Tag Archives: Danny Brown

UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Taking a Closer Look at Demand Sources

Imagine if Wizards of the Coast told us exactly how many packs of Dragons of Tarkir had been sold so far. We know how the cards are distributed, so with an accurate pack count, we could determine precisely how many Dragonlord Atarkas there are in the wild and compare that with the numbers for Fate Reforged and the amount of Monastery Mentors in existence. Armed with that info, it would be really easy to pinpoint where cards were in short supply and buy accordingly.

Unfortunately, Wizards does not publicize that information, or at least not very often. We get hints about proportions (“X is the best-selling set of all time!”) every so often, but ultimately, we’re left to determine supply based on anecdotal data and broad assumptions.


Sure, it’s pretty easy to say there’s a lot more Innistrad out in the wild than Lorwyn, but by how much? We don’t really know, and can’t with the amount of information we have at our disposal. And things get murkier when we start comparing recent sets. How does Dragons of Tarkir compare with Journey into Nyx? Or Dragon’s Maze? We can broadly assume that Dragon’s Maze was unpopular so there’s probably far fewer Voice of Resurgences out there than there are Dragonlord Ojutais, but it’s all guesstimating—we are just not in a position to know what the actual card counts are on these cards, or any cards for that matter.

So while the pattern over the last decade or so has been one of extreme growth (and thus ever-increasing amounts of supply), we know the proportions between set printings in only the broadest terms. Again using Dragon’s Maze as an example: we know it was an unpopular set, but we don’t have the numbers as to just how badly it actually performed. If we did, we might find that Voice of Resurgence is greatly over- or underpriced when we consider the actual number of copies out there.

Way back in 2013, Anthony Capece, a former writer for BrainstormBrewery.com, did some very important work for the community in shining a light on some of these supply issues. Those articles, “Rare is the New Uncommon” and “Size Matters,” should be required reading for every single MTG financier, so if you haven’t read them before (or even if it’s just been a while), click those links. They’ll open in a new tab and everything, so you don’t even have to stop reading here.

Anthony did some great investigative work to come to rough estimates on supply of new sets compared to old ones, but we still don’t have the exact numbers. However, just like Magic is a game of imperfect information, so is MTG finance, and our job is to take action based on the information that we do have available.

Courser of Kruphix versus Gilded Lotus

Let’s compare two very different but similarly priced (at time of writing) cards: Courser of Kruphix and Gilded Lotus.


Courser derives most of its value from Standard play, though that value is tapering off fast from a high of over $20 to the current price of $6. The card has seen a little bit of Modern action, as well, but doesn’t make the MTG Goldfish list of the top 50 creatures in the format. To top it off, Courser isn’t exactly undesirable in the most popular casual formats, Commander and Cube. 

Despite being good outside of Standard, most of Courser’s historic price comes from Standard demand, where it has been a complete staple and almost always a four-of. The price loss over the last several months is almost certainly attributable to the upcoming rotation, and we may still lose some more off the price by the time we lose Theros block from Standard.



Alternatively, we have Gilded Lotus, which saw no Standard play after it was last reprinted in M13. The card derives all of its sharply increasing value from casual play, as there’s a copy in most cubes and in most Commander decks, but nary a single competitive deck wants something like this (cue someone linking to a Vintage deck that just needs to Tinker out Gilded Lotus for some reason).

Delving Into Hypotheticals

I love data, but unfortunately, we just don’t have enough of it to determine exactly why these cards are virtually the same price despite such different demand profiles.

Hypothetically, let’s say the demand comes from the following:

Courser of Kruphix

  • 35% of Standard players need four copies of this card for a Standard deck (reasoning: MTG Goldfish cites Courser of Kruphix as being a 3.8-of in 35.94 percent of Standard decks).
  • 20% of Commander players need one copy for their decks (reasoning: this is good in any green deck, and theoretically, one-fifth of decks in Magic are of a particular color).
  • 90% of cubes need one copy (reasoning: some cubes have special restrictions, but this is good enough to warrant an include in most lists).
  • 5% of Modern players need or want to have available four copies for a Modern deck (reasoning: it’s hardly a staple in five-percent of decks, but some players need to have everything).
  • The Invisibles playing wild card.

Gilded Lotus

  • 90% of Commander players need one copy for their decks (reasoning: some aggressive decks might not want this, but it’s a colorless fixer that ramps to giant fatties and can go in literally any deck).
  • 90% of cubes need one copy (reasoning: some cubes have special restrictions, but this is good enough to warrant an include in most lists).
  • The Invisibles playing wild card.

Again, these are just numbers I pulled out of thin air—they’re here only for illustration’s sake.

If these numbers were accurate, do you think we could use them to determine the total number of active players in each format? I hope you’re saying no, because these numbers are not accounting for the mystery I discussed during the first part of this article: how many copies of each card is actually in existence.

