Six Months of Predictions, for Auld Lang Syne

It’s the New Year, people! Time for reflecting on how the year went, what worked and what didn’t work. For me, in this space, that means it’s time for a dose of honesty, for soothing my ego and for teaching me humility.

I’ve written about how I want to change how I choose my specs, for reasons that will be reinforced today. I want to buy cards with a reason beyond ‘It’s a staple that got cheap.’ I want to anticipate moves, commanders, new decks. So let’s dive into cards I said were worth some of your money, and what I was right about, and what I was wrong about.

On MTG Fast Finance, we do a review of our picks, and I do that here as well. Today, we’re looking just at cards I called out in the first half of this year, as the more recent things haven’t had time to shine up yet. 

On February 10, I said you should sell the hell out of Mercurial Spelldancer, as it was going for $11 early based on some great Legacy interactions.

It doesn’t take a galaxy brain to sell cards early, but holding too long is an extremely common error in this realm. When the price is hot, get out. This is also an excellent demonstration of how most rares go, even new ones. If it’s not picked up by multiple formats quickly, then it’s headed to the bulk bin.

A week later, I looked at the Pro Tour that was coming up and told you to be ready on Indomitable Creatvitiy, at the time $15 or so for the nonfoils. Within a month, thanks to the PT, it had doubled to $30. I told you to sell into the coming hype, and I hope you did, because you needed to be out before the end of summer:

Currently $6, and still no reprints! It’s a great graph that shows yet again why you need to sell right away and not get too greedy. If you bought at $15, and it hits $30, you should be listing the card because metagames shift or reprints come along. It was a small-set mythic, and I understand why you’d want to hold out, but this is why we say to sell into hype: when the hype goes away, so does the value.

I also would not be in a rush to stock up on these. The combo has fallen out of favor in the current meta, and I’d be fine seeing the deck do well and buying up some $10 copies at that point. 

When we found out that The Ur-Dragon would be in Commander Masters, there were a couple of cards I called out on 2/26. I’ve been right that with new copies of His Eminence running around, there would be a lot more people building the deck and EDHREC bears that out, with The Ur-Dragon being a top 5 Commander for most weeks since its new printing.

In that same article, I said to buy Hellkite Courser at $40 in FEA and it is still $40. I think this is an attention problem, because there’s no Commander that the Courser fits better. I feel like a Secret Lair printing is due for this card, but we’ll see. 

In that same article, I pointed out Urza’s Incubator (Borderless foil) got as low as $15 nonfoil/$20 foil and is now trending upwards. If you bought at those lows, I would start to sell the copies you picked up, as we are now up to $30 for nonfoil and $40 for the foils. This is a premium card in typal decks and more copies are inevitably coming down the pipeline.Take your profits and get out.

On March 3rd, I told you to be aware of All Will Be One. I said it would fall a little further from its then price of $11 on 3/3, and it did, down to the $7 range before spiking hard in May. I hope you sold into that spike, when it hit $20, because now it’s available for around $11 again, but creeping upwards.

A week later, I wrote about Oil-Slick foils and had one of my biggest misses: Ichormoon Gauntlet was $35 and is currently just under $20. Ouch. Most of the others have gone down or stayed flat, but Solphim has gone up $10.

A case study followed after that on March 17, when I gave a series of picks about Tom Bombadil, who I felt was going to set some Sagas and Saga accessories into the stratosphere. Here’s the summary: 

Kiora bests the Sea God picked at $3 or $6 in foil, hit $17/$22 in July

Historian’s Boon was available for fifty cents in nonfoil EA, got up to $3 in July

Hex Parasite was called at $4 regular and $15 foil, went up to $9/$22 but didn’t get the predicted double up on the foil.

Resourceful Defense went $3 to $6, handy double up.

However, I was wrong about Hall of Heliod’s Generosity. It was $12 then, and with Tom’s release it perked up a little but is now $6. It’s still an extremely busted card for Tom, and I’m surprised the inclusion rate isn’t a lot higher.

