Category Archives: Money Ramp

Money Ramp with Zack Alvarado

ADVERTISEMENT:


Trade Habits: Prerelease Buylists

Beck // Call. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.

Though it seemed as if Gatecrash’s prerelease was no more than a few weeks ago, this weekend signaled the launch of Dragon’s Maze prerelease events nationwide. As always, vendors and local gaming stores alike had their hands full while organizing and running these events. A lot of coverage around last weekend’s prerelease consisted of favorite draft picks, and set-constructed evaluations. I’ll spare you the common banter that’s excessively splashed about in the wake of a new set release and get down to the point I care about most: makin’ that cash money via proper trade habit; particularly, arranging profitable buylists as an event organizer.

Preparing for a prerelease, from the perspective of an event organizer, can be stressful; perhaps even overwhelming at times. There are many variables that need to be calculated and allocated properly for an event to run smoothly: availability of products, seating limitations, competent judges, timing between flights, adequate air circulation, etc. So, those are the basic components of running a successful event – but what about a profitable one?

Besides the obvious profits drawn from sales of food, drink, accessories, and entry fees, what are good ways for event organizers to profit during prerelease events? The answer is painfully apparent for those of you who haven’t guessed already: create a buylist for the new set. Consider every large TCG superstore – like CFB, SCG, T&T, ABU – do they not buy new set cards at their prerelease events? Yes, yes they do! However, some of these vendors do not post buylists online prior to set release; I assume this is done to avoid clutter of their postal operations and to allow their employees maximum focus while gearing up for the release.

Creating a buylist that won’t net you investment loss seems like a simple task, perhaps. I assure you, there is a considerable amount of complexity when deciding what types of offers one should make when designing a buylist. Understand that pre-order prices are speculative and predominately based on consumer demand/impulse, rather than on market saturation, competitive application and non-fiscal consumer availability (barter/trade). There has been no amount of competitive play with these cards to solidify their price tags. Many of these cards will flat-line in price after 2-3 weeks after set release. For instance, look at Duskmantle Seer from Gatecrash – his preorder price on SCG was $19.99 on Feb 1st, but dropped to $5.99 on March 1st – the card lost 70% value in only a month. Even if you had bought the card for $10.00 (50% of the pre-order price), you would still lose $4.00 (-40% ROI) for every copy that you were unable to sell within 4 weeks.

ADVERTISEMENT:


Duskmantle Seer as of May 1st, 2013.
Duskmantle Seer as of May 1st, 2013.

To avoid losses of 40%, one really needs to do their homework. I have a general system for buying cards, it goes as follows:

Cash Value Payout Calculation
$5-10 50% $ x 0.50 = Payout
$11-15 55% $ x 0.55 = Payout
$16-20 60% $ x 0.60 = Payout
$21-25 65% $ x 0.65 = Payout
$30+ 70% $ x 0.70 = Payout


My system is solid and brings me great turnaround sales every week. However, these are cards that have been played, battle tested so to speak, and because of this their values are respectably steady. When gearing your buylists for prereleases, always remember that most cards flat-line and lose about 20-30% on average in value. Unless you can resell the stock you acquire within 2 weeks of release, make sure to accurately inventory the cards you purchase and set limits for each. Avoid 99% of commons and uncommons, go for the throat first and worry about the scraps later; chasing rares and mythics is where the money is.

Always take the time to familiarize yourself with new cards by looking at the set spoilers online. Do your best to identify the cards that will see play within multiple formats, or redefine a single format – acquire as many of these cards as possible! As for the remaining cards in the set, aim for a playset or two of each. So, now you know what you’re hunting for; it’s time to arrange the pricing. As I said before, the system of buying that I provided does work well, but not with prerelease singles. My rule of thumb is to offer 50% presale price for any card at prerelease. If I speculate that the card is going to rise, I may offer upwards of 70% for certain cards such as Voice of Resurgence. Some losses are hard to foresee (Duskmantle Seer), but limiting the amount you buy of ‘iffy’ cards can really pay off in the long run. I get all of my pricing information from MTGprice.com – as it averages the market cost across multiple vendors to provide the most accurate price. Below is a copy of my buylist for Dragon’s Maze. Feel free to print it out as a cheat sheet/quick reference when buying cards at your LGS, or from friends!

