Category Archives: Ginger Ale

Pick it or Ship it: Financial Decisions with Modern Masters 2015

By: Houston Whitehead

With my recent trip to Vegas, I struggled to come up with a Vegas relevant finance topic to write about while Modern Masters 2015 singles prices are falling to their predicted, yet affordable, prices.  A popular uproar over the weekend was Pascal Maynard’s foil Tarmogoyf pick over Burst Lightning in Sunday’s Top 8 draft.  As a player that doesn’t have a sponsorship to unlock an almost infinite card pool for constructed events or paid entry fees for wearing a T-shirt, the foil Tarmogoyf was an easy pick. But not every player is like me.  From an objective point of view…

goyl gp top8…was Pascals Decision Right or Wrong?

Both.  When it comes to picking the strategically correct card for a deck, the choice easily whittles down to one or two cards. But when you add card value to the mix, only the player drafting knows the correct card to pick. You can be rich, poor, have foil constructed deck preference, non-foil constructed deck preference, need one more to make a playset, or no need to collect.  All are viable reasons to pick a valuable card.  With the variable of price, any opinion besides the drafter is irrelevant.

This got me thinking, where is the threshold between picking the money rare and shipping the money for a main deck playable?  If we can’t calculate a system, what guidelines can be applied to turn a grey answer into a black and white answer?

Modern Masters 2015 has tested this threshold more than any other set (because pulling a chase mythic in the first Modern Masters felt next to impossible).  I sat down Saturday morning to receive my sealed pool for the GP Vegas main event. With no byes, I opted not to purchase the sleep in special that would exclude me from passing my registered pool.  I remember thinking to myself, “Please, don’t open well.  I don’t want to be forced to drop.”  I told myself I would only drop if I pulled a foil Tarmogoyf no matter what the pool was.  I came to play.  Also, it’s frowned upon to drop before passing pools but that’s another topic for another day.  During the first draft of day two, I recall thinking up a similar sentence before looking at my first bare booster pack.  I dodged these hard decisions all the way up till the second draft.  Thumbing to the back I see an orange Modern Masters icon surrounded by a blue border.  It was a Vendilion Clique. My heart somehow fluttered and sank at the same time knowing it was time for a hard decision.  Thankfully, Clique is playable in limited, but Spectral v clique vegasProcession was the card in the pack I’d rather start the draft with.  Seeing no other playable white in the pack and only mediocre cards in the other colors, I decided to take the Clique and force my neighbor into white.  The next pack had two tier 1 white cards so I took one and cut his white the rest of the draft.  Obviously, my decision happened at the beginning of the draft and was also a playable card in any deck that plays blue but soon after blue went dry and I settled in W/B Spirits (my favorite archetype).

The point of the story is…I broke my own rule.  I told myself the only thing that trumps taking an off color money card is a foil Tarmogoyf.  Some say rules are made to be broken, but I still feel going into a Modern Masters 2015 draft with a set of rules can only be beneficial to not only save time but also help keep a clear conscious for the rest of the tournament.

Here are a few examples/options:

  • I will only take ‘X’ card(s) over the best pick
  • I will only take cards than surpass the first place prize.
  • I will pick the best card to benefit my limited unless it’s a card I need for a Modern constructed deck.
  • I will take anything over pack value ($10)

toughAs silly as it might seem to make rules for picking or shipping money cards, it really does help me enjoy my draft experience and overall minimized my feeling of regret when you lose to land screw in the first round.

Sometimes other factors come into play that can bend/discards these rules, like the following:

  • The money card is the #2 pick in the pack, like my situation, and its playability helps justify the pick.
  • Only picking the best cards for your limited deck to give yourself the best shot at reaching a goal (winning your first draft, prizing at a GP, earning an invite to a Pro Tour Qualifier (PTQ) or winning an Invitational Qualifier (IQ)).
  • Could open a door to an archetype you like. Ex: Mostly green with a few blue picks pack one for graft and opening an Eldrazi and switching to G/R ramp and looking for Savage Twister and basic land cycling commons.


We all want to pull money rares AND win the draft.  Sadly, the booster packs don’t cater toward that type of lifestyle.  Drafts are already full of tough decisions.  The more valuable a set it, the more decisions are added to the pile.  Having some list of guidelines before I sit down at the table helps me enjoy the game, draft experience, and the opening of each lottery ticket aka booster packs.