After the first wave of March of the Machine previews, I made some predictions: 

I said wait on Faerie Mastermind when it was at $8, got down to $4, now $9.

I told you to buy Tribute of the World Tree at $3, it’s also now $9.

However, I must confront two very incorrect calls as well: Invasion of Ikoria, I said it would be $1 and it never went under $5. I also missed badly on Etali, Primal Conqueror, I didn’t see his Commander popularity or the combo/reanimator decks coming at all. Big ouchies.

With Aftermath, I looked at the Halo foils on 5/19, and my mistakes are best summarized as being too early:

Sarkhan Soul Aflame did indeed go under $50, can now be had for $25. Mega-oopsies.

Ob Nixilis at least went up by $10, but Training Grounds went down to $8 from $24.

Coppercoat Vanguard is indeed seeing some play, but every version is cheaper now than it was then. I just needed to be more patient.

Finally, on 5/26 I peeked back at Dominaria United. Sheoldred, the Apocalypse hasn’t caught a reprint or a ban yet, so all versions keep climbing and they aren’t going to stop until the reprint or the ban happens. It’s in lots of formats, though rotation in late 2025 might affect the price a little, that’s 18 months away!

I’m surprised that Leyline Binding has gone down in price, though it’s all over the place. If Up the Beanstalk had not been banned, perhaps it would have had a chance but the graph says that’s unlikely.

I hope this look back helped you as much as it did me. We’ve got to be honest and empirical, looking for trends and rules, so stay tuned for the next one of these!

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.

The Mana Math for Ravnica Remastered

Welcome back to another installment of Mana Math, where I take the numbers we’re given about a set and turn that into easy-to-understand information about how hard it will be to open the card you really want.

Ravnica Remastered has some awesome cards, including a whopping 64 cards that are serialized to 500 copies, and some retro frame shocks, plus outstanding anime art! Let’s get to the cards, and the odds, and all the numbers you want.

We’re told right out of the gate that you have a 1% chance of opening a serialized retro frame card. With 64 options, that’s 32,000 unique cards. If that’s 1% of the total Collector Boosters out there, then we know there’s approximately 3.2 million Collector Booster packs, or 266,667 Collector Booster boxes.

Keep that number in mind, because you can plug that in with the other numbers I’m going to give you, and we’ll know exactly how many copies of a card were printed.

A caveat: Our vendor partners and distributor sources have mentioned that orders for Ravnica Remastered are low. This represents both the potential for things to be more expensive, as less is ordered and opened, or for a glut of underpriced product to show up later in the year. There’s also the chance that Wizards destroys the leftover packs, as we saw with Modern Horizons 2 back in February:

One thing Wizards didn’t give us directly was a list of serialized cards. Serialized cards are all in the Retro frame this time around, and the ones that are specific to the Collector Booster are not counted. Here’s the list:

Serialized RaresSerialized Mythic Rares
Blazing Archon
Blind Obedience
Copy Enchantment
Spark Double
Tidespout Tyrant
Crypt Ghast
Infernal Tutor
Massacre Girl
Arclight Phoenix
Hellkite Tyrant
Krenko, Mob Boss
Legion Warboss
Mizzix’s Mastery
Birds of Paradise
Chord of Calling
Golgari Grave-Troll
Life from the Loam
Borborygmos Enraged
Deathrite Shaman
Lavinia, Azorius Renegade
Lazav, the Multifarious
Mindleech Mass
Niv-Mizzet, Parun
Prime Speaker Zegana
Rakdos, Lord of Riots
Savra, Queen of the Golgari
Sphinx’s Revelation
Stitch in Time
Tajic, Legion’s Edge
Teysa, Orzhov Scion
Tolsimir Wolfblood
Bottled Cloister
Chromatic Lantern
Illusionist’s Bracers
Pariah’s Shield
Seal of the Guildpact
Sword of the Paruns
Blood Crypt
Breeding Pool
Godless Shrine
Hallowed Fountain
Overgrown Tomb
Sacred Foundry
Steam Vents
Stomping Ground
Temple Garden
Watery Grave
Divine Visitation
Bruvac the Grandiloquent
Cyclonic Rift
Dark Confidant
Lord of the Void
Ilharg, the Raze-Boar
Utvara Hellkite
Guardian Project
Protean Hulk
Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice
Karlov of the Ghost Council
Master of Cruelties
Cloudstone Curio

I don’t know why they didn’t want to give us this list directly, but here you go.

