Tag Archives: traveling

Wherewolves and Whywolves

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I Have Returned

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So, I’m back. It’s been a while since I’ve actually had the chance to sit down and write, so let me explain. If you don’t give a crap about my personal life and explorations, I don’t hold a grudge against you for skipping ahead to the bold heading a few paragraphs below that reads “Finance Starts Here”. I promise there’ll be an entire article’s worth of content down there. I’ll start by saying I’ve had an interesting couple of weeks, and we have a hell of a lot of content to talk about. WordPress decided to mutiny and failed to publish my article (the one that was published last Thursday) on time, and Corbin wasn’t able to catch it because of a battle with the flu. Therefore, the article that went up last week was supposed to go up the week  before that on the 11th, and I didn’t catch it because I was on a 15 hour drive. Mistakes were made by multiple people on the team, and we apologize.

Okay, so remember that trip to Georgia I was talking about a few weeks ago? Remember how I said I was going to shopcrawl? Well, I didn’t get the chance to. I had a bunch of stores picked out, and our plan to leave at 3AM from upstate NY was in place weeks in advance. While Oswego is normally known for its’ incredible levels of snowfall and cold weather, the weeks leading up to our trip had left us with zero snow whatsoever.

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Unfortunately, the powers that be were saving up all of the snow over the past month, and felt the need to dump it all on us on the evening before our trip was scheduled to begin. When we braved the storm outside into the campus parking lot, we learned that we were completely trapped until the snowplow came through so that we could shovel ourselves out.

Except that it never happened. It wasn’t until 9AM that we managed to give up on the plow coming through, and tried to dig ourselves out and use tracks that someone else had made, so we were six hours late on the start of our journey. No shopcrawling, as we needed to actually make it to the hotel in time. Alright, fine. I’ll just shopcrawl on the way b–

Nope. A deadly combination of a personal emergency on Sunday night combined with another ridiculous snowstorm up north meant that we had to put the bulk buys on hold as we rushed back to NY on Monday. One small vehicle collision on I-81 at 12:30AM later, and my fiancee’ and I were stranded at a motel for another day in Pennsylvania while we waited for information on a rental car from the insurance. Thankfully we’re both okay, but it was certainly a stressful event overall.

Finance Starts Here

Remember that trip to Georgia I was talking about a few weeks ago? Contrary to what you may have thought, I didn’t drive all the way down there to unload pricey staples, post-spike Modern cards, or anything like that. The real treasure here was the fact that Card Advantage’s buylist is one of the deepest in the entire country. In the pictures below, ignore the first three categories. Then, convert the numbers into cents.

These are the real treasures of #mtgfinance, because it’s impossible to lose while buying bulk. While we spent almost an entire day pricing out everything and settling the final cash number, it was made much easier by the fact that everything was alphabetized beforehand. I’m sure some people reading this will take this photo as a humble brag, but it just goes to show that with a good network and the willingness to pick the dimes and quarters, you can walk away with a lot of cash that nobody else will even care to sneeze at.

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The Next Spawnsire?

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So for the past two weeks or so, I was planning to write about how Mayor of Avabruck was a darn fine spec target at his current $2. I had this whole repeat Spawnsire argument planned, and how werewolves are a slam-dunk casual tribe that were going to receive new support in Shadows over Innistrad. I was going to advise you to buy into the puppy lord so that we can all revel in his future $5 price tag together. Part of my argument included the SOI checklist card that was leaked a few weeks ago, and how Mayor was obviously not going to be included.

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That argument fell apart about ten minutes ago, when I actually put a little bit more thought into the comparisons between Spawnsire of Ulamog and Mayor. As you can see in the linked picture above, Lars on Twitter said that the possibility of receiving a Legendary werewolf this time is 99%. I thought so too, until I actually read all of the names on that checklist card. Tell me, out of all the double-sided cards that are in this set, how many of those feels like a name they would use for a legendary werewolf?

None of them. We don’t even have a character name on the sheet. Unless this is only one checklist card of two in the set (You’ll notice that we can see CH1/297 in the bottom left corner of the card), then we’re not getting a legendary werewolf. In fact, it looks like there’s less than ten werewolves in the entire set. This is a whole different level of archetype support than Eldrazi were receiving in Battle for Zendikar. None of the other rarewolves have moved an inch over the past four and a half years. If you want to, it’s still extremely easy to build a werewolf deck for less than twenty or thirty dollars because all of the pieces are literally pure bulk, and the supply is plentiful.

Because of these factors, I honestly don’t think Shadows over Innistrad will spark a surge of werewolf demand like BFZ did with the Eldrazi. While the buy-in is certainly cheap and you’re running a very low-risk operation, I think you’ll at least have to wait until more news about Eldritch Moon before we can expect returns on Mayor. or any of the other werewolf creatures.