As always thanks for reading



Coolest Ginger You Know (Part 2)

By: Houston Whitehead

Before reading, read Coolest Ginger You Know (Part 1).

…as a podcastertap n sac logo for iTunes

Out of all the content creation choices in the Magic Community, why Podcasting?  I have no idea.  I’ve never been the best story teller. I’ve never desired a position of leadership or had a desire to build a brand.  I wasn’t lazy but some of us just don’t enjoy leading the pack.  I think its human nature to make a difference in the world, in some form or fashion, but I never thought podcasting would result in have such opportunities.  On Tap N Sac Ep #100 “Remember Your Roots” we bring back an original cohost of the show to tell the origin story of how the show started but I’ve never really talked about why I decided to keep making episodes when my original cohosts moved on to other interests.  We all thought starting a podcast would just be a fun phase in our lives and eventually become a joke to tell the kids one day.  For some reason, I just enjoyed the freedom of speech aspect podcasting had.  I had a radio show in college (Rock and a Hard Place w/ DJ Ginger Ale) that I enjoyed until the procedures, guidelines, and drama exiled the happiness sharing music brought to me. no pants

I interned for a Nashville Rock Radio station for a semester and found a similar set of amplified problems restricting creativity and unconventional expression. During both of these experiences I was still making Tap N Sac episodes with a new set of cohosts. I started looking forward to casting every week and eventually realized my love of being behind a mic didn’t have to result in a career.  It can simply be the same experience athletes feel when they hit the gym to relieve stress or artist feel when they paint to forget about the world.  What gives the podcast experience depth is the community that supports it.  I love talking to players at the local stores but Podcasting lets me interact with anyone who dares to download an episode.  People listen because they enjoy the content, can interact with the casters behind the mics, and be a part of a like-minded community. What’s better than that?!

…as a writer

spread the wordSimilar to podcasting, if you told me when I graduated high school I would enjoy writing essays (aka articles) outside of the classroom I would laugh you out of the room.  English was my least favorite subject and the concepts of grammar, spelling, and punctuation never really hit home.  I type how I talk and constantly have to simplify my wordy sentences.  If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who’s edited my articles.

So why the hell did I start writing?  It was probably when listeners ask me why I didn’t write articles.  Also, I had to do a project in college where we made a blog and wrote stuff on it throughout the semester.  When the project concluded (I got an A), I just kept writing.  I wrote about digital media and philosophy because they intrigued me and, in turn, eventually became my major and minor for my bachelor’s degree.   College busyness, jobs, and podcasting restricted the amount of writing I did but I always wrote down most of the content ideas (still a Google Doc currently four pages long).  Writing was just another way to interact and give back to a community I was proud to be a part of.  Now I am honored to write amongst the financial juggernauts here at MTG and continue to attempt a weekly production of read-worthy articles.

…as a community member

communitySomehow no matter what happened at last Fridays FNM I’m always excited to cap off the last weekday with a Magic tournament.  I’ve always wondered how many hours I’ve actually spent at a LGS (Local Game Store).  Even when I worked at one I’m probably clocked in more hours off the clock than on.  The gaming culture is nothing short of one-of-a-kind.  From your favorite types of personalities to those who have somehow made all you pet peeves into everyday habits.  You can find just about anything but a date at your local gamers paradise.  I look at the singles case even when I’m not going to buy anything.  I’ll buy booster packs of a game I don’t even play just because it’s more fun than scratching off a lottery ticket.  LGS’s are the gateway to competition and the where the kitchen table casual players can play when mom sprawled out her “organized” session of coupon clipping. It’s where every player has a chance to make a difference.  If you work at one you can also come up with some fun and creative ways to run tournaments or pull players to your store.  Nothing is more satisfying than making the store profit while also keeping the players fed and happy.  Everything above is a moment, experience, or story I was a part of or observed at a LGS.  I didn’t have to say a card name or tell and exaggerated “how I made him salty” story to convince you this community is diverse and one-of-a-kind.