Additionally, there’s a subset of cards that is available in retro frame but only in the Collector Booster, because they are not fun in Limited or are part of strategies that aren’t supported in the Draft Booster experience. Some of them I can totally understand, others are a bit more of a surprise.

These are NOT available in serialized versions. Sorry to disappoint the Thespian’s Stage and Maze’s End players.

CommonUncommonRareMythic Rare
Shambling ShellSphere of Safety Aetherize
Creeping Chill 
Shattering Spree
Perilous Forays
Wilderness Reclamation
Magewright’s Stone
Rest in Peace Gigantoplasm
Pack Rat
Supreme Verdict
Pithing Needle
Karn’s Bastion
Thespian’s Stage
Enter the Infinite
Niv-Mizzet Reborn
Maze’s End

In some sets, all the sweet versions can be distributed across multiple slots of the Collector Booster, but that’s not going to be the case with RVR. 

There are good cards in those other slots, but RVR Collector Boosters are going to be a very swingy experience and that last slot is going to make or break the pack. All the foils are there, and while some of the nonfoils should keep a price of a few bucks, my expectations are pretty low. 

We get a breakdown of that last slot:

Let’s get into what we can get here, and just how rare each of those is. 

Type/Rarity (# of options)Percent chance for any card of that categoryPercent chance for a specific card of that category# of CBs to open one specific card from that category
Traditional Foil Retro Frame Rare (51)55.2%1.09%92.39
Traditional Foil Retro Frame Mythic Rare (13)5.3%0.4%245.3
Traditional Foil Retro Frame CB Exclusive Rare (7)10.6%1.5%66.04
Traditional Foil Retro Frame CB Exclusive Mythic Rare (3)2.1%0.7%142.9
Traditional Foil Borderless Anime Rare (17)13.4%0.79%126.8
Traditional Foil Borderless Anime Planeswalker Mythic Rare (3)2.1%0.7%142.9
Traditional Foil Borderless Anime Mythic Rare (11)4%0.36%275
Traditional Foil Borderless Shock Land Rare (10)7%0.7%142.9
Serialized Double Rainbow Foil Retro Frame (64)1%0.0166400

This slot is going to have some wild variance, but remember that 65.8% of packs, or just about two out of three, will have a foil Retro Rare, not even a foil anime version of a card. If you add those rares in, you’re looking at nearly 4-in-5 packs (79.2%) and adding in shocks gets you to 86%. 

Mythics and serialized cards are present in this last slot for just 14.5% of packs, or just a little more often than one in 8 packs. The average CB box, with twelve packs, will have approximately 1.7 mythics. It’s not like mythics are the only things worth money, but Cyclonic Rift is one of the big upshifts to mythic, and having more of those would have helped the EV of these boxes.

The second-to-last slot, with nonfoil borderless anime cards or the shockland, is the best bet because of what it has, but at the same time, because there’s less options there’s going to be that many more of the cards. Let’s look at the specifics: 

Type/Rarity (# of options)Percent chance for any card of that categoryPercent chance for a specific card of that category# of CBs to open one specific card from that category
Non-foil borderless anime rare (32)52%1.625%61.53
Non-foil borderless anime planeswalker mythic rares (2)5.5%2.75%36.36
Non-foil borderless anime mythic rares (11)15%1.36%73.3
Borderless shock land rares (10)27.5%2.75%36.36

Now, let’s use that 3.2 million figure and say how many copies of a card will be printed, approximately. I find this useful when thinking of what the prices should be:

