Common Cents with Aaron Dettmann

A Season for Selling

Second Sunrise. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.
Second Sunrise. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.

Now is the time to sell off all of your Modern cards. Why, you may ask? Two reasons: the Modern PTQ season is near its end, and because Modern Masters will be printed soon.

Most people are aware of the ebb and flow of Standard card prices, rising as States and the Standard PTQ season approaches, and falling as the season finishes. This ebb and flow of prices holds doubly true for Modern, as there are a lot fewer tournaments outside of the PTQs to affect their prices. Virtually every card that has seen play in Modern has gone up in price since the end of summer, many by a significant amount.

Some examples of cards that have doubled or more in prices since the end of summer:

Even the all-star cards you haven’t regularly been hearing about have still gone up in price by a good amount. You would have still made a solid profit if you invested in cards such as: 

My point is that there were very few poor investments when buying Modern cards before the PTQ season started. You could pretty much choose whichever Modern playable cards you wanted to buy, and made a profit on them.

The other reason to sell off your Modern cards now, besides the fact that the PTQ season is nearing its end, is because Modern Masters is soon going to see print. Now, I acknowledge that long term Modern Masters will overall raise the price on Modern cards, as it piques interest in the format. However, some high priced Modern cards will be reprinted in that set, which will increase card availability, decreasing the price on those cards in the short term. Conversely, any cards that aren’t reprinted in that set should see their price remain steady or eventually go up. However, I don’t really feel like playing roulette on guessing which cards will be reprinted, and which ones won’t. Instead, I’ll just trade or sell all of my Modern cards now so I don’t risk them dropping in value if they’re reprinted. And as for the Modern cards I want that aren’t reprinted in Modern Masters, I’ll just trade or buy them back for the same price that I got rid of them (remember, Modern Masters is being released during the slow season for Modern, so there won’t be an immediate frenzied demand for any Modern cards). The net result will be your breaking even on the Modern cards that aren’t reprinted, and saving yourself from losing money on the cards that were reprinted and dropped in price.

Now, with all this being said, in the long term I expect Modern card prices to stay firm or rise yet more, even the ones reprinted in Modern Masters. This is because new players are discovering this game every day, which keeps increasing demand for cards they don’t have. A year from now, I’m confident Modern card prices will be similar to what they are now, or even higher. However, short term, as Modern Masters is released and the Modern PTQ season ends, the reprinted cards will dip in price.

Monday: Money Ramp with Zack Alvarado

MTG & The Dangers of Third-Party Speculation
Bribery. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.

Following speculative advice, regarding uptrending investment targets in the MTG market, is a very risky practice; one that I advise nobody – but the well seasoned – to rely on. This warning extends beyond basic rule isolation of game theory: there seem to be few of us speculators, and many hype-investors. If you want to make the largest profits possible: do your own homework, and cash-in/cash-out before anybody sees you doing it. These hype-investors rush to accumulate plethoras of cards that speculators are stocking; after we’ve already cleared the bottom level of the market – So what’s the difference between us? That’s simple: I have multiple outlets for reselling my singles, and a friendly reputation as a strong trader/player in my community. I never acquire stock unless I’m confident in my capacity to generate a profit from it within a desired margin of time.

Hype-investors, on the other hand, usually end up jumping onto the caboose of new trends; this is because they’re mimicking our speculative purchasing patterns. Again, why is that bad? And again, that’s simple: let’s assume that I’ve speculated the price of ‘Card X’ is going to increase and decide to buy 200 copies for $0.25; then, after I’ve bought my 200 copies: the price jumps to $.50 and hype-investors acquire 200-500 copies for themselves. As soon as ‘Card X’ hits $0.50, I put mine back into the market, and am bought out – making a 200% ROI. After the excitement dies down, the price of ‘Card X’ will likely drop to $0.35, which is still a near 30% increase from its baseline; however, the hype investors have now lost $0.15 (30%) on each card – and they don’t want to eat a loss – so what do they do?

They take one of two risks, generally: 1, they attempt to buy out the current market; and if successful usually end up with a large stock of stagnant goods, which inflates the price of cards that simply don’t command their retail tags, or 2, they sit on their newly acquired stock, hoping for the market to slowly dry out, and similarly: sit on stagnant goods; taking a long time to profit, if ever. Because most hype-investors take one of these two risks, they harm their fellow investors in the process. And for obvious reasons, this type of financial competition between resellers/investors is bad news for casual players and consumers in general.

