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Inventions: Time to Buy


Time to speak some truth: I’ve been buying Inventions and Expeditions whenever I can.

Part of it is that I have a magpie’s eye for shiny and unique things. I have written before that I think foiling out a deck is a worthy quest and a good financial plan at the same time. The Masterpiece series has grown on me and I think it’s worth acquiring.

Especially right now.

The market has set the price on these relatively quickly, and while the prices all started super high on the Expeditions, they settled to a more reasonable level within a few weeks. To be fair, we didn’t know exactly how many would be printed and how many people would want them. Some of the preorder prices turned out to be comically high, but that’s the nature of things showing up for the first time.

Let’s look at Polluted Delta.



What I love most about that graph is the dip at the end of 2016, when the Standard Showdown packs were announced and started being opened. Given the frequency of having an Expedition or Invention in those, the amount of supply added was probably not 20% more, but that’s how far it has fallen at that news.

To buy low and sell high is a prime tenent of Magic finance, and the slight falling of values means that I want to get in on some lands. I’m a bit more optimistic on the enemy fetches, but I’m also aware that the player base is clamoring for a reprint of those.

Intellectually, I know that the pack foil of Twilight Mire is more expensive than the Expedition version. I know that the pack foil versions of cards are almost always the most expensive foils, depending on reprints and arts.

It doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of owning these cards with the unique frame and appearance, which is why I pick up as many of them as I can.

The most important detail about the Masterpieces is this: They do not circulate a lot. People get them and put them in decks and leave them there. High-end foils are like that, and while the supply might be large, the number in circulation isn’t. Cubes and Commander decks soak up Masterpieces that get opened, and I don’t think they have a chance to lose that freshly-opened-pack smell before being double-sleeved and given a place of pride.

Normally, this is a good time to buy cards, at the tail end of a season. I wrote last week about some pickups I really like from Kaladesh. What makes this a good time for Inventions especially is that it’s going to take truly special circumstances for more of them to get into circulation.

I’m not ruling out a future edition that Wizards does, I think it’s super unlikely for them to release a significant amount of these again. It would be analogous to releasing a new batch of SDCC black planeswalkers, to my mind.

We are about to start spoilers for Modern Masters 2017, and I have a strong suspicion that it’s going to lower the amount of drafts done at local stores for AER-AER-KLD. We don’t know enough about the set or what’s in it, but players are fickle. We like new things, especially the chance to open something super expensive. Cutting back on the drafts done means that the supply isn’t going to go up very much, and so there’s a few Inventions with strong casual appeal that I really want in on:

Solemn Simulacrum – $66 – Universally good and has been reprinted a ton, yet still holding some value. The pack foils are not visually striking, while this is, and I like this to grow nicely over time.

Rings of Brighthearth – $55 – The card in regular nonfoil has apready risen recently, at at about $10 more than the pack foil, I’ve gotten two of these for different decks. There are not a lot of decks that want this effect, but it’s amazing when it’s good.

Chromatic Lantern – $55 – The gold standard of mana fixing, a card very popular in casual formats, and something that ought to go up over time.

Cloudstone Curio – $30 – Have you seen an Animar deck go off with this? Or an Elf deck? It’s a combo enabler, and those are the things that can really spike when a new card makes them good.


Gauntlet of Power – $31 – I’m not ruling out weird Infinity War crossovers or stuff like that, but with the nonfoil at $15, this is a great price for an auto-include in single-color decks.

Paradox Engine – $45 – Again, this is just a silly card that does silly things and is breakable even now. It’s also gorgeous, which is important.

Planar Bridge – $36 – It can’t go find the sorcery or instant you need to win the game, but it does tutor up a ridiculous number of broken things and that’s at the heart of Commander games. I love having these in long-term storage, because it’s got excellent potential.

Something that hasn’t happened yet to the Inventions or Expeditions is a spike in those prices. They have dipped a little and recovered to within a few percent, but they represent at least steady long-term growth, and the potential for a huge payoff should they ever spike. It might even be a Reserved List buyout, which we saw a few times this past summer, as some people attempted to clear out the market.

Torrential Gearhulk has seen a bump already, in all versions including the Masterpiece:


The bump from Pro Tour play affected all versions of this card, and that’s helpful to know if someone breaks Paradox Engine during Hour of Devastation.

Any chance you get to trade for a Masterpiece, you should at least consider. Depends on the trade and the percentage that someone is asking for, but they are fantastic trade bait, a sweet target for people to aim for and a financially stable card that you should seek to add to your portfolio.

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Revolting Developments

The Pro Tour is in the books, and we’ve got a very clear idea of what the metagame is: Mardu Vehicles.