When I guest stared on Erin Cambell’s podcast The Deck Tease (Episode #45) she ask me why I put links to my social accounts in the shownotes?  A good question with a simple answer.  I never expected the show to be downloaded in the first place.  Having another outlet to interact with MTG players outside my local area was an exciting opportunity, not a safety issue.  With that answer, I realized as a trader, collector, player, podcaster, writer, and community member,  the interactions that happen around the game are just as enjoyable as playing it.

As always thanks for reading



Financial Five: Modern Masters 2015

By: Houston Whitehead

Though the majority of the MTG community seems to be in an uproar about the amount of value placed in Modern Masters 2015, profit can still be accumulated.  As with many sets, cracking cardboard lottery tickets to push out those last few proxies in your Modern deck is not a road worth traveling.  In fact, I wouldn’t take a road at all.  I want to sit in a lawn chair off the beaten path with sunscreen on my nose and wait for the tidal wave of Modern Masters 2015 singles to wreck the complacent prices that have become accepted as part of a Modern player’s life.

The Twist

Normally, a Financial Five article will cover five new cards from an upcoming release I deem to possess profitable potential.  Since Modern Masters 2015 contains 100% reprints, we already know many of the roles it plays or decks lists play four copies.

We all know…

…reprints bring prices down (unless you’re Tarmogoyf).

…format staple prices will recover over time (proven by the first Modern Masters).

…Modern will never be as cheap as you want it to be.

So this time on Financial Five, we’re going to discuss five cards worth picking up at the bottom of their financial decent that also have the most potential to recover over time.

Cryptic Command (TCG Mid $41)cryptic mm

From four copies in the UWR Control deck down to a double copy in Splinter Twin variants, it’s the Swiss army knife every blue player loves and everyone else hates.  The top shelf $60 price tag was simply out of reach for anyone wanting to dip their toes into Modern with being forced to play the handful of budget aggro decks.  During the early months of 2014 (six months after the Modern Master release) Cryptic sat at an understandable $25.  I think the 2015 print will bring it back to that desirable price and slowly start to creep back up as early as the Origins release.  Pick up $25 or under.


Karn Liberated (TCG Mid $36)karn mm

Starting at $50, Karn has already taken a couple steps down but I don’t think he’s done yet.  Though he honestly only sees competitive play in TRON variants, I think Commander players will have a large influence on recovering his price.  Though the recovery will be slower than Modern staples, like Cryptic Command or Noble Hierarch, I think he will land $25 or under and creep up in the long run. Pick up $25 or under.

Splinter Twin (TCG Mid $21)splinter twin

Love it, hate it, or still want it banned, we have to respect the power of Splinter Twin.  Over the last year this card alone has spawned so many variants you’d have to go to college to count that high.  It’s the definition of a format staple and a worthy reprint.  Twin’s price wasn’t out of control yet but was clearly teetering on the edge.  I expect the bottom price to land around $10 and stay close to it for the next year. Pick up $10 or under.

Spellskite (TCG Mid $21)spellskite

This little 0/4 has been the chief of Splinter Twin’s security detail for close to three years.  It’s won over a slot in Modern and Legacy Infect lists and, more importantly, can take a bolt.  Though Spellskite’s price has been increasing faster than Meandering Towershell, I still feel a $10 price tag should be the lowest it will go before heading back up. Pick up $25 $10 or under and your future sideboards will thank you.

Noble Hierarch (TCG Mid $41)noblehierarch mm

Let’s be honest, this price was getting WAY out of hand. I doubt Modern Masters 2015 will drop Noble low enough to satisfy every Modern player, but she sees too much competitive play to fall into a $10 range.  I honestly feel $30 will be a reasonable price to go in at.  You could get greedy and wait for a lower bottom but it won’t take long for the price to ascend quickly after hitting the bottom.  Its existence in Infect, Zoo, and a variety of Junk (Abzan) decks will welcome all those looking to investing in Modern therefore keeping her demand high.  If supply can’t keep up with all the new Modern players she might be back at $50 before you know it. Pick up $30 or under.

Wrap Up

I’m excited for the Modern Masters 2015 Limited format but don’t feel popping open $10 lottery tickets have enough to reward me financially.  I think attacking trade binders and single cases is the best way to unlock those decks you have been wanting to pilot.  I’m still thankful for the Modern Masters series Wizards of the Coast is printing though.  Las Vegas weekend is going to be one for the record books.

