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Floor Reports: Grand Prix Pittsburgh

Hey guys! GP Pittsburgh was a great event to go to if you were looking to grind the tables and buy some cards. With prices in their seasonal decline, many opportunistic players were there looking to acquire underpriced staples and discounted deals. I myself did not play sanctioned magic at all during the weekend, and I’m sure that the other price writers present will be covering what happened with the TO and the GP as a whole. I can say that because the venue was packed, many grinders had extremely good weekends and I was lucky enough to partake in the spoils. After feedback on my twitter account from these articles, I also will be grading the vendors just like school.  Let’s get into the plethora of vendors!

Strike Zone


StrikeZone seemed to barely be vending this weekend. They left early all three nights, and were one of the later vendors to be arriving on site during Sunday morning. I think they ran out of cash due to their proximity to the entry hall, and as a result didn’t have to grind the long hours that the vendors farther away from the action had to. Their buy prices weren’t the best, but there were enough people selling to them to make their booth worth it. The weirdest part about buylisting to StrikeZone was the fact that they make you organize the buy piles into set and alphabetical order, which is something few lazy Magic players do. They used to be one of the top vendors to sell to, but it seemed that their prices waned with the sun at this GP. I sat down with them as they perused through my binders, but said no to all of their offers confident that I could get more for my cards elsewhere this weekend.

Grade: C (Average)

MTG Card Market


MTG Card Market was at the very end of one of the two rows of vendor tables. They seemed to get little traffic because of this, and their buy prices weren’t amazing. They did however grab quite a few quarters this weekend out of my ogre box, perhaps in an attempt to get cards in at all! Jameson was quite friendly to everyone who stopped by however, and quite a few Chicago locals were selling to them this weekend.

Grade: C (Average)

Channel Fireball


Channel Fireball had a booth about four booths down from the GP entrance. They were packed all weekend, and paying highly on miscellaneous cards. As a GP mainstay, many people were selling to them due to their brand loyalty and credit bonus. Their buyers were very friendly and I sold a couple hundred dollars of mid-priced cards to them. Taking credit, I was able to pick up some blue-chip modern staples such as Noble Hierarch and Thoughtseize that I’m confident will see nice returns next year. They also bought over 100 Snapcaster Mageand 100 Rhystic Study from individual buyers, which was pretty funny to see.

Grade (B) Above Average

Savage TCG


Savage has vended the last couple GPs in a row. They always seem to attract a crowd, but didn’t have any stellar buy prices this weekend. They did, however, have low prices on played cards and had multiple Legacy staples at attractive buy prices all weekend. It seemed that they sold a lot of these to cube enthusiasts as quite a few happy people walked away with new cards. I didn’t sell anything to them or buy, but I always like to stop by and see what they have for sale.

Grade ( C) Average

Gaming ETC


Gaming ETC had an interesting booth setup this weekend. Half of their booth was covered in miscellaneous Magic products such as playmats and sleeves, compared to other vendors’ higher-margin items like packs and played binders. I wasn’t happy with their high sell prices and low buy prices, and the demeanor of their buyers didn’t make it seem like they were happy to be there.

Grade (D) Below Average

Jupiter Games


Jupiter seemed sparsely populated all weekend. They had both low buy prices and high sell prices. Their buyers seemed to be on their phones for most of the GP, and they only seemed animated during the busy Saturday morning. Next time, I don’t think I’m going to stop by Jupiter if this trend continues.

Grade (F) Unsatisfactory

Wizard Tower.com


Wizard Tower was one of the most interesting vendors this weekend. They had electronic boards that made seeing buy prices easy. They also had some of the highest buy prices on casual cards this weekend, and had the line to show for it. The weirdest thing about their buying practice was that they manually looked up inventory numbers of each card that they were interested in buying. Selling to them took about twice as long as usual, which was fine for me as I wasn’t playing in the GP, but could be harder for those who were. They almost ran out of money on Saturday, as I was paid quite a bit of money in $5 dollar bills. However, their buying staff was top -notch and friendly. I’ve never seen them vend a GP before, but they will be one of the first stops I make if I see them at another. Phil was one of the nicest buyers I worked with all weekend, and made small talk with me while waiting for their inventory to load on his computers.

