Friday: Managing Your Inventory with Igor

One of the most essential parts of being a successful floor trader is knowing how to manage your inventory. This is especially important if you are a small scale grinder, since your smaller inventory is more exposed to large value swings of a few singles. There is nothing worse than your entire trade stock depreciating 10% or more due to lazy inventory management. I want to focus on the importance of paying attention to the behaviors and preferences of players and what’s “in season”.

Loxodon Smiter as of Feb 14, 2013
Loxodon Smiter as of Feb 14, 2013

Seasonal Behavior

When I talk about season, I’m referencing the Pro Tour Qualifier Season (PTQ). The format for the qualifiers has a huge impact on price outlooks. Intuitively, it seems obvious that a highly played format will lead to higher demand of cards in that format (especially staples). Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of months, you are aware of the rapid and sharp growth Modern cards have seen. Almost any card that saw play, even briefly, increased in price. Let’s apply this information to something that happened very recently.

The recently released Gatecrash is a game changer. It has been a while since a set had this much impact on Standard. A fresh format is always popular with players, but this format has proven to be particularly aggressive. The talk of the week has been Boros Reckoner.

This guy preordered for $3.99! He is reported to be the real deal. But let’s discuss the price. $25 for a Standard rare from an in-print set makes me skeptical at first. This guy is no Snapcaster Mage.  If we look at precedents, the only other cards to hold that price point have been Cavern of Souls, Snapcaster Mage, and Thragtusk (until recently).  But my opinion on this card is that the $25 price point is most likely sustainable for the next month.  Pro Tour Gatecrash is coming up on February 15th and the format is Standard. If he sees a strong showing at the Pro Tour I can see him sustaining that price for a longer period.  This guy is good in a wide variety of decks, and the way the format looks now, he is going to be delivering the beats. Overall, there is no reason to not benefit from the hype at this point; just take your money and walk away. We’re probably seeing Boros Reckoner’s peak anyway. But don’t feel that you need to be rushed to move your Boros Reckoners.

Modern Masters

As the PTQ season comes to an end, prices should start to come down slowly to what they were pre-bubble (cards like Wilt-Leaf Liege, Thoughtseize, Tarmogoyf, Venser). It’s important to remember that Modern Masters is coming out this summer, and everything before Alara Reborn is fair game. This can be an enormous opportunity to make (and lose) a lot of money.

Wilt-Leaf Liege as of 2/14/2013
Wilt-Leaf Liege as of 2/14/2013

First, I recommend liquidating anything that has a chance of being in Modern Masters, before the end of the PTQ season.  I would not want to own cards like Thoughtseize, Tarmogoyf, or Vendilion Clique. It’s going to be a while until prices get this crazy again.

Now is the time you should be focusing on picking up Modern cards. Between the end of the PTQ season and Modern Masters is when prices are likely to be at their lowest; Modern Masters will significantly increase the demand for Modern cards. Making the format more accessible draws more players in, which means they are going to need more Modern cards when Modern PTQ season rolls around again. Targeting cards that are guaranteed to not be printed in Modern Masters is a relatively safe investment. If Modern Masters causes significant price drops to the cards that were reprinted, I would be targeting those very aggressively. I will be paying attention and keeping you guys updated in my articles on when is the best time to pick up certain Modern cards – so stay tuned!

Gyre Sage. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast
Gyre Sage. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast

Trade Targets:

Gyre Sage – This lady is seeing play in a Naya deck alongside Boros Reckoner and friends.  Saito has also been talking about her. She is sold out on a lot of websites at $2 and should be $4-6 relatively soon. Great trade target this weekend.

Domri Rade – Another card in the Naya deck.  He is currently $25. If this guy sees play in the Pro Tour, expect him to hit 40-50 for a few weeks.  Being a mythic from a set that hasn’t been opened a lot has it’s advantageous.

Obzedat, Ghost Council – This card is popping up in some Esper lists. Again, a strong showing at the Pro Tour can lead to a significant spike.

Loxodon Smiter – This pachyderm has the most upside. Being only $2-3 he has a lot of room to grow. Another 4-of in the Naya deck.

Boros Cards (Ash Zealot, Champion of the Parish, Stromkirk, Hellrider) – Boros is becoming one of the most popular decks. The window to pick these up is getting smaller. These cards should be fairly liquid within the next few weeks.

Remember to pay attention the Pro Tour results and coverage. Stay ahead of the curve. Thanks for reading!

Igor Shapiro

Twitter: IgorFinance

Thursday: Common Cents with Aaron Dettmann

Karn Liberated as of Feb 13, 2013
Karn Liberated as of Feb 13, 2013

After the pro-tour this weekend, we will be in the thick of Modern season. With Bloodbraid Elf and Seething Song being banned, people are looking for the next best deck, and are buying accordingly. There have already been several Modern cards that have skyrocketed (sometimes inexplicably) in price, so I’ll identify some other cards that have the potential to do the same.

First, let’s look at some of the Modern cards that have shot up in price in the past month.

I’ll start off with the great puzzler of them all: Marrow-Gnawer. This card has risen from a mere $5 to being worth almost $15 virtually overnight. What can I say; I guess Ogre Slumlord was the card that put Marrow-Gnawer over the top. Or maybe Marrow-Gnawer was underpriced all along and has enough casual appeal to sustain this new price tag. Whatever the reason, I was happy to ditch my copies for $11 to get out while the price was still high.

