Tag Archives: Finding Value

Are Standard Mythics Still Good Short-Term Specs?

By Guo Heng

“Wizards is really trying to kill speculators huh?”

I woke up last Friday to this message a fellow mtgfinance enthusiast at my LGS . The Battle for Zendikar Event Deck’s list was announced on Thursday 8 a.m. PST (which is around 11 p.m. Malaysian time on Thursday). As I glanced through the decklist, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. And I was sure as hell it wasn’t because I have yet to ingest my compulsary dose of morning caffeine.

If you have yet to see the decklist, check out Corbin’s (@chosler88) post about the Event Deck for his thoughts on the impact of the reprints.

Here are the notable cards that you’ll be able to find in the value-fest that is the Battle for Zendikar Event Deck:

What!? Since when do Wizards chuck in mythics in Event Decks. Two mythics!? 

I was dismayed to see Whisperwood Elemental included in the decklist.  I was bullish on Whisperwood Elemental as a mythic with an incredible potential for price growth in the new Standard landscape we are hurtling towards this October. Whisperwood has the making of a breakout card in financial terms. It’s a Standard staple with a track record in aggro and midrange decks. It’s a mythic from a small set.  And it was hovering around $6 – $7 for the previous few months, probably as low as a small set Standard staple mythic could go. Whisperwood Elemental could spike to the $15 – $20 range if it becomes the premier green five drop in the Battle for Zendikar Standard, an outcome which I am quite confident about considering Whisperwood’s power level and the new unconditional creature removal being sorcery speed.

It all changed when the Fire Nation attacked Wizards decided that they are going to reprint mythics in Standard supplemental products. Whisperwood is now $5 and I doubt it would be able to hit even $15 anymore. While the influx in supply from the Event Deck is marginal, it does affect the perception regarding the financial potential of the Elemental. I also pity the fool who went in deep on Warden of the First Tree.

The most recent supplementary product designed for Standard, the Magic Origins Clash Pack, packed a little more value than usual with Standard and Modern staples like Windswept Heath, Collected Company and Siege Rhino, and Standard and Modern playables like Dromoka’s Command and Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit. But it was not too much of a surprise as high value rares like Hero’s Downfall and Thragtusk had seen reprint in these products. The inclusion of a fetchland was also not novel. Verdant Catacombs was in the Magic 2012 Event Deck.

Why Spec on Standard Mythics?

In the era where rare is the new uncommon, playable but homeless Standard mythics makes for better short-term spec targets compared to rare as mythics offer a significantly better multiplier at only a slightly increased cost.

Take Perilous Vault for example. The Magic 2015 mythic dropped all the way to $3 in September 2014, right before Khans of Tarkir rotated in. The colorless nuke found a home when Blue-Black Control made its debut at Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir in October and subsequently tripled in price to $10. It’s not a majestic spike, but 300% growth within a month or two is decent return for a $3 investment.

Perilous Vault

Sometimes you don’t even need to wait for rotation to happen, as with the case of See the Unwrittena card which fellow MTGPrice writer, James Chillcott (@MTGCritic) and I have been bullish about. It recently spike from $3 to $8 (about time!) on the anticipation that it would be used to cheat in Eldrazi et al.

See the Unwritten

Now that Wizards is encroaching into mythic territory for cards deemed fit to be reprinted in Event Deck/Clash Pack products (they alternate each product between sets), the notion that playable Standard mythics at rock bottom are relatively low risk short-term specs no longer hold true. With mythics are no longer immune to an Event Deck/Clash Pack reprint, buying into future Perilous Vaults and See the Unwritten just got a lot riskier.

Walking the Speculation Planes

Ultimately Wizards’ priority is to ensure that competitive staples are sufficiently accessible to keep the competitive scene as inclusive as possible (plus it sells products). As a competitive player, I do welcome that move as it means that I would be able to secure my playset of Hangarback Walker at a reasonable price after missing the boat on that one.

As a financier, Wizards’ increasingly trigger happy inclination to reprint and repress price of staples forces me to reconsider my approach to short-term Standard mythic specs.

Reprint Them All


The risk with Event Decks/Clash Packs reprints resides in the fact that it is hard to predict when, or rather which Event Deck/Clash Pack would reprint which mythic. There is a class of Standard mythics that follow a more predictable reprinting.

Standard planeswalkers reprints are reserved for the spring Duel Deck,  which means that they still make relatively safe short-term/rotation spec. Playable planeswalkers at rock bottom often spike come rotation,  along the lines of Xenagos, the Reveler and Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver during the previous rotation.