Grade (A-) Excellent

Ice Imports


Ice Imports is another vendor that has been showing up lately at many of the GPs.  They had sell prices somewhere between TCGLow and TCGMid, which was pretty good for a booth. I wasn’t a fan of their buy prices, but they did have quite a few people selling them cards. Their buyers were asking people as they walked buy to sell them cards/ look at their shelves, which means they weren’t just sitting there during slow booth times. Busy times for booths happen between the breaks in each round when players are killing time, and slow times happen during the first 15 minutes of each round.

Grade ( C) Average.

Kirwan’s Game Store


Kirwan had a small booth in a corner of the room. It didn’t seem that they were buying many collections, but the people selling to them were selling giant collections that took quite a bit of time to buy in. I didn’t sell anything to them, but their hotlist was around 5% less than the top buylists in the room which wasn’t bad if you were looking to get credit for a specific card.

Grade (C ) Average

MTG Deals


MTG Deals has earned the reputation of one of the top vendors to stop by first at any GP. They definitely lived up to it as this GP. They had a pretty busy booth, and solid buy prices. I sold 10 Expeditions to them at barely below TCGLow, and their buyer Dave was friendly. He also offered a higher number on cards after I said no to the initial offer, which was a nice change of pace. At GPs you can always barter with vendors on high-end cards on the numbers you want, but it was nice to see him haggle with me on $20-$50 cards. I would recommend stopping by MTGDeals as one of the first booths at any GP.

Grade (A-) Excellent



Coolstuff Inc also had a ton of traffic this weekend. I bought quite a few $16 original Modern Masters packs from them. Although the EV of the packs was great, my pulls weren’t. I sold them quite a few cards that they were paying extremely highly on, such as Modern Masters Slaughter Pact at $7. Their buyers were friendly, and I was satisfied with some of their cards in their played/ foreign binders such as a japanese copy of All is Dust at $4.

Grade (B) Above Average

RIW Hobbies


Being one of the booths directly next to the doors of the room, RIW was quite busy this weekend. They had cards at retail prices, but had a ton of people buying from them. Customer service was exemplary with Marcel doing his best to accommodate weird card requests and talking about the history of the shop with people. They brought all of their sealed product and product damaged from their fire that had happened a couple months ago in a discounted binder. The cards didn’t smell smoky, but the prices were on fire in this binder. I picked up a promo Eternal Dragon for $5 in the binder, and one of my friends got a foil Sphinx’s Revelation for $10. I recommend stopping by RIW in the future if they still have this binder in the future, or to pick up packs for drafting with your friends.

Grade (B) Above Average

Brimstone Games


Brimstone brought the greatest amount of sealed product to the GP this weekend. Although their buy prices weren’t stellar, the selection of packs was quite insane. I bought a few original packs of Ravnica for fun at $20 each and pulled a Remand and an Overgrown Tomb. Their buyers were quite friendly with many people coming over to admire their sealed wares, asking how much they were, and then leaving after hearing the answer. For example, there was a sealed box of foreign Urza’s Saga on display. Many people incredulously walked away after hearing the number, but it didn’t seem that bad if you were in the market for something so rare. In the future if you want to see some unique stuff, I recommend stopping by Brimstone Games in the future.

Grade B (Above Average)

Face to Face Games


Face to Face was also situated near the doors of the venue, leading to a high amount of people stopping by. Their buyers were very friendly, but it seemed like the exchange rate of the Canadian dollar hampered their buying power this weekend compared to other vendors. They had prices around retail as well, but due to brand loyalty still had quite a bit of traffic. I was sad to say that their booth this weekend didn’t stand up to the pleasure of their game center in Canada. Had their buy prices been higher I would have sold them some stuff, but I was in the business of making the most money on my cards this weekend.

