Tag Archives: history

UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Will These Prices Hold?

Welcome back from the Red Menace! It’s an aggro world, and we’re all just living in it.

The Pro Tour win by Ramunap Red (albeit with a very big oopsie in the quarterfinals by his opponent) meant that several cards have spiked and spiked hard and some of them we saw coming.

The time for picking up cards for a big profit has passed, and it remains to be seen how many of these cards are going to keep their new price levels. This week, I want to look at how such gainers have done after previous PT success, and see how that bodes for the cards which has seen such impressive gains in value.

Before I get into the cards that spiked this weekend, I want to step backwards a couple of Pro Tours and see what patterns might exist.

Pro Tour Amonkhet had Zombies rising (couldn’t help myself) and Aetherworks Marvel all over the place, along with a healthy dose of Mardu Vehicles. Fatal Push cemented its status as a $7 uncommon, though its playability in Eternal formats is a big contributor there. There weren’t a lot of Amonkhet cards in these top decks. Lord of the Accursed was a four-of uncommon, and Dread Wanderer went from $2 up to $6 and has trailed back down to $2 now.

Pro Tour Aether Revolt had six Mardu Vehicles decks in the top 8. Notably, Heart of Kiran jumped to above $20 and has since been trickling downwards in price ever so slowly, as other decks have become more popular. It’s now $11 or so, and having only put two copies of the top 16 at PT Amonkhet, it didn’t bump up even a little.

Pro Tour Kaladesh has eight different decks listed in the top 8, and this was before the triple bannings. Torrential Gearhulk was in two decks, and it’s seeing enough play to stay in the $15-$20 range, but the graph here is truly fascinating:

I wrote the dates on the graph because I’ve never seen a card spike this many times in just a year. Will it keep doing so? Will it go up with each of the four Pro Tours left in its Standard lifespan? There’s even a minor bump for this recent PT, even though Gearhulk decks weren’t really a factor.

It’s also the outlier. Most cards that jump up in price at a big tournament have prices go back down, whether fast like the Gearhulk does, or slow, like Liliana, the Last Hope has.

Now that history has given us some clues, let’s look at the specific cards that have done well this past week and where they will likely be going:

Ramunap Ruins (Now $1.25, was $0.25, foils now $6): I can buy that this is a $1.50-$2 uncommon, as a four-of in the most popular deck. I do not understand this foil price at all. That level of foil multiplier is usually indicative of wild demand in casual or Eternal formats, and it’s just not popular. Commander doesn’t want this. Shivan Gorge will do half the damage but not lose you lands (and a specific land type at that). The Gitrog Monster decks can’t play this. Are people speculating that it’ll be good enough in Modern? I find that unlikely as hell. Please, enlighten me as to why this is such a pricey foil, and if you have a foil, I’d get rid of it ASAP.

I expect the nonfoils will end up at about $1, but if this deck spikes an event around Christmas, when the set is no longer being opened, it’ll hit $2 again.

Abrade (Now $3, was $0.75, foils $10): Again, I like this to stay as a pricey uncommon, even with the large amount of Game Day versions about to enter circulation, and if you think $10 is too much for a foil uncommon, the multiplier is with normal tolerances. I do love the flexibility in Cubes and Commander, as these are both effects you want access to. I think this set of prices will stay consistent for some time, and keep in mind that this will rotate out of Standard at the same time as the Vehicles block, so there will always be a good level of demand for the card.

Falkenrath Gorger (Now $2.50, was $0.50, foils $3.50): The price graph here is going to be a sad one. People are racing to the bottom on this card, as fast as they can. TCG has seven available for under $1, and a very large number under $2. It’s about to rotate, people have dug this out of bulk boxes, and it’ll crash back at bulk by rotation.