We just can’t fill in enough of the variables to fully solve the equation. This is why no speculation target is ever 100-percent safe: we (the MTG community) do not have enough information to know for sure that there is or is not enough of one particular card to satisfy the demand from all players who might want one or more copies for whatever reason.

Using the Tools We Do Have

Still, I think the exercise of going through where a card’s demand is coming from can really help to streamline one’s thought process regarding a card one is considering buying. Several MTGPrice writers have (rightly) been harping on three major targets from Khans of Tarkir block, so let’s consider where the demand might come from for each of these moving forward.

Siege Rhino

I have not bought in to Siege Rhino, but the card is an extremely interesting case. Normally, a three-color card has very limited upside, as only a select few decks can play it, but we’ve seen Standard and Modern decks designed essentially because this card is powerful enough to warrant it.

Still, there’s pretty much a maximum of one deck in Standard and one deck in Modern that wants this card, and even if those comprise a huge part of each metagame, there’s not any cross-deck applicability to really keep Rhino’s price up.

Further adding to my concerns is that this isn’t going to be in hardly any Commander decks or cubes, given its limited upside in the 100-card battlecruiser format and the limited space for three-color cards in most custom drafting environments.

Just piling on to my concerns, it’s a rare from a large fall set, and if you read Anthony’s articles that I linked above, you’ll know why that’s bad.

In summary, when I started writing this section, I thought that Siege Rhino was a fine pickup (if not as good as others), but now that I’m finished, I don’t want to be buying into this at $4. Yes, it’s good enough to warrant decks designed around it, but the assumed supply is as high as cards get and its applicability is highly specific, despite its power level.

Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Tasigur, on the other hand, is awesome. Delve cards aren’t automatic four-ofs, but even if Tasigur only sees play as a three-of, he’s wanted in Legacy, Modern, Standard, Commander, and Cube, and has plenty of applicability in all kinds of decks from aggro to control.

Again, he suffers from being rare and not mythic, but in this case, we’re looking at a small set that didn’t sell for nearly as long as Siege Rhino’s Khans of Tarkir.

It’s easy to envision much more demand for Tasigur than for Siege Rhino, and it’s also fair to assume the supply is lower. Considering it’s already begun its ascent, the MTG finance community seems to agree.

See the Unwritten

See the Unwrittenon the other hand, has gone down since its initial surge in popularity in response to the announcement of Battle for Zendikar. It’s now just above $3, and it has a much different demand profile than Siege Rhino or Tasigur.

With See the Unwritten, we’re speculating not on current playability in Standard or eternal formats, but on future playability with the assumed Eldrazi coming in BFZ. Initially, this seems riskier than something like Siege Rhino, and maybe it is.

But I have bought in to See the Unwritten, unlike Siege Rhino. The reasons are three-fold:

  1. I strongly believe there will be Eldrazi in BFZ.
  2. The Standard Eldrazi deck might be good, but even if it’s not, this is a mythic and people will want to try out the deck.
  3. The card has enough applicability in Commander that I expect it to grow slowly over time regardless, so in the worst case, it becomes a long-term spec instead of a short-term one.

If See the Unwritten was a rare, I wouldn’t give it a second glance at this price, but mythics can do crazy things, as there’s far fewer of them compared to their rare counterparts. When observing exactly who might be demanding See the Unwritten, it has the smallest group of any of the cards I’ve discussed in this article, but the lower supply due to its mythic-ness makes me much more willing to take a risk on it. Remember, a strategy doesn’t have to be good for a spec to pay out.

In a Perfect World

In a perfect world, we would know the exact number of Siege Rhinos, Tasigurs, and See the Unwrittens in existence, and we would also know exactly how many active players each format has.

Of course, if we lived in that world, then presumably the market would adjust itself so that every card was perfectly priced and there were no speculation opportunities for anybody. Come to think about it, maybe that’s not such a perfect world after all…

UNLOCKED: On Hobbies and Their Monetization

Editor’s Note: Danny’s ProTrader article this week is a great piece for anyone looking to turn their Magic hobby into a money-making enterprise, or at least using it to offset costs. We wanted to share this excellent piece with everyone, so it has been unlocked early for your enjoyment! If you enjoy this piece, we hope you’ll consider signing up for a ProTrader account, where you’ll have access to more high-quality pieces like this every day of the week.

By: Danny Brown

Hobbies are important. They’re good for the psyche and for the soul. I have several myself, and without them, I would be bored more often than not.

Hobbies also cost money, and that’s okay. Yes, frugality is a virtue many of us could probably use a bit more of to varying levels, but it’s also possible to overdo it. I have some friends that absolutely refuse to spend any money at all, and it’s very frustrating. Yes, game nights, Netflix, and home-cooked dinners are great, but not when they’re the only things you ever do for fun. Setting aside some monthly entertainment dollars for eating out, events, concerts, and other purely-for-fun activities shouldn’t be guilt-inducing, at least in moderation.


