When I first accepted my prestigious and highly paid position here at Brainstorm Brewery, this article was one of the ones on my mind. So much so that I have taken several months to ruminate over some of my points. This will not be an all-encompassing treatise on Magic finance, but rather the humble beginnings of a likely meta-series on valuable fundamentals.
Some of the segments of this article will be more or less applicable for different types of traders. If you own a game store or are a vendor, then you have some firmly established means of moving cards, and you probably already knows what moves and what doesn’t for your particular markets. Most of you, however, are probably much more like me: an honest, blue-collar guy, who loves his country and just wants to make playing this children’s card game a bit more affordable.
Let’s say you have a card that you want to sell. What are your options? And I mean you, personally, not a ficticious amalgamation of all Magic players. You, reading this now. Think about all the different ways you know you could sell a card today if you had to.
Done? Awesome. The different options are part of what I consider a person’s Magic Network. Now, which option you choose will largely depend on what type of card you are looking to sell, which is something you need to make sure you are aware of. Some network options are stores, some are individuals, and some are websites.
- Stores as Options: Stores are an important option, because they are often the only option that will put 100-percent cash in your hand today. The downside, of course, is that they are not in the charity business, so you will be buylisting, and therefore eating a considerable percentage as a cost. We will talk about buylisting more in depth in a little bit, because I think it is often maligned, when it really shouldn’t be.
- Inviduals as Options: It’s rather callous and impersonal to treat human beings as merely some sort of financial tool, but that’s not what this article is about. Individuals are often excellent options for moving cards, because you will typically know what a person is willing to buy before you ask them. Oh, and for the record, I don’t consider everyone I’ve ever FNMed with as an option. These are the people who spring immediately to your mind when you know you have something they want. If you stumble upon a NM Alpha Lich, who is your out? A JP foil Havengul Lich? Japanese non-foil Blackcleave Cliffs? Individuals are often your best choice when you are trying to out something that has high value and low demand, or fits squarely in a niche market. You may not have your personal directory developed yet, but it is a great tool for having quick outs for hard to move cards.
- The Internet: This is tricky, because there are several different platforms for selling cards, and they all have unique aspects. Let’s try this again…
- Twitter as an Option: Ah, that’s better. For the last few years, Twitter has been an excellent way for me to out cards. The cards that I have the easiest time moving are typically foils and higher-end Constructed staples, as well as foreign copies of (typically Commander) cards. Rather than tell you what to look for, let’s go over a couple of my handy rules for trying to sell cards on Twitter:
- Your price should take several factors into context. You will not get 100% market rate on your card, which means you may want to set a minimum threshold for what you sell. I typically tend to price things between 70 and 80 percent, depending on the spread between SCG and TCGplayer and eBay. If SCG has a card for $20, TCGplayer mid is $18.50, and copies are clearing on eBay for about $16 or $17? I’m going to ask for $15, but include shipping (in the US). The goal is to get better than buy list rates, not retail rates.
- Expect shipping to be worth about a buck for the US, and about $2 to $3 anywhere else in a plain white envelope (PWE). If it’s a high-ticket item that you (or they) don’t feel safe shipping it like a letter to Santa, then I offer $5 for the priority plus tracking through USPS (it’s actually $5.75, but I eat the extra as a courtesy for them buying from me). We will touch on shipping some day, because SO MANY OF YOU DO IT WRONG. Well, not you, you’re actually one of the good ones, but some of these other clowns make it look like rocket surgery. How have you been, by the way? Good? That’s good.
- They pay first using PayPal gifts to friends and family. Don’t do goods and services, they’ll ping you for extra fees. As far as I can tell, this is fine since none of us are actual businesses.
- When you are posting things for sale, always include pictures and make sure to mention if there are any condition issues. Don’t purposefully try to minimize a crease or wear with some fancy sleight of hand. Even though there is no rating system involved, be forthcoming and respectful with every trade—they are doing you a favor, after all.
- Hashtags are okay, but you typically don’t need more than #mtg or #mtgfinance. I know some people (hi, Cory!) are trying to push #mtgbuysell, which is a good idea, but it hasn’t gotten traction yet. Also, never, ever, ever say or imply anything that makes it seem like you will be selling, or will sell, cards at an event site. The old rules of no sales at a tournament apply online, and SCG especially is very vigilant in terms of making sure their #SCG[place] tags aren’t being used for people to sell cards. Got that? Never use a tournament’s hashtag to sell cards.
- I would say that these rules apply to Facebook, too, but I don’t care what my dad’s cousin’s wife or some dumbass I went to high school with thinks about Obamacare, so I don’t use Facebook.