CardApprox # of copies totalCardApprox # of copies total
Retro Foil Steam Vents22,393Nonfoil borderless Steam Vents88,000
Borderless Foil Anime Utvara Hellkite11,636Nonfoil borderless anime Utvara Hellkite43,656
Borderless Foil Anime Chromatic Lantern25,236Nonfoil borderless anime Chromatic Lantern52,007

I yearn for the days when there was a clear and consistent ratio, but sadly, those days are gone. For some cards, the foils are 4x as rare as the nonfoils, and for others, it’s only 2x.

Finally, let’s get into some specific cards, and their drop rates.

Card/treatmentApprox. number of CBs needed to find one copy (approx.)
Retro Foil Tidespout Tyrant92.39
Retro Foil Bruvac the Grandiloquent245.3
Borderless Anime Foil Crypt Ghast 126.8
Retro Foil Watery Grave142.9
Borderless Anime Foil Cyclonic Rift275
Serialized Double Rainbow Retro Frame Steam Vents6400

Again, I hope you use these numbers to inform your buying plans. The highs on this set are going to be amazing, but there’s going to be a lot of Collector Boosters opened that contain chaff that wasn’t worth the pack. Opening packs is always a swingy experience, but that experience is going to be even more of a rollercoaster this time around. 

As always, if you have questions about my methods or results, please feel free to reach out on Twitter/X or in the ProTrader Discord. 

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.

Mobilizing the Soldiers for Commander Mustard

One of the products that’s being released on February 23, 2024, and slightly previewed, is the Ravnica: Clue edition, which is more than a reskin of the original board game. There’s components of that game, but it plays more like Magic, apparently. What we care about most is the mechanically unique cards coming with it, specifically this guy: 

A Soldier who gives all the offensive abilities AND can activate to give the Hellrider pings? And that can activate more than once? There’s a great deck to be built here, and more importantly, money to be made by getting in early on Soldier specs.

We often get a Commander deck with a lot of good reprints, but that doesn’t appear to be the case here. The ‘Explorers of the Deep’ deck came with an amazing number of good reprints, lords, and utility creatures that made it hard to profit off of the new decks being built. Since this release is confined to a board game, that doesn’t seem like it’ll be an issue but I wouldn’t be shocked if they did a Secret Lair Commander deck for each of the Clue legends.

Soldier decks haven’t had good options like the Commander. We have a lot of creatures that are legends who make Soldier tokens, but they don’t tell you to do the thing like Mustard does. There’s also more than a hundred legendary Soldiers, but none of them are focused on the creature type in the same way that Mustard is. The closest we have is Myrel, Shield of Argive, who is a Soldier that makes Soldiers and keeps you safe during your turn. 

Myrel will be an excellent addition to the Mustard deck. I would expect versions of her to rise nicely, especially as you can currently get copies for $12, maybe even closer to $10.

I also think there will be a lot of other Human Soldiers who get a bump here, and let’s start there: 

Catapult Master (cheapest version is currently $1, most expensive is $18) plus Catapult Squad (25¢ to $6) – These two Onslaught Soldiers have not gotten the reprint love one might expect, and the foils are poised to grow due to a tiny supply, even if the Squad is an uncommon. There are several ways to give all Soldiers vigilance, which makes both of these cards especially vicious. The Squad allows them all to attack, and at the first block, tap a bunch of tokens to blast that blocker into next week.

The nonfoils should see a modest bump, but my target would be the LP foils on TCGPlayer available in the $2 range. Those should give a very nice profit indeed.

Daru Warchief ($2 to $22) – There are more than a few Soldier lords, but giving the discount as well as the bump in power and toughness makes this a must-have. Again, foils are in very short supply because it’s been so long since they were printed, and all versions should rise up nicely.