Then again, I do understand where these friends are coming from. I hate spending more money than I have to for a given experience. For example, I’ve spent $60 on a videogame exactly twice in my entire life (Dark Souls and Bloodborne, in case you’re wondering), and this is no coincidence. I’ve previously discussed patience in making purchases, and that doesn’t  just apply to Magic cards. Waiting a few months to buy a videogame will save someone $20 to $40 every single time, and I have taken that path in all but two cases in the last ten years (and by the way, I have no regrets on those two cases. It’s important to realize when you’re willing to pay more for a better/sooner experience).

The importance of patience, though, is something I’ve covered before, and besides, it’s more related to minimizing one’s costs in a hobby than it is to today’s actual topic.

Monetizing Your Hobbies

In case you didn’t get it from the not-so-subtle title you presumably clicked on to end up on this page, there is today’s topic in all of its Heading 2 glory.

There are things you have been doing presumably for fun, for free even, and I’m here to tell you: there is little more satisfying than turning the time and effort sunk into those pursuits into actual, real-life currency.

Being that we’re here on MTGPrice, a Magic: The Gathering-focused website, I’ll be focusing most of today’s discussion on monetizing that particular hobby, but for illustration purposes, here’s a few ways one could monetize several common non-Magic hobbies:

  • Reading: write critical reviews for a publication; buy, sell, and trade used books for profit.
  • Gardening: sell your produce at a local farmer’s market; teach classes to fledgling gardeners.
  • Weight lifting and other exercise: try dabbling in personal training; start a YouTube fitness channel.
  • Individual sports (biking, bowling, golf, tennis, etc.): enter tournaments of the appropriate level and crush the competition; coach novices to do the same.
  • Crafts: sell what you make; teach others to make cool stuff.

Are you seeing a pattern? Maybe I’m just unimaginative, but with few exceptions, there are two basic categories of actions to monetize a hobby:

  1. Creating items or services to sell (or buying and selling for profit).
  2. Teaching or entertaining through content creation or classes.

(If you can think of ways to monetize hobbies that don’t fall into these two basic categories, I’d love to hear them.)

In both cases, one requires a certain level of expertise in the hobby in question. That means that you probably won’t be able to monetize new hobbies right away, and if you have a lot of leisurely pursuits, you may not be able to monetize all of them. So focus on the ones that you know best and that cost the most amount of money to maintain.

The Danger

The main danger of monetizing one’s hobbies is that all of a sudden that thing you used to do for fun has become a job. Jobs are not fun—that’s why employers have to pay us money to do them.


So how do you make money from your hobbies without them devolving into drudgery that is no longer fun? My biggest tip in this regard is to not allow yourself to be dependent on the income you’re producing. Yes, it’s nice to make money from Magic, but the moment I am depending on Magic to pay my bills is the moment that I add a serious amount of stress to the hobby. Therefore, I balance my finances by assuming I will make no money from Magic. Anything I do make I see as a bonus.

Another great part about not depending on income from a monetized hobby is that if it does become tedious at any point, there’s nothing keeping you from taking a step back for some time. Once you extend your financial balance to include income from your monetized hobby, you give up a lot of the ability to take a break on occasion. It’s much better to keep one’s options open.


Monetizing Magic

Chances are that as an MTGPrice ProTrader, you have already monetized the game to some extent. Maybe this means you’re making profit, or maybe it just means you’re playing with cards that are worth much more money than you’ve actually spent on the game.

Let’s do some more brainstorming. Here’s a non-comprehensive list of ways to monetize your MTG habit:

  1. Win one or more tournaments with large prizes (e.g., the Pro Tour or a Grand Prix).
  2. Win lots of tournaments with small prizes (e.g., FNM).
  3. Backpack grind: trade every chance you get, making extra value in more trades than not. Maybe you’ll sell your cards every once in a while, or maybe you’ll just end up with a sweet Legacy deck for the price of a Standard deck.
  4. Buy cards at their low points and sell at their high points to buylists, or through eBay or TCGplayer.
  5. Take #4 a step further and open your own webstore for buying and selling cards.
  6. Take #4 and #5 a step further and open your own brick-and-mortar store for buying and selling cards and running tournaments (once you get to this point, you’re probably past the point of monetizing your hobby to the point of opening a business, but this is the end-game for many value-minded players).
  7. Buy collections and large bulk lots and pick out the value cards, á la Ryan Bushard.
  8. Become a judge and get compensated for attending and officiating events.
  9. Write Magic articles! There’s a ton of niches: finance, competitive strategy across a number of formats, community issues, theory, flavor critiques, casual format highlights, and so much more. If you can put words together in a reasonably aesthetically pleasing manner, it’s just a matter of finding your slot—or creating your own.
  10. Record Magic videos: Magic Online provides a great way to record Limited and Constructed events, but content producers like Tolarian Community College and Evan Erwin prove that it’s possible to make engaging and fun Magic content without gameplay being involved at all.
  11. Start a Magic podcast. You probably already listen to a few. That doesn’t mean you can’t start your own (assuming you have interesting things to say).
  12. Players like NumotTheNummy have proven  that streaming on Twitch.tv can be a full-time option if you have the skills and personality for it. That’s more of a job than a monetized hobby, but streaming a couple nights a week and gaining a few subscribers is in the spirit of this exercise.