Hazoret the Fervent (Now $16, was $6, foils $25): I don’t agree with Travis that the time to sell is already past. Yes, there was a moment where it listed for $20, but if you got in at $7 or less you’re still making a fine profit. It’s in the process of trickling downward, yes, but if you have your copies, don’t panic-list them at $10 each or something. If Ixalan offers us one or two good cheap red creatures the deck will remain a strong part of the metagame. Gorger is rotating, as is Village Messenger, but I don’t think this goes below $12. I doubt we’re going to see the bouncing price of Torrential Gearhulk, but right now people are planning for the deck. We will have a period where the meta adjusts, and people stop playing it, and then the red menace comes back to prey on all the slower decks.

If the price goes below $10 again, I’ll have to think about picking more up. It’s got a limited time to be good, but we’ve already seen what it’s capable of.

Cliff is an avid watcher of just the draft part of the Pro Tour, but the games themselves are far less enthralling. He has been playing this game since late 1994, and making money off of it for far less time. You can find his insights on Twitter @wordofcommander or here on MTGPrice every Friday morning.

PROTRADER: Past, Present, Future

Magic has very few historians. BDM is the Pro Tour Historian1, and he does an excellent job (as does his plucky sidekick, Rich Hagon). A big reason why MaRo started Drive to Work was to serve as an oral history of the game, and several of his episodes focus on telling stories from the game’s distant past.

Kaho, Minamo Historian

Outside of that, though, there isn’t much. Magic is such a different game now than it was even a couple years ago, and it is really hard to explain that to people who weren’t there to experience it firsthand. While past experience is valuable, there are a lot of ingrained behaviors and assumptions that older players have that are becoming liabilities. We are in the early stages of significant changes to Magic—is there insight to be gained in looking to the past?

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Coolest Ginger You Know (Part 1)

By: Houston Whitehead

It only takes a few games of Magic to start applying subconscious shortcuts. In society, stereotyping is a cognitive shortcut to help gauge understanding of an individual.  Though stereotyping is frowned upon, it’s virtually impossible to remove its process from your brain.  What’s interesting is the vast difference between self-stereotyping (self-image) and projected stereotyping (defining those around you relative to personal experiences). Since everyone’s life experiences, ideas, and understandings vary, the only opinions worth caring about are probably just your own.  Obviously careers in the public eye turn these theories on their head but that’s beside the point.  That said, my goal today is to thoroughly introduce myself the MTGPrice.com readers through my personal perceptions, opinions, experiences.

Since I am a player, trader, collector, writer, and content creator, I feel it would only be appropriate to introduce myself under each hat.

About Me…fear the beard

…as a Player


  • I picked up my first cards during Lorwyn Block in High School. Newly made friends inaccurately introduced me to an already complicated game during Web Design III class.  Since the school kept deleting Doom and Pocket Tanks from our computers, it was time to try out strategic cardboard.  Again, my friends didn’t understand many of the rules so our already terrible tribal decks had zero chance of redemption from play skill. My whole collection was from buying a pack or two with loose change from my car during random afterschool visits to a baseball card shop.
  • A couple years later I was looking for some extra money and found my shoe box full of cards and traded them into a local shop. Of course, I was ripped off by the manager and offered $100 credit or $50 cash.  I was offended at the cash offer and told him I’d think about the credit offer.  I saw a guy from high school playing MTG at a nearby table and found out I was playing the game ALL WRONG!  With this new information my competitive nature was intrigued and I’ve been healthy addicted to cardboard crack ever since.
  • The style of decks I prefer to pilot can best be described as synergistic. I’m addicted to value and prefer to cast and/or recur out of my graveyard whenever possible.  This usually lands me in a variety of midrange strategies.  That said, I will always have a special place in my heart for spell-heavy mono red burn.
  • I participate in the following formats: Standard, Modern, Legacy, EDH, Legacy Pauper, Pauper Cube, and most Limited formats.

