Money Ramp with Zack Alvarado

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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.

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:

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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.

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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.

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

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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Common Cents with Aaron Dettmann

All the cards from Dragon’s Maze have finally been spoiled. The new cards from Dragon’s Maze have enabled several two-card-combos that have significant potential in both the Standard and Modern formats. These cards may not fit into ready-made decks, but they are just waiting for a prospective deckbuilder to find the right fit for them to rise in value.

Beginning with Standard, we now have the Whispering Madness plus Notion Thief combo. When these two cards are played together, they add up to your opponent discarding their hand while you draw an abundance of cards. I think you can usually manage to win after achieving that. Right now Whispering Madness is at the low price of $0.68, so the entry cost to get in on this card is very low.

Whispering Madness as of April 23, 2013.
Whispering Madness as of April 23, 2013.

While it is debatable how tournament worthy this combo is, casual appeal alone should drive this card up to a few dollars at least. Other options besides Whispering Madness that also combine with Notion Thief are Reforge the Soul, if you want to dip into red, and Otherworld Atlas for double the card draw with no downside. These support cards that combo with Notion Thief are all under a dollar right now, so there is very little risk in speculating in these cards. Even if the price doesn’t go up, they should trade very well because of this combo, so you can just flip them into something else you want. If you want to use this combo in Modern, any symmetrical draw effect such as Howling Mine works well.

The next combo is best utilized in Modern, where we can take advantage of Intruder Alarm plus Beck and Call. When Beck was first spoiled, the price of Cloudstone Curio immediately shot up to $10.00. Intruder Alarm has the potential to follow that same rise, as it is not immediately apparent which combo piece the Modern Elves deck wants to use in conjunction with Beck. Intruder Alarm works better at creating massive amounts of mana, while Cloudstone Curio is better at drawing extra cards after Beck has been played. Whichever card (or maybe it will be both) ends up getting played in the Elves deck, I expect it will maintain a high value, as Elves was among the most powerful decks in Modern before Glimpse of Nature became banned.

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The last combo I’ll write about for today is Death’s Shadow plus Varolz, the Scar-Striped, to be used in Modern. With Varolz in play, any Death’s Shadows that are in the graveyard can be scavenged back to grant a permanent +13/+13 to a creature.

Death's Shadow as of April 23, 2013.
Death’s Shadow as of April 23, 2013.

One good aspect of Death’s Shadow is that you have control over whether you want to play it immediately to see it die for its scavenge counters, or to hold onto it to use as a big creature later on, depending on your situation. I could easily see these cards fitting into a Vengevine deck, along with all the other usual suspects.

One last note for now: Staff of Domination was just unbanned in EDH, so don’t forget to adjust your price accordingly when trading! The foil price, especially, has gone up.

Common Cents with Aaron Dettmann

Last week I talked about how better, more accurate pricing information provides an advantage when trading. This week I’ll talk about another method to utilize to get an advantage while trading.

A resource that has been very useful to me has been the ProTrader Daily Market Updates I get from MTGPrice. This daily email update lets me know which cards are rising (or falling) sharply in price, so I can join in on the buying action before all the stores realize the trend and raise their prices. In addition to a card price change update, the email also includes a card stock inventory update, which keeps track of various stores’ supply of a card. If the inventory supply of a card goes down by a lot, that’s a good indicator that demand is high and the price is likely to increase. This information is especially useful on Pro-Tour and Grand Prix weekends, as there are often brand new decks that employ previously overlooked cards that will rocket up in price.

One example of when I utilized the ProTrader Update was the weekend of Grand Prix San Diego (Modern format) on March 16th. I woke up on Saturday morning, checked my ProTrader Update email from MTGPrice, and saw this information staring back at me from amongst the cards of interest:

Percent Price Change of Ajani Vengeant Image and video hosting by TinyPic

I thought these numbers were interesting, as Ajani Vengeant had jumped up in price by almost three dollars, and risen by 50% of its value overnight. Next, I scrolled down to check on the Inventory Change of the card and saw this:

Percent Inventory Change of Ajani Vengeant Image and video hosting by TinyPic

This information let me know that the number of cards available to buy on the market had already been halved, and confirmed that demand for Ajani Vengeant had become very strong.