We will come back to more of my finance fundamentals in the future. I would rather spread them out over several weeks to keep getting paid to make sure that every subject gets its fair due, and to address any questions or concerns that may arise. Let’s talk about the Siege Rhino in the room and address what happened this week with the bannings.
About Those Bannings
A lot of people are coming out of the past week with feelings of regret and frustration. With the popularization of “Magic finance,” ban list update time usually brings a rare frenzy of activity1.
BRIEF PHILOSOPHICAL ASIDE: I was thinking about Tuesday morning, and the following came to me. You know that famous Gretzky quote, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take”? I think so many people on the finance side are so afraid to miss taking a shot that they don’t realize that all of their shots won’t make it.
Because the B&R announcement has historically caused spikes immediately after its publication, speculators have attempted to anticipate the announcement by going deep on cards as early as a week before publication. This is stange on several levels, which we will address progressively. This time, it was Bloodbraid Elf, which actually maintained semi-realistic prices (outside of the promo copy), and Stoneforge Mystic. The previous B&R announcement, it was Skullclamp.
What do these three cards have in common?
There Is No Chance in Hell These Cards Will Ever Be Allowed in Modern
Of course, many people felt that this same sentiment applied to Bitterblossom, which was the first such card to get the “Pre-Announcement Buzz,” and was the only one people actually got right2. Bitterblossom was a menace in Standard, and everyone who was playing then definitely has an opinion of the card. Of course, Modern is not Standard, and since Morningtide, Abrupt Decay has become a multi-format all-star. I’ve actually played against the Modern Fae decks a bit, and they don’t have nearly as much bite as they did then. The deck is still mostly small value creatures, counters, and disruption, but they are extremely weak to Thoughtseize and Decay, and they get relatively little that wasn’t available to them when the deck was in Standard (besides better mana). Fae games back then were always defined by sticking Bitterblossom on turn two or not, and when you can just Decay it? You didn’t just slow them down a turn, you took out their incremental advantage engine.
BRIEF COMPARATIVE ASIDE: “Ross, if Abrupt Decay is so great, then what’s the big deal with Stoneforge Mystic?” That’s an excellent question, Straw Man! While the two cards are notorious, Stoneforge Mystic is more than a powerful card; it represents two things that WOTC doesn’t want to push in modern design. Stoneforge tutors for a card and then helps you cheat it into play, and is priced so aggressively that you are often saving mana on the cheat (several, in the case of Batterskull, your most likely target). The card is a development error, and Wizards does not this format to be represented by “mistake” cards like Stoneforge or Jace. Sure, Abrupt Decay will hit Stoneforge, but you still got to pay 1W to Demonic Tutor for your likely win condition.
Count Your Many Bannings
Smarter people than me have talked about this before, but there are some cards on the Modern banned list that could theoretically come off. There are some, however, that are clear development errors that will literally never see the light of day in Modern. If your Magic background is not very deep, and you don’t have familiarity with all of these cards, then it may be difficult to tell the difference. The small run on Skullclamp last year is an example of people thinking that a card they weren’t familiar with contextually could come off the list. We are going to highlight the cards on the current list and briefly touch on whether or not they are candidates to make it back.
Ancestral Vision: This could come off, possibly soon. The card trades cost for time, which means that combo decks can’t abuse it without either having to delay going off or target a single turn for attempting to go off. It’s a card that fits more with control, which prefers raw draw power to filtering, but I think the biggest fear is that combo would somehow appropriate it, which would land it back in the penalty box.
Birthing Pod: I have surprisingly little experience with this deck, with or against it. I could see it coming back as a potential shot in the arm if popularity wanes in the long term, or if people complain too much about it leaving. The format is probably better without it, though.
Blazing Shoal: This was allowing players to combo off as early as turn 2 in GP Philly. Fragile or not, that’s good enough to get a life sentence in Modern.
Bloodbraid Elf: Cascade is so good that I’m surprised we are allowed to have Captured Sunlight. This is not the card that made Jund the menace it was, but it did let a middle schooler top eight a standard GP. One of the more likely candidates to come off the list, if just by virtue of how many are here for life.
Chrome Mox: I wish I could tell you that Chrome Mox fought the good fight, and WOTC let it get unbanned. I wish I could tell you that, but Modern is no fairy tale world. This card would give Storm more ritual mana (although at the cost of another card), and I think currently Wizards wants to play it safe. I like the card, but I’m not gonna get my hopes up.
Cloudpost: My first Modern deck was 12=Post, and it was fun. That said, Cloudpost is very unlikely to come back—the Tron engine has a fairer drawback system, while still rewarding you for playing situationally terrible lands.