Preeminent Captain ($1 to $15) – It’s a cheater of a card, especially because some of the truly busted Soldiers are hard on the mana, but here you go, dropping them into play, permanently, for the low cost of an early attack. In a Commander game, there’s usually some openings and then you’re way ahead. My target here are the M15 foils for 30% the price of MOR foils, because those prices should jump quite strongly.

Ballyrush Banneret (15¢ to $5) – We know mana rocks are good, but this will be a card whose foils jump hard once folks start building the decks. Please keep in mind the reduction happens just once, that Kithkin Soldiers won’t be reduced by two mana. This is a great way to get ahead, and start double-spelling very quickly.

Captain of the Watch (50¢ to $7.50) – This is another card with multiple foil versions, and one of them is a little cheaper so I’d go with the M13 copies instead of M10. Either way, this hasn’t had a foil in 11 years, which means that a new Commander wants all the attention. Easily one of the best things to cheat into play with the Preeminent Captain.

Field Marshal ($5 to $14) – A card that’s seen some ups and downs over the years, it’s a lord that gives a very powerful ability. At lowest power, it’s very difficult for you to attack in until you’ve cleared their Marshal away. The best pick here is the Secret Lair borderless versions around $6 for both foil and nonfoil. I generally like buying foils more, but the lower volume of nonfoils out there can make for very high gains.

Valiant Veteran (25¢ to $1.50) –  There is a whole lot of DMU out there, but this is a very good card for Soldier decks and with some foils being under a buck, you might get a great buylist opportunity here. Given the amount currently available, I’ll expect to see this rise some, but not very much.

Adeline, Resplendent Cathar ($6 to $30) – Adeline has proven to be a very good card and capable of doing very swingy things, especially when you’re attacking all three of your opponents at once. We know she’s good, powerful, and in this deck, highly synergistic. I’d imagine the regular copies will have a better return than the Double Feature foils.

Finale of Glory ($1 to $5) – Amazingly, none of the Finale cycle is in Ravnica Remastered, and while there’s a couple of good options for X spells making Soldier tokens, this is my favorite. Go ahead and grab a Decree of Justice or two as well, but the Finale foils at $5 or so are an excellent opportunity to gain in value once people start buying for this deck. This might get reprinted in MH3, so be aware.

Horn of Gondor ($1 to $35) – The original Foil Extended Art versions from the Sample Collector Booster are the expensive outliers here, but you can get EA Surge foils extremely cheap right now and they might be the best bet from all available versions. This is a truly ridiculous effect, that scale up very quickly and synergizes with basically everything in the deck. 

Militia’s Pride ($2 to $9) – Yes, you’re reading the card right: every nontoken Soldier that attacks, it’s one white mana to make a token who’s doing the same thing. It’s put into play tapped and attacking, so you can’t get the Commander Mustard extra ping out of the attack, but this is an easy way to crank your Soldier count quickly. I’d be stocking up on the nonfoils here because of the percentages. I think the nonfoils are more likely to go up 300% ($2.50 to $7.50) than the foils ($9 to $27). If the card had any sort of reprint, I would feel differently, but here we are, nothing new since 2007.

Mobilization ($1 to $14) – This is a bit trickier, because there’s Onslaught, Tenth, and a Commander 2014 printing putting a lot of copies out there in nonfoil. Tenth foils are a good median price, but personally, I can’t resist old border foils from Onslaught. 

Thousand Moons Smithy ($1 to $2) – You might not have noticed, but this makes beefy Golem Soldier tokens, and you’ll have the spare creatures to make this flip into the land. I don’t think it’ll go up too much, being brand-new and very available, but it should be in just about every Soldier deck.

And They Shall Know No Fear ($10 to $17) – Finally, one of the best typal protection spells around. Two mana to be good with any deck that focuses on one creature type, and we’ve seen Surge foils from this set go to some crazy prices indeed. I think I’d go for the surge foils here, hoping for the big score to $40 or $50.

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.