Xenagos, the Reveler

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

The announcement for next spring’s Duel Deck comes late October or early November, so make sure you cash out of any short-term. planeswalker spec by then.

Siege Rhino is still in Standard and who better to accompany a crash of rhinos than Sorin, Solem Visitor, who is just $8 now. Now that Stormbreath Dragon is a myth of Standard past, it may be time for Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker to soar the skies for good as the premier sticky red five drop. Oh also, did I mentioned that now your opponent can’t kill your Sarkhan with his Form of the Dragon on the stack?

The Upside

Wizards’ increasingly trigger happy reprint policy is not all doom-and-gloom for financiers. Even if you do not grind Standard, there is a positive note to the phenomenon. Granted, the biggest casualty is the increased risk in short-term speculation. The other side of the coin is that Wizards’ aggressive reprint of high value Standard rares in their Event Decks/Clash Packs widens the window in which you could pick them up for long-term spec.

A good number of expensive Standard rares in recent times were expensive because they found a home in Modern. Collected Company hit double digits (and hovered near $20 briefly) but Den Protector did not because Collected Company spawned new archetypes in Modern and made Elves tier one while Den Protector is strictly worse than Eternal Witness in Modern. Tasigur barely sees Standard play but the amount of eternal play he sees made him the most expensive rare in Fate Reforged. And I don’t think many would complain about Windswept Heath dropping back to $12 after the Khans of Tarkir fetches trended upwards during the summer. You can bet that Tasigur, Collected Company and Windswept Heath will appreciate at a decent rate in the following years as Modern staples.

These Event Deck/Clash Pack reprints creates another window, or extends the current window to pick up these cards as long-term investments. For financiers without a huge budget, or those who have to split their budget between specs and maintaining a competitive Standard card pool, this is likely to be welcome news. Personally, I could never pick up all the specs I have on my specs list for the month as I grind the competitive scene as well and I can’t just sink 90% of my Magic budget into a truckload of Tasigur when he bottomed at $6. Tasigur dropped from $8.50 to $6.50 after last week’s announcement, giving me another window to pick him up at rock bottom amid securing Battle for Zendikar staples.

Do share your thoughts in the comments section below, or catch me on Twitter at @theguoheng.


PROTRADER: Slowlands: What’s the Play?

By Guo Heng

Battle for Zendikar spoiler season official begins next week, but the hype train for the set has been revved up to Shinkansen-mode after last weekend’s big reveal at Pax Prime.

Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

Who am I kidding. Any Magic player who is not living under a rock would know that the hype train is currently fuelled by these sweet reveals:

Arid Mesa Full ArtSteam Vents Full Art

The initial disappointment with the enemy fetches not being reprinted in Battle for Zendikar  was short-lived. Wizards are well aware of their unique position to be able to print literal $200 bills and they are not shy about doing so, which I think is great as Magic is a trading card game at heart and these are the elite of the elite gems to aspire towards in terms of collecting. Wizards pulled out all the big guns for the Zendikar Expedition lands: full art, foil, and with a special border (a.k.a. Battle for Zendikar is likely to be the only set where you can find these).

I wouldn’t be discussing the ultra-rare Zendikar Expeditions pulls. My fellow MTGPrice writers, Travis Allen (@wizardbumpin) and Derek Madlem (@GoingMadlem) wrote extensively about the Zendikar Expeditions lands on Wednesday and I would highly recommend reading their articles.

I would be discussing about the other set of lands that are fuelling the hype train.

Cinder GladeSunken Hollow

Smoldering MarshCanopy Vista

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PROTRADER: To Redeem or Not to Redeem:Magic Origins

By Guo Heng

Magic Origins redemption went live after the Magic Online downtime this Wednesday. Which means you could start transmuting those digital objects on Magic Online into tangible, tappable cards. A price disparity between Magic Online cards and real life (which shall be henceforth referred to as ‘IRL’) cards is ever-present due to a multitude of factors. The price disparity could sometimes be exploited to get your hands on cards below market price, especially foils from sets chock-full of eternal staples. (I’m looking at you Khans of Tarkir.)

Today we are going to crunch some numbers to find out if it is worth going through the effort to redeem Magic Origins, for both non-foil and foil sets.