Dark Depths: Now that this card has two ways of going off (Thespian’s Stage and Vampire Hexmage), I think it’s safe to say Depths won’t be coming back ever, especially since the Stage route is counter-proof.
Deathrite Shaman: This is the card that made Jund what it was, and he is going to be locked up for a very long time. This card is way too good.
Dread Return: This is one of the key pieces that the dredge/sundry graveyard strategies are missing. Dread Return won’t come back, because several other things (including the recently paroled Golgari Grave-Troll) would have to simultaneously get locked back up.
Glimpse of Nature: All the other pieces for Elves are already in Modern (besides Cradle, which is admittedly a big one), but the deck doesn’t see play. I’m afraid WotC may someday unban this as a litmus test, where they will discover that it is still way too good. Regardless of your opinions on the card, I think it is too expensive as a buy-in for a “maybe someday” gain.
Great Furnace (and the other artifact lands): I would actually like to see Great Furnace come off the list—not the whole set, just Furnace. There is some utility to playing four in mono-red, which was a thing in Extended to turn on Shrapnel Blast. Affinity (or Robots, or whatever) makes this extremely unlikely. Sorry, guys, you’re too much of a developmental whoopsy.
Green Sun’s Zenith: Be thankful you have Chord of Calling. I’d like to see this card come back, but it does something that Wizards doesn’t really like to have in the spotlight so often, and it creates repititive game states.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor: Seriously?
Mental Misstep: If they won’t let you play it in Legacy, you probably won’t get to play it in Modern. To quote High Fidelity: “It was like trying to borrow a dollar, getting turned down, and asking for 50 grand instead.”
Preordain: Somehow this card is not restricted in Vintage. Long story short, it makes Storm and the other combo decks just a bit too consistent. Sorry not sorry.
Ponder: See above, except this one is restricted in Vintage.
Rite of Flame: Ha, yeah right.
Second Sunrise: Rather than play a statistically significant amount of matches to determine whether Second Sunrise is safe for unbanning, many Wizards employees would rather kill themselves.
Seething Song: See also: Rite of Flame.
Sensei’s Divining Top: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
Stoneforge Mystic: We talked about her earlier. Ain’t ever happening.
Skullclamp: The day of Regionals in 2004, I added a few of these to my cleric combo deck. The sheer increase in speed was indescribable. I knew then that this card was never meant to see print as is. You’re lucky they let you play this in Commander.
Sword of the Meek: Maybe? The fact of the matter is, this combo is not as scary or oppressive as people viewed it before, and the decks it was good in were primarily using it as a back-up plan for Dark Depths. Financially, it’s not a great target since it’s just an uncommon, and the deck is probably not good enough to push out Splinter Twin or other, better combo kills.
Treasure Cruise: See also: Mental Misstep.
Dig Through Time: This is some sort of Minority Report precog thing, where Organized Play saw a grim future of Dig Through Time just taking over the Treasure Cruise slot. I strongly doubt either come back.
I have to say, looking at this list and breaking it down card by card, it feels like Wizards has got a better feel for the format a couple years in. I don’t have any major issues with it as is, and nothing on the list desperately feels like it needs to come off. Let’s finish off this bad boy (we had a long one today! [Ed. note: I’ll say]) with some Quick Hits.
- One of the undermentioned features of PucaTrade is that you are able to send and receive cards immediately, in terms of prereleases. You can out the stuff you expect to fall, and people can send you what you want so your deck is ready in time for the first FNM! I got a Brutal Hordechief mailed out at 6 a.m. Saturday morning, and it was here Tuesday.
- Speaking of Brutal Hordechief, if you have him, assign blockers to your Heir of the Wilds—then you get to just kill their two or three best dudes.
- Golgari Grave-Troll sets are selling for silly amounts. My-friend-and-local-store-owner Eric and I were watching his get bought up Monday. I do not expect the card to have an immediate impact on the format, but you may see more graveyard decks in your local Modern tournaments. Leyline of the Void and Rest in Peace haven’t had big upticks in price, and I doubt they will, but they’re the two best tools for fighting Dredge.
- I literally just discovered the card Sudden Reclamation, and I am in love. It doesn’t really go in anything, but I need about 100 JP Foil copies just in case.
- Am I the only one guilty of this? I see a card, usually an uncommon, and I think, “Eh, card’s not that good.” Then I see a JP foil copy of that uncommon, and I think, “Hey, maybe that’s a spicy one of!” I am not good at decks.
- I always appreciate your feedback!
1I hate that DailyMTG updates at 11 AM EST now, EXCEPT for the fact that these announcements are no longer made at midnight.
2Scary to think about how many poor decisions can be made in the wake of success.
Longtime magic player and TO.Loving husband and father. Cube > Commander.
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