MTGFinance in the Era of Reprints

There is little question that Magic: The Gathering players, speculators and vendors are facing a new era in the game we love. Print runs, release schedules and reprint cadence are all up and competitive tournament support, sealed product prospects and Hasbro staff rosters are down. A community once dominated by Standard, Modern and Legacy players has now morphed into an EDH driven market surrounded by a double handful of smaller formats. Crypto hype echoes across the collectibles markets, exacerbating the boom and bust cycles.

Gone are the days when a Magic player could reliably sit on almost any sized collection of singles or sealed products and reasonably expect that the value of that cardboard treasure hoard would simply go up and to the right.

Instead we are forced to confront the simple fact that now, perhaps more than ever, the people that make the game we love are under significant pressure to make more and sell more, without much regard for the longer term consequences. In many ways we can lay this at the feet of late stage capitalism, as the obsession over revenue and profit growth leads to bonus chasing executives making decisions that help short term graphs without considering player growth, player commitment, or the health of the game.

And yet, if we intend to make and save money playing this game that we love, we must still find a way to navigate through. So what do we do?

Singles Aren’t Dead, But They’re Injured

There isn’t any way around it. Magic singles speculation is just more risky than it used to be, even when you do everything right. Sure, I’m having my best year ever for singles sales, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy or automatic.

WoTC is simply putting out more products, more often, and with a greater focus on premium sets and direct to consumer sales via the Secret Lair product line. This results in dozens of more reprints on key staples throughout the year. What’s more, even a recent reprint doesn’t necessarily guarantee that your spec will be left alone, as we’ve seen multiple examples of cards getting double tapped within the same calendar year.

As such, any given basket of intelligently selected staples can be expected, on average, to produce a lower margin than it did five or ten years ago. Does that mean that Magic singles are simply untenable for speculation purposes? Well, no, despite the talking heads that are making money generating content that will tell you otherwise .

The reality is that from any reasonable perspective Magic is in the strongest position it’s ever been. The shift to Secret Lair products cuts out most of the middle men, boosting profits. Overall revenues and profits are at all time highs, and the Lord of the Rings set was likely the best selling Magic product of all time, generating massive amounts of free press coverage as players rushed to find the precious. Partnerships with major entertainment brands via the Universes Beyond might dilute the narrative of the game, but it also expands the reach of the brand and pulls in fresh interest that otherwise seemed hard to reach. EDH is the king of formats, encouraging players to build massive collections and featuring a natural rotation of archetypes and a self-regulating power level.

And take it from someone that sifts through the data each and every week to see what’s gaining ground: there are simply hundreds if not thousands of relevant price increases on Magic singles every year even in the midst of the era of reprints. (And naturally, there are just as many cards that lose ground.)

There are new cards still in print that take off due to meta shifts. There are niche cards that get activated by the hot new commander of the month, providing a strong selling window that collapses a few months later. There are premium versions of cards that have plenty of printings that can shake off reprints as the best chase version available and accelerate when put under the spotlight. Smuggler’s Copter gets unbanned and turns into a rocket ship. Many Planeswalkers have simply never received a reprint at all, and with the recent narrative shift away from them in general, this trend is unlikely to reverse. Sol Ring gets infinite reprints, but the players still float the Masterpiece Invention version over $650.

There are also still plenty of cards that go 2-5+ years without a reprint, and another group that are simply unlikely to ever get a reprint for one reason or another. The simple fact is that as the card pool gets larger and larger, even the new reprint cadence cannot keep pace with the entire pool of staples and niche cards that are needed by players across multiple popular formats.

On the other hand, your bread and butter EDH staples are very likely to be kept in print in one form or another more or less constantly. Cards like Smothering Tithe, Rhystic Study and Doubling Season have to be assumed to be within a year of another reprint at any time and that absolutely impacts how you should approach their presence in your inventory.

Another major source of risk is power creep leading to prior staples falling out of a key meta like Modern. With a Modern Horizons set being delivered every two years at this point, and a generally high power level expected next summer in MH3, there’s a good chance that a card that seems like a good spec today will end up forgotten by next fall.