If you’re someone who wants to throw a few dollars into the ring for fun, I can think of a couple cards that I expect to stay under the radar for a while longer. While neither of these are cards you want to buy from the internet at full retail, I’ve been stocking up on these for several years in slight hopes of a casual resurgence. I had the opportunity to move them to Card Advantage for a fair 8 cents a piece, but I quickly declined.

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As I said before; I really don’t expect demand for werewolves to spike significantly enough from SOI to put a dent in the current supply. When we look at the amount of stock that stores have below, it’s hard to expect commons and uncommons like this to move any meaningful amount.

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What we can do, however, is hold onto the cards with the hopes that we can network and make connections with non-competitive players at the prerelease, managing to get “full retail” (and by full retail, I mean the full 50 cents a piece) for our five year old commons and uncommons that have dodged reprints up until now. Putting playsets of Moonmist in your trade binder at the SOI prerelease will go a long way towards shaving discounts off the new Standard staples that you’re hunting for in the set.

End Step

While we’re still on the subject of double-sided cards, I want to talk for a minute about Delver of Secrets. Once heralded as the Nacatl of the skies while terrorizing eternal formats, Delver’s wings have been clipped for a while now, and we haven’t seen him show up recently in any sort of high-level event. What I have seen, is a group of people advocating picking them up at their current $1.50, and foils at $10, as a result of the checklist card from before confirming an absence of reprints. I honestly don’t think that alone is enough to cause demand for Delvers to increase, so I would personally away away. As a matter of fact, I sold every single Delver that I owned to Card Advantage back in Georgia for $1.00 each (which is also an example of how strong their buylist is).

 

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Shotcalling a Shopcrawl

I don’t travel a lot.

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While several of my friends and co-writers across the country have the opportunity to travel to multiple Grands Prix and Star City Games events on a semi-regular basis, I generally only get the chance to travel to two large-scale events a year at the most. Being tucked into upstate New York way over in the corner of the United States does have its disadvantages, since Wizards of the Coast and SCG only feel the need to drop into my neck of the woods once in a great while.

Thankfully, our relatively isolated ecosystem means that I’ve been able to grow a stable, small-scale setup in my college town of Oswego, where I can help buffer my school expenses and foil Commander decks through buying and selling locally. A mix of Facebook, TCGplayer, and Twitter sales help move some of the larger stuff that my local budget customers don’t want to touch, but that leaves me with a pretty sizable pile of bulk picks from the commons and uncommons to $1 to $3 rares that end up stagnating in the display case. Normally, the correct out for this type of stuff is a long buylist order to a single store to help save on shipping, but alphabetizing and set sorting cards is basically torture to me. I just don’t have the patience for it.

This year, I’m planning on doing something a little bit different.  Have you ever heard of Thomas Dodd? He’s the proud father of Card Advantage, and has been a frequent face of northeastern Grands Prix for a while now. Just five months ago, Card Advantage put the finishing touches on its gaming center, and Thomas and friends have been living the ultra-glamorous full-time LGS life ever since.

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I’ve sold to Card Advantage a few times at previous events, and the experience has always been great. They’ve always given me excellent numbers on bulk rares, and I haven’t gotten to travel since Vegas in May. Slowly, the idea formed in my head. I could take a trip down to check out the new gaming center, sell a bunch of cards, and turn the trip into a mini-vacation of sorts with the fiancee, where I could also shopcrawl on the way there and back.

Shopcrawl?

If you don’t know what shopcrawling is and you still clicked on the article, I appreciate your daring bravery and thirst for knowledge. In essence, my plan is to carve a swath of destruction down Interstate 81, buying out every card store from Oswego to Athens. I want to create the next Dust Bowl across the eastern coast of the United States, only with Magic cards. All joking aside, the goal is to explore and visit several local game stores along the way, hopefully buy a bunch of bulk that the stores don’t care about (and maybe even the whole Magic inventory of a lower-tiered store if I’m extremely lucky), and then unload my treasures to Thomas when I reach the Peach state. It’s something I’ve never actually done before, but I’m excited to try before my springtime of college youth is over.

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Of course, phase one of this operation was clearing the operation with my lovely fiancee, Emily. While she’s always been supportive of my… unique source of income, she’s understandably apprehensive when it comes to me spending hundreds of dollars on piles of cardboard. If I wanted to put Operation Sowing Salt  into action, I had to convince her that this would be a fun adventure that probably wouldn’t involve me spending a ton of money. In fact, the goal of the trip was to sell a bunch of cards once I got to Georgia.

