Author

About the Author
@TheMeddlingMage     -     Email     -     Articles Sander van der Zee is an industrial engineering student who specializes in lean-thinking. He stepped back into Magic in 2009 after a three-year break. Picking back up the pieces, he developed an interest in the financial, technical, and community sides of the game.

Finance 201: Putting Theory to Practice

For the purpose of this article, I will be using fictional card prices that may or may not reflect the current prices as of the date this article is written or released. All prices quoted are in US dollars.

As a Magic: The Gathering financier, you likely hold a substantial number of cardboard Magic cards. But how do you properly register the value of your collection? How do you determine the profit per card, and how can you avoid getting confused by all the historical numbers, price changes, trades, or whatever else might distort your price memory? That, my fellow entrepreneurs, is all a matter of proper bookkeeping, and I am here to help you with your ABCs.

The Price Basis: A Historic Price System

In order for a company (or our little enterprises) to express their assets in monetary values, one must settle on a price basis. The most commonly used price basis is the price of purchase. That means that with the price of purchase as price basis, our valuation of our assets happens at the moment of purchase for the actual value that you have paid for that asset.

For example, Jason has saved up $100 and starts his own little venture in Magic: The Gathering finance named “Alt F4.” On January 1, he purchased 40 copies of [card]Rattleclaw Mystic[/card] at $2.50.

Balance Sheet January 1 Alt F4

Debit Credit
Inventory Equity $100
Rattleclaw Mystic 40 X $2.50 $100
Total $100 Total $100

This is a very simple way of showing what the value is of Jason’s assets. Here Jason has only a single product, Rattleclaw Mystic, all purchased together for the same price per copy. This, for us Magic: The Gathering financiers, is not all that representative of how we acquire our assets. In this article, we will follow Jason as he acquires his assets in all sort of different fashions and how that reflects on his balance sheet. In the following year, only a single relevant event occurs. On June 1, Jason sells 20 copies for $4 a piece. For the purpose of these examples, other costs are disregarded. The profit of this year will be calculated as follows:

Balance Sheet December 31st Alt F4

Debet Credit
Inventory Equity $100
Rattleclaw Mystic 20X $2.50 $50 Profit $30
Cash                         20X $4.00 $80
Total $130 Total $130

Income Statement Alt F4

Sales: 20 X $4 $80
Cost of goods sold 20 X $2.50 -$50
Profit $30

The example above shows the essence of profit calculating using the price of purchase as price basis. From here on out, I will elaborate on the following subjects relevant to Magic: The Gathering finance working off this concept in the following weeks:

  • How to incorporate trading
  • Purchase of same goods in different batches (with different prices of purchase) (next article!)
  • Price drops (next article!)

The Basics of Trading: 201

Equal trades

For most of us, most of our assets comes from acquiring cards by trading for them with our own cards. The concept of trading is ancient: I give you something you need in exchange for something I need. Back in those days, any item or service worth anything to anyone was a virtual currency. However, not everyone had something the other person wanted. That’s when the coin was introduced, an item that represents value. The real currency.

Trade goods Practical value Virtual currecy
Money Virtual value Practical currency

If we want to determine the value of a traded card properly, we need to imagine we are taking an extra step between the trades: exchanging the cards for money. Once you realize that you are actually selling your goods for money, then using that money to purchase someone else’s goods, then you can safely use the price basis of price of purchase.

To determine how much imaginary money is being exchanged, you need to have a baseline way to evaluate prices. Pick a single source for yourself and stick to it. I don’t care what source you use to actually facilitate the trade, as long as you always use the same source for when you determine the value that you are going use to register your cards. Because your source determines what price you theoretically paid for your assets, you must choose your source responsibly. The cheaper the source is comparatively, the more profit you appear to make. If your source’s prices are too high, it might appear as though you’re making no profit at all!

Example: Corbin is visiting a local grand prix and has a binder full of cards. He stumbles across another player named Ryan and they both settle on a trade. Corbin notes the cards he has traded and checks his chosen source, StarCityGames.com, to evaluate the purchased goods and his sold goods. We will assume that Corbin valued his [card]Giant Shark[/card] for $5 on his balance sheet. Corbin has traded his $5 [card]Giant Shark[/card] for Ryan’s two $2.50 [card]Shambleshark[/card].

In theory, this means that Corbin sells his Giant Shark for $5 and then purchases two Shamblesharks for $2.50$ each. That’s an even trade with an even value, at least according to Corbin’s source. That’s an easy one. Let’s assume that this is the only thing Corbin does the entire year.

Balance Sheet December 31st Corbin’s Cabin

Debet Credit
Inventory Equity $50
Giant Shark      9 X $5 $45
Shambleshark  2 X $2.50 $5
Total $50 Total $50

Income Statement Corbin’s Cabin

Sales: 1 X $5 $5
Cost of goods sold 1 X $5 -$5
Profit 0$

As you can see, an even trade results in no profit made. Now let’s see what happens if Corbin trades in his favor at the moment of his purchase.

Profitable Trades with Single Cards

“That means that with the price of purchase as price basis, our valuation of our assets happens at the moment of purchase for the actual value that you have paid for that asset.” This time, Corbin avoided Ryan completely and instead encountered Marcel. Marcel also wants to trade Corbin for his Giant Shark and Marcel insists on using a price source that results in the following numbers according to Corbin’s price source: Corbin trades his $5 [card]Giant Shark[/card] for four of Marcel’s $2 [card]Stinkweed Imp[/card]s.

This trade seems to be in Corbin’s favor: Corbin’s $5 versus Marcel’s $8. That seems easy—a profit of $3, right? Well, that’s not how it works. Let’s take another look. What truly happens is that Corbin sells his Giant Shark for $5 and purchases four Stinkweed Imps for $5. ($1.25 / piece). Again, no other relevant events occur during the year.

Balance Sheet December 31st Corbin’s Cabin

Debet Credit
Inventory Equity 50$
Giant Shark      9 X 5$ 45$
Stinkweed Imp  4 X 1.25$ 5$
Total 50$ Total 50$

Income Statement Corbin’s Cabin

Sales: 1 X 5$  5$
Cost of goods sold 1 X 5$ -5$
Profit 0$

In practice, Corbin simply traded for no profit, selling an asset to purchase another asset. Remember, the price that we value it as is the price of purchase, so that is why it seems like we made no profit. Profit only happens once we are able to sell our Stinkweed Imps.

Instead, let’s assume that after Corbin traded with Marcel, one relevant event occurred. He sold four copies of Stinkweed Imp for $2 a piece to a customer.

Balance Sheet December 31st Corbin’s Cabin

Debet Credit
Inventory Equity $50
Giant Shark      9 X $5 $45
Cash                  4 X $2 $8 Profit $3
Total $50 Total $50

Income Statement Corbin’s Cabin

Sales: 1 X $5, 4 x $2 $13
Cost of goods sold 1 X $5, 4 x $1.25 -$10
Profit $3

I split the cards out in the income statement to create clarity for the reader. Usually, the accumulated sales and costs of goods sold are clumped together, considering there are usually over a thousand per year, even for a small company.

As you can see, the profit is only acknowledged when Corbin actually sells the cards. And unlike some other Magic financiers, Corbin can clearly see what his profit margins were because he used the price of purchase when he did his bookkeeping. The important lesson to be learned here is that profit is generated through sales, not through purchases. When you trade for a card, you are in fact purchasing.

Profitable Purchase =/= Profit

(The clue is in the word: profitable.)

Profitable Trades with Multiple Cards

When you make a trade where you acquire more than a single card and the trade is not equal according to your source, the way to determine the value for each card is a little trickier to evaluate. This is where your baseline source is key.