Grade (C )  Average

The Comic Book Store


These guys had solid traffic all weekend, with many locals stopping by to sell cards. I wasn’t a fan of most of their buy prices, but they were paying highly on Command Tower which meant that there must be a huge casual market for them. Their buyers were friendly, but I didn’t sell them many cards.

Grade ( C ) Average.

Aether Games


Aether has consistently been one of the first vendors I have stopped at at nearly every GP. This weekend was no different. They were paying $17 on Thoughtseize, $2 above the TCG Low at the time. I sold them quite a few Emrakul, the Aeons Torn at $19 and Leyline of Sanctity at $7. They were paying the highest in the room on the fetch land Expeditions, and also were paying $50 on the SCG Tasipurr playmats. They bought so many of these cards at their high buy prices that they dropped many of them after their quote was filled. One person singlehandedly sold them almost 200 Thoughtseizes. Their buyers were friendly, and very professional. I also bought quite a few cards from them this weekend. I bought them out of Japanese foil Plains at $5-6, depending on the art. With those prices barely above English, this is something that I expect to see better returns on then their English counterparts. I also bought quite a few Russian fetch lands since I like Russian more than English cards. Overall, I would recommend making Aether one of your first stops at any GP.

Grade (A-) Excellent

Troll and Toad


You could barely tell that Troll and Toad had a presence this weekend. Whether it was their low buy prices or shipping practices, they had almost no traffic this weekend. They have also been known to not honor their online buy prices. Cards were haphazardly flung into their cases in different directions, and their buyers seemed quite moody as well. This is the exact opposite of what a vendor should be like at a GP, and I was extremely unimpressed.

Grade (F) Worst Vendor at the GP.

Empire Cards


Empire had a good selection of high-end cards and sealed product this weekend. I sold them quite a few standard cards that were not tier 1 anymore. I also bought a few RTR packs for fun, but didn’t open anything worthwhile. If I see them at a GP in the future, I’ll probably stop by again but nothing they had blew me out of the water.

Grade (C ) Average

Grinder Gains http://imgur.com/5ZTdiNY

The floor was extremely busy this weekend. With the venue packed to capacity, most of the grinders there Saturday sat by the last row on circular tables. Many people gave up value to get Expeditions at a loss, and as you’ve probably read by now Expeditions are finally rising from their floor.

Trinisphere was virtually nonexistent in anyone’s binders, and had a strong demand from grinders even though no one had any. There were many established shops grinding inventory, with many getting rid of fetch lands for local goods as fetches have finally started to dip back down.

I also helped a friend get a Black Lotus this weekend. He came up Saturday afternoon with a binder full of dual lands. I had already asked each vendor their buy price on duals, and had calculated the amount of credit/ cash he would receive in order to make it easier on him since he would only be at the GP in a couple hours. We ended up trading 24 mainly non-blue duals for a MP- Black Lotus that Aether had at 2300 in buylist. Aether was offering the highest in the room on dual lands this weekend, which was odd as I had heard that almost no vendors wanted duals the week before. Coolstuff also only wanted mint duals and had extremely low prices for even SP duals, something I think more vendors will be shifting to in the future.

After four straight weeks of GPs, many vendors were also out of cash. Only Aether, Deals, and CFB had cash left towards the end of Sunday, meaning that desperate or lazy Magic players got the lowest amounts of cash offered and still took it. If you want to sell at a GP, make sure to sell before the GP even starts Saturday morning.

Overall, GP Pittsburgh was a fun time from a financial perspective! With no GPs for the next six weeks, I expect card prices to drop more overall as people try to sell off inventory by the end of the year. Feel free to leave feedback in the comments, or reach out to me on twitter @LengthyXemit.

Bonus Bits

“The only difference between half the vendors and the grinders is a table” – @Zachsellsmagic

“I’ll take bulk rares over staples any day” Thomas Dodd (Owner of CardAdvantage)

“Sell your Abrupt Decays” Anonymous


Grinder Finance – One win from the Pro Tour

While you usually come here to see my articles about MTG Finance, Corbin suggested I take the week off to talk about playing in Grand Prix Pittsburgh.  While I didn’t end up getting a Pro Tour invite from this past weekend, I did learn a lot about using your time wisely in a tournament.  And everyone knows time is money.