These are a dozen fine options that cover a wide range of skills and commitment levels, and I’m sure there are many other solid ways to make a little extra cash from your favorite card game. You know what you’re good at, so take those skills and turn them into something of value.

Take a Sure Thing When It’s Available

“Sure thing” is just a shorthand of course, as 100-percent surety is a bit of a mythical beast, but some actions are more likely to pay off than others.

Take Tasigur, the Golden Fang, for example. The card is down to around $6 now, which is pretty low for a card that has proven to be a high-power inclusion in both Modern and Legacy. I wouldn’t deign to say that a certain price is a “sure thing,” but I’m more or less comfortable with the idea that this is virtually certain to be profitable if bought at this price point (and I have been requesting as many as I can get on PucaTrade as a result).

Or maybe you want to create some content, and you’re faced with how to get it out to the world. You could start your own site, which requires a high level of commitment, promotion, and time, or you could let an established site pay you to post on its domain. While starting your own site can be correct with the proper resources, goals, and perspective, many of us would be better served to just take the sure thing of an established site providing a platform and paycheck.

Or maybe—and this is purely hypothetical, mind you—you’re in the top eight of a major Grand Prix and are faced with the choice of a Burst Lightning for your red-white aggro deck or a foil Tarmogoyf for your sideboard (and wallet). Do you take the common that adds some (likely small) number of percentage points to your chances of winning the event, or do you take the sure thing of several hundred dollars (while still having the chance to win the event)?

I know what I would do (it’s the one that involves taking the sure thing). I also know that I can respect the other viewpoint without agreeing with it. What I cannot respect is personal attacks on someone who sees things the opposite way, or takes an action with which you don’t agree. Once personal attacks enter the equation, that causes the attacker to lose any sense of respectability and probably a bunch of Twitter followers. Hypothetically.

And If There’s No Sure Thing?

When it comes to speculation, I don’t do it as much as I used to. I used to feel like I needed to find that next hot spec as frequently as possible.

Nowadays, I virtually never go looking for specs. If something is worth speculating on, it will be obvious. Yes, it’s possible to dig into cards nobody’s heard of and make a nice call for profit, but that’s not the way I like to do things. I’ll stick with obvious calls like Tasigur and the like, thank you very much. And if there’s no Tasigur-type card out there? I don’t buy. Why bother? If I don’t feel extremely confident in a card, there’s no point in buying in. And since we’ve already established the idea of not being dependent on this extra income, that means there’s no reason to speculate until I do feel extremely confident.

I’m interested in your thoughts on this topic. Have you monetized Magic in ways not mentioned above? Share your success story! Have you monetized another, non-Magic hobby? I’d love to hear about it. And how many of you have turned a monetized hobby into a career? Did it ruin it for you? Let us know!


UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Planeswalker Finance, April 2015

By: Danny Brown

If you’ve been around MTG finance for long, you’ve often heard that trading into Reserved List cards is a great way to lock in and grow value over time. Indeed, picking up dual lands, Force of Will, Wasteland, and other eternal staples has proven time and again to be a great way to hold value, if not make a profit.

But there’s two problems with this strategy:

  1. Finding these types of cards in trade binders is tough.
  2. Not everyone has the value needed to trade for big cards like this.

And let’s be real, for every Old Man of the Sea, there’s a Sorrow’s Path, and despite being on the Reserved List, you should not pick up Sorrow’s Path. I know, these are the kinds of hot takes that keep you coming back to MTGPrice every week.


Okay, so what is a new or budget-minded or just-plain-cheap mage to do? Very few people are going to trade their Legacy staples for your Sylvan Caryatids and Coursers of Kruphix, but they’re still losing value every day all the same. Maybe you can flip them into Dragonlord Silumgars and Atarka’s Commands, but those have a shelf life of their own, meaning you’re just going to be playing this same game next year.

Fetch lands are the obvious answer, but everybody touches on that fact, and just saying the same thing doesn’t make for a very interesting or informative article. And even still, it’s been shown that reprinting major lands in Standard drops their prices in a big way, so it’s not like you can just hold on to fetches forever.

So where do we look?

