Category Archives: Casual Fridays

Delays and Opportunities

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Wizards has decided to delay nearly everything about Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths due to the worldwide pandemic. There’s a lot to unpack, including the optimism that in May we’ll all be back to normal.

This is an unprecedented time for us as Magic players, and there’s some financial pitfalls to avoid, and opportunities to be had here. Let’s dive in!

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Cliff (@WordOfCommander) has been writing for MTGPrice since 2013, and is an eager Commander player, Draft enthusiast, and Cube fanatic. A high school science teacher by day, he’s also the official substitute teacher of the MTG Fast Finance podcast. If you’re ever at a GP and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.

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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Underworld Value

I know it’s a crazy time in the world, and one of the things that gives me comfort is knowing that there will always be Magic in some form. People are playing Commander games with Discord’s help, trading via mail remains a lot of fun, and it’s always enjoyable to pick up undervalued cards.

We are about two weeks away from the previews for Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, and this is when we want to examine the set that’s closing down for the good buys at max supply. Traditionally, this means cards are at their cheapest, and any bit of play they see from here, especially in Standard, means an uptick. I like knowing that I have about a year to unload Theros: Beyond Death cards before they are in danger of losing value due to rotation.

To the cards!

First things first: I’m going to be talking about the regular nonfoils mostly, except for one or two specific cards. Foil prices at this point are remarkably in line with the nonfoil prices, because the players who want unique versions are going for the special version (extended art, frameless, constellation) or the foil version thereof. 

These are picks with an eye towards Standard, but if a card has uses in other formats, all the better!

Thassa’s Intervention ($1) – There’s two decks in Standard that are giving this some love: Temur Reclamation and Azorius Control, and it fills a similar role in each. The modes here are either to prevent your opponent from doing something good, or if they decline to play things into your open blue mana, you get to dig for two good cards. That’s wonderfully flexible and this is going to go up. Three bucks is quite doable, but I’m hoping for $5+, so I could buy at $1 or less and buylist them for $3 plus store credit bonus.

Phoenix of Ash (75 cents) – Another card at near-bulk prices, it’s a good, recursive threat for whatever flavor of aggressive red deck you want to use. The core of such decks is pretty intact for the next 15 months, with just about all the best cards being from Throne of Eldraine, aside from Runaway Steam-Kin and Light up the Stage. The good news here is that decks want to play lots of copies, as extras are fine in play together or fuel escape for one another. You can get playsets for $3 or less, a price that turns around quite nicely when this sees more play.

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Shatter the Sky

Calix, Destiny’s Hand (Showcase Foil) ($5) – Calix is a long-term pickup, because he’s absurd in Commander decks that are enchantment-based. That’s a relatively popular subtheme, and as time passes, better and better enchantments will be printed. His price can’t really get any lower, and while you can get the original for near-bulk prices, go for the Showcase foil and really drive some wonderful returns. There’s currently 158 vendors on TCG, and yes, that’s a lot of copies. This is for the long-term and doesn’t cost much. If you like this theme of deck, definitely get your Commander copies now. 

Ashiok, Nightmare Muse (Showcase) ($7) – I think Ashiok’s newest version is really underplayed, given the synergies involved. Currently they are only seeing play as a fun-of, but I like the inevitability and the speed of milling you can get with the Nightmare tokens. This is a less sure spec, but given the power of the card and how perfectly this fits into the average UB control deck, it’s hard not to love. I like getting the Showcase nonfoils in hopes of Standard players wanting to rebuy these for $15+ sometime in the next 12 months.

Shadowspear ($5.50/$7/$11/$36) – Whatever version you want to buy, there’s a case to be made. For a card that’s only been out three months, this is already in nearly 3000 decks on EDHREC, and it deals quite effectively with the two qualities that are most annoying in Commander. I could see this being played in any deck that wants to get around these protective qualities, and even though it’s seeing zero Standard play, the price has stayed constant for nearly two months. It hasn’t had a chance to go down in price. Copies aren’t being sold to vendors, players are keeping the ones they get and trading/using them. Since we are at max supply, it’s time to get your copies and a couple extra besides.