…as a trader

  • I trade for three reasons. First, I trade to complete a deck I would like to pilot. Obviously the most common reason for trading. Second, I value trade to turn my soft cards into solid cards. Standard Examples: Soft = Thunderbreak Regent & Scry Lands. Solid = Fetch lands & Thoughtseize. Third, I trade to collect which I will talk about later.
  • My goal for each non-value trade is to make 10% profit. It doesn’t always happen and every trade is different but having goals helps keep me from getting emotions involved in trading.  Otherwise, I would just trade everything they want to them.
  • Speculating is one of the most enjoyable parts of trading for me. I even have a binder where I keep all my specs at.  Many friends ask to go through my specs/staple binder and either shoot a chuckle or gasp my way.  Truly a binder full of free entertainment.
  • I prefer to trade using eBay Completed listings but also accept MTGPrice.com’s Fair Trade Price. Many other online vendors flex their prices via stock quantity or what a Pro wrote about this week.

…as a collector

  • First goal when a set is released is acquiring a playset of all dual lands in Standard. I don’t care if they are expensive. Knowing you already have the duals makes building a deck x10 easier. That should-probably-might be a real statistic.  This also enable you to help your friends that might be on a tighter budget or want to try out a deck before they invest.
  • i’m a dog for full art. From full art foil Lightning Bolts to the newest Game Day promos, I aim for a playset of each. The JSS Promos will be the hardest for me to acquire but I enjoy the thought of adding them to my collection.
  • Pauper foils are a new addiction that has bleed over from foiling out my pauper cube. I made a pauper gauntlet with the eight best decks in the format and am slowly foiling out each deck when I find pieces I need.  I will always be a lover of Pauper and if you can’t afford a Legacy deck, I truly feel legacy pauper has wider decision trees than Standard or Modern.

Next week I’ll share detail about me as a writer and as a content creator.

As always thanks for reading



Accumulated Knowledge 1 – Intro to History of Magic Finance

Hello! For those of you who don’t know me already, my name is Ross. Before we begin, I’d like to share my philosophy on Magic finance. I am not a store owner or vendor (although I have worked in the business before), and I have more than a decade of tournament experience. I have observed firsthand all of the changes that have influenced the course of Magic finance in the last ten years, and I prioritize teaching over telling. If I am able to give my readers a more firm understanding of what to look for and why, then they will be able to have continued success over the course of their gaming careers.

I believe strongly in long-term speculation rather than short-term targets (which is something we will discuss today), as well as catering your targets to your best fit, rather than attempting to mimic the successes of others. I also believe that the key to educating someone is by entertaining them as well, so I try to approach my writing with a light and approachable manner. Professionally, my work is in commercial insurance and risk assessment/management, so I typically identify loss potential as a major (if not the primary) factor in determining the potential of an investment. But enough about me, let’s get to work.

Magic writing (any kind of content on it, really) is often very ephemeral in nature. Cards rotate, formats phase in and out of popularity, players (and even writers) come into and out of phases of their life where the game is a priority. The reason why I personally enjoy the writing (and podcasting) of Mike Flores is that he has a wealth of background knowledge to help make comparisons between Magic‘s present and its past. Being able to anchor your present mindset with past experience makes for more structured and informed decision making. That is, of course, just one piece of the puzzle. Magic has changed drastically in the last several years, both in how the game is played, and who is playing it.


I’d like to quickly explain what is perhaps the most important factor in Magic finance in the last several years. Beginning in 2009 (around the release of Magic 2010 and Zendikar), the active Magic player population began to grow at extraordinary numbers. This dynamic increase has continued ever since, and has created both increased demand for cards, as well as higher print runs for newer releases. We will synthesize this information later, but I wanted to get the definition out of the way now, because this is a crucial topic for financiers.

Even though Magic is over 20 years old, Magic finance is largely a new phenomenon. The early days of Magic writing were a mix of fascinating, if imperfect, ideas (“The Schools of Magic” is a personal favorite) and extremely rudimentary grasps of what was actually good (Do you realize Giant Trap Door Spider won a pro tour?!).

In the years since, Magic writing has improved exponentially, but much of Magic finance remains woefully underdeveloped by comparison. My goal over these next few weeks is to help explain and develop upon things that may not be overly apparent to those who are new to the game, as well as solidify the understanding of the more advanced.

