Category Archives: Jason Alt

The Best Time to Sell is Never

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Readers,

I met someone recently through a non-Magic social circle who admitted they used to boost boxes of 7th edition from Toys R Us and sell the singles on eBay. They knew nothing about Magic except that foil Birds of Paradise and Wrath of God must be good cards because they were the most expensive back in the day. If they looked now, they might be shocked at how much the price of some of those cards have gone up. Also, I hope they’re sad because if you steal Magic cards, I hope you fall into a wood chipper.

Have you looked at what 7th Edition foils are doing? It’s not surprising and it’s still kind of shocking somehow.

7th Edition foils are fantastic. Despite 7th Edition being white-bordered, the decision was made for the foils to have a black border, which is great. The art was a little weird and stylistically didn’t match a ton of the cards before or after but the cards themselves look sharp and dark and clean and the old border with the foiling looks pretty good. People try to collect an entire set of 7th Edition foil which is pretty tough to do but is a fairly attainable goal compared to some of the others out there.

Today I want to line up price data with EDHREC inclusion data to see if there’s anything in particular that leaps out. With any 7th Edition foil under the sun popping off lately, we could be at a tipping point and if our money is finite, we may be able to identify cards from the ones that aren’t expensive already which ones have the most upside given EDH inclusion. If we don’t find anything, I wasted your time and I’ll pull some picks out of the aether, but I’m pretty sure we’ll find something. Luckily, EDHREC couldn’t be easier to read for a scenario like this.

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Sorted with the most used card at the top, you can see how many decks each card is in. I wish there were a way to flip it so the price displayed is the 7th edition foil price and not just whichever version is cheapest on TCG Player but that’s something that would need to be coded and our coder is hard at work on way more important stuff than that. For now, I’ll have to just do this manually.

Right from up top, it’s unlikely anything in the first 3 rows is going to be underpriced. Multi-format staples like Llanowar Elves, Rares I recognize from the 10 most expensive cards like Birds and Howling Mine, cards not available in foil often like Goblin Matron – there isn’t much here we should even bother checking. Eyeballing this, I’m going to look at Greed, Fervor, Spellbook and Memory Lapse.

Greed is $55 with a $30 buylist which is a big spread, Fervor is $18 with a $10 buylist which is a bigger spread but also a lower one, Spellbook is $45 with a $30 buylist and Memory Lapse is $11 with a $5 buylist. I think Fervor and Memory Lapse are sticking out a bit off the top. Their appeal is mostly limited to EDH which explains why they didn’t stick out much before, but if the entire set pops, cards that are played at all in EDH will rise to the top above cards like Reckless Embermage that aren’t used at all.

Memory Lapse’s price is attenuated a bit by the Judge foil and Eternal Masters foil. With other foils available, 7th Edition foils will mostly be important for completionists looking for a whole set since people who want it for EDH have other options. Still, EDH inclusion is a novel way to parse this data and we still may find some gems.

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Fervor also has another foil printing, Core set 2013, which means its appeal is mostly due to its value as a piece of a full set of 7th foils. However, it’s within a buck or so of Kjeldoran Royal Guard which has as many foil printings and is a fairly useless card. I think Fervor could see an uptick on the basis of utility since it’s cheaper than worse rares that are played less in EDH.

The next grouping could have more gems since they’re less obvious outside of EDH the way a lot of the top EDH cards aren’t given how good they are in other formats.

This batch has even more cards that are useful outside of EDH. I’m going to look up Telepathy, Sisay’s Ring, Intrepid Hero and Arcane Laboratory.

Telepathy is $40 with a $25 buylist, Sisay’s Ring is $16 with a $10 buylist, Intrepid Hero is $21 with a $15 buylist and Arcane Laboratory is $50 with a $27 buylist which reflects a real lack of confidence in that $50.