Corbin makes another trade. Corbin trades his 5$ Giant Shark for Raymond’s $6 [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] and his $4 [card]Merfolk of the Pearl Trident[/card]. You can’t simply value the Lightning Bolt at $6 and the Merfolk of the Pearl Trident at $4. After all, you only paid $5 for them, so according to the price of purchase, both should equate to $5. This means we should make the values proportional. The total cited value of the cards according to Corbin’s source is $10. We need to decide what percentage of that $10 is Lightning Bolt and what percentage is Merfolk of the Pearl Trident. The formula is as follows: cited value of single card / total cited value X 100%.

Lightning Bolt: $6 / $10 *100 = 60%

Merfolk of the Pearl Trident: 4$ / 10$ * 100 = 40%.

Now we know what the individual cards are in relation to the total amount, we can easily determine their price of purchase value.

Lightning Bolt: 5$ * 0.6 (60%) = $3

Merfolk of the Pearl Trident: 5$ * 0.4 (40%) = $2

Balance Sheet December 31st Corbin’s Cabin

Debet Credit
Inventory Equity $50
Giant Shark      9 X $5 $45
Lightning Bolt  1 X $3 $3
Merfolk of the Pearl Trident 1 X $2 $2
Total $50 Total $50

And that’s how it looks on the balance sheet after you’ve properly deduced the value of each card.

There is a lot of ground left to cover, but it’s best to let this sink in first.

Practicing

I highly suggest practicing with these methods.

Start off small: make a new imaginary company where you slowly incorporate each new card acquired. Your inventory is your current trade binder. Odds are you don’t remember what you paid for those cards in the past. Use the naïve method to determine the value of your cards (assets)—assume you paid for them in the past what you would pay for them now, according to your cited source. This way you are not incidentally making a profit where there is none.

Summary

A trade consists of the sales of your own assets for virtual cash, followed by purchasing assets with the amount of cash generated. The value of your purchased assets are equal to the amount of virtual cash you spent on them, proportionally to the value cited by your source.

Stick to one source. Simple value any card you acquired in the past for the value of your source as if you were to purchase it.

Be consistent. Practice. Practice. Practice.

See you all next article, where we will delve into purchasing similar (same) goods at different prices, as well as what happens if a price drops!

Eyes of the Watcher: A Prophetic Sauna

 

Last week in Eyes of the Watcher I discussed my first card: [card]Grove of the Burnwillows[/card]. I was trying a new style of writing in an attempt to engage my readers but I did not quite succeed.

reddit

These first two articles were originally together as one, discussing two cards instead of the single one, which left the first half feel a little lackluster. It also appeared that my conversion rates were not as clear as I had hoped.

 

tweet

 

I’ve revisited the way I list the prices in the EU and in the US and hope it has all become clearer for you, my readers. After all, if you can’t understand what I am trying to convey, then why would I be writing? That’s why I appreciate the feedback I get and it’s why I like to show you guys that I also take it to heart. But enough of that, lets get to that article!

 

This week I’d like to highlight an innocuous little card from Theros called [card]Steam Augury[/card]. It’s made its way onto my list of cards to keep an eye out for. Let’s look at the basics again, shall we? [card]Steam Augury[/card] was the recipient of a lot of early hype when the card was first spoiled (with the normal amount of skepticism, of course). It did not take long before several pronounced writers took the task upon them to report on [card]Steam Augury[/card]’s existence, from first thoughts to in-depth analyses comparing the intricate gameplay of the new card to its older counterpart, [card]Fact or Fiction[/card]. Thus far, however, the strongest point made against [card]Steam Augury[/card] has been [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card]’s existence in the Standard format. With such drawing power available, why would anyone care to deviate into red for a weaker card? And those people were right for not playing it over [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card]. The difference in power level is simply too substantial.

Image-8

 

However, [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card]’s reign is slowly coming to an end with the introduction of Khans of Tarkir on September 26, 2014. The new set will usher in an era with limited amounts of drawing power. Behold, the Theros-block drawing cards:

Image (4)

[card]Font of Fortunes[/card], [card]Divination[/card], [card]Interpret the Signs[/card], [card]Thassa’s Bounty[/card], and [card]Steam Augury[/card] are currently the only raw card-drawing cards out there in the format. The options aren’t very enticing—a six-mana draw-three or a three-mana draw-two? [card]Dictate of Kruphix[/card] helps your opponents too. [card]Erebos, God of the Dead[/card] and [card]Keranos, God of the Storms[/card] are the only other reliable card-drawing engines available for control decks. Once you bounce all the options off each other, you can quickly determine that only one fits a control in terms of sheer volume of cards for the cost: [card]Steam Augury[/card].

Barring the printing of another very powerful card-drawing spell, [card]Steam Augury[/card] appears to be the way forward. However, Wizards of the Coast isn’t blind to the fact that [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] was the dominating force in the previous year of Standard and that it is still a very powerful role player now. Much akin to [card]Opposition[/card], once a card visibly changes its respective format around it, WOTC won’t be that eager to bring it, or something similar, back too soon. R&D has learned that lesson.

Another compelling argument in [card]Steam Augury[/card]’s favor is the post-rotation removal we currently have available. With both [card]Lightning Strike[/card] and [card]Anger of the Gods[/card] as early removal, red becomes a lot more lucrative as a color pairing for blue.

I very much feel like [card]Steam Augury[/card] is being completely ignored and disregarded as just, “That card drawing spell that isn’t [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card].” But is this disregard completely justified as we’re closing in on the rotation? With copies drifting around 0.35 USD / 0.20 EUR, are we going to be regretful that we all glanced past the piece that may just define the card-drawing power of new control decks? While no guesses can be completely accurate, there are only two sets left to fill that gap and only one set’s worth of time for us to act. Can we be certain we’re not going to be in a sour position come October? There’s only one way to find out: keeping an eye on it.

Do you have any comments, questions, or concerns regarding the lurking opportunity of a new control-defining card in [card]Steam Augury[/card]? Hit me up on Twitter! You can contact me personally at @TheMeddlingMage. Do you need more than 140 characters? Send me an email at [email protected] See you all next time!

Eyes of the Watcher: A Fiery Copse

Welcome to the very first edition of Eyes of the Watcher, a regular article that will highlight a single card worth watching.

Eyes of the Watcher isn’t necessarily going to tell you that you should buy or sell any single given card. It’s here to make sure you are aware of some of the nuances and interesting tidbits that may otherwise fly under the radar. By reading these articles, you can get a slight edge over the other people in your area. While it won’t make you a ton of revenue, knowledge is power. Especially when everyone is fighting for it. Every percentage point counts.

For this very first issue, I want to highlight [card]Grove of the Burnwillows[/card]. First, let’s start off by providing the basic information.

Image (1)

[card]Grove of the Burnwillows[/card] sees play in two decks in Legacy (Punshing Jund and Nic-Fit) and two decks in Modern (RG Tron and Kiki Pod). It has two printings. The 2007 original was printed as a rare in the third set of the Time Spiral block, Future Sight. The card was reprinted in 2012 as a premium mythic rare in From the Vault: Realms. What I would like you to pay attention to, however, is the current price for this card. Specifically, check out the difference between the price tag the card carries in the EU and the price tag it carries in the US. The value of the Future Sight [card]Grove of the Burnwillows[/card] in the US is 19.5 percent more than in the EU, and the value of the From the Vault: Realms version an astounding 23.5 percent higher! That’s what caught my eye. For some reason, I can’t ask the same price in the EU as I could in the US. But why?

[card]Grove of the Burnwillows[/card] first rose to prominence when it was being played in [card]Punishing Fire[/card] decks in Modern. Eventually it was banned, along with [card]Wild Nacatl[/card], because the pair were suppressing all the two-toughness-creature decks in the format. After [card]Punishing Fire[/card]’s banning, Grove found a new home in the RG Tron decks featuring [card]Karn Liberated[/card] and [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card]. This deck requires very little colored mana, to the point where it gets away with four [card]Grove of the Burnwillows[/card] and a single basic [card]Forest[/card], along with small mana baubles, to cast all its red and green spells. The deck saw a reasonable amount of play and success up until the banning of [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card]. This kicked the Jund deck down a notch down, which hurt Tron, as Jund is its best matchup. Having lost its best matchup and gaining another tough matchup in the fast Zoo-style decks, RG Tron fell out of favor. At least in Europe.