I want to spend the rest of today discussing the Zendikar Boom, so that you can broaden out the scope of it to inform your decisions. It should be mentioned upfront that Wizards very rarely releases any type of solid numbers on things like player population or print run— the latter for various reasons, and the former because even their internal figures are rough at best (DCI numbers track active tournament players, but what percentage are they of the Magic-buying public1?). When numbers are released, they are typically percentages, showing the increase or decrease in measurable metrics like sales or event participation.

Most of the population figures prior to Zendikar hover around the six million range. This number was thrown out in advertisements (and likely in early Hasbro acquisitions talks) as, “Join the game with over six million players worldwide!” Sometimes the number is seven million, sometimes five million, but the impression was that it was largely a static total number. Beginning in 2009, however, Magic suddenly began to show double digit growth, with percentages increasing around 25 percent annually. This means that by 2010, there were 7.5 million Magic players, definitely on the higher end of the fluctuations from 2000 until then. A 25 percent increase from there brought the population to roughly 9.375 million, the highest it has ever been.

It is important to understand how much of WOTC’s work is done in advance. Things like a set’s design begin more than two years in advance of its release, and even though printing happens much closer to getting the product on shelves, it is often determined on numbers arrived at much earlier. Many stores ran out of Zendikar product between the first and second printings. This indicates that there was insufficient quantity at the distributor level, not that a bunch of stores did really well.

Once can be a fluke, but twice and thrice may indicate a potential trend. In the Hasbro shareholder conference call for 2012 (fiscal year), they indicated that Magic had 25 percent growth for the last four years (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012). By just doing the same math we were doing before, we can guesstimate that Magic was at 11.7 million players in 2011, and beyond 14.6 million in 2012. In four years, the player population has added nearly ten million new people. Even if these numbers are fuzzy, the impact is not. If Zendikar was printed for six or seven million people, but now there are almost 15 million (other sources show “only” 12 million), what does that do to demand?

Now, when a set is in print, Wizards can always run more off the presses—even though the entire process is outsourced, the company is still able to get a few extra waves of product out after the official release. Any set that was no longer in print at the release of Zendikar, however, was done. Those sets, by the standards of the next few years, were extremely under-printed. Return to Ravnica, which had a much higher printing than Zendikar, had the same problem with running out of product before the release of the second wave (although not to as noticeable a degree). The annual percentage Hasbro has shown have all remained positive (showing growth), although if I recall correctly, this year’s was below double digits for the first time (six percent). That percentage increase is small, but the overall number behind it is still a massive amount of new players.

The most immediate impact this has is pressuring on the supply-side of any card printed before the Boom. Even if the percentage of demand stays the same (say, nine percent of all Magic players want a playset of Guttural Response), the actual number behind that percentage may have doubled. Not all of those players are going to transition into Legacy (or even sanctioned play), but how many of them want Underground Seas? The before and after on popular commons and uncommons from Modern Masters shows the impact an increase in supply can have on cards that fit our interests. It’s also why cards like Sleight of Hand (which had multiple printings!) are able to get high prices even at common. If you are looking for smart buys, they should most likely be from before the Boom impacted printing. Of course, unlike Guttural Response, which I mentioned just a minute ago, it should be a card people actually want.

The flip side, of course, is understanding what things to actively stay away from. While I would not say that newer cards are worth avoiding all together, you have to have a good reason and a better price. My personal baseline is $3 (the price of an in-print booster pack at my LGS). I like Rest in Peace as a card that sees play in both Modern and Legacy (as well as Commander, Vintage, Cube, Tiny Leaders, and whatever weird format has been invented since I sent this to my editor), and I can get two for the price of a booster. When considering cards from the last two or three years, you really have to have a clear idea of future potential to offset the huge amount of supply compared to cards from six or more years ago.

That’s all we are going to have time for today. Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments or on the forums. and I’m excited to be a member of MTGPrice!



1We will definitely talk about what Rosewater and company call “The Invisibles” next week.