Ring seems like it should see less play than it does – it strikes me as Manalith tier but you can’t argue with the price tag. I found one of these at an LGS with a 1999 price tag on it and was more than happy to liberate it from its mispriced prison but you don’t find these that often anymore. I think its EDH usage is overstated and people have replaced it in their decks but maybe not their lists online, but I could be wrong.

Telepathy has a million foil printings which makes me think for 7th foils to be expensive, the number of printings doesn’t matter if the card is good and 7th is the “best” version.

It’s not really that surprising that Arcane Lab is $50, honestly.

Intrepid Hero is about what Fervor costs and I kind of don’t hate either card at the price. I think if we find a real hidden gem, though, it will be a tier lower. Between 1600 and 850 decks, we’ll find cards that are specific to one or two decks and they might not all be that expensive.

Goblin War Drums, Blanchwood Armor, Mana Breach and Early Harvest probably deserve a look, and Tainted Aether and Darkest Hour are getting thrown in for good measure.

War Drums are $11/$5, Armor is $4.70/$2.50, Breach is $40/$20, Harvest is $22/$17 (low spread…), Aether is $60/$51, Hour is $51/$30.

I think Blanchwood Armor is a steal at that price. There are other foil versions and other foil versions with that art and it’s merely an uncommon but as far as useful 7th edition foils go, I think this has the best ranking to price ratio of cards we’ve seen.

Harvest also seems really juicy. The low spread makes me think it’s poised to go up and while it gets used less in general than some of the other $22 cards like Fervor, it is more useful in a smaller number of decks meaning you just need to convince a few lunatics to foil their decks with 7th cards? I don’t know under what circumstances these cards would go up independently of each other but they clearly are and if all we did was look at spread we could probably make a few educated guesses about future price increases irrespective of EDH use.

Shivan Dragon is in 800 decks and anything used less than Shivan Dragon likely can’t credit EDH with any price increases in the future. Let’s go down the list one last time and look for low spread cards and call this an article.

Tainted Aether is worth looking at, and I think it’s a card that actually should get more EDH play than it does, but I also know my capacity to make that happen is limited.

Per our data, Aladdin’s Ring has 0 spread, so that’s worth looking at up close. It turns out that the buylist price is correct but it sold out everywhere except CK where it’s $45. If only we had checked sooner.

Earthquake has the same buylist price as Telepathy but is $10 cheaper retail and even though there are a jillion foil quakes, there’s only one 7th.

Feroz’s Ban also has 0 spread but I can’t find it at $20 anywhere and it’s like moved up to $30 now.

Can we conclude anything? I think Fervor, Early Harvest and Blanchwood Armor are good buys right now given their low spread and high EDH demand but I don’t think we should bother doing this goofy method for any other sets. Next week we will have some PAX East spoilers to digest and on that note, let’s call it an article. Until next time!

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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Unlocked Pro Trader: The New Spread

Readers!

This week I want to talk about a new way to potentially gauge upside of Magical cards that could make it easier to figure out what’s going to go up in the future. 

A lot of cards are easy to see coming because a major event spikes them hard, but what’s more difficult to do is to see the slow, incremental growth of some cards coming. They have a small buy-in window because they grow over time rather than spiking suddenly, meaning after a card spikes you won’t find cheap, mispriced copies at certain LGSs that are slow on the uptake. These misses feel like the worst because you say “I ALWAYS knew that card was good and one day I check the price and BAM, it’s $10!” which isn’t even true. The card grew steadily, you just didn’t check the price of it for 2 years. 

It’s tough to check every graph of every printing of every card. We like data scrapers because they make the nice graphs for us and identify cards with the highest percentage growth and we can read a handy chart. The problem is, I don’t want to identify a card that grew this week when it’s already too late to buy copies. I want to find those cards that haven’t really gone up as much as they’re going to yet. 