I was now very intrigued by this card, and clicked on the link to take me to the price graphs on MTGPrice, so I could see the history of what is going on with Ajani Vengeant. When I saw the graph, all the stores had kept their prices the same except for ChannelFireball, who overnight had more than doubled their price by raising it from $5 to $12. They alone were responsible for the increase in price on MTGPrice.com. Now remember, I received all this information on Saturday morning before even the first round of the Grand Prix had been played. Since ChannelFireball had drastically raised their price on Ajani Vengeant, I could deduce that the deck their team planned on playing that day both heavily utilized that card, and that they were very confident in their deck choice. The ChannelFireball team was convinced that they would do well at the Grand Prix, and since the new addition to their deck was Ajani Vengeant, they decided to preemptively raise the price of that card on their website.

Since I now knew that team ChannelFireball was going to play Ajani Vengeant at the Grand Prix, I had inside information to guide my buying decisions. When the ChannelFireball team has a deck that everyone on the team likes and plays, they usually get at least one person into the top 8 of that tournament. I put my trust in the team as well, and started buying up all of the Ajani Vengeants from the websites that still had them at low prices. I bought dozens of copies from stores at $3-$5 (depending on which version I bought), and have now sold most of mine away for $8-$10, a tidy profit of $5 per card, more than doubling the money I put into this investment.

The emails I get from the ProTrader Daily Market Updates are a great tool to keep me ahead of pricing changes on cards. As you can see from the example in this article, sometimes you can even figure out which cards pro players are going to use in their decks before the tournament even starts. Use all the information at your disposal to keep ahead of the change in prices.

Bonus PTQ tip:
I expect a lot of Turbo Fog decks in the online standard PTQ on Sunday; it has a terrific matchup against the current bogeyman of the format, Junk Rites. After Turbo Fog placed 2nd in last Saturday’s PTQ, I faced off against it three times in the PTQ the next day. In addition to that, this past week the best bow-tie-wearing magic player Roberto Gonzalez (9th place at Pro Tour Gatecrash) stated he was pretty sure he was playing Fog in the PTQ, and Todd Anderson wrote an article about the deck and played it in the PTQs himself last weekend. The best ways to beat the deck are with Skullcrack (completely dominates the card Fog) in conjunction with being faster than Turbo Fog can set up its’ defenses, discard (although Turbo Fog does bring in 3-4 Witchbane Orbs), or with Planeswalkers.

Common Cents by Aaron Dettmann

How better pricing information provides an advantage

Knowledge is power, as Sir Francis Bacon once said; in the world of magic finance, that means knowledge is money. Obtaining better information than most of the market means that you can take advantage of price discrepancies between stores, and utilize that knowledge to your advantage when trading, buying, and selling cards. One source that provides great information is this very website, MTGPrice.com; whether it be giving you more accurate pricing information than other individual card store websites, or providing ProTrader Daily Market Updates which clue you in on which cards are spiking in price so you can buy in before everyone sells out.

This week we’ll look at the importance of accurate pricing sources, and next week I’ll finish off this two-part series by discussing the ProTrader Daily Market Updates.

One experience I personally had with highly variable pricing between a store’s website and the actual worth of a card was with the card Emrakul, the Aeons Torn foil. Multiple people have asked how much I valued mine while trading, and I had always replied $50, since I had looked up the price on Starcitygames.com (SCG), and that was the relative price guide we were using. However, about a month ago I looked up the price again and realized SCG had that price posted while they were out of stock on the item. Curious as to what price eBay was selling them for, I looked over there and was surprised to discover that the cheapest listing was priced at $75. This difference in price was especially astounding because eBay usually has much cheaper prices than SCG. What’s more, the price has risen even more since then. As of this writing (March 27th), virtually all the stores are sold out of the foil Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Out of all the stores that MTGPrice.com provides pricing data for, the only places that have copies of that card in stock are TCGplayer and eBay. There are a mere three copies of a foil Emrakul, the Aeons Torn on TCGplayer ranging in price from $89-$100, and a lone, single copy on eBay priced at $90 (SCG is still out of stock, but has risen their price up to $60).

Now, I feel very lucky that none of my trading partners took me up on my $50 offer for my card; I was using poor pricing info, which caused me to undervalue my card. The lesson here is to be wary of prices when a store is out of stock of an item. Many stores don’t update their prices when they don’t have any copies of that card to sell. Using the Fair Trade Price found on MTGprice avoids this problem, since they compile their price using many different stores and only use prices from stores that have the item in stock.

Next week, I’ll conclude this two-part series, and discuss how ProTrader Daily Market Updates can let you know which cards are rising in price before all the stores adjust their prices accordingly.

MAGIC: THE GATHERING FINANCE ARTICLES AND COMMUNITY

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