Zack’s Dragon’s Maze Buylist
Aetherling  $   3.00
Advent of the Wurm  $   3.00
Beck // Call  $   1.50
Blood Baron of Vizkopa  $   5.50
Blood Scrivener  $   4.00
Boros Battleshaper  $   0.50
Breaking // Entering  $   1.50
Catch // Release  $   0.50
Council of the Absolute  $   3.50
Deadbridge Chant  $   1.50
Dragonshift  $   0.50
Emmara Tandris  $   0.50
Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch  $   1.50
Flesh // Blood  $   1.00
Gaze of Granite  $   1.50
Lavinia of the Tenth  $   1.50
Legion’s Initiative  $   5.50
Master of Cruelties  $   3.50
Maze’s End  $   0.75
Melek, Izzet Paragon  $   0.75
Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker  $   0.50
Notion Thief  $   2.50
Obzedat’s Aid  $   1.50
Plasm Capture  $   2.50
Pontiff of Blight  $   0.50
Possibility Storm  $   0.50
Progenitor Mimic  $   2.50
Putrefy  $   0.50
Pyrewild Shaman  $   1.00
Ready // Willing  $   0.50
Reap Intellect  $   1.50
Render Silent  $   1.50
Renegade Krasis  $   0.50
Renounce the Guilds  $   0.75
Ral Zarek  $ 15.00
Ruric Thar  $   2.00
Savageborn Hydra  $   3.00
Scion of Vitu-Ghazi  $   0.50
Sin Collector  $   0.25
Sire of Insanity  $   2.00
Skylasher  $   1.50
Tajic, Blade of the Legion  $   1.50
Trait Doctoring  $   0.50
Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts  $   1.00
Varolz, the Scar-Striped  $   3.00
Voice of Resurgence  $ 14.00
Vorel of the Hull Clade  $   1.00
Warleader’s Helix  $   0.50
Zhur-Taa Ancient  $   0.50

I hope this list helps you throughout the week, and especially on Friday when Dragon’s Maze releases.

ADVERTISEMENT:


Weekly Finance Tip:
[Beck/Call is one of DM’s biggest sleepers. I hope you held onto your Modern elves as I advised last month!]

Until next time,

Zack R. Alvarado
zackalvarado@gmail.com
Twitter: Rh1zzualo

Track your collection's value over time, see which cards moved the most, track wishlists, tradelists and more. Sign up at MTGPrice.com - it's free!

ADVERTISEMENT:


Please follow and like us:

Monday: Money Ramp with Zack Alvarado

Scents of the Trade: Part 2

Last week I began writing the first part of this mini-trilogy which focuses on avoiding bad trade habits; my second installment in the series for MTGPrice.com focuses on the market of foil singles. If you’re truly hungry, like I am, you’ll take the time to sniff out your local market’s needs and cater to your peer players, make yourself part of the store, and make yourself well known. Your local market as a whole is comprised from a pool of other players whose needs and wants can vary drastically from each other; so how does one effectively assess the cards that are desirable within their MTG scene? There are a few approaches to doing so that I will further discuss.

High Market. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.
High Market. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.

Segmenting your market into different customer bases is quite simple once you understand how to do so. Begin by determining the largest demand within your store, and cater solely to that. This focus can range from promotional cards, to Elder Dragon Highlander (EDH) foils, to format staples for Vintage, Legacy, Modern, and Standard (the most common approach). Whatever the largest demand is at your LGS, find it and use it to your advantage.

A niche that I’ve strongly profited from lately is the EDH foil market – not many players stock these cards, but just about every other player with an EDH deck wants something that I have in a binder. Foils, in general, are a bad niche to invest in – I would advise weekend traders and players to stray from acquiring a robust binder of foiled cards. Certain cards, however, are extremely profitable when compared to their non foiled counterparts, as well as other foils on the market. Below is a list of foiled EDH cards that I have traded or sold within the past few months, as well as their normal and foil prices, rounded to the nearest dollar, for the sake of contrast.