TCG Player is the first to know on those increases sometimes since it’s the first place people think to buy cards out but sometimes TCG Player is slow to show a change. There are some reasons for that, one being that cheap cards tend to be slow to update on TCG Player if people buy every copy but the damaged ones or the ones that are under $2 and therefore under the mandatory minimum. Since TCG Player is the last place I want to buy lots of copies, both for the “a million sellers” reason and the “Look, I just tipped off the entire market about this card and now there’s no chance to buy more copies” reason, I want to find other places that will tell me when it’s time to buy something on TCG Player. Luckily, EDHREC provided me with a new technique. 

The New Spread

Spread is a term used by mtg financiers to refer to the percentage difference between a buylist price and a retail price. A card with a high spread means that you lose a lot of money buylisting, a low spread means the buylist is paying practically retail, a negative spread means you can arbitrage the card to a buylist. I am going to use the term “spread” to refer to something else. I’m doing it as a joke. I am writing this paragraph to preempt any “well ackshually, spread is…” comments because, I don’t know, maybe they’re warranted? I don’t even know anymore. All I know is I saw a thing on EDHREC and thought “That’s a pretty big spread” and then I thought “That’s not how we use the word ‘spread’ in mtg finance” and then I thought “it is today” and now you’re caught up. Here’s the thing I saw.

See it yet? I can zoom in some more.

Some of you got it, I bet. So we’re all on the same page, let’s highlight it.

That’s quite a, for lack of a better word, spread. Card Kingdom is charging basically double for Animar. Since TCG Player is respected and the price is calculated based on what the card is actually selling for and multiple people can underbid each other until the price settles lower, TCG Player will of course be cheaper. Besides, Card Kingdom are a bunch of chiselers and they use their high buylist to justify overcharging for singles. Besides, is that TCG Player price even accurate?

It’s clear EDHREC doesn’t scrape the prices every day, but it’s close since the price hasn’t moved profoundly, yet.

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Card Kingdom charges more, but rarely double. In fact…

Sometimes they charge less.

Is it possible that we could identify some cards that Card Kingdom is inclined to charge more for due to demand they have seen? Could they predict the future? I don’t know, but what I do know is that one person in charge of decisions can be wrong and multiple vendors all in equilibrium are usually more accurate (read this, it’s fascinating). However, one person making all of the decisions about prices for a whole website change the price with the flip of a switch. Things can be slow to shift on TCG Player. The status quo is that TCG Player is the best model, but the status quo doesn’t make us any money, radical changes do. Besides, if we don’t trust Card Kingdom 100% (we shouldn’t) we can actually use them as a metric for which prices to check ourselves rather than a reason to make plays. Maybe CK is nuts. Maybe they’re onto something. But if we use those cases with a big difference between the prices as a technique for identifying price graphs to look at, we can identify some of those “When did this hit $10?” cards without looking exhaustively at every price or checking prices every month.

Here’s how I plan to use this technique.

  1. Identify large gaps between prices
  2. Verify TCG Player and Card Kindgom prices are accurate
  3. Check the graph on MTG Price

All of these steps can be done in under 30 seconds and will help you pick out cards that need a second look. Animar was reprinted in Masters 25 and therefore going to go back up in price and if Card Kingdom raised their price a little prematurely, I expect TCG Player to catch up and Animar could be a good buy. Let’s look at the MTG Price graph of a card with a high “new spread” and see if the graph tells us anything.


Swing and a miss. The price on CK this week is down to $11.99 and TCG Player is up to $9.99. Not much of a difference. This is why we check.

Pay dirt already! Razaketh is $16 on CK and you can buy 3 copies from a guy on TCG Player Near Mint for $10. Razaketh is in 5,682 decks on EDHREC and it’s the kind of card a spikey player would use meaning people who want this effect are less likely to try and find a budget alternative or forgo it. I think this is a card that needs a look for sure. I think this is underpriced on TCG Player.

One weakness I can see with this system is that the difference between smaller prices, even if it’s a large percentage, is not a lot for cheap cards. However, we’re not going to spend much time actively hunting for these spreads, but rather when we see them, we’ll know to investigate.