While the price of [card]Grove of the Burnwillows[/card] hasn’t dipped in value in Europe after the [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] banning, it was never given the opportunity to rise to the price that was present in US, which still holds up to this day. I’ve seen copies sitting at €25.00 and not sell at all. Is the price not right or is the demand not there? One of the things worth noting is that while Europe may be the land of Vintage, most Legacy tournaments are actually being held in the US. With the Star City Games weekly Legacy Sunday, there is always a consistent demand for Legacy cards due to the degree of certainty there is in having a tournament to go to every week. The extra exposure for and accessibility to the Legacy format in the US creates a demand for cards that helps maintain constant card prices. Conversely, we see major fluctuation occur in between the big Legacy events in Europe. Considering that fifty percent of the decks running [card]Grove of the Burnwillows[/card] are Legacy decks, and Legacy is more accessible in the US, it is no doubt that a good percentage of the demand for this card originates from the older format. But is the difference in demand between continents prominent enough that it demands such a price gap?

All we know for a fact is that the price tag on [card]Grove of the Burnwillows[/card] drastically differs between the two continents. The exact reason why is hard to pin down, but all we can do is carefully watch the price on both ends. Does this price disparity warrant a response? Where do you see this going?

Do you have any comments, questions, or concerns regarding the price disparity between continents for [card]Grove of the Burnwillows[/card]? Hit me up on Twitter! You can contact me personally at @TheMeddlingMage. Do you need more than 140 characters? Send me an email at [email protected] See you all next time!

The Value of a Common Man

Either as Magic players or Magic financiers, we each try to get the most value out of the things we do related to the game. It has turned into a lifestyle for many of us, but we all do it on the most basic levels. Before we got to where we are in regards to spotting potential value, though, we had to learn where to look.  Hopefully, I can add a bit of extra information that will help you eke out a little extra value. Today, we’ll be putting our focus on the most undervalued cards in Magic: the commons and uncommons.

Trash for Treasure

If you’re lucky enough to have a local game shop nearby, you will no doubt encounter people who draft there on Friday nights or other designated times. And where there are drafters, there are draft (junk) piles. And where there are draft piles, there is opportunity for trashed value.

After a draft, most participants only take the rares and foils out of their decks, leaving the rest of the cards (including unsorted basic lands, to the shopkeeper’s dismay) on the table. This includes uncommons such as [card]Bile Blight[/card], [card]Drown in Sorrow[/card], and [card]Searing Blood[/card], just to use some current examples. I’ve seen multiple copies of [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card] and even [card]Path to Exile[/card] left behind. Even if the value of a card at the time does not seem worth the effort, that exact mentality causes demand for such cards to go up later when people realize they don’t actually own any copies.

Value uncommons are not the only prime targets for pick-up, however. There are cards that sneak under the radar simply because they hold a price point under ten cents, despite seeing play. I am talking about commons as simple as [card]Ethereal Armor[/card]. With this in mind, let’s play a game.

What’s It Worth

Rather than the podcast variant where four hosts back-and-forth trying to catch each other unaware on products that hardly even relate to Magic (such as soda cans), I am just here to help you test your price knowledge on the cards of the least appreciated rarity, save for the few all-stars such as [card]Aether Vial[/card] and [card]Path to Exile[/card]. All of the cards shown below have a place in the Modern format, mostly because that’s what I prefer to focus on.

Let’s try the following six cards: [card]Hyena Umbra[/card], [card]Vapor Snag[/card]. [card]Keen Sense[/card], [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card], [card]Soul’s Attendant[/card], [card]Ancient Stirrings[/card].

Cardsnoprice

One card from Planar Chaos, two from New Phyrexia, and three from Rise of the Eldrazi. I probably could have chosen a broader selection from different sets, but these were the first few that came to me. Have you made a guess at the highest price yet?

Before I get to showing you the actual prices of these cards, let’s take a look at what these cards all have in common. First off, they all see play in the Modern format and in actual decks. Yes, I am acknowledging GW Hexproof and Soul Sisters as decks. People buy the cards for them and play them in a large enough quantity that it, in my book, makes them real.

Secondly, all of these cards are played in quantities larger than one, which means the demand is automatically doubled or tripled from that of a lonely one-of. It makes sense, of course, but it is worth noting.  Commons are common enough that finding one should not be a big deal. Finding a playset can be more troublesome to many unless it’s from a recent expansion.

Third, all of these cards were once less than ten cents (spoiler! Now you know these cards are worth more than that).  Just think about that when I show you the prices.

[card]Hyena Umbra[/card] : 0.50 – 0.75

[card]Vapor Snag[/card] : 0.50

[card]Keen Sense[/card] : 2.00 – 2.50

[card]Gitaxian Probe[/card] : 1.25 – 1.50

[card]Soul’s Attendant[/card] : 0.75 – 1.00

[card]Ancient Stirrings[/card] 0.75 – 1.00

cardprice2

All prices are from MagicCardMarket.eu and include only listings with three or more copies. People really aren’t going to get three copies of a common worth 0.25 and pay three times the shipping cost of 1.20 when they could get three copies for a little bit more and only pay that shipping fee once.

All of these cards were previously worth a lot less, from 10 to 25 cents each. Compare that to the price now and we wonder—why didn’t we pick up more copies when we could? Are there similar opportunities right now?  I dare say: yes.

The reason why these commons managed to hit such a low price point has largely to do with the sheer amount of copies that were being opened while the sets were being drafted. When a set is fresh and new, the commons are literally everywhere. People can’t even be bothered to look for them in their own homes because they know they can just fish a couple out of the generous common box at their LGS. People just don’t bother.

Over time, these commons rot away. They seem to have little purpose and then all of a sudden you need four of them. You dredge through your common box and you just can’t find four copies, if any. A lot of people don’t even bother looking through their bulk. They look to the people that have them for sale and just buy four. And let me tell you, the latter happens more than the former. An actual demand starts to grow.

And this is the point where we are at now. We know why some commons manage to demand the price that they do and what their value is upon release. Now it’s up to us to find out which commons show the most potential when a new set comes out so we can pick them up and get them thrown in with every trade we make until we sell them for a buck a piece a couple of years later (when we’ve largely forgotten about them).

I’d like to make a point for two cards that have seen the light of day in Modern, both recently and over a longer period of time. They go by the names of [card]Pillar of Flame[/card] and [card]Ethereal Armor[/card].

Cardsprice

Both of these cards are still under ten cents (0.04 – 0.08), and guess what? They both see play in Modern. [card]Pillar of Flame[/card] is more recent tech to fight Melira Pod, but [card]Ethereal Armor [/card] is the mainstay of GW Hexproof and the reason the deck even exists in the way we know it.

Both Avacyn Restored and Return to Ravnica are fresh on our minds. There is very little reason these cards won’t demand a decent price in a year or two (assuming they’re not reprinted), simply because of the way people treat commons.  If you want my advice, I would tell you to look at what people play or have played and acknowledge cards’ functions. If you find some oft-played but undervalued cards, pick them up. It’s not like you’re actually investing any real money.

That’s it for this installment. If you have any questions or concerns, you can always contact me by mail at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter @TheMeddlingMage. Have a good financial week and remember to separate the wheat from the chaff!

 

The Township That Could

Modern season is getting closer and closer. People are preparing for Pro Tour Valentia, the big Modern event before the PTQ season starts.  At the PT, we’ll see the world’s best players brewing all manner of new decks that will inspire entire communities to speculate on cards. Competitive players will need to slowly start picking up playsets of Modern cards for their decks. This is an opportune time for me to talk about a card I would consider a great pick-up, both short- and long-term.