What did I play?

visual decklist

I played Naya Burn and for a very good reason.  My mental and physical fortitude was going to be tested in 15 or more rounds of Magic.  If you are not an expert Modern player, it’s hard to recommend any deck that is likely to go to time in the round throughout the tournament.  Burn has a pretty favorable matchup against most of the popular decks in the format.  Almost every 3 color deck is a walk in the park due to the pain from the mana base.  If and when a Scars styled fastland comes out for UR or BG combinations this may not be true.  You can compete with non-interactive combo decks like Bloom, Storm, Ad Nausem, and Goryo’s Vengeance decks by relying on a quick clock and Eidolon of the Great Revel.  Tron typically beats up on your worst matchups and often can’t mount any kind of defense before turn 3.  The move toward Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and away from heavy counter spell decks made Burn a great choice for this weekend.

Card choices

I didn’t play Wild Nacatl.  While I think there is some place for “Cat Burn,” I don’t think this is a good time to be playing it.  The fact that Nacatl doesn’t have haste and people are more likely to have an answer before it can attack means it is often a liability.  The Searing Blazes over performed all weekend.  There are not many decks that have no targets but when you are able to get landfall, it is a complete blowout.  You are more likely to lose to decks that block your Goblin Guide than those that kill it.  Also, unlike Draconic Roar, you can’t counter Searing  Blaze by sacrificing the targeted creature.

The Sideboard

To be honest, some matches I didn’t sideboard any cards.  I may have gone a little overboard on things I didn’t end up playing.

  • Searing Bloods are great against the mirror, Elves, Affinity, Birds of Paradise decks, and are reasonable against infect. I wanted to make sure my good matchups stayed good and had some flexible cards for bad ones.
  • Deflecting Palm is a card that I think is pretty underrated as a sideboard option. It’s pretty good against Emrakul, Griselbrand, Tarmogoyf, Wurmcoil Engine, and Eidolon of the Great Revel, and Valakut the Molten Pinnacle but you have to be in a pretty vulnerable position to use it.   The downside is it’s miserable to draw more than one.
  • Molten Rain on the play is good against some decks. I don’t bring them in on the draw as they tend to be too slow and difficult to cast.  On the play it can punish a 3 color deck, Tron, or Amulet just long enough to get a win.
  • Destructive Revelry was fine this weekend. 4 is probably too many but I didn’t draw any against Affinity.
  • Smash to Smithereens is great against Tron and Affinity. It’s really just a 5th Destructive Revelry in those matchups.
  • Path to Exile was great. I think 3 is just the right number.  Drawing 2 feels miserable but drawing one is usually a blow out.  It’s not as clean as Self-Inflicted Wound against Tarmogoyf but I like it’s flexibility more.  I typically bring them in against anything Tarmogoyf decks, Twin, Tron (on the draw only), and any deck I suspect will play Kitchen Finks or Kor Firewalker.

Missing notables

  • Kor Firewalker is only really good in the mirror. You aren’t guaranteed to draw one and there are many other axis you can fight the mirror on.  My plan was to bring in Searing Blood and Deflecting Palm to keep their creatures off the board and counter their burn spells.
  • Blood Moon is too hard to cast. It doesn’t really do anything unless you have a creature in play and then it’s only marginally impactful.
  • Ancient Grudge may be a consideration next time. It doesn’t do any damage like Revelry or Smash to Smithereens but you’re also not just dead to a Spell Pierce.
  • Rending Volley is just worse than Path to Exile most of the time. There’s no reason to play this.


Round 1: Bye on Nothing – It was a tough battle but I managed to pull out a 2-0 win.  He shamefully dropped after the round.

Record 1-0

Round 2: Luke Bartosik on R/G Tron – This is a great way to start a tournament.  I won the die roll and proceeded to ruin his morning by attacking before his first turn with Goblin Guide.  His natural turn 3 Tron had no Wurmcoil Engine so the game ended shortly there after.  Game 2 he made a mistake of cracking his Expedition map using the colorless from both of his Grove of the Burnwillows.  This gave me an opportunity to seal the deal without fear of a Nature’s Claim.