Verified cheaper on Card Kingdom. Nevermind what the gap is, if a market with multiple sellers is sustaining a higher price, you take a look. This has already mostly popped due to Teysa Karlov and that recency makes me think this could be a trap, but when it’s cheaper on CK, you at least take a look. If this happens to you, see what the top commanders are. If one is very recent, the card may have already gone way up, a fact a look at the graph can confirm.

Are these close because Card Kingdom usually charges a buck or two more on stuff or are they far away because one number is twice as large as the other? One way to drill down more would be to look at the foil prices. Data for Krenko was inconclusive due to CK being sold out for awhile, but Higure, the Still Wind is a $40 foil on CK and a $30 foil on TCG Player. It just moved due to Yuriko, but it was worth looking up.

I think this technique will serve all of us well moving forward. The advantages are that is quickly identifies cards that need more scrutiny before anything profound enough to trigger anything automated happen. The price will not have moved much yet, if at all, but the big gap is worth looking at since their prices are pretty close on most cards.

That does it for me this week. Join me next week where we’ll hopefully have some spoilers or something. Until next time!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: Anti-Tech

Readers! As you all probably know, War of the Spark is going to feature Planeswalkers. Not just that, it’s going to feature ALL of the Planeswalkers. One in every pack, 36 in all. “One in every pack “sets like Dominaria with its Historic card in every pack, Ravnica sets with their Guildgate in every pack or Unhinged with their premium card in every pack sell well. That’s why Unhinged sold well. Every pack had a contraption.

With a glut of new Planeswalkers, we’re bound to get some good ones, right? 36 is a lot and while there are bad to be same bad ones at uncommon, there are bound to be some good ones at rare. People are planning on them impacting every format and should they impact EDH, there are some cards we can use to stop the other players. A lot of them are good against Atraxa, also, which is nice. Here’s some anti-walker tech. If the card is usable in formats outside of EDH, I’ll be sure to mention that, also.

HATE

These are sort of weak metrics for what I consider to be a pretty decent card. Its “rarity” means it was in 2 decks and is therefore twice as common as a rare in the set like the $10 Meren, and it was in a Commander Anthology as well, so it will take some doing for this to move. It’s also not going down and the buylist price as showing signs of life for a minute. This is actually a terrific beating if you’ve ever resolved it but at 6 mana for a creature, people aren’t super thrilled about it. I’m not sure why. It’s not a 1/1, it’s frequently a 25/25 for 6 mana and you kill a bunch of walkers. If you’re buying In Garruk’s Wake but not this, get your act together. Also, if you’re running in Garruk’s Wake but not this, well you’re 6 times as likely to exist. This card’s good but I can’t make people discover it unless the Command Zone ever has me come back on the cast, and if they do, I’m talking about Acquire, not this.

Another bit of anti-walker tech has the benefit of being a card I saw people talking about. I don’t think any of this stuff is good but I do think people will try it and I think if you buy now, you can sell to the greater fools who notice the cards selling out. That’s not the best strat, but neither is using Thran Temporal Gateway to construct a 2-card combo where you play a Planeswalker that costs 2UW for 4 colorless.

This has the added benefit of being legal in Modern, unlike Thief of Blood. I don’t think that’s all that relevant, but Modern players are optimistic enough to think Stoneforge was getting unbanned and Faithless Looting was getting banned, so it’s possible they’re optimistic enough to buy into something like this. Realistically, a deck in Modern playing Walkers is playing Jace, Karn, Terferri or other Karn and odds are they aren’t letting you resolve a damn Aether Snap, but tech is tech. This also nukes tokens, which can really matter in a game of Magic, especially since it gets non-creature tokens, which matters in EDH. A little.

It’s not just black cards getting caught up in the fun, though.

