All Magic Has a Price – #2 – Supporting the Local Card Shop

All Magic Has a Price


J. Graves
Tampa, FL


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Supporting the Local Card Shop


Thanks for all the wonderful feedback on the first issue of All Magic Has a Price. I appreciate each comment. Toward the end of this article, I will talk about my thoughts on last week’s mailbag question. I have had an opportunity to think about the opinions shared in the comments and to formulate my own. Like last time, unless otherwise stated, all values referenced below represent true-cost value. The MTG economy is fluid. All true-cost values can and will change. True-cost value is arbitrary, and is best determined with a little research on eBay.

Supporting the Local Card Shop

I thought I was a good Magic: The Gathering player. I could beat my buddies in our multiplayer kitchen table games. [card]Circle of Protection: Red[/card] with [card]Inferno[/card] and [card]Orcish Artillery[/card]. How cool was I? I took my best deck to the card shop, because I was taking this pro, baby.

First round, [card]Swamp[/card], [card]Mox Jet[/card], [card]Dark Ritual[/card], [card]Juzam Djinn[/card]Logo go. I sat there mouth gaping open thinking, Holy %$^% what just happened? No more than four turns later I hear, “Sideboard?” Besides thinking “What the hell is sideboard?” I remember coming to the realization I was not as good at this game as I thought.

Fast forward about three to five years, and a shift occurs. The card shop becomes an important thing. Now instead of going exclusively to play in tournaments, the card shop is a mecca for meeting Magic players. A Magic community is forming. Most of my friends play MTG, and I met most of them at the card shop. The game is being honed; drafts are more prevalent but still young. This is a golden age for Magic: The Gathering.

When evaluating purchases using the true-cost method, examining the last 10 auctions on eBay or the low on TCG Player is prudent; however, the card shop should not be forgotten in the process.

One way I have been successful at continuing to support my local card shop while focusing on minimizing the true cost of playing Magic is by checking each card I’m considering purchasing on the local card shop’s website to see if it has a similar or better price than the true-cost value. For example, I wanted four [card]Sulfur Springs[/card] for whatever American net deck I wanted to play. I looked up the cards on eBay, and I found a playset going for $16 true cost. Before I bid, I checked my local card shop’s website, Anthem Games in Tampa, FL. Anthem had the [card]Sulfur Springs[/card] for $5 apiece. I decided to buy the cards from Anthem. I spent an extra $4, but I picked up the cards immediately.

Opportunity Cost – The cost of an alternative that must be forgone in order to pursue a certain action. Put another way, the benefits you could have received by taking an alternative action.

This begs the question of whether the opportunity cost is equal to or greater than the actual cost. In other words, was having the cards four to six days earlier and supporting the local shop worth spending the extra $4? The [card]Sulfur Springs[/card] are only one example of many.

Another way to support the local card shop is to utilize the additional services the shop offers. Buy all your gaming supplies from the card shop. Wal-Mart might be cheaper, but the premium paid on money spent at the local card shop will produce a higher return on your investment. Also, if the card shop has food and drinks, buy them there instead of going to 7-Eleven. If the shop offers meals, plan to eat while at the shop. You have to eat, right? Uncommon and common cards can be purchased cheaply and without the need to wait for the mail.

So considering it this way, the $4 extra dollars I spent on the [card]Sulfur Springs[/card] is among the best money I have spent. Chock the extra dollars to entertainment and supporting the MTG community. Hopefully our shop owners are making a profit, because they’re providing us a place to play the game and meet other players. Every dollar one can justify spending at a local card shop is an investment in one’s local MTG community. Whenever it is prudent, I try to purchase items from a local store, and if the local card shop doesn’t have the inventory, only then might I decide to purchase online.

Limited Finances

I have not been playing much Limited recently because I’ve had the Standard bug. Thus, I am not as up to date on the current archetypes in Theros. But recently, I had an urge to draft. An overwhelming urge that could only be squelched by cracking a pack. Hearing that foil crinkle as I ripped a pack open to reach the nummy goodness inside was the only thing that could relieve the hunger. I exaggerate, but I do enjoy it.