Name

 Normal

 Foil $ Diff

% Diff

Vindicate  $    28.00  $    93.00  $    65.00

332%

Jhoira of the Ghitu  $      6.50  $    32.00  $    25.50

492%

Rishadan Port  $    40.00  $  240.00  $  200.00

600%

ADVERTISEMENT:


Karmic Guide  $      8.50  $    80.00  $    71.50

941%

High Market  $      6.00  $    61.00  $    55.00

1,017%

Reya Dawnbringer (invasion)  $      5.00  $    60.00  $    55.00

1,200%

Rhystic Study  $      1.25  $    23.00  $    21.75

1,840%

Merchant Scroll  $      1.50  $    28.00  $    26.50

1,867%

Teneb, the Harvester  $      1.00  $    23.00  $    22.00

2,300%

Goblin Matron (7th)  $      1.00  $  112.00  $  111.00

11,200%

There are many more foil cards that are heavily sought within the EDH market, and most are safe areas of investment. While money can be made in Modern and Standard foils, profit margins are small and detrimental volatility is high. To briefly illustrate this point, let’s examine some of the most sought after cards from the new set, Gatecrash. When Aurelia, the Warleader hit the market nearly 2 months ago on Feb. 1st, the foil price was $49.99 on Starcitygames; today, the cost for a foil Aurelia from SCG is only $34.99 – a loss of 30%. Similarly, when Gideon, Champion of Justice was released on Feb. 1st, the foil cost $69.99 through SCG, but now only costs $21.99 from the same site – a staggering loss of nearly 70%!

Cornering a portion of your local market is difficult without acquisition power; so, if you lack enough capital to obtain a stockpile of niche foil singles, a different approach may be better suited. An easy way to turn your extra cards into money is by simply asking other players what they are looking for. I know this sounds elementary, and it is; but chances are you actually have a card that somebody else wants to buy or trade for, and you have to inquire to find out. In the event that another player is looking for a card you don’t own, ask them what they value the card at; then go trade for it, and come back to cash out!

That’s all for now, make sure to check back next week for my final installment in this series: why not to trade eternal format staples for standard cards.

 

Weekly Finance Tip:

[Hang onto your Windbrisk Heights, Rise of the Hobgoblins and Modern Elf cards – I expect all of these to steadily increase by a near 20% within the next month or two]

Until next time,

Zack R. Alvarado
zackalvarado@gmail.com
Twitter: Rh1zzualo

P.S. Franny, this one’s for you brooo!

Please follow and like us:

Scents of the Trade – Part 1

by Zack Alvarado

Junk Diver. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.
Junk Diver. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.

Across the web, you can locate many different columns and articles filled with endless salvos of financial advice regarding Magic the Gathering investment ploys and tactics. Amongst all of the fluff, however, is very little – if any – advice about what not do to and how to avoid being burned by bad investment maneuvers. Surely I could put my trade-formula on paper for you to take note of and apply, but I’ve no interest in sharing my homework (at least not for free). However, I am much more willing to share the investment practices that I avoid making; as opposed to the trade-secrets that have continued to feed me. Beginning with this week, I will write a 3 part mini-series about avoiding bad trade habits.

  • Bad Tactic to Avoid #1: Buying bulk lots (Today)
  • Bad Tactic to Avoid #2: Buying chase foils (3/25/13)
  • Bad Tactic to Avoid #3: Trading non-standard cards for standard cards (4/1/13)

Let’s jump right into things and discuss why you should avoid the first bad tactic of buying bulk lots. In general, bulk lots are a great starting point for new players – but that’s where the most value exists: amongst players without large pools of cards to select from; players who’ve been collecting for years tend to have a versatile assortment of readily playable cards, with no need to purchase a bulk lot. Assume I purchase a lot of 200,000 cards for $5,000.00, and want to resell them; the average LGS’s boxes of singles are priced: $0.10 per common, and $0.25-0.50 per uncommon; if I bought 200,000 cards for $5,000.00, I would pay $0.025 per card. Now, if I could sell each card for $.05 (half of the average common price) then I would make $10,000.00 – a return on investment of 200%! But wait, that’s a horrible plan; even if I stand to double my money, I have to consider the amount of time and energy I would need to spend in order to look through the cards – as I assume there are some worth $1-$5 in the bunch, and want to ensure I’m not losing any money when selling them for 0.05 each. Moreso than the effort I must exert to rummage through a fifth of a million cards, I have to worry about the amount of time it will take me to sell these cards; if I manage to sell 10 cards to each person who purchases from me, I still need a total of 20,000 sales before they are all gone – seeing the bigger picture? Good, because my time is valuable, and I hope that you believe yours is as well.