Now for cards that are commonly played in Modern decks:

Cryptic Command has gone up 59% in a month; from around $22 in January to its current $35 price tag. This card is used most notably in Scapeshift decks, but can also be found in Splinter Twin and in a variety of control decks. Its necessity in Scapeshift, combined with its utility in other decks, explains its price increase.

Vendilion Clique (up from $40 to $50), Aven Mindcensor ($4 to $7), and Celestial Colonnade ($3 to

Celestial Colonnade as of Feb 13, 2013

Celestial Colonnade as of Feb 13, 2013

$7) have all increased because of the new W/U/R American Midrange deck that won back-to-back online PTQs a few weeks ago. This deck has continued to place fairly well in the subsequent PTQs, so expect these cards to maintain their value.

Karn Liberated has been the big winner so far, as its price has nearly tripled when it gained $24 jumping from $15 to its current price of $39. The Tron deck plays a full four copies of Karn Liberated, and it is the centerpiece of that deck. Many people are expecting this deck to become a big player now that its worst match, Storm, has been eliminated from the metagame. Karn had been slowly creeping up in price, but really took off after the bannings were announced in Modern. People being keen to play this deck also help explain why Oblivion Stone and Grove of the Burnwillows have seen modest price increases as well.

Now for the cards I suggest you invest in:

Birthing Pod, like Karn Liberated, is also the centerpiece of a deck (two decks, actually: Kiki-Pod and Melira-pod), and they also play the full four copies of Birthing Pod. Now granted, Birthing Pod has seen print in an Event Deck, but the fact remains that people who want to play this deck must obtain four copies of the card. The increased availability from being printed in an Event Deck is offset by the fact that the card was originally printed in the 3rd set of a block, so not as many packs were opened of New Phyrexia compared to the 1st and 2nd sets in drafts. Birthing Pod, at its current price of under $4, is a steal.

Splinter Twin is another sub-$5 card that is the focus of a tier-1 deck. Twin decks also play four copies of the card, which increases the demand for it. Splinter Twin has already seen a modest increase of a dollar, but I feel the true price ascent is yet to come.

As cards across the board for Modern are going up in price, I find it hard to believe that Birthing Pod and Splinter Twin won’t soon follow suit.

Spellskite. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast
Spellskite. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast

The last card I was going to write about was Spellskite; unfortunately, this article comes a little late to the party on that card. Between last week, when I planned what I was going to write about, and this week, Spellskite has increased by $5: from $4 last week to now over $9. This is more of a utility card, but it is so universally found across many different decks that it was primed for a price increase. Most Twin and Pod decks play a copy or two of Spellskite in the maindeck, with extras in the board. In addition to that, Spellskite is also among the most valuable sideboard tools at combating not only Twin decks, but also Burn decks as well. Since it is colorless, any deck that wants the attributes Spellskite provides can play it without hesitation. Because of both its effectiveness, usefulness in a variety of situations, and the fact that any deck can play it, I figured that Spellskite was due to rise in price.

Hopefully this article gives you some food for thought as the rest of the Modern season plays out.

Wednesday: Fetchlands with Andrew Smith

Scalding Tarn. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.

If you haven’t yet noticed, Wizards of the Coast wants you to play Modern. They’ve dedicated a PTQ season for it. There is a special limited release product of Modern-format staples due out this year. It’s a regular format for Grand Prix and Pro Tours alike.

The reasoning is simple: people want a non-rotating format they can afford.

Legacy players spend years perfecting their play with one deck without worrying about it being illegal in just a few months. But the barrier to entry is extremely high. Competitive decks can cost thousands of dollars, amounts most players just can’t afford.

Modern is supposed to be the cure, with relatively inexpensive cards that can be purchased without the threat of rotation. Bannings have been commonplace thus far, making it certainly less stable than Legacy.

This emphasis on Modern has caused prices to skyrocket. And nowhere is this more noticeable than in the price of the manabases. Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash have offered us reprints of the shocklands, but as those prices drop, fetchlands – their partners in crime – continue to increase with no end in sight.

At the end of October 2012, prices of the “blue fetches” from Zendikar, Misty Rainforest and Scalding Tarn, increased dramatically. Mid-October the average price was $15; by the end of the month it had risen to $30. Currently, the average price for a Misty Rainforest is above $35.

Misty Rainforest as of Feb 12, 2013
Misty Rainforest through Feb 12, 2013

The other Modern-legal fetches are catching up. Verdant Catacombs climbed to just under $30 this week. Arid Mesa and Marsh Flats are over $25. For players hoping to build a Modern deck, the savings on shocklands from the most recent block is more than overshadowed by these increases.

It’s important to note that the release of Modern Masters this summer will only serve to continue to drive up these prices. The announcement for Modern Masters stated that cards printed originally in Eight Edition through Alara Reborn would be eligible to be reprinted in this special set.

As players get their hands on high priced staples like Tarmogoyf, they are certainly going to start building new Modern decks. Unfortunately, Zendikar falls outside of this timeframe. It would appear that, barring a new set that returns us to Zendikar or a Modern Masters 2, no increase in supply will be available to offset the increase in demand that is surely coming our way.