that creature.

At $23, it’s hard to say definitively that you should be buying in. Speculation is out of the question at this point, as there is far too much to lose in case things shake out unexpectedly. However, it’s not unreasonable to assume he could hit $50 sometime in the next year, and as cards like Liliana of the Veil and Voice of Resurgence have shown us, the existence of $35-$45+ cards in Standard is certainly possible. At this point, I’d be asking yourself if it’s a creature you are likely to find yourself casting. If the answer is yes, I’d start looking for opportunities to grab them in trade. There is definitely a chance he may settle sub-$20, but if it’s the type of card you want to be swinging with, you’ll be very upset if you try to wait for him to drop and then find yourself stuck trading for them at $35 a pop.

A few points before I go:

  • Chandra, Pyromaster was a 2-of in the winning decks of both Grand Prix Warsaw as well as one of the SCG Opens this past weekend. She’s currently around $10. While it won’t always be Kibler’s GR deck, I have a feeling she’ll be showing up with regularity in the future. $17-$25 is quite possible.
  • Last Wednesday I mentioned Horizon Canopy and Shadow of Doubt. By Thursday morning, both were basically out of stock everywhere. Horizon Canopy jumped by a solid $10, and Shadow of Doubt doubled to $7. I don’t believe either price is stable yet.
  • This coming weekend is GenCon. There should be some Theros and/or Commander spoilers. Watch for any strong interactions with existing cards for growth potential.
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City of Traders: WMC Review

Another weekend, another major Magic event. This time around, it was the World Magic Championship. I was rooting hard for Reid Duke, and I’m nearly positive I was more upset at the Engineered Explosives in Shahar’s opening 7 in game 5 than Reid was. Still though, it was a great finals with plenty of tense moments. Many (PVDDR) were dismissing the match due to Aura’s perceived lack of interactivity, complaining it would be boring to watch. What we were treated to instead was an exciting match between two skilled players, with a lot of drama in what draw steps would herald and whether Shahar could win the race. My biggest complaint, beyond Reid not winning, is that he reminded everyone that Auras exists, a deck I was planning on playing at GP Detroit. Back to the drawing board, I suppose.

My first impression while reading through the Standard lists was just how boring they are. When players work together in a team prior to a major event like a Pro Tour, it’s good for everybody involved. They do great jobs of finding the best decks, and we get to see the real power in whatever format they’re playing. There are a lot of Pro Tour players that aren’t in pro superteams though, which leads to a lot more variety of brews (good and bad) showing up. At the WMC however, there are only 16 players. A team of 5 people consists of nearly a third of the room. The result of the players forming these teams was a homogenization of the event: there were five Jund decks and eight UWR Flash decks in the Standard portion. That means a little over 80% of the room was playing one of two decks. That makes for a very bland looking Standard scene, regardless of whether the true format is more diverse. Even Jon Finkel noticed, taking to Twitter to vent his frustration about how Wizards had seemingly phased out many unique deck types such as combo, land destruction, hand disruption, true control, etc.

Financially, basically nothing came out of the Standard portion. It served only to reinforce the staples: Sphinx’s Revelation, Supreme Verdict, Jace, Scavenging Ooze, etc. I don’t think we’re going to see much of anything new or noteworthy in considerable competitive play until rotation. I’m guessing it will mostly be a lot of tweaking of existing archetypes. Brian’s GR beatdown deck was the only Standard deck that was a departure from the norm, but all the financially-relevant cards are already known suspects, so there isn’t much to work with there either.

The more actionable data was found in the Modern portion of the event. The most significant finding was the prevalence of Scavenging Ooze. A full 22 showed up between maindecks and sideboards, which is about 33% of the maximum amount of Oozes that could have appeared. You’ll remember that a few weeks ago I told you how good Ooze would be in Modern. I don’t expect this to be a passing fad either. SCG has jumped their buy price to $12.50, and is currently sold out at $25. The Ooze is here to stay, so get used to it. The ramifications of this will be widespread. One impact will be just making it tougher and tougher for graveyard strategies in Modern. 4x Deathrite Shaman and 4x Scavenging Ooze is going to be the start of so many decks in Modern that showing up with Vengevine, Demigod of Revenge, Life from the Loam, or really anything with considerable graveyard interaction is just asking to 0-3 drop and get food.

Aside: Keep your eye out for any card that gets printed to help protect your graveyard. Think along the lines of a bear that while in your graveyard gives the whole thing hexproof or some such. Wizards may realize they’ve pushed too hard on graveyard hate, and not wanting to blank so many cool cards, may provide some resources for those types of decks. This type of card, if properly powerful, could quickly become a strong card in both Modern and Legacy, but would likely not carry a high price tag during prerelease season.

Other than Scavenging Ooze, I really like Horizon Canopy right now. The card is a fantastic land for any deck that wants to make green and white mana as well as attack. It’s a land that makes both of your colors right away, it helps combat mana flood, it’s used in Legacy, and it’s a Future Sight rare. Grove of the Burnwillows had a second printing, is arguably not as good, and is still $20. The rares in that set have proven that they are completely capable of going wild, and staying there. Case in point:

Daybreak Coronet. Aug 2012 - Jul 2013.
Daybreak Coronet. Aug 2012 – Jul 2013.

Horizon Canopy has been ticking up slowly for quite some time, currently at about $14-15. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it jump like Chord of Calling did at some point. $35+ may be a stretch, but $25+ seems plausible. There’s a very small chance we’ll see it in Theros, but if we don’t I expect it to rise the closer we get to Modern season. What makes this particularly safe is that even if it is printed in Theros, it would be with a Modern border. The unique Future Sight border will help the card maintain value even in the face of a reprint. I particularly like Horizon Canopy foils, which could easily be $70-$100+ with a jump.

Financially, the most important but least-discussed piece of information (so far) is the change in the PTQ schedule. Previously, it was Modern at the start of the year, then Standard over the summer, and finally Limited in the fall. Now however, we have this schedule:

PTQ_seasons

What this means is that starting at the end of this year and through spring of 2014, it will be Standard instead of Modern. Then through late spring and early summer we’ll have Sealed, and Modern doesn’t show up until early summer, where we’ll have it for 11 weeks. Finally the year will finish up with Sealed again through late fall.

The first major change to consider is the delay of the Modern PTQ season. Originally, we all expected it to start around January 1st or so. This meant that between now and the start of the season, we only had to worry about what was in Theros and the Commander product this November, as well as perhaps any spoilers that slipped out ahead of time. Now though, Modern doesn’t start until June of next year. That is a long ways away, with the entire Theros block being released in the interim, M15 spoilers will be close at hand, and most germane, spoilers of summer product will be available. In fact, do you recognize the date of June 7th from anything else? The Modern Masters release date was June 7th, 2013. The Modern PTQ season begins exactly one year later. This is no coincidence. I bet dollars to doughnuts that we will have or at least will have heard of another Modern supplemental product by then.

The obvious impact of this is that our Modern holds are far more tenuous than they were before. Whereas Fetchlands were an absolute hold before, that is much more in question now. There is a lot of time and a lot of product to go before the PTQ season finally rolls around, and a lot of opportunities for the lands to be printed again. Wizards isn’t going to be turning a blind eye to the most prevalent lands in the format being this expensive. They have shown an eagerness to go after high-value Modern staples already. The rise in price of Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant was a byproduct of Wizards printing too few boxes, a move they have already explained was meant to be overly cautious. I do not expect them to be quite so prudent next time. They now have the data in front of them, and they can more accurately gauge how many boxes they should print of any future Modern product.

Hint: it’s going to be more.

The question then becomes what to do with our Modern holdings. To be perfectly honest with you, I’m still a bit undecided. I’m not rushing out to sell them today, as the threat of additional copies won’t begin to creep up until after the first of the year. It’s really next spring we need to worry about. At this juncture, I am planning on holding until after the first with the calculated risk that they likely won’t go down by then, and have the chance to climb a few more dollars. I’ll probably ditch them in January though, happy to take my profits and unwilling to brave whatever spoilers the spring months may bring. It’s entirely possible the Fetchlands don’t see another printing cycle before the next PTQ season and they all hit $70+, but I’d much rather get out at $30-50 each in January rather than have them show up in MM2 and sell at $20 in July.

The other slightly less drastic result of this schedule change is that there is no longer a Standard PTQ season to keep rotating staples afloat over the summer. Once March 9th rolls around, Ravnica-block Standard staples will quickly begin to decline as PTQ grinders sell off their copies that they no longer need, whereas in the past they would have held them right through till rotation. Expect Standard prices to deflate sooner and faster this coming year than they have in the past.

Two last parting tips this week: Fellow financially-minded writer Corbin Hosler (@chosler88) pointed out on Monday that Shadow of Doubt has quadrupled in the last several months. As an original Ravnica block rare, it could easily climb to $10. The card also has hybrid mana, making it tough to print outside of supplemental product. If you can grab these under $4, they seem quite safe.

Shadow of Doubt. Jan-Jul 2013.
Shadow of Doubt. Jan-Jul 2013.

 And finally, Sen Triplets. This card is now pushing $14. Did you know that?

Sen Triplets. Jan 2012-Jul 2013.
Sen Triplets. Jan 2012-Jul 2013.
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City of Traders: RTR Pickups

By Travis Allen

A few days ago the most recent SCG invitational wrapped up, the winner – my buddy Erik Smith – piloting Jund and UWR in Standard and Legacy respectively. This is a great chance to see how M14 is doing in finding its place in the format. An invitational is the type of event players are definitely going to be testing and brewing new decks for, which is more work than any given SCG open will typically see.

While Jund may have won, the top 8 Standard lists were 8 separate archetypes. That’s a lot of diversity, and a lot of potential different M14 cards. After skimming through the lists and doing some quick napkin math though, it looks like fewer than 10 or so unique cards from M14 showed up, and roughly 5% of the top 8 lists were M14. That is a pretty minor impact, given that it is one of eight legal sets, or about 12.5% of the format. Scavenging Ooze may have made a huge impact in the way things play out, but there were only about 10 copies across the top 8. What this tells me is that nobody has figured out exactly how these cards fit in yet, and, more interestingly, a lot of the power in the set is hard to find with so many other cards out there at the moment.

I have a feeling that in September we’re going to see a large surge of M14 cards in Standard. There won’t be so many other powerful effects and synergies muscling not-quite-good-enough cards out of the way. This will bode very well for the price of several M14 cards. Pay close attention to what cards seem like they’re almost playable, because if they are, there’s a good chance they will see a solid jump in the fall.

One more thought I had regarding this fall is regarding deck viability. Right now we’re working on the assumption that we will see five or ten manlands in Theros. Assuming that is the case, the mana for the new Standard is, quite honestly, going to suck. At least, it will for any deck trying to be aggressive. Imagine a GW beats deck. You get 4 Temple Garden, then uh…4 Stirring Wildwood? That’s hardly aggressive. 4 Guildgates? Assuming we do in fact get manlands, Mono Red is probably going to be the only stable aggressive deck. This means lots of midrangey and control lists. Cards that may be a little too slow right now, like Advent of the Wurm, may become a lot stronger if people aren’t trying to kill you on turn 3 with Burning-Tree Emissarys.

Stepping back from the fall at the moment, this point in Magic’s lifecycle is a very good time to turn our gaze backwards at what will be the older brother of Standard. M14 just became legal and Theros spoilers are on the tongues of young mages everywhere, while Ravnica block languishes as old news. This is good for us though, because cards that will be major players in a new format are typically at their lowest right now. This gives us a lot of potential profit if we can turn our attention away from the exciting new cards for a few minutes.

These are all cards that caught my eye when browsing the set lists. There’s a lot of room for a lot of growth in here. At least one of these cards will probably grow by 400-700%, so there’s great value in here if you figure out the right card(s). 

Supreme Verdict
Supreme Verdict was the sweeper of choice at the RTR Block Pro Tour, putting 19 copies into the top 8. That is a lot of dead creatures. It’s also the best and only really good sweeper in the RTR block. It sees play frequently in Standard, with most decks that want at least one likely wanting four between maindeck and sideboard. At any given Standard event I would guess roughly 5-10% and occasionally more of the decks in the room have this card in their 75. In addition to being a staple in Standard, both Modern and Legacy have proven receptive to its presence, where the can’t-be-countered clause has been preferred over the can’t-regenerate clause of the O.G. WOG. Terminus was at the exact same price point at this time in that card’s life, and shortly after rotation it jumped to $10+. Supreme Verdict was a buy-a-box promo, but that was hardly printed in enough numbers to have a serious impact on quantity.

Jace, Architect of Thought
Like Supreme Verdict, this card was all over the Top 8 of the Block Pro Tour. Control mirrors hinged on this card and Sphinx’s Revelation, and Jace simultaneously did a great job of blunting aggressive strategies as well. Jace was a defining card of the PT, and there’s no reason to expect it to behave any differently after rotation. It bottomed out early this summer around $10, and has started to climb back towards $13. This is only the beginning, though. $20 is almost guaranteed again within the next year, and if it shows up as a 4-of in several Top 8 lists of an early Theros event, $30+ is conceivable. There is basically no possible way to lose when picking this card up sub-$15.

Lotleth Troll
This card is probably the most mispriced card on this list at the moment. It shows up semi-frequently in Standard, providing a semi-evasive (trample is evasion) regenerating threat that enables graveyard shenanigans. Lotleth Troll is in a good tribe, and he (it?) has shown to be playable in both Modern and Legacy as well. This card may take longer to realize his price potential than others, but I have no doubt that he’ll be well north of $10 eventually. (Disclaimer: this could take a few years.)