Kessig_red

First allow me to tell you something about the way I’ve learned to work in MTG finance. As some of you might know, I wasn’t as knee-deep into finance a year ago from now. I had made some profitable trades, had a good sense of what cards were going to be good and how to grow my collection, but actually profiting from my hobby was not something I considered. Back then I listened to the Brainstorm Brewery podcast “just for fun.” But as I listened, I got more and more drawn into the appeal. Part of that is the joy that I get from watching numbers grow. It’s like gardening, but with numbers.

And because I love seeing my collection and finance account grow, I absolutely despise watching it fall. This causes me to be careful with what I trade for or purchase as “specs.” Hype-driven cards such as [card]Phyrexian Obliterator[/card] or [card]Disrupting Shoal[/card] are known to be mostly artificial price spikes, based on no results or actual demand, and offer very little profit with a high risk. Some opt to gather as many 10-cent rares as they can, hoping one of them becomes a hit. If not, they can just out them all at eight cents each. This is a low-risk investment but with an equally low reward. What I really want to shoot for are the cards that fall into the low-risk, high-reward section. Cards that aren’t going to unexpectedly drop in price (barring influence from Wizards of the Coast through bannings) and only have room to grow, but in a more pronounced fashion than the 10-cent bulk rares. Take a look at the grid I made.

 

Financegrid

 

This matrix gives you a clear demonstration of what I mean regarding risk versus reward. Through a few example cards, you can piece together how any given card will fall into these quadrants. Hopefully this grid will be useful to you, and you can also show it to other people if you ever want to explain how a card can be considered a bad spec based on the risks. But after this long introduction, it is time to get to what I really came for to talk about this week.

Gavony

 

Does this art remind you of something? Some place? A township of sorts? There’s a link between this image and the matrix I showed you earlier. The card that this image depicts falls under that sweet category I spoke of. Low risk, high reward.

[card]Gavony Township[/card]

 

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For a card that you can get around a dollar on TCGplayer or 1.50 euros on MagicCardMarket, this land does a lot of work. It is featured in several prominent decks in Modern, mostly variations of [card]Birthing Pod[/card] decks and green-white decks. Its functionality includes resetting your persist creatures, such as [card]Kitchen Finks[/card] and [card]Murderous Redcap[/card], as well as getting aggressive with your [card]Birds of Paradise[/card] as they quickly grow out of control with +1/+1 counters. And because both of these deck archetypes, which each have several variations, run mana accelerants, the Township activations come earlier and more often. Until, of course, the game has been ended by a bunch of 3/4 [card]Noble Hierarch[/card]s and [card]Birds of Paradise[/card].

[card]Gavony Township[/card] is excellent to pick up simply because of its utility and staying power versus its cost. Picking copies up as filler in trade isn’t hard because Township doesn’t inspire a particularly strong price memory. People think of this as rotated Standard fringe card.

And if that wasn’t enough of a reason to acquire some of these lovely pieces of real estate, just take a look at the Magic Online price. I’ve been picking up my fair share of those online as well.

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Twelve cents. Do you know how easy it is to double your money on a twelve-cent card? Don’t be surprised if you more than quadruple your investment. Before rotation, the card’s price had gone as high as 1.1 tickets, more than nine times as much as it is now. And the card sees more Standard play than it did Modern..

So there you have it. My off-air pick of the week. I know this article was a short one, but that should make up my 2000-word wall of text last time. I would like to know if you found the above matrix to be useful (and it still needs a name!). Also, if you enjoyed the sweet landscape images, you should definitely check out Jung Park’s work and support him by playing the Zendikar basic lands with his artwork. If you want to contact me, you can do so as usual on my mail [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter @TheMeddlingMage.

 

Sander van der Zee – The Value of an Opened Box

Hello and welcome everyone! This is Sander and today we are going to take a look at the viability of turning a box of product into a profitable venture. Or rather, what you have to do to not make it a straight-up loss of value. The price of a sealed box is often more than what any person could hope to get from the singles by opening it. The intrinsic value lies in the wrapper around the box, so to speak. That wrapper represents unknown possibility and the legitimacy of a draft format and thus those will be the biggest selling points of any sealed product. But what happens if someone does open a box of sealed product for the singles?

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Setting Some Goals

If we want to find out what happens if we place a value on an opened box – and where it can go – we can just make an educated guess, but that’s not what I want to do today. Rather, I have decided to make this a challenge to myself and a learning experience to both me and you, the reader. I have been sitting on a few New Phyrexia booster boxes which I have been selling at a steady pace for 145 euro each ($199) over the past couple of weeks. I am left with five of them and can’t help but wonder how much I could get this box to work for me if I ripped it open, considering the latest speculation and hype price jumps from cards such as [card]Phyrexian Obliterator[/card] and [card]Spellskite[/card].

In order to make this work I need to set goals. I just wrote two entire articles on the topic, so why not put it to work? Let’s turn this into a S.M.A.R.T. goal.

I want to make 145 euro (the value of the box if sold sealed) from selling cards obtained from the cards opened in, or traded with the singles of, a single New Phyrexia booster box before June 21, 2014.

This seems specific, measurable (145 euro),  attainable (the value of a sealed box and the singles within shouldn’t be astronomically far apart), relevant, and time-related (due 6/21/2014).

Rules

Before we launch ourselves head-first into this experiment, let’s discuss rules. In order to measure our progress in a reliable and fair way, we need to know what I can and cannot do.  I’ll sum up the guidelines for you:

  • I can both trade the cards from the box or sell the singles from the box directly.
  • I am not allowed to purchase cards with the money gained from selling the singles.
  • I am allowed to trade at any rate as long as the other trading party considers the deal fair. This means that if the values which we trade by aren’t equal to the actual value but provided by a website that the other party prefers, it is still considered fair.
  • I am not allowed to accept gifts or free cards to help me reach this goal

Note that Magic Card Market works a little different than TCG Player. Whereas TCGPlayer always takes 50 cents plus a 5% commission fee and forces the seller to provide the shipping, Magic Card Market only takes a 5% commission fee and has the customer be responsible for the shipping fee 100% of the time. This means I can actually sell cards for 10 cents and not shoot myself in the foot with a gold bullet every time I sell a crap rare. Now, let’s get to that box!

Cards of Interest

An hour and six sealed pool registrations later…

Here we have it. Six mythics, 30 rares, six foils, and a bunch of commons and uncommons. I have an entire Excel spreadsheet containing each card and the number of copies I have opened, but here I would like to highlight some of the opened rares. The Excel spreadsheet has commentary on every rare as well as some of the commons and uncommons, and might be fun to read for those of you that enjoy bad puns.

Click here for the spreadsheet: NPH

Mythic  (6/6)

[card]Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite[/card]

Elesh Norn, Elesh Vee, [card]Gifts Ungiven[/card] target. This is our most expensive Mythic in the entire box at 13 euro. That doesn’t bode well for us. Luckily, this card is enough in demand for the price to have actually gone up steadily since rotation. It even took me by surprise that is was 13 euro, rather than the seven or eight I was expecting.

[card]Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur[/card] (2)

The Lord ’o Probes himself, Jin-Gitaxias.  If you thought your opponent resolving an Eldrazi was bad enough for you, this card is an even greater beating on the EDH table than an indestructible, annihilating beast. At 3.50 euro, I consider him to be vastly underrated and underpriced. With a little haggling I could likely get 4.0 to 4.50 euro for him in a trade, so I do not expect to straight-up sell this one immediately. Plus, I have two of them.

[card]Urabrask the Hidden[/card]

Hidden from play, that’s what he was during his life in Standard. At 2.50 euro this is the least influential Praetor, but much akin to his blue brother, this Mythic can be traded away for more than the 2.50 I would get from Magic Card Market. It’s all about finding the right people.