It’s In the Title

Look, you already know I’m talking about planeswalkers today, so I’ll quit pretending that I’m leading up to some major revelation.

Planeswalkers, you may be aware, are a casual favorite, from kitchen-table to Commander to Cube. There aren’t very many of them (only 59 by my count!), which makes them special compared to just about every other card type in the game. When they are good in eternal formats, they tend to get pretty darn expensive.

jtmsBut even when they’re universally despised, they still hold a minimum amount of value. Even Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded is around $3, and nobody wants that card for any format. (True story: I will always live in shame that I lost in the finals of Avacyn Restored Game Day to a Craterhoof BehemothUnburial Rites deck featuring Lingering Souls and, yes, Tibalt. So I guess somebody wanted it for a tournament, shockingly.)

There are distinct categories of planeswalkers, and we’ll be grouping all 59 of them today, for posterity.

Standard Planeswalkers

Okay, this one’s easy. If you’re looking to lock in value, don’t trade for Standard planeswalkers. They are almost always fringe-playable in Standard at the least, and that helps buoy their values until rotation. The floor price almost always comes just after they rotate, so I wouldn’t mess with Standard planeswalkers until then (unless you need them to actually, like, play Standard).

There are 16 planeswalkers currently in Standard, which is kind of crazy when you consider that’s more than a quarter of all planeswalkers ever printed. There’s 10 that I believe will be available for between $4 and $5 after rotation, and significantly, never go down from there.

  1. Ajani Steadfast
  2. Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
  3. Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
  4. Chandra, Pyromaster
  5. Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
  6. Jace, the Living Guildpact
  7. Kiora, the Crashing Wave
  8. Liliana Vess
  9. Sorin, Solemn Visitor
  10. Xenagos, the Reveler

Only Jace, the Living Guildpact might go below $4 of these—that guy may indeed end up being buddies with Tibalt. All these others are trade targets at $5, in my opinion. They’ll hold that $5 in perpetuity, and many of them will gain value over time. (We’ll look at past examples of this effect later in this article).

There’s an exception to buying planeswalkers while in Standard, and that’s that there’s almost always a planeswalker that hits it big leading up to and through rotation. We saw it with Jace, Architect of Thought a couple years ago, then both Xenagos, the Reveler and Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver last year. The potentials in current Standard for this type of growth are:

  1. Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
  2. Sarkhan Unbroken
  3. Narset Transcendant
  4. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
  5. (Sorin, Solemn Visitor)

Sorin is parenthetical because I mentioned him above, but with a current price of around $10, he could fit in this boat. Really, though, all of these cards are a little more expensive than Jace, Xenagos, or Ashiok, and I just don’t feel like any is a great buy right now. At around $8, Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker comes closest, but I’d like to see it around $6 before I pull any triggers. It’s not like the card has been blowing up the tournament scene in the last year.

Ugin is interesting, as Karn Liberated‘s history is going to impact the Spirit Dragon’s trajectory in a big way. I don’t believe we will ever see Ugin below $15, and that will likely not be until rotation. Being from a small, middle set means the supply is particularly low, so I would not be surprised to see this outstrip Karn within a few years.

Finally, Garruk Apex Predator and Nissa, Worldwaker will probably not drop to the $5 point where I expect most other current Standard planeswalkers to end up. Any price under $10 for these two cards is probably a good acquisition rate, as these are powerful, evocative, popular, and in low supply. Like the last few core sets, M15 wasn’t overwhelmingly popular.

Eternally Competitive

Very few planeswalkers make it in Modern, and even fewer make it in Legacy. When they do, the price usually reflects it, although to varying degrees.

  1. Ajani Vengeant
  2. Dack Fayden
  3. Elspeth, Knight-Errant
  4. Jace, the Mind Sculptor
  5. Karn Liberated
  6. Liliana of the Veil

It’s a very short list. Elspeth and Ajani both are between $10 and $20, but both have multiple printings to help satisfy demand. The other four or are all $25 or more, with Jace and Liliana pushing up toward $100. Dack gets most of his demand from short supply and Vintage playability, but it’s such a powerhouse in that format that it seems reasonable to add it here.

Still, though, with so few planeswalkers being good enough—and I highly doubt any in Standard will join this list expect perhaps Ugin—the next section is where things get really interesting.

“Bad” Casual Planeswalkers

I’m going to divide the rest of the 59 planeswalkers we haven’t discussed into two groups: “bad” planeswalkers and “good” planeswalkers. I’m basing this on what’s popular in Commander, Cube, and other casual formats, as well as just how frequently I see a card played anywhere. Yes, this is fairly subjective. Deal with it. Fair Trade Prices are as of April 27, 2015, and are listed next to each card.