It’s my experience in the long run, that buying bulk lots is a bad investment habit; this doesn’t mean that money can’t be made from bulk lots, but rather that re-selling bulk lots is a bad plan for profit. If you find yourself sitting on plenty of spare commons and uncommons that you’ve multiple playsets of, or never intend on using in decks, then it’s time to make some extra gas and lunch money – here’s how (ok fine, I’m sharing a small personal tactic): organize your extras by rarity first (commons & uncommon), then organize them by color, and then finally organize them by format (vintage, legacy, modern, standard); buy a few 500 count and 1000 count boxes; fill a box of cards with uniform rarity, color, and format – then mark it for sale (1000 Standard Red Commons for $20). I charge $10 per 500 commons, and $10 per 100 uncommons. These bulk boxes bring in steady money for me, and clear my storage space – I can’t complain one bit.

If you catch the scent of a bad investment model, don’t bite down; instead, evaluate how to apply relative business principles within your frame of access, in order to maximize inventory turnover and ultimately, to ‘freshen the scent’ for customers. Well how exactly do you go about ‘freshening’ the appeal of bulk lots? Simple – don’t pick out every card with relative value: nobody wants to purchase bulk Grizzly Bears and Stone Rain with assorted basic core land. I’m not advising that you spice up your bulk boxes with Sensei’s Divining Top or Remand, but, small things like Mana Leak, Rampant Growth, Shock, Terror, and Holy Day are dirt cheap and appealing to casual players. For the record, ‘casual player’ is not synonymous for ‘drooling troglodyte’ – if you want somebody to bite on your offer, make it smell better: stacking garbage onto a garbage heap adds zero definition and increases the stench. This will conclude my weekly entry for MTGPrice.com. I thank you for reading, and hope that you’ll return next week to check out the 2nd article of this series!

 

Money Ramp Weekly Tip:

[Stock up on Kessig Wolf Runs, these things are flying off of shelves!]

 

Until next time,

Zack R Alvarado
zackalvarado@gmail.com
Twitter: Rh1zzualo

Please follow and like us:

Monday: Money Ramp with Zack Alvarado

How Do You Brew?

Aphetto_alchemist
Aphetto Alchemist. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.

When it comes to “rogue decking,” how exactly do you brew? And no, I’m not talking about logging onto mtgtop8.com, searching rogue builds, and tweaking the tech to contend with your local meta – I’m talking about sitting down, fortressing yourself with a collection of cards, and wildly applying critical thought to develop a new, potent recipe; much like a seasoned cocktologist, surrounded by liquor, herbs, syrups, and juice – everything must be in the right place, with the proper amount added, or surely it’ll be bitter (pun). To ensure a good blend, take into consideration factors such as mana curve, land base, play style, and, most importantly, the to-beat metagame.

So, where to begin? Do you pick a color scheme to build around, i.e. Bant? Do you select a single card? Do you choose your favorite guild? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you’re more than likely a casual player who has never experienced the headache that is home brewing for a serious competition – and there’s nothing wrong with that. Sure an ‘Orzhov’ deck, or an ‘Aurelia’ deck are neat, but they don’t match up with tier 1 builds, and this is where many casual players fall short: they try to tune their casual decks for competition and ruin the fun of a good deck. Make note which of your builds are just for fun, and which are tournament contenders; this should help you decide where your time and money are best channeled.

Starting a brew from scratch is simple: the goal is to create a unique and powerful deck that nobody at your tournament is prepared to deal with. If you intend to tweak a current build, like Naya Humans, expect plenty of your opponents to have sideboard answers such as Blind Obedience & Rolling Temblor. Instead, look for pinholes in your competition and magnify them. Do not hesitate to mainboard the usual sideboard tech if it makes sense. Roughly 80% of my Modern meta is using some variant of aggro (mostly tribal), so I mainboard Ghostly Prison in my White Weenie deck to slow down opposing aggro. But why stop with one card? Why not design a deck to maneuver through your entire meta with impunity? Add plenty of combo-counter, an unpredictable win condition, and multiple layers of protection; now that sounds solid, in theory, but what does that look like on paper? Allow me to share a rogue-build of my own that I’ve been fine-tuning for the last three weeks; it’s far from perfect, but I believe that it illustrates the breadth and depth that goes into a strong brew.