And yet, there are FAR more Magic cards worth more than $10, $20, $50 or $100 now than there have ever been, in large part due to the increase in premium treatments and lottery cards at distinctly low print runs. EV continues to drain from regular printings to premiums, resulting in solid access to key staples at lower prices that no player should complain about. The singles market is far from crashing, but it’s a different beast for sure.

All of this adds up to a need to stay on top of things if you want to succeed.

Focus on Scarcity

The collectibles market has long pivoted on scarcity. To wit, the entire industry rides the tension between supply and demand, always trying to maximize profit by producing as much as possible without crashing the market and eliminating the demand. From comics, to beanie babies, retro video games, and 80s action figures to the dozen or more prevalent cards games that survive alongside Magic, Pokemon and Yugioh, there’s always a scarcity driven market to collect and profit in, and always a risk that it will all go sideways.

As such, it behooves us to pay close attention to what parts of the Magic product line are more scarce than others. Time Spiral Remastered, ONE Compleat Bundles, and 40k Premium decks all spring to mind as examples of sealed product that caught some folks flat footed and made others healthy returns on the flip.

You also have to watch for products where demand is so high it makes even high print run items seem scarce. The Lord of the Rings Collector Boosters were strongly profitable before the 1/1 ring was found, when sourced intelligently. Some of the forthcoming Marvel x Magic releases over the next few years may well behave in similar fashion.

On the other hand, there is little evidence that buying most Draft, Set or Collector Booster boxes for a long term hold is a good idea as very few are holding a price tag above their original retail lows. The shift to even more expensive Play Boosters in 2024 is unlikely to improve this scenario. And while I have heard rumors that CB releases are going to be more limited, I’ll believe it when I see it.  

Focus on Strong Art

One of the hallmarks of the Booster Fun era has been a strong commitment by WoTC to lean into alternative art treatments and work with world class artists capable of generating significant demand.

Some of the best examples of strong art leading to profit can be found in a carefully curated selection of Secret Lair releases. What do all of the below releases have in common? They far surpassed financial expectations because people simply loved the art and/or theme of the release. Plenty of Secret Lair releases do not achieve profitability in a reasonable time frame, but enough of them do that leveraging the frequent 18-30% discounts for mass ordering can often be a solid move.

Alternate art cards have also been some of the few things in the game to avoid specific reprint risk….so far. An Artist Masters set in 2027 wouldn’t surprise me at all, but until then, fantastic alt art cards are going to be one of the best bets for gains.

Overseas arbitrage

At present the JPN Yen is near historic lows against the US dollar, resulting in some fantastic opportunities to pick up relevant singles on the cheap. Many Japanese stores stock both English and Japanese copies of recent singles, so even if you aren’t comfortable selling Japanese cards on Ebay (a tactic I leverage regularly for strong profits), you can still stock your stacks. Shipping from Japan was very tricky due to COVID restrictions a couple of years back, but is now back to their typical quick and cost effective export options. While the largest stores will ship direct overseas, many of the best buys are found at smaller stores that only ship locally, so a domestic shipping address is very handy.

In terms of buying singles in Europe (eg on, your best exchange rates were in the fall of 2022 when the USD briefly overtook the Euro, but there are still some strong buys to be made at current rates when focusing on undervalued EDH staples on both continents.

In both cases, making a friend overseas to bounce ship your purchases is your best bet, though reshipping companies can also be used at lower margin.

Selective Buylist to Retail

If you don’t care to mess around with overseas shipping, you still have some solid opportunities to get cards cheap enough to add to inventory on home soil.

And though I don’t really expect the local LGS network to just disappear overnight as some naysayers seem to believe, there may well be a reduction in buylist strength both from major players and local shops as they struggle to adapt their business models to the shifting reality of vending this game. If those gaps appear, it may well be worth filling them by making public offers on Twitter, Facebook and Discord to scoop up cards.