People taking the first risk I mentioned will be thwarted by people taking the second risk: if they buy the market out of ‘Card X’ at a rate of $0.35, and raise them all to $0.75, they’ll be making a profit on the initial stock of ‘Card X’ that was purchased for $.50, and also from the newly acquired stock that was purchased for $0.35 – BUT, if they do so and list ‘Card X’ for $0.75, surely whoever took the second risk will list all of theirs at $0.60 – $0.70, shortly after; and it becomes this cat and mouse game of people cashing into others who are seeking to corner the market; and this back and forth consumption of demand based value does nothing but increase the value in false effect: the tangible value of an item increases as the demand, and thus the exchange of it does as well. But the consumption and exchange of trend-cards, which raise their value, occurs mainly between resellers and not end-user players – thus creating a hollow egg of perpetually feigned scarcity. So please, be careful, and assess the market wisely; nobody is going to give you their get-rich-quick tips; this really is a market of micro-econ, and player knowledge – it’s easy to get burned when following the advice of others if you’re unable to confirm their assertions (mine included). This will conclude my fourth installment, thank you all for reading.

Money Ramp Weekly Tip:
[Buy as many Burning-Tree Emissary as possible for $0.50 – people sell ’em left and right]

Until next time,

Zack R Alvarado
Twitter: Rh1zzualo

Thursday: Common Cents with Aaron Dettmann

Champion of the Parish. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.
Champion of the Parish. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.

This past weekend we saw what the Standard metagame looks like after the Pro Tour, at Grand Prix Quebec. A few new successful decks have emerged as options to play in Standard. There are many cards that normally I would be very keen on acquiring based on those decklists, but I feel I should temper my enthusiasm on the cards that happen to be in the preconstructed Gatecrash Event Decks.

Now, I don’t know for sure how much of an impact a card appearing in an Event Deck has on its price, but let’s take a look at some past cards:

Woodland Cemetery was the hot land as Return to Ravnica was nearing its release date. Everyone wanted to play Golgari, which resulted in that land outpacing its brethren in price. However, shortly after the November release of the Return to Ravnica event deck, Woodland Cemetery plummeted in price; it kept on falling, and it’s only been in the last month that it’s stabilized at around $9.

Thragtusk, on the other hand, is a card that proves that being printed in an event deck is not the death knell for its price. Indeed, this card was actually printed in two event decks (M13’s Repeat Performance, along with Ravnica’s Creep and Conquer), and still held steady at $25 until recently. It wasn’t until Thragtusk was reprinted yet again in a third event deck (Gatecrash’s Thrive and Thrash), that its price fell to its current $15. However, I attribute its resilient price to the factors that it was just that dominant in Standard at the time, along with not as many M13 packs being opened compared to other non-base sets.

Now, with all that information in mind, let’s take a look at a couple of cards that did well over the weekend, but were also printed in a Gatecrash Event Deck.

Based on the results from both last weekend, and at the Pro Tour, Champion of the Parish is normally a card I would really want to buy. It was a 4-of in the winning decklist at the pro-tour, and now it also won GP Quebec in a completely different decklist, along with three total decks in that top-8 playing them. Clearly, this is an extremely important card in an aggressive aggro deck.

Champion of the Parish as of Feb 27, 2013
Champion of the Parish as of Feb 27, 2013

In addition, this is near the end of when you can buy Innistrad block cards cheaply, as people are going to start looking for cards from those sets as the Standard PTQ season is approaching very soon. However, I’m a little hesitant to buy in, as even if store are charging more than msrp for those event decks, it’s undeniable that there will be more copies of those cards floating around. Champion is still cheap enough that I may trade for a few copies, but I doubt it will define the format as Thragtusk did, so I don’t think it has a very high ceiling.

Silverblade Paladin is in a similar situation as Champion of the Parish; it appears in the same Event Deck, and is also usually found in the same Standard decks as well. Silverblade Paladin has more casual appeal, as it is the flashier card that can lead to easy blowout wins, but Champion of the Parish is the card that is always played as a 4-of in tournament decks.

Silverblade Paladin as of Feb 27, 2013
Silverblade Paladin as of Feb 27, 2013

One card I would invest in based on this past weekend is Lotleth Troll. Did you know this card has fallen all the way to $2?! This card has just made the top-8 of a GP, and it has historical precedence of doing well too, as it made the top-8 of multiple SCG opens before R/B Zombies became the popular choice. This is still a very strong card that has many relevant abilities, that has simply been searching for a home. I would pick them up now before they find a popular one.