I get in a draft and the judge says, “Open your first pack”. Cracking the pack, I rifle to the back to see what awesomeness was awaiting me, and the pack did not disappoint. [card]Thassa, God of the Sea[/card], sweet.

Logo That paid for the draft. After the first pick, I am at $12.75 in true cost. I know that I am going to be playing blue. I notice the guy next to me is also picking blue. I grab a [card]Nylea’s Emissary[/card] as my fourth pick. I believe the two people in front of me are not in green. The first pack continues around the table, and I assemble what I think is a decent blue/green start. I do not know the format well, but MTG is MTG. Playable creatures, a good curve, and whatever removal or tricks one can grab will always result in a decent deck.

Second pack , I open [card]Temple of Abandon[/card]. A prime example of the discussion between picking money versus picking to win. The point of drafting is to bring in the most true-cost value. The choice is [card]Temple of Abandon[/card], true cost $3.25, or a [card]Griptide[/card]. If I take the [card]Griptide[/card], I have a better chance to win. [card]Griptide[/card] is a blowout in Limited, and specifically with all the enchantments in Theros. Even at a relatively-low $3.25 true cost and knowing that I have a play set, I can not pass up a playable card that will have value for the next 20 months. I take the [card]Temple of Abandon[/card], and I am now at $16 true cost. Good start.

Third pack, I opened [card]Triad of Fates[/card]. I did not know the true cost or value of this card, but after reading the card I judged it to be terrible. Later I saw that [card]Triad of Fates[/card] is 19 cents. I evaluated correctly. I picked a [card]Griptide[/card], and late in the pack I picked up two [card]Nimbus Naiad[/card]s. I finished with a decent blue-green deck with a good curve and lots of Bestow.

I went 3-1. I lost the last match because it was an 11-man pod and I was the only 3-0. Otherwise, I most likely would have split. Fortunately, I still won the draft because of tie breakers, and I received seven packs.

My value cards were:
[card]Underworld Cerberus[/card] – 2.50
[card]Triad of the Fates[/card] – Bulk
[card]Boon Satyr[/card] – 2.50
[card]Whip of Erebos[/card] – 1.25
[card]Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver[/card] – 11.50
[card]Bow of Nylea[/card] – 1.50
[card]Abhorrent Overlord[/card] – Bulk
Foil [card]Yoked Ox[/card] – 1.00
[card]Magma Jet[/card] – .75

Between the draft cards and the prize packs, I ended up with cards worth a true-cost value of $37. All this for playing a game for three hours – doesn’t sound like a bad use of one’s time.

I played the next Wednesday and went 2-1. I placed fourth and received one pack. I picked a scry land in the draft, and I had a [card]Firedrinker Satyr[/card] in the prize pack. In this case, I spent $12 and received $4 in true-cost value. But think of it this way: a movie costs $11 dollars. Magic: The Gathering is substantially more fun, and only $8 was spent in true cash value.

We go to the shop to play some cards. We buy the packs to have some fun. We play to win the game.

Pick a Card

Scrying my eyes out

Saying “[card]Taiga[/card], [card]Kird Ape[/card], go” is one of my favorite memories of MTG. Having the right mana is important in a game of Magic: The Gathering.

In order to build good decks for Standard, a healthy mana base is a good place to start. Knowing that scry lands will be legal in Standard until October 2015, purchasing a playset of the Theros scry lands will give high value per dollar spent. I have purchased my playsets. At under $4 apiece, there is little risk in the price declining, and there’s a chance the scry lands spike after rotation.

Of the top decks on TCG Player, two of the top-ten decks are mono-color. Mono-blue is a great deck at the moment, but who knows if it will hold up? Mono-red is, and will always be, a thing. [card]Burning Earth[/card] is a concern, but is not in a lot of sideboards. When I played with [card]Burning Earth[/card], it was clunky, and most of the time I would have preferred to have the card I sided out. Besides these two decks, to be competitive in standard, one will want to have a playset of the Theros scry lands.