[card]Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger[/card]

Speaking of season’s beatings, this green Grinch sure delivers it. No presents for you while I get double? Sign me up. And at 4.50 euro, this thing is very–no, criminally–undervalued. While I suspect this card to rise once people realize that the Praetors are the new Eldrazi, I will try to hold onto this one for as long as I can in the coming six months. Remember that the rise in value of the Rise of Eldrazi set was followed shortly by the jump in price of the colorless monsters themselves.

[card]Sword of War and Peace[/card]

Ah, the timing is impeccable. No wait, you’re too late. Discarded by the wayside, only to be used in cubes and EDH decks. That said I am absolutely fine either trading or selling this sword at 11 euro. However, the price memory on this card could serve me well if I try to trade it away.

Foils (1/6)

Yes! We got lucky. We really had to get lucky since we didn’t get a [card]Karn Liberated[/card] or [card]Phyrexian Obliterator[/card], but this card makes up for it quite well.

[card]Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite[/card] (FOIL)

A foil Elesh Norn sells for 27.50 euro on Magic Card Market and that bodes pretty well. It’s just under the value of a regular [card]Karn Liberated[/card]. I am certain I won’t be stuck with this one forever, but it may take a little effort to out this one, either by trade or sale.

Rare (8/30)

[card]Spellskite[/card]

Here is one of the big hitters. With [card]Spellskite[/card] at 9.50, this will contribute quite a bit towards my goal. Despite being “just” a sideboard card, the demand for this little two-drop is very much present. Luckily, my goal falls within the Modern PTQ season, meaning I should be able to trade or sell this one for probably more than the 9.50 it’s currently worth.

[card]Birthing Pod[/card]

At 5 euro, this is still a sleeper. This card is too cheap. I already have an entire fat pack box full of these and I am sad that this one won’t join it, but instead I will try to use its low price as leverage to get more out of it in a trade.

[card]Phyrexian Metamorph[/card]

EDH and cube all-star. I have never been dissatisfied with a Phyrexian Metamorph in my hand and it’s a shame that this card doesn’t see play in Modern . Perhaps that will change, but at 2.50, this is a cheap card that I should really try to trade away to the EDH crowd for a premium.

[card]Puresteel Paladin[/card] (2)

The enchantress of equipment. There was misplaced hype as far as its price point in Standard at the release of New Phyrexia, but it is loved by the 60-card casual crowd. This is a fine man at 1 euro.

[card]Melira, Sylvok Outcast[/card]

Much like [card]Birthing Pod[/card] and [card]Spellskite[/card], this is an important piece of a Modern deck. I am fine trading this one away at 1.50 euro.

[card]Caged Sun[/card] (2)

Surprisingly enough, this is not as popular as [card]Gauntlet of Power[/card], yet limiting the gain only to yourself should be a huge boost in EDH. I believe this card will rise at some point in the next five years. I advise you to pick them up. 1.25 euro each (Gauntlet is 4).

[card]Myr Superion[/card]

Ubermyr! Were this card German it would have quintupled in price. Now I just need to find a Myr lover who will take it at 0.75 euro.

[card]Unwinding Clock[/card]

One thing about this card you didn’t know: it’s $1.50 on TCG Player. Go check for yourself. On Magic Card Market this thing is only 0.35 euro, but I certainly searched for all my other copies in the crap rare box. If you have any idea why it is so expensive in the U.S., please inform me!

Commons and Uncommons (12 / a whole bunch)

[card]Dispatch[/card]

This thing is still 1 euro. A nice tradeout, but the eternal metagame has to make a real shift if it wants to go up, considering it sees practically no play. Will need to out this to the casual crowd.

[card]Deceiver Exarach[/card] (4)

A staple in the [card]Splinter Twin[/card] combo deck. It also sees play in the Pod and UWR versions as well. 0.35 euro a piece makes for a 1.40 playset.

[card]Mental Misstep[/card] (3)

From 5 euro down to 0.5 euro. I sincerely doubt I can trade or sell these with any ease, although Peasant is a real thing over here and this card is quite good in that format.

[card]Gut Shot[/card]

This is my personal bias but I believe this card is worth mentioning. Any free spell is. This card has already seen play in Legacy and there is little reason it isn’t seeing play in Modern either with the large amount of one toughness creatures reaching from one- to three-drops. Getting an average of two mana ahead in a trade is always satisfying. That said, this thing is currently only 0.20 euro.

[card]Whipflare[/card] (3)

Foils go for around 7, non-foils around 0.20. I suspect a price correction will come in time, at least up to 0.50. This won’t happen within the next six months I would assume, but you never know. I will try to use urgency as a leverage to charge more for these in a trade during Modern events when people are scraping to get their decks together.

[card]Beast Within[/card] (2)

A roleplayer in Modern [card]Living End[/card] and an effect green shouldn’t have according to some people, making it desirable for EDH because green needs more powerful spells. Easy trades for 1 euro.

[card]Noxious Revival[/card] (2)

This thing went up when miracles were released and hasn’t dropped down incredibly much since then. You can still get 0.50 for this free spell, although this is one of the less-powerful ones.

[card]Mindcrank[/card] (2)

This thing. It is more expensive than the price memory serves. At $1.50 on TCG Player and 0.50 euro over here, this thing is a special one.

[card]Gitaxian Probe[/card] (8)

Such a staple. Remember when I said that free spells were good? They are even better if they draw you cards and are blue. Gitaxian Probes go for 1 euro a piece and opening 8 surely helps greatly. One of the reasons to have New Phyrexia is the amount of pure gold you can find in the commons and [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card] is the best of them.

[card]Vapor Snag[/card] (6)

Dreaded in Standard and it still sees some play in Modern, especially now that Travis Woo has been brewing with his [card]Disrupting Shoal[/card] deck (without actual results). It still sees play in Modern Fish so there will be some demand for it at 0.50.

[card]Geth’s Verdict[/card] (7)

Casual all-star and I even run three in my Modern GBw sideboard. It’s good against hexproof and the one damage isn’t irrelevant. At 0.35 euro, this trades especially well with casual people.

[card]Vault Skirge[/card] (8)

Part of the Modern Affinity list and that’s why it is 0.20. The Gateway promo version has hurt the price a little because nearly everyone owns a silly foil copy now.

Total Value and Prospects

After looking up the value of the cards sans the two-cent cards (most commons), I calculated the total value and I was quite surprised. I surpassed the 90 euro I bought the box for!

 

Total value:

€ 120,82

5% commission fee

€ 6,04

Actual value

€ 114,78

Box value

€ 145,00

Profit

-€ 30,22

 

We’re not quite at the 145 yet, though. There is still a 30-euro gap between the current value and my goal. Now it is up to me to close that gap.

In order to get to trading, I need to get out. My local magic community is rather small, no bigger than twenty people. That is not a whole lot of trading opportunity. Going out to Grands Prix isn’t worth it unless they’re in the Netherlands themselves. There is one Grand Prix in Holland this year, however it is not within the timeframe of my goal (Grand Prix Utrecht, August 8 through 10). This means I will have to pursue several minor events around the country and try to trade there, as well as make use of a Dutch Magic trading and community site, Nedermagic.nl. Despite the complications, I am fairly confident I can reach my goal of 30 euro within six months. Maybe we can make even more..

Outro

Well I hope you will enjoy this little challenge! If you want to participate yourself, go ahead! Pick a sealed box, mark down the value of the contents, compare it to the cost of the box, and start trading! Just add your info to the comments below, on the Reddit topic, or email me, and I’ll try to keep everyone updated on each participant’s progress every time I update the article series. You can reach me at [email protected] or @TheMeddlingMage on Twitter.

Sander van der Zee – Setting Your Goals, Part 2 (Electric Boogaloo)


Last week, I started discussing the importance of goals in your life. These principles apply to almost everything, even the act of playing and trading Magic: The Gathering. I talked about determining what is important to you in life, basing your long-term goals around it, and how to formulate them in a SMART way (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-related). Now it is time to pick up where we left off and polish your newfound goal-making skills with some finishing touches.