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Playmat Finance IV: Playmat TLC

By: Guo Heng

Welcome back to another installment of Playmat Finance, where we discuss the MTG-finance implications of that rubbery fabric that stands between our precious cards and and the harsh surfaces where we sometimes play. The first part of the series took a shot at crafting a rudimentary framework to pin a value on Grand Prix playmats, which are part and parcel of modern-day Magic Grands Prix. Part two took a look at Game Day playmats and Grand Prix special or side event playmats. Part three discussed the issue of counterfeit mats and their impact on the value of authentic, sought-after mats.

Today’s article will go over the best practices for preserving the value of your playmat, but not in the manipulate-the-market-by-buying-out-every-other-copy-of-your-rare-playmat sense. A number of readers mentioned in the comments on the first Playmat Finance article that they would be interested to learn about playmat care. I’ve always thought that my assiduous TLC for my playmats was a bit of an outlier, seeing that most players I know just chuck their playmats in their bags after they are done with them. I know a few who fold theirs. What a sacrilege.

The amount of interest in playmat care is a small testimony to the playmat’s growing status as a valuable and collectible piece of Magic paraphernalia.  Magic has long transcended its status as merely a card game, establishing its own terminology and culture, or as some would even describe it, a lifestyle.

Accordingly, items related to Magic have collector’s value (check out the price of these old life counters) and playmats are among the latest additions in the previous years. The first Grand Prix where playmats were given to participants was Grand Prix Milwaukee 2002. The playmat perk was an initiative started by the organizer, Pastimes. Here’s an excerpt from their FAQ a little while back which explains the inception of Grand Prix playmats:

“The history behind playmats at Grand Prix started with Grand Prix Milwaukee in 2002. That event was hosted by… Pastimes. The concept was, as it still is, to use this great marketing collectible to commemorate the weekend – and to help drive people to come play in events on Friday. The only way to get a mat was to be in the first 250 people registered. The mat was awful compared to the amazing mats today, but nobody was doing mats at the time and it was a pretty cool promotion. The Last Chance Grand Prix Trial (pretty different back then) was the largest ever held, and the GP that followed the next day was a record setting GP. Fast forward a few years – playmats have become expected…”

It took a while for playmats to breach into the mainstream. The first Game Day playmat didn’t exist until Dark Ascension Game Day in 2012, but it has been a mainstay of Game Day prizes since then, with some of them garnering a good amount of value.

Fate Reforged Game Day Playmat

Giving Your Playmat the TLC it Deserves

After 21 years of the game’s existence, TLC for Magic cards is about as fundamental as the stack. Sleeves are essential for competitive play (the last time someone played without sleeves at a Grand Prix was Valentin Mackl at Grand Prix Vienna 2013, and that was done on purpose). Double-sleeving your Standard decks is no longer considered odd. Heck, I even triple-sleeve these days (I’m experimenting with ways to keep the cards I play with in Marcel mint condition). If you want to go all the way, you can even do this, which is technically legal if you can shuffle them without assistance.

Resources on playmat TLC are surprisingly sparse on the internet. Googling “playmat care” returns results like this gem. “Treat your playmat like you would any rug or carpet.” I don’t think I’m going to do that.

So far, the best resource for playmat care (and an introduction to playmats for the uninitiated and unconvinced) I’ve stumbled upon is a short video by no other than The Professor from Tolarian Community College.

Whatever knowledge I have regarding playmat TLC were picked up over the years.  While most of my points do overlap with The Professor’s—there are only so many ways to treat your playmat right—there are a few pointers from my own experience I would like to add, which we will get to in a bit.

They See Me Rollin’

I got my first playmat, the Dark Ascension Game Day playmat—which I won because my opponent in the top eight scooped in game three after an hour of a Blue-Black Control mirror as he had a dinner appointment to catch.

I did not treat that little piece of history (first Game Day mat ever!) right. While I did not fold it, I just rolled it up and stuffed it into what little free space my Magic bag could afford. Folding your playmat is the surest way to ruin your mat, as The Professor explains in this segment of the video.

Rolling your mat is the correct way to keep it. I am not sure if rolling it with the rubber bottom facing outwards or with the fabric layer facing outwards is the right way to roll it. I used to roll it with the rubber bottom facing out to protect the fabric layer from damage, but I was advised by a friend that rolling it with the fabric layer outwards better preserves the rubber bottom. Annoyingly, I could not verify the legitimacy of that advice. Anyway I now roll it with the fabric layer facing outwards as I keep my playmats in tubes these days.