Tragic Arrogance usually gets the nod because you can pick an artifact creature or artifact land as two of the modes and really hose them, but Cataclysm nukes Walkers entirely and leaves you with an angel with an aura and a sword, usually. People don’t like MLD much, but I don’t like Planeswalkers much, even the ones I do like.

Hex Parasite got a bump when Solemnity hit but it’s always been a pretty solid way to deal with Planeswalkers. It’s mana-intensive, but you get a power boost that could knock out a now-defenseless player and it’s reusable. I like it to keep counters off of my Decree of Silence, but I always liked that.

The EDHREC metrics on Anti-Walker cards are weak, and probably for a good reason. The ones that don’t do extra duty, like also wiping out tokens, or killing all creatures or wiping the whole board aren’t worth a spot in a deck. You won’t necessarily play against a walker, and a lot of spot removal just gets it. You should be playing Merciless Eviction regardless of whether Walkers see more play. But with terrible cards like Thran Temporal Gateway poised to go up in price, it doesn’t hurt to think about how to counter the incipient Walker uprising. Until next time!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: Number Crunch

Normally I have a few weeks’ worth of article ideas written out ahead of time but this time of year when there is a stretch between sets and nothing really has impacted EDH or other formats I pay attention to, the well starts to dry up. I’m not going to NOT write an article, so today we’re going to do a bit of housekeeping and get to a few smaller ideas that don’t warrant an entire article but will be nonetheless valuable to you. “Damn.” you’ll say as you finish reading this article. “That was mad valuable.” That’s the kind of thing you say. When you read an article such as this. A valuable one. Let’s get down to it, shall we? First of all, let’s do some pure number crunching with no analysis so I can look smarter than I am.

It’s The Remix To Ignition, Ravnica Mythic Edition

I have heard a lot of people say qualitative things about the planeswalkers from Mythic Edition but I haven’t seen much quantification. With that in mind, I am going to rank the 8 Mythic Edition Planeswalkers, first by the number of decks they are in on EDHREC and then by MTG Top 8. It’s too late to get a set of Mythic Edition but it’s not too late to buy single planeswalkers and you likely haven’t though about the amount of EDH play they get or you guessed at that amount. Here’s some fact action.

EDHREC Rankings

  1. Tamiyo, the Moon Sage (8,350)
  2. Sorin Markov (7,923)
  3. Dack Fayden (6,696)
  4. Ajani, Mentor of Heroes (5,519)
  5. Karn, Scion of Urza (1,238)
  6. Jaya Ballard (971)
  7. Domri, Chaos Bringer (123)
  8. Kaya, Orzhov Usurper (62)

MTG Top 8 Rankings

  1. Dack Fayden (2,647)
  2. Karn, Scion of Urza (1,302)
  3. Tamiyo, the Moon Sage (797)
  4. Ajani, Mentor of Heroes (471)
  5. Sorin Markov (96)
  6. Kaya, Orzhov Usurper (21)
  7. Jaya Ballard (15)
  8. Domri, Chaos Bringer (literally 3)

Average Ranking

  1. Tamiyo, the Moon Sage (2) (tie)
  2. Dack Fayden (2) (tie)
  3. Karn, Scion of Urza (3.5) (tie)
  4. Sorin Markov (3.5) (tie)
  5. Ajani, Mentor of Heroes (4)
  6. Kaya, Orzhov Usurper (7) (tie)
  7. Jaya Ballard (7) (tie)
  8. Domri, Chaos Bringer (7.5)

There are some very clear winners and losers here. It makes sense that two of the bottom-dwellers are the newest walkers – not only have they had the least amount of time to get used in EDHREC decks, Standard players haven’t even had that many events recorded by Top 8. Jaya Ballard is a very clear stinker here with much more time to get her act together.