The Temples (between fifty cents and $2) – I strongly advocate that you get your playset of each Temple right now if you’re a Standard player. These are good lands with a notable bonus to make up for the lack of speed, as scrying away something you don’t want is quite a lovely feeling. The UW one is the most expensive, as that color combination lends itself naturally to slow control builds, but UB is not far behind. The other three are noticeably cheaper, but the supply that already existed from each of these isn’t really a consideration. Once the shocklands rotate, these will be a strong contender for the must-have lands. If you play Standard, get them while they’re cheap and you won’t have to pay $3 or $4 each in a couple months. As specs, you’re hoping they get to the $6 range.

Storm Herald (a quarter) – This is pure speculation but when it’s so cheap, it can really give you some amazing returns. Mark Rosewater told us this week that Ikoria has the biggest power/toughness boosting aura ever. Eldrazi Conscription gave +10/+10 and while it’s possible that as a troll they give us an Aura which grants +0/+21, that seems pretty far out there. What’s going to happen is that people will immediately try to build around something obscenely powerful, and Storm Herald is a natural fit, there to clean up and get one more hit in after something happens to the original plan. You goal here is very simple: Buy these cheap now, and when this new aura is spoiled, sell into the hype, hopefully getting $2 or $3 each. You’re more likely to make sales on eBay or TCG, so price aggressively and get your profits locked in.

Cliff (@WordOfCommander) has been writing for MTGPrice since 2013, and is an eager Commander player, Draft enthusiast, and Cube fanatic. A high school science teacher by day, he’s also the official substitute teacher of the MTG Fast Finance podcast. If you’re ever at a GP and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.

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When Times Are Tough

Look, I’ve been there. Most people who’ve been playing Magic for a long time have.

You need money. Stuff happens. Job problems, car problems, unexpected expenses.

You look at your mostly-foil EDH deck and think, “This is the solution!”

And you’d be right to think that. I’ve certainly sold large parts of a deck/my collection, and done so for the following reasons: 

-To pay for a new Tempurpedic mattress

-To pay for the moving expenses, including the security deposit on the new place

-To get through the month when a payroll error cut my check by 75%

-To pay for a new transmission

-To pay for a Hawaii trip

-To pay for a bounce house for my daughter’s sixth birthday

And so on.

With the world being in the shambles that it’s in, I want to walk you through the steps that have worked out for me, and then you can use these if needed. Magic is that rarity among hobbies: you can get a lot of the money you put in as cash back if it’s needed. 

Before I get into how to sell, I want to nudge you in the direction of not being a seller, but a buyer. Being able to purchase cards during a time of economic problems is going to be very good for your collection’s long-term health. Real estate investors know this well: when everything gets cheap and people are desperate, offer the lowest prices you can and just be patient. 

Problem is, if you’re secure enough to be buying cards during a time like this, you’re not stuck as many of us are. I’m not judging one way or the other; I’ve been the desperate seller and I’ve been the buyer paying cash for 60% of the retail prices.

Step one: Separate your cards into tiers

I mean price tiers. You’ve likely seen assorted buylist playmats, like these:

I don’t need you to sort your entire collection on one of these, merely sort out that which is $50+, $20+, $10+, and then the rest. 

Whatever amount of cash you need to raise, start by selling the big cards first. There’s two good reasons to start with the big ticket items. First is that you might be able to raise what you need while disrupting your cards the least. If all your sales are coming out of your trade binder, then that’s less relevant, but if you’re looking at the ten Revised duals you’ve spent forever trading for in your Reaper King deck…replacing those lands with something 75% as good is quite feasible.

The second reason to sell the priciest stuff first is that your fees will be minimized. I’m not going to break down TCGPlayer vs. eBay in terms of fees and costs, I have yet to sell on TCGPlayer and don’t feel I can make that call. If you’re selling online, you’re going to be charged a percentage of the value of the sold cards, and you want to do this in as few overall sales as possible.

Now, take a deep breath, and compare your cards to what’s on sale on assorted sites. What’s the retail? What’s the buylist? What’s the lowest price on TCGPlayer? 

Step 2: Ask your friends/playgroup what they’d like to buy.

This can be awkward but the truth is that most of us will sell cards at some point, and will be receptive to hearing you out. Please, for the love of everything, plan ahead with what’s for sale and what your asking price is. Don’t play coy, don’t try to heroically manipulate the situation. Look at TCG low, knock off 10 or 15 percent, and ask for that much in cash. Be open to negotiating, because you’ll make more selling in person than you will online. Handing cash over doesn’t incur fees, taxes, or shipping costs. A card you sell on Ebay for $150 will mean you profit about $125 after those costs, so if your pal counters your $150 ask with $140, you should accept. 