Playmat Tubes

Back when I got my first few playmats, I did not consider them to be collectibles and I did not bothered with playmat tubes (I’m not even sure if these existed back in 2012. Perhaps they did and I did not realize it). After a few years of being rolled up naked and shoved in a bag, here’s what my Dark Ascension Game Day playmat looks like:

Dark Ascension

Surprisingly, the borders have yet to show wear and tear. But it is quite obvious that the playmat is a little creasy on the edges. I suspect it is probably because the mat frequently shared the same space in my Magic bag with my deckboxes and the occasional tumbler I carry along, which inadvertently crushed the mat as I toted around the bag.

My Grand Prix London 2013 playmat suffered the same fate:

GP London 2013

Both mats shown above are still fully functioning playmats even though they’ve been rolled and stored without any protection (rolling is the key here). Creased corners aside, they still do what they are meant to do perfectly: provide a clean and smooth surface for my cards. (While The Professor places emphasis on the former, mine is on the latter, as I’ve found that playing without a playmat drastically increases surface clouding of cards even though they are sleeved.)

Even though you can still play with them, dealing with worn-out corners is not ideal for collectible playmats, playmats with a moderate to high value, or playmats with sentimental value.

To combat this, I would highly recommend getting a playmat tube, regardless of whether your playmat is a collectible or it just serves as a velvety surface for your precious cards. It only costs a few bucks, and besides keeping your playmat in good condition, it makes transporting your playmat so much tidier.

There are a good variety of playmat tubes out there, but the two popular ones seem to be the Ultra Pro tube and Monster tube. Like The Professor, I too prefer the Monster tube, but not just because it does not roll off the table.

Left: Ultra Pro; Right: Monster
Left: Ultra Pro; Right: Monster

Monster tubes have a larger opening, partly facilitated by its prism design. I’ve found it a lot easier to fit a mat in a Monster tube compared with an Ultra Pro tube, which I sometimes need to re-roll a mat multiple times to get it to fit and it could get frustrating after a few attempts. They are both around the same price.


A playmat serves to protect your card from dirty surfaces, but is itself susceptible to dirt. A dirty playmat increases the chance of dirt getting trapped on your sleeves. I’ve always thought that playmats and water do not go well together, so my preferred method of cleaning is wiping my playmat with a damp cloth, on both the top and bottom of the mat. It’s imperative to clean the bottom of your playmat, as it can get quite dirty, and the dirt will rub onto the fabric surface when you roll your playmat.

A wipe or two with a damp cloth usually removes the residual dirt that accrues from using the playmat. I usually leave it hanging for a few hours to make sure that both sides are completely dry.

When I watched The Professor’s video above, I was surprised to find out that some playmats can go in the washing machine. The thought of having my playmats go through the rough and tumble of a washing machine cycle sends shivers down my spine, but it seems that Ultra Pro and Inked playmats are made to be machine washable. Inked Playmats‘s FAQ recommends using the delicate/handwash setting if you’re washing them in a washing machine. Don’t use the dryer—leave your playmats out to air dry.

I have yet to give this practice a try, as my mats seem to be doing quite well with damp cloth cleaning. The worst ordeal I’ve had with my playmats was spilling a cup of pumpkin spice latte on my Grand Prix London 2013 playmat (the perils of playtesting at Starbucks). I rinsed the affected part with tap water, left it to dry, and there wasn’t any trace or scent of that beverage on it after that.

I guess it’s nice to know that you could chuck your Ultra Pro or Inked playmat in a washing machine if you couldn’t be bothered to wipe them. If your playmat is not from those manufacturers, it would be prudent to check with your playmat manufacturer if the playmat is machine washable prior to doing so. I may try it one day with one of my worn out mats, but I certainly won’t be tossing my Ugin Game Day one into a washing machine.


It’s tempting to get an artist to sign your playmat along with your cards when you meet them at a Grand Prix. I’ve had a few playmats signed myself. If you’re planning to get your playmat signed, bear in mind that the signature will not last, especially if you’re using the playmat consistently. I got Winona Nelson, who has one of the most gorgeous signatures, to sign my Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur playmat last year, and here’s how the signature looks like today, a year and a half later:


I even avoided the signature area when I cleaned the mat. I doubt I’ll be getting any mats I plan to use signed in the future. Even brighter playmat backgrounds do not make signatures look any better or last any longer.


The last playmat I got signed was a Grand Prix special by Peter Mohrbacher, but that playmat is intended for my collection rather than use, so I’m hoping the signature will last.

I hope I have covered enough about playmat care to give you insight on keeping your playmat in tip-top condition for as long as possible. Do share any other tips or experiences you have regarding playmat TLC in the comments segment below, or catch me on Twitter at @theguoheng.