A well run buylist doesn’t care if a card is $20 or $40, as long as it can be acquired at 50-65% of that price and sold again long before the next reprint cycle. TCGPlayer vendors have direct access to a common buylist on that platform, which can be an excellent option once you are in the trenches. But remember: in the era of reprints you want most of your inventory to be high velocity, because you never know when the next version will appear.

MTGO Against All Odds

Years after I thought it would be shuttered MTGO is still chugging along in the hands of a 3rd party, and the quick fire shifts in the online meta for Standard, Pioneer, Modern and Legacy on that platform are still leading to wild gains (and losses) for speculators that stay on top of things. The MTGPrice Pro Trader Discord maintains a channel specifically to address this market, but playing your format of choice on MTGO is also a fun and effective way to keep in the loop.

Inventory Maintenance

With reprints at a higher frequency, sitting on deck stock is more foolish than ever. Holding a stack of previously $10 first printing cards that dropped to $1.75 on three printings in three years? Get out now and repurpose the pennies into something more productive, because that rebound may never come.

Cracked a box of collector boosters and pulled a sweet serialized card on a week one? Sell it now at the market high, and if you really want it for a deck take another look in 6 months once the hype cycle has moved on.

Snapped off some 1st edition Lorcana in a sweet Pro Trader group buy? Sell into the hype before the market catches up and blows you out.

You’ve got to be nimble if you want to survive.

The Vendor Perspective

Many of the loudest voices heralding the death of the Magic economy are vendors and given their position at the center of that market, their voices are certainly worth paying attention to. No one who lives and breathes MTGFinance every day would disagree that WoTC, their vendors and the player base could all benefit from a better defined reprint policy that creates more space between key reprints.

That said, it is important to recognize that a lot of their comments are issued from a position of exposure from within an aging business model that no longer makes sense.

For years many major TCG shops prided themselves on keeping binders of every set published in stock at any given time. They bought at low buylist rates from folks that came to unload their decks or collections, and restocked the binders with the cards they took in. Very little was done in your average shop to measure sales velocity, time on shelf or card popularity trends as most singles weren’t even tracked individually at point of purchase. They knew next to nothing about the purchasing habits of their clientele and their in store merchandising was nothing more complex than placing products up on the shelf behind the counter and hoping they sold through in a reasonable time frame. Many failed to sell online or did so sporadically with weak marketing campaigns.

In short, they were running an inherently inefficient business that only got worse once sitting on a broad swath of buylisted singles for longer time periods got more dangerous. Slowly but surely, buying a $50 card at $30 started to look risky if the reprint would end up under $20. And once COVID lockdowns hit, many of the smaller stores with weak financials simply ended up in bankruptcy.

And yet, some smart and better financed operators have found success shifting into a “gamer’s tavern” model, taking on liquor and food licensing and higher overhead to operate very successful businesses with multiple revenue streams. CK owned Mox Boarding House, Storm Crow Manor and Snakes and Lattes all survived COVID and are thriving in various parts of key North American markets. FacetoFaceGames in Toronto and Montreal has ditched the binders in favor of select singles in their showcases and sells ice cream out the window all summer. Smart business evolves.

The Skeptic’s Scythe

At MTGPrice we strive to provide a rational, well informed and action oriented approach to MTGFinance, aimed at helping players and part-time vendors to minimize their costs and maximize their gains.

We will continue to draw attention to the best opportunities in the Magic market and adjacent markets via articles on this site, the MTGFastFinance podcast and our excellent Pro Trader Discord community.

And while we do our best to provide the very best in financial content, we encourage you, now as ever, to apply the skeptic’s scythe to our recommendations and discussions. Ignore two thirds of what anyone tells you might work and focus on the top third of your opportunities and you’ll end up with less dead stock and more acceleration. Apply the same rule of thumb to all such content from other sources, and combined with the strategies above, you’ll have the best possible shot to make and save money playing our favorite game, Magic the Gathering as the era of reprints continues.

James Chillcott is the owner of MTGPrice, Co-Host of the MTGFastFinance Podcast, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy art fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.