  1. Ajani, Caller of the Pride $5.48
  2. Chandra Ablaze $8.45
  3. Chandra Nalaar $4.40
  4. Chandra, the Firebrand $4.03
  5. Gideon, Champion of Justice $4.79
  6. Jace, Memory Adept $5.24
  7. Liliana of the Dark Realms $6.39
  8. Nahiri, the Lithomancer $4.76
  9. Nissa Revane $13.28
  10. Sarkhan the Mad $8.38
  11. Sarkhan Vol $10.73
  12. Sorin Markov $14.58
  13. Teferi, Temporal Archmage $5.40
  14. Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded $2.91
  15. Vraska the Unseen $3.33

You can certainly argue that some of these deserve to be on the “good” list, but I don’t think there’s much argument that this list closely approximates “the 15 worst planeswalkers ever printed,” give or take one or two that’s still in Standard (with the exception of Jace, Memory Adept, which just doesn’t see a lot of play because it’s too good in small-deck formats and not good enough in big-deck ones).

Note that only two of these planeswalkers are under $4 and only four are between $4 and $5. Many are over $10, some in the face of reprints. The average price of these “bad” planeswalkers is $6.81.

“Good” Casual Planeswalkers

Here are the planeswalkers most often seen in Cube, Commander, and other casual formats, plus ones that were powerhouses in their Standard formats, are liked as characters, or just otherwise popular or powerful. This is everything not mentioned in this article so far:

  1. Ajani Goldmane $10.30
  2. Daretti, Scrap Savant $4.22
  3. Domri Rade $7.08
  4. Elspeth Tirel $12.99
  5. Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury $6.94
  6. Garruk Relentless $3.51
  7. Garruk Wildspeaker $9.23
  8. Garruk, Caller of Beasts $6.19
  9. Garruk, Primal Hunter $7.57
  10. Gideon Jura $4.35
  11. Jace Beleren $9.53
  12. Jace, Architect of Thought $2.82
  13. Koth of the Hammer $6.83
  14. Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker $10.25
  15. Ral Zarek $7.09
  16. Sorin, Lord of Innistrad $6.51
  17. Tamiyo, the Moon Sage $19.71
  18. Tezzeret the Seeker $15.91
  19. Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas $14.91
  20. Venser, the Sojourner $8.31

Here we have an average price of $8.71, just about $2 over what the “bad” planeswalkers are worth. Pulling the average down are Daretti, Scrap Savant (who Douglas Johnson called out in a recent article) and Jace, Architect of Thought, which is at a shockingly-low $2.82. Yes, this saw a Duel Deck printing, but so did several of the cards on the above list, and they didn’t ever go this low. Jace’s Duel Deck art also has the distinction of being hideous, so you would think the RTR versions would be worth a bit more.

Check out the charts for some of the above cards. Except for the ones that just rotated out of Standard, many have been increasing over the last year. Tamiyo went from $12 to $19. Koth went from $4 to $6. Nicol Bolas went from $4 to $10.

As a general rule that holds true so, so often, planeswalkers go up over time. They almost never go down, except when they rotate from Standard. Even reprints don’t devastate their prices in the same way they devastate other reprinted cards. In many ways, planeswalkers are some of the safest cheap investments you can make.

Besides Jace AOT, Garruk Relentless just seems too low. Sure, it’s not big and flashy for Commander, but it’s fantastic in Cube, only has one printing, and is the only double-sided planeswalker ever printed. For all I know, that last point could actually be a point against it, but double-faced cards really did end up going over very well (and will be back in Magic: Origins).

And the best thing about picking up rotating planeswalkers? Whether they end up in the “good” camp or the “bad” camp, they all tend to go up over time. Isn’t that awesome?

Recurring Nightmare

I’m going to revisit this topic periodically, perhaps every few months, but at least once or twice a year. Planeswalkers perform like nothing else in MTG finance, and that makes them worth a close look on a regular basis.

Have comments? Want to harangue me for calling your favorite planeswalker bad? Or do you want to point out the next hot planeswalker spec? If you have things to say, you know what to do.

Trade Better

Trading is one of the most fun aspects of Magic finance, but it can also be a huge pain. Between dealing with unreasonable people, trade sharks, and a constantly shifting market, actually completing a trade can be quite an undertaking.

But when we do make a good series of trades, it makes it all worth it, right? Flipping five or six uncommons you opened at the prerelease for a mid-tier rare that you trade for a spec target that doubles up and gets you a Thoughtseize or a fetch land is exactly the kind of story that makes people want to get involved in Magic finance. It makes a lot of sense that the MTG finance boom came right after Jonathan Medina’s Pack to Power series: everyone wants to be able to flip bad cards for the best cards, and Medina demonstrated to what extent it could be done.


Trading isn’t nearly as prevalent or popular as it once was, of course. I hardly ever find anyone at my LGS with a binder these days, and when I do, it’s virtually impossible to get any sort of fair deal. In recent experiences, I’m finding that people are either intent on sharking or so afraid of being sharked that they’re too timid to make big trades.