Doesn’t matter that Smuggler’s Copter got the ban, it’s shifted to Heart of Kiraan and Aethersphere Harvester. We had a sprinkle of Cultivator’s Caravan as well, and lots and lots of Veteran Motorist with which to power them up.

If we’ve learned nothing else, it’s that when Wizards puts together a new card type, it’s often overpowered at first. We will keep that in mind when the next new type arrives.

But what’s good against this deck? It was built to prey on the assorted Copy Cat lists, and I approve of the metagame call. The combo is real and powerful and demands answers or you lose. The Vehicles list seeks to overpower the opponent before the combo can get online, or disrupt the combo in progress. One red mana, left open, is enough to make the Saheeli player hesitate until they have Dispel backup.

And if they hesitate on turn four, then you’re stomping face on turn five. The deck is capable of some very powerful and synergistic plays, and there’s some opportunity here.

I think Chandra, Torch of Defiance, is a good pickup at $20 or so. We’ve got another 18 months of her being Standard legal, and she’s undoubtedly powerful. If you’re burning a blocker out of the way, they have to do something to kill her, which means you’re ahead on cards or attackers.

She might not rise too high, though, looking at Gideon, Ally of Zendkiar‘s chart. He spiked sometimes, but he never stayed high for long.

I also love picking up Release the Gremlins. Vehicles are going to be a big part of the metagame for a while, and at worst this is Manic Vandal, a two-for-one. Foils are also a little more than a dollar and might really pay off in the future. I’ve already targeted these in trade.


I’m impressed at the resiliency of Rishkar, Peema Renegade. I really thought this would be dropping in price by now, and instead it’s creeping upward. If it’s $5 or so when Modern Masters 2017 comes out, down a dollar from right now, then it’s a great candidate to be pushing $10 in ten months. It’s too good at acceleration to stay low.

Toolcraft Exemplar is another card that I’m high on right now. He’s cheap at about a buck and a half, and what he offers is quite powerful. If Vehicles stays a powerful deck–and I see no reason why it wouldn’t–then this little one-drop gets in early and crews anything late. I am big on the potential here, if the deck stays good then this is the card you want at the beginning. He’s good friends with Heart of Kiraan too, attacking for three because of it and helping it attack on any other turn.

My last pick this week feels like easy money: Spire of Industry. It’s in more than one type of deck, it’s played in a lot of styles and there’s more than one played per deck. It might be one of the best lands with how common artifacts are, and I think it’s going to see a lot of play going forward.

Foils are an even better pick, since there’s at least two decks that immediately want it: Affinity and Lantern Control. Get your foils for about $12, and be ready for them to hit $20 before you know it.

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The Grand Plan

For those of you who are experienced at the ebb and flow of Magic, today’s plan is not going to be a shock to you. What I’m doing is old hat and a plan that has served me well so far, and I haven’t seen a reason to change yet.

For those of you who are more new to the game, and the idea of how drastically values can change for a card, prepare for some sage advice. Even though the Pro Tour is underway, and you should stay tuned for cards that bust the format open, that’s a skill I don’t have. Today’s plan, though, has worked for me over and over.

Aether Revolt has some really powerful yet really cheap cards. This is good for us who seek to accrue value while cards are inexpensive, back to the original profit idea of “buy low, sell high.”

We are going to do a lot of buying low and hopefully a lot of selling high, but instead of lots of cards, I’ve got a timeline in mind.

Aether Revolt is the current set for drafting and events, but on March 15, Modern Masters 2017 will arrive.  Then on April 22, we have the prerelease for Amonkhet! This is a lot going on in a very short time, and represents some real opportunities.

The cheapest point for a set is right after the following set comes out. So for Aether Revolt, I want to be picking up cards about March 22. I want to be getting Modern Masters 2017 cards around the beginning of May.

I especially want to be getting the cards that have long-term appeal, not just the Standard powerhouses. I would so much rather buy 17 Lifecrafter’s Bestiary right now than one Walking Ballista, for instance.

The pattern of Standard has been one of consistency for the best cards. Let’s look at the headliner for Battle for Zendikar: big ol’ Gids.

He’s dipped down to $20 from time to time but he’s stayed in the $20-$30 range pretty consistently, and I expect the same out of something like the Ballista. It might go down to $10, it might creep up to $20, but nothing too crazy.

Unless Doubling Season gets reprinted in Standard. Then watch out.

I really love a lot of Aether Revolt for long-term holds. Regular and foil copies of the Bestiary, because the card is just amazingly powerful if you can live through the turn you cast it.