“Yeah, Sounds Like Fun!”

Oh. Okay. That was a lot easier than I expected. I had this whole persuasion speech planned, and… Nope. Not gonna question it.

So with phase one complete, now I had to start figuring out our plan of attack. Unfortunately, Wizards doesn’t exactly have an option on its website for “these are all of the stores that you should probably stop at from point A to point B,” so we have to improvise a little bit by combining Google Maps with the Wizards Event Store Locator.

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This is our route. I’ve already visited pretty much all of the shops up to the northern Pennsylvania border, so let’s start our Wizards store search with the first large city that we’ll be passing through, Scranton.

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Chances are, I’m not going to have any luck going to the biggest named stores in the area. The well-oiled machines will more than likely have their bulk processed or sorted, everything priced out perfectly, and have zero incentive to sell out of a bunch of cards at once. I’m looking for smaller stores that might want to clear out some room on the shelves for more enticing product, and places that might have a smaller total inventory. While I won’t be able to make an assessment like that until I actually walk into the store, I can still do a little bit of research to get a rough estimate of what kinds of stores I want to walk into.

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5Ds collectables

This is the kind of store that I would be interested in stopping at: only a couple hundred Facebook likes, mostly evening hours (which suggests that the owner most likely has another “real” job and running this store is a secondary hobby), and not too far off my chosen path. While I highly doubt I’d be making offers on a bunch of high-dollar staples, I’d be happy to start a conversation about the bulk commons and uncommons or bulk rares that the store has been stockpiling for an extended period of time. Now to repeat this process for the rest of the fourteen-hour blue line on Google Maps…

While stores that focus primarily on games like Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh, Force of Will, and tabletop games are fine choices for loading my fiancee’s vehicle with large quantities of cardboard, we’d really prefer to hit the Atlantis of shopcrawling. We want the dusty old binder from Arabian Nights and Legends that’s been sitting in the back of the store for longer than I’ve been alive. No store that’s focused even remotely on Magic as a business is going to have this legendary binder full of ancient cards, so we’re going to have to look to other types of stores that our fellow Magic players aren’t as likely to have already stripped clean.

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Apparently, sports cards stores still exist. While I know essentially nothing about how to play a Derek Jeter in attack mode or what Michael Jordan’s ability is when you direct attack your opponent’s heart points, I do know that there’s a (slightly) higher chance of finding a shop owner who would love to get rid of  his mana and spells to make room for more sports memorabilia. The further we stretch away from the bigger cities, the more our luck increases. I highly doubt that those three shops located in a larger city like Scranton haven’t already been picked clean by savvy Magic players like ourselves. Basically, this is the store I’m looking for while shopcrawling:

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To be honest, I’ll probably just pull out my phone and google “baseball card stores near X location” every half hour or so instead of planning out this huge expedition and targeting stores in advance. I’d rather wait and find the ones that are off the beaten path, but unfortunately Interstate 81 is a pretty well-worn trail. We’ll see where it goes, and I’ll report back on our results when I get back from our trip.

Preparing for Negotiations

Now, let’s actually get to the fun part. We’ll assume that Emily and I actually find a store that’s interested in selling a large chunk of their inventory, whether it be bulk or otherwise. How am I going to go about making an offer and actually buying? I’m a young city-slicker from out of town, and there’s no reason for this mom-and-pop store to trust I don’t have forked tongue. We need to be sure we are actually offering them a service that they’re interested in. Trying to bully or force someone to sell cards is not only obviously wrong, it’s a waste of everyone’s time. 

Starting the conversation will likely go something like this: “I see you have a lot of bulk commons and uncommons lying around. What do you usually sell them for?” Some stores are happy setting their customers pick through the bulk at five or ten cents per card, and make a surprising amount of money just from non-competitive players digging up decks. we’re not going to try to compete with that. We’ll be offering $4 to $5 per thousand, depending on a rough guesstimate as to the age and picked-ness of the bulk. Shopcrawling is one of the only scenarios in which I can see myself gambling and paying a little bit more than $5 per thousand, if I really wanted to lock in a purchase and it looked like the cards were from a prime time frame (say, 2003 to 2009). I’d be accepting a possible loss in that scenario should the bulk have been picked by someone who knows what they’re doing, but I’m willing to take a few more risks on this trip than I normally would otherwise. 

Our trip is scheduled for February 11 through the 16, so I’ve still got a couple more weeks of planning and preparing. While it’s definitely possible pretty likely that we won’t find any stores worth buying from, I’m still excited to make the drive. I don’t get to experience the “play the game, see the world” part of Magic nearly as much as I’d like to, so I’m getting a few last chances to travel before I have to settle down with graduate school next year. Until next week!

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