 

My Cup Overfloweth

Walkers: 4
4x Jace, Memory Adept

Creatures: 17
1x Griselbrand
3x Thragtusk
3x Duskmantle Guildmage
3x Crypt Ghast
3x Arbor Elf
4x Vampire Nighthawk

Other Spells: 17
1x Army of the Damned
1x Increasing Ambition
2x Underworld Connections
3x Mind Grind
3x Farseek
3x Chalice of Life
4x Killing Wave

Land: 22
1x Alchemist’s Refuge
1x Nephalia Drownyard
2x Hinterland Harbor
2x Woodland Cemetery
4x Breeding Pool
4x Overgrown Tomb
4x Drowned Catacomb
4x Watery Grave

The functions of this deck are simple: gain tons of life and ramp hard. Seems easy enough, right? Exactly, it is – and it works. Why? Because of what we do with that extra life and mana. So what do we do? Well let’s start with the primary win conditions. First up is Chalice of Life. This artifact gains us life, which not only contributes to its transformation, but restores life spent on our Killing Waves, Underworld Connections and Pain Lands. The transformation of this card is so powerful!

chalices
Chalice of Life / Chalice of Death. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.

It may seem as if getting to 30 life could take awhile, but with the help of Griselbrand, Thragtusk, Vampire Nighthawk, and Crypt Ghast’s Extort ability, it’s rather easy. Once at 30+ life, you can gleefully tap away your Chalice of Death, inflicting 5 points of damage every time. Now for our second win condition: Duskmantle Guildmage! With so much mana ramp between Crypt Ghast, Arbor Elf, and our ‘Swamps’, it’s not difficult to cast a large Mind Grind, mill 10+ cards, and kill your opponent with Guildmage’s effect. Speaking of milling 10+ cards, Jace, Memory Adept is a huge threat for damage when paired with Duskmantle. Our third win condition is sweet and simple: cast Army of the Damned and rawr-smash-face with tons of zombies. And finally, the obvious and brutish win condition here is to mill your opponent’s deck to 0 with Jace, Guildmage, and Drownyard.

Beyond multiple win conditions, this deck offers a lot of tech; most of which has great synchronicity with other cards in the build. At first glance, it’s easy to spot TONS of life-gain, but after a second and third look-over of the list, you’ll notice that there are many outlets to spend that life to gain an advantage: Griselbrand, Underworld Connections, Killing Wave, and Pain Lands all cost us life at some point in the game, but provide great trade-offs. If you’re running low on cards, Griselbrand and Underworld Connections are there to refill your hand, so that you can keep on digging for your kill – though Griselbrand can be a win-con all by himself. If you find yourself being pressured by aggro, cast Killing Wave and watch the tides turn as mid-game approaches: aggro players tend to pay the life, only to get bricked later by Nighthawks and Thrags that quickly overwhelm the field and expand the gap between life totals. Killing Wave also gets around hexproof (to an extent), and pressures decks that aren’t overly concerned about board wipes (like BWR Aristocrats). Increasing Ambition is a small piece of tech that offers crucial assistance, such as: grabbing a Thrag to help transform Chalice; grabbing a Mind Grind or a Jace to finish milling; or grabbing Army of the Damned to overrun your opponent. Our final piece of tech in this build is Alchemist’s Refuge; with so much mana at our disposal, this baby is affordable and attractive. Casting a Chalice and transforming it before your upkeep is AMAZING; so is flashing in a Nighthawk or a Thragtusk at the end of your opponents turn, or as a blocker. Versatility is the fruit of the land, and this deck has plenty.

Thank you for reading my ramblings of brewing; hopefully you’ve gathered something beneficial from this, even if elementary. I apologize for the lack of financial content, but I wanted to explore a topic that in a very unnoticeable way, redefines the prices within our market. All it takes is one weekend of some rogue brew to top a GP, for a card like Craterhoof Behemoth to skyrocket in price. This will conclude my weekly installment for MTGPrice.com.

 

Money Ramp Weekly Tip:

[Sell off your Boros Reckoners before the weekend is over]

 

Until next time,

Zack R Alvarado
zackalvarado@gmail.com
Twitter: Rh1zzualo

Please follow and like us: