When Times Are Tough

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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Pro Trader: Public Lair

Readers!

Last week I did some minor number-crunching with sets using Dawn Glare data and I think we can add to that article without rehashing it, which means I can cut to the chase and give you the sweet, sweet picks you crave. This is an excellent time to go back and read that article because I am going to act like you read it. I’ll wait.

I’m sure you read it last week, but thanks for refreshing your memory. Last week (or 10 seconds ago) I hypothesized that War of the Spark had a lot of growth potential once recency and pack availability stopped enforcing the box price. With a lot of cards above bulk but not a ton above $10, there was a lot of potential for growth in a lot of cards, and War of the Spark has a lot more valuable uncommons than a lot of sets. Let’s look at those tables again and see if there are other sets we should dive into as long as our hypothesis panned out. We may identify a set with a lot of potential before it blows up just by virtue of comparing…. well, made-up metrics I invented. That said, I’m using made-up metrics to determine which sets deserve a deeper dive, not which cards, so I don’t see a problem with using an untested method – that’s sort of our thing. Let’s begin.

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The Watchtower 03/10/20 – Banned and Restricted (and Suspended?)

Brawl: Golos, Tireless Pilgrim is banned.

Finally, the scourge of Golos has been ousted from Brawl. Finally, we can be free to brew inconsistent and janky Brawl decks without being beaten down by the five colour tyranny! Finally we can enjoy our Wednesdays again!

Just kidding, I’m afraid I’m not here to talk about Brawl. Once Upon a Time has been banned from Modern and Underworld Breach has been banned from Legacy – both perhaps relatively unsurprising but there were a lot of potential directions that Wizards could have taken with this announcement.

It was fairly clear since the printing of both these newly banned cards that their days were numbered, and certainly in Modern a LOT of decks were utilising Once Upon a Time. There’s also the notable lack of any bans in Pioneer – so how is all this going to shake things up?


Jace, Wielder of Mysteries (Stained Glass Foil)

Price today: $40
Possible Price: $70

Despite many people (myself included) being fairly certain that Dig Through Time was going to be banned in Pioneer, it didn’t happen. Dimir Inverter has solidly been the best deck in the format for a few weeks now, but Wizards chose not to do anything on the grounds that its non-mirror-match win percentage was only around 49%, also citing that there was “tremendous diversity” across the top decks at the three Players Tours.

This lack of a ban means that Inverter is probably going to remain the top dog for a while, and so prices of the cards in that deck are going to climb again (after the instability amongst ban fears). Jace, Wielder of Mysteries is always a four-of in the deck, providing card advantage whilst getting you closer to milling your deck out, as well as being a win-con in and of itself. Now that we’ve had the original printing, the JPN alt art and the stained glass Secret Lair versions of this card there are a fair few flying around, but supply is quite low on the stained glass copies.

Starting at $40 on TCGPlayer, there are only 22 vendors with copies and the price tag climbs with every listing. Whilst I still think that Dig Through Time’s days are numbered in Pioneer, for the time being I think that Jace is a good pick-up for a shorter hold time (say 6 months perhaps), to get to $60-70. He’s also backed up with considerable EDH demand (over 10k decks listed on EDHREC), and we know that EDH players love their foils.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that supply on the JPN alt art foils is practically non-existent, so a quick flip could easily be available on those versions too.

Arclight Phoenix

Price today: $6
Possible price: $15

Arclight Phoenix is a card that has proven itself across Standard, Modern, Legacy and Pioneer since it was printed in Guilds of Ravnica, but has since fallen far from its peak. Once a $30 card, the Modern Phoenix deck took a tumble when Faithless Looting was banned, and has popped up here and there since then but not put up many consistent results.

However, I don’t think that it would take much to get the deck going again, either in Modern or Pioneer. There are still plenty of free/cheap spells in Modern and Treasure Cruise is still legal in Pioneer, and with the Pioneer metagame shifting away from Lotus Breach it means that there will be fewer Damping Spheres hanging around in sideboards to slow Phoenix down.

I think that $6 is almost certainly the floor for this card, and if (or when) the deck gets going again they will be snapped up in playsets and disappear quickly. It might be a slightly longer hold on these but Wizards won’t just stop printing cheap cantrips any time soon, so think about grabbing these at their floor and waiting.

Ox of Agonas (EA Foil)

Price today: $20
Possible price: $40

I talked a little bit about Modern Dredge in an article back in January, and here we are again. Dredge is still doing what Dredge does, and quietly putting up solid finishes in both paper and online tournaments every week. Dredge pilots tend to stick with the deck through thick and thin, making the likelihood for them to pimp out their decks all that much higher.

So onto the Ox: when it was previewed for THB it seemed like a pretty clear cut to make it into Dredge, and lo and behold it’s always showing up as a 2-of in the deck. Turns out ‘draw 3’ (read: Dredge a million) stapled to a 5/3 is pretty good!

I was quite surprised when I went over to TCGPlayer to have a look at EA foil Oxes (Oxen, probably?), to find that the lowest NM foil is at $20 and there are only 41 listings total. The price ramps up to $30 before long, and $40 isn’t too far off either. There aren’t going to be many more of these entering the market now and it seems all too reasonable for Dredge players to be picking these up for their decks, so I can see these drying up and making $40 inside 12 months.


David Sharman (@accidentprune on Twitter) has been playing Magic since 2013, dabbling in almost all formats but with a main focus on Modern, EDH and Pioneer. Based in the UK and a new writer for MTGPrice in 2020, he’s an active MTG finance speculator specialising in cross-border arbitrage.

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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