Make It Postive

You’ve done your brainstorming and have managed to narrow down your goals and made them SMART. It’s easy for humans to focus on the bad side of things. It’s in our nature to emphasize the negative situations in our lives and that leads us to formulate our goals the same way. Stating a goal in a positive fashion, however, helps your commitment to the goal. Rather than looking at it as if you are pulling yourself out of a bad situation, you can experience your goal as a way to grow towards a greater version of yourself.

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Incremental Goals

Once you’ve decided on your long-term goals, it’s time to cut them down into smaller, more grokkable steps. Having hard-to-achieve long-term goals can be intimidating. If you have decided that your goal is to accumulate $2500 by flipping [card]Birthing Pod[/card]s within the next five years, you need to set some incremental goals to get there. Setting smaller goals that are directly related to your long-term goal help you maintain your focus and allow you to adjust your strategy.

Rather than shoot for highly-visible community positions such as streaming or podcasting professionally, I knew I had to take it slow. Going from zero to hero doesn’t come naturally and certainly can’t be expected in one week. When I decided to contribute to my community on a more local level, I knew that it was just a way to grow. A stepping stone, and at the same time, a measurable checkpoint. Had I just kept my eye on the greater goal at the top, I would have just given up. Even thinking about all the work that had to be done was overwhelming. But determining the steps that had to be taken to help out as tournament organizer was a lot easier for me to do. After I managed that, I made my next goal to become a valuable member of the Brainstorm Brewery team. And look where I am now.

Keeping Track

If you formulated your goal following the SMART ruleset, then there is really no excuse not to track your progress. Remember that M stands for measurable and T for time-related. If we want to sell $2500 worth of [card]Birthing Pod[/card]s within five years, we know exactly where we have to be at every moment along the way.

You could set a goal where you want to have $125 from your [card]Birthing Pod[/card] sales after three months. After those three months, you can check if you have met your goal, and if not, adjust accordingly. If you’re short on sales, you might want to reconsider the way you’re trying to sell your product or the price at which you buy in. If these variables are hard or impossible to change, then your last resort is to adjust your goal, either by decreasing the amount of dollars you want to earn or increasing the amount of time you give yourself.

Knowing where you are and where you need to be gives you a clear view of what has to be done to get from point A to point B. If you have no roads, how will you ever arrive in Rome? Take note of what you have to do to get to your main goal and then do the same for your incremental goals. You will find it gets a lot easier to move along toward your destination!

Purely from a financial perspective, it is wise to always keep track of whatever you buy and sell, whether you’re setting goals or not. The [card]Birthind Pod[/card] example above is a very simplistic goal. It doesn’t consider anything aside from the money earned over time as you sell copies of [card]Birthing Pod[/card]. That’s neither complicated nor elaborate. More realistically, you probably have many different cards in stock that you intend to sell and each might be part of a goal you’re trying to set.

I recommend using Excel spreadsheet to keep track of every transaction you make. Whenever you buy something, write down how much you paid. And whenever you sell something, mark that down, too. You can get fancy and incorporate other information in your bookkeeping, but that’s up to you. Having this information available to you lets you quickly see how far you are in meeting your goals, but also shows how effective you are. If you don’t do this already, I can only suggest you start now.

faiths-reward

Rewarding Your Progress

Reaching your goals may take a while, and sometimes they can end up on the backburner along the way. It’s common for people to become demotivated just because of the sheer amount of work that has to be done to reach a larger goal. It’s not wrong to reward yourself for reaching milestones on your way toward your goals! Treat yourself to something nice every time you reach one. Not only does it keep you motivated, it also gives you the opportunity to look back at what you’ve learned, and sometimes just taking a moment to think about that is a reward in and of itself.

You’ve Done It!

After all this hard work, you are well on your way towards reaching the top, or wherever you intend to go! Keeping these steps in mind will truly help you on any part of your life, even playing Magic.

Do you have stories to tell about reaching your goals or what you are currently doing to reach one? Don’t shy away, tell us in the comments!  You can always contact me on Twitter @TheMeddlingMage or by email at [email protected].

 

Sander van der Zee – Setting Your Goals

This week’s article is going a little bit off the beaten path. For the past two articles I’ve written solely about the practical applications of Magic finance. This week is going to be a little different. I want to share with you an important subject in Magic finance, but also the rest of our lives, with some practical examples and a little insight into my personal experiences.Our subject today is on setting your goals.

Sometimes I forget how easy it is to lose myself in the nitty-gritty work within what I know as a Magic lifestyle. Looking at sets to find hidden gems to turn a profit on, analyzing card price data from multiple websites throughout each day. I found myself struggling to take a step back and ask myself, “Why I am doing this?” The problem is that I was lacking goals.

Goals allow us to pace our way of life. We all want something deep down, and we can make that our goal. Most often, people have multiple goals they work on at the same time. Some may take a lifetime to fulfill, others might just take a month, and some may be accomplished in as short as a day. But setting goals isn’t all that easy once you actually start to think about the fact that you also need to achieve them, whether it is in Magic finance, your achievements as a Magic player, or your own future in regards to your job or your love life.

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The Big Picture

First you want to think of the broader picture. You really want to determine who you are, what you want, and what will make you happy. These are important questions for every person, not just Magic players. Answering these questions can set you on a straight path toward your pursuits. These questions help you set your goals for the long run, five, 10, maybe even 20 years from now. Recognizing what your broad life goals are will help you keep your focus and reach the things that you value – and we all know we can’t pass up some good value.

Back when I was 13 or 14, I used to ride my bike to school every day. However, my bike ride took an hour and fifteen minutes and I quickly grew bored of the landscape (highway), so I decided to find a solution to my solitary journey back and forth each day. I stumbled across a bunch of podcasts from an internet radio station about an incredibly popular MMO. I fell in love with the way these people interacted with such a large community that all enjoyed the same genre of hobbies. From that moment, I knew I wanted to make a positive impact on a community one day.

30_shardConSplash

Breaking Down

Look at some areas of your life and consider how you want to change or develop them over time. Start asking yourself what you want to achieve in each area and how you would like to approach those goals on a shorter term, like in five years, for example. With MTG financial goals you may want to think about where you make your money. Do you invest long term? Do you prefer flipping quickly to vendors? Do you buylist or will you open your own webshop? In terms of career, you might ask yourself what your ideal profession is, and whether you value a positive experience over a more monotonous job that provides better monetary compensation. Just take a step back and see what major decisions you can make in each area of your life.

So I knew I wanted to interact with the community, but I had to determine the most satisfying way to do it . I knew that I really only felt good when I helped people that enjoyed doing the same things I did. I felt like I had the expertise to know what was going on and was able to give advice in some areas. My interest in the MMO slowly faded over time and an older hobby returned in my life a couple of years ago: Magic.

I decided that I wanted to make a positive difference in the Magic community, but now I had to know at what scale! I knew that I really wanted to work on a big platform but at the time I had very few resources and connections to make it happen. Working on a smaller scale meant I would work on it locally which allowed me to be more hands-on with my work in the community. That’s when I knew that I could make a difference as a tournament organizer or judge.

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Getting SMART About It

SMART is a mnemonic device that can help you keep the goals that you set clear. It’s a way of formulating your goal-statement using five adjectives. Chances are you’ve heard of this method.

Specific. When setting goals, they should answer highly-specific questions of who, what, where, when, and why. “I want to make $500 through purchasing or trading Modern staples with my inventory and cash worth combined $300 by September 1, 2014,” is far more meaningful than, “I want to turn a profit selling cards.” These parameters keep your goals in one place and allow you to determine which tools you need to use. Discipline yourself to be clear and direct.