Worldspine Wurm
I’m stating right off the bat that Wurm isn’t here because I think he’s part of some absurd combo with the new Garruk, so don’t dismiss me out of hand. Rather, he’s a huge, splashy, powerful creature that EDH and casual players alike are drawn to. Remember that Khalni Hydra is currently $7. He’s not going to be lighting up the tournament scene, but he’s a very safe bet at $1 in trade.

Armada Wurm
I’m currently seeing copies under $3 on TCG Player, which seems crazy to me. Everyone remembers that this is 10 trampling power for 6 mana, right? Even better, half of the card is a token. That means the potential for token abuse is there, but he’s still doesn’t get completely blown out by Ratchet Bomb. This card feels like it’s right on the cusp to me. It may not happen immediately, but I can’t imagine this not becoming a major part of the Standard scene, even temporarily, within the next year.

Gyre Sage
Another member of the dollar-and-change brigade, this seems like it could very easily live at $4-7. If any sort of Simic/BUG evolve/token/hydra list appears, this is probably part of it. I wouldn’t go super deep, but I definitely like it at $1-2.

Aurelia’s Fury
Remember the hype around this card when it was previewed? It was preselling for well over $20, and has now cratered to sub-$3. There hasn’t been a single noteworthy performance of the card since it was released. However, the card is still a Swiss army knife in that there isn’t really anything it doesn’t do. I don’t think we’ll get through the next year without this making at least a brief appearance and accompanying spike.

Master Biomancer
Similar to Aurelia’s Fury, Master Biomancer was preordering for quite a bit, then did nothing upon release. However it took its sweet time dropping in price, and it only semi-recently made it under $5. The slow descent of this card’s value, as well as its current price tag despite no tournament play, is a testament to the demand for it in casual circles. It has the potential to show up in Standard and skyrocket, and even if it doesn’t, you’ll win in the long term with this casual all-star.

Prime Speaker Zegana
Currently under $3, this may prove to be one of the best card drawing spells post-rotation. Sphinx’s Revelation is probably better overall, but a deck with more presence on the battlefield that wants to commit threats while drawing cards is probably going to be more interested in Zegana rather than Revelation. She’s a home run in EDH as well, so her floor can’t be too much lower. I can’t promise she’ll get there, but $15+ seems very plausible.

Scion of Vitu-Ghazi
This card’s trajectory depends heavily on Advent of the Wurm, and to a lesser extent, Armada Wurm. Remember that Cloudgoat Ranger saw a respectable amount of play in Standard back in the Lorwyn era, and for the decks that would want Scion now, it’s better than Cloudgoat would be. Flashing down an Advent at the end of your opponent’s turn and then untapping and slamming this guy is a lot of power very fast. It will never be more than a few dollars, but at $.20, you don’t have much to lose.

Advent of the Wurm
Late in development, this card was a Mythic, and for good reason. A 5/5 trampling flash for four is aggressively costed, and being a token is usually better than not. Currently under/around $4, this guy is slightly riskier. The floor on him is definitely low – under $1. The reason he’s at the price he is regardless of seeing no play in Standard is a product of expectations, which are based partially on Advent’s status as a 4-of in the PT-winning deck, and based partially on the card’s oracle text. I won’t lie, I think it’s possible to lose on this card. However, I think it’s far more likely that this becomes a real contender in Standard, and easily breaks $10.

Plasm Capture
Mana Drain redux, this is currently under $1. This is one of those cards that I think has a reasonable chance of showing up in Standard, but even if it doesn’t, you’ll still down the road as it appreciates simply for being awesome in EDH/casual circles.

Progenitor Mimic
This, like Master Biomancer, took a slow winding path to sub-$5, and even then only recently sunk that low. I put this in the same camp as Master Biomancer in terms of future value, as well. It’s completely capable of becoming awesome in Standard, and even if it doesn’t, you’ll still do just fine in the long term.

Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch
Every year, a red four-drop skyrockets in price. Hero of Oxid Ridge started the trend, and since then, we’ve seen Falkenrath Aristocrat and Hellrider do the same. Right now, the best candidates for this are Exava and Ogre Battledriver. Exava was in the intro deck, so she’s capped at a few dollars, but so was Wolfir Silverheart, and he hit $9.

Deadbridge Chant
Currently about $2, this has seen a reasonable amount of fringe play in Standard since release. If the format moves more towards midrange and control once Theros releases, as I expect it to, this card’s stock only rises. It generates fantastic value in an attrition mirror, and is typically better than just “draw a card” due to it occasionally being a huge mana advantage as well as enabling graveyard shenanigans. It’s also an enchantment, which we may be very interested in down the road. This card could easily be $5 or so if not more while in Standard, and even if it goes nowhere this coming season, I think $1.50 or so is probably the floor, so it’s quite safe to get in on.

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