Record 2-0

Round 3: Roman Fusco on Jund:  This was another great matchup for me.  An early creature followed by a flurry of burn spells ended game 1.  Game 2 I played an Eidolon after taking 6 damage from my lands by turn 2.  I then proceeded to take 8 damage from my Eidolon while my opponent cast a bunch of 4-6 mana spells.  The final Boros Charm put me to 3.

Record 3-0

Round 4: Matt Tumavitch on Affinity : This matchup is miserable if they draw a Cranial Plating or a Vault Skirge.  This matchup is usually unwinnable if they draw both.  Vault Skirge dispatched me quickly.

Record 3-1

Round 5: Ben Rasmussen on Jund: Okay back to Tarmogoyf and friends.  Game 1 went better than excepted as he got stuck on 1 land and Goblin Guide showed him his future of no additional lands.  Game 2 was rather close, I suspended two rift bolts with him at 4, expecting to win short of a Thragtusk.  After he -2 Liliana of the Veil targeting himself (sacrificing Kitchen Finks) and played Huntmaster I had to draw another spell to win the game.  Luckily, my deck is ~ 50% spells that do damage to my opponent.

Record 4-1

Round 6: Eric Feltner on Temur Twin: Three color mana bases are great for me.  He won the die roll but lead by fetchling a Steam Vents with a Scalding Tarn to play Grim Lavamancer, essentially saving me a whole spell.  Blind Fetch / Shock is one of the easiest ways for Burn to get ahead even if they’re on the draw.  Game 2 he played a Scavenging Ooze and that is actually way more terrifying than Tarmogoyf in most situations.  I was lucky to dispatch is quickly with a Searing Blaze and picked up another win.

Record 5-1

Round 7: Eric Blanchet on UR Twin: This is the point in the article where I had to go back and write last names because I had two opponents in a row named Eric playing twin.  This match went to three games as Burn really has no ability to play around the combo.  The crucial turn in the last game was me deciding if I should suspend my Rift Bolt or leave my Sacred Foundry untapped to represent a removal spell.  Ultimately I couldn’t beat a counter spell and a twin and if he just had a counter spell then not suspending the Rift Bolt just makes my next turn worse.  I dodged the untap, twin and won on the back of overloading their counter magic with sorcery speed burn.

Record 6-1

Round 8: Aryeh Wiznitzer on R/G Tron:  The greatest hits keep on coming and after keeping a really awkward hand with only a Lavamancer as my only creature I take a quick game 1.  After game 1 we got deck checked and Aryeh, a competitor from the top 8 of Atlanta last weekend, lamented on his loss last round to Burn.  After we got our decks back and he mulliganed to 5, I was a favorite to take the match in record time.  My turn 1 Goblin Guide into turn 2 Smash to Smithereens on his Spellskite would have been hard to beat on 7.  After another good matchup, I am locked up to play tomorrow.

Record 7-1

Round 9: Stephen Berrios on Grixis Twin: I had not played this matchup yet but got slowly killed game 1 after keeping a 1 land hand and having it tapped multiple turns in a row by Pestermite and Deceiver Exarch.  Before the end of the game he played a Thought Scour on himself and put 2 Splinter Twin into his graveyard.  “Score one for the good guys,” I chided.  We had a short discussion on whether Twin or Burn was the good guy.  Game 2 I won with a turn 1 Goblin Guide into a turn 2 Eidolon of the Great Revel.  He declined to Terminate it on his main phase so when I attacked I was able to Boros Charm to keep it alive.  The damage is a wash (since the Eidolon gets in for another 2 and then deals 2 more on the next removal spell) unless he draws a big blocker or doesn’t play more 3 or less mana spells.  I ended up ahead in that exchange as his next turn was Snapcaster Mage + Lightning Bolt to kill the Eidolon.  Game 3 was another haste creature followed by a flurry of spells.  Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy makes these decks more likely to play removal than counter spells and makes it extremely difficult to interact with Burn.