The clear winners are probably surprising to everyone who assumed Karn would be a clear favorite. He’s used a lot in 60 card formats but his EDH appeal lags behind Sorin Markov, a planeswalker who tied him in the (unweighted, because how even would I begin to figure out how?) average ranking. Tamiyo and Dack are pretty clear favorites across formats and it seems like the 8 cards arranged themselves into tiers of sorts. Strong overall (Tamiyo and Dack), format-specific but quite strong (Karn, Sorin), average af (Ajani), not that useful (Kaya, Domri, Jaya). With 2 great walkers and 2 good ones, I would say it wasn’t a great buy although even with them flooding out copies, people got as many as they wanted people managed to resell later for more and boosters are still a thing. Next year, Hasbro will be avoiding the fustercluck that is their online store and using a special portal for stuff like this so expect it to be smoother. I don’t know if the Mythic Edition will be a buy next set but I do know that I like Dack Fayden’s metrics but not his art and I like Tamiyo’s both. One last thing – here they are ranked by TCG Player price.

  1. Tamiyo ($63.64)
  2. Karn ($56.16)
  3. Dack ($43.43)
  4. Kaya ($39.38)
  5. Sorin ($36.32)
  6. Domri ($31.60)
  7. Ajani ($25.60)
  8. Jaya ($15.39)

Jaya seems correct, Tamiyo seems correct, Karn seems OK, Sorin seems very wrong, Ajani seems pretty wrong, Dack seems pretty wrong, Kaya seems pretty wrong. Those prices are bound to shift some more so do with that info what you will. Tamiyo is also the best-looking card, don’t @ me.

Picks, Kinda

A twitter user who follows me (that helps me feel like answering a finance question) inquired today about Mana Maze – a card that’s in fewer than 500 decks on EDHREC. Don’t know what it does? You probably don’t.

So hey, that’s a pretty punishing card. It likely gets slotted into multicolored decks since you can’t play two Blue spells if you play this so that makes Blue angry, but this has uses. Zedruu, Blind Seer and Zur decks are the primary users of this card. The metrics aren’t great, but this is a hell of a hoser. It made me want to look at a few other cards that I think are underutilized and are in a set where a rare card used in EDH goes for upwards of $5 the way EDH cards from Invasion do if they haven’t been reprinted. These are one appearance on Game Knights away from popping off.

This is a pet card of mine but I think it’s solid. It’s a Bribery half the time and can deprive them of combo pieces or just snag a big mana rock. There are lots of uses for this card and 2,892 is respectable.

Also, this is a thing. The card is like $6 on Card Kingdom and for a promo version, that’s reasonable. The art is better, it’s more rare and it’s a good premium version for people who don’t like foils. It also features Dack Fayden, which people like.

Compare the inclusion numbers on those last two cards to this one. This isn’t played in 60 card formats at all, unless it gets play I haven’t seen in casual Magic but this isn’t a very casual card. For whatever reason, this card is “known” price-wise but cards with similar metrics haven’t popped price-wise yet. It’s a puzzle.

Another card I hadn’t check in on in a few years is Painful Quandary, which is a really brutal card. Since it’s possible to sort by set and inclusion numbers in EDHREC, why not look at the cards next to Mana Maze, Acquire, Overburden and Painful Quandary in their respective sets and see if anything looks “off.”

These are both used less than Mana Maze but are worth more. Also, Tectonic Instability is DIRTY and no one uses it. People don’t like when people mess with mana but the people who mess with mana aren’t really using the tools available to them, which is odd. Anyway, that seemed noteworthy.

Used less than Acquire, has inflated inclusion numbers due to the precon effect and has a reprint. Funny what the Travis Woo effect can do to stupid cards.

The only non-Mythic rare used less than Painful Quandary but worth more in Semblance Anvil and that’s because of Modern. Also, no non-reprinted card used more is worth less. Nothing seems confusing in Scars.

This set sucks, lol. No surprises here, although if you didn’t know Keldon Firebombers was real money and Citadel of Pain is in bulk that gets shipped to you, that’s worth knowing.

You should go through sets on EDHREC yourself and see how many surprises you run across.

That does it for me this week. Join me next week for a complete topic. Until next time!

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