If you’re attending Grand Prix Las Vegas and want to meet, hit me up on Twitter.

As always thanks for reading



Coolest Ginger You Know (Part 1)

By: Houston Whitehead

It only takes a few games of Magic to start applying subconscious shortcuts. In society, stereotyping is a cognitive shortcut to help gauge understanding of an individual.  Though stereotyping is frowned upon, it’s virtually impossible to remove its process from your brain.  What’s interesting is the vast difference between self-stereotyping (self-image) and projected stereotyping (defining those around you relative to personal experiences). Since everyone’s life experiences, ideas, and understandings vary, the only opinions worth caring about are probably just your own.  Obviously careers in the public eye turn these theories on their head but that’s beside the point.  That said, my goal today is to thoroughly introduce myself the readers through my personal perceptions, opinions, experiences.

Since I am a player, trader, collector, writer, and content creator, I feel it would only be appropriate to introduce myself under each hat.

About Me…fear the beard

…as a Player


  • I picked up my first cards during Lorwyn Block in High School. Newly made friends inaccurately introduced me to an already complicated game during Web Design III class.  Since the school kept deleting Doom and Pocket Tanks from our computers, it was time to try out strategic cardboard.  Again, my friends didn’t understand many of the rules so our already terrible tribal decks had zero chance of redemption from play skill. My whole collection was from buying a pack or two with loose change from my car during random afterschool visits to a baseball card shop.
  • A couple years later I was looking for some extra money and found my shoe box full of cards and traded them into a local shop. Of course, I was ripped off by the manager and offered $100 credit or $50 cash.  I was offended at the cash offer and told him I’d think about the credit offer.  I saw a guy from high school playing MTG at a nearby table and found out I was playing the game ALL WRONG!  With this new information my competitive nature was intrigued and I’ve been healthy addicted to cardboard crack ever since.
  • The style of decks I prefer to pilot can best be described as synergistic. I’m addicted to value and prefer to cast and/or recur out of my graveyard whenever possible.  This usually lands me in a variety of midrange strategies.  That said, I will always have a special place in my heart for spell-heavy mono red burn.
  • I participate in the following formats: Standard, Modern, Legacy, EDH, Legacy Pauper, Pauper Cube, and most Limited formats.

…as a trader

  • I trade for three reasons. First, I trade to complete a deck I would like to pilot. Obviously the most common reason for trading. Second, I value trade to turn my soft cards into solid cards. Standard Examples: Soft = Thunderbreak Regent & Scry Lands. Solid = Fetch lands & Thoughtseize. Third, I trade to collect which I will talk about later.
  • My goal for each non-value trade is to make 10% profit. It doesn’t always happen and every trade is different but having goals helps keep me from getting emotions involved in trading.  Otherwise, I would just trade everything they want to them.
  • Speculating is one of the most enjoyable parts of trading for me. I even have a binder where I keep all my specs at.  Many friends ask to go through my specs/staple binder and either shoot a chuckle or gasp my way.  Truly a binder full of free entertainment.
  • I prefer to trade using eBay Completed listings but also accept’s Fair Trade Price. Many other online vendors flex their prices via stock quantity or what a Pro wrote about this week.

…as a collector

  • First goal when a set is released is acquiring a playset of all dual lands in Standard. I don’t care if they are expensive. Knowing you already have the duals makes building a deck x10 easier. That should-probably-might be a real statistic.  This also enable you to help your friends that might be on a tighter budget or want to try out a deck before they invest.
  • i’m a dog for full art. From full art foil Lightning Bolts to the newest Game Day promos, I aim for a playset of each. The JSS Promos will be the hardest for me to acquire but I enjoy the thought of adding them to my collection.
  • Pauper foils are a new addiction that has bleed over from foiling out my pauper cube. I made a pauper gauntlet with the eight best decks in the format and am slowly foiling out each deck when I find pieces I need.  I will always be a lover of Pauper and if you can’t afford a Legacy deck, I truly feel legacy pauper has wider decision trees than Standard or Modern.

Next week I’ll share detail about me as a writer and as a content creator.

As always thanks for reading