Be honest with these folks, too. Say you need X in cash, and ask if they’d like to pick cards that add up to that. Stay strong in your prices, as tax is real for buyers and being a bit under TCG low makes everyone feel like they are getting a deal. Selling a few cards together can go well and solve your problems with no extra work. 

Use every tool at your disposal. Start with the people you know in person, and then move online. Twitter, Discord, Facebook, all of these are ways to make a connection and sell some cards to get the cash you need. Ask others to promote it. 

This would also be the time to use Craigslist or Offerup or whatever selling methodology you like. The goal here is to make a sale without it requiring taxes or fees, but please be safe when meeting strangers with your valuable possessions.

Step 3: Sell on eBay/TCG

I much prefer the Buy It Now setting on eBay, but I always allow offers. Again, you’re motivated to get the cash. Accept that you are giving up some value in order to turn the cardboard into money, and accept offers that are within 5-10%. Giving up a little there can really speed up the process. I tend to set my prices around TCG low, because I can offer free shipping and TCGPlayer has to charge tax. You’re still coming out ahead.

Try to sell your cards as a lot, so you avoid the time, hassle, and costs of many smaller sales. I know that seems self-evident, but there’s a surprising number of complete decks for sale online. You can go that route, or sell five at a time…whatever you want. 

If you’re not able to make the sale here, then there’s one more step to go.

Step 4: Buylisting

There’s no shame in this, it’s just the method that yields the lowest % of your cards’ value into cash. On a buylist, you’re lucky to get 50% of the retail in cash, generally speaking. It’s better than nothing, and the advantage here is that you can hunt around a little and find the best prices. You can also ship off a whole bunch of cards in a buylist to a single vendor, if you live near to one, you can bring them to a store yourself. For large buylists, call ahead of time and tell them you’re interested in selling them X dollars worth of cards, so they can be prepared.

I want to have some positivity here, so let me leave you with two solid buys:

Fae of Wishes (Showcase nonfoil): You can get these around $2 and there are a couple of different decks in Standard and Pioneer that use them. I love that I can buy a nonfoil that is a bit special, because tournament players don’t like having just a few foils (pretty easy to pick out warped foils in a deck) and I especially love that this always gets played as the full playset.

Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath (pack nonfoil): Look, it’s rare that I think a $40 card is a good buy for future use, but Uro has fifteen months to make an impression on Standard. This is the price while we’re still opening Theros packs. Your store, as of today, can start holding Mystery events and in a month, we’re doing the prerelease for Ikoria.

Uro’s supply is near to maximum and it’s $40. If you play Standard, I’d get these now before it rises to $50 or even $60. These are the regular copies I’m talking about, nothing special.

Cliff (@WordOfCommander) has been writing for MTGPrice since 2013, and is an eager Commander player, Draft enthusiast, and Cube fanatic. A high school science teacher by day, he’s also the official substitute teacher of the MTG Fast Finance podcast. If you’re ever at a GP and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.

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Foiling the Mystery

Praise be, Wizards released something on a Thursday night for once and made my gig 1000% better. I was worried that I’d only have a few glimpses from the Twitch stream, but apparently they have heeded my calls to adjust their timing.

We now have the whole list of 121 cards that are available in foil, and there are some doozies. What’s this mean for the current foils and the ones now being released? Let’s get into that…

Let’s start with a review of how many foils are out there. There’s 121 cards in the list, meaning that you’re going to get one copy every five boxes. (Remember, Mystery is in boxes of 24, not 36.) While that doesn’t sound like a lot, we are about to have a TON of these boxes opened, because the average value on the Mystery reprints is pretty high for now. There are some basic ideas I want you to keep in mind here: 

Idea #1: All Mystery foils will be cheaper than the pack foils.

How much cheaper is something I can’t estimate for all the cards, but as you’ll see, the amount of play a card gets is the main predictor of its future price. Sen Triplets? Not a lot of play, but foil mythics from a small set ELEVEN years ago are going to have very few copies left. Alchemist’s Refuge? Tons of play.

Idea #2: Pack foils will be fine. 

I and many other writers have expounded on the topic of reprints representing a buying opportunity. Especially for staples, when a price dips, you want to buy in. Here’s an example of Pact of Negation:

It was in Future Sight, and Masters 25, and Modern Masters 2013, and even had an Invocation during Amonkhet. Every time the price went down, you’ve got a shot at buying in for the new price. More on this in a moment. 