Whir of Invention is really intriguing to me, as a card that could be broken in the right deck. The comparison to Chord of Calling is a good one, because the deck that wants Whir will want four of them, and that’s a trait I truly love in my speculative picks.

Aethersphere Harvester is a fairer Smuggler’s Copter, but this demonstrates how good looting is compared to gaining life. I think Rishkar, Peema Renegade plus Winding Constrictor is a turn-two into turn-three that a lot of decks won’t be ready for, especially when something costing six lands on turn four.

I don’t know much about the cards in Modern Masters 2017, but the principle still applies. Conspiracy: Take the Crown lowered prices remarkably, and now a lot of those cards have enjoyed a bump. I want to plan on grabbing cards at their low point, though I need to think more about the actual cards. The 2013 edition of Modern Masters had a lot of amazing cards, but the 2015 was less valuable and more widely distributed. So we will see.

That’s my plan. It’s what I’m going to be trying to accomplish, and I love having targets and ideas clearly drawn. Buy low, sell high, but do that about once a month these days!

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Grand Prix Preparations

I’ve been planning for Grand Prix San Jose for about two months.

I have registered for the main event, I have arranged for a place to crash, I have made sure that the kids will be okay while I’m off drowning in Magic cards and events for a whole weekend.

There are some concrete, direct things you should do as part of the big event experience, and I’m here to share a few tips and tricks for what will make the event best for you.

#1: Sell Early!

I’ve got a box of cards that I’m going to buylist, mostly commons and uncommons from a collection I bought in December. Guy came into the shop with two boxes of loose cards asking $20, I snap bought, and got to work picking. (Luckily, I was in the midst of writing up older sets’ pickable commons and uncommons in my PucaPicks series on Thursdays, available to Protraders, so picking was quick for me.) I’ve also got a bunch of Commander 2011 cards that I’m ready to sell, and when I get to the event I’ll know if I want cash from a vendor or store credit, depending on what they have at what prices.

I’ve found that when bringing a lot of things to sell, I want to do that early in the weekend, when vendors have more cash and more time. I’ll have it sorted, unsleeved, and ready to work quickly. This isn’t #mtgblueprint stuff, just a general note about when to sell large amounts of cards.

Individual cards are different, and can be sold whenever. I’d sure be cashing out on Walking Ballista ASAP though.

#2: Pack Lightly!

I’m going to bring one, maybe two Commander decks, and one trade binder, and some sleeves for the main event. That’s it. I want to make sure that my bag isn’t overly full, and while I’d love to play a lot of Commander or Cube, there just won’t be time.

#3: Plan on the unique side events.

Selling a stack of cards is going to empower silly things for me, like Full-Box Sealed, an event which I was at first dismissive of but I have to admit that it sounds more and more awesome. Ridiculously overpowered Sealed, with the possibility of adding value to opening a single box? Sign me up.

Chaos drafts are appealing, or double-prize queues, Frontier events, or single-match drafts…the list goes on. Look at the event website and figure stuff out ahead of time.

I can Cube or Commander at other times, but this event has some stuff I can’t do at other times, and that’s the experience I want to maximize.

#4: Socialize as much or as little as you wish.

This one took me a while to figure out, because I didn’t notice what I was doing. If you can play events with friends, that’s really great and something you should do. Mainly, though, you should absolutely not take any time away from stuff you want to do in order to wait for someone, especially when dealing with food or breaks.

#5: Bring water, and pack food whenever possible.

Self-explanatory. Packing a sandwich and chips is pure value, both in terms of the money not spent at lunch and the time that is saved at the venue. Save your budget for breakfast, dinner, or cards instead.

#6: Sell your playmat, and don’t pick up extra life pads.

If I can get $5 or $10 for the mat at the event, I’ll usually take it. I realize that there’s the potential to make a few dollars more if I wait and eBay it, but unless the playmat is something special (truly awesome card, or double-sided, etc.) it’s not worth the hassle of storing the mat and carrying it around. I do the same thing with leftover cards. I keep rares and some uncommons, the commons I’ll leave for someone else that has the time, energy, and space to pack 5k boxes full of bulk commons. It’s just not worth it to me.

#7: Don’t over-plan!

I learned this lesson when planning vacations. If I plan on doing something every single day, then I won’t have time for appreciation or relaxation, and isn’t that the point? I want to leave time for variation in the things I want to do, or maybe I’m going to go on a tear in the Main Event and I won’t get to any of it. (Is the EV of two extra drafts on Sunday worth the stuff I’m missing out on? I hope to find out!)

Big events can be stressful, but they can be a lot of fun. If you are heading to the GP, use the hashtags and see who else pops up!

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