Dual lands are some of the most sought after Magic: The Gathering cards for a reason. The ability to play the cards in one’s hand allows one to play the game of Magic: The Gathering. Having the wrong color mana is a great way to watch the opponent play. Few games have I wished I had fewer colors of mana. With a high potential for upside and with a low risk in value lost, the Theros scry lands – [card]Temple of Silence[/card], [card]Temple of Deceit[/card], [card]Temple of Abandon[/card], [card]Temple of Mystery[/card], and [card]Temple of Triumph[/card] – are great cards for the current Standard environment, and have the potential to be even better after Return to Ravnica rotates out of Standard.


From the comments of my previous article All Magic Has a Price:

Garrett – “I personally buy from my local shop i know i can get it online for 20% cheaper. I personally like that im supporting a shop that supports the community.”

Garrett, this is the right thing to do. If one is able to afford purchasing cards at one’s local card shop, the community thanks him or her for it. If one likes to shop and enjoys purchasing cards, he or she will have the cards immediately with which to play.

I enjoy buying (and somewhat selling) cards. I limit myself to $25 per week to buy cards and play one or two drafts. I attempt to retain value in what I do choose to purchase. For me, the financial part of MTG is almost as fun as playing the game.

Garrett, I appreciate your commitment to your local card shop and to the MTG community.

Issue 1 Mailbag Question

We received good opinions on [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card]’s future after rotation from Standard. Several people felt Voice would be a surefire hit. Others felt as if the price would range from $10-20. At the card shop, unprompted, a friend said he believed Voice would be a nickel card after rotation.

I do not agree Voice will not lose all value after rotation; however, believing that Voice will fare as well as [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] is difficult. Snapcaster is being sold $17 true cost. Even If Voice does as well as Snapcaster, one stands to lose $30-50 for a playset in true-cost value for only five to ten months of Standard play. Justin suggested a more apt comparison is [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card]. Geist sells for $12.50 true cost.

[card]Voice of Resurgence[/card] appears to be fun to play, but at $30 true cost, the chance of losing $30-50 dollars in true-cost value is a tough pill to swallow. The comments were insightful and well articulated. I believe that purchasing a playset of [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card] now would not be the best value for my limited MTG budget. For those speculating Voice will retain value, I hope you are right. I will then be wishing I would have played [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card].

Thanks for all the wonderful input.

Before anyone asks, no, I am not an employee or an owner of Anthem Games in Tampa, FL. I like to rep the people who provide me with value.

Issue 2 Mailbag Question

Now is a good time to buy Theros cards. One will have the most use of the card, and the price of the cards are stabilizing after release.

[card]Boon Satyr[/card] has a true cost value of $2.25. Buying a playset will set us back $9 dollars, and [card]Boon Satyr[/card] is likely to see play into the next rotation. In my opinion, buying a playset is high value at low cost.

The week’s question is:

What value-priced card available in Theros do you believe will see play over the next 18-20 months?

All one needs to add a comment is an email address and a name. If you have those two things, please take the time to give your thoughts on the mailbag question or anything else. Without you, this will not be a success, and my mom will be disappointed. You don’t want my mom to be disappointed, do you? So my mom doesn’t get mad, please leave comments below.

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About the Author
@jwgravesFL     -     Email     -     Articles J.W. is 42 years old and is married with an 18-year-old son. He is a tax accountant for a Big Four accounting firm, and has degrees in accounting and business management. He is currently a student at the University of South Florida for an IT information architecture degree.

11 comments on All Magic Has a Price – #2 – Supporting the Local Card Shop

  1. Marc DeArmond says:

    Cards to pickup from Theros:
    1. Scry Lands
    Especially Temple of Abandon and Mystery. You never know what decks are going to suddenly jump off the hook but the low prices of these two cards are fantastic. With 2014 having no dual lands we might be seeing a shift away from core set duals. The duals in the next block may be either better or worse, but the scry lands are definitely seeing play. Even in some mono-color decks.