Record 8-1

At the end of the first day I did better than expected.  A number of good matchups came my way and I only had to play against Affinity once.  I ran through the rain to the nearest sit down restaurant and stuffed my face before going to sleep.

Day 2:

Round 10: Richard Roberts on Jeskai Kiki-Twin?: I was pretty confused by his deck game 1 because he played a turn 1 Grim Lavamancer off of a fetchland and a shockland.  He didn’t draw any particularly relevant threats and played a Valorous Stance on his Grim Lavamancer when I went to Searing Blaze it.  I figure his deck doesn’t actually play counter magic and take game 1.  Game 2 I missed an opportunity to kill him when he played a Village Bell-Ringer with only red mana untapped.  Luckily he played a Restoration Angel the next turn and I was able to fire off 3 instant speed burn spells to kill him from 8.

Record 9-1

Round 11: Christopher Harabas on UR Twin:  I don’t have good notes on this match but it seems like Goblin Guide revealed multiple Splinter Twins which is never good for them.  Life pad says he probably died because he fetched at 5.  Sorry if you’re reading this Chris!

Record 10-1

Round 12: Robert Cucunato on Affinity: Wheels gotta fall off somewhere, right?  This match took 5 turns after I conceded to the unstoppable Vault Skirge with Cranial Plating.  The upside was I was able to use the other 40 minutes of this round to grab food and use the restroom.  It’s great to be playing burn, right?

Record 10-2

Round 13: Adam Schop on Jund:  This was another typical play all my spells and win the game sorta deal.  I took a minute to decided if I should cast spells on my turn or not and Adam encouraged me to play faster.  I’m not sure how to take that since the matchup took 20 minutes total but whatever.

Record 11-2

Round 14:  Charles League on Abzan Company:  Well if you thought Vault Skirge was bad, I won game 1 after my opponent played 3 Kitchen Finks!  I wasn’t sure if I was in Top 8 contention but I was feeling reasonably good after dispatching someone that gained 12 life that game.  Games 2 I almost lost immediately as he played a Kor Firewalker on turn 2 but a timely Path to Exile dispatched it.  I ended up unable to assemble the exact amount of burn required to kill him before he had infinite life.  Game 3 I kept a 1 land hand on the play with multiple 1 mana spells.  Unfortunately I was unable to draw a second land for many turns and put enough pressure to kill him before he gained infinite life.  Unfortunately decks that “gain infinite life” are a bad matchup.

Record 11-3

Round 15: Matthew Rayes on Grixis Control: Game 1 was one of the longest I had played all weekend.  We were both at 1 after I Searing Blazed his lethal Snapcaster Mage but his follow up Tasigur was better than the fetchland I drew.  Game 2 I got off to an early lead with a Goblin Guide followed by a Grim Lavamancer.  Overloading his removal early allowed both creatures to sneak in some damage and the remaining burn spells put the game away.  Game 3 I played a turn 1 Goblin Guide and his “removal spell” of choice was a Snapcaster Mage doing it’s best Ambush Viper impression.  Unfortunately for him I had the Searing Blaze that was greeted by a audible look of disbelief as he fell to 12 on my 2nd turn of the game.  A few Lava Spikes later and I was packing my cards up getting ready to get on the plane.

Final Thoughts

Modern is a fine format.  It definitely has some rock – paper – scissors type matchups which are unfortunate.  Luck has a lot to do with how often you will win or lose in large tournaments.  That being said, Lava Spike is pretty much the best spell in the deck.  It’s awkward in the fact that it’s a sorcery and only costs 1 mana so it’s very difficult to counter.  It also can’t be redirected to a Spellskite. I think this deck benefits a lot from the Vancouver Mulligan rule as I was able to frequently send back 4 land 3 spell hands and keep 3 land 3 spell hands.  I would recommend it to anyone looking to make a jump into Modern as it’s relatively inexpensive and extremely powerful.