With this in mind, maybe it’s time to take a moment to go over some basic concepts involved in trading. For the casual traders, it will help you feel confident that you’re getting a fair deal. For the financier types, maybe it will help you realize that you don’t need to be getting twice the value as your partner in every trade. Making more trades with smaller value gains is generally more profitable than trying to rip off every person with whom you trade.

Understand Who Has the Power

It’s ten minutes before FNM starts, and you overhear an acquaintance trying to pick up his last Siege Rhino before the event. You’re tuned into MTG finance and know that Travis Allen has been touting this as a good pick-up for some time, and you happen to have a few copies in your binder. You don’t necessarily want to trade any away, but when the guy comes and asks you if you have one available, you figure it can’t hurt to take a look at what he’s offering.

“I’m not really looking to trade a Rhino away,” you say, “But if you make it worth my while, I could be convinced.”

You have the power in this situation. Your trade partner “needs” this card, and you don’t feel a particular drive to trade it away, so a “fair” trade is not to be expected here.

Many players completely fail to grasp this concept. In their minds, the only thing that matters is what the TCGplayer mid says, and if you ask for more than that, then they assume that means you’re trying to rip them off. As a result, these players enter a lot of tournaments with sub-par decks lacking many of the cards they need.

Asking for additional value to encourage you to give up a card you don’t feel particularly driven to unload is not trade sharking, unless you’re lying to your trading partner about what the cards in question are worth. If you start asking for unreasonable amounts of value, you might be approaching shark territory, but as long as your trading partner knows what’s going on, he or she can always just walk away. Then you’re not a shark—you’re just a bad trader who failed to close a deal. It’s when you misrepresent information that things get shady.

This power dynamic shifts a bit if you have cards you’re actively looking to trade away. I’m going to invoke Travis Allen again here, because he touched on this exact topic in his article earlier this week.

Basically, you shouldn’t be afraid to take a small loss on soon-to-rotate cards today if it means dodging a major loss on them tomorrow. I’ll give you a recent example. This past Friday, someone flipping through my binder expressed a passing interest in my Courser of Kruphixes and Sylvan Caryatids I hadn’t managed to get rid of just yet. My eyes lit up when he asked about them. He wasn’t exactly sure he wanted them, and was waffling a bit. Eager to make the trade, I gave him a few dollars in value on a $35 trade, and I made sure to let him know that I was doing that for him.

–Travis Allen

Travis went on to point out that if he didn’t make that trade, there’s a good chance he wouldn’t have been able to trade off the cards until they were worth only $20, losing money in the long run.

So in that case, the other guy didn’t need the cards, he had a vague interest in them. That’s not the time to ask for extra value. If you think the card is going to go up or have a particular attachment to it, just don’t trade it. If you’re actively looking to get rid of it in the face of greater losses, give up value if you have to, within reason. Do you want to make the trade or not?

 Trading Horror Story #1

It’s June 1999, which would have made me 14 years old, I guess (yes, I’m an Old™). I have just opened what might be, in my young eyes, the sweetest card in Urza’s Legacy: Palinchron (aside to my aside: holy crap, I didn’t realize this had been ascending from $5 where I picked a copy a few years ago. Paying attention is important).

I don’t remember exactly what I was doing at the LGS that day. I was probably playing a match, and an adult guy I did not know asked to look at my binder. I let him, he asked if the Palinchron was for trade, I told him probably not but maybe, and he asked if he could take it out of my binder. Because I was a dumb kid, I said yes.

It wasn’t until later that night that I realized I’d never negotiated with him, and what do you know? The card wasn’t in my binder anymore, either. I never saw the guy again.


  1. Don’t trade while you’re playing a match.
  2. Don’t ask to trade with someone who’s playing a match.
  3. Don’t let people steal from you, especially in such obvious and avoidable ways.
  4. Don’t steal from kids. (This one is especially important!)

Trading Up and Trading Down

“Trading up” refers to trading several cards of lower value into one or more cards of higher value. “Trading down” refers to the opposite: trading a high-value card for lots of cards of lower value.

Another concept players often fail to grasp is the idea that expensive, often out-of-print individual cards are harder to obtain and thus more desirable than an “equal value” amount of many lower-value cards.

Cards that are just above bulk, in the $0.50 to $1 range at TCGplayer mid, cannot just add up to Standard staples using the same valuation method. You may find finance-minded mages willing to trade down real cards for bulk rares, but they’re valuing them at 10 to 25 cents each depending what the card in question is.

Even something like trading actual Standard staples like Thunderbreak Regent or Elspeth, Sun’s Champion into out-of-print Modern or Legacy staples like Vendilion Clique, Tarmogoyf, and dual lands is probably going to require some sweetening by the person trading up. If you’re dealing only in trade, it’s a lot easier to pick up a pile of Abzan cards than it is to find someone in possession of and willing to trade a Volcanic Island.