Idea #3: Everyone’s a mythic here.

One in five boxes will have a foil Sen Triplets. One in five boxes will have a foil Sosuke, Son of Seshiro. The sought-after foils will have a higher price, not least because players will put that card into their decks. At MagicFest Reno last weekend, a lot of the Mana Crypts being opened weren’t being sold, but were instead going into Commander decks, because for some dumb reason, it’s legal there.

Idea #4: When predicting price, pay attention to playability and don’t be distracted by age/supply.

Sen Triplets, currently the most expensive foil on the list, is an awesome card but only goes in Esper+ Commander decks. Minamo, School at Water’s Edge is in five times as many Commander decks and even sees some niche play in Modern/Legacy, as a source of blue with upside. When it comes to the Mystery foils, I don’t think Triplets will have a high price, but Minamo will be above it.

Idea #5: If the average value of a box of Mystery (Retail) is above $75 or so, stores will open them and sell the singles.

This is the main point of having a calculated box EV. Stores can’t buy Mystery (Convention) for themselves and that’s how you can sell them copies of Rhystic Study all day long. Stores can and will buy lots of this set in order to crack packs. 

To phrase it another way: If I add up the value of these foils and then divide by 121 to get an average of the value of the foil slot, I currently get about $15 (depending on mid vs. market and condition) and that means the average box has $360 worth of rares.  (Here’s a link to a Tappedout page with the total TCG coming out to $2100)

That cannot hold, and will not.

As much fun as it is to draft this set, Wizards is going to print a bunch of this, and then have at least one more wave like they did with War of the Spark. Drafters aren’t going to be the big movers, the big stores will be. I’d expect that the small stores might not bother because the variance is quite wide, and there’s going to be a lot of bulk within a couple of weeks.

Stores will open boxes and sell singles until the prices fall low enough to make that economically infeasible. Given what’s in the set, and the variance of what might get opened, I think a lot of prices are going to fall. The staples will recover (and be good buys, wouldn’t you like to stock up on Rhystic Study for $10? $7?) but the rest will crater and stay there for a long while.

With all that in mind, one thing stands out to me: There’s not a lot of excitement in the foil slot. A lot of solid value if you go by current retail prices, but those are not a strong predictor of price going forward. So many of these are niche, printings from forever ago or from an era when foiling wasn’t popular. The price is high on foil Celestial Dawn because it was on the Timeshifted sheet and a pretty rare thing to find even then. The price isn’t high because everyone wants to play the card. 

You should start with the belief that the vast majority of the foils aren’t going to be worth much. Maybe not bulk prices, but not above $3-$5. A couple of these stand out, though:

Amulet of Vigor:The retail for a foil one of these is close to $50, because it’s a key card in Amulet Titan decks in Modern. Getting two mana immediately from a bounceland is amazing, especially when combined with extra land drops. This is one of the top-tier decks in Modern, and Amulet is a four-of. I’d expect this price to be in the $30 range.

Alchemist’s Refuge:It’s pretty sweet in Commander, and a staple land if you’re in these colors. This is one of the few cases where I’d expect the new foils and the pack foils to be close in price.

Scourge of the Throne: If you get to attack with this it’s usually good enough to end the Commander game but the pack foil from original Conspiracy has a tiny amount in circulation. This will be a $20 foil, but not close to the original’s $80.

Braid of Fire: Niche, but awesome. Coldsnap happened at a weird time, in a weird amount, and foils from that set are tough to come by. Not a lot of decks can use this well, so I expect this to be under $10.

Intruder Alarm: Not as common in Commander as you might think, but still a combo enabler for a wide range of strategies that will often win your pod. There’s only one foil from 8th Edition, and that’s always been super scarce. Should land in the $25 range.

Sen Triplets: This grabbed headlines for being a $150 foil you can open, but these aren’t going to sell for anything like that price. If you open the first one you’ll get $75 for it, but very quickly the demand is going to dry up. Price memory is going to kick in and keep it from getting too cheap, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that by June, you can buy this foil for under $30.

Cliff (@WordOfCommander) has been writing for MTGPrice since 2013, and is an eager Commander player, Draft enthusiast, and Cube fanatic. A high school science teacher by day, he’s also the official substitute teacher of the MTG Fast Finance podcast. If you’re ever at a GP and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.

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