    2. Anything in the out of favor land cycles/decks.
    Without the W/U W/G scry lands, White and Green cards have taken a serious hit in price. Cards that would play well in any of these decks are likely to be cheap and worth it.
    Soldier of the Pantheon
    Precinct Captain
    Boon Satyr
    Spear of Heliod (Spear is Bulk on MTGO)
    Bow of Nylea
    Prognostic Sphinx (Could replace Aetherling in control)

    1. J. Graves says:

      Can’g agree more.

      Nicely said, and thank you for taking the time to post.


  2. nick says:

    Another big thing in the cost of buying from the shop or buying from online is in how much you use the shop. I am at a point where most of my friends who play don’t live around me and the few that do are hard to get a hold of and don’t have time to play. So the shop not only supplies cards but it supplies a nice location to play with and it organizes events for me to play against other people in. Also its a meeting place for just pick up games. So you need to take into account if you had no local store how much would it cost to find a place to play and find people to play with. That price far overcomes the couple dollars here and there on singles. Singles are also your best way to help your local shop.

    I also had to go through the time of thinking my friends and I were playing high level magic and then get the rude awakening when you take the first journey to the shop. We are all smart people but we also were not forced to tune our decks against larger groups as well not getting information from more sources than ourselves.

    As far as money drafting over the “pro pick”, I still remember the Mox Opal I passed so I could make the better pick. After that I came to the realization that yes I am in this for the fun but to also to win some prizes to add to my collection. What was I hoping to accomplish by taking the other card, I was hoping to win prizes and open a Mox Opal. I don’t remember the card I took and it possibly didn’t even make my deck as it was pack one pick one. The likely hood it made my deck and I saw it enough times to make a difference if at all was not worth the trade off.

    As far as speculation on this set, i would go with some of the things mentioned.
    Dual Lands
    Soldier of the Pantheon
    Fleecemane Lion
    Basically anything with low casting cost and aggressive

    .Other things to speculate on:
    Snapcaster Mage – Its expensive, but in a year expect it to be 50%-100% more because its used in all formats and they are not printing any more for a while
    Thoughtseize – They are still printing more but its something that will go up. Especially when the new sets come out and Theros packs get opened less

    Another thing people don’t think about is foil commons and uncommons that are played in any constructed. Back in gatecrash draft I got a foil Burning-Tree Emissary really late. The non-foil one is 2 or 3 while the foil is 11.

    1. J. Graves says:

      Amazing insight, I think you hit the nail on the head. I would expect you to be quoted in the next Issue of All Magic Has a Price.



  3. Anthony Capece says:

    Nice job J, another good one. Your storytelling approach adds a lot of depth to topics like rare drafting.

    Not sure if Whip of Erebos will ever take of financially, but I think you can get great play value out of it. As long as there is good stuff to get back from the ‘yard, Whip will be a repeatable way to generate advantage that scales with whatever new fatties come along.

    1. J. Graves says:

      Anthony it is always nice to hear from your peers.

      We have a great writing staff here at

      Thanks bud


      Dont miss Anthony’s newest article on

  4. Love the message. Personally I am a huge fan of Underworld Cerberus as a playable card next year. I also feel that Fleecemane is exactly what an aggro deck wants and though i don’t believe it will go too far up from where it is I would rather have it than a card rotating out.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Foil Yoked Ox is $1??!?!?!

    1. J. Graves says:

      Anonymous, I appreciate the time you took to respond. I do wish you would have left your name.

      Normally I would not have added the Foil Yoked Ox, but as you can see it is selling on eBay.

      Going forward I will most likely leave off those types of cards.

      Thank you for giving me the opportunity to answer that question.


      1. J. Graves says:

        The link is to the sold auctions for Foil Yoked Ox.

        If someone will buy it on eBay, there is likely someone that will trade for it.

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