Measurable. In order to track progress your goals need to be quantifiable. “I’m going to go to more large events to trade more” isn’t quantifiable. What if you’ve gone to two grand prix within six months of setting this goal? How far are you? You can’t at any point say you are fifty percent on your way to your goal because your goal doesn’t have any parameters. “I am going to go to five large events to trade more,” on the other hand, says a lot more about where we want to go. Now we know we have reached forty percent of our goal.

Attainable. Even after you have determined what your goals are you still have to evaluate your situation and honestly recognize which of these goals are realistic and which may be a little far-fetched. I figured out that reaching out to a larger Magic community was going to be difficult, so I toned down my expectations.

While “make a positive impact on the Magic community” was an admirable goal, I was far from able to do that at the time. That’s when I toned it down and turned it into, “Make a positive impact on our local Magic community”. Changing my goal to be more attainable allowed me to reach that smaller goal, which was far more satisfying than failing at the larger (and more exciting) goal.

Relevant. Is the goal you’ve set relevant to your life and the big picture questions you have asked yourself? To determine what value the goals you set have, you need to take a step back and look at what value they add to your life. Does it seem worthwhile? Is this the right time? Does this match what you need from it?

My plans to make an impact on the local Magic community had already been set in motion at this time. After some drama at the local game store, many players disassociated themselves from the store and the brand it had created for itself. I took it upon myself to organize the weekly Friday Night Magic and keep a forum and Facebook community running. After a couple of months, the store owner approached me and asked if we could work out a way for all of us to be happy and still play in his store. We reached an accord and we returned the next month. During the next few months, I noticed that the store owner kept on breaking his promises. At first I just saw it through the fingers (Dutch idiom for “letting it slip”), until one day he told me he wasn’t interested in our agreement anymore and had just decided to do everything his own way.

At that point, I realized that there was no longer any value to helping him as a tournament organizer and community manager. I knew I would work my proverbial ass off trying to get things going, but now he could just throw my work out of the window in one fell swoop if he saw fit. Any further input would no longer further my cause. So I quit pursuing this goal.

Time-related. Much like measurability, a goal should also be quantifiable in time. If you set your goals without a time limit you are only keeping yourself from achieving that goal in a timely fashion as no pressure can exist without a deadline – you will get distracted. “I am going to go to five large events to trade more” is certainly quantifiable, but how can you determine by when you should have visited five grand prix? In one month? One year? One lifetime? “I am going to go to five large events within the next twelve months to trade more” is a far more quantifiable description. If you’ve gone to two grand prix in six months you can conclude that you have reached forty percent of your goals within fifty percent of the allotted time, meaning you should try to squeeze an additional grand prix in the next six months at this pace.

20050114_01_doordevingersThe Abrupt End

It appears I can only fit fifty percent of the subject in the article this week, but luckily, I have not set my goal to tell you all there is to know about setting goals in just a single week. I will return to the topic next time and round it up with more advice and personal stories related to the subjects. For now I hope you can enjoy this Dutch commercial about the idiom I spoke of earlier!

Sander van der Zee – Boxing Season

In my previous article I delved into the financial merits of cards that have recently rotated out of the standard format and how you, as a player or financier, can try to make the best of it. And for those who commented on the glaring exclusion of a particular card, I have put the data for [card]Thalia, Guardian of Thraben[/card] in a link at the bottom of this article. But this time I would like to talk about something different. Lets talk about sets.

Let’s talk about sets, maybe. Lets talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be. So let’s talk about sets!

Salt-N-Pepa talking about Magic sets.

Salt-N-Pepa talking about Magic sets.

All ridiculousness aside, I do want to talk to you about Magic sets, in particular sealed booster boxes. In the last year I’ve been picking up hints of an on-going trend with the booster box products. Boxed product has been shooting up in value, the most recent example being Innistrad, now sitting at a solid 140EU/$170. What makes this so special, you might wonder? The set has barely been out more than two years!

So what does this mean for boxed product in general? Let’s first take a look at five sets which have seen dramatically increased booster box prices over the past year:

 

Darksteel – 200EU/$300

Ravnica, City of Guilds – 260EU/$450

Future Sight – 350EU/$470

Lorwyn – 275EU/$500

Zendikar – 350EU/$375

 

 

All of the sets listed above have something in common: they each have a number of Modern mainstays. By mainstays I mean cards that see play in multiple decks and cards that will maintain their play value even if their respective decks disappear from the metagame. Even though many of these cards have seen a reprint in some form or fashion, the old boxes that they are in still maintain their value. It may be for the original art, the foil version of that art, the draft experience, or other reasons.

Staples

[card]Arcbound Ravager[/card], [card]Dark Confidant[/card], [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], [card]Cryptic Command[/card], and [card]Thoughtseize[/card] all see a ton of play in Modern, Legacy, and even Vintage. (Though I do not wish to stir the [card]Thoughtseize[/card] versus [card]Duress[/card] argument right now, I do believe it has a place in Vintage.) [card]Dark Confidant[/card], [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], and [card]Thoughtseize[/card] make their way into the top 10 most played Modern cards as numbers eight, four, and three respectively, only being beaten by Lightning Bolt and another card we will come back to later in the article.

Similarly and unsurprisingly, Zendikar fetchlands are mainstays of the format. Remember that most lists run between five and eleven fetchlands. [card]Misty Rainforest[/card] is third on the list of the top-10 most-played lands in Modern, beaten only by two basic lands (Island and Mountain). [card]Verdant Catacombs[/card] comes in fourth, [card]Scalding Tarn[/card] sixth, and [card]Marsh Flats[/card] ninth. Where is [card]Arid Mesa[/card], you might wonder? It’s sitting on the bench as the eleventh most played land in Modern, beaten by [card]Stomping Ground[/card] at 10.

Source: MTGGoldfish, October 28th

After seeing this it should become clear why Innistrad has followed a similar pattern right after the print run of the set ended. If we just take look on Gatherer and search for cards from the set, an immediate few jump to our attention.[card]Liliana of the Veil[/card], [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card], and [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card]are the three most notable cards that create the demand for sealed product.

 

StaplesInnistrad

 

So, let us recapture what we’ve learned so far. From simply looking at the data and the cards within the set that drive the overall set price, we managed to conclude the following: Boxes of sets that contain mainstay cards of eternal formats will shoot up in price the moment the set is out of its print run. That sounds pretty logical. A simple matter of supply and demand kicks in after a while when people realize that they can’t just go out and buy boxes of the set anymore. Well, they can for a little while, but it won’t be long until everyone realizes that they want these cards and buys out stores at the retail price, causing the effect that we’ve seen with Innistrad. Did you know these aforementioned criteria fit a particular set that is still In its print run right now?

 

RTR_BoosterBox

 

Return to Ravnica, the fall 2012 set. Incredibly popular and opened tons and tons because of the excitement of return to the (previously) all-time favourite setting of Ravnica, which we last visited in 2005. It was opened so much that some local stores no longer had any product to sell the day after release! Boxes were selling well above retail for an entire week, until Wizards released a second wave in the second week, dropping the price back down to retail. The current price on a sealed booster box of Return to Ravnica is 80EU/$90.

You can probably find them a little cheaper if you search for them right now. While it is best to wait to purchase ex-Standard staples until they have rotated, it is better to get in on boxed product a year after its release when the cards in the set have had a year to prove their worth, yet before the price backlash kicks in.

Aside from the hype that developed around the set, take a look at the cards Return to Ravnica has to offer Modern. Ten items currently stand at the top of the list. [card]Abrupt Decay[/card], [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card], [card]Supreme Verdict[/card], [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card], [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card] accompanied by the five shock lands: [card]Temple Garden[/card], [card]Blood Crypt[/card], [card]Steam Vents[/card], [card]Hallowed Fountain[/card], and [card]Steam Vents[/card].

StaplesRTR

Deathrite Shaman, Abrupt Decay and the shocklands have become mainstays in Modern!