Unless the person trading down is motivated for one reason or another (I’ve heard of shop owners all too excited to trade dual lands for Standard staples that people at their LGS will actually buy, for example), the person trading up should just understand they need to give up value. I recall a several-year-old Corbin Hosler article discussing trading a dual land down to a player for Standard cards (Huntmasters were involved, I’m sure of it) and Corbin explaining to the other guy that he was going to value his cards at buylist prices. The guy did not take it well, which is an example of why trading is so hard these days. Corbin was ultimately doing the guy a favor and he was not concealing information for gain, but the guy still thought it was unfair. This is why it’s so important to understand when you’re trading down or trading up.

Trading Horror Story #2

Basically by a fluke occurrence caused by the most casual of these events I have ever seen, I managed to win a Dark Ascension Game Day, including the playmat, with a non-optimized version of Illusions despite Delver being a well-established deck by that point. I just showed up because it was free to play and everybody who showed up got a Strangleroot Geist promo, which I thought was super sweet.


I had only returned to Magic a few months earlier, at the Innistrad prerelease, so I was not very good at Magic, only vaguely aware of MTG finance (though I’ve always been value-conscious in most areas of life, so I was getting there quickly) , and not entirely comfortable in the LGS atmosphere. And get this—pretty much the only format I was playing at the time was Standard. (For real, though, I loved Scars-Innistrad Standard and would play it again if I could.)

I was playing with my sweet Gameday Champion playmat at FNM, and a guy kept asking me to trade it. I didn’t really want to, but he was persistent, so finally, I just said, “Sure, but you have to pay extra. I want thirty dollars.”


I had noticed that playmats generally sell for $10 to $20, so I thought I was really getting a good bargain here. Stupidly, I had failed to look on eBay and notice that these were going from $50 to $100 at the time. I traded it away for two Gravecrawlers and other junk I didn’t really want or need, basically because the guy wouldn’t leave me alone about it.

Thankfully, this story has a happy ending. A guy I was friendly with approached me later in the evening and said he was going to offer me four Seachrome Coasts (valued at $20 at the time) for it. This is when I was informed of the mat’s true value, and I was just crushed. The guy and his buddy took it upon themselves to go give $35 to $40 in value to get it back and offered to just give it back to me. Obviously, I told the guy it was his to keep, but he gave me a Seachrome Coast anyway, making it so I got a little bit more value for the mat and he got it a little cheaper than he originally intended. Horror stories suck, but this community can truly be awesome sometimes. (Sadly, neither of those guys play Magic anymore. For now.)


  1. Don’t let yourself be bullied into a trade.
  2. Don’t trade something without knowing its value. You might regret it.
  3. Make good friends.

 All Things Being Equal

The best and easiest trades are when you have cards your trading partner needs, she has cards that you need, and those cards’ values are close enough that trades can go straight across with maybe some random throw-ins on one side or another.

Of course, Magic financiers don’t often have needs, per se. There have been times where I was trading with no particular goals but to make value. In these situations, you’re looking to have cards that people will need, so that you can have power in trades to get a little extra value. If you’ve got a bunch of stuff that nobody wants, you’re not going to accomplish your goals.

What about trading with financiers? Is it just not worth the time? In my experience, it often isn’t, but if you feel like doing it, it really becomes a game of who is speculating on what. You’re not going to get much current value out of your trading partner, so you need to figure out what he is bullish on that you’re bearish on, and vice versa. This is a way that two financiers can walk out of a trade and both feel happy.

Finally, I recall back in my Standard days that Silverblade Paladin was going for $9 or $10 at Star City Games but had a TCGplayer mid of $12. If you know anything about SCG prices, you know that it’s very rare for SCG to have a price below TCGplayer mid. I used this knowledge to trade for Paladins with people who used SCG prices and to trade away Paladins to people using TCGplayer prices. Noting value differences like this can often make you money.

As a general rule of thumb, it favors you to trade up using SCG prices if possible, and to trade down using TCGplayer prices if possible. SCG prices on high-value cards are closer to market price than bulk rares, which all get marked up to at least $0.50.

Trading Horror Story #3

One time, I was looking through a guy’s binder and a page had a crushed cockroach on it. That’s extremely gross, but I just chose to not mention it and quickly turned the page.

Then I got to the center of the binder, where the folios fold and there’s a little space in the spine. The entire spine of the binder was filled with cockroaches. An onlooker remarked in horror about it, I sat there shocked and appalled, and my trading partner profusely apologized and said he had been dealing with a huge infestation at home.

I did not complete a trade in that instance.


  1. Don’t live your life in such a way that this ever happens.

That’s all I’ve got for this week, kids. Until next time!