All of these cards see play, and regularly.[card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] finds a home in all the Jund lists that tend to have the same 12+X creature base ([card]Deathrite Shaman[/card],[card]Dark Confidant[/card], [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]). It also sees play in Melira Pod and various types of Rx burn decks, making it the 2nd most played card in Modern. [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] finds its way in many Jund and Pod lists as well! You can often find multiple copies of [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] in the UW and UWx lists with a few of [card]Supreme Verdict[/card]s scattered through the main and sideboard of these decks, as well. These help to shore up card advantage against more aggressive opponents, and have completely replaced [card]Blue Sun’s Zenith[/card] and [card]Wrath of God[/card].

The shocklands of the set are three of the most commonly played ones. [card]Steam Vents[/card], [card]Blood Crypt[/card], [card]Temple Garden[/card], [card]Overgrown Tomb[/card], and [card]Hallowed Fountain[/card] make their way into nine, six, five, five, and three different decks respectively.

My advice? If you do not mind sitting on sealed product for a while, you should definitely pick up a few boxes for normal retail prices while you can. Because remember, the printrun ends on November 31, 2014!

That concludes my thoughts on the recent surge in sealed booster box prices and the opportunities in this playing field. And as I promised, below you can find last week’s document reworked to now include [card]Thalia, Guardian of Thraben[/card] in both Modern and Legacy. I also added some colors to make it easier to read. If you have any comments, questions, or concerns you can always reach me at [email protected] or Tweet at me @TheMeddlingMage on Twitter.

 

InnistradModernMetagameOctober2013

 

Sander Van Der Zee – Eternally Innistrad

Eternally Innistrad

Theros has been on the market for about a month now and card prices are slowly settling in after the results of Pro Tour Theros. While everyone busies themselves with the acquisition and distribution of Theros singles with an eye on what the current Standard format has to offer, I prefer to take a financial look back at what has only recently left us by enlightening you how our Innistrad-block staples are fairing in the non-rotating format of Modern and how that still affect their prices in both the US and the EU.

 

Innistrad block was a flavourful trio set that offered standard a lot of playable and very powerful cards that have defined the format for the past two years. Many of these cards even overshadowed the Return to Ravnica block cards that are only just seeing the constructed play! As you are reading this there are probably a couple of cards that instantly come to mind. Allow me make it easy for you by compiling all of the most impactful rare and mythic cards from Innistrad block in a list below.

Innistrad Dark Ascension Avacyn Restored
[card]Champion of the Parish[/card] [card]Gravecrawler[/card] [card]Restoration Angel[/card]
[card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card] [card]Entreat the Angels[/card]
[card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] [card]Sorin, Lord of Innistrad[/card] [card]Terminus[/card]
[card]Past in Flames[/card] [card]Tamiyo, the Moon Sage[/card]
[card]Garruk Relentless[/card] [card]Griselbrand[/card]
[card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] [card]Bonfire of the Damned[/card]
[card]Olivia Voldaren[/card] [card]Vexing Devil[/card]
[card]Clifftop Retreat[/card] [card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card]
[card]Gavony Township[/card] [card]Cavern of Souls[/card]
[card]Hinterland Harbor[/card]
[card]Isolated Chapel[/card]
[card]Sulfur Falls[/card]
[card]Woodland Cemetery[/card]

 

Most of these cards have already been dropping in price in the time leading up to the release of Theros and many cards will continue to do so for probably another two or three months before they reach their bottom value before they go up again. This is usually the best time to pick up cards- when they’re at their low value and you can sit on them as a small and safe investment. But how do you determine which cards you should snap up in trades? It is simple! We will just look at the facts.

 

One of the first things we have to do is decide which cards will still see play after they have done their time in Standard. (Hint: They have all done their time now) The most secure way of determining that is by looking at their playability in eternal formats. Keep in mind that I am eschewing casual formats for the sake of this article for now, but do not hesitate to use your gut feeling and a bit of nosing around to see if other cards like [card]Parallel Lives[/card] have made their way to the EDH and kitchen table in the past two years.

 

The tools I use to help me get a view of the amount of play these cards see up to this day are MTGGoldfish and MTGtop8. Both of these websites give you a nice list of how many decks play a certain card, how many copies that deck plays of the card and what percentage of the metagame that deck makes up. Let us take a look at how explosive the card [card]Sulfur Falls[/card] from Innistrad performs in the eternal metagame!

 

Sulfur Falls

 

According to the sources there is a total of five different decks running [card]Sulfur Falls[/card] in Modern right now. (UWR control, Splinter Twin, UR Delver, Seismic Assault and UWR Twin) After looking at the numbers, we can see that [card]Sulfur Falls[/card] is currently being played in 21,10% of the Modern decklists. Pretty sweet, right?

UWR Control 11,07%
Splinter Twin 6,57%
UR Delver 1,73%
Seismic Assault 1,38%
UWR Twin 0,35%
Total 21,10%

 

SulfurGraph

 

But now we need to relate this to the finance side of things. We have determined that there will still be a demand for the card using both the numbers and a little bit of gut feeling. Let us look at how the price on [card]Sulfur Falls[/card] has been doing as our second statistic benchmark and evaluate the price versus the amount of play it sees. This time I will make use of the open-market information sources of TCGplayer.com and Magiccardmarket.eu.

 

 

MCMSulfurFalls

 

 

We have seen a bit of a drop in the months leading up to the rotation, but as of now the card is slowly creeping up again, reaching the 4,50 Euro (6$) range. I have applied a bit of gut feeling and common sense to these numbers and came up with the following conclusion. If it is already going up in price now now even after the rotation, I do not see this card going down any more before it gets a solid reprint. I can see this card reaching filter land price status, but it will take a lot of time before the demand for this card reaches a point where that will be the case. Financial opportunity? Certainly there, certainly low!

 

Next we shall take a look at one more card before I shall give a short fact-sheet on each card from Innistrad block I listed before. I picked [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card], a card that has haunted Standard in Delver and Hexproof decklists for two entire years!

 

Geist

 

UR Delver 1,63%
Domain Zoo 1,30%
Zur Auras 0,65%
Esper Aggro 0,33%
Total 3,91%

 

GeistGraph

 

The quantifiable metagame results from the last month do not prove positive for our shortly deceased cleric. Only 3,91 percent of the decks with a good result ran one or more copies of [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card]. Now, how does this influence our evaluation?

This is when we take a step back again and look at the other set of data we have, the price versus the potential, because we are aware that the card is not being played very much right now. If we take a look at both Magiccardmarket and TCGplayer we can see that the prices are at 15 euro and 17 dollars USD respectively. In the height of its play the card has seen a pricepoint between the thirty and fourty dollars USD with a large portion of the metagame consisting of decks that included [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card]. How likely is it that the percentage of decks within the metagame playing [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] increases from 3,91% up to 10% or more? That is where gut feeling and common sense come into it again.

 

MCMGeist

 

[card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] has always been a hard-to-deal-with threat that can close out games for decks that are capable of running it, which previously they had not. Answers usually consist of cards that get around [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card]’s hexproof; most commonly known as “Edict” effects, one of which is stuck on a planeswalker that sees a lot of play in the Modern Format. The non-rotating formats do change over time, though slowly, long enough for [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card]’s price to erode ever so slightly over time until decks running [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] grow less popular or another card gets added to the [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] decks. Oh, and do not forget that [card]Noble Hierarch[/card] is still a card. Financial opportunity? Slow but high!

 

That wraps up my article on the Innistrad cards using these two examples. In the link below you can find the excel-sheet containing all of the cards modern metagame percentage and current pricepoints so you can apply your own gut feeling and common sense to them to make your own conclusions. If you find any that you feel are great financial opportunity or you think are dangerous traps for people to walk into? Feel free to share them in the comments below. If you want to reach me you can find me on twitter @TheMeddlingMage or contact me at [email protected]

 